Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 17th, 2016

Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly except vanity.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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


The auction may look bucolic — essentially South drives to slam facing an opening bid. But it is admittedly difficult for declarer to judge exactly which cards his partner has, and gambling on slam seems reasonable. After all, it is unlikely to be worse than a finesse.

What would you lead with that West hand? Normally one should lead actively, but here surely declarer has the diamond king to bid like this. A trump seems sensible; it is unlikely to take a finesse for declarer that he cannot take himself. My second choice would be a club, my third choice the diamond ace. Now on a spade lead it is up to South to count the tricks. Six spades, three clubs two hearts and….?

There are three plausible ways to try for the twelfth trick, in that you could take either red suit finesse or you could try to ruff out the hearts and establish a long heart in dummy. Since you can try to ruff out hearts before risking a finesse, but not vice versa, let us try the following.

Win the trump in hand, play the heart ace and ruff a heart high. Now play a spade to the 10 — you did not waste that card at trick one did you? Ruff another heart high, noting that both opponents follow, then draw trump and cash dummy’s clubs and hearts. You can throw three of your diamonds on the long hearts and master club, losing just one diamond at the end.

Your partner’s double had an emphasis on take-out of spades. You can imagine dummy going down with some partial spade fit and maybe declarer playing to take a diamond ruff on the board. Your play would be to try to lead trump as often as possible to kill diamond ruffs and I would guess to lead my low trump, rather than from the sequence.


♠ 10 9 5
 Q J 8 7
 Q 10 3
♣ 9 4 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♣ Dbl. 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


jim2October 31st, 2016 at 2:39 pm

I am not going to dispute the wisdom of leading a trump on this auction.

With that typed, however, I dread the post mortem if it should turn out that my trump lead let the contract make while a club lead would have set it.

“It was my fault,” partner might begin. “After all, if I had wanted you to lead a club, I should not have doubled clubs.”

bobby wolffOctober 31st, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes. many a true word has been spoken in jest, and the comment by the opening leader’s partner is an excellent example.

There is a time to lead (not necessarily only as the opening leader in a bridge hand) but rather by following suit to what your partner expected, a club lead.

Bridge, being a microcosm of life, particularly so by the legal signals, both play and during the bidding, should, unless the reason for not appears in neon (fluorescent lighting), follow partnership suggestion not instead lone wolf overrule.

However, how would the wonderful stories, such as the one you espoused, be passed on to the next generation of senses of humor possessed bridge players?

Patrick CheuOctober 31st, 2016 at 11:18 pm

Hi, Bobby,As more players are playing transfer responses to 1C(2 or 1+C),1D=H n 1H=S,what would be your suggested defence against such treatment? After 1C-p-1D/1H-? regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffOctober 31st, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Hi Patrick,

My guess, with always the intention to keeping it as simple as possible, a double of 1 diamond is the equivalent of a diamond overcall and then a bid of 1 heart (RHO’s suit) is best played as a take out double of 1 heart usually meaning the holding of the 2 unbid suits, in this case diamonds and spades. Of course, then an overcall of 1NT is the same as ever, a strong NT.

The above slightly works to the advantage of the defense, since if RHO played natural he would be depriving his LHO of the chance to get diamonds into the auction, either as a suit or as a lead director. No big advantage but probably as big of one as the bidding space the opponents are trying to conserve by playing their bids as what can be described as “one up”.

Patrick CheuNovember 1st, 2016 at 7:23 am

Hi Bobby,Thanks again for your helpful suggestion,which I am sure will trigger further discussion here. Best regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Hi Patrick,

I forgot to mention that after 1C by LHO, pass by partner, 1 diamond by RHO (meaning hearts) a jump to 2 hearts by 4th hand merely shows hearts, perhaps KQJ9xx or better, the same as I have always played (and to me very successfully) a bid of 2 hearts over my RHO’s natural 1 heart simply showing a very good heart suit, a treatment to which I think all partnerships should follow.

Patrick CheuNovember 1st, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Hi Bobby,The opponents’bidding went:1C(1+C)-1H(spades)~1S(only 3S) passed out,the only pair in 1S 4-3 fit making and most in 1N -1 but could be made according to printout.We could not break sincere thanks again for your helpful thoughts.Best regards~Patrick.