Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.

T.H. Huxley

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

* Semi-positive values


Today's deal sees South in a delicate no-trump slam, having carefully avoided the pitfall of playing six hearts, where the defenders can crossruff the first five tricks. Against six no-trump West finds the passive heart lead and declarer has 10 top winners. He can establish a spade trick easily enough, but if he assumes West has all the high spades, he will need to create an endplay or a squeeze for the 12th trick.

Most simple squeezes involve trying to take the rest of the tricks, but where, as here, one trick has to be lost after pressure is applied, the position is often more difficult to see.

The first step in the process is easy enough. Declarer cashes four rounds of hearts, then sets out on the clubs. West can discard two spades on the hearts without discomfort. However, the four rounds of clubs do put West under pressure. He lets go two spades early, then a painful diamond, but in the six-card ending, he has three diamonds and three spades left. What should he do now? Since a spade is obviously fatal, West must hope his partner has the diamond jack, so let’s go a diamond.

Now declarer cashes the diamond ace and king, reducing West down to his three spades. Declarer then leads a spade to his king, which West must win and lead a spade away from his jack. Declarer runs the spade around to his hand and has the rest of the tricks.

When you hold a balanced 10-count facing a minimum opening bid, your first reaction should not be to try for game. Reasons to bid on include extra trump length, a long side-suit or support for partner. In this case you have no aces and no support for partner's original suit, so pass looks clear-cut.


♠ Q 3 2
 Q J 10 6
 K 10 7 2
♣ Q 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 Pass 2 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


Jeff SJune 16th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Does West’s weak-3 make sense in the face of a strong-2 opening? I am not sure I understand the point of it and here it seems to give away information that could be valuable. Is it possible that N-S would have landed in 6H left to their own devices?

As always, thank you for the column and for your on-going dialogue with your readers through this blog.

bobby wolffJune 16th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Hi Jeff S,

First, thanks for the kind words. Without significant questions from you and many other interested bridge lovers, our back and forth discussions (for what they are worth), would go to waste.

No doubt, on this particular hand, without the intervention, the undiscovered 4-4 heat fit might have been found, with the probable obvious disastrous consequences.

However, a universal rule of bridge would and should be accepted, that when the strong hand side has less room to exchange information, it sometimes (most times) causes enough chaos so that guesses (albeit somewhat educated, especially by experienced and innovative players) have to be made instead of bridge science employed (with more bidding room available) to ferret out better contracts which more often than not tend to produce better results.

The hand above is an exception and, of course, emphasizes (which you cleverly mention) the enabling luck involved which greatly helps the declarer avoid the built-in pitfall (defensive cross ruff) and with great card reading talent, produce a superior result.

It stands to reason that making the opponents guess by having less room to maneuver will percentage wise help cause havoc, but bridge, being the unpredictable game it is, sometimes bites intelligent action where it hurts.

Does that put paid to your question? Absolutely not, but, at least to me, only suggests that the art in bridge sometimes is worth at least as much as are cold hard percentages.

RogerMJune 16th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Mr. Wolff put it much more eloquently than I ever could, but I am a fan of the 3S bid. I would bet that if you polled a dozen good players, you would find most, if not all, of them bidding. Yes, it will sometimes give them helpful information, but more often it will make it more difficult for them to find the best spot. And you have to play the percentages in this game!

Jeff SJune 16th, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Mr Wolff and RogerM,

Thank you for your illuminating answers. My question was more to the hazards of venturing a 3S bid after the strong 2C open versus the benefits of taking away bidding room. Here, it may have helped N-S land in the right contract and bring it home, but you both make a good argument that on balance taking away bidding space outweighs the (possible) harm done on a hand such as this.

Thanks again!