Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym.

Woody Allen

South North
Neither ♠ A Q J 3
 Q J 5 4
 9 6 2
♣ J 3
West East
♠ 9 8 5
 K 6
 A 4
♣ A 10 8 7 6 2
♠ 10 4 2
 9 7
 Q J 10 8 3
♣ Q 9 4
♠ K 7 6
 A 10 8 3 2
 K 7 5
♣ K 5
South West North East
1 2♣ 3 Pass
4 All pass    


It is a foul libel, put out by the players, that the only people who direct tournaments are those who are not good enough to play in them. One example of a director who is an expert player is Olin Hubert, the hero of today's deal.

Olin is old enough to have been playing in an era when his partner’s bid of three hearts showed a good hand, not a pre-emptive raise. Against four hearts, West led the diamond ace and continued the suit. Olin won in hand and crossed to the spade jack to run the heart queen.

When West won and returned a spade, Olin had four possible lines of play. He could run the hearts, then the spades, pitching a diamond, or he could pitch a club on the last one. Equally, he could run spades, pitching a diamond, then take the hearts, or he could pitch a club on the spades before taking the hearts. What looks best to you?

Olin correctly drew two only rounds of trumps, then cashed the remaining spades, discarding a club from hand. His plan was to find East with the club queen in addition to his original holding of five diamonds.

Now, on the run of the trumps, East needed to retain the diamond jack, so had to bare his club queen. Olin led the club king from hand at trick 12 to smother the queen, and West had to bring the entryless dummy back to life at trick 13. Contract made!

You have a number of palatable choices, namely raising spades, repeating clubs, or bidding one no-trump. With only one diamond stopper, bidding no-trump feels wrong. Raising spades with three small cards is also not ideal, and the simple rebid in my own suit is not attractive with such weak clubs. I'll bid two spades.


♠ 9 8 5
 K 6
 A 4
♣ A 10 8 7 6 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMarch 29th, 2014 at 9:26 am

Of course N’s bid of 3H showed a good hand. he obviously appreciated just how important his jack of clubs was!

For the life of me, I don’t see why W led the DA instead of a spade. Now, even double dummy, S must fail. If he guesses to take 3 rounds of spades and then play A & another H, W wins and cashes the CA and leads another C. S can pitch one D on the good S, but he still must lose 2 D tricks. Note that if W starts by playing CA and another C, S can succeed by playing 3 rounds of S followed by HA and another H, since W is now endplayed, taking care of one D loser, and the long S in dummy takes care of another D loser.

So I guess my questions are: 1) what would you have led as W? 2) if W did start by playing CA and another C, would you have found the winning line?

Peter PengMarch 29th, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Could not be that long ago that a double raise was strong… it still has a check box in the convention card!
This brilliant play is a kind of squeeze – does it have a name?
Even double dummy I could not find it!

Bobby WolffMarch 29th, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Hi David,

I, and perhaps all of our readers, enjoyed your discussion about many aspects of this hand, if for no other reason, than the questions you ask (and the answers you preferred) were topical and pragmatic.

No, I would not lead an unsupported ace, particularly so when the stronger hand (opening bidder) is on my right, where the king of that suit (diamonds) figures to lurk.

The alternatives of clubs (A10xxxx) and 3 small spades are left, leaving me to choose a spade (although generally I prefer to lead from something rather than nothing) this time becomes an exception for approximately the same reason I do not choose the ace of diamonds.

As a side note, and during my very active bridge playing days it was noteworthy to me that the very great French players (and there were many at the very top, both among the world’s best and also almost all, actively ethical) often chose passive leads, where many of the world’s great players, when given a choice, disdained, but, at least against teams which I was on, seemed to work out percentage wise for them, which has always remained on my mind to ponder, but never to fully understand. Just perhaps they were on target, but few of the other world’s players, including the top Americans, agreed with that practice.

In answer to your question about finding the winning line of play as declaer against ace and a club lead, when East plays his queen of clubs on the jack at trick two, I think it very possible that the declarer should either take 2 or 3 spades and then lead the ace and another heart, since West, because of his overcall, is marked with the guarded king of hearts and, of course, the ace of diamonds. However the combined diamond and spade distribution of declarer’s LHO is only a guess and it comes down to whether LHO would prefer leading a doubleton spade instead of the unsupported ace of clubs or instead holding 3 little spades would more likely be aggressive.

For me to say one way or the other, I will take the 5th amendment, but say I myself, perhaps would prefer a passive doubleton rather than a passive tripleton, but it is so close that I may, to answer your question, not be objective, but rather be playing results.

Against not so expert players after the first spade, I would ask what count signals the opponents are playing, and then decide, after noting, whether they are good enough to obfuscate their plays rather than tell me what I should do.

Thanks, as always, for your questions.

Bobby WolffMarch 29th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Hi Peter,

Many real life squeezes develop only by superior card reading by usually the declarer, but, believe it or not, once in a great while, by the defense, and are not named, other than simple or double. The column one is simple because it only involves East (high diamond and the queen of clubs).

Accurate card reading (both high cards and distribution) is often called for and today’s hand is one of those. Do not despair, since this subject is technically very difficult and would be only taught in bridge classes for post-graduate (or somesuch) degrees, if and when bridge moves up in stature and eventually gets the respect it is due.

Keep plugging and above all, inquiring and, with enough time and exposure to the expert game, you will become better at it, but first one must learn the required discipline and reasons for so many other more frequent bids and plays, that it is important not to consider the horse before the cart.

Also, I remember back not too many years ago where a jump from one to three in a major was GF instead of just a limit raise (now often played preemptive). At times I sometimes wonder whether the old ways were not every bit as good as the new ones, in any event everyone should agree that those changes are not as important as some players think they are. More stylish, perhaps yes, but better, well, who knows?

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMarch 29th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

HBJ : What a gifted player. If only I could reason things out like that.
It would never occur to me that the doubleton jack of clubs ( sitting under the queen ) is the critical card in dummy…..cleverly engineered to provide a trick by virtue of a well executed squeeze and eventual smother play.

Olin HubertOctober 28th, 2015 at 3:17 am

Actually, the DK was in dummy, which had 109xx of trumps opposite declarer”s AQJxx. I believe declarer can achieve the same position himself.

Olin HubertOctober 28th, 2015 at 5:54 am

and West had 2 spades & 3 hearts, so the throw-in won’t work