Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.

Mary Shelley

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


How should the defense go against four spades in today’s deal?

When West leads the diamond king, East can see that it is possible that if declarer has the heart jack in addition to his other assets, but a 5-4-3-1 pattern, then the defenders must cash their three diamond winners on the go, or the third diamond gets away on dummy’s winning club. In that case he would need to overtake the diamond king and return the suit.

But the actual lie of the cards looks slightly more likely. Here East must duck the first diamond, and West must not continue the suit. Instead he can see from his own hand that the defenders must prevent heart ruffs, so he must shift to a trump, leaving his partner with a re-entry for a second trump play.

Declarer wins the trump shift on table and leads a heart to the queen. West takes his king and plays a low diamond to East’s ace. Now a second trump from East leaves South a trick short; he has eight winners, and a ninth will comes from a heart ruff, but there is no possibility of another trick against sound defense.

It is always challenging to shift to trump in this sort of position. The risk exists that you are chopping up partner’s trump holding, whereas if left to his own devices declarer would lose an additional trick. However, the knowledge that declarer needs heart ruffs in dummy means that the trick will be favorite to come back one way or another.

I would normally lead a doubleton, looking for a ruff, but here my spades are too weak and my club honor potentially too significant for this to feel right. Since my partner is quite likely to have a doubleton heart, I don’t like opening up that suit either, so it is a toss-up between diamonds and spades. I go for the diamond three.


♠ 8 4 3
 K 10 8 7 2
 10 4 3
♣ Q 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
Pass Dbl. Pass 2 ♠
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


Iain ClimieOctober 17th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, what would be a sensible use for redouble by North e.g. Heart fit, defensive prospects, maximum?



jim2October 17th, 2016 at 12:22 pm

On BWTA, I confess I would lead the QC.

Sure, it could be wrong — TOCM ™ after all! — but I would apologize in the post mortem as follows. N-S have at least half the HCPs, West has spade points and North does not have strong hearts. Given also that West is marked with most of the E-W HCPs, the odds seem to favor that the club lead will be through the enemy strength. Even if West has KJx of clubs, declarer was always going to guess right anyway, and now if I get in later with the KH, a second club lead looks even better.

Also, should pard have something like Kxxx of clubs and the AS, I will get one or two important ruffs.

bobbywolffOctober 17th, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, your obvious intent by your provocative question, is to constructively add another spur to legal partnership communication.

Methinks the best use for it would be short hearts, but a maximum NT (17 with a 15-17 range, e.g. s. KJ10x, h. Kx, d. AJx, c. AJ9x) informing partner that 1. anything positive he can contribute would be appreciated, but since he might be broke, he will become and stay, at least for this hand, the captain of the ship. 2. IOW, it is now up to him to contribute any future action, and whatever he decides to do, certainly including doubling their takeout, if that is their choice, will be up to him. 3. Delving deeper, the redouble would basically concentrate on having an excellent defensive hand, since with good heart support instead, raising hearts now or eventually, instead of redoubling would instead be the plan.

Finally while holding; s. Ax, h. QJxx, D. AKJx, c. xxx the NTer should bid 3 hearts after the reopening double. However if holding instead: s. Ax, h. QJxx, d. AKQJ, c. xxx he should have responded 3 hearts the first time, giving partner the incentive to now opt for game, rather than settle for a part score and at the same time shut out the reopening possibilities, or at the very least, make them more remote.

High level bridge is dramatically involved with gradation, even sometimes accepting down one, after aggression, in order to: 1. bid more accurately, although chance taking, and 2. becoming a tougher opponent while playing against equal and wary players.

No doubt, the experience of playing against equals (or close) is totally necessary to even begin to improve, therefore stepping on the up elevator to higher ground. Many others decline to do so, accepting what they feel is just too great a step to take.

Pity on them for never giving themselves a chance to experience the rarefied thrill which often occurs and a necessary step for success, involving the greatest overall mind game ever invented.

bobbywolffOctober 17th, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

After such an optimistic explanation of your choice of opening lead, perhaps being victimized by TOCM TM is not such a demoralizing disease after all.

No doubt the queen of clubs lead can strike gold and who am I, nor anyone else, in a position to say nay. The only caveat I could possibly add is what John Brown, an excellent bridge writer (and I suppose player) from England back in the pre WWII days wrote in his superior bridge book, “Winning Defence”, that if an only average (no better) player would get off to the right opening lead every time he became one, he would win every World Bridge Championship ever held.

That statement, FWIIW, to which I BTW agree, merely emphasizes how difficult relative blind opening leads really are and remember, Contract Bridge had only been invented about 10 years before his epic judgment.

Good luck and happy, as always, to hear any of your well considered, bridge opinions.

Iain ClimieOctober 17th, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Sorry, LWTA – Monday strikes again!