Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 29th, 2016

Every advantage in the past is judged in the face of the final issue.


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


This was the very last deal of the NEC tournament last year, and it decided the event, since at that point in the match the Hackett team were leading a Dutch/ UK combination by just five IMPs (thus one swing could change the match result).

In one room Louk Verhees for the trailing team had opened five diamonds as East, and bought the contract there. This was never going to make, but after a spade lead and club shift declarer was home free with 10 tricks.

So the fate of David Gold’s four heart contract would determine first place and all the glory that this entailed. If it made, the Hackett team would be overtaken at the finishing line.

Brian Senior led a club, Gold called for the jack, and Jason Hackett won the ace, then paused for reflection. It looks natural to play his partner’s suit, spades. But had he shifted to a spade, assuming that his diamond tricks could wait, declarer would simply have drawn trump and used the club king to pitch one diamond loser from his hand, and made his game. Hackett worked that out. He cashed the diamond ace then thoughtfully played the diamond two, giving his partner a ruff with a suit preference card to make sure that his partner didn’t play a spade at the fourth trick, and surrender the setting trick in the process.

Not to worry: the trump ace was not going to go away. The contract went down one, and the Hackett team had held on to win.

You could not be overly criticized for a diamond lead, but I’m instinctively drawn to the spade lead. My partner appears to have spades sitting over dummy, and I could easily imagine that a spade lead might produce a trump promotion for my jack. Meanwhile, a diamond lead might allow declarer to get a ruff in dummy.


♠ 8 4
 K 10 7 4 2
 Q 6 4
♣ J 5 3
South West North East
    1 Dbl.
1 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2016 at 11:18 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think the key point here is that East can read west for a diamond void otherwise West had better have a very good reason for not leading a diamond but preferring a 5th highest lead from a broken club suit. Yet could the defence still be wrong?

If South has (say) SAKJx and west has HQxx then west’s potential trump trick is used to ruff fresh air and the minor suit Kings dispose of south’s spade losers although perhaps the contract is then unstoppable. It was fine play by east, and not just with hindsight, but were there any cases where a spade switch would have been better?



AviMarch 15th, 2016 at 9:09 am

Or as otherwise stated, “a void is no reason not to lead partner’s suit”

Bobby WolffMarch 15th, 2016 at 11:12 am

Hi Iain & Avi,

Iain, if declarer has s. AQx, h. AQxxxxx, d. xx, c. x he can rise with the ace then lead a trump to dummy and lead king and another club throwing a spade on the high club and then after another trump duck a diamond, endplaying East into his not losing more than 2 diamonds and a club.

However declarer has to guess whether or not East has a doubleton or singleton spade. In either event East might switch to a spade rather than lead ace and a diamond when by doing so he may be losing two defensive tricks in order to secure one ruff.

And what about declarer having s. KQJ, h. Axxxxxx, d. void, c. xxx with West brilliantly leading his 4th best club, enabling a set but fooling partner into thinking him void in diamonds, especially so when EW have a bad penchant (or maybe not so, result wise) for stealing the hand records.

In these troubled bridge cheating days one has to consider more possibilities than ever!

Oh well, perhaps a one week suspension will be adequate for a first time aspiring World Champion bridge cheat. After all, “He told me he didn’t mean to do it, promising me he will, every once in a while, usually choose to not cheat.

And Ari, I certainly agree with leading a diamond whether one has one or not. Victor Mollo would have had a dream day writing up this hand with his menagerie in full bloom.