Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 19th, 2019

The public … demands certainties … but there are no certainties.

H.L. Mencken

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



Different partnerships play inverted raises (a system in which the direct raise of a minor in an uncompetitive auction is strong, while a jump raise is weak) in different ways.

South had agreed that the simple raise was forcing as far as three of a minor. Thus, his two-no-trump call was forcing, suggesting 12-14 or 18-plus. When he bid on over three no-trump, he showed the extra values, and North had such weak trumps that he had no reason to choose to play in the suit contract, especially because South could have moved on with a call of four clubs over three no-trump if he had wanted to set clubs as trump. That was a good idea today!

West put the spade jack on the table, and declarer won in hand and led a heart to dummy to advance a low club from that side. When East showed out, declarer saw that his only chance now would be to strip West of all his plain cards and force him to lead clubs at trick 12.

So he cashed his three remaining heart winners, West pitching his fifth club, after which three rounds of diamonds forced a spade out of West. South had a complete count of the West hand now, but when he took his last spade winner, he was locked in dummy, forced to lead a club and concede two of the last three tricks.

Too late, South realized that to make his slam he had needed to win trick one in dummy. Then, in the same three-card ending, he would have been able to lead a low club from hand, and West would have been forced to concede the last two tricks.

This feels like a good hand for hearts, but the issue is whether partner is showing a good hand or merely an invitational one. If you were sure that your partner had a good hand, you could bid three hearts and intend it to be forcing. To me, though, the three-club call sounds non-forcing, so you should just bid four hearts now and avoid accidents.


♠ K 9 4
 A J 10
 A Q 3
♣ 10 8 5 2
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 ♠ 2 Pass
2 NT 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Ken MooreFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 3:18 pm


When a slam is in doubt and judging from your recent hands on slams, there appears to be two things in common. First, plan communications from the first trick and second figure out some sort of squeez.

I am quite good the communications but not very good at squeezes.

Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Hi Ken,

Your assessment is quite appropriate and worth discussion.

Both communication and squeezes are often quite entwined. However today’s hand doesn’t really concern the necessity for a squeeze, but rather just an endplay when West, the defender, has no choice but to come down to QJx in clubs with declarer, South, left holding Kxx and dummy, North 10xx.

Then of course a low club toward dummy finishes off West into settling for only one club trick.

Bridge squeezes would be defined as demanding the victim to hold two suits he guards into having to abandon one in order to save the other, allowing declarer to make good a card to which, in the failed proper execution, would not accomplish that result.

Clyde Love likely wrote the classic book on how to execute a squeeze with all the details confirmed many years ago and is worth the read for any aspiring player so interested.

However endplays, such as today’s hand, are probably much more commonplace and only involve continuous counting by declarer of the specific opponent’s hands, allowing him to time the play to his necessary advantage.

Simply put, an experienced declarer would count his tricks before playing from dummy at trick one, knowing that with certain likely club holdings (any 3-2 or a singleton J or Q with East) no problem but with all others, problems.

South, then would, after concentrating before playing to trick one would have won the first spade in dummy in order to save that critical entry in spades later to hand in case the clubs broke the way they did today.

The above probably sounds just too complicated to even consider, but once experience is gleaned, with at least some numeric talent with the declarer and, of course, the knowledge of the advantage of making the opponents lead 1st and 3rd to key tricks, instead of 2nd and 4th is all that is needed to move up several levels in our very challenging game (at least to be highly competitive and a winner).

Not every hand requires such magic, but enough do (in different ways) to begin to enjoy just how great a game we are privileged to play or at least to dabble with.

Good luck and with your smarts and enthusiasm you’ll get there, but be patient, since it may take a little time, not to mention, the necessary effort.

Iain ClimieFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 6:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

If East had followed with a small club at T2 (with SK winning T1) should declarer play the CA hoping for CQJ or 9 alone on his left or put the 8 I n hoping for QJ9x on right. Odds seem to favour the former but how many players (especially at pairs) wouldn’t bash down another high club if East played the J form QJ9x?

I have to say I think 4-4 fits can be overrated by some, and not just on today’s hand. Especially at IMPs or rubber, how many solid 3NTs with spare points have failed in M when the trump suit of Q9xx opposite Jxxx walks into a 4-1 break?



Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Hi Iain,

Any way one tends to slice it, matchpoints and rubber (or IMPs) are two entirely different games.

No doubt, at least from my view, real bridge is the latter, with safety in making or breaking a contract the goal, but to go entirely all in for an overtrick is, and no doubt, a necessary ingredient in matchpoints. To estimate the percentage while doing so is often available, but somehow that exercise appears not consistent with the game in general, developed long ago and basically discovered officially in 1927.

All you said above is directly relevant, but only the part of giving one’s partnership the joy of fulfilling one’s contract should be worth something.

Many think, and through the years, that bridge, as we know it, is a difficult mind game and right they are, at least IMO, but then the addition of the necessary catering to matchpoints, takes away, rather than add, to its allure.

However the above is strictly an individual opinion, and certainly not close to unanimous with a valid objection to my view the difficulty of providing tournament bridge for pairs, not teams.

No doubt, and at least to me, tournament pair games are certainly entertaining and worth playing, in spite of the stated pitfalls. It is just sad that we couldn’t eliminate or at least lessen the roles low scoring overtricks and one extra down trick should be so influential in determining final scores for competing pairs.

In any event what would life be if everyone liked vanilla instead of chocolate.

BTW, I agree with you that 4-4 major suit fits are slightly overrated for safety sake in choosing what game contract to play, but the bidding difficulties in proving that (many factors involved), tend to increase the difficulty of so choosing.

Jeff SFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 11:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

I may be missing something here. South discovered the 5-0 split early on. Couldn’t he have simply taken his tricks in a different order so that he took the 10th trick in hand? There seems to be plenty of back and forth communication and no matter what order you take the tricks in, West is going to come down to three clubs at the end.

As always, thank you not just for the column, but for the always-interesting comments here (even if, in my case, it is usually to gently point out what I missed).

Bobby WolffFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 12:25 am

Hi Jeff S,

First, thanks for your kind words.

You are really not missing much, if anything. However, and after (as you said) declarer discovered the 5-0 break early, but just in case that same defender was very short in one of the other suits, the declarer must carefully watch and make sure that West is still holding specifically three clubs when it comes down to trick 11.

If he was able to keep a good side suit card along with only the QJ of clubs, that could only happen due to the carelessness of the declarer.

IOW it is OK to allow West to discard one club (when, of course, he is out of a suit that is being cashed) but no more, meaning simply that the declarer needs to keep track of the suits before he comes down to his smash mouth finish which will disappoint the defense.

A good bridge story could appear from this hand, when declarer first leads a club, finding the 5-0 break, which if only 4-1 would not be known until it is too late, since with both defenders following low to the first club the winning ending would not likely be found in time.

Declarer can thank Dame Fortune for making the clubs 5-0 instead of most 4-1s.

jim2February 3rd, 2019 at 2:23 am

Jeff S –

I am not Our Host, but bear with me, please. I want to add alot of detail to what he said.

West must discard on the last red winner.

If South has cashed the spades before the last red winner, then — on the last red winner — West can pitch a club and come down to:



Now, when declarer lets West in with a club, he can cash the 10S (or lead to his partner’s QS).

In the text, declarer cashed the red winners before the last spade. If West had pitched a club then — before the last spade was cashed — to come down to:



Then declarer could have conceded a club, won the black return, and had 12 tricks.

However, West pitched a spade, evading that trap. Now declarer had two losing choices:

1) He could duck a club by leading from hand towards 10C, but West (with four cards) could then exit safely with a spade.

2) He could extract West’s spade, but that put declarer in the wrong hand to duck a club. (Because they unwisely bid a slam w/o the 9C!!)

Jeff SFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 4:44 am

Thank you Bobby and Jim2. Fascinating stuff. I am very glad I asked!

Bobby WolffFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 5:16 am

Hi Jim2 & Jeff S,

No doubt Jim2 has nailed it.

Good idea to include this specific hand, if, for no other reason than its originality, but I fell victim to what I preach against continually, taking so called mundane tasks in bridge for granted.

No doubt and in reality, a top West player would know exactly what to do.