Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 4th, 2017

In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory.

Alfred North Whitehead

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


Congratulations if you managed to bid the hand to three no-trump. This is not at all easy to do, though maybe South should probe with three hearts over two spades, and now if North guesses to bid three no-trump South has an easy pass.

When West leads the heart eight against four spades, East cannot tell for sure whether his partner has one or two cards in the suit. But since it rates to be very difficult to beat the hand unless his partner has a singleton, he wins the ace and returns the suit, hoping for the best. (South should follow with the heart 10 at the first trick in an attempt to confuse East, but it should not work). If South does follow with his low heart at his first turn, it makes East’s life easier, as now he can be sure that his partner does not have the doubleton eight-three.

Anyway, East gives his partner a ruff, West returns a diamond to his partner’s ace, gets a second ruff….. Whoa! How did West know to play back a diamond? There is an answer, but it is not obvious. The question of which minor suit ace East has is determined by the size of the heart East returns to give his partner the ruff. His play of the nine calls for the higher suit.

This suit preference signal (also known as Lavinthal, or as McKenney in England) would allow East to show the club ace instead by returning a low heart.

Partner has scattered values but has not joined in, so we can assume no heart fit. Is that enough reason to lead a different suit? I think so. The spade sequence is just enough reason to lead that suit, particularly because your RHO might well have bid spades if he had the right hand with a three-card suit. So I would lead the spade jack.


♠ J 10 8
 A J 7 4 3
 K 5
♣ J 9 3
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
1 Dbl. Pass 1 NT
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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact