Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 27th, 2019

Here error is all in the not done,
All in the diffidence that faltered.

Ezra Pound

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


When an opponent is faced with a blind opening lead, do you think it more likely that he has underled a king or a jack? Sometimes the fate of a contract will hinge on such a guess, but often declarer can survive guessing wrong — if he is careful.

Take today’s deal, where you drive to four spades on an uninformative sequence and receive the lead of a low heart. Your immediate reaction might be that if West has underled the king, you must fly up with the queen; while if he has underled the jack, you should play low. Is that addressing the problem correctly?

No, it is not, and the reason is that declarer’s heart 10 plays a huge role in the deal. Without that card, you would indeed put up dummy’s queen, but not today. Imagine that you play low from dummy and guess the position incorrectly. East’s jack forces your ace, but all is not lost if you win the lead and return the suit. West will win with his king and can shift to diamonds, but you have time to put up the king and lose the spade finesse to West. You will win the diamond return, shake a losing diamond from dummy on the heart 10, then ruff a diamond in dummy and draw trumps for your 10 tricks.

If the opposing heart honors were switched and you put up the queen, you would lose the chance to build a home for your slow diamond loser on the hearts.

Incidentally, if the first trump finesse succeeds, make sure not to repeat it until you have taken your diamond ruff in dummy.

Leading against no-trump when no suits have been bid is often daunting. Without a long suit of five or more cards or a suit of three or four cards headed by a sequence, my advice is to consider going passive. Avoid giving up a trick if you can, or take your best shot at it if you cannot. With today’s hand, I’d lead a low heart rather than a club, since the club king is so likely to be to my right.


♠ Q 3 2
 J 8 5
 K 10 8
♣ A Q 4 2
South West North East
      1 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 10th, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Hi Bobby

I’d probably have led a diamond as West today, but then partner would have had KQ10x in hearts and declarer would have had A9x in diamonds opposite dummy’s KJx so small from table and I’ve thawed the frozen suit nicely by barbecuing partner’s queen. Still it could have been worse. Wasn’t there one hand in a Pakistan vs USA Bermuda Bowl final where the US were in 3N Redoubled and the right lead would have taken it 5 or 6 off but the wrong one let declarer make at least 9 tricks? After much agonizing, the player on lead applied every ounce of logic he could summon, realised it was a choice of 2 suits and picked the wrong one. Could you present the hand as a lead problem one day or just give it in one of your replies?





jim2June 10th, 2019 at 11:51 pm

If one wanted the safest lead in today’s column hand, I would say it is a small trump.

bobbywolffJune 11th, 2019 at 12:49 am

Hi Iain,

I think I know the match, USA vs. Pakistan and the year 1981, but I am not familiar with the hand. I’ll try and find out for sure, but it may take a little more time than usual.

I’ll keep you posted

bobbywolffJune 11th, 2019 at 1:10 am

Hi Jim2,

Even a trump lead with dummy holding the ace and partner the jack may be devastating, while a diamond lead, as Iain pointed out, may also suffer the fate he feared.

John Brown, a long time ago English bridge author circa late 1930s, said it best when he wrote in his heralded book “Winning Defence”, that if an average+ bridge player would always get off to the right lead he would win all world bridge championships.

That comment simply called attention to the importance of that initial choice, but, like the weather, “everyone talks about it, but no one ever does anything about it”, Mark Twain.

jim2June 11th, 2019 at 11:55 am

I agree with you, Dear Host, and that quotation is one we both have plied at each other before – good to let it see daylight again.

In this case, however, I judged the single raise and subsequent jump to game to more strongly than usual place the trump suit high cards about where they are in the column hand.

That is, consider the hands South could have with enough playing strength or HCP hand to jump like that to 4S. Any that lacked the AS, KS, and JS would have very likely found a more attractive rebid, especially a second suit or notrump.

bobbywolffJune 11th, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Hi Jim2,

To again quote a previous one from perhaps another, some years back (in this column) from Shakespeare and Mark Antony’s famous eulogy of Julius Caesar and attributed to 2nd Citizen, while in the audience, “Methinks there is much reason in what he says”.

So be it, with the logic behind your trump lead.