Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 13th, 2014

None but the well-bred man knows how to confess a fault, or acknowledge himself in an error.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Squeeze play is a weapon generally used by declarer against helpless defenders.

However, today’s declarer in a knockout teams match found himself in the embarrassing situation of squeezing himself, a predicament made even worse by the fact that it was entirely his own fault.

Against three no-trump West led the heart nine, covered by the jack, queen and king. At trick two declarer played the spade queen, which West won with the ace, to continue with a second heart.

Declarer won the heart in dummy and crossed to hand with a low diamond to his king in order to play a spade to dummy’s nine. When East showed out, he cashed the spade king and played a fourth round of the suit. East could see that if West continued with a third round of hearts, declarer would have an easy nine tricks. Therefore, he thoughtfully discarded all his hearts.

West now switched to a club to East’s queen, and East played back a diamond. Declarer won in dummy and, without giving the matter much thought, played his winning spades. At the penultimate trick he played a club from dummy and then had the embarrassing problem of what to discard. In the event he guessed to keep the heart 10, and West took the last two tricks with the club ace and diamond jack.

Declarer’s mistake was to cash the last spade. If he simply plays a club at that stage, knocking out West’s ace, both his hand and dummy are high.

Once you know what this auction should mean, you won't have any problem deciding what to do. You showed a six-card spade suit, and your partner, who limited his hand at his first turn, has now suggested an alternative contract. If he had a spade raise or a balanced hand, he would have raised spades or bid no-trump. This sequence shows a weak hand with long diamonds, so just put the dummy down.


♠ K 9 7 6 3 2
 A J
 Q 4
♣ K J 7
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
2♠ Pass 3 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2014 at 11:15 am

Hi Bobby,

Many years ago I used to play in a z”friendly” game at work during lunchtimes. One regular partner was a small fluffy haired guy who was keen but very moderate. We nicknamed him “The Gerbil” and he managed to play this sort of coup twice in a week. To me it has always been the gerbil coup since then.

I still remember his look when he realised. It was the same one cartoon characters wear when they take a few steps into thin air off a cliff, realise, scrabble madly in mid air then hang for a second before falling. It is that look just before gravity wins. South probably wore it here, just like Wile-E-coyote so often did.



bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes the pratfalls of Wile-E-coyote (was it the losing battles he faced with the Roadrunner?) sometimes reminding us of players who have certain talents in bridge, but not ones who overcome the closing of the hand with what needs to be done at the death to succeed.

Those unfortunate type characters are depicted in the AOB column when the Dyspeptic bridge club is the venue, where each foursome playing has at least one “Gerbil” playing. Something similar to SJ Simon’s “Why You Lose at Bridge” masterpiece, where every player had his consistent limitations.

Also Easley Blackwood’s book, “Bridge Humanics” did have the club pro, Mr. Dale, who took advantage of all the specific others, by merely being pragmatic, bidding both timely and aggressively, making his contracts, and setting the opponents.

Many of us learned from them and, of course, Victor Mollo with his menagerie cast of characters, which, forever (I hope) will be both remembered and cherished.

It sometimes helps bridge readers cope to see others fall from grace to then realize that it is not only many who sometimes fall from grace, but unfortunately often.

Let’s drink a toast to all the wannabe good players, who only have small faults which keep them from it, but nevertheless are determined bridge lovers.

Thanks for bringing up the subject.

Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Thanks Bobby, and a final thought. The Gerbil was a far nicer person than I was at the time (best behaviour at bridge could have been written to try to teach me manners, I was dreadful in my early 20s) and he probably still is. I behave better now, enjoy the game more and try to encourage gerbils not verbally barbecue them.


bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Somehow, certainly without even being there through your early 20’s, but now witnessing who you are now, a very good, practical bridge player, am impressed with your honesty, considerable talent, sense of humor, and, above all, compassion toward the game itself and the people who play it.

When I was at the tender age you mentioned I was playing (by default) with some of the then greatest and to a partner, Oswald Jacoby, Curtis Smith, Sidney Lazard and Johnny Gerber, they were as tough, ruthless and downright disrespectful as any one partner could be, which taught me (no choice) humility and patience, but the good news is that I learned from the best and managed to retain my lessons and, most importantly, the reasons for them.

I mention the above, not for sympathy, but for what every top player had told me before and since. To learn to play bridge when one is young is the only way to achieve the success most strive to get, and the cost of that is to always assume the role of “whipping boy”. No pain, no gain.

Perhaps your behavior accomplished some good.

Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Thanks Bobby, but I’m not totally convinced. It cost me one girlfriend for a start – and she was very sweet and quite wealthy but my competitive streak at the time was prepared to pay the price. Ouch!


angelo romanoFebruary 28th, 2014 at 12:21 am

Hi Bobby, can you analyze for us the play in 4S ? I think it’s very interesting, with a trump reduction in N, and with diamond J10 falling, if you guess clubs (or W doesn’t underlead the club Ace), I think you actually make five!

Peter PengFebruary 28th, 2014 at 12:52 am

Hi Bobby

bidding question

partner opens 1D (at least 4 card suit), then 2C on your right.

you have

H – AQxx
D- KJxx
C- xx

it is my opinion that, without the 2C bid, I could bid 1H and if there is no support, or partner bids 1S or 2C, I bid simply 2D.

However, with the 2C bid, it is my understanding that for me to bid 2H that would mean I have 5 hearts, and I am reduced to a 2D bid.

do you agree?

thank you for your comments

bobby wolffFebruary 28th, 2014 at 1:45 am

Hi Angelo,

In spades, because of what you see, the J10 of diamonds falling as well as the spade finesse, if the ace of clubs is guessed, declarer will then have no trouble making 11 tricks in spades, but no more than 10 tricks in NT. However, because of the varied timing presented after winning the queen of hearts with the king, then in spades leading a heart to the ace and a spade to the queen and losing to the ace, you as declarer are well on your way to making 11 tricks in spades, but in NT at trick 2 it looks prudent to lead the queen of spades from hand, in order not to leave yourself vulnerable in hearts and instead of then leading a diamond to the queen instead appears dangerous against certain holdings. In actual play my guess is that a good declarer will make 11 tricks in spades, but only 9 tricks in NT.

Also keep in mind (what some relatively inexperienced players seem to forget) once in dummy and leading a spade toward the queen, East will play the Jack from J10 doubleton, J10x or, of course, a singleton jack.

bobby wolffFebruary 28th, 2014 at 1:56 am

Hi Peter,

In answer to your questions, if partner opens 1 diamond, I would, of course, respond 1 heart and if partner now rebids either 1 spade or 2 clubs I would jump to 3 diamonds, showing a raise but NF to game and partner can now pass and should, if he holds a minimum.

If instead, East immediately overcalls partner’s 1 diamond opening with 2 clubs a negative double is best bid now whereupon if partner rebids 2 spades, a simple preference to 3 diamonds is now called for. If partner bids only 2 hearts or, of course 2 diamonds, I would now pass, since partner is signalling a minimum opener by either rebid and possibly (believe it or not) hold only 3 hearts with say: s. Ax, h. KJx, d. Axxx, c.Jxxx, but still prefer chancing the decent 3 card heart suit instead of rebidding those weak diamonds.

Bridge bidding, at every level, is not exactly perfect with the better player usually making the best guess when called on to innovate.

Peter PengFebruary 28th, 2014 at 3:08 am

would 2H in the sequence 1D-2C-2H indicate 5 hearts?

Peter PengFebruary 28th, 2014 at 3:15 am

Dear Mr. Wolff

I hope you read the thread I sent on the February 25th thread, I was not sure how the conversations should continue


BTW, I read the Ira Corn book – it was fun!

bobby wolffFebruary 28th, 2014 at 5:05 am

Hi Peter,

In the sequence you mention or similar ones, always indicate at least a 5 card suit, enabling partner to easily raise with 3 and even a doubleton honor. 4 card majors usually demand a negative double to introduce them into the auction rather than bidding them outright at the 2 level or higher.

I do not know about the Ira Corn book and he and I were close friends, but whatever book you did read, I am glad you thought it fun.

I’ll check the February 25th comments.