Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The moment a man begins to talk about technique that's proof that he is fresh out of ideas.

Raymond Chandler

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


Today's deal shows one of the world's best technicians at work on a grand slam. Geir Helgemo sat South, and when he heard about his partner's two aces, he immediately jumped to seven no-trump. This was for him the last board of an eventually unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the mixed pairs final at Ostend last summer.

West led the diamond 10 to dummy’s ace, and at this point, Helgemo could see 12 top tricks. The working spade finesse might bring in the 13th trick in a pedestrian way but, of course, the first thing Helgemo did was to have a look at possible squeezes. So he went on to cash the other two top diamonds, discarding two more spades and getting the interesting news that East could not follow to the third diamond.

Helgemo followed up by taking his six heart winners, reducing to a five-card ending where East kept three clubs and two spades while West had one diamond, one spade and three clubs.

On the last heart West has to discard a club, to keep his singleton spade honor, while East has to throw a spade to keep clubs guarded. So no matter which opponent has the spade king, declarer should make the hand by leading a spade to the ace. That line would fail only if West has stayed silent with 7-5 distribution.

Note that in seven hearts, an initial club lead destroys the entry position, as declarer cannot cash the three top diamonds safely.

It is tempting to rebid one no-trump to show the basic nature of the hand, but I'd prefer a somewhat more robust heart stopper. Since my partner has guaranteed five spades (with four he would have made a negative double), I can raise spades, knowing we have an eight-card fit. It may not be elegant, but it serves the purpose.


♠ 9 7 6
 9 4 3
 A K Q 3
♣ A 9 8
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


MirceaJuly 9th, 2014 at 5:39 pm


So what if the four card ending is:

West East
8 K 10
– –
QJ4 10 7

Declarer now needs to play for the finesse. How does he know that?

MirceaJuly 9th, 2014 at 5:40 pm

looks like my mini-diagram is not displaying properly. I meant for West to have:



and East to have:

K 10

10 7

sorry about the confusion.

jim2July 9th, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Mircea –

Did you factor in that West must guard diamonds?

Bobby WolffJuly 9th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Hi Mircea & Jim2,

Yes, today’s column depicts a basic simultaneous double squeeze, wherein West must keep the diamond guard throwing a club away, allowing dummy to throw his lower diamond away, therefore forcing East to keep three clubs, baring to his singleton spade, whatever it happened to be (king or lower).

The result remained that both East and West had only one spade left, allowing the declarer (Helgemo) to confidently play his ace knowing the king would drop (once East’s spade was not his majesty).

Jim2 actually said it all with his remark which reminded all of us the impossible position to which EW were subjected.

I think all of us can identify with the gracefulness of a squeeze.

TedJuly 9th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think the squeeze would still work in 7H with a club lead.

Take the first trick in hand, 3 hearts finishing with the 8 to the 9 on the board. 3 diamonds and cross to the spade A. (Assuming the King didn’t fall.) Run the remaining hearts. The 3 card ending with South leading the last heart:









MirceaJuly 9th, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Oops! I knew I better put the cards on the table than doing it my head, and in-between two jobs.

One of the nicest things about bridge is that it makes you wish you are older… so you have more time to yourself (while keeping you blissfully ignorant of all the other things that come with age)

jim2July 9th, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Ted –

Looks legit to me!

That consarned trump nine …


Bobby WolffJuly 9th, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Hi Ted,

Yes indeed! After finding out about the diamonds it makes sense to play it like you suggest, with the lead to the ace of spades, a Vienna Coup of sorts., which has been described as setting up a trick (highest card) in an opponent’s hand as dominant (in this case the king of spades) and then squeezing him out of it, but in this case just guessing it, without a risk.

Is bridge a great game, or what?

jim2July 9th, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Tough room here, Mr. Wolff!


Bobby WolffJuly 9th, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

And can just one imagine, with bridge being taught in so many schools, at least in Europe and Asia, for a large number of years, what it will take to win bridge world championships in the year 2150.

Not to mention the most significant factor, the numeric logic, person to person psychology, legal ways of communication with code language (bidding), the superior ethical mode of not giving or receiving unauthorized information (which will, or at least should, stimulate trust between opponents since failure to conform will not be tolerated), problem solving usually involving detective work symbolized often by the dog which did or did not bark, strict discipline stemming from which partner on whichever hand either designated it, and or embraced it, as well as fierce and healthy competitive instincts which all winners will either acquire or go fish.

With the above, comes respect, among all nationalities, and as if by magic, that respect will no doubt, translate to peace of mind which is necessary for an eventual and lasting world peace (for doubters, just check the friendships gleaned between competitors from all countries).

Furthermore my experience of bridge played around the world is that there is nothing so demanding in playing the highest level bridge to give even the slightest hint that playing bridge knows any boundaries as to what country or nationality can not play it as well as it can be played.

All of us should start acting this out instead of dreaming and make sure that bridge gets in the curriculum of all countries and let our game start speaking for itself.

bruce karlsonJuly 19th, 2014 at 11:23 am

New subject: Both vul, holding AJxxx, KQxx, xx, xx, I dealt and passed, LHO bids 1D, P, 2C by RHO. Twice with similar hands I doubled trying to keep spades alive and twice got very bad boards as LHO bid 3C, all pass and we have an 8 card H fit that makes 3. Is that just bad luck or should I simply bid the hts. Any difference if it is 4/5 in the majors??