Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain….

Sir Philip Sidney

South North
Neither ♠ A Q 5 3
 K 8 5 3
 K 10
♣ A K 5
West East
♠ K 9 7 6 2
 6 2
 5 2
♣ J 10 7 3
♠ 10 8
 Q J 7 4
 J 9 8 7 4
♣ 9 8
♠ J 4
 A 10 9
 A Q 6 3
♣ Q 6 4 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2♠ Pass
3 Pass 6 NT All pass


I am always happy to receive deals from my readers. It doesn't matter that they didn't find the right play at the table, as long as the theme is an interesting one. We can all learn from real-life hands, even when not played by experts.

Today, Orville St. Clair, declarer in six no-trump, won the helpful spade lead in hand with the jack. West should surely have led a heart here — not that it would have worked out any better.

Now declarer finessed the spade queen, more to find out how many tricks he needed in the other suits than with great confidence that it would hold. Once the finesse worked, South was up to 11 sure winners, so correctly decided to set up a threat in hearts by leading a low one from dummy and putting in the nine. He was delighted to see it hold the trick.

Of course, if East had split his honors, declarer would have had 12 top tricks. As it was, South was now playing for a 13th winner. The best order to take the tricks is the heart ace, then one club and the spade ace, discarding a heart from hand. East has to pitch a diamond, and declarer must decide if he had begun with three diamonds and four clubs (when the three top diamonds would squeeze him in clubs and hearts) or with his actual hand, when cashing the clubs squeezes East in diamonds and hearts. St. Clair read the position accurately and brought home 13 tricks.

Jumping to three no-trump would be premature. You could be cold for a slam or end up playing in a hopeless spot, facing unexpected shortage in a major suit. The simple choice is to bid two clubs and hope to get diamonds in later; or to raise diamonds via the cue-bid, then bid no-trump next. Given the suit disparities, put me down as a cue-bidder. Switch the minors and I'd go the other way.


♠ J 4
 A 10 9
 A Q 6 3
♣ Q 6 4 2
South West North East
1 1

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


jim2September 25th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

As an engineer, empirical data is top dog so I cannot argue with the line adopted by St. Clair. How would play have proceeded if the heart nine had lost to an honor and a third spade returned?

I confess that I would have tried leading to the 10D at trick two. That would have lost and a diamond likely returned. I would have then cashed clubs hoping for 3 – 3 and not getting it.

With West revealed to have club length, I would have then cashed the red suits (ending in hand) hoping to squeeze West in the blacks. This would have worked for 12 tricks, certainly not 13.

bobby wolffSeptember 25th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

While there are many choices to choose from, a diamond to the 10 is one of them, but at trick 3 a heart to the 9 perhaps is slightly superior since by so doing it increases the slam going trick to be immediately available in the form of the 9 winning or more likely the hearts to either then break 3-3 or the second honor falling on the 2nd lead of hearts.

Of course, the fall back lies on the many squeeze possibilities present which almost seem endless with this particular layout.

I guess one, in the absence of it being mentioned, should always assume that the game is either rubber (by far the most common form both in North America and around the world) or IMPs, not matchpoints.

jim2September 25th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

One of the factors that led me to lead to the 10D at trick #2 was that I could delay the spade finesse. Leading to the 9H at trick #3 is only possible if the spade finesse had won.

If the spade finesse lost, I guess declarer needs 3 – 3 clubs and the JD onside to come to 12 tricks.

If the 10D had won, then declarer could return to the AH and advance the 10H. This would have had the identical advantages as leading to the 9H, but with the additional advantage that East could not attack spades before declarer could test clubs and hearts.

East might win and exit with a minor, but now declarer can test the rounded suits and decide what to do squeeze-wise and spade finesse-wise.

I think the lines are about the same.

That is, both start with an early finesse. If that wins, declarer plays on hearts then decides what to do later, if necessary, with lots of options.

If that early finesse loses, declarer probably needs the other finesse, unless there is a heart miracle or a squeeze (as there was in practice).

Ted BartunekSeptember 25th, 2012 at 10:05 pm

If in the end position you cash the 3 diamonds, it shouldn’t matter what East holds. You’ll squeeze whoever holds a 4th club.

jim2September 25th, 2012 at 10:28 pm

In what line?

The reason I ask is that, in my line where I lost the diamond finesse, I think the N-S position at Trick 10 with the lead in the South hand is:

H –
D –
C –

S 4
H 10
D –
C 6

If East guards both hearts and clubs, West can keep S K97 and I am short a trick.

However, if West has to guard either non-spade suit along with the KS, the squeeze works and it is simple enough for me to get right.

Ted BartunekSeptember 26th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

With the line used in the column with the early heart finesse. The 5 card ending with South leading a high diamond.

S – 5
H – x
D –
C – AK5

S –
H –
D – Q
C – Q642

The small diamond was pitched on the spade Ace.

jim2September 26th, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I still must not understand. If East has four clubs, how is there a squeeze?

Ted BartunekSeptember 26th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

West has to guard spades so must discard something else. Now North discards his spade. East must hold a heart (or North has the last heart), so has to discard something else. If neither opponent throws a club, then the suit must be divided 3-3.

jim2September 26th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Why can’t West have both a heart and a spade, along with two clubs?

Ted BartunekSeptember 26th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Because he’s showed out on the third round of hearts (heart finesse, A and K as in the column).

Sorry I was this cryptic; I should have made the situation more clear from the start. I was suggesting the line of play following the column’s third paragraph.

bobby wolffSeptember 29th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Hi Jim2 and Ted,

Whether either of you are aware of it, your back and forth discussion will likely be a realistic learning experience for bright, but, at this stage, relatively newer players, with high upsides for learning top flight bridge.

Particularly the possible squeeze endings, should enable those probable younger players to appreciate what is necessary to effect a successful squeeze and if intense concentration occurs, this lesson, like learning to ride a bicycle, will forever remain locked in.

Therefore, I appreciate both of your significant and determined efforts.