Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 6th, 2019

When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.

Pierre Corneille

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


Today’s deal is an unusual example of a hand where both opponents are potentially the danger hand, so that either may need to be kept off lead. If that sounds paradoxical, the play to trick one will determine which opponent you are going to need to beware of.

In the auction, North might use New Minor at his second turn to look for an eight-card heart fit. Then again, if his partner has three small hearts, locating a 5-3 heart fit might lead him to the only game that goes down.

Be that as it may, all routes lead to three no-trump, and after a low spade lead from West, South must plan the play carefully. Which spade should he play from dummy? He should put up the queen; if it holds, then East is the danger hand — declarer must keep him off play, or a spade through South’s king could be fatal. In that case declarer would play the king of clubs, then the 10, and let it run. That way, he can set up four club tricks in safety.

When East instead wins the spade ace at trick one and continues with the spade jack, South must hold up the spade king and win the third round. Then he leads the club nine and passes it, willing to lose to East, the safe hand. What declarer cannot afford to do is concede a club to West and see him cash two more spade winners.

Of course, if spades are 4-4, declarer may lose three spade tricks, but he will still make his game even if he does lose a club trick.

When in doubt, leading the unbid suit is where you should start in your analysis on opening lead. I would lead the diamond queen, assuming that a club lead would be no more passive, but that we might negotiate a ruff or over-ruff this way.


♠ K 7 5 4
 9 5 3
 Q 7
♣ J 5 4 2
South West North East
      1 ♠
Pass 2 ♣ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 20th, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Suppose W held 1086, Q962, 104, Q752. What would you lead on this auction? Right, S6. So while your line of play is the best, it’s no sure thing.

David WarheitMay 20th, 2019 at 8:38 pm

Sorry, W holds 1086, Q962, 10543, 72.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2019 at 9:47 pm

Hi David,

Point taken but it would need a very good (or eccentric or inexperienced) East to lead the SJ back at T2 and even then the S10 could be a give away – although a good West could be false carding. The spade pips maybe tell enough of a tale to declarer.

Worth noting also is that South has to run the C9 or J on the first round. If he plays a high club and finesses he has messed up although might be able to recover double dummy by playing off some diamonds.



bobbywolffMay 21st, 2019 at 12:36 am

Hi David,

While the declarer may not be doing the right thing by taking the column line, you might admit that the play at trick one (on whether the queen holds or not) is pretty indicative of which way to finesse in clubs (and of course including the percentage play of the first round finesse in clubs).

Yes, it is not 100%, but especially against classy defenders, the fact that neither West nor East overcalled a vulnerable 1 spade is just another clue that EW together looked like a duck, quacked like a duck, and waddled like a duck, therefore is very likely to have his first name be Donald.

Yes, not every player, duck or not, overcalls vulnerable with only a decent 5 card suit and not much else, but some positive evidence is worth more than

In any event, especially for column hands (where one is playing for no stakes rather than high)) it is more fun to win the argument than, in fact, score up the hand.

Furthermore, if I was to agree with you on your premise, I might not ever again be able to get a partner worth having and that, while creating a quiet environment, sometimes becomes just too lonely.

However all is not lost by this column’s presentation and the comments. Your view may tend to prove that black is white and one spade is only a shovel, a view that many take when they discuss politics, whatever be the actual case.

If I only knew what Jim2 knows, being able to create a “smiley”.