Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 11th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: West


K 6

A J 8 3

A 7 3

J 9 7 3


A 8 7 3

7 6

9 6 5

10 8 5 2


J 10 4 2

10 5 2

Q J 4

K 6 4


Q 9 5

K Q 9 4

K 10 8 2



South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart seven

“All done by kindness.”

— David Devant

To all my readers who claim they have never played a squeeze, New York’s Cavendish Duplicate Club recently presented a great opportunity for simply drawing trumps, taking finesses and cashing winners, to produce an unusual squeeze that would have been worth a 95 percent board. Few took the opportunity.

Say you declare four hearts on a trump lead. (Yes, a diamond is best for the defenders.) You should decide to take ruffs in the South hand because you might establish the club jack and nine for diamond discards, whereas you cannot usefully establish the diamonds.

So you win the heart cheaply in hand, cross to the spade king, lead a club to the queen, cash the ace, and draw a second round of trump with the jack. A club ruff establishes the suit, and now you overtake the trump king with the ace to cash the club jack.

With 11 top winners there can hardly be any harm in leading out the top trump now, just in case. Watch what happens to East: If he pitches a diamond, declarer discards a spade and runs three diamond tricks. If he pitches the spade 10, declarer discards a diamond and leads a spade to the jack, queen and ace, with the spade nine for his 12th winner. A perfect vise (or vice) squeeze.

The trap on the hand on a diamond opening lead is that you must win the ace at trick one, or your entries to hand become fatally entangled.


South holds:

10 6 3
Q 9 4 3
J 6
K 10 5 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass
ANSWER: Dummy rates to be unbalanced, with real clubs and four spades, so forget about leading clubs. The diamond lead also looks unattractive — after all, partner could have bid the suit but did not. The choice is between a spade and a low heart. Put me down for a low heart, but without much confidence.


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


jim2April 25th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

The bidding question suggests a rebid principle I wish you would discuss a bit more.

The bidding would have gone (opponents passing throughout):

1C – 1H


If West bid 1S, it certainly could be with something like 4-1-3-5, as I think you were suggesting.

Still, if one held 14 points with a 4-2-3-4 pattern, which is the better rebid, 1S or 1N? Would the quality of the spade suit affect your decision?

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Hi Jim2,

You are touching on a subject which is an individual (or partnership) issue. After 1 club by opener and 1 heart by responder (the opponents remaining silent) what responsibility or obligation has the opener got to choose his rebid?:

Although bridge textbooks recommend opener rebidding 1 spade with 4 of them the factors in either rebidding 1 or 2 spades or eschewing that in favor of 1 or 2NT are the following:

1. Expert strategy does not recommend a 1 spade rebid with 4-3-3-3 distribution enabling partner to prefer clubs knowing partner has at least 4 of them.

2. Rebidding spades (either 1 or 2) allows for the ultimate correct scientific sequence investigating all strains and most of all, denying holding at least 4 spades (with the exception noted above) when a NT rebid is chosen.

3. Rebidding NT instead of spades, when holding 4 spades, is tougher on opponents regarding their eventually choosing their opening lead, whether the declarer (usually the rebidder) possesses 4 spades or not.

4. To rebid NT in either case is a small risk, made smaller by the ability of the responder, if desireable, to utilize checkback methods.

5. Practically speaking the decision may even narrow down to, if holding a tenace holding within a 4 card holding, such as AQxx, KQ10x, or even KJxx or QJ9x it becomes more prudent to not discourage a spade lead by bidding them, but the opposite of holding Axxx, Jxxx, or possibly even Qxxx, speaks out to bid them for strategic purposes.

Do bridge ethics come into play?

Not really, since most partnerships (and lets concentrate on top level players) do not have special agreements but just individually operate on what they consider to be the most practical bid at the time.

Bridge is indeed a superior intellectual game with intense concentration required, but often winners and losers are determined by the detective work of making good choices, both as to the opening leaders side as well as the declaring side in the bidding.

Summing up, one size does not fit all and my recommendation, made aware to all opponents at the proper time, is trying to tell the defense before the opening lead and even if the opponents do not ask, the tendencies of the individual bidders and always with a totally truthful bent.

If a partnership does not do the above would they be considered unethical? Only sort of, but before that designation could be charged many hands would have to be remembered but one caveat remains blazoned:

In the expert community or possibly even within the confines of a seven days a week well-attended bridge club, regular players will soon formulate an accurate assessment of who is to be trusted and who isn’t.

Sooner or later the unethical group, or at least the ones who disclose rarely, will be branded as such and their reputations will indelibly be forever known.

Paul BetheApril 26th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

On the actual trump lead, the vise squeeze can be played as a double. (whereas a diamond lead would break that up, and force the positional vise as described)

Without placing the diamond honors in any specific fashion, South plays as he does until the squeeze trick. When East pitches a diamond, rather than bank on east being QJx, he could instead play for diamonds 3=3, which is a slightly higher probability. So when East unguards the 3rd diamond, South pitches a diamond, and what does West do?

A diamond pitch allows the suit to be run, and a spade pitch allows declarer to simply duck a spade.