Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


Q 9 3

Q J 3

K Q 4

A K 10 6


7 6 5

8 7 2

9 7 6 5 3

4 2



A K 10 9 5 4

10 2

Q 8 7 3


A K J 8 4 2


A J 8

J 9 5


South West North East
1 Pass 2 2
3 Pass 5 Pass
6 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart two

“When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.”

— Thomas Paine

We all suspect that the true expert will always follow a line that results in a squeeze rather than take the pedestrian 50 percent chance. Certainly, a good player will know when what at first appears to be a 50-50 chance has been reduced by the bidding or play to a much less attractive option than that.

Consider the play in today’s six spades on a heart lead. North’s jump to five spades asked his partner to bid slam with a heart control, by the way. Declarer puts in the jack, losing to the king (and yes, if East intends to shift, he should win the first trick with a deceptive heart ace). East duly switches to the diamond 10 at trick two. Declarer wins the king, cashes the top spades, then takes the two remaining high diamonds. This discloses that East began with two diamonds and one spade, and since West would have led the top of a doubleton heart, that East has six hearts. So East began with four clubs and West has just two clubs, making the club finesse irrelevant.

Declarer now simply plays off two more trumps, pitching clubs from the table to reduce to a four-card ending. East is down to the guarded heart king and three clubs. If he throws a heart away, declarer cashes the club king, ruffs a heart, and dummy is high. If he pitches a club, declarer takes both top clubs and ruffs a heart to score his club jack at trick 13.


South holds:

Q 9 3
Q J 3
K Q 4
A K 10 6


South West North East
1 NT 2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Any time the opponents have bid and raised a suit at a low level, it makes sense to play takeout doubles. Here, your partner rates to have exactly four spades and approximately invitational values. While you could bid two no-trump, you can see the danger in the heart suit. Better is a simple call of three clubs.


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 GibsonJune 30th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

HBJ : Hi…..I guess declarer is lucky to discover early doors East with 2 diamonds and a stiff spade, leaving him with a most likely 6-4 distribution in clubs.

This makes it almost impossible for him to keep both K10 of hearts and 3 clubs to the queen, when asked to come down to 4 cards.

The ending is so neat, but I if East was to show up with 3 clubs and 3 diamonds, would declarer adopt the same line ? Given the queen of clubs could be in either hand, what inferences would declarer need to have to finesse West for the club honour ?

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 2:54 pm


When East is known to hold only 1 spade and 2 diamonds as well as specifically 6 hearts (his partner’s lead as well as the bidding), it is indeed more that likely that he also holds 4 clubs, unless we are playing with a pinochle deck (only 48 cards instead of 52).

You are, of course, right on in divining out the sensational squeeze ending, which poor East will suffer.

Regarding your special question that if the clubs turned out to be 3-3 who should we play for the queen clubs, since we have the option for the same squeeze or if the elusive lady is with West, a straight finesse instead?

My order of preference is to lean on a chair set up on my right in order to get a peak at East’s hand or perhaps a simple ask and tell, but if neither of those gambits work my preference is for a simple finesse only because the squeeze it just too elegant for someone like me to execute, while on the other hand you, if declarer, may opt otherwise in order to bask in all its glory upon being successful.

In other words if 50-50 is the answer the person under pressure must decide.

Thanks for your off the charts interest and for your continued contributions to Judy and me, as well as to the Aces on Bridge which also, of course, extends to our wonderful game itself.

Jeff HJune 30th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

If you find East with 3 hearts and 3 clubs, it might help to know your opponents. If East is a weak player, he might show some discomfort if he is being squeezed. If he is a somewhat shady player, he might show some discomfort if he is not being squeezed. If he is a good ethical player, you make your best guess.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Hi Jeff H,

At a certain level all the players at the table are fully aware of what is happening in front of their noses, so that not too much consideration should be given to either distress or feigned discomfort.

And while it is, of course, better and more gentlemanly and ladylike, to not show any false emotion, it is not necessarily unethical to look worried, because after all, whether one holds the queen of clubs or not it is not wrong to worry about the declarer making the right or wrong play. I am not suggesting that you stop play, ask for the paramedics, or toss down several pills, but while just sitting there, stay poker faced and let the devil take the hindmost.