Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 8th, 2014

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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


On today's deal South's four diamonds set diamonds as trump and was virtually forcing. When North cooperated with what South read as a cuebid, South optimistically used Blackwood and drove to slam. West led a top spade and received count in the suit from his partner, then intelligently switched to a trump to kill one of the ruffs. As declarer you may care to take over after this start and plan the play to develop 12 tricks.

Good technique should see a double squeeze develop. The critical element of the play is that you need to make sure that only one defender can guard each black suit. You must win the trump in dummy and ruff a spade, then cash the club ace and king and ruff a club with dummy’s last trump. Now ruff a spade back to hand, isolating the spade menace with West, and run all your trumps. When you play your last trump, one opponent is guarding spades, and one opponent is guarding clubs. In the two-card ending West pitches down to a bare heart honor to preserve his spade winner, and you now pitch the spade from dummy to squeeze East in hearts and clubs. If he lets a club go, you cash your club six; if he pitches a heart dummy’s heart jack will take trick 13.

Just for the record, had West worked out to lead a trump initially, the defenders would have prevailed. After the actual first trick, there was no defense to the slam.

Rather than transferring to hearts, you should bid Stayman, planning a call of two hearts over the two-diamond response, aiming to play a major at the two-level. It is less clear what to do if partner shows a major. With no great confidence I'd suggest passing a two-spade response, and raising a two-heart response to three.


♠ J 9 8 3
 A J 8 4 3
 10 7
♣ 8 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 NT 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 WarheitNovember 22nd, 2014 at 11:23 am

You say that if W leads a trump at trick one, the defense prevails. S would win the trick in dummy and lead the S8. If E plays the Q, he would surely play another trump and declarer would go down two. If E fails to play the SQ, however, W wins the 10 and returns….what? If he makes what looks like the totally safe play of the SK, it’s double squeeze time all over again. So, do you think a) W should have led a D at trick 1, b) if he did, should E have risen with the SQ at trick 2, and c) after leading a trump and winning the S10, should W have figured out to lead a H or a C at trick 3?

MirceaNovember 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, are you a supporter of the Smolen relays?

jim2November 22nd, 2014 at 1:01 pm

David –

Does one play for a defensive mistake, or take the small probability technical line (here, of a squeeze w/o the count)? Experts have debated that from time-to-time over the decades.

For example, I think these West holdings work:




Now, when South ruffs the one club and runs trump, what three cards can West come down to safely?

bobby wolffNovember 22nd, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

In some ways and what some could call a very old style self teaching method, home style, a bright beginner could learn all the rudiments of what constitutes a squeeze.

To do so, yes some rather simple talent of at least some numeracy, together with the natural order of bridge playing should see a relatively bright learner through.

While I would never go so far as saying fie on Clyde Love for his brilliant overall treatise on the anatomy of squeezes complete with formulas to simplify the learning, this hand, if studied for some days, will enable anyone who fits the above mold to forever put in the past, what is to some, the terror of confrontation.

Also your proposed defenses, though unrealistic to some extent, add to the learning process, especially so when, because of the bidding, especially the ace asking Blackwood bid (theoretically denying a void) could/should inform these worthy opponents what type of hand the declarer must have.

No one, especially I, will say this process is easy (heaven forbid), but nevertheless represents superior bridge acumen, taking into consideration the evaluation of one’s worthy opponents (not always present) to understand that every move by them is evidence to be both considered and then acted upon to best advantage.

Such is the nothing less but thrilling confrontations which arrive from time to time (many fold more often at the highest level) which sets our unbelievable game apart from any other. The above sensation, of course, is very present when two chess masters square off against one another and I would say, although definitely I am not qualified to speak, probably the calling card to which very high level chess adheres.

Although most bridge players are likely not ready yet for such challenges, still I can assure everyone interested that the thinking involved can be achieved, merely because the evidence, at least for an experienced player, is much easier to comprehend, and with fewer possibilities to consider than would face chess combatants.

Nothing more to say other than, if interested, please file this hand and then later let all of us know how the important elements of learning eventually came together resulting in an all knowing and understanding epiphany, concerning the anatomy of a squeeze.

Good luck and unlike Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, this learning is real, not fictional and waiting for others to pounce.

bobby wolffNovember 22nd, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi Mircea,

No I am not, simply because I have always thought and continue to think that Smolen tends to help the opening leader and both defenders how to defend, more than they help the bidders determine what the best final contract should be.

Beautiful to the ear, but a loser at the table. However, bridge scientists, for whatever reason, love such elegant descriptions and prefer the art involved, discounting what I consider sometimes deadly original leads, sometimes only being able to avoid a very poor choice.

I apologize for possibly offending Smolen lovers but the above is only my opinion. He, incidentally, was a true bridge lover, and was a significant loss to the bridge world in the early 1990’s at much too young an age.

ClarksburgNovember 23rd, 2014 at 1:48 pm

About the BWTA item:
From your ANSWER, it seems clear that with the 4-5 Majors, passing Partner’s 1NT should be off the table and completely out of the question. Presumably this mean that over the long run, making 8 tricks at a Major has a (much?) better chance than making 7 tricks at NT. Is that interpretation correct?
Also, when you allow that (with 9-card fit) raising two hearts to three hearts might be acceptable, is that primarily to help prevent LHO from coming in with Two Spades, or is it allowing that there may possibly be a Heart game? Or both?

bobby wolffNovember 23rd, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, my comment is entirely involved with only the possibility of bidding and making a heart game. I would never expect the opponents to later come in the bidding after both had passed, although it is always possible (though unlikely in spades since I hold four)

The caveat to remember is to always try to buy a hand as cheaply as possible (two level rather than three) since hands with less than optimal breaks likely will produce fewer tricks and two making two or three is much better than down one. Ergo, raising to the three level (when holding the preponderance of the high cards) should always be made with the intention of seeking the game bonus.

bobby wolffNovember 23rd, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Hi again,

Yes, an eight card fit usually plays at least one trick better rather than does no trump and often plays two tricks better.

Of course, a nine card fit only adds to that probability. However, while playing matchpoints, and especially in part score bidding, beware of the minor suits since both NT and major suit trick scores tend to dwarf the measly minor suits.