Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Mathematics is the science which draws necessary conclusions.

Benjamin Peirce

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


In this deal from last year's Gold coast congress in Brisbane, the defenders extracted their pound of flesh from Kim Morrison, who had overreached to play four hearts. Michael Whibley led the trump nine to the eight and king. Declarer tried the spade king next; Whibley won, and pressed on with trumps, and now declarer ducked in dummy and won his ace, then led a diamond toward the king.

Normal defense sees West win the diamond ace and exit in diamonds, and declarer can win the king, cross to the spade jack, and ruff a diamond in dummy. He can now exit in hearts to East.

Whatever suit that player returns, declarer can arrange to run his trumps and squeeze West in the black suits to make his game. On the last trump West must either unguard his club king or pitch down to one spade to set up a spade winner in dummy.

But Whibley crossed him up by inserting the diamond queen on the first round of the suit! When Morrison took the king and played a second diamond Ashley Bach hopped up with the jack and drew the last trump then played a third diamond. When declarer misguessed the ending he eventually went two down, and the defenders had a shared top instead of stone-cold bottom.

The play of the diamond queen is one well worth adding to the repertoire; it is a desperate move, admittedly, but sometimes the situation demands it.

You are not a dead minimum for the auction and your spade fit also improves your hand. If you do bid on, the best way to describe your assets would be to bid three spades now. This shows your secondary spade support, and lets partner chose which game he would like to play.


♠ K J 9
 A K 4 3 2
 10 8 6
♣ A Q
South West North East
1 Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 1♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1January 31st, 2015 at 12:33 pm

It’s either too early in the morning for me (EST timezone), or there is small mistake in the text. If West wins DA and returns a diamond, declarer comes to hand with the SJ and ruffs a diamond but now, how does he place East in hearts, being out of hearts in dummy? If he tries SQ from dummy, East has no reason to ruff.

On a separate note, how many here would open South’s hand in 1NT? In that case, I have seen good players advocating overcalling with West’s hand to show a 2-suited hand. Is that sensible (assuming partner is on the same page)?

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Hi Mircea,

If the defense does not unblock the queen of diamonds, allowing East to win the second diamond with his jack and then lead a 3rd heart, the heart ruff in dummy of declarer’s 3rd diamond, restricts his losers to only 3 tricks, 1 spade, 1 heart and 1 diamond. West gets caught in a spade, club squeeze, not being able to hold both the 4th spade and the guarded king of clubs (declarer heard him double, therefore will, should, play him for the club king).

Regarding the BWTA, the subject hand is not in opening position, but rather his LHO has opened 1 diamond, passed around. However if he was the opener I would not open 1NT, not because of having 5 hearts, but rather because of being too strong, 17 HCP’s and a 5 card suit, too strong for a 15-17 point strong NT. He cannot show a 2 suiter with that hand as an overcaller, simply because he doesn’t have 2 suits (being 3-5-3-2). If the opponents open 1NT against him he should merely double showing a very good hand, or 2nd choice merely show a one suiter by bidding hearts or whatever his convention suggests if playing a system of how to show 1 suiters.

Perhaps some good players would somehow find a way to call that hand a 2 suiter, but, if so, they are stretching it a bit too far.

Good luck and get some more sleep, although you, no doubt, do not need to.

jim2January 31st, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Mircea —

Regarding your precise Q, hearts were played only on opening lead (since West exited with a second diamond). Thus, the diamond ruff leaves the dummy with one more heart to lead.

jim2January 31st, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Does the hand play better if declarer begins with diamonds instead of spades?

On normal defense, it appears to transpose to the column line. The changed tempo prevents the defense from depriving declarer of a diamond ruff. It seems easier to foresee the need for a third trump lead than to do the same heroics in an effort to engineer a club return.

Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

You rightly highlighted in the play hand that NS went overboard here – after all, if the CK is missing it seems likely to be with WEst and the doubler could be sittign over your spade holder. The possibility of opening 1NT has already been raised (although I think Micea meant in the play hand today); if you had opened 1H, what would you have done at pairs on the South hand in today’s play hand? 2N, 3H (pre-emptive), Pass or some sort of other trial bid? I suspect that bidding tight games at pairs is not a particularly good idea; do you agree?



bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

The analyzing in bridge may be akin to life, by only suggesting that sometimes, what may be thought about as random timing, becomes critical with results. Your mention of leading a diamond immediately, instead of a spade materially changes the result, and although, as you also mention, to the benefit of declarer, whether it can or cannot be predicted (I agree with you that perhaps it can), we often fail to linger, or add emphasis on that.

Add that to the zeal most bridge writers possess to aggressively search out original suit combinations to discuss and PT Barnum’s quote about “suckers being born every minute” tends to say it like it is.

Sorry for the exaggerated and vulgar explanation, sometimes (but not this time) mia culpa.

Thank you for your consistent accuracy. Aren’t we all lucky that your TOCM tm affliction doesn’t apply to your superior analysis.

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, no doubt Mircea was referring to the opening bid in the actual column hand (not the BWTA) and that 5 card suit, especially since it is a major, should be chosen, since (even if it is a minor suit) that, at least to me, pushes it to a higher value hand than a simple 1NT should be.

Once opening 1 heart, I think a simple 2NT forward going bid is enough and, if partner returns to 3 hearts (of course, playing 5 card majors), pass would then become obligatory.

FWIW, holding the KQJ together with a seven card layout is perhaps getting the most out of only 6 HCP’s (NS’s combined spade holding, although the zero point 10 would contribute a full trick), so that even though game in hearts is not unreasonable, especially in pairs, you are right on with your conservative view.

You show me a very good player who relies greatly on standard point count, (my guess is that you are not one of them, or even close) and I’ll show you a flawed example.

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 31st, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Hello Mr Wolff/ Jim 2

I think you have not understood Mircea’s query. The lead is heart and when West gets in with spade ace over spade King he plays back another heart. Now there is only one heart in dummy. Now when Diamond is played West wins with Diamond Ace and plays back another diamond which declarer wins in dummy with King. Now only entry for Diamond ruff is Spade J and when Diamond ruff is taken there is no trump left in dummy. Now if Spade queen is played East would ruff and theer is no communication between dummy and declarer’s hand so theer is no squeeze. And since Club finesse is not working the contract still goes down.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Hi Shantanu & Mircea,

Yes, both of you are right and we are wrong for not analyzing properly.

Obviously we were too intent on the unusual diamond position (creating an entry for the 3rd heart lead) and completely overlooked the necessary squeeze not functioning.

Perhaps getting up earlier is the answer allowing the “early bird to get the worm”. Instead, by not, we merely had to eat one.

Thanks to Mircea and you for coming to our aid, and also to other readers. Is bridge a great game or what?

angelo romanoJanuary 31st, 2015 at 11:35 pm

What if you begin with diamonds instead?
Now it’s even harder inserting the diamond queen, so let’s say W plays D Ace and hearts back.
S takes DK and plays spades to K. Now if W takes his Spade Ace he’s done:
– clubs ? can’t be played
– the DQ ? it’s ruffed and now S can come back with SJ to play hearts and execute the squeeze as you said
– spades ? S9 in hand, then SJ and E can ruff or no but there is always a D ruff in N and the SQ to discard the club loser

W has to keep his S Ace! then on the following S9 he covers with S10 and this time S is done: spades again for Q and A, and now W S8 is high. No squeeze, no discard. Great hand.

jim2February 1st, 2015 at 12:09 am

I guess I misunderstood where Mircea was introducing the change

jim2February 1st, 2015 at 2:55 am

Dear Host —

I finally finished my work and took another look at Mircea’s initial comment. Ouch!

Was Michael Whibley’s defensive play really needed to defeat the contract?

Normal defense sees West win the diamond ace and exit in diamonds, and declarer can win the king, cross to the spade jack, and ruff a diamond in dummy. He can now exit in hearts to East.

Whatever suit that player returns, declarer can arrange to run his trumps and squeeze West in the black suits to make his game.

If I’ve played out the cards correctly, when the third diamond is ruffed on the Board, here are the N-S hands.





If declarer plays QS, East trumps and West must get the KC.

If declarer plays the 6S, same as above or West can win the 10S and East still has the master trump.

If declarer leads a club, East will return a club when in with the master trump.

Unless you can find an error in the above, I think Mircea was right! If so, great catch!!

(I do note, though, that the above defense leads to down one instead of the “shared top” of down two.)

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:19 am

Hi Jim2,

Between Mircea, Angelo and now you, we have finally gotten back to square one with the reality of not having to rely on unnatural, but brilliant defensive diamond play, allowing East an entry to do damage.

However, on the way to the forum, I let everyone down, by concentrating on the unusual diamond defense, totally ignoring that the squeeze necessary for overall success would then be undone and vanish.

Sorry for the wasted time, but in self-defense aren’t those combination diamond plays worth
a little something, if only to reserve them for another hand where it will instead perhaps be critical.

I apologize for allowing you to go down on the ship with me, by not doing my homework. I suppose this tribulation will cost me an invite to the Lower Slobbovian Slush tournament, but what’s a fella to do.

The good news is that our site commentators are getting better and better, causing me to have to beef up our analysis. No rest for the weary.