Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 30th, 2018

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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


In today’s deal, South’s response of two no-trump to an opening minor was forcing, so North simply raised to three no-trump.

West led a low spade to East’s king, and South carefully counted his winners before choosing his card. He had four tricks in the majors, and there would be either four or five diamonds, depending on the finesse in that suit. Additionally, there would be one or two club tricks, also depending on whether or not that finesse were successful.

That looks like at least nine tricks, but say South had taken the first spade trick and lost a finesse to the diamond king, East would have been able to return a spade. Now the defenders would take four spades and the diamond king, defeating the contract. So South had to duck the first spade trick, playing low from both hands. The idea of the holdup was to exhaust East of his spades. If East won the diamond king, South hoped he would be unable to return a spade.

When East continued with a low spade at trick two, South put in the jack and let West win his queen. Declarer took his ace on the third round of spades and discarded a low club from dummy. He next led the diamond jack and let it ride. As expected, when East won the diamond king, he had no spade to lead.

When East returned a club at trick five, South rejected the finesse, rising with the ace and running nine tricks without taking any unnecessary risk, a wise precaution today.

If you lead a top spade, you need partner to have the suit run on defense — the chance that partner will have a high-card entry is quite small. If you lead a small diamond, you have a decent chance of establishing the suit, since you do have the side entries. With fewer high cards on the side, the spade lead becomes more attractive.


♠ A K 5
 Q 8 6
 Q 7 5 3 2
♣ 9 4
South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoMay 14th, 2018 at 9:13 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff & Clarksburg
Please see my post of Saturday ie 12th May

jim2May 14th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Typo – the opening lead in the diagram (QS) is not the one in the text (xS).

It changes the play, probably.

Iain ClimieMay 14th, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Hi Folks,

On the subject of spades, what is an inspired West has found a small spade lead from Q10x (or had 2 clubs in the spades)? South dutifully exhausts the non-danger hand of spades, takes the diamond finesse and crash. Less flippantly, West should exit with the S10 at T3 just to spread a bit of confusion. It shouldn’t work (just loom at East’s carding) but what if a declarer with more imagination than sense then played a diamond to the Ace assuming that East was the danger hand? No difference in the result as the cards lie today, but give West DKx(x) instead with the long spades and a cold game has gone off. It is a chance to nothing for the defence, especially if the suit led is the only unbid one when a lead from it may be coming regardless of whether it is (say) 4-4, 5-3 or 3-5.

On Jim2’s point, the SQ (if it happened) would have to be read as KQ10xx or similar; a reminder to actually read the opponent’s convention card.



bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 2:43 pm


Will hop to it ASAP and look to my response on that day.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Hi Jim2,

Inexcusable, but rather the queen, fourth highest which is the 5 or for those who lead 3rd and 5th, (or 3rd and low), the deuce.

Thanks much and to only suggest that it changes the play is an underbid.

However, for those new to bridge, can then see just how disastrous the lead of the top spade hurts the overall defense of attempting to develop enough defensive tricks to defeat 3NT since that errant lead allows the declarer two spade tricks whether declarer immediately ducks or not, instead of the just one he would be entitled to, if the small lead was to East’s king and then returned when declarer ducks.

Mea culpa and I apologize.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for all the valid tidbits of defending you have passed to all of us regarding, possibility (leading from Q10x instead of a more likely longer suit), deceptive third spade suit preference signal to attempt to fool declarer, who may just go wrong by taking the club finesse, thinking West did not want a club back as an entry (not on this hand as there would be absolutely no reason to risk it).

Of course, if West only had Q10x he would have no choice but to lead the 10 at trick 3.

However the combined factors with your explanation when leading from only Q10x in this pretty much blind auction are between slim and none, but nevertheless pointed out, just to show the excitement which sometimes interrupts stereotyped play.

Perhaps only against Jim2 (declarer) as the invisible parrot on West’s shoulder just whispered to his master, “lead that low spade (from Q10x)” being an agent of TOCM TM.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Again Clarksburg and Mircea1,

Please, as AVRR suggested to turn to the comments on last Saturday’s hand (May 12) and be updated on what is suggested by him.

Also as a simple general rule, please notify me, when and if I can help or be otherwise needed.

ClarksburgMay 15th, 2018 at 5:15 am

Although the “book” was suggested by others who seem willing to help make a reality, it will be your book!
Do you have a specific vision of what you would like it to be?
Let us know, to steer us in the right direction from the start.

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First forgive the time lag since I, very early Tuesday morning, have just discovered your

Nothing real special, but concentrating on what other bridge books usually do not include, opinions on controversial subjects: What it takes to shine, Over and underrated aspects of judging winners and losers (or probably better called not-so). Sheer intelligence is of little importance in achieving goals, but partnership selection based on harmony, understanding each other’s style (when aggressive, when not-so) (when faced with a choice, partner’s selection of opening lead, as against other equally talented players). Very unusual for any two partners to have anywhere near the same tendencies, which not much of a problem if both are catered to). Good partnership rapport with treating both victory and defeat with common sense. Timing with discussions need to be done at the right moments, almost never when they first occur, except when in private and not then competing.

Often there is really no real percentage application worth quoting since rarely are there not special circumstances which are more important than mathematical computations–not always but often.

The less real sensitivities either partner has, bodes better for their success. Sometimes it takes delving deeper into why your partner or yourself sometimes goes off track and if so, patience becomes crucial for both.

Having strategy sessions before playing against a top level partnership–nothing the opponents need to ethically know, but usually just the habits of one or the other player, possibly unknown to your partner.

Even with perfect compliance (or almost) by both partners some sessions will be much tougher than another. I remember in an important tournament while on defense with Bob Hamman he kept signalling me (legally) what he wanted me to switch to and I kept disobeying him. He finally (at the finish) became real upset and even though my reason was valid, my defense was sure to beat them and although his would too, I did not give in.

I probably should have, but bridge sometimes is a game where one or both partner’s are surprised by the previous play (usually by an opponent) and one or the other of their opponents becomes confused. So be it, but those are the times when great composure is needed to offset a rare moment, but nevertheless it is almost never right to just blurt something without giving partner time to explain his thinking and then the MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT arrives—admitting a mistake or a wrong assumption or whatever one could have done to avoid the problem.

IOWs,perhaps even more so than a very good marriage, total honesty in thinking is 100% necessary at all times. Without which the partnership is sure to go downhill to destruction.

Likely a future addition of other aspects.

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