Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 19th, 2015

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

S North
None ♠ Q 10 6 3
 A 5 4
 K 8 6 5
♣ A 2
West East
♠ J 8 7
 9 7 3
 Q 9
♣ K 10 7 5 4
♠ 9 5 4 2
 K 10 8
 10 3 2
♣ Q J 8
♠ A K
 Q J 6 2
 A J 7 4
♣ 9 6 3
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 3 NT All pass


Determining which order to cash your winners is often critical, for a number of reasons. The lie of the cards in one suit may dictate the play in another, or you may need to take advantage of a favorable lie of the cards in order to avoid giving up the lead or taking a dangerous finesse. That concept applies nicely to today’s deal.

When you play three no-trump on the lead of the club six you duck in dummy. East wins the jack and returns the eight, West helpfully following with the four, which tells you the suit started out 5-3. If you surrender the lead, the defenders will cash out for at least down one.

Your best combination of plays to come to nine tricks is to unblock the top spades, then cross to the diamond king and play the spade queen. If the jack does not appear, put all your eggs in one basket by taking the diamond finesse. If the finesse works, you will be home unless the suit breaks 4-1, when you will also need the heart finesse.

But if the jack pops up, as here, you cash the fourth spade, then lead a diamond to the ace. Now you get to combine the chances of finding the diamond queen doubleton or falling back on the heart finesse. Since the diamond queen will fall in two rounds nearly one third of the time, you will make whenever that happens, plus half the rest of the time – a two-thirds chance. The straight diamond finesse is of course a 50-50 chance.

Leading a spade or diamond is obviously impractical. So the choice comes down to a heart or club, and my instincts are to try to set up slow club winners or give my partner club ruffs rather than making a relatively passive heart lead. With the club ace instead of the king, I would of course lead a heart.


♠ Q J 4
 4 3 2
 J 6
♣ K 9 6 5 3
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ 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


ClarksburgNovember 2nd, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Hello Mr Wolff
Quiet here today. So here’s a hand that may be of interest to your Intermediate-level followers, particularly if you can comment on the logic whereby N selects the winning opening lead.

W Dealer KJ10853 64 K5 A32
N A KQ8 AQJ1072 J72
E Q2 AJ7 43 KQ10965
S 9764 109532 986 8

This was from a recent ACBL STAC game. In three local games NS defended 4S by W 11 times. No Norths found the winning club lead to hold it to 8 tricks; and West got away with 11 tricks. Presumably most (all?) Norths led the HK, consistent with lead-by-rote cookbook non-thinking.

The auctions no doubt went 1S 2D 3C P 3S P 4S, so North knew about East’s Club length and Partner’s (South) lack of any HC strength.

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 am

Hi Clarksburg,

It is comforting for both you and I to know that no North in your Stac game selected a club from Jxx. To do so, at least to me, is wild and very much against percentages, especially sitting with the lone ace of spades, At least to me the king of hearts is a standout lead assuming your predictable normal auction to the EW spade game.

Sure, brilliance has a place in almost every enterprise, but to select a club lead on your anticipated auction is just too wild and worse, off kilter. Perhaps if West would have raised clubs before winding up in the spade game the then lead of a club does make some sense, but is still a monumental risk.

BTW while sitting North and hearing my RHO open 1 spade would induce me to double (strength of hand) and then if possible bid diamonds at the three level to at least show the excellent strength of the overall hand, helping partner judge what to do later.

By so doing it is possible for NS to even score up a wild game with double dummy play if he then times the hand right unless his opponents are really on their toes. However it would then take a bold diamond raise by poor South for NS to guess to bid it.

From your comment you appear to be convinced that North took a worthwhile risk in an attempt to strike gold. Good luck to such advice, but since sleeping in the streets (with the concession of a heart trick the usual price for such a risk) I would not recommend it and would rate it BPB (bridge player bad).

However on this hand and on that result, I would keep my mouth closed.