Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 13th, 2018

You don’t play characters that are celebrities — you play guys who know what to do when their septic tank’s blocked.

Matthew McConaughey

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

*Good raise to four spades


You declare four spades, after your partner has shown restraint in not going past game. It would be a shame to disappoint him by failing to take 10 tricks, wouldn’t it? West cashes the club king and ace, with East discarding a heart on the second club. West continues with the club jack, and East lets go of a second heart. Clearly, there will be 10 easy tricks if spades are 3-2, since you will be able to draw trumps, cash dummy’s diamonds and ruff a club back to hand to cash the diamond jack. The heart ace will be your 10th trick.

But when trumps are 4-1, the diamond blockage may be inconvenient. You could rely on diamonds being 3-3, but there is a much better chance.

Suppose the full deal is along the lines of the one shown here. After ruffing the third club, you cash the trump ace and king to discover that they do indeed break badly. Next you play the queen and nine of trumps, being careful to discard dummy’s heart ace on the second one!

Now after cashing dummy’s three diamond winners, you will lead dummy’s heart three toward your hand. East will take his heart king, but your diamond and heart winners win the last two tricks. In total, you will make five trumps, four diamonds and a heart trick for a total of 10 winners.

Once East is known to hold the heart king from the auction, but to be out of clubs, this line of play basically becomes a sure thing, regardless of the red-suit breaks.

This hand is at the very lower limit for an invitational raise to two no-trump, but I think I’d make that call. Of course, one no-trump is not forcing, but you do have extras, just enough perhaps, to risk the try for game. Yes, a builder in diamonds such as the 10 would be nice, but beggars can’t be choosers.


♠ A K Q 9 2
 Q 2
 J 7 5 2
♣ Q 5
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1January 27th, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

Nice problem hand and an elegant solution. Would dummy reversal also be working? Dummy has good trumps and sufficient entries for it to work.

Although leading a top club is the obvious choice for West, I’m wondering what happens on a heart lead? Fearing a ruff in that suit, declarer will go up with the ace, prematurely removing an entry to dummy for the dummy reversal. At the same time, the solution offered in the column would not be available.

I hope I’m not missing something (it’s early in the morning where I am)

David WarheitJanuary 27th, 2018 at 2:25 pm

In the other room, S discards a heart on the 3d club. He then ruffs the 4th club and cashes two spades, getting the bad news. He then cashes AK of diamonds, then a 3d spade. With 4 tricks to go, W has a spade, two hearts and a club and E has two hearts and two diamonds. S now cashes the last spade, discarding dummy’s remaining diamond. E is forced to discard a heart. S now cashes the diamond J, squeezing W in hearts and clubs. Nonsimultaneous double squeeze.

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Hi Mircea1,

You are not missing much, but enough to not be successful. In order to execute a dummy reversal your trumps in dummy must be strong enough to draw them (which they are) but also long enough to draw them in which they come up slightly lame (only three matched to West’s four).

Nice thought, especially since dummy reversals seem to occur more often than other high-level coups, but not so today.

Also, if West did not lead a third club when in, but instead switched to a heart, declarer could simply win the heart in dummy, draw trumps, unblock diamonds and score his 10th trick by ruffing back to his hand and cash the diamond jack.

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Hi David,

Yes, another brilliant solution by you, especially since non-simultaneous double squeezes are rare indeed.

If Dame Fortune trades West’s seven of hearts for Norths three perhaps it would become a simultaneous one, at least for those who played great homage to Clyde Love’s great book on squeezes.

Another thank you for offering your special expert bridge mind to give highly aspiring, usually young bridge players, a chance to grow.

jim2January 27th, 2018 at 4:43 pm

The text line allows no defense reaction once West leads a third club. What if West scratches head when allowed to win the third club, looks at South’s heart discard, suspects a rodent, and shifts to partner’s hearts?

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

And I thought I had proof read David’s line, “but while too many cooks may spoil the broth”, better bridge analysts, at least compared with me, add to, not subtract from, theoretical results.

And what you said about head scratching does occur, and too frequently for any of us taking not for an answer, often live to regret it.

It builds confidence to have protection for both David and myself, so thank you.

Iain ClimieJanuary 27th, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

I think it just goes HA, draw trumps, cash diamonds and ruff the heart back for the DJ – there has been no force so South has no control problems. A pity, though, as it totally messes up David’s rather elegant line.



David WarheitJanuary 27th, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Thank you for your kind words. There’s one other point about this hand: your declarer succeeded by discarding dummy’s ace of hearts; mine succeeded by discarding dummy’s ace of diamonds. Who has ever seen such a hand?!

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Hi David,

My secret sources told me it happened once in West Virginia about 35 years ago, but the two aces were both black, instead of red.

angelo romanoJanuary 30th, 2018 at 12:28 am

You can also discard the DA this way:
ruff the third club, cash two diamonds, cash the four spades discarding DA in dummy, cash diamond J then the 4th diamond for E, who has to play hearts for your Q.

Bobby WolffJanuary 30th, 2018 at 5:36 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, you are indeed 100% correct about the different, but equally successful declaring.

However I would recommend that you play 2 spades (discovering the 4-1 break) before you cash the 2 diamonds since if spades are 3-2 you do not have to run the risk of 5-1 diamonds.

No doubt there are many ways to skin cats, but in bridge, as no doubt in other endeavors, there are different ways to accomplish goals, but at least for teaching purposes in bridge, one way or the other will often get the job done, but (all other things being equal) the safer way is to be sought.

Always thanks for your comments, since others will both profit, not to mention, enjoy them.