Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 18th, 2016

Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

Herman Hesse

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


South’s opening bid of two clubs followed by a rebid of two no-trump shows 22 to 24 highcard points, with a balanced or semi-balanced distribution. Occasionally you may have to make the call with a flaw such as a singleton honor or two doubletons, but you strive to avoid this if you can. North has enough to raise to game, but no reason to consider playing anywhere but three notrump.

When the defenders lead a fourth-highest spade, South sees that he will win three hearts, two diamonds, and one spade. He therefore needs three club tricks to make sure of his game. The best way to get three club tricks is to finesse twice through East. Hence, South must get to dummy twice to lead clubs. South should see that the heart ace is one entry, so he needs to construct a second entry to dummy.

The spade jack is the only high card South can utilize, and there is only one way to create an entry from it. South plays dummy’s seven at trick one, then must unblock his spade queen under the king, at once. He can then reach dummy twice, and duly take two club finesses.

South should fail in his contract if he neglected to throw away the spade queen at the first trick. West would save his spade king for South’s 10 but would duck if South contributed the spade queen at the second trick. South would therefore be unable to reach dummy with the spade jack, and could then take no more than two club tricks.

Since dummy rates to hold four spades, I would definitely not lead that suit, and a heart seems equally unattractive. So I must lead a minor and I can see equal merit in leading a club (I’d probably pick the eight to clarify my holding as best I could) or a low diamond. My partner’s failure to double a club call tips me towards the low diamond.


♠ J 7 3 2
 Q 6 3
 K 5 4
♣ 8 4 2
South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 NT 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


slarMay 2nd, 2016 at 1:38 pm

I have a LWTA-type of question. Holding QJ/K93/Q63/J8754 you witness 1D-2D(inverted)/2H-2S/3D-3NT. Are you thinking club lead or major lead? Leader led a club (unbid suit) but declarer was concealing Ax/xxx/JTxx/AKQx! The club lead made the contract unassailable but with a major lead declarer needs some luck. (Declarer claimed he was giving opener a chance to bid NT with a heart tenace and that there was no need to show clubs.)

BTW, opener had xxx/ATxx/AKxx/t9. At the other table this hand was not opened, second hand preempted in spades, and the hand went for 3S-2 for a pivotal swing. Score one for stretching a little to get into the auction!

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Hi Slar,

I like to think I’d have led a spade but suspect a club might have arrived at the table, although Bobby’s reasoning is more useful here. I would have tried to ask (gently) why pard passed with K109xxx QJx xx xx though! Clearly a case where silence wasn’t golden.



slarMay 2nd, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I don’t believe “pard” had the ST9, but anyway I agree that this was a losing action. (If nothing else, fortune favors the bold.)

In real life I was the declarer and as soon as my partner opened (thank goodness) I was headed towards 3NT unless there was a major red flag. As it turns out, we needed this hand to advance and if the red queens were swapped the opening lead would have decided the entire event. While I’m obviously pleased with the result, I also want to learn about what effect this had or should have had on the opponents because eventually I’ll be on the receiving side of such a thing.

bobby wolffMay 2nd, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi Slar,

Here is where experience means as much as talent in understanding auctions wherein those worthy opponents will try and adversely ward off evil spirits in the dress of deception.

When inverted minors came into play, often game forcing (or almost) the nature of the distribution and limited number of hcps usually directed those players to 3NT when both hands were, as usual, reasonably balanced (9 tricks rather than 11).

Soon it became realized that straight bidding usually helped only the defenders in their critical choice of opening lead so innovators realized at least some deception served more good than harm. Presto, the type of problem your choice of opening lead entailed, soon often determined whether the declarer scored up or not his always close contract.

Yes, I think the queen of spades lead was also the right lead, unless you were playing against solid citizens, who you want running your company, but not necessarily your choice of betting on to win the duplicate.

No doubt spades almost MUST be bid, since IMO it is much too dangerous not to bid sometimes creating a slight risk, but always attempting to make it easier for partner to execute the right opening lead, a much more likely occurrence.

Sure, intelligence is an ingredient to become a very good bridge player, but give me an experienced one anytime instead, and I’ll show you a winning partnership instead of just a bright one.

bobby wolffMay 2nd, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, when faced with a choice, bid em up, or prepare to sleep in the streets.

We see it time after time, almost from the first hand ever played as a swaddling baby, to a grizzled old veteran waiting to take his last breath.

And, if given a choice, I would rather play against a potentially great twenty year old bridge up and comer than a crafty veteran like you who knows the ropes and has the talent to back it up.

At least to me, one who has potential only means that he or she hasn’t gotten there yet, usually meaning that he still has the inside stuff to learn.

And, BTW, to be deceptive in the bidding is not at all unethical, unless that partnership has either discussed it beforehand or had it come up often enough to be required to alert it to unsuspecting opponents, making it such information to not honor at face value.

slarMay 2nd, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Okay, so I’ll put this in the category of mildly deceptive plays that may send a weaker player astray but will have little impact on a stronger player. (Another example being playing an unnecessarily high card from the closed hand as declarer, trying to goad the opponents to switch.) Something certainly worth being aware of.

bobby wolffMay 2nd, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Hi Slar,

In the case of while winning a trick, each case is often different, but only experience will enable that declarer to play fluidly and thus provide maximum deception.

No doubt that playing high-level bridge takes much experience, awareness and of course, application of being at the table against those particular opponents, the habits of which all become important.

Playing a good brand of bridge is indeed a difficult endeavor requiring a combination of talents, not unlike physical athletes competing at professional levels.

Since bridge has not yet achieved a valid spectator interest, money has not made it a sport to be undertaken. Likely that will not happen soon, if ever, but in any event it certainly is a challenging exercise which helps keep old people’s minds as young as can be.