Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Success is always something that you have to recover from.

Marsha Norman

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


Today’s hand, from the final of the Mixed Teams at the 2011 Open European Championships, sees a difference in evaluation.

At the first table South opened a strong no-trump and North passed. Admittedly it was not the best eight-count you have ever seen, but this being teams, where a vulnerable game has high significance, trying for game was hardly unreasonable.

In the other room Sylvie Willard reached game on the auction shown, against which West led a spade. (Had West attacked in diamonds, the game would have failed.)

Willard won in dummy, came to hand with the club ace, and lost no time in pitching two of dummy’s diamonds on her master spades. Then came a diamond to the king and ace. East returned the heart five, looking to cut down on ruffs, and Willard won with the ace and played a club, East winning. South rose with the king on the heart five return, then set about the crossruff. The defenders could only come to the jack of trumps, and that was plus 620 to the eventual winners of the event.

Even after the spade lead, there was still a defense. When in with the club king, East must return a diamond rather than a trump. This is ruffed in dummy, but now, when a club is played, East ruffs in. If South overruffs, the next diamond can be trumped by West’s queen – with the jack still to come for the defense. And if South discards, East plays a diamond. Now West’s queen scores the setting trick.

Normally one starts from the assumption that all bids in the fourth suit are artificial. This is one of the rare exceptions. Since you have already shown some club length and values at your second turn, the two club call suggests a three-suiter, with short hearts. Your hand could hardly be better now. I could barely live with a three-club call, but I think a bid of four clubs would be closer to the value of the hand.


♠ K
 10 6 4 3
 K J 8
♣ J 8 7 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 2 ♣ 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


jim2September 16th, 2015 at 12:04 pm

What if declarer plays the second club before the second diamond?

bobby wolffSeptember 16th, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks! Declarer apparently makes the hand since East will be left with following suit and not then able to allow his high defensive trump to be useful.

I think your suggested play confirms what many very experienced players learn the hard way. As long as a defensive trump (especially the high one) is not able to do full damage and draw two of declarers or else to ruff in enabling him to do damage to the declarer timing of the hand (usually in the prevention of a squeeze) the result will normally allow declarer an extra trick.

That coup could and should be forever named the Jim2, if only our game was played and respected as much as the “moneyed sports”.

We can dream, can’t we since your play meets the standards necessary (at least with this hand’s full layout.

Iain ClimieSeptember 16th, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Hi Bobby,

As you point out, a diamond lead beats 4H today but how good an idea is it? In favour of a diamond is that West is relatively weak and East hasn’t doubled 2C for a lead while West’s hand contains few potential pieces of bad news (e.g. 4 trumps or a singleton) for declarer. In favour of a more passive approach would be that West is leading round to the strong hand, the opponents have crept into game and pard hasn’t weighed in with 2D which he might have done with (say) KQJxx and an outside Ace. Any general thoughts here, although obviously today the D10 works nicely.



bobby wolffSeptember 16th, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Hi Iain,

All I can do is offer a feeble platitude.

Good luck and recall a comment by the late and great English old time bridge author John Brown, which went something like, if a very average player would always get off to the right opening lead, he would never lose a bridge World Championship.

While I cannot prove his judgment, that thought to me, appears eminently accurate, by verifying its immense importance in getting the defense started.

Also on point in the very recent recurring worldwide bridge cheating scandals is the cold hard fact of lesser than world class players and partnerships winning countless recent championships which in turn only serves to prove the above fact.

Our great game often only provides a slightly educated opening lead choice, based on what you speak about profoundly and rightfully so since your bridge instincts, IMO are much better than most well grounded experienced players, and yet if you only average leading the right suit and the right card 50% of the time, a priori the other 50% your partnership will start with begets a serious handicap in your goal to set the opponents.

When this crucial lead is illegally signaled by partner, that nefarious help is enough to make winners out of perennial losers with today’s hand a classic example.

It is slightly embarrassing for me to say that I would lead a spade, not a diamond, since the 10 of diamonds could be a better card to not initiate being up for slaughter by playing first to a trick, while a spade, though not aggressive will appear, at least to my eye with the bidding given, a better choice.

Alas my advice only creates doubt instead of positive, but to do otherwise, at least to me, is to obfuscate rather than accurately teach.