Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

It is one of those cases where the art of the reasoner should be used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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


You will stand a chance of identifying the technique required in today's deal only if you pay careful attention to the bidding.

Against four hearts the defenders take their top spades and a spade ruff. Now East shifts to the heart 10, and the ball is in your court. You have an almost inevitable diamond loser; in essence, you need West to have the doubleton club king, but perhaps if he has the club king and one diamond honor, he might somehow be brought under pressure on the run of the hearts. Can you see how you might put West in a bind?

The key is that West is a passed hand, so if he has both top spades and the club king, the only diamond honor he can hold is the jack.

You run three rounds of trumps ending on the table, then lead the diamond queen. East must cover with the king, and you take the trick with the ace, then run the rest of the trumps.

In the three-card ending, you hold the doubleton diamond 10 and one club, with the A-Q-J of clubs in dummy. If West has discarded the diamond jack, you cash the 10 and finesse in clubs. If not, you lead to the club jack, cash the ace, and score trick 13 with the club queen. Of course, if East had returned a club at trick two, there would have been no story (at least for you).

With so much of your hand in clubs, I do not like a redouble here. My plan would be to bid one heart, ignoring the opponents' intervention, and making a forcing call. My intention would be to raise clubs in competition if necessary. But if partner rebids in no-trump, I would let him play there.


♠ 6 5 4
 J 9 6 2
 Q 4
♣ A Q J 3
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Dbl.

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 WarheitMay 7th, 2014 at 9:47 am

There is an alternate line of play which works, although the line you recommend is better because it removes any ambiguity in the ending. So, alternately, S wins the H shift at trick 4 and simply runs all of his trumps. On the 5th round of H, he discards a C and on the last H he either discards a D if W has come down to 2C, finesses C, cash the A dropping the K or he discards a C if he has come down to one D, finesses C, cashes the A, and then leads the DQ, smothering the J.

And that leads to my second point: why on earth did W pass initially? Unless, of course, his last name was either Roth or Stone. I am a very strong believer in sound opening bids, yet even I would have opened the W hand. If he had done so, then my line above is correct, except that assuming at the end W comes down to a singleton D, it would seem that declarer would play W for the DK instead of the J.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Hi David,

Of course, as I am sure you realize, you have analyzed the hand as is, and also, if West had opened instead of originally passing, what you would have done about playing West for the diamond king instead of the diamond jack.

And to render an opinion on West’s choice of pass, there is no doubt IMO, that neither Al Roth nor Tobias Stone would have opened the West hand which serves to make Al’s somewhat famous quote, “When I open 1 club, my opponent’s tremble” even more topical.

And to boot, for those purists who appreciate
appropriate quotes, give credit to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous author of the spectacular detective, Sherlock Holmes, who, no doubt would have been a fabulous bridge player as well.

angelo romanoMay 8th, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Bobby you meant “if East had returned a club at trick FOUR, there would have been no story” but is this defense possible ? maybe by Bob H. ?

Bobby WolffMay 8th, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hi Angelo,

Your point is well taken, but at the high level, my guess is that over half of the East players, after trumping the spade for the 3rd defensive trick, would have returned a club, including, of course, Bob Hamman.

And, to discuss why, South is marked with the diamond ace (for his 4 heart rebid, for West not opening the bidding and for West not either cashing the diamond ace before he gave you the ruff or at least signalling you to lead a diamond with the particular spade he chose to lead at trick 3) so if South has anything but a singleton club there is no chance of defeating 3 hearts.

Furthermore, the hand South held for his bid is a logical one that he might have, but of course, West will need the diamond jack in addition to the club king (which for column purposes makes the hand more exciting and, of course, more challenging.

I hope the above will inspire you, a very good bridge player to spot the squeeze, perhaps in the top 1/2 of 1% (1 in 200), so that you and many others can aspire to be as good as you can be, which in a very short time will have you also leading a club back at trick 4.

Can anyone say that the problem solving involved in good bridge not worth learning? I seriously doubt it!

angelo romanoMay 9th, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Hi Bobby, thanks for your deep analysis, but I think the squeeze is far easier than the club back, as I spotted it

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Hi Angelo,

Years ago when fighter planes and bombers became available in warfare they didn’t wait a long time before inventing anti-aircraft fire. So it is in bridge, but with bridge before antii-aircraft fire was used, like bridge with squeeze play, that had to be understood before defensive weapons could come to their aid.

Learn the principles of the offense and then the defense becomes much better understood (club back) and of course counting tricks and reconstructing hands.