Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 30th, 2012

I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.

Peter Stone

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

* One ace or two kings


Today we get three variations on a five-diamond contract from the Scandinavian championships.

Against Runi Mouritzen and, in the other room, Artur Malinowski, both Wests cashed the club ace and continued the suit. South ruffed, ran the heart jack to East, and got a trump return — best defense. Both declarers ran their seven trumps, and now the defense could choose who would guard clubs. Against Mouritzen both defenders did, forcing West to keep the heart 10 guarded (or declarer could overtake the heart queen). So West pitched all his spades, letting Mouritzen overtake the heart jack and finesse in spades successfully.

Against Malinowski West kept the bare spade queen and the doubleton heart 10, and declarer came down to one spade, one club and the heart ace in dummy. He led a heart to the ace and East was squeezed in the black suits.

Well done, both declarers; but Frederic Wrang had an even tougher task, since he received a low trump lead, won in dummy. Next came a spade to the jack and queen. West now cashed the club ace and continued with a low club (a heart shift would have been fatal).

Wrang ruffed the club return and ran all his trumps, coming down to the spade ace and two heart honors in hand and the 10-9 of spades and the bare heart ace in dummy. East had to bare one of his kings, and Wrang could cash the ace of that suit and cross to the other hand to take tricks 12 and 13: a true criss-cross squeeze.

The one-spade call is forcing (fourth suit by responder sets up at least a one-round force) and it should focus your attention on stoppers in the fourth suit. But it is much more descriptive for you to rebid your long suit here. Your hand is at least initially all about clubs, and you can always bid no-trump later.


♠ K 6 3
 K 8 4 3
♣ K Q J 5 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 1♠ 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 romanoJuly 14th, 2012 at 9:23 am

but how could Wrang tell East had the H King ? and the S King too ? wasn’t more likely to finesse West for the H King ?

jim2July 14th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

The order of the last two pitches by Wrang from the Board before the three-card ending would be of interest.

Presumably, the Board’s last five cards included also the 9C and the 9H.

When Wrang led a trump at this point, he had to decide which threats to keep and which to give up on:

– pitching a spade gave up on dropping the KS,
– pitching a heart gave up on the finesse, and
– pitching a club gave up the club threat.

Assuming he pitched the club first, he still had a tough choice on the next trick. Give up the heart finesse? Give up dropping the KS?

If he assumed the spade honors had started split (restricted choice and no spade lead), then his choice was to play for the KH with East and execute a neat squeeze, or play West for the KH and do a simple finesse.

Mae West once remarked that, when faced with the choice of two evils, she picked the one she hadn’t done yet.

Here, faced with a criss-cross squeeze or a simple finesse, perhaps Wrang’s choice was similar to Mae West’s, in choosing the “evil” he had never done!

Iain ClimieJuly 14th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hi Gents,

Interesting stuff, although I think West against Wrang should have found that heart switch after the CA – if South has the HK, the contract is surely cold unless it is a singleton. In that case, the Heart switch kills any chance of too many hearts being thrown.

I remember a general guideline for defending squeezes of holding onto the suit held on your right, but I’m really not sure how helpful that would be here, even though it would allow West to dump clubs early on.

As an aside, I loved today’s quote to which can be added “Meetings – None of us is as Dumb as all of us.” See for many other examples, some of which are painfully apt to my bad days at the card table.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 14th, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Hi Angelo, Jim2 and Iain,

To Angelo, he couldn’t, but at the table most good declarer’s guess right at the death of a hand (tricks 11-13) about 90% with great declarer’s even higher.

To Jim2, beautifully analyzed (as usual) and in the case of Mae West, from what I heard of her life, without trying to be full of gossip (who am I kidding?) it is doubtful that by the time she reached full womanhood there was likely nothing she had not tried.

To Iain, even better than your bridge comments is your quote. Proven true, time and again, at least in my experience.

Continued love and kisses for all of your support.

Paul BetheJuly 16th, 2012 at 10:25 pm

“how could Wrang tell East had the H King”

I heard about this board when it happened.

The auction I heard had East as the dealer:
X 2C 2S P
3C P 3H P
4D P 5D All Pass

Left to the reader: On the auction, placing W with one spade and one club honor is a reasonable construct, as well as the exact shape. So double-dummy on the trump lead what is the 100% line for declarer (it does exist)?

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Hi Paul,

With either the auction as I was told (above) or the one you heard with East dealer and opening 1 club, most early play and discards (I would win the Jack of diamonds in dummy and lead a club). East will split and assuming West doesn’t overtake and lead a heart, then I would win whatever East returns and run off the diamonds, at least 6 more and maybe all of them depending on the discarding.

Then, depending on what happens (the discards and of course, the order of them), try and guess the ending if possible. I doubt whether any 1st class declarer will have any trouble determining exactly (or almost) the original holdings of both East and West.

Did I miss something?

Paul BetheJuly 17th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

I wouldn’t say you missed anything really – of course West could be a hero and overtake for a heart shift, but at the table I rate you at 95% success.

It turns out that West holding the T of hearts makes the contract 100%. Overtake the diamond lead and run
7 rounds pitching down to 3 cards in each major in dummy.
Both hands are squeezed in 3 suits without the count. West must hold all 3 hearts, otherwise you can finesse in hearts and then overtake to score the 9. So West either comes down to 2=3=0=1 or 3=3=0=0.
If either hand pitches a spade, then the other one cannot (else Ace and a spade sets up dummy’s T). Similarly neither hand can pitch two spades.

If West abandons clubs then East must keep at least one.
When West pitches a spade, East’s possible shapes are:
* 3=3=0=0. Last trump triple squeezes West.
* 3=2=0=1. Last trump, triple squeeze on both players.
When West abandons clubs, East can be either:
* 3=2=0=1. Last trump, West squeezed out of Spades, H pitch from dummy, East tripled.
* 2=3=0=1. Last trump, West squeezed.
* 2=2=0=2. Club exit, pitching the opposite from dummy that West does. Ruff the club return and set up a major.


bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Hi Paul,

When the really big WW III finally arrives I want your analytical mind working on the Bronx Project (higher up the province) which will win the war, but, of course, destroy our planet with it.

By that time I will be cavorting with the angels (I hope creatures not red faced and with pitchforks in hand) and you will be at the very least, a great grandfather.

Thanks for taking the time to write and explain the complex ending.