The king lives, long live the king

Derek Rimington ( England )

'MY Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, you have been chosen to try the case of the king versus the ace. An advocate from a sovereign country is in this instance associated with BOLS of The Netherlands, a famous firm which enjoys royal patronage. You may find it surprising therefore that you will be asked to find against the king such is the impartiality of the law.

'The majority of average players lead the ace from ace-king at trick one, except when they are doubleton. Despite the technical superiority of Roman leads, most expert players do likewise, except against a small slam.

'Our forefathers, however, led the king. This is obviously the correct card to lead once dummy is exposed, but at trick one it posed a problem for the third player. Holding, say, J72, he had to play the discouraging two. The encouraging seven would have been better if he knew that his partner held the queen, but he didn't. This ambiguity, highlighted by writers, was largely responsible for the demise of the king. I propose to resuscitate him on special occasions.

'As already stated, against a small slam and other high-level contracts attained pre-emptively, experts lead the king from ace-king combinations. This is to allow partner to signal count: high with an even number and low with an odd number. The opening leader will then know whether to play his ace at trick two.

'Conversely the ace when led will be unsupported and partner should signal high if he holds the king. This is to prevent an absurd slam from being made when declarer has two top losers in a side suit.

'Against a game or partscore contract, king should occasionally be led as a messenger. When the king holds and another side suit is led at trick two, partner is alerted this must be a singleton. He will therefore play his . and return the suit for a ruff.

'I cite the case of Soloway-Goldman V Robson-Forrester, The Hague , January 21, 1990. Andrew Robson opened 1NT with a five-card diamond suit and eventually became declarer in Four Hearts. Paul Soloway led the ten of diamonds but Bobby Goldman played low

AJ84 when dummy's seven was played K97. The contract was made. If Soloway first cashed the king of hearts at trick one (he held AK2) as a messenger, before leading th of diamonds, Goldman would have know play his ace and give his partner a ruff.

'Expert players may contend that this is not  original. Maybe so, but have average players been made aware of the method? I intend to spread the gospel.

'Here is a unique situation:


South Dealer

J 10 9 3




Game All

 K Q





 K J 6 2





 J 6 3









7 4



6 2

 9 7 5 4 2


W                         E

 A J 10 8




 Q 8 7 5 4

 A K 10 9 5 4



 8 2









A K Q 8 5





 6 3





 A 10 9 3





 Q 7
































'Bob Rowlands led the king of clubs, three, eight, seven. Vive le Roi ! Alert, I was not elated as I held the wrong ace. Bob continued with the ace of clubs in case my eight was a singleton. Expecting a diamond switch, I was surprised when he led the nine of hearts. I took my ace and reviewed the position.

'Neither a singleton heart nor a doubleton ace-king of clubs was possible. South could not have six cards in either suit. The coin dropped - Bob was improvising. He could not lead a void, but the king of clubs was his messenger. I led a diamond to give him a ruff.

'Without a diamond return, declarer would make Four Spades. He draws trumps, ruffs a club and leads a heart. Ten of West's cards are known but only seven of East's. The missing queen of diamonds is therefore more likely to be with East, confirmed when the king is played.

'Give East the ace of spades instead of the ace of hearts and the defence is similar for the first two tricks. An astute declarer at trick three will win in dummy and lead the jack of spades. East, however, cannot be fooled; he has seen the king's proclamation. The ace is played immediately and a diamond led.

'My Lord BOLS, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I rest my case. I submit that I have proved that the ace is superior as an opening lead, but only if used in conjunction with my BOLS bridge tip.'

At trick one watch out for the king,
he may be sending a message.