Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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

*Balanced slam-try in spades

Opening Lead: 9

“Multiplication is vexation, Division is as bad;

The rule of three doth puzzle me, And practice drives me mad.”

— Anon.

It is insulting to tell a declarer that he has taken a practice finesse, since that means he has risked his contract for a finesse that he did not need. Sometimes what may seem unnecessary to one person is essential to a declarer who has seen further into the problem than his colleague. Witness today’s deal, where slam seems a decent bet until the opening lead tilts the balance against declarer.

West leads the club nine, top of a doubleton, against South’s six spades, leaving declarer to find a way to avoid losing a trick in each minor. After drawing trumps, declarer should take the heart finesse (which superficially looks like a practice finesse) and run the rest of his trumps.

The reason for taking the heart finesse is to leave declarer with a master in both red suits — he needs to keep a high heart in hand to exert pressure on East.

After two hearts, a club, and five rounds of spades, East has to keep three clubs and thus can hold only two red cards. Declarer can now execute what is sometimes called a striptease coup. South cashes the winners in the red suit East has discarded, forcing East to pitch his other red-suit losers. Then South takes the rest of his red winners, reducing him to all clubs in the three-card ending. Finally he runs the club eight around to him, forcing him to concede the last two tricks to dummy’s club tenace.

ANSWER: Double. Doubling under the trumps and not over them emphasizes takeout. Plan to cue-bid three hearts next, in case you belong in three no-trump. An alternative approach would be to cuebid three hearts directly to get to three no-trump facing a heart stopper.


South Holds:

A Q 4 3
6 4
8 7 6
A K J 2
West North East South
1 Pass 1
2 Pass Pass ?

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave comments at this blog. This column is reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 2009.


Krishnan RMarch 28th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

A very good hand as example for the practice finesse.

However, there is a slight error in the write-up. In the 5card ending suggested East can come down to H QT D void C QTx, where South will have HA D Ax C 87. Now if South cashes the DA East can let go a club and can leave South without entry to cash the H A.

Hence, Declarer should decide in the 6 card ending. If East is down to H QTX D void C QTx,the strip tease will work when the DA is cashed, because dummy will have a heart.

Bobby WolffMarch 28th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Hi Mr. Krishnan,

The six card ending would be: N. Hx, Dxx, AJx, E. HQ10x, Dvoid C. Q10x S. H. AK, D. Ax, C87. S. cashes the Ace of Diamonds (the suit E. has left unprotected) and East has been stripped and squeezed. Unless I have missed something critical (always and, all too likely, possible), the column is right. It is conceivable that with East possessing certain red suit holdings he might buffalo declarer to misguess the distribution (starting with discarding the queen of hearts early).

Even if I am correct, I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to comment.

JenniferMarch 28th, 2009 at 8:51 pm

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Mark LombardMarch 30th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

A “striptease squeeze,” eh? Let me entertain you….

Bill SharpMarch 31st, 2009 at 4:31 pm

the way i would have played it (which isn’t right, but would probably work in most games) is to pull 3 rounds of trumps cash the other 2 hearts pitching a D and then D A and out a D! I will study this, it is an excellent hand and a new (to me) ending.

Bobby WolffApril 1st, 2009 at 4:57 am

Hi Bill,

By the time you play A and another diamond the defense will know whether to throw the blocking King of diamonds under the ace and allow partner to lead a club through. If the 2d high club is played earlier East will hold on to the king of diamonds and cash the club trick.

Anthony MoonApril 7th, 2009 at 2:09 am


I love this deal. These three suit strip squeezes are some of the most interesting endings in bridge – the defender is reduced to two suits then one.

I’m writing books on squeezes (two have been published so far) and deals like this are a joy. Thank you.

AlanApril 29th, 2014 at 2:57 am

Why does East need to keep 3 clubs? Qx of clubs and Q hearts takes the contract light. For a 15-17 INT, South cannot have more than A of diamonds, so East knows West has Qd, and can discard diamonds. Or have I made a howler?