Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 12th, 2016

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?

Josef Stalin

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


All this week’s exhibits come from the Mind Sports Games at Lille four years ago, to mark the fact that this year’s event is now under way in Wroclaw, Poland.

This deal is from the final set of the England women’s victory over Russia in the finals, showing that the players were still focusing, even after 12 days’ play.

Against four spades West led the heart 10. Declarer, Susan Stockdale, won with dummy’s ace and drew trump in three rounds, as West discarded the heart two.

Declarer then set up her elimination by cashing off her top hearts, East discarding an encouraging diamond. She then exited with the diamond jack, and West put up the king and returned the seven for the eight, queen and ace. Declarer exited with a third diamond, and could now hold her club losers to one by force.

In the other room Nevena Senior also led the heart jack and the first variation in the play did not come until trick seven, when Heather Dhondy as East was allowed to win the diamond jack with her queen. She switched to the club six and West won her queen. Now West played the diamond 10, a thoughtful deceptive card.

Declarer can still succeed by winning and exiting with a diamond, but when she ducked – assuming East had the diamond king, and hoping West had begun with the doubleton diamond 10, West could exit in diamonds.

Now it was declarer who was endplayed, and forced to lose a second club. One down, and 12 IMPs to England.

Your partner rates to have diamond length, so it is tempting to lead that suit. The alternative is to kill ruffs in dummy by leading a trump, but I’d be worried about picking up the trump suit for declarer. My first choice is a small diamond, my second a small heart. But underleading an ace smacks of desperation, and I’m not sure it is appropriate yet.


♠ Q 10 3 2
 A 5 4 2
 J 9 5 2
♣ 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT
2 Pass Pass 3 ♣
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


David WarheitSeptember 26th, 2016 at 10:10 am

In a third room, NS reached 3NT which not only makes for sure on the given lie of the EW hands but also where W has singleton S9, in which case even Ms. Stockdale couldn’t have prevailed. Can you see a reasonable way to get to the best game contract? Stopping at the even more reasonable part score in S or NT seems beyond reasonable.

Bobby WolffSeptember 26th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for your on point post.

Yes, since South first let his partner know that he, South, had a very good hand by cue bidding his opponent’s suit on the way to game and, because of that, a funny thing happened on the way to the promised land (in bridge it is a making game or slam).

Once partner showed a heart stop, likely the ace (after already showing holding 4 spades by his negative double) I think it close to 100% to eschew now bidding spades but merely raising to 3NT. Not only are nine tricks often easier than 10, a heart ruff might be available to EW in the form of East having a singleton heart and West the ace of spades.

Although attempting to predict exact hands is, at best, a risky process, but here, I think it stands out to go for 3NT when partner responds as he did, denoting a heart stop. Also if North’s heart stop is J10xx instead of the ace, the ace and another heart lead will likely down a spade game contract almost immediately since, between NS they did not promise much more, if any, than just the values for game.

However, I do not recommend trying to mastermind the NS contract out of reaching game, since to do so, is neither practical nor wise, the result of which reminds me of a long time ago British bridge proverb, which to me is still true: “There are many bridge players walking the streets of London for both not bidding their games, but if so, for not drawing trumps fast enough (getting the kiddies off the street), if they do”.

Likely not an exact quote, but still timely.

BryanSeptember 26th, 2016 at 2:47 pm

on lead problem,
I agree on leading a diamond since pard passed the 2H bid.
What hands do you think pard and declarer can have in diamond? With the 1 NT, declarer should have a honor, maybe 2???
What could pard have for double?, wimp hearts, nothing in spades, so most of it should be in minors? Most likely has 2 spades. (With 1 or 0 I expect op would have bid 2 spades instead of 3 club)

In other words, are there reasonable hands that match the bidding that it would gain to lead the Jack or the 9, vs a low diamond? If so, how likely is that and is it urgent to take a chance?

Bobby WolffSeptember 26th, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Hi Bryan,

I'll answer by merely discussing a concept, which, IMO, if respected will tend to allow your bridge ascent to proceed as fast as possible:

1. No one, not even Dame Fortune could possibly know any of the 13 cards your partner could have, including KQJ10 of hearts, but a very minimum type double so it will be much more profitable to you to not think in those terms.

2. However your hand may have competed to 3 diamonds over RHO's 3 club bid, in order to not stay fixed, if in fact 3 clubs happens to be our hated opponent"s best contract (appears likely).

That type of reasoning is far more important than the impossible task of who has what. "You pays your money you takes your chances", but learn as soon as possible the kinds of risks to take in order to start finishing higher.

Learning basic bridge is one thing, but improving one's plateau of learning is highly individual and, at least up to now, is not only not known, but even rarely thought about.

jim2September 26th, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Um, “drew trump in three rounds.”

Exactly how did the play go???

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2016 at 12:12 am

Hi Jim2,

Declarer won the heart ace in dummy and drew trump in three rounds before leading the jack of diamonds from hand, floating to East’s queen. Then East led a club to West’s queen who got out with the 10 of diamonds which declarer unfortunately ducked, enabling West to now simply lead the diamond king, which reduced declarer to a second losing club finesse.

Real hand, real players, poor declarer result.

jim2September 27th, 2016 at 12:16 am

No, no! How did the three rounds of trump go??

jim2September 27th, 2016 at 3:28 am

That could well be important!

Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2016 at 9:08 am

HI Jim2,

SQ ducked, SJ (King and Ace), S10 OR
SQ (ducked), spade to 10, SA. I don’t think declarer can handle 4-1 spades (except perhaps singleton 9 with west or maybe singleton K with East.


Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

East ducked the spade king twice, forcing declarer to win the third spade in hand, not allowing him to at least attempt to wind up in dummy for a diamond toward his hand.

However, he could have (should), led a diamond from dummy after the second spade jack was ducked all around.

jim2September 27th, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Yes, Dear Host! That was exactly the reason for my Q. If East fails to cover precisely the SECOND spade lead, declarer had superior options.