Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 2nd, 2016

What each man does is based not on certain and direct knowledge but on pictures made by himself or given to him.

Walter Lippmann

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


Even the most far-sighted of defenders can’t see one another’s hands, but they can often show precisely what they have, so long as they put together a sensible suite of agreements.

A sound agreement is that if you lead an anti-system high honor – should your normal style be to lead the king from A-K-x, then if you lead the ace and follow with the king — it shows the bare ace-king. Equally, if you lead the ace from ace-king, then switch to another suit, that promises a singleton.

This agreement is critical to defeating three hearts here, which looks a solid enough contract – the only worrying feature being possible ruffs for defense.

This pair of defenders were playing king from ace-king, so when West led the diamond ace East was immediately alerted to the possibility of there being a possible ruff for the defenders in either diamonds or spades.

Declarer’s concerns were soon realized when, at trick two, West switched to the spade three. East won with the ace, and although South tried to muddy the waters by following with the five, concealing the deuce, East was not fooled. West would have cashed both his diamonds if he had a doubleton, so his short suit had to be spades.

He returned his lowest spade, the four, suit preference for clubs. West ruffed, and trusting his partner’s signal, underled his club king. East won with the ace and returned another spade. West’s second ruff saw the contract drift one down.

Of course if West tries to cash a second diamond, declarer waltzes home with 10 tricks.

Since your partner is guaranteed to hold three spades, dummy rates to have three spades, and relatively short hearts. Declarer will have four spades and a weak hand, so you want to avoid taking finesses for declarer. My instinct is to lead trumps and prevent declarer from scoring his spades singly.


♠ 8 6 3
 Q 10 8 3
 Q 8 2
♣ Q J 5
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
1 Dbl. Pass 1 ♠
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


jim2May 16th, 2016 at 8:44 pm

In BWTA, I think Declarer is the one more likely to have three spades. West’s reopening double of one heart sure sounded like four spades to me.

As for defending one spade, if this is MPs, we better get it three tricks non-vul (or two down vul) because I think N-S should be able to make two hearts. After all, South bid as though holding zero HCPs and three hearts (maybe 3-3-3-4 shape).

bobby wolffMay 16th, 2016 at 9:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you seem to be accurate in your assumptions, making the call of 1NT (even without a spade stop) the recommended call in the bidding.

Sometimes in our effort to discuss other vital parts of the game such as with LWTA we talk about leading rather than sometimes the crucial bidding leading up.

Bridge logic should suggest bidding 1NT, but not trying to pinpoint anything other than it better to be declarer (easier going) than it is to be defender.

Bridge writers are usually not wanting to delve into the ugly strategy of up close tough competition, for fear of not being able to justify what in effect is necessary to consistently score well.

So when you are right you are right, but as far as leading against a spade contract by East and with this bidding (again too conservative by our side) a trump lead seems as good as any.

However from there on, it seems that the wily opponents have won the bidding war and sadly by our default.

slarMay 17th, 2016 at 3:12 am

I found this discussion amusing because I benefited from a similar situation last week. The auction went p(1D)p(1H);X(XX)1S and the opponents inexplicably let me play 1S which made easily. The winning bid was a simple 1NT by fourth hand. And as I type this I realize that the redouble was probably meant to be a support redouble (not card-showing) but since it was unalerted who knows.

People wonder why I refuse to play support doubles. I don’t know about other clubs, but this convention causes the most errors in my club (Gerber being #2). Until I am certain that my partner and I understand them 100%, I’ll let the field mess them up.

bobby wolffMay 17th, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt, right on all counts. Yes if the opening bid side was playing support doubles, it is standard that if an opponent enters with a double instead of a simple overcall, then redouble replaces the conventional “support double”.

Therefore since if an opening bidder is basically a minimum opener it would be up to his partner to do further competing if the opponents now enter the bidding.

They did, and seemingly according to your description, the partner of the opening bidder must have had decent values to further compete, but chose not to, resulting in your side “stealing” the hand from them at a very low level.

Also, Slar, for what it is worth, “support doubles” have other weaknesses such as blueprinting a 4-3 fit (when the original bidder takes the contract back to partner’s minor denoting only 4 of his bid suit), allowing their opponents to accurately revalue their hands then knowing how many of that suit is in partners hand during the bidding.

Also and at the part score level, playing a hand with a 4-3 fit is not nearly as dangerous as many think. Yes, the play is often different, but by so getting that experience many early players are able to learn the maximum way to usually play those hands which are not blessed with extra trumps. All chalked up on the road to keep getting better.

I heartily endorse never playing a convention until both partners use their bridge minds to basically understand both pros and cons to that considered system change. To do less, is to entertain disasters.

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