Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 13th, 2019

“Anybody might have found it, but — His whisper came to me!

Rudyard Kipling

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


The more unreadable the signal partner receives, the quieter the suit-preference message you should be sending. That is the simple face of suit preference; alas, life is rarely so straightforward. Consider today’s deal.

Defending against three hearts as West, you elect to lead a top spade, since you do not care to guess which minor suit to broach. That works out well enough. Dummy plays low, and partner takes the spade ace as declarer produces the five. Then he follows with the spade king as South contributes the two, followed by the spade four for you to ruff, as declarer plays the seven. What now?

The defense to beat the contract is for you to lead a diamond to partner, who can play a fourth spade and promote your heart jack. But how do you know which minor you should lead? Don’t clubs look just as attractive as diamonds, and didn’t partner play his low spade for you to ruff? No! The spade four was suit preference for diamonds — from time to time, the gods of bridge require you to do your bit: in this case, to remember that the spade three had not put in an appearance.

However, that was not the big clue. Partner hit you over the head at tricks one and two when he won the spade ace, then king in unnatural order as suit preference for diamonds (the normal play being king, then ace). Sometimes, one has to improvise suit preference, and a thoughtful partner would foresee the problems in making a small card look big.

Bid three hearts. Doubling is risky with such a disparity in the majors. If you had 4=5=1=3 shape, you would certainly double, but as it is, you might lose a heart fit that is far superior to your spade fit. Still, doubling then raising a response in a major or correcting a four-club advance to four hearts is not out of the picture here. Make one of the black queens an ace, and I might do that.


♠ Q 7 5 2
 A K 10 7 4 3
♣ K Q
South West North East

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


jim2December 27th, 2019 at 2:17 pm

What does East lead against 3N?

bobbywolffDecember 27th, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Almost anything passive, which, in turn will cause declarer into giving up a heart trick and then, assuming the defense defends it right, allows the declarer his 5 good heart tricks and his two clubs plus perhaps his opening round trick, but that is still a trick short.

Rather than getting my head to hurt, by describing each possible opening lead and its eventual ramifications, suffice it to say that l the North hand will get squeezed (assuming the defense watches carefully and defends in such a way to prevent that crucial ninth trick from occurring).

Have I missed what is likely to be, your scintillating analysis? Better, at least for me, to likely have your head to hurt (or possibly already has) than mine..

bobbywolffDecember 27th, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Hi Everyone,

YIKES, another Tuesday. Perhaps the type setter won a lottery (or instead had a joyous day, like a marriage, divorce, a birth, or, more unlikely, winning his or her only bridge tournament)) on a Tuesday and wants to continually, remember it.

In any event we must cause that to halt and Judy and I will do our best, or find a better method to get it done.

A V Ramana RaoDecember 27th, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
In a lighter note : When we were young, there was a movie ” If it is Tuesday it must be Belgium”
And now , ” If it is Aces on Bridge , everyday is a Tuesday .”

jim2December 28th, 2019 at 1:09 pm

I don’t want to get my head hurting, but many leads look to lead to 9 tricks.

The 109 S doubleton facing both top S honors and the JD in the pocket make a lot of late hand exits yield a 9th trick.

For example, a low spade opening lead would let declarer late exit with QS. East can lead a D into K10, to the good AC, or to the good 7S.