Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power.

Horace Mann

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

*two keycards and the trump


In today’s auction North produced a splinter raise to show the values for game with short diamonds, but not necessarily promising slam interest. When South cooperated with a four heart cuebid (perhaps an overbid if the call promised extras) North now felt he had enough to use Keycard Blackwood and drive to slam.

The final contract was far from hopeless after the lead of the diamond king; West followed up with a trump shift. Declarer won in hand with the spade 10, and might simply have settled on the heart finesse. However, following the general and sound principle that if the heart finesse was working at the start of the hand, it would probably be working at the end, South delayed the heart play as long as he could. He ruffed a diamond high, led a spade to the ace, and ruffed a second diamond high.

Next came a club to the king, and the spade queen. When West followed three times, declarer played the club ace and ruffed a club, taking his additional chance that the queen-jack might fall in three rounds.

This did not happen, but by now 11 of West’s cards were known. The best remaining chance was that West had begun with only three clubs, so that East now had sole guard of the suit. Accordingly, South played off the last trump, discarding the heart eight from dummy and squeezed East in the process.

This was an easy position to read: if the club 10 was not high, declarer would play the heart king and ace and the heart six would win trick 13.

The three club call is forcing for one round but may be based on interest in game or slam. You don’t have to make the decision for partner as to which he has, but you can show a splinter in diamonds by jumping to four diamonds now. Your failure to bid more than two hearts at your second turn has already limited your high cards.


♠ K J 6 3
 K J 8 5
♣ A 10 7 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 ♣ 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


Iain ClimieOctober 28th, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

What happens on the column hand if West switches to a heart at trick2? I suspect it messes up entries for the squeeze but obviously seeeing all 4 hands does make like easier.



bobbywolffOctober 28th, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Bingo, you have found the defense to beat the squeeze vs. East, since the king of hearts is the vital entry to dummy to threaten East into holding the 4th club, making declarer’s third heart the slam fulfilling trick.

Yes, no doubt seeing all four hands does make the heart switch mandatory while defending against a high-level declarer, so if West can visualize the likely whole layout most top players might find that defense, but at trick two and only with the non-descript bidding, accept for the heart cue bid by South as a guide it is in deed difficult to make that brilliancy.

Thanks for pointing it out, since without your effort it would never be discussed. All I can add is that yes, for many simple squeezes to work (and the word simple means only that one defender will not be able, at the death, to protect two suits when forced to discard), and as you clued us in, it takes an outstanding analysis to see such a thing at trick 2, when so little is specifically known about declarer’s hand suppose, for example Q9xx in hearts instead of Q10xx with East and a different pointed suit distribution with declarer, although East doesn’t figure to be void in spades, since he may have made a very light raise to 5 diamonds, but he was vulnerable vs. not.

In any event, thanks for your well analyzed comment.

PeteOctober 28th, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Hi Bobby and Iain,
Could East drop the D10 on trick one? Would that call for a heart shift, and is East in a position to want one?

bobbywolffOctober 28th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Hi Pete,

Yes, he could drop the 10 of diamonds at trick one, but normally trick one plays by the opening leader’s partner are attitude, not suit preferences.

Remember East never supported diamonds, and should not at this vulnerability, so both attitude and count need to sometimes be taken into consideration. What I guess I am saying, is that the defense in bridge is sometimes very difficult to communicate since, in order to do so successfully, the same wave length needs to be had, by both partners, not always to either be expected, or, of course, come to pass.

Another factor not discussed is that the declarer is also tuned in to the specific cards which are played, so he too, is involved in having a chance to benefit. Therefore sometimes the declarer will be faced with a choice of taking a heart finesse or playing for a different layout, so that “loose lips sink ships’ may also come to cause regret from an over signaler.

No easy game we love to play.

A simple plan is to always guess right in these situations, an impossible task, never achieved, probably in bridge history, by anyone.

Iain ClimieOctober 28th, 2017 at 7:32 pm

Hi Pete, Bobby,

I’d be very happy with partner making life easier for me even if the hand were rather different e.g. South holding a doubleton heart and CKJx / CK9x with East having weaker clubs. A club switch looks equally harmless from East’s viewpoint, though, so is there any way that East could foresee the squeeze? If South held Dxx CKQx and HAxx then he may still get home if he plays East for 4+ hearts and 4 clubs but this may be anti-percentage (obviously declarer ruffs the diamind, draws trumps, checks the clubs and has an interesting decision). The problem then is that East may have telegraphed the position with the D10, so I see Bobby’s point.


bobbywolffOctober 29th, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Hi Iain & Pete,

Without delving deeper into your productive question, it usually will feel at least a little surreal for the defense to try and drain every possible combination of cards, which could break up an, at the death, squeeze, even though, at times, it is likely possible, and more important, doable.

My declaration is based on the ambiance necessary to not take forever, and, of course, interfere with the opponent’s enjoyment of the game (BTW, clearly stated in the rule book, but in a general way).

At least with my view of the facts, a large percentage of hands, have no possible squeeze available, but in order to mentally engage in at least trying to sift out whether, it can become downright frustrating for others, although the perpetrator is sincerely working both hard and not trying to be a distraction menace.

Another possible problem would be to carefully (euphemism for too damn slow) to break tempo trying to give an exact defensive legal signal, only hoping your partner will be on the same wave length. Sadly, the longer the hesitation, the more likely he will be able to work it out correctly, resulting in (like it or not) a violation of our game’s mandatory ethics rule, without which IMO, a very important virtue of our game will be cast asunder.

However, merely later discussing that situation, may, depending on its complications, help that partnership with future legal signals done in tempo.

Realizing I am likely dreaming in having that hope, I have, probably to both you two’s great satisfaction, run out of things to say. Please forgive and amen.