Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Defer not till tomorrow to be wise,
Tomorrow’s sun to thee may never rise.

William Congreve

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


Today’s deal sees North with an awkward decision at his second turn. It looks right to invite game with a call of two no-trump, suggesting 10-12 HCP. Now South can drive to game, showing a 6-4 hand with extra values (if South had a 6-4 minimum with good spades and weak hearts he might have rebid two spades, then introduced his hearts over the two no-trump rebid). At his final turn North guesses well to raise to four spades, since the notrump game would be hopeless if the defenders attacked clubs early.

So much for the bidding; now let’s focus on the play. As South, you should consider how you would play the spade game on the lead of the trump jack. Clearly you need trumps to break, but can you do better than playing for three-three hearts?

Yes you can. Declarer must play low from the table at trick one, win the spade ace and then lead a diamond towards dummy. West must duck, or he exposes his partner to a ruffing finesse. East takes North’s diamond 10 with the king and does best to shift to the club king. Declarer wins this with dummy’s ace and leads the diamond jack, throwing a club from his hand.

West takes his diamond ace, and can do no better than try to cash the club jack. South ruffs, crosses to the spade king, and throws his potential heart loser on the diamond queen. He loses just one trump trick after this, to bring home 10 tricks.

The opponents opted to play no-trump in the face of your call, but did not try to penalize you. Does that argue for leading spades? I think not; and a doubleton heart lead is hardly attractive either. Play partner for a shape such as 3=4=2=4 and lead a club, hoping to set up that suit eventually.


♠ 9 7 4 2
 J 2
 10 7 2
♣ J 8 7 6
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Rdbl.
1 ♠ Pass Pass 2 NT
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


Jeff SJune 6th, 2016 at 2:29 pm

On LWTA, I’ve never been completely clear about which card to lead with the clubs in that hand – the fourth-best 6 or the 8 because it is top of a sequence even though you have the J?


slarJune 6th, 2016 at 3:28 pm

I don’t think J876 is enough of a sequence. Lead the 6 if playing 4th best.

bobby wolffJune 6th, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Hi Jeff S & Slar,
The only interior sequence, held beneath a major honor, where leading the top is suggested would be an honor (above the jack), 109 or 1098. Lower sequences should be treated as merely spot cards with not much attention to their specific numerical status.
The major thrust with leading the 10 from 109 etc. has to do with surrounding a prospective jack in dummy so that partner will know what to do when holding the king or queen as the opening leader’'s partner.
With lower card combinations the spots become relatively insignificant with the exception of the third seat player applying the "rule of eleven" in order to determine how many cards declarer has higher than the led card.
The above seems much more complicated than it really is, but explaining it needed to be accurate and I can not think of a way to describe it in a more simple way.
For only bridge history sake this ancient "rule" goes back to contract bridge's grandfather, Whist and by Robert F. Foster in 1890. However E.M.F Benecke of Oxford (UK) claims to have discovered it at the same time.
You think our game ain't got tradition? WRONG!

Jeff SJune 6th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

And now I think I see why I couldn’t keep it straight – it matters which sequence it is so some column hands would lead from the top and some would not.

Thank you for the lucid explanation! And the history lesson, I always find history fascinating. 🙂

Mircea1June 7th, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Hi Bobby,

Is South obligated to bid on this sequence (after the Redouble)?

bobby wolffJune 7th, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Hi Mircea1,

No, South is not obligated to bid, but by doing so might still be very weak. An example might be:

s. xxxxx
h. xx(x)
d. xxx(x)
c. x(x)

In other words the practicality of allowing partner with perhaps a 3-3-2-5 TO double and having it passed around to him, would likely take it out to 2 clubs so his partner, in order not to bypass an one spade stopping off place, bid immediately to keep that from happening.

Bridge, and its consistent logic, but not known nor taught properly to a very large number of willing bridge students, have never been addressed properly.

Pity for those students, the game itself and its future, but it is now unlikely to impossible for the answer man in bridge to appear out of somewhere to keep bridge learning on its proper track.

A hope of mine is that bridge loving people like yourself will spread the word and volunteer to either answer those questions correctly or, if not known, to refer them to someone who could.

We all owe the game at least that, especially me.

check itJune 11th, 2016 at 1:12 am

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