Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 3rd, 2015

’Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

N North
E-W ♠ K Q J 9
 A K 7 4 3
 Q 9 2
♣ 3
West East
♠ A 4
 J 8 2
 A J 6 5 3
♣ Q 9 7
♠ 5 3
 Q 10 9 6 5
 K 8
♣ 10 8 6 5
♠ 10 8 7 6 2
 10 7 4
♣ A K J 4 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


This column is always eager to receive instructive deals from readers. This deal from Marty Hirschman featured the same contract being reached in both rooms; but the player who attacked with the best lead for the defense did not defeat the contract, while the defender who had the more difficult task did set the game.

Hirschman at the first table did not know whether to lead clubs or diamonds against four spades, and while I admit I might well have led a club to the first trick, he did better than me. He led the spade ace, and on the sight of dummy found the killing shift to a low diamond. In essence he appreciated that the only practical way he would ever set the game now was to find partner with the doubleton diamond king. While this was unlikely, at teams one should not care too much about letting through overtricks in situations of this sort.

In the other room West’s choice of the diamond ace on opening lead was quite reasonable (playing partner for short diamonds is an easy – if unlikely – way to set the game). He continued with the diamond jack, covered by dummy’s queen, and East won to shift to a club. Declarer gratefully cashed the ace and king of clubs to shake dummy’s remaining diamond. Then he played a trump up, and could claim after the trump ace put in an appearance.

Do you think East should have worked out to play a spade at trick three, treating the diamond jack as suit preference? I do.

It feels right to try to cash heart winners rather than go for the surprise spade lead, but having said that, you should lead the heart king rather than a small heart. Your plan is to retain the lead and shift to a spade if necessary. If declarer or dummy has the heart ace, you are unlikely to have done your side any serious harm.


♠ 8 7 4 3
 K 9 7 5
 7 5 4
♣ J 5
South West North East
  1 1 2 ♣
3 Pass Pass 4 ♣
Pass 5 ♣ All pass  

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitAugust 17th, 2015 at 9:37 am

I do, too. When W leads the DJ, this normally means “lead the higher ranking of the other two nontrump suits.” That, of course, would mean hearts. But there’s no way that W wants his partner to lead hearts. So what’s left? Let’s see: not hearts and not clubs, since he would have led a low diamond to ask for clubs. Hmm, I guess he wants a spade lead.

jim2August 17th, 2015 at 11:07 am

Would South raise to 4S with:


bryanAugust 17th, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Not sure. Does the bidding indicate that West can not have a heart void? If South has the Ace of trumps and West the heart void, then the J diamonds could mean hearts…….

Shantanu RastogiAugust 17th, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Hi Jim2

The layout you suggest would mean that west has 2056 distribution and is odds on to take some action. Hence the bidding would be different. With this layout 5C by EW scores on any lead other than spade.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiAugust 17th, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Hi Bryan, Jim2

Any layout with void in hearts with west and with two aces 4 spades by NS would not score. Perhaps some wests playing in regular partnership would tend to double 4 Spades hence making life of east much easier.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffAugust 17th, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Hi David, Jim2, Bryan and Shantanu,

Yes, although a suit preference for a trump back is relatively rare, it often can be figured out, and after all, bridge being a game of problem solving, we need to be able to do the detective work necessary.

And that detective work, especially when the 10 of diamonds, is, I guess, not played by South makes it highly likely that when declarer will hold 3 hearts there will be no way, in the fullness of time, for East to not eventually score the setting trick himself.

The 3rd seat defender, in a high-level partnership, is often required to visualize possible hands partner might have to choose the lead he chose and none of that result would include a heart void.

That, IMO, is the story of, that’s the glory of bridge.

Yes, Shantanu sometimes Lightner type of slam doubles can also be used to double games, alerting partner to think before he leads. Those hands most times stand out since partner also will have some cards, making the double ring a bell, waking him to look at his hand and then start to understand what that penalty double was meant to convey.

Pretty high faluting, but that can be bridge, mister!