Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 15th, 2012

A little credulity helps one on through life very smoothly.

Elizabeth Gaskell

West North
Both ♠ 9 6 2
 A 9 8 3
 A 7 6 5 3
♣ 7
West East
♠ J 5
 K Q J 10 7 5 2
 8 2
♣ J 8
♠ Q 10 7
 Q J 10 9
♣ K Q 10 6 4 2
♠ A K 8 4 3
 6 4
 K 4
♣ A 9 5 3
South West North East
3 Pass Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ All pass


In four spades declarer made the natural play of covering West's heart king with the ace, hoping against hope that East would follow, or at the very least that he would be ruffing with a natural trump trick. East trumped the trick and returned a spade — nice defense. Declarer played the club ace and ruffed a club, took the diamond ace, came to the diamond king and led a third club.

After much thought West pitched a heart, and declarer ruffed in dummy. But now he could not avoid losing a further heart, a club, and a trump promotion. Had West ruffed in on the third club and cashed his heart, declarer could not have been stopped from ruffing the fourth club in dummy and losing no more tricks.

For those of you interested in the art of squeeze-play, it is worth noting that declarer could have made his contract had he read the position perfectly. Imagine that you duck the first trick, then put up the heart ace when the defense leads a second heart. The best East can do is ruff and return a spade, and you draw two rounds of trump, then find the master play of ducking a club. You can now arrange to ruff a club in dummy and run your trumps. In the ending, East gets squeezed in the minors.

Even if East returns a diamond at trick three, declarer can win in dummy, set about the minor-suit crossruff, and come home with 10 tricks.

This hand is just good enough to re-open with a double and convert your partner's response in hearts to spades. In direct seat this sequence shows 17 HCP or more, but since all actions in balancing seat start about a king lower, this hand is a sound minimum for the sequence. With a less well-put-together hand — the doubleton diamond Q-J instead of the king, say — you might bid one spade instead.


♠ A K 8 4 3
 6 4
 K 4
♣ A 9 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass 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


angelo romanoJune 29th, 2012 at 9:39 am

Duck the first trick, then duck a club …I think no one in the world could play so !

bobby wolffJune 29th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Hi Angelo,

You would be surprised. At least, I think so.

What it takes is more than just a sprinkle of exactly what happens with squeeze execution.

A major squeeze axiom is to lose early what one can afford (not the contract fulfilling trick, but up to that) which in bridge terms is called rectifying the count. This particular hand lends itself to great hope because of the opening 3 heart bid marking East for length in the suits, clubs and diamonds which may enable the declarer to have a vice-like grip on his opponents. Next, the timing of the hand needs to fit what is necessary, which on this hand can be done.

True, anyone who has merely executed a squeeze by leading out his winners and presto, changeo, a squeeze just develops is very unlikely to execute this one, but if one is speaking about world experts, almost all of them would, after a few minutes thought play it and be successful, because on this hand all plays, due to the opening bid, can be predicted (at least, pretty close).

Finally, this hand involves the numeracy which I often talk about which is always thinking about distributions (numbers). Second, some of the most interesting hands have involved themselves with ducking the setting trick, then executing a complex squeeze (more difficult than this one) to only go down 1 trick instead of 2. Now that is what could be called bridge character, don’t you think?

Thanks for writing.