Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

The world is still deceived with ornament.

William Shakespeare

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


When South hears his partner invite game, suggesting either four hearts, or three trump in an unbalanced hand, he may have close to a minimum in high cards, but his extras in shape and controls are enough for him to go on to game.

West might sensibly lead either a spade or a diamond (an aggressive West might even put the club queen on the table). But after the lead of the diamond three, South has no reason not to finesse. East wins his king and returns a diamond to dummy’s ace. South now tries the top hearts; no luck there.

South now apparently needs the spade ace onside; but he must also be careful to ruff his club losers before giving up the lead. (Else West might draw another round of trump, leaving only one heart in dummy for two possible losing clubs).

When South cashes the top clubs, West follows suit with the queen and 10. South’s remaining clubs are suddenly high, and that gives South an extra chance for his contract.

However, if South next leads out the club nine, West will surely ruff in, to lead a spade through dummy’s king, and defeat the contract. Instead, South deceptively advances the club seven. West may now take his eye off the ball and discard instead of ruffing. If so, declarer can discard a spade from dummy, and then lead his remaining club to discard a second spade from dummy. That way he limits his spade losers to one, whoever has the ace.

While you have a nice hand in terms of controls, you have very few real extras, and have nothing in terms of shape more than you promised. Although you would like to find a way to compete, you have no obvious way forward; so pass, and wait for partner to bid on if he can.


♠ 8 5
 A K 8 4 3
 7 4
♣ A K 9 7
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 ♣ Pass Pass 2

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 16th, 2016 at 9:46 am

HI Bobby,

At first glance, West should assume that East has SA to beat it, but South could be stronger e.g. SA HAKxxx Dxxx CAK97 when the spade blockage stops the losing diamond being thrown from hand but 2 can be thrown from dummy. West should ruff in but should East try to give suit preference on the 3rd club (or earlier), playing 2, then 6 then 5 to suggest something in spades?



Iain ClimieFebruary 16th, 2016 at 10:35 am

OK, I accept you only stop the overtrick at pairs if declarer has the stronger hand…

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your wise and very appropriate comments.

Whether your advice is intended to only add proper technique (this time on defense), to defeat the contract or only just to save an overtrick (always necessary especially at matchpoints), the process, not the specific result, is what is important.

As a general rule, the habit of legally informing partner as to attitude, suit preference and sometimes even length is a two edged sword, when helpful to your side it becomes critical, when may or may not usually side with doing it, but when only helpful to the defense, zig zag with deceptive tactics.

The key, of course, is knowing when to vary and that will come in time with experience. In today’s hand and East’s spade holding it should cry out to go all out to make partner aware, since partner’s developed trump trick should be felt at the table.

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Since Judy is sleeping and I do not know how to correct the above, at the end of the third paragraph….”only helpful to the defense”, should have read “, “only helpful to the declarer”.

Sorry for the gaffe.

Bill CubleyFebruary 16th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Love the 7 of clubs play. Lead low when you do not want them to cover/ruff. I still remember my 1992 play of the 7 of hearts picking up the stiff 5 from Grant Baze. It was a pleasure playing against you in that Bridge Today pro-am.

Frank KlossFebruary 16th, 2016 at 5:23 pm

What happens if you duck the opening lead?

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, those Bridge Today pro-am’s were competitive with good players and more importantly, fun to play in. Where has all the time gone, since then? Much too fast for me.

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Hi Frank.

No doubt a diamond duck in dummy at trick one will put pressure on East to not play the 10 (instead of the king). Not all players leading low, guarantee an honor, but rather signify the count. Here, at least the opening leader had the jack.

From a declarer viewpoint, since all good players are never reluctant to lead away from an honor (king), it becomes a guess and when and if the queen of diamonds wins at trick one the rest of the hand kind of, plays like a pianola.

The above fact is often too refreshing to not make every effort to dream it true.

Also, your subject may be a good lesson for learning novices to learn to lead from honors rather than from nothing, if, for no other reason, their habits may be known to aware good declarers and make their guessing cards much better than they will be at other tables.