Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 13th, 2018

Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, and not by the intellect.

Herbert Spencer

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


This deal dates from a time when North was able to bid clubs naturally at his second turn. These days some would play a three-club call as showing a second negative, with two no-trump natural.

The double of the Blackwood response doesn’t affect South’s plans. In Key-card Blackwood, the first step that isn’t a signoff asks for the trump queen. When North denies it, South settles for the small slam.

South wins the opening diamond lead and plans to cash the spade ace and king, then pitch the diamond loser on the hearts. When the first round of trumps draws the jack from West, this does not have to be a true card (West might have one, two or even three trumps), but in almost all eventualities, the spades can probably wait. Declarer takes two top hearts to pitch dummy’s diamond loser, and East ruffs in.

He plays back a diamond, which declarer ruffs in dummy, then pitches his last diamond on the club ace. When he leads the spade 10 from dummy, East follows low, and declarer is faced with a guess in trump. Should he play for West to have begun with the bare spade jack or the doubleton queen-jack?

Since West appears to have three or four diamonds and five hearts, while East has five or six cards in those two suits, it feels right to me to finesse. And the percentages indicate that too (reinforced by the Principle of Restricted Choice, which I’ll discuss later this month.)

After finessing in spades, declarer can draw trumps and claim the rest.

With no attractive side suit to lead from (since both diamond and heart leads could easily cost a trick), I’d reluctantly lead a club. Yes, the suit has been bid, but it has not really been shown yet. A fourth-highest club four is as likely as anything not to cost me, and partner won’t necessarily think I have shortness.


♠ J 2
 A Q 6 5 3
 Q 2
♣ 10 7 6 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
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


David WarheitAugust 27th, 2018 at 9:15 am

When S leads the S10 from dummy, E plays the Q. Only then does S realize that he should have ruffed one of the diamonds with the 9. Oh, well.

David WarheitAugust 27th, 2018 at 9:29 am

Oops, I forgot that E had ruffed in. Maybe I should have paid closer attention to today’s quote.

Bruce KarlsonAugust 27th, 2018 at 12:32 pm

With no clear lead and a stiff QJ or rarely a 10, I will lead one as it usually is neutral. Not today for a perceptive declarer however. Simply hate to give a free finesse to an always undeserving declarer and tend to forget the times I stumble into the correct more aggressive lead. Thoughts?/

jim1August 27th, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Bruce Karlson –

I think you would not have led the JS at the table on this column hand. Remember, you would have heard South ask if North had the QS and North deny it (and also extra length).

You know YOU did not have it, so your partner does. Hence, leading the JS would always kill pard’s possible trump trick (unless Q10x).

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Hi David,

You’re forgiven, since all of us know (or should) that active bridge analysis is a very jealous mistress.

It never wants to be underestimated, and whether by intellect or feelings, to copy cat your quote on quote (rhymes, sort of), at least emulates the mind process, when making crucial decisions, usually when playing the dummy.

However, perhaps on defense, where all of one’s assets are not in plain view, the imagination required to succeed, sometimes becomes so palpable one can hear (or worse, feel) it’s breath.

So, only never mind and only much thanks for all your continual contributions.

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Hi Bruce,

My comment will only be directed to the general choice of aggressive or passive choice of opening lead, to which you allude and not to what you and Jim2 are discussing regarding today’s hand.

No doubt when faced with a sometimes crucial choice of being aggressive on opening lead as opposed to biding one’s time, yes it is never an advantage to have your defensive partnership have to play 1st and 3rd to any trick (certainly including the opening thrust) instead of allowing your hated opponents to then play 2nd and 4th, always a possible considerable advantage, but of course, other times, more or less, a break even.

However, even though true, probably more times than most might think, particularly those who are somewhat bridge pessimistic by nature, the major advantage of risking an aggressive lead (away from an unsupported honor or sometimes laying down an ace without the king) is to either immediately grab one’s tricks or at least set one or more up before that declarer can set up a side suit to discard his possible losers.

IOW, leading aggressively is sometimes more likely to gain tempo advantage over declarer as opposed to sit idly by and hope to take tricks later because declarer will not be able to establish discards for his losers.

A pure race to establish tricks as against waiting for them to be taken later.

Often, from the defense viewpoint it is a guess as to what to do. However, only your 13 cards are visible to your eyes and, of course, listening to the bidding for your ears should help determine what the defensive strategy should be.

However this post is already long enough (with more to come) so that I am not tempted to get into and compare bidding sequences which should determine what to do. However first we need to clarify exactly what the factors are before we can talk about solutions.

Finally, there are many byproducts which need to be understood, like entering the bidding defensively with lead directors, sometimes at some risk, but after all, there may be a larger risk to not bid and help your poor partner not make a mistake should he be the one on opening lead.

And, of course, there are many other factors and when bridge is taught in schools (Europe and Asia) the logic involved can be like running a business where decisions are based not always on specific rules or even laws, but rather what will be best for that business, assuming no one should ever be even tempted to break laws but instead and firmly, maybe figuring out how to get around them legally, and in our great game, actively ethical, may be still a possibility.

“nuff said, but, at least I think, worth considering. Also, just see how you bringing up such a simple subject about what to lead and why, could get such a long (and I hope not boring) response.

Bruce karlsonAugust 27th, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Absolutely not boring. Thnx Jim and yes I would shy away from it on this hand due to the bidding indications.. Our host has opined and will elucidate further. I appreciate his thoughts as usual and wonder if close slam lead calls should be by partnership agreement. That is, there are no Looks or comments if an aggresive goes wrong as that is what you’ve agreed to play.

For the hope for all of us column: playing in a club game and up against 24000 mps by my LHO. Jammed up in dummy 1NT and about to go down. I led the spade 3 from 2 small on the board toward 3 small in my hand hoping they were 4.4.. they were not but the suit was NOT continued, I got to hand and I made 3. Certainly would not work in high level comp but…

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Hi Bruce, Jim1, Jim2, both, or neither,

Congrats on your deceptive lead of their seen nothing, toward your not seen nothing.
Being innovative is always invigorating especially, when it works.

Just noticed that it apparently is Jim1 who wrote to you earlier. Either Jim2 promoted himself a notch or another bridge lover, but maybe just a typo. However, I apologize for not pronouncing your right name, while at the same time if there turns out to be another interested Jim in the mix, but if only temporary, then how about a compromise named Jim 1 1/2.

Finally, if a new Jim is upon us, he must then accept one which will win more finesses and get much better suit breaks than his predecessor, but will have a very difficult to impossible task of being a better analyst.

Iain ClimieAugust 27th, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Hi Jim 2 / Jim 1,

At the other end of the scale, I recently encountered a Jim 9998 as a user at the gym I use. Any relation?

In less flippant mood, the maths behind the Rule of Restricted choice is well known – see, for example the game show conundrum (Monty Hall – see There again, what if you wanted a goat?

In practice, how often does TOCM bite you in the backside here, or have you stopped counting. A friend of mine once resolved a nightmare choice as declarer by apologising to his opponents in advance with a KJxx in dummy opposite xx in hand decision. He took out a coin, tossed it and based his decision on the result. He is incidentally a far, far better player than that story suggests but there were (he claims) no clues, no twitches and he was very tired and couldn’t get the brain cells to think straight. He couldn’t sit there all night so out came the artificial aid. Is that allowed, strictly speaking?



jim2August 27th, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Well, I had to clear cookies as part of a PC tune-up, the site did not prompt me on a siggy, and I forgot which jim I was here.


It may actually be a form of TOCM ™ that I guessed the numeral wrong.

As for your Q, Iain Clime, I long ago stopped counting. It was either that or up my drug dosage ….

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 7:40 pm

Hi J, (taking no chances),

And who among us, can guarantee that the
drug dosage was according to its label?

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