Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 14th, 2016

They always talk who never think, and who have the least to say.

Matthew Prior

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

*Hearts and a minor


Since the spring nationals are now underway in Reno, Nevada, all the deals this week will come from last year’s championships in New Orleans. This deal came up in the Leventritt Senior Pairs, where Sally Wheeler and Buddy Hanby took advantage of an overly talkative opponent and helpful lead.

West had no reason to come into her opponents’ auction, and since her partner was a passed hand, she combined the maximum of danger, coupled with helping declarer draw a shrewd inference about the location of her side’s assets.

Against four spades doubled West led a low heart, ducked by Wheeler. East took the heart ace to shift to the club two, which went to West’s king.

Now came the diamond 10 to the ace. The spade ace drew West’s queen, which revealed the likelihood of the bad trump break. Since Wheeler could infer that her left-hand opponent had diamonds from East’s low club shift at trick two, it was relatively riskfree to try to cash two club winners. She next played the heart king and diamond king, then ruffed a diamond, ruffed a heart and had reached a three-card ending in which she had played one trump and three rounds of each of the other suits, and had taken eight tricks thus far.

When Wheeler played the fourth round of diamonds from dummy, East was down to all trumps. He could ruff low and win the trick, but then had to concede the last two tricks by leading into dummy’s tenace.

Partner rates to have a balanced minimum, with no more than five clubs. Since declarer rates to have four hearts, there is nothing to be gained from leading a trump to stop declarer ruffing spades in hand. I’d guess we should go passive, and since partner surely has some club length the odds favor him having honors in that suit. So I will lead a low club.


♠ 10 7 4
 J 6 2
 Q 7 5 4
♣ K 4 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Dbl. 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 28th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

Following yesterdays discussions on trump leads and how unlikely it is for such a lead to be right from (say) Q, J, Qx or Jx, what happens if west leads a trump today and lets declarer do her own work?



Patrick CheuMarch 28th, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Hi Bobby,Not sure I would double 4S with the East’s hand…and give declarer a blue print on the play,but all said it’s down to the lead on trick one..Would you always bid 4S with South,a lot of jacks,not that chunky..ah well it gives declarer a chance to shine in the play on a heart lead. Last Saturday hand column was instructive,thanks again for all that you do on this blog.regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 28th, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, the leading of a 4th best heart destroyed the defense, enabling declarer’s success.

Just another example of a blind opening lead which went sour, however since there is unquestionably “an ill wind which blows no one no good”, that lead did enable a bridge column to be created.

Yes, the lead of a trump would have rung the bell for a defensive victory, instead of the defeat offered by the different choice. And, by leading the lady, usually prevents that card from being a positive factor on certain occasions, but bridge sometimes resembles an upside down process in determining results.

However and no doubt, you are now in the lead by a score of 1 to 0 in promoting the lead of trumps. Only a little more than a million more examples to follow in our future lifetime (although, I’m probably being a little optimistic in my hanging around that long, but hopefully not you).

Pity, the year doesn’t switch to 2516, when all enterprise will include every possible statistic pertaining to process improvement, available at a moment’s notice. Till then we (or our contemporaries) will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I, as the opening leader, am giving my partner the A10x of spades with declarer having the KJxxx together with a broken Ouija board and to compensate only partner the jack x of hearts.

bobbywolffMarch 28th, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Hi Patrick,

No doubt, the South hand would not accept the spade invitation unless they were playing weak NT, and apparently they were since South only held a 14 count and his partner did not jump to the spade game though certainly holding enough values to do so opposite a strong NT.

Good detective work, although only necessary in writing about the game, not playing it. Apologies are in order for us not mentioning what we are talking about, directly in the column.

Iain ClimieMarch 28th, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the reply although at the table I’m sure I would have led a red card and quite possibly a heart. Observation of 52 cards beats leading from 13 even taking account of the bidding and my bridge history is full of carefully thought out disastrous opening leads.


bobbywolffMarch 28th, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, when the Whist (Contract bridge’s grandfather) gods were in full bloom (at least 100 years ago) the partner of the opening leader, would often remind his partner of his duty, by saying “Pray lead” and now I know why, since that thought to be advantage, likely in so many occasions turned out not to be, since, even worse than his grandson (or daughter), contract bridge changed, no dummy was even than exposed.