Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 15th, 2019

The gods have their own rules.


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


Today’s deal emphasizes the notion that rules are all well and good, but you have to know when to apply them. We are all accustomed to ducking our aces as declarer in a no-trump contract to try to sever the defenders’ communications. But there is a time and place for everything, and rules should not be applied unthinkingly.

When West led the diamond six against three no-trump, it might have seemed that ducking would help to sever the defense’s link in that suit. In fact, though, declarer must rise with dummy’s ace rather than duck — since this play blocks the run of the suit if West has led from five cards. East surely started with a doubleton honor; if West held KQJxx, wouldn’t he have led a top honor? Moreover, if the suit is 4-3, ducking won’t cut the defenders’ communications.

Declarer duly rose with the ace and continued with a small heart to the king, which was ducked, then led another heart, won by West. That player returned the diamond two to his partner’s queen, but East could now do no better than shift to the spade queen.

South won and needed just three club tricks for his contract. Again, playing safe, he cashed the club king, then finessed the 10, making sure that if he lost the lead, it would be to the safe hand, East.

His care was rewarded with an overtrick, but even if the 10 had lost to the queen, declarer would still have had three club tricks, three hearts, two spades and the diamond ace.

The choice is whether to go passive with a trump or to lead the doubleton heart, playing for a trump promotion or a ruff. Since partner might easily have a doubleton spade (he didn’t reopen with a second double), I would go for the heart ruff by leading the jack in that suit.


♠ 9 8 4 2
 J 2
 Q 8 2
♣ Q 10 7 2
South West North East
      1 ♠
Pass Pass Dbl. 2 ♠
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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 29th, 2019 at 10:08 am

Hi Bobby,

Any case for a club on LWTA? Obviously it could misfire badly e.g. leading up to declarer’s King when he couldn’t reach dummy to lead one, or finding dummy with CKxx opposite declarer’s Jx(x) but find partner with CKJ or K9 sitting over dummy’s Jack, or Kxx with declarer holding AJx and it works nicely.

I realise the risks of violating Bob Hamman’s wise words about not placing partner with specific cards but I think it is an extra option. TOCM, of course, will give dummy HQ9x opposite declarer’s A108(x) if you lead the HJ.



Bobby WolffApril 29th, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Hi Iain,

At least from me, I would also slightly prefer a club lead, since it “feels” there is a better chance to not lose a trick by so doing.

However, perhaps the jack of hearts could hit paydirt and, who knows, even create the setting trick. Somewhat far fetched, but I sincerely believe that no mortal is doing anything but sheer guess when he decides on this lead.

It’s somewhat like Mark Twain’s recently remembered quote about talking about the weather but never doing anything about it.

TedApril 29th, 2019 at 6:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

A couple belated questions prompted by yesterday’s blog.

Regarding David’s Frank Stewart hand. I would have lead a small Spade from hand at trick 2, expecting to get a truer reaction from West by not first cashing the SA. Is there a reason not to do it this way?

Concerning a misexplanation of a bid.
1)How should one handle it during the auction if, in fact, you misbid and partner’s explanation has now alerted you to this?

2)What is your obligation to the defenders if you have correctly explained your agreement of partner’s bid, but because you hold some of the cards he has “promised”, know your explanation doesn’t match his hand (and your bidding thereafter was based on that knowledge.)

Best regards,

Bobby WolffApril 30th, 2019 at 12:42 am

Hi Ted,

There is no right nor wring, when being involved in a psychological battle with one (or sometimes both) of the defenders. Yes, the declarer is usually the one in control since he can see all of his assets and most, if not all, of the time you are trying to determine how to play that hand to maximum advantage.

But different players respond in different ways, so only the person either setting the trap or otherwise trying to deceive, needs to guess the best way to win the battle.

As far as the ethical conundrum you underwent, your obligation is not to take advantage of your partner’s miss explanation and play your cards the way you would have had your partner described it the proper way.

Yes, there are times to which that becomes virtually or actually impossible and when and if, that happens, merely stop play, say nothing except we need a TD. Then leave the table and discuss what happened with the TD after he has arrived and been informed the contract and what has been said earlier (IOW an update so that the TD will know what the fairest ruling should be (at least he should), and then without explanation (although the TD is now in control) proceed. The TD may stop play and award an adjusted score to which you are entitled to an appeal later, but at this point let the TD call the shots without objecting, although if you think him way off (either favoring you or your opponents) it could be right to explain to him your view (away from the table) so that he may see it your way and change his mind.

IOW, these situations are difficult to judge and we would all be better off with as few as possible happening. If I was ruling either as a TD (which I have never been) or as on an appeals committee, where I have much experience, I tend to favor the side which has not committed an infraction (such as a misrepresentation of a convention).

However, the ACBL has all types of TD’s with little or much experience so we are now entering a very subjective area.

Don’t expect perfection since bridge rulings rarely lend themselves to that.

IOW good luck to all and hoping for a just verdict.