Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Let us have a quiet hour,
Let us hob-and-nob with Death.

Lord Tennyson

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


**Natural and invitation


In today’s deal you might consider what you would lead as West after the given sequence to six no-trump. Your knowledge of the bad break in spades would normally suggest a passive opening lead (a heart or club, to taste). If you were looking at a spade holding such as jack-third, you might well go for an aggressive choice. In general, any time the opponents follow a quantitative auction to game or slam, you try to judge whether the cards lie well or badly. The worse they lie, the more passive your defensive strategy should be.

Be that as it may, at the table, West chose a top diamond and was soon taught a sharp lesson. Declarer won the diamond ace and played a diamond straight back. West put up his nine, so declarer took dummy’s king and led another diamond, to build the 10 into a trick. West took his jack, and exited with a passive fourth diamond, instead of a heart, which might perhaps have given the defenders a chance.

Declarer won the diamond 10, then cashed his top spades to discover the bad news. Next he played a club to dummy’s queen and took dummy’s spade winners, pitching hearts from hand. Meanwhile, East kept his clubs, so had to bare his heart king.

When declarer came to hand with a club to the ace, and cashed his remaining club winner West also had to throw a heart, to preserve his spade winner. Declarer discarded the spade from dummy and the heart seven took trick 13.

The basic nature of your hand is limited and balanced with a minimum high card point-count for an opener. The best way to show this at once is to rebid two no-trump. I would not worry unduly about making this rebid with a doubleton queen in an unbid suit; it is more likely that you have to right-side no-trump from your hand than that clubs will be a fatally unguarded suit.


♠ Q J 5 4 2
 A 7 4
 K 8 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJuly 14th, 2016 at 9:32 am

Tennyson was right: we all may hob-nob with death, but death always wins. No matter what W leads at trick one, S can always make 6N, usually by squeezing W in S & D after losing the H finesse. Just to pick one line (and there are many), say W leads a C. Declarer wins the Q, crosses to a S and takes the losing H finesse. E returns a C. S wins, cashes the 3d C and 2d S and the squeeze is laid on his plate. Had the actual W led a H after winning his D trick, S would fairly easily make his contract. He would assume that S were no worse than 4-2, so he would be looking at 12 tricks without the H finesse. So up with the HA. He quickly gets the bad news in S, but now the C-H squeeze on E seems by far his best bet, and so it is. Actually, I think we should give W a pat on the back. His defense forced S into a very hard-to-see double squeeze–easily the most difficult way to make 6N.

jim2July 14th, 2016 at 11:42 am

Another way to explain David Warheit’s comment is that any non-diamond opening lead will let declarer play six rounds of hearts and clubs. Unfortunately for the defense, this forces West to make two discards and the second is fatal.

With a diamond lead, however, declarer can no longer play as above because the diamond suit is the transportation needed for that squeeze. That is, say declarer wins the lead somewhere and takes the losing heart finesse. Now I think a second diamond breaks up squeeze.

Thus, a diamond lead always forces declarer to use hearts as a late squeeze threat suit, which requires building a third trick in diamonds rather than a second trick in hearts.

Now, “in real life” I do not think the hand would be played quite as described. Unless spades are 5-1 or 6-0, declarer always has 12 tricks by conceding a heart. There would be no reason to reward West for having been cute with Q4 or QJ74 of diamonds.

So, I think declarer would win the AD and test spades. Once the split is revealed, the odds shift to East having the KH and West having made an honest diamond lead from QJ9(x). It is at THAT point that declarer would play on diamonds, effectively transposing to the column line.

bobbywolffJuly 14th, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

With posters like you two, there is no need for me, since between both of you, all bases are covered, and as far as the principles of squeeze play, those intricacies are also revealed.

A (or the) major point to effect a so-called double squeeze is that often at the death of one, the perpetrator needs to have fluidity in the double squeeze suit (both defenders having the facility to guard it) which specifically means that suit having been touched up to then (often caused from by doing so by the defense allows declarer to immediately gain that contract making trick).

However with today’s hand the defense indeed will secure a trick, but by doing so it will be at the cost of the slam going trick changing the name of the squeeze type, but not challenging the result.

High level? Yes, Worth experiencing? Yes, Easy to learn? Not particularly, Exciting? You bet!

Thanks David and Jim2 for applying your knowledge and your credible teaching skills.

GinnyJuly 15th, 2016 at 12:22 am

I am puzzled by the auction. I count 21 hcp – and no real extras. Why not open 2nt? I just cannot get there with losing tricks or quick tricks valuation. Also, why accept over 4nt? (and why invite rather than force slam)

Fun hand to work through the play.

bobbywolffJuly 15th, 2016 at 12:44 am

Hi Ginny,

Since we always try and use real hands if given a choice, oft times partnerships reverse meanings (in this case, a 2NT opening being stronger than one which starts with a forcing and artificial 2 clubs).

In any event 6NT certainly is a good contract with only the terrible 5-1 spade break making stellar play required.

No doubt, just attempting to keep up with bidding adjustments from specific partnerships tends to merely just camouflage the issue of what is important on this hand, the play.

Yes, it is a fun hand to play and thanks for your comment.

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