Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 10th, 2013

No pressure, no diamonds.

Thomas Carlyle

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

*Two of the five key cards, including the trump king, plus the trump queen


Today's hand is from the semifinals of the Junior (Under 25) Championship at the 2010 World Bridge Series. Here, Israel faced USA-1, and although Israel went on to win the final, USA-1 showed considerable verve in the bidding, reaching six hearts in an auction that consisted of 13 calls, whereas Israel did not progress beyond game. I have provided a natural sequence to get to slam here.

Since East for Israel had doubled North’s five-spade response to Roman Key Card Blackwood, West led a spade. Jason Chiu, for USA-1, showed that he could handle the cards as well as he could bid them. He ducked the spade lead, and on winning with the queen, returned a trump.

Chiu proceeded to play out all his trumps, and on the last one West naturally came down to the guarded diamond king and three clubs, while dummy kept two spades and three clubs. East had to keep both his clubs to protect his partner from a club finesse on the second round of the suit, and since he had sole control of the spade suit, was thus forced down to only one diamond.

Now came a spade to the ace, forcing a diamond from West, who was obliged to keep three clubs because of the threat in dummy. That allowed Chiu to take the ace and king of clubs, then the diamond ace, with the diamond four winning trick 13.

The simplest call is sometimes the best. Jump to three no-trump to show 13-15 points in a balanced hand, since a jump to two no-trump should be reserved for invitational balanced hands, with about an 11-count.


♠ A J 7
 Q 10 7
 Q 8 7 2
♣ A 10 6
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


David WarheitAugust 24th, 2013 at 9:34 am

It is interesting to note that a spade lead is the only one to give S any trouble. On any other lead, he simply draws trump and plays DA & then a small D towards the Q. Suppose that NS were playing some other form of Blackwood where N would have responded something other than 5S (let’s say old-fashioned Blackwood where he would have bid 5H to show 2 aces). In that event E couldn’t have doubled. What would you have led at trick 1? I think I probably would have led a club.

angelo romanoAugust 24th, 2013 at 9:55 am

All this brilliant display … and there is an automatic minor squeeze because W is the only to control club !

bruce karlsonAugust 24th, 2013 at 11:35 am

Could E have found a Diamond return at trick two?? Reasoning being that if S had the DK, why would he rectify the count. And, if he does have it, the slam appears to be cold. Is that true and, if true, does that break up the squeeze??

Iain ClimieAugust 24th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Hi Bruce,

If declarer reads West for DK and being the only defender able to guard the clubs (any 6 or the Q and J), then he rises with the DA, draws trumps, cashes the spade Ace and finishes the trumps. When the last trump hits the deck, South has SNone Hx Dx C8 and North has SNone HNone DQ CA10. West either has to unguard clubs or set up the DQ, as Angelo noted.

I don’t know if this is particularly odds on, though. One point is that a club lead gives South an extra club winner straight away. What would be interesting, perhaps reflecting a comment from yesterday on splitting the column, is the best way to play 6H without opposition bidding and on a trump lead – especially if the EW hands were hidden. Any offers, or do we head for the computer?



bruce karlsonAugust 24th, 2013 at 1:20 pm


Thank you. I could have seen that myself had I “played” it out. A lesson learned: I must overcome my inherent club player sloth and recognize that the squeeze is available to even the unwashed.

For fun: Imagine that our host is sitting E, holds the DK, reads the tea leaves accurately, and puts a diabolical low diamond on the table at trick two?? What does declarer do then??

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi David,

Like Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” when she sang “The Rain in Spain stayed mostly on the Plain”, she got it, and away went her Cockney accent.

And so it is with bridge, much more than other bridge aficionados either can or will recognize.

Conventions such as Support Doubles, Bergen Raises, and Jack denies (and even various forms of so-called superior ace asking) to mention what I think are the biggest culprits and tell the worthy opponents as much or more useful information then they tell their partners, serving their adversaries, both for opening lead and later defense and even once in a while when those opponents wind up being declarer with the result likely being an overall net minus for playing them.

Even unnecessary cue bids or always bidding where one lives, especially after there is enough information available before hand to place the correct final contract, oft times results in helping the enemy more than it helps the bidding partnership.

Most all aspiring bridge players look for better mousetraps in order to bid better. Well and good, but when the pendulum switches to a minus value for doing so, it needs to be recognized and then moderated, or otherwise those partnerships will find that their opponents seem to play better against them than they do against others, a condition, especially at the top of any competition, which makes losers out of possible winners.

Whenever the bidding partnership indulges in any conventions, all kinds of cue bidding or ask asking, they run the risk of competing against a dog which barks or sometimes doesn’t (the enemy who are then in a position of creating both positive and negative reasons for either leading or not leading certain suits by doubling or not doubling artificial suit bids) which, in turn, cuts into the good results, often naturally scored up, by the difficulty in our game of sometimes blind flying, usually the opponents having to choose an opening lead against a sequence such as 1NT P 3NT, 1 spade P 4 spades or even 1 spade, P, 2 spades, P, 4 spades.

Obviously much information in the bidding sometimes needs to be given back and forth in order to just have a chance to reach the right contract, but to go overboard with too much information results in “loose lips sink contracts” which doesn’t rhyme but instead just either destroys are, at the least, makes for more difficulty.

While not being 100% true nor even close to that number, it needs to be kept in mind, so eschew some of that science and beauty and a pair’s results will get better and better and furthermore that pair will be thought of as very tough opponents sometimes with magic results not being obtained by so-called equal or even better pairs who become readouts to their opponents.

The above is just a word to the wise which your comment has created, so a thank you is necessary.

Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi Angelo, Bruce and Iain,

Between the three of you I think your questions have been answered and a special thanks to Iain for his explanations. This hand can be a “simple squeeze” against West, holding the king of diamonds and 6 clubs and having to discard before dummy at the crucial moment. If East has the king of diamonds and leads one back at trick 2, declarer has to decide what to do, but the possibilities for various squeeze endings are immense and complicated enough so that none of us probably have time (besides the possibility of poor analysis) to wrestle with it.

One last thought from me, would be the logic gleaned by having bridge in the schools, then creating time to learn about numeracy and its logic, complex squeezes for those interested and why, psychology between people, legal communications with a limited language (bidding), the ethics required between partnerships, as well as the society of competition between civilized competitors, all lend itself to, what I think, is a wonderful preview of life as it is, not what we hope it is.

And all without violent discord and instead reflecting equal intelligence for all races and religions which would lead to the creation of respect so now evident as missing in this sometimes brutal world we now live in.

To have seen the respect the Israelis and all middle Eastern countries had for each other during World bridge tournaments and how they all socialized with each other and had many cherished moments was enough to convince me that Bridge for Peace could be made to stick if we, and then eventually their governments, let it.

Iain ClimieAugust 24th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Bruce,

Good question. The chance of West having the DK is 50% but with either 6+ clubs or Queen and Jack as well is quite low. The chance of East having the DK is also 50% but a good (or possibly clueless) player may well play a diamond after winning the SQ at trick 1. Hence if our host is East, it may well be better to assume that he’s trying to con us in diamonds somehow – but which way? If East has led away form the DK, then the Grosvenor coup has struck again – I’ll have played the Ace when ducking would have allowed a hopeless contract to make unless West has sole control of clubs! This is why there is a case for covering the E/W hands (or sometimes declarer’s and one defender’s hands) when analysing things.

Back to the question – I don’t know but I’m inclined to place East without the DK and play accordingly. East knows that South has DA and may think has has no option but to run the diamond e.g. if he has a similar hand with a small club less and DAJx



Bobby WolffAugust 24th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Iain,

I, of course, enjoyed your accurate analysis of, if a low diamond comes back from East, his chances of a foolhardy giveaway of a slam contract (by leading away from the king) may not be 100% true, if indeed declarer had the ace, jack of diamonds and another way of making the hand by playing for a non-existent squeeze on West.

In summary, it is situations like this and the mind battles between excellent players which make our game so special. Sure, we need to do our analysis, but the game’s the thing in which the winner will rejoice by, at least for that moment in time, feeling like this one is for me and whatever happens next, I hope to be there for a repeat. Not much in life can equal that feeling. Of course, the opposite of that is true for the loser this time, but only the “The Shadow” knows what will happen next go around.

Bill DanielAugust 26th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Did you miss the beauty of the Vienna Coup? After you win the second trick, cash 2 hearts, cash the spade ace, cash the diamond ace and run the hearts.