Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.

Sir Walter Scott

E North
None ♠ 5 4 2
 Q 4 3
 A 10 6
♣ A 7 3 2
West East
♠ 10 9 6
 8 7 5
 J 9 8 7 5 4
♣ 6
♠ K Q J 8 7 3
 6 2
♣ J 10 5 4
♠ A
 A K J 10 9
 K Q 3
♣ K Q 9 8
South West North East
      2 ♠
Dbl. Pass 3 ♣* Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 NT Pass 5 ♠* Pass
7 NT All pass    


**Two key cards and the trump queen


Today’s deal saw South double a weak two and North respond three clubs, natural invitational and value showing. With a weaker hand North would have bid two no-trump as a puppet to three clubs, planning to pass with long clubs or correct to his long red suit if he had one. This convention is known as Lebensohl and originally applied only after a one no-trump opener, but has had its use extended to today’s sequence.

After this start South bid his hearts, used keycard when his partner cooperated for that suit, and drove to seven no-trump, knowing he rated to be able to claim the contract at trick one.

As it turned out though, when dummy went down with surprisingly weak clubs, the contract required careful play. It looks obvious to play West, the non-preempter, for long clubs, but South went the extra mile. He won the spade lead, cashed the top hearts, pitching spades from dummy, and now made the key play of the diamond king and queen. Had both hands followed, declarer would have started clubs by leading a top honor from hand. When East discarded on the second diamond he was almost sure to have begun with precisely 6=2=1=4 pattern. So declarer led a club to the ace and back towards his hand, putting in the nine when East played low. Had East split his honors, it would have been easy to cross back to the diamond ace to take the marked club finesse.

Facing a balanced minimum hand it is undeniably possible that your side might make game. This will happen no more than one time in 10 perhaps, since you are offering your partner no source of tricks and just a 10 count. That being so, respond one notrump rather than raising clubs by using an inverted minor response. Do not jeopardize your plus score in search of the pot of gold.


♠ 5 4 2
 Q 4 3
 A 10 6
♣ A 7 3 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 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


bryanJuly 13th, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Was there a better opening lead for West? Since South went to 7nt, my process would be if a spade could hurt, South would have stopped in 6NT or 7 Hearts. Most likely I would have lead the 7 of diamonds. South could do the same plan to get a count before leading clubs so it would make no overall difference.

bobbywolffJuly 13th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Hi Bryan,

No doubt bridge is a thinking man’s game, but it is not as complicated as perhaps you are making it.

One of the less important aspects of opening leads, often takes place against a grand slam. Since, in order to bid a grand slam, the opponents should never be off a first round control and, from the defense viewpoint, such as while defending against a small slam the intent should tend to be aggressive, to develop the setting trick on lead, so while in with the trick the offense expect to lose, their opponents will have the second defensive trick ready to cash.

Applying that above bridge logic would just then result in leading a spade since partner had opened a weak two bid in that suit.

IOW, be aggressive against a small slam but extremely passive (no chance of giving anything away) against a grand.

However, as you smartly explain, this hand would not be affected either way.