Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 29th, 2018

Between the possibility of being hanged in all innocence, and the certainty of a public and merited disgrace, no gentleman of spirit could long hesitate.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


Today’s deal contains a point or two about modern bidding. First, should South open one heart or one no-trump? I could go either way, given the small doubleton and chunky five-card major. At South’s second turn, he breaks the transfer into hearts by jumping to three. It would be wildly optimistic to drive to game, hoping partner’s hand will furnish the right values to make it. If North doesn’t accept South’s invitation, even three hearts may be in jeopardy.

And so it proves when the dummy goes down. But can you see how declarer should give himself the best chance in his part-score? With three top losers outside clubs, declarer needs to find a way to give himself an extra chance other than finding the club ace onside.

After the trump lead, South won in hand and innocently advanced the diamond 10 around to East’s king. Back came a club (necessary, or declarer develops a discard from the diamonds) to the king and ace. When West continued with the club nine, declarer was home, but even if West had played a low club, declarer would probably have guessed the position correctly. East would have shifted to a high club without an honor, and West might have ducked the club king with the ace-jack poised over declarer’s tenace.

Did you spot the defensive error, though? West must cover the diamond 10 at trick one — somewhat easier in theory than practice, I suspect. Thereafter, passive defense sets the contract.

There are no safe leads here, but if I had to guess, I’d assume the cards are lying well for declarer. That being the case, an attacking lead looks right, and a heart lead is more aggressive than a club. When in doubt, go for the “instant gratification” approach.


♠ Q 2
 K J 8 3
 Q 4 2
♣ J 9 7 3
South West North East
  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 WarheitNovember 12th, 2018 at 2:16 pm

3H is cold, provided S reads things right. Win the opening lead and play a second trump to dummy. Then lead a S to the 10. W wins and exits with a S. Win the A and ruff the last S. Now lead a C to the K. If W wins the A, he either leads a C or D, and S wins if he plays low in dummy, or he gives declarer a ruff-sluff with a S return. If W ducks the CK, lead a D to dummy’s 9. E wins but is endplayed similar to the way W was had W won the first C.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Hi David,

Much thanks for what looks to me, like as perfect a combination of declarer play (plus an accurate club guess, if put to the test) and the defense (opening lead, then returning a spade, which could be into the AJ, as well as covering the ten of diamonds when declarer could hold the K10).

Particularly so since we, the writers, discussed the wrong trick to which the ten of diamonds was led from declarer. It is especially encouraging to hear relative perfection from you when we were, in truth, sadly lacking from
following your lead in spite of seeing and having the advantage of placing all the cards.

Also, since South only had a minimum 1NT, and although possessing 5 of dummy’s long suit should perhaps have only volunteered the expected 2 heart response to partner’s transfer, EW may have then balanced into a successful 2 spades contract forcing NS to either allow that to happen, or more likely then been forced to bid a nine trick heart contract.

Bridge often lends itself to what if’s, which to many, is a decided plus.

Ken MooreNovember 12th, 2018 at 11:39 pm


Of course you meant cover the D10 at trick two.

But you called not covering an error. That means that there must have been something to tell west what to do. I cannot see that.

bobbywolffNovember 13th, 2018 at 12:15 am

Hi Ken,

It would be thought to be an error since West had the 87 along with, making it the right play unless declarer had the K10 or perhaps the K10x. With his holding, the 10x, you can see it is definitely right to cover taking down two of the opponents honors with only one of yours.

That knowledge of such holdings can be summed up with the practice of numeracy, so important in bridge to have talents in that direction.

Good Luck!

Joe1November 13th, 2018 at 1:12 am

BWTA. Which heart?

David WarheitNovember 13th, 2018 at 5:55 am

Thank you for your kind words. The big lesson in this hand has to do with “poison suits”. A poison suit is one which poisons the side that leads it. On this hand both clubs and diamonds are poison suits, although declarer can safely lead one round of clubs. Once declarer recognizes the poisons, it’s not such a big step to seeing what needs to be done, i.e. force an opponent to make a fatal lead.

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