Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.

Albert Einstein

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


Today’s deal features a piece of deception that occurs so frequently that we should all have it in our data base. Put yourself in the East seat and plan the defense to three no-trump after the lead of the club queen goes to dummy’s king. Are you ready for all eventualities at trick two?

At the table declarer saw that the straightforward line would be to drive out the diamond ace, win the club return and run the diamonds, hoping for a miracle. It would not be forthcoming. On all normal lies of the cards he would be on track to lose at least three clubs and two aces. So he tried a bit of deception.

He took the opening lead with dummy club king and led the spade jack, hoping to catch East napping. If East plays low, as he did at the table, declarer could hop up with the king, then shift his attention to diamonds. After knocking out the diamond ace, he had nine tricks; a spade, two hearts, four diamonds and two clubs.

Had East risen with the spade ace and continued the attack on clubs, declarer would have stood no chance to succeed. But also note that if declarer’s clubs were A-10-9, unlikely but not impossible, East must win the first spade to continue the attack on clubs.

This idea of protecting partner’s entry or of simply saving a tempo by flying up with an ace is definitely counter-intuitive, but it is a ‘club’ you should keep in your bag.

Your partner’s cuebid should be construed initially as asking for a spade guard, not a heart raise, so bid two no-trump now. With support doubles becoming more and more popular on all hands with three trump, your partner rates either to have four trump (when he will let you know about it unambiguously at his next turn) or be looking for a spade stop. Assume the latter until he tells you different.


♠ A 5 3
 Q 9 4 3
 9 4
♣ 8 6 4 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 1 ♠ 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


jim2December 30th, 2015 at 11:51 am

The column text contains the following:

But also note that if declarer’s clubs were A-10-9, unlikely but not impossible, East must win the first spade to continue the attack on clubs.

First, that appears to argue that East must rise with the AC, not duck it. Second, declarer has already followed with the 5C and so cannot have been dealt A109.

Jane ADecember 30th, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Jim2, wow, you must have been playing a lot of bridge in lower Slabbovia again. I officially appoint you to the post of second personal assistant to Bobby Wolff. With you and me to help Bobby with his columns, he can sit back and eat bon bons now, and well deserved. I also think winding up in three NT is a bit of a stretch, but it is a bidder’s game. Three diamonds looks pretty solid.

Happy New Year to all, whoever you live. I bet Jim2 will be playing bridge somewhere hoping his ailment of TOCM infects someone else for 2016.

Jane ADecember 30th, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Wherever you live, not whoever, sorry. Maybe I better hire a personal assistant or figure out a way to disable spellcheck.

jim2December 30th, 2015 at 2:27 pm


bobby wolffDecember 30th, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Hi Jim2 and Jane A,
Yes, when I re-read the column again before tackling you two, I confirm the gaffe. After the play to trick one, West could not have A109 but could, just for the record, have held A1095.
Hopefully not, since then we would be doing declarer's work for him, establishing his side tricks while not helping ourselves.
While leaping back to constructive time, the ruse of leading spades first (by declarer and off dummy) since he rebid 1NT (not supporting spades) his play appears to be slightly suspicious, and therefore probably deceptive.
Therefore East's competitive juices should awaken him to a fairly common ruse by a good declarer, trying to steal trick 9 in 3NT early, before the opponents have awakened.
To compete satisfactorily in bridge and against good opponents defensively, we need to be prepared mentally from the get go. Both as declarer and, of course, as dummy we can often take a brief snooze, but NOT on defense since then we almost always have our greatest challenge, being able to defend successfully while only looking at about 1/2 of our combined defensive assets and also only half of our worthy opponents.
In other words, while on defense the flag is almost always up and waving, and it is for us to come to the aid of our partnership.
I'll go so far as to feel totally relaxed to make the following statement without fear of contradiction. "When declarer leads the jack of spades from dummy on this bidding and this dummy being exposed, declarer's lead of the jack of spades from dummy cannot be the right play unless he conceivably holds specifically KQ10 himself and also wants to obfuscate another weakness in this particular hand".
No doubt I have made a very bold statement and may be sorry I did, but for learning high-level bridge the way it is, not the way we sometimes wish it was, may, at least IMO, the thing to do.

slarDecember 30th, 2015 at 8:30 pm

I love second-hand-high hands. I don’t get them all right but any time you find the play, you almost guarantee yourself a good score.

As declarer, is there any (psychological) advantage to playing the SJ as opposed to any other spade?

Bobby WolffDecember 30th, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Hi Slar,

One problem in advancing quickly in bridge is understanding its technology.

When one covers an honor with an honor it has little to do with second hand high, but rather the promotion of lesser high cards to possible winners.

Of course, your remark about rising with the ace of spades (on today’s hand) was definitely an example of 2nd hand high and for the strategic bridge reason you gave.

An answer to your question about the advantage, psychological or real, to which a declarer who leads the jack from dummy with the intention (on this hand) to rise with the king is definitely psychological to make it appear to one’s RHO that you intend to finesse for the queen rather than the ace.

However, the lesson to be learned is, IMO the necessity for a defender to be matching thoughts with the eventual declarer when after the dummy comes down, he then concentrates on the best way to play.

During that sometimes very brief interval (all at the behest of the declarer) is the time for logical and effective thought by both defenders.

No doubt, during that time period, is when world class defenders (so very few of them in existence) are subject to the most difficult time when playing our game, seeking to use the evidence (overall bidding, the opening lead chosen, the dummy (as it is) and sometimes the tempo of the declarer (although sometimes deceptive).

When that battle is joined by two excellent pairs, our game then takes on the mystique
that it deserves. Our goal is always to be one of those four special players.