Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.

George Eliot

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


Techniques for defending against possible squeezes can be found in the literature, but less has been written about the concept of persuading declarer that you have been squeezed when, in fact, you have not. This deal is an amusing example.

After the Stayman sequence, North showed diamonds and a major, game-forcing, then jumped to slam when the fit came to light. Six diamonds was not a bad contract, of course, superficially depending on the heart suit yielding four tricks, but with considerable extra chances if the spade king was onside.

Declarer covered the spade jack with dummy’s queen, then ducked the spade king, won the spade continuation, and ruffed a spade high in dummy. Then he cashed the club ace (a maneuver known as the Vienna Coup, catering for the possibility of either defender’s holding the guarded heart jack as well as the club king and queen) and followed by running five rounds of trumps.

From West’s point of view it seemed sure that declarer held the heart queen but not the jack (for then he would have claimed). It was essential to try to persuade South that the heart jack was guarded. West discarded first the spade 10, then the club nine, 10 and king (carefully preserving the club four and his three low hearts).

Convinced that West had shed all his clubs in order to keep four hearts, declarer cashed the heart king and queen, then finessed the 10 – only to lose the last two tricks.

This is one of the awkward hand patterns best solved by opening one no-trump because of the honors in the short suit. You are not strong enough to open one diamond and reverse to two hearts over a one-spade response, though add the heart jack and you might do that. Equally, if your doubletons were two small spades and the club A-Q, you might open one diamond and rebid one no-trump over one spade.


♠ Q 6
 A 10 4 3
 K Q 9 8 6
♣ A 5
South West North East

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 WarheitDecember 17th, 2013 at 9:26 am

There is a (tiny) clue that S should have considered. After 9 tricks, the opponents hold between them 6 hearts and the Q4 of clubs. E has played the 873 of clubs. He surely has the CQ, but why did he carefully hang on to the 4 instead of the 8 or maybe the 7? In short, S has to realize that one of his opponents is doing something at least a little funny. Does this mean he should get it right? No, but it increases the odds of him doing so. Also, S should draw trump after winning the SA, then ruff his S, and then return to hand with the HK before running trump. If EW play the 5 & 6 on the H trick, that would be a further clue as to the H distribution. Having said all that, mazel tov to W for his brilliant (and as you put it) amusing defense.

jim2December 17th, 2013 at 11:41 am

This is as classic an example of the Theory Of Card Migration — TOCM ™ — as one can get.

That is, if I were at that same 12th trick position, once West has followed suit to the heart, I would know that:

– if I played the AH, then East would show out, while
– if I played the 10H, then East would win the jack.

I must confess that I might play the heart ace simply because it would mean down one instead of down two.

jim2December 17th, 2013 at 11:45 am

David Warheit –

While I do not disagree with you, I would note that many experts pride themselves on playing spot cards in a random pattern in such situations. That is, when both defenders know declarer’s hand pattern (and hence each other’s such that defensive signals are not relevant) and declarer is obviously trying to get a count on the hand.

Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Hi Jim2,

I like your comment (as ever) but things could get even worse with certain partners. After you’ve gone off, they helpfully say “you’d have made it if you’d played the ace / ten”. A simple “hard luck ” is the only sensible comment at the time, although a later discussion may still be helpful. Here’s to 2014 being opposite tolerant partners.



Bobby WolffDecember 17th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Hi David, Jim2 and Iain,

Thanks for all your helpful comments which to all of you apply, not only on this hand, but to every hand worth reporting and therefore discussing.

The current use of the status, “World Class” is used by many to glorify or exaggerate the ability of many who well may be on the way to that cherished level, but in most cases, are still a ways to go (impossible for young players who have not yet had the necessary experience to arrive there). Such are the ways of most of us who have either heard or played against talents who, at least on whatever hand, had performed in a superlative manner.

However, IMO, World Class Players (WCP) only applies to those who have arrived and consistently play, defend and obscure from their opponents all that is ethically possible to do. Today’s hand represents one of those rare occasions.

David’s order of club discards, should be, in the eyes of the players, merely random and not to be taken seriously. Remember, at least on this hand, there is ABSOLUTELY no doubt that both defenders are aware, from early in the play, beginning when declarer shows up with 5 diamonds, to what his hand must be and therefore how the two defenders should combine to mislead him, if possible.

To Jim2, yes your special malady of TOCM might do you in, but, at the very least, on this one you can blame your opponents for together setting up a Red Herring, making your task no harder for you than whomever that pair may be playing at that moment. These situations do not grow on trees, but only when the game itself is showing off, probably not unlike a poker game in the sky wherein two of the best poker players in the world, at least at that time, are squaring off on the deciding hand for everyone to kibitz.

And finally, Iain, whose contribution speaks volumes for propriety in both victory and defeat “and treating those two imposters, just the same”.

The key word is simply “respect” both for the individual players at that table and even more importantly for the GREAT game we all are fortunate to be able to play.

No wonder the motto of the WBF is “Bridge for Peace” where, among the very best (WCP) and disregarding nationality, religion and individual politics, the player himself is judged on his incredible bridge talent and, of course, in some cases, not so, but certainly not his countries or groups ideology.

Patrick CheuDecember 17th, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Hi Bobby,two recent hands at pairs had pard and I in disagreement,first,NS(vul),E 1H S 2C W p N 2H(askg for more) E 2S S p W 3H N p,three hearts -1.We can make 4S..pard says he cannot bid more.N Qxxxx xx AKQ98 A E KJxx AQxxx x Kxx S A10x KJ xxx QJ10xx W x 10xxx Jxxx xxxx. 2S by N is nf.2C by S not ideal,2S by E..pard says we are fixed..I do not agree.Why not X or 4D over 3H?What would 3S over 3H show?Second hand,all nv,E 1C S p W 1S N X E 3NT pass out.Most were in 4 or 5C n a few NS in 4H making.E K 10xx Qx AKQ10xxx S xx Jxxxx K J9xxx W AJ10xxx x 10xxxx x N Qxxx AKQx AJ9xx void.Should North reopen with a second X?3NT-1, only pair, def went astray.Nearly two bottoms enough to turn a teetotaller into a drinker!regards~Patrick.(please let me play against the world champs one day at least it might get easier):)