Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: E/W


8 7 4 2

A Q 7 5

6 2

Q 8 6


Q J 10


K 10 8 7 5 4 3

10 3



J 10 9 3 2

J 9

J 9 7 5 4


A K 9 6 5

K 6 4


A K 2


South West North East
2 Pass 2 NT Pass
3 Pass 4* Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Q

“Grace is given of God, but knowledge is bought in the market.”

— Arthur Hugh Clough

Against six spades West leads the trump queen, and when you win and play a second round of trumps, East discards a club. How do you plan to make 12 tricks after this development?

The best approach is to try to remove West’s hearts and clubs, then follow that up by throwing him in with a trump to lead diamonds or concede a ruff and discard. Either way, you will make 12 tricks.

One of the declarers in a team game played three rounds of clubs immediately, but West ruffed the third club and exited safely with a heart. When the diamond finesse lost, that was down one.

The second declarer showed the correct way to play the hand, which relies only on West’s having at least one heart and one club. He cashed the heart king and led a low heart toward dummy. West did not want to ruff a loser and thus set up one of dummy’s heart winners to take care of the diamond queen. Accordingly, he discarded a club, and declarer took the trick with dummy’s heart ace, then returned to hand with the club ace and led another heart. Dummy’s heart queen won, and declarer continued with the two remaining club winners.

West was now fixed. If he ruffed either of these, he would have to play a diamond away from the king. When he declined to ruff, declarer threw him in with a trump for the same outcome — 12 tricks to declarer.


South Holds:

J 10 9 3 2
J 9
J 9 7 5 4


South West North East
  1 1 1
ANSWER: It is possible to be too intellectual about problems of this sort. The simple approach facing an overcall is that when the opponents appear to own the deal and your side has a fit, you are obligated to pre-empt to the limit, even at unfavorable vulnerability. Bid four hearts first; worry about the consequences later. Indeed, you might think about bidding five hearts if nonvulnerable!


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 9th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

The suggested line of play is correct, but there is one tiny fly in the ointment. After drawing 2 rounds of trump and finding west with a trump trick, the contract will nonetheless still always make if east has the king of diamonds or if hearts break 3-3. But when south cashes the heart king and leads a second heart, what if west and east both follow suit? No problem if hearts are 3-3 or if they are 4-2 with east having the four. But what if it turns out that west has four? Presumably south attempts to return to his hand with a club to lead another heart. If he does so, he will go down if west has four hearts, a club void & the king of diamonds, because west will ruff the club and safely exit with a heart. Boy, that’s a really small possibility, but it is possible.

Actually, under those circumstances, south could STILL make the contract by squeezing west in hearts and diamonds. Interestingly, the squeeze is a 2 to 1 favorite to work! (west is known to have exactly 3 spades, 4 hearts & no clubs, therefore 6 diamonds, which leaves only 3 diamonds for east). So, south should play for the squeeze, but he still might fail, but now only when east has the king of diamonds.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you are correct, as usual, in your considerable analysis, of course also in your final critical decision of who the percentages dictate as to whom to play for holding the king of diamonds.

As you imply also, that if West does hold the king during your squeeze play you will have forced him to discard down to the singleton king in order for him to keep the critical high heart at the death.

The only other tool the declarer would have to work with is before the critical diamond decision that he should then reconstruct West’s hand, 3 spades, 4 hearts, 6 diamonds, and void in clubs. Then he should remember the bidding or rather lack of a diamond overcall (if so, certainly holding the king). However, since his side was vulnerable and at the 2 level, whether or not he held the king could not be determined since he was just too weak to overcall in either case. However, as you so properly said, he would be more likely to have been dealt the king since he had 6 diamonds to his partner’s 3 making it more likely mathematically, for West, rather than East to hold the king by a ratio of 6 to 3.

Another factor perhaps is that while 6 spades is a likely final contract at the other table of this team game, the declarer at that table will likely finesse in diamonds rather than attempt to execute this squeeze so all in all, you “pays your money you takes your choice”. “Ain’t bridge great, or what”?

Still another possible interesting tidbit, at least to me, is that when West unexpectedly ruffs the first club and exits with a heart, a NUMERATE declarer (minority of people), after the heart play has been completed, will immediately think in terms of West originally holding a 3-4-6-0 original hand if only because sheer numbers always occupies his thoughts.

“Little by little we learn great things”, if only for the playing of bridge application.

Thanks, David, for creating a hypothetical situation which might interest many bridge lovers, especially numerate ones.