Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what the heck you're doing.

Peyton Manning

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

*Two of the five key cards, counting the trump king as a key card


Against Franck Multon's six-heart contract in last summer's European championships, West found the best lead — the club seven to East's queen. After a trump shift, how do you fancy your chances?

Multon drew trumps, West pitching spades, then played a fourth heart, and East had to discard either a spade or a diamond. He chose a spade. Declarer now cashed the club ace, then played the spade ace and ruffed a spade. The last two hearts now squeezed West. On the final heart, to keep his spade guard, West had to come down to two diamonds. Dummy’s spade 10 went away, and now East was squeezed in the minors. If he keeps the club guard, the diamond eight makes the last trick.

If East had thrown a diamond on the fourth heart, it would have obliged West, for the time being, to keep all four diamonds. On the fifth heart West throws a club and dummy a spade. East can pitch a spade now, but declarer continues with a club to the ace (West pitching a spade), and follows with three rounds of diamonds, ruffing in hand. Now the last heart is cashed and West must come down to a singleton spade to keep his diamond guard. Away goes dummy’s diamond, and now East is caught in a black-suit squeeze.

Yes, if East switches to either a spade or a diamond at trick two, careful defense thereafter defeats the slam, but that does not detract from South’s play.

This may not be a popular view, but I'm very tempted to respond two diamonds rather than two clubs. The logic is that spades are our likely best trump fit for game, but at the slam level we might be much keener to find a 4-4 diamond fit than a 4-4 club fit. With a weak club fit we might find we had located the only slam we cannot make.


♠ A 10 8
 Q 7
 A K 8 5
♣ A 6 5 2
South West North East
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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi Bobby,

Very interesting and worthwhile comment in BWTA but can I add two more definitions to pressure. The first is where you know exactly what the opposition is doing to you but can’t prevent it. Here it is running off a long suit, the bridge equivalent of thumbscrews or the rack!

The second was from an Australian cricketer called Keith Miller who had been a fighter pilot in Europe during WW2. He was asked about the pressures of international cricket (and sport in general). He said “Pressure is having an enemy fighter up your a** and trying to kill you; playing cricket isn’t pressure!

Having said tha, I’m still bemused that East didn”t play SK at T2, rapidly reading declarer’s shape and loosening the ropes a bit.



Michael BeyroutiJune 14th, 2013 at 11:16 am

Hi Mr Wolff,
Franck Multon played the hand quite nicely. This being said, would you open three hearts or four hearts with the South hand? What is the range of a four level opening? Can the South hand have as much as the King of clubs instead of the Jack? Do you ever open one heart preparing to rebid four hearts no matter who said what? (The risk being that one heart is passed out).
Sorry to bombard you with all the questions that rushed to my mind..
Best regards.

Bobby WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 11:44 am

Hi and top of the morning to you, Iain,

I like both definitions of pressure from the quoted, possibly best of the very best, quarterbacks in American football history, Peyton Manning, and your story about your Australian fighter pilot, turned cricketeer.

While both feel very accurate, they are based on two quite different syllogisms, your erstwhile fighter pilot compares playing for glory and self esteem as opposed to competing to save one’s life, while the famed football player attributes pressure to not being fully prepared.

BTW, I agree to your suggestion of returning the king of spades at trick 2, but possibly he was afraid of declarer playing the jack on the first spade and then immediately returning a spade and, not being able to surely read partner’s hoped for spade count card, do the wrong thing by either going up or not, risking declarer having the spade 9.

Squeeze end positions are usually difficult to read early in the hand, particularly so on defense when one is not looking at all starting 26 assets, to which the declarer is blessed.

Your comments are always, to say the least, challenging and therefore educational. Keep them coming.

Bobby WolffJune 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Hi Michael,

Rush away since I do not regard wanting worthwhile questions to be answered as bombarding, but rather as educational.

Yes, I would open 4 hearts with either the king of clubs or not, particularly so with this 7-1-1-4 distribution and being NV vs. V.

Terence Reese used to call that distribution a giraffe and can become a powerful one if partner has an important card opposite your long suit and length opposite your 4 card one.

It is also important to open 4 rather than 3, since bidding game is apt to put more pressure on the opponents to gamble coming in or just as dangerous or perhaps more so, to stay out.

As we all know by now (or should), bridge is definitely not an exact science, but rather an art, requiring good judgment, and luck seems to follow aggressive actions. I am very much against opening a pusillanimous 1 heart which takes all the pressure off your undeserving worthy opponents.

Thanks for writing.