Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Dealer: North

Vul: East-West


Q J 7 4

Q 9 8

A K 9

9 6 4


10 9 8 3 2

J 7 5 3

J 5 3 2


A K 6 5

7 6 3

Q 10 8

10 8 7


A K J 10 5 4 2

6 4 2



South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 5 Pass
5 Pass 6 Pass
7 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Spade Ten

“A little local difficulty.”

— Harold Macmillan

Regular readers of this column will know that the deals tend to get harder as we work our way through the week. By the time we get to Saturday, you should be ready to have your mind stretched just a little — as might be the case today.


You have driven to a grand slam that appears to have very little chance after West leads the spade 10. How will you get rid of your diamond loser, since you seem to have little hope of establishing a spade trick?


Don’t despair! Your best chance is to hope that West began with the spade 10-9-8, and East with the ace and king, in which case, believe it or not, your contract is now undefeatable.


After covering the opening spade lead and ruffing in hand, you run all but one of your trumps, then cash the three top clubs, reducing dummy to the two top diamonds and the J-7 of spades. You have three diamonds and a trump in hand, and both defenders must retain two spades. If East bares his remaining spade honor, you can set up the jack with one ruff, while if West reduces to the bare nine or eight of spades, you will lead the jack from dummy and set up the seven. Since both defenders must keep two spades, neither can keep three diamonds. So cash the diamond ace and king, ruff a spade back to hand, and claim trick 13 with your remaining diamond.


South Holds:

A K 6 5
7 6 3
Q 10 8
10 8 7


South West North East
    1 1
Dbl. 2 Pass Pass
ANSWER: Although your side has the balance of high cards, your partner appears to have a minimum balanced hand. You have no real fit with partner and certainly not the values to bid any further. So pass and hope to defeat your opponents in their contract. If you must bid, try two spades, a nonforcing call suggesting four good spades.


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


MikeNovember 27th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Even though the contract is unbeatable on the double trump squeeze, at the table declarer still needs to read what E-W have discarded down to. Let’s say after 9 tricks, there are 2S and 2D out, can one tell if they have discarded down to 2-2 in S and D in which case the D will be good? Or if they have discarded down to 3-1 in both suits in which case one should set up the S by ruffing (one needs to know who has kept 3S also of course). A good W will throw one of her 8,9 of S whether she is keeping 1,2, or 3 S to hide her original length in S.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonNovember 27th, 2011 at 9:18 pm

HBJ : If West is down to 1S/3D, his spade 9 is pinned by dummy’s jack making the 7 an established winner ( after the cover and ruff ). If East keeps the singleton spade, a low one from dummy sets up the jack, with South ruffing the Ace.
I guess the expert declarer reads the situation when either West discards his 8 of spades, or East discards the 6 ( after the earlier pitch of the 5 of spades ) . The lead of the 10S suggests top of a sequence….otherwise the 9 may well have been played from 109xxx.
A fascinating hand which is certainly divides the men from the boys.

MikeNovember 27th, 2011 at 10:41 pm

As I said, a good W will discard the S 8 whether she keeps 1, 2 , or 3 S. And any E would know to discard the S 6. Declarer first has to guess that S are 3-1, and then decides who has 3 and who has 1. It is not that simple.

Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Hi Mike and HBJ,

Yes. the declarer, South, is engaged in a mental battle with EW similar to some of the cartoon battles between Tom (the cat) and Jerry (the mouse). EW, together, are trying to convince South (all alone) that the spade distribution is not what it is. It should go without having to say, that,

1. South might duck the spade from dummy altogether therefore causing East to also have to duck, but not covering the spade in dummy by declarer may later on prevent a legitimate spade diamond squeeze against West.

2. East, if declarer does cover should, of course, play the ace, not the king, so as to start the legal deception, which sometimes becomes the difference in the defensive ruse.

From there, both E and W should discard in such a way in order to create a coordinated scheme in hopes of which declarer will become a victim.

Summing up, some of the magic of bridge is certainly determined by the psychological battles between the defense and their one person opponent.

Science?, no, mathematics?, not really, but exhilarating
beyond belief?, you betcha, and my memory is full of just such encounters, some winning, others losing, but all off the charts exciting.

Thank both of you for your comments.