Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 14th, 2012

The words of wise men who are skilled
In using them are not so much to defy
What comes when memory meets the unfulfilled.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

West North
Neither ♠ Q 9 6
 Q 7 5 3
 A K Q 6
♣ Q 10
West East
♠ 7 2
 10 8 4
♣ A K 9 6 5 4 3
♠ 5
 K J 9 6 2
 J 10 4 3
♣ J 8 7
♠ A K J 10 8 4 3
 8 7 5 2
♣ 2
South West North East
3♣ Pass Pass
4♠ Pass 5♠ Pass
6♠ All pass    


In today's deal North's raise of four spades to five specifically suggested concern about the opponent's suit. If North had weak trumps and a club control, he could have advanced with five clubs, so the actual sequence asked South to pass with no club control, cue-bid the ace, or bid slam with second-round control.

Now to the play. When the board occurred in a team game both tables relied on the heart king falling early or on diamonds breaking. The declarers drew trump and tried to ruff out the heart king, falling back on the diamond break when nothing nice developed. Both tables ended up with 11 tricks, and both were unaware that they had failed to exploit their chances properly.

Better technique is to ruff the second club, draw trump, then cash the heart ace, cross to dummy with a trump, cash the diamond ace, ruff a heart, then run all but one of the trumps. In the four-card ending, dummy has two hearts and the diamond king-queen. In hand you have three diamonds and one trump left; but which four cards does East keep? If he reduces to two hearts and two diamonds, you will unblock diamonds, ruff a heart to hand, and take trick 13 with a diamond.

If instead he keeps one heart and three diamonds, you will know the diamonds are not splitting when West shows out. Your one remaining chance is to ruff a heart to hand; with the heart king falling, dummy is now good.

The two possible approaches are to put maximum pressure on your opponents by bidding five clubs, or to try to get the opponents to sell out quietly by bidding four clubs, hoping they stop in four spades. Of the two approaches I marginally prefer the latter (not least because five clubs doubled might prove expensive if your partner's clubs are on the feeble side).


♠ 5
 K J 9 6 2
 J 10 4 3
♣ J 8 7
South West North East
3♣ Pass

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 28th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Or you can ruff the second club, draw trump, cash the AK of diamonds, discovering the bad break, and then simply run all of your trump, coming down to Qx of hearts and Q of diamonds in dummy, with A of hearts and xx of diamonds in hand. East must now unguard one of the red suits, and you will know which one because you know his exact diamond holding. So you cash the ace of the suit he has just unguarded, cross to the other hand with its ace and cash the last winner which east was forced to establish. I believe this is called a crisscross squeeze.

In the suggested line of play, surely south should cash 2 rounds of diamonds, not just one. Technically, there is no difference, but it is a lot easier to see what is going on when west shows out on the second diamond. I don’t see any difference between your suggested line of play & mine, except when west holds specifically Kx of hearts, but who would pre-empt holding that and 7 (or more) clubs to the AK.

John StoreyJanuary 28th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Dear Mr Wolff

In a club duplicate game, my leftie dealt and bid 3 Clubs not vulnerable vs vulnerable. Partner passed with this:

A 10 8 7 4

In 4th chair, I passed with this collection:


Partner said I should have balanced with a double. Do you agree with this and his pass in second chair? I don’t!

Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi David,

I think that the column’s line is superior, but only slightly, since the criss-cross squeeze which you have keenly recognized, also works when West has the Kxx in hearts, an unlikely holding as pointed out by you but still possible and is found out in time when the 2nd diamond is shown out by West.

Curiously, when East does not raise partner’s opening to, at least 4 clubs, South is able to show greater trick taking ability with his jump to 4 spades rather than just bidding 4 spades over 4 clubs.

Sometimes the failure to do small things results in deserved large adverse swings (not that North might not also raise a competitive 4 spades as well, but it would be more difficult a task).

Getting back to the play, since, without the tell tale bidding (West opening 3 clubs), either opponent could have 4 diamonds making the correct technique more of a guesswork proposition.

Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Hi John,

I would bid 3 hearts with your partner’s hand immediately over his RHO’s preempt. However I would choose pass (60%) as my first alternative with my 2nd alternative being a bold 3NT (30%) intervention, bid with a “take no prisoners” attitude.

From your viewpoint, I think it very close being merely passing (70%) or either doubling (very aggressive) (60%) or settling for an also dangerous 3 spade balance (40%). Your shortness in LHO’s long suit might goad me into being more active than I possibly should be.

Give your worthy opponents credit for your partnership missing a probable heart or NT game by choosing a good time to make his preempt, although figuring out the exact blame is hard to calibrate.

Michael SteinJanuary 29th, 2012 at 5:47 am

In BWTA, would you recommend a different action if North had opened in third position?

For that matter, when, if ever, do you feel it justified to open 3 clubs holding six, rather than seven of them?