Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side.

William Ewart Gladstone

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


North-South cards might reasonably have played three no-trump here. This is a contract that makes if diamonds are 4-4 or if, as here, the player on lead has an unattractive three-card holding.

But at the table South showed a very strong hand with extra playing strength in hearts, by jumping to three no-trump. Had he held a strong balanced hand with a five-card suit in the 18-19 range, he would simply have bid two no-trump, so this sequence showed real extra playing strength. North guessed to convert to four hearts, a contract that looks very unlikely to make on accurate defense.

As it turned out, though, the 2-2 trump break gave declarer some interesting chances, based on the fact that both black suits are frozen — neither side can play on them without losing a trick.

Against four hearts West led a trump, not a bad move, as either black suit would have been immediately fatal, and declarer won to play a diamond. The defenders elected to win and play a second heart. When trumps broke, a second diamond saw whichever defender won the trick having to decide between opening up a black suit or play a diamond.

Since leading either black suit would have conceded the 10th trick, the defenders accurately played a third diamond. South ruffed, and played ace, king and a third spade. East had to win this trick, and now had to open up the clubs. South ran the lead round to the queen in dummy, and claimed the rest.

A call of one heart here shows extras, more than a simple overcall of one heart would have promised. But your hand is far better than that. It is arguable that a jump to two hearts doesn’t do your hand justice, but that alternative of cuebidding two clubs then bidding hearts might set up a game force. So the jump to two hearts will have to do.


♠ A K 9
 A K J 10 8 4
 6 3
♣ A 10
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 1 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


Iain ClimieFebruary 7th, 2017 at 9:21 am

Hi Bobby,

If East were on lead against 3NT on today’s play hand with DKQ10, he might well have tried the DK hoping partner held the Jack and preparing to drive out the Ace. AQ10 isn’t that different although you do feel silly trying the DQ if dummy comes down with Jxx and declarer has Kx(x)(x). As east has fair values, though, how sensible or otherwise would you regard leading the DQ against 3NT here (ignoring the fact that it works a treat on today’s hand)?



bobby wolffFebruary 7th, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Hi Iain,

You pose a thoughtful question, which then, in turn, requires an extremely thoughtful answer.

Like Charles Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities” begins, leading a diamond from the East hand vs. 3NT is the “best of leads”, (since, like now, it catches length and enough strength (king) to complete the coup. However, in theory it could be the “worst of leads” since it may give away the ninth trick to the king when held by those opponents, while at the same time on the way to establishing even more tricks to them with possible length in diamonds, often held by the NTer.

If spectacular is what one desires, the queen of diamonds (or the ace) lead is it, but if cold hard percentage is settled for,, 4th from a black suit, preferably spades (since they weren’t bid) should probably be the choice.

John Brown, a notably famous British bridge author, back around the 2nd World War said it best in his sensational book, “Winning Defence”, “if an otherwise average player would always lead the right card while on opening lead, he would NEVER lose a World Bridge Championship”.

While there is likely no way to prove his theory, I will go on the hook, by agreeing with him.

However thanks, for your keen imagination and thus suggestion.