Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 8th, 2013

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.

Patrick Henry

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


How do you plan the play in six spades on the lead of the heart ace? Obviously, since trumps are under control, the most likely problem comes when clubs are 4-1.

As you will need to exert pressure on the defender who has four clubs, you should tighten the projected ending by discarding a club at trick one! After ruffing the next heart, you will draw trumps, cash the club ace-king, and claim 12 tricks if they split.

If East has four clubs, you need him also to have sole control of diamonds. Then, after all of the trumps are played, he will have to keep four cards, most probably two clubs and two diamonds, and the diamond 10 will become a winner.

What will you do if West has four clubs? All you need for West to hold in addition to his four clubs is at least one diamond honor. Cash the diamond king and run the trumps to reduce to a five-card ending with one trump, two clubs and two diamonds in hand and one heart, one diamond and three clubs on the board.

When you play the last trump, West must keep all his clubs, but throwing the diamond jack will let you finesse the diamond 10. So West parts with his last heart, and you pitch dummy’s small club. Now when you cash the king and queen of clubs, East has no recourse. A heart discard establishes dummy’s heart five, while pitching a second diamond sees your diamond A-10 take the last two tricks.

This auction shows more than a strong two-no-trump opening — remember that a balancing action of two no-trump by your partner at his previous turn would show 19-20. So you have enough to go to game, and the best route is to use Stayman with a call of three clubs. This should not be natural. Unless proven to the contrary, bids in the opponents' suit are always forcing.


♠ 9 7 4 3
 Q J 8
 Q 9 7 3 2
♣ 3
South West North East
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 2 NT 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Slight error: you have south cashing the club king twice. The name for south’s technique: nonsimultaneous double squeeze.

Iain ClimieFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff and Mr. Warheit,

I just wondered if the club discard might be worthwhile at pars too. East could have the DQJ (25 percent roughly, although perhaps a bit more after the pre-empt) but there is also a higher chance that East will have 4 clubs, although not here.

In the case where West has to dump one diamond late on to hold onto clubs, are there elements of a guard squeeze where it is crucial to have cashed one diamond honour early? In how many cases is the D10 as opposed to just a small one, crucial?


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Sorry, pars should be pairs unless I’m menacing partner with a golf club.

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi David,

Yes, your name for this effective maneuver is exactly as you called it, a non-simultaneous double squeeze, meaning that the victims are not both squeezed on the same trick.

The play at trick one of discarding a club in hand instead of ruffing the heart (as I am sure you are completely familiar with) is called in bridge parlance, “rectifying the count” which is the act of losing all the tricks necessary in order to time the squeeze (in this case one) so that the trick gained by the squeeze arrives at the only appropriate time necessary to make it work.

Finally, yes, the declarer had already cashed the ace king of clubs (finding the news of the 4-1 split) so it was a column error to announce that the king was played again.

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, there could be elements of a guard squeeze if West was the only one to be able to keep hearts stopped (if dummy’s highest heart was higher than Easts) for example with West holding AKQ and the dummy, the jack third or longer.

The layout of this hand is unusual in that the long clubs are in the same hand with the extra long hearts. The likely event is that East may hold both long diamonds (5) and clubs (4) with short hearts and spades which then would follow with only a simple squeeze against East, but since both types of squeezes (and probably some other types not mentioned) still being effective, but the common denominator of rectifying the count should be done at trick one with the eye-opening discard of a club.
instead of ruffing.

While many proper techniques of both declarer play and less often, defense, are showcased by bridge reporters, this one will cause the greater stir, because of the perceived magnificence of the effort, sort of like a basketball player (Blake Griffin) jumping over a car, on his way to the basket, in order to make a slam dunk, BTW a result which, at least on this hand, produced exactly in name and by coincidence, the same thing.

Now, if only I did not errors involved in my description!

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Hi Iain,

Similar to your pars instead of pairs, I left out make in my last line above.

Jeff SFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 10:41 pm

A little late to the party, but shouldn’t the club discard make West sit up and take notice? Obviously, something is afoot and surely West would at least consider the switch to the JD.

Is there still a way to make the hand if West makes the switch? Or am I (as usual) missing something? Thanks, as always!

bobby wolffFebruary 23rd, 2013 at 2:20 am

Hi Jeff S,

Yes, the switch to the jack of diamonds by West does make it easier for declarer to make his contract. The easiest way, to accomplish it would be later in the hand, when in dummy with the queen of clubs (and after, of course, learning about the 4-1 club break) merely finesse the 10 of diamonds through the player who is strongly suspected of having started with 5 diamonds.

Keep on trying, and your game will improve by bounds and leaps while you continually get better acquainted with the ins and outs of the detective work necessary while playing a hand, especially slams which count a great deal in determining final winners.

TedFebruary 23rd, 2013 at 6:57 am

Hi Bobby,

I like Jeff’s idea if West’s doubleton Diamond is QJ. Based on declarer’s initial play you know you’re about to be squeezed and now declarer has another option.

bobby wolffFebruary 23rd, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi Ted,

And especially thanks for your comment since it now can veer off into another subject, based on your attempted deception.

South is now certain (at a certain rather high-level of bridge) to get a complete inferential count on the defensive hands with void in spades, 7 hearts (on the bidding), 4 clubs, when East shows out and therefore 2 clubs.

Since declarer possesses the ten of diamonds he should be suspicious of your early diamond switch since it enables you, the declarer to finesse the queen, assuming East has it. The poker in our game or better said, Sherlock Holmes present, should beware of good players bearing gifts for their opponents and, unless it was 100% transparent to your worthy West what was eventually going to happen to the defense (which is usually unlikely to be taking place), the more likely case is that West was trying to fool you while possessing the QJ doubleton.

“Watson, when one eliminates the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, is the answer”. The impossible is assumed to be West being able to figure out the whole hand before the led the jack of diamonds, as against the improbable holding of West having only the QJ.

Great game, this bridge. All of us, certainly including me, needs to hone our skills, if only for honoring the game itself.

Because of the vagaries referred to, about the class of participants, different thinking might apply, but all the above is worth keeping in mind.

bobby wolffFebruary 23rd, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hi Ted,

I did my 2nd proof read after I posted, so please change the last word in the 2nd paragraph, to diamonds.