Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 18th, 2020


bobbywolffMay 2nd, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Hi Everyone,

Yes, you guessed it, I am now going to present a possible simple analogous situation to today’s column to ponder and then choose:

North South
1 Diamond 1 Spade
2 Spades 3 Clubs
3 Hearts 4 NT
5 Diamonds 6 Spades
All Pass

Opening lead: Ace of hearts

North South
S. Axxx s. KJ109xx
h. KJx h. x
d. QJxxx d. AKx
c. K c. Axx

How should South play the spades and, more importantly, what are the key factors and why?

Is the above hand similar or not to today’s column and, if so, in what particulars? Does matchpoints or IMPs and rubber bridge figure into the decision and why or why not? Would a slow opening lead have any influence?

Finally, if South had one less low spade and one more club would that make a difference and why?

Any added discussion would be appreciated.

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2020 at 1:05 pm

HI Bobby,

A few starting thoughts. There is only a problem if trumps are 3-0 so let’s look at that HA lead. A weak player leading the HA would indicate little but how likely is the HA to run away at IMPs or even pairs. A double bluff is possible if the opening leader has no spades but then they may well have 6H but haven’t bid.

A slow opening lead could be down to a good player taking time or even attempting a double bluff although knowledge of personal habits would be relevant. A failure to double 3H may or may not be relevant.

As the cards lie, not leading the HA could let the contract through if S are 3-0 if the hand with 3S has to follow to 3 rounds of diamonds so the confident auction does hint that there could be a case for stopping the overtrick at pairs.

I Hope that’s a start. With 4 missing trumps of course declarer has a trickier time.



bobbywolffMay 2nd, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Hi Iain,

All good and appropriate thoughts. Together with the experience of the specific opponents and where their psychology (if any) has recently developed.

Sheer naivety will likely lead a relative newcomer to cash his ace and await, what he thinks, will be the already sighted setting trick.

Of course, yesterday’s hand hinted at the same ending, to which an experienced and talented declarer turned the tables on that ambition by stealing his thoughts and doing what came as a natural counter to that opening lead.

I guess that a main lesson on this subject is that it is a winner to be one step ahead of one’s opponents, but not so, if you are two steps ahead, since disaster may wait, simply because the second step cancelled out the first one.

A V Ramana RaoMay 2nd, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Sorry for a belated reply
Assuming West continued hearts, I would insert J from dummy. If east covers, I would ruff. If east does not cover, there is clearly something unusual . I would still ruff. From the lead, it appears that West may be expecting to make his Q of trumps. So , I lay down K of spades at Trick 3 and let it run making if West holds three spades with Q and BTW , North could have held heart A instead of spade A in which case, south does not have any option but to play east for Q of spades( hoping to drop singleton Q of spades is perhaps farfetched) And if south held one spade less and one club more, I would discard on heart J if held else ruff and still lay down K of spades
Too many uncertainties and perhaps ones luck plays a vital role in such contracts

bobbywolffMay 2nd, 2020 at 7:27 pm


Yes, luck does play a significant role often with close slams.

However, at least it seems, that while defending small slams, and playing matchpoints often above average players will cash an ace for fear of them making an overtrick if not.

Though, while playing IMPs, or of course, rubber bridge, I agree with you that when doing so, they often have more than an inkling where the setting trick may come from, either a guarded queen of trump or a strategic Qx behind the strong trump bidder.

However, when playing a slam (as well as many close and key contracts) it is more than just a small advantage to know, or at least “feel” the tendencies of one’s opponents in the ever present world of judgment as to what the plays, made or not made, up to what is often “crunch” time in determining the result.

Even the surrounding atmosphere can be a hint with the tensity at the table often a distinguishing characteristic.

Thanks for your response.