Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

The way in which the world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do.

Walter Lippman

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

*one key card and a heart void


In today’s deal from a matchpoint pairs event South’s three diamond call was natural and forcing, and asked North to raise spades if he could. Having found the spade fit, South was able to show his heart void in response to the key-cards ask. After hearing the response, North assumed diamonds would run, and gambled on locating a 13th. And yes, it would have been wiser today to bid the grand slam in diamonds, where 13 tricks would have been easy.

While a club lead would have worked well for the defense, at trick one there was no reason for West to work that out. South could count 12 tricks, and appreciated that East was likely to hold both the heart ace and club king; but the menaces for a squeeze did not seem well-placed.

Still, all declarer could do was run his winners and hope for the best. After ruffing the opening lead South drew trump, then played a fourth round, discarding the club two from dummy. Now came the diamonds, and when the last diamond was played, East was caught in a dilemma.

If he threw the club 10, dummy’s club ace would be cashed and a heart ruff would allow the established club queen to score. Alternatively, the heart 10 discard would permit a heart ruff to establish the king, with the club ace as the means of access.

This position is called a trump squeeze, and it is the see-saw element of such positions that makes it especially attractive, I think.

While there is nothing to be ashamed at about this hand, you could argue for a jump to three hearts to take space away from the opponents. The logic is reinforced when facing a passed hand, since you expect it to be their hand not yours. The counter-argument is that it will help the opponents guess spades and diamonds. I am sufficiently persuaded of this that I would just bid two hearts.


♠ 8
 A Q 10 9 8 3
 6 2
♣ K 10 9 8
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠

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


Bruce karlsonAugust 5th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

BWTA: To most club players, 3H would show a weaker hand I think, even facing a passed partner. Further, in my frequently too optimistic mind, all partner needs is a H honor 3 or more times along with help in C to bid over the likely 2S to take a run at game or a sac if the vulnerability is right. Does that fit into your reasoning? A real bridge nut: played with a very good but somewhat taciturn partner yesterday. We squeaked out a win and she inquired if I could play today. I declined saying that I was taking my college aged ingrates to a Tampa Bay Rays’ game. She thought for a few seconds and said…Can’t they get there themselves?

Iain ClimieAugust 5th, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Hi Bruce, Bobby,

That would have been my reaction too 35 years ago but not now. A few weeks ago, I was getting ready for my first session for some months (!) when I got a panic-stricken phone call from home – our Black Labrador had collapsed. I had to let 3 people down (they managed to get a fourth for a teams session) and run her to the emergency vet’ for a life saving operation. Fortunately we have pet insurance for such an eventuality as the bill was eye-watering. Although the long term prognosis is not great (she is 13), the dog is back scrounging food and being a hazard to pedestrians in the kitchen, same as usual. My wife, daughters and pets have knocked a few rough edges off me over the years.

There is also the (rubber bridge) story from the Bridge Player’s Bedside Companion (I think). The keen (single male) player is declarer but is told his house is on fire but the firefighters are in attendance. He plays the hand at breakneck speed then says “Sorry guys, I’ll have to break up the game; 3 more rubbers and I quit.”

On the play hand, though, should West try a non-heart lead here? After all, a heart will surely get trumped, there is no bad trump break and partner hasn’t got a void diamond or might have Lightnered. A trump won’t cost, but is there anything in West’s hand to suggest there are real problems, so maybe a club is worthwhile despite the danger of picking up a frozen suit. If East has nothing outside hearts, though, the contract is surely coming home.



Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Hi Bruce,

Since a heart lead is a major part of what you want, it is more dangerous than you might imagine to jump the bidding vulnerable when it is entirely possible that the other major heart honors are behind you. Also a jump to 3 hearts shouldn’t really make the opponent’s task much harder once they have had the opportunity to make an opening bid and heard a response.

It is indeed ironic, that a club lead defeats the slam, but that is rare since most of the time you would prefer a heart lead. Discipline is one of the highest priorities in becoming a better bridge player and to jump to three hearts (especially when vulnerable) IMO violates that caveat.

Girl friends seem sometimes to prefer togetherness rather than for you (without her) to attend sporting events and her question seemed to jive with her thinking…”prefer that to being with me at the bridge table!”

Bridge and sports both have their fans, but like many other things in life, variety sometimes is the right answer.

Good luck and happiness to you, whatever happens.

Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Hi Iain,

You seem to have an idyllic life, though not without crises such as happening to your beloved Black Labrador.

Loving family and pets, as well as playing bridge are three blessings not always present in everyone’s life, but sometimes it takes years to appreciate how lucky one has become.

Yes, a club lead could and does ring the bell on this hand, but leading what your partner has suggest, particularly when nothing whatever, other than a surprise attack, would indicate to do so.

Besides, think of a lonely bridge writer not having a good theme to write about, before you suggest the utility of that unwelcome lead (to the declarer), a destroyer of his slam.

If becoming a more mellow human, grows with age, and it is rumored to do so, it fits your life style, and I must confess does for me also. However there are many times I wish I was back at an important bridge table which has now basically vanished.

Oh well, when I think of alternatives to that, I consider myself lucky and indeed fortunate with what happened.

Please give your dog an extra pat for me and tell him how much joy he brings to your family and on a daily basis.