Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Henceforth I ask not goodfortune; I am good-fortune.

Walt Whitman

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


On today’s hand, North had enough values together with a source of tricks to assume slam must have decent play. With a balanced hand, there didn’t seem a particularly easy way to offer a choice of slams, so he simply bid six no-trump. However, one possibility might have been to transfer to diamonds then jump to five no-trump, offering a choice of slams.

You could forgive West for feeling that the chance of a diamond lead costing a trick was negligible. You can tell the fates are aligned against you when you are dealt a four-card sequence and find when you lead it that it costs you a trick – in a vulnerable slam to boot!

The lead of the diamond jack certainly simplified declarer’s task; when he put up the ace, the bad break came to light. His projected 13 tricks had turned into 11, but South began by running the clubs. West had to find three discards, and two of them were easy when he let go hearts. Then he bared the spade jack, but two rounds of spades put him back under the gun.

Both West and dummy had reduced to two hearts and four diamonds. On the last spade winner West let go a heart, as did dummy. Declarer led a diamond to the eight and king, crossed to hand with the heart ace and led another diamond. West had to split his honors, and declarer ducked the nine, leaving West to lead away from the 10-6 of diamonds into dummy’s Q-7. Contract made!

After your restrained pass of three diamonds, your partner has shown extras. So you can hardly do less than drive him to game in the major of his choice by cuebidding four diamonds, asking him to pick a suit. Even a 5-3 major-suit fit should play well enough, you would expect.


♠ Q 10 9 4 3
 J 10 8 6 3
♣ 8 7 2
South West North East
  2 Dbl. 3
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


angelo romanoMay 25th, 2017 at 10:39 am

Great hand! And there’s more: double dummy, you can squeeze E … but you have to duck the DJ lead, the only way to lose a trick mantaining communication with dummy!
And there’s more: if W doesn’t leads back a spade (and why should he?), there is a double squeeze that doesn’t require spades to be 5-2!

jim2May 25th, 2017 at 11:30 am

Actually, although the squeeze on East does require a diamond duck, I do not think it has to be the opening lead. Also, any West return can be handled. The 2-card ending with the lead in dummy:



Bobby WolffMay 25th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Hi Angelo & Jim2,

BINGO, your eagle eyes and more so, your bridge knowledge of executing squeezes has given you a choice, at least double dummy (looking at all four hands) of both knowing of what you speak about squeezing East in spades and hearts at the death.

After winning the first diamond (why not?) both of you could turn to both of your opponents du jour, asking them how they may like to suffer their death penalty, assuming East possesses the king of hearts and at least five spades (of course if West holds the king of hearts or, a very unlikely 5 spades he, too, would suffer the same indignity, only sooner.

Although I have tried to make light of declarer’s many options, today’s hand should allow a lesser experienced player, but with latent talent for our game (usually in the form of numeracy), to better understand both various squeeze endings as well as just how far down (West’s and North’s diamonds) a good declarer can manage an eventual end play.

Also an usual necessary factor in squeezes, lose all the tricks you can afford to lose first (in this case one, by ducking a diamond) before you reach the final ending of then either end playing him or squeezing an opponent out of being able to protect a key suit (East in spade length and the king of hearts).

Live and learn, learn and live, and only on this hand, because both Angelo and Jim2 spotted this very unusual dual opportunity for declarer to strut his stuff, allowing the hand to be made even though West would possess the seven of diamonds instead of just the six.

Thank both of you for each playing the “teacher of the day” and for such an interesting subject.

Iain ClimieMay 25th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Hi Folks,

As 12 tricks are solid unless diamonds are 5-0, perhaps the duck is worth trying anyway. There is also the possibility that West has the HK when all those black suit winners will give him a very unhappy time.

In terms of the squeeze possibilities (single dummy) are we in compound squeeze territory here? I must admit that I enjoyed Clyde Love’s “Bridge squeezes complete” in my younger days, but the later chapters seemed to require more work than the likelihood of such hands cropping up at the table justified.



Bobby WolffMay 25th, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt and well said.

In spite of Clyde Love’s excellent book, most of us, including you and me, in order to stay with it in the very competitive world of higher level bridge, be not carried away with very complicated compound squeezes and such. Sure, it is to everyone’s advantage to be, at the very least, knowledgeable in ways to manufacture tricks via various type squeezes, but bridge hands, like today, sometimes offer other simpler avenues to be successful.

In any event, my recommendation in order to achieve in bridge is to have a working knowledge of many different methods of developing tricks, also certainly involving deception (which sometimes leads to defensive errors or better said, wrong judgment) along with the equally important talent (at least to my view) to guess where the key cards and distribution are located (learn one and the other quickly falls into place with both declarer or defender).

To me the immediate above is the single most important trait to develop, on the way up the ladder, to consistent bridge success.

jim2May 25th, 2017 at 9:30 pm

There is a subtle aspect to the text line of play.

Declarer must retain until almost the very end the stopper in the last major suit in West’s hand. In the column hand layout, that was hearts, so declarer ran the clubs and then cashed both spade tops. If, however, declarer had cashed the heart ace, then West would not have had to retain the long diamond, as his heart would have been a safe exit to East’s KH when declarer let him in with a diamond, instead of being endplayed.

Things get more complicated if West began, say, 3-3 in the majors.

In that layout, declarer can cash one spade top and run the clubs. However, this would lead to the following:

——- North
——- x
——- Q
——- KQ73
——- –

– – or xx
– xx or –
– 10986

——- South
—— Ax
—— Ax
—— xx
—— –

To succeed, declarer must cash the ace in West’s void. If West pitches the long diamond, then declarer can concede a diamond, win West’s return, and run the diamonds.

If declarer cashes the wrong ace, then West follows suit, splits diamond honors on the second diamond lead, but can now pitch the long diamond when declarer returns to hand in the suit in which he is void, leaving West with 98 of diamonds and a safe major suit exit card instead of a fatal fifth diamond.

Bobby WolffMay 25th, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

All the above is noted and of course, much respect to you, for your critical details disclosed (nothing but hard work, expending much mental energy), if success is one’s goal (which it invariably is).

My message certainly affirms your description, but I want to interject my opinion, the difference between the very top world players should not be measured by relatively small
differences in analysis (often called technique), but rather by when declarer, almost always guessing (90%+) correctly what to do at the death, and while defending outwitting a world class declarer (or close) into doing the wrong thing, usually determined by the order of discards, but also in an uncompromising tempo.

The above is what I consider the greatest challenge in a long bridge career and, more importantly, the one with the greatest impact.