Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 8th, 2016

A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn’t.

John Millington Synge

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


All the deals this week come from last year’s Summer NABC, held in Chicago. It looks normal to reach four spades with the North-South cards here, but after a top heart lead, how should you plan the play?

The first thing you should do is duck the heart. Maybe West will shift to clubs? When West continues hearts, you win and draw trump while eliminating the hearts.

At this point you could take the club finesse, then lead a diamond to the king. But you can do better. You must first lead the club queen from dummy. If East follows low you can assume that the king is misplaced for you, since would anyone be able to duck smoothly duck from king-doubleton or tripleton? I think not.

Accordingly, you rise with the club ace and return the nine. If your reading of the position is right, West might duck the club king, even if he shouldn’t. But if he started life with the doubleton club king, he will win, and simultaneously be endplayed. He cannot lead a black card, and a heart will give you a ruff and sluff to let you pitch a diamond from hand, so he must exit in diamonds.

Now the auction should persuade you to play low from dummy, playing East for the diamond ace not the queen. If East has competed to two hearts with three small hearts and two highcard points, more power to his elbow!

Mark Dahl, playing with Tom Kniest, played four spades exactly this way to make 10 tricks.

This double calls for the lead of your shorter major. In this case, your holding the heart queen argues for a spade lead rather than a heart. Your partner rates either to have good spades or semi-solid spades and an outside entry. In either case, if you lead spades, you hope the opponents will not be able to run nine tricks before his suit is established. Lead a low spade, to give count, not the nine.


♠ 9 6 4
 Q 7 6
 J 7 2
♣ J 7 4 2
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. 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


bryanAugust 22nd, 2016 at 8:08 pm

on lead with aces –
If have partnership agreement that a 3nt double in silent auction = lead shorter major, leading the 4S makes sense. (Except if West knows our agreement, why would she leave in 3NT doubled if afraid of a spade lead)

But if I do not have an agreement that partner has a major runable suit. Instead pard has a undisclosed runable suit, What would be the lead?

I expect pard. would not tend to double if declarer has 9 quick or eight quick plus KQ in remaining suit. Even if we could get five quick, that would not make a good double. Meaning I do not know if passive or active is called for. Odds reasonable I might get in for a 2nd lead if pick wrong suit first time.

I would tend to lead a diamond or a spade . I have a possible Heart & club stopper. {Decreases likely chance of being pard suit.} Depends on what agreement we have vs nt if lead top or lead bottom for count.

Jeff SAugust 22nd, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Even in the undisclosed runable suit referenced by bryan, I think I would still go with the spade on the theory that if West had four spades, he might have made a pit stop in Blackwood rather that jumping straight to 3NT. Of course, opener might have four spades, but you pays your money, you takes your chances.

bobbywolffAugust 22nd, 2016 at 11:11 pm

Hi Bryan & Jeff S,

By talking to you both at the same time, allow me to throw in a few caveats likely worth knowing.

1. By doubling 3NT (as well as slams, bid voluntarily to be made and not as only a sacrifice), the overriding idea is to give the defense a better chance to defeat that contract, rather than to increase the set.

2. Only after looking at one's hand will the opening leader be more likely to guess which suit to lead.

3. With the above, the fact that North was not interested in a major suit (no Stayman inquiry) should an opening leader choose a major, and then it follows that when holding the queen of hearts, that queen in the key suit to be led, should be held by partner for his solidity and thus presto, magico, again spades looks like the percentage choice.

4. BTW if the opponents first use 2 clubs and then after any response by the NTer the responder then jumps to 3NT, then double by the non-opening leader should suggest a diamond lead (called the Fisher double named after my former Dr. (internist for about 25 years) in Dallas who doubled (joke) as a bridge player and was the famous Barry Crane's partner for many years going to tournaments on the weekends to play with him. His full name was John W. Fisher and sadly died about 10 years ago.

As a true story, in 1937 William McKenney, at that time the executive secretary of the ACBL, (and the genius who conceived the idea of masterpoints), donated a trophy to whoever won the most master points in a given year in the ACBL and in 1972 Dr. Fisher won it. It was then written up in a monthly medical journal about John's victory and congratulations were in store.

Also McKenney happened to be a relatively small town about 50 miles north of Dallas so when John, in Dallas, was introduced to the doctors present as being the winner, one of the doctors in the audience asked John, "You won the McKenney trophy, what would you have had to do, to win the Dallas trophy"?

Although I was not there at the time, I later was glad to have John as my doctor, instead of the one who asked that question.

Finally and back to bridge, in order to make such a double one need not always have a running solid suit, but something like s. xxx, h. xxx, d. KQJ10x, c. Ax would certainly qualify and change the ten of diamonds for the nine and I think the gamble is well worth it as well.

And with that tool in one's bag that player would not have to risk an overcall (NV or V) to accomplish the same result.

Jeff S, my guess is that instead of Blackwood you meant to say Stayman on the way to 3NT. 26th, 2016 at 2:46 pm

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