Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Both


J 9 8 7 6


A 2

10 8 6 5


A 5 2

6 5 4

Q 8 4

Q 9 3 2


Q 10 4 3

3 2

J 7 6 3

J 7 4



A Q 10 9 8 7

K 10 9 5



South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
4 NT Pass 5 * Pass
6 All Pass

* Denying the trump queen and showing two of the five aces, counting the trump king as an ace.

Opening Lead: Four

“Well, sir, you never can tell. That’s a principle in life with me, sir, if you’ll excuse my having such a thing.”

— G.B. Shaw

It has often been remarked that England and America are two nations separated by a common language. For example, in England the vise squeeze is referred to as a vice squeeze — which throws up an entirely different image this side of the Atlantic. Did I hear you ask what a vise squeeze is? Read on. 

First of all, consider how to make six hearts today on a trump lead, looking only at the North-South cards. 

At first glance prospects look poor. Without that trump lead it would be a simple matter of ruffing two diamonds in dummy, using clubs for transportation. 

If one defender has a helpful diamond holding such as Q-J-third, you might still be in business, but not today. 

Anyway, you might as well take whatever you can. You win the trump lead in dummy, cash the top clubs, play a diamond to dummy’s ace, and ruff a club. Next comes the diamond king and a diamond ruff. Ruffing dummy’s last club back to hand, you draw trumps and run the rest of your hearts. 

You can reduce the hand down to a two-card ending, and while West is under no pressure, East is the victim of the two jaws of the vise. He has to keep his master diamond and must thus reduce himself down to the bare spade queen. 

Now the lead of the spade king pins the queen, and on winning with the ace, West must present South with an entry to dummy’s established spade jack for his 12th trick.


South Holds:

J 9 8 7 6
A 2
10 8 6 5


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s actions suggest extras and good diamonds. He will not have three spades or he would have bid three spades. Since you have hearts stopped and are not worried about the spades running against you, it looks straightforward enough to bid three no-trump and try your luck there.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonMarch 12th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

HBJ : This is great example of ” refusing to throw in the towel ” after a crippling lead of a trump. It seems implausible that the contract can come home by means of a spade trick ( ie the jack ), but players gifted with vision and foresight can see the squeeze-come-smother play working….. provided the defender with 4 diamonds to an honour also holds the queen of spades.

This hand certainly separates the men from boys ( like myself ), being one that demonstrates the reward for never giving up, and what joy you can extract from the game by steering home a contract which so many others will allow to go astray.

bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks HBJ,

By your comment, you make it available for all to see, the hidden treasures which bridge often presents.

True, vise squeezes are not for all to execute, however by studying what happens here one, slowly, can feel the impetus of possible ways to create tricks without the aid of Merlin, the magician.

From that start is it not possible to so titilate a wave in one’s brain to grasp at the possibility? Easy? Are you kidding, no, but worth the try, YOU BETCHA!

Thanks again, my friend, for creating the challenge.

Bruce KarlsonMarch 12th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I am not one to give up even if I cannot totally envision the opposing hands. If I can create a threat card, I simply, while trying to maintain a count, recitfy the count and lead on…

In most club and local tournament games an opp will give it up by squirming, lookng at the ceiling, etc. That establishes the victim, if not previously identified and the rest is fairly easy to imagine. In any event, nothing ventured nothing gained!!!

bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Hi Bruce,

It is always pleasant to hear from you and furthermore I like your persevering attitude.

The good news is that you, the declarer, usually do not need to see the squirms and tells of an opponent since all it often requires is to keep track of one (or sometimes two) card(s) and provided you rectified the count and timed it correctly (with an entry to both hands or only one, if both cards you can possibly set up are in the same hand), it kind of plays itself, as in pianola.

For many others who may read these comments, please be assured that one can become a very good player while knowing very little about squeezes and other advanced coups, but, if given a choice, always try to learn as much as possible about our superior game.