Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All


A Q 4 3

6 4

8 7 6

A K J 2



10 8 7 3

K J 9 5 4 2

9 3


7 5 2

Q 9 5 2

Q 10

Q 10 5 4


K J 10 9 8


A 3

8 7 6


South West North East
1 Pass 2 NT* Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
6 All Pass    
*Game-forcing with spades

Opening Lead: 9

“It is circumstance and proper measure that give an action its character, and make it either good or bad.”

— Plutarch

Against a slam it is less frequently right than you might think to make a passive opening lead, not risking giving declarer his 12th trick. The point is that a good declarer can often draw the necessary inferences, even when the lead has given nothing tangible away. This was the case in six spades on the lead of the club nine.

Declarer knew West well enough to take the lead at face value, as being based on shortage. He could see that any straightforward line of play would inevitably lead to the loss of a diamond and a club. So he won the club ace and took the seemingly unnecessary heart finesse.

Then he played off five rounds of spades to produce a six-card ending. This reduced East (who had to keep all his clubs or else declarer would simply duck a club) to one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. Accordingly declarer cashed his two hearts, forcing East to pitch a diamond. Now declarer read the position perfectly. He took the diamond ace and ran the club eight around to East, who won the trick but had to return a club into dummy’s K-J.

East had another option in the six-card ending. He might have kept all his hearts and clubs, and pitched his diamonds. Now declarer has to cash the diamond ace to squeeze East in the same way as described previously.

A diamond leads beats the slam outright, and a heart lead would probably do the job too.


South Holds:

A Q 4 3
6 4
8 7 6
A K J 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Dbl.
ANSWER: Two diamonds is the fourth suit — artificial and game-forcing. If your RHO had not doubled, you would have had a vicious problem. Here, though, your task has been made much easier. You can pass, suggesting a balanced hand without three-card support for your partner and then wait for him to describe his hand. Thanks, 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Steven BloomOctober 30th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Pretty hand, thanks. I love this type of squeeze, but, as a declarer play exercise, the heart finesse can’t be right. This is necessary when East has four or more hearts, but still needs the finesse (which is less than 50-50), and guessing the distribution. Trumping the heart loser in dummy works whenever East has two or three hearts, and never involves any guesswork. That line, once we place East with four clubs and three spades, is better than 50-50.

Bobby WolffOctober 30th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Hi Steven,

Of course, you have analyzed well and surely deserve to be heard. Your valid point is that an against the odds 6-2 division in diamonds leads to the heart finesse being necessary by East (holding only 2 diamonds) having room in his hand for 4 hearts instead of fewer.

Your point is informative and separates the sheep from the goats, e.g. those with the talent to use expert bridge arithmetic to finalize your eventual choice of play. All well and good, but sometimes just too much to comprehend for the average reader.

Thanks for taking the time to top off the exact percentage line of play.