Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

No idea is so modern that it will not someday be antiquated.

Ellen Glasgow

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


One of the most difficult and controversial areas of bridge is how to signal in a suit contract at trick one when an honor is led that will hold the trick, while dummy puts down a singleton.

There are two schools of thought: for what it is worth, I am closer to the first position, but the second is more popular. The first says “Signal attitude in the usual fashion if continuation is possibly correct. Only if continuation makes no sense do you use suit preference, low for the lower possible suit, high for the higher.”

The second more mainstream school suggests that everything is about suit preference when there are two possible suits to shift to. But if there is only one possible shift, encouraging the opening lead says don’t shift to the obvious suit.

In today’s deal West leads the heart king against four spades, and the singleton in dummy should affect what East’s signals ought to mean.

Here he should play the heart three, suggesting a high honor in clubs – clearly the ace from West’s point of view. So West shifts to the club four and the defense takes the next three tricks with the club ace, jack and king.

By contrast if East had the diamonds under control and no club honor he would follow with a high heart at trick one, and West could exit in diamonds. That would allow the defenders to collect whatever winners they are entitled to in due course.

Although the jump to three spades does not definitively lock spades into being trumps, it suggests at most a one-loser suit. The four heart call is still technically consistent with a hand with 5-6 in the reds, but sounds more like a cuebid for spades with no club control. So you should bid four spades now.


♠ A K Q 10 8 5
 Q 9 2
♣ Q 10 2
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJanuary 24th, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Hi Bobby,Thought about doing the high jump or the long jump,for the next Olympics,especially after our defence on this hand from pairs,All nv Dealer E. North KQT7 Void 8765 KJ962/ East 8653 KJT752 A T3/ South A42 43 JT92 A754/ West J9 AQ986 KQ43 Q8. East pass South pass West 1H North pass-East 4H.Against 4H North led the QS(thought they were playing rev attitude,not so),pard took the Ace and return a spade,North returned a third spade,4H+1.If as North you were to lead should the defence go? Should South have overtaken the second spade(low one presumably),and switch to a low club or AC? If on the QS lead,should South switch to a low club(after spade Ace on trick 1) rather than a second spade? South remarked that as he had not returned the two of spades..North should not play a third spade…guess that’s fair enough allowing for the fact that this’West’may not have thought about falsecarding from J92 by playing J9 on the first two spades.There were quite a few 450s..regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJanuary 24th, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Hi Patrick,

Like many things in bridge, there are no foolproof rules, only partnership logic, which then makes it necessary for both partners to be on the same page,

When partner leads a spade honor (I prefer the king from KQ) but when playing Rusinow it would also apply to the queen, then with only three the opening leader should follow with the queen (or in this case the king) then partner will know that partner started with only 3 or possibly only 2. However while holding 4 he should at trick 2 then lead his lowest one. South should then win the ace and lead a low club back, putting declarer to a guess if he could hold the KJ. After winning the king North should then, of course lead a club back to South’s Ace.

The above description is hardly ever covered in any intended educational bridge book, mainly because it is difficult to teach (other players range from slightly different interpretations to even no discussions at all) and sometimes there are exceptions, but both partners need to understand when those exceptions occur, and most importantly why they occur.

No one has ever said, at least to me, that bridge is relatively simple, perhaps because at certain levels and, of course higher, it just isn’t.

Finally, when you speak of declarer’s possible falsecard, a winning defensive partnership should be prepared for that to happen, so therefore rarely, if ever, fall victim.

Patrick CheuJanuary 24th, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Hi Bobby,Pard and I were not on the same page,he plays A for rev att. and K for normal count and Q as normal from QJx or QJT in suit contracts.all said,should he have play low club,after overtaking the QS lead on trick 1 with the give declarer a guess if he has KJ..rather than a second spade?

bobby wolffJanuary 25th, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Hi Patrick,

Probably, yes since according to his rather unusual method of differentiating signals to the ace or the king, but more importantly having the queen lead deny the king.

Then, I guess, while looking at the dummy (4 spades and only 2 clubs) you might as well switch to a low club and after winning partner’s club return with the ace, lead back a spade while probably shrugging one’s shoulders would, by a miracle, produce the best defense.

In other words, fate, more than good bridge, became successful, although I do not like your partnership’s chances in the future, but you might as well enjoy what happened here.

Yes, perhaps your partner has just landed on Mars as a space traveler, but I wouldn’t, at least as yet, bet the farm on its successful future.

However, good luck to you both.