Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 1st, 2015

The Mind of Man My haunt, and the main region of my song.

William Wordsworth

East North
Both ♠ J 9 8
 A 7
 A K 10 3
♣ 10 7 6 4
West East
♠ 7 4 3
 J 9 8 5 4 2
 6 2
♣ K 3
♠ —
 10 6
 Q 8 5 4
♣ A Q J 9 8 5 2
♠ A K Q 10 6 5 2
 K Q 3
 J 9 7
♣ —
South West North East
      3 ♣
4 ♠ Pass 5 Pass
6 ♣ Pass 6 Pass
7 ♠ All pass    


Neither North nor South held back on this deal. North’s five diamond call was a cuebid in support of spades, and a further exchange of cuebids saw North at his next turn guarantee first round heart control when he bid six diamonds, since he was looking for a grand slam when South had denied the heart ace. Now South decided the grand slam was unlikely to be worse than a diamond finesse.

West led the heart five against seven spades, and declarer saw that there was no rush to take the diamond finesse. After winning the heart lead in hand, then entering dummy with a top trump, declarer ruffed a club in hand. Now he repeated the process, then cashed the remaining hearts and ran all but one of his trumps. When East turned up with only two cards in the majors, the prospects of a diamond finesse succeeding were poor, but look what happened to East when declarer discarded dummy’s small diamonds on the trumps.

In the four-card ending South had reduced to one trump and three diamonds, while dummy had two clubs and the diamond ace-king. That left East struggling for a discard from his three diamonds to the queen and the club ace-queen. If he threw a club, dummy’s ten could be established with a ruff; when he parted with a diamond, declarer cashed both of dummy’s diamonds. Now South’s diamond jack became a winner, while he still had a trump in hand to reach it.


The underlying message from this auction will not be agreed by everyone, but I believe that at this point in the auction one should not try to improve the partscore. With a bad hand, one passes three clubs and hopes for the best. A call of three hearts here is natural suggesting extra hearts and not a complete bust, and seems the right call now.


♠ 7 4 3
 J 9 8 5 4 2
 6 2
♣ K 3
South West North East
  1 ♠ Dbl. 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


David WarheitMay 15th, 2015 at 9:29 am

Somewhat simpler line of play: win the HA, ruff a C high, cross to a S, ruff a C high, draw trump, cash HKQ, and run all trumps but one. You say that dummy’s club J is the threat; of course, you meant the 10. If I had played the hand, however, I would have ruffed the C 10 & 7. Then if E comes down to one C, I ruff the 6, setting up the 4. Why not rub it in a little? Or is that ruff it in a little?

ArunMay 15th, 2015 at 9:59 am

Once you have the count, it does not matter who has the diamond queen.

jim2May 15th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Ruff re-entry squeezes are the always tough for me to work out. I doubt I would ever be able to do one at the table unless maybe it was the last hand and I had no time pressure whatsoever (and probably not even then).

Bobby WolffMay 15th, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Hi David, Arun, & Jim2,

Yes, whenever one defensive hand or the other has to hold two suits, each one threatened by a different hand by the declarer and dummy, a squeeze will normally be present as long as entries (usually with the trump suit, but even sometimes at NT with high card entries).

This hand, of course, is such an example, even though East’s 3 club preempt (with clubs being one of the hoped for squeeze suits) in most cases normally ruled out because of lack of other suit length with the known long suit.

That fact, together with a straight diamond finesse available against the defensive hand which starts out figuring to possess the long diamonds (diamond queen). However, by the always difficult task of transitioning to accurately counting the opponent’s hands (suit length, sometimes by inference) gathers the critical only 2 major suit cards with East, therefore only leaving the technical ability, plus the memory work involving the necessary numeracy to succeed.

Instead of being angry about having to do such drudgery (and whenever something special is involved, so called drudgery becomes suddenly very special positive) that ability is what separates even otherwise brilliant people without that simple task into the common with less than overall super IQ holders, but naturally having that probably born with talent into being several levels up in our great game of bridge.

The talent is there to be developed, but, in truth, I have NEVER in all my years of playing seen someone who didn’t automatically think that way very early (usually early twenties) develop it to the way it needs to be for important bridge successes against top opposition.

My guess is that bridge being in the schools will do away with my above old wives tale. Time alone will tell, but likely not in the USA since our home office, current BOD and other influential and moneyed bridge lovers do not seem to care enough to make it happen.

Sad indeed, and especially for me who has to live through it not occurring within my expected lifetime, unless I can manage a Methuselah.

Also, David, IMO, making the club 4 instead of the ten (of course, not the jack since North didn’t even hold that card) is a form of needling, NEVER DONE among mature bridge players, especially nowadays, which reeks from lack of respect and to me is what “bad guys”, not you, would be prone to do.

Leave that type of behavior to sports stars who have abused their obligations to be “role models” steroid abusers, domestic abusers, murderers, even including football deflators and as you can surmise not in any special order, alphabetical nor degree of horror.

Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Please don’t knock yourself as I’m sure you’d have managed this (slightly tweaked) hand I played the other week. At pairs I wound up in 4H (instead of the cold 6H) with SJxx HAKJ8xx DA CAKx opposite SAxx HQxx D 10xx CQJxx with my RHO having overcalled in diamonds. The opening lead was the D9, so I took the Ace, drew trumps in 2 rounds and then just bashed out 3 more rounds throwing spades from table. RHO could let clubs and some diamonds go, but I then fed him 4 rounds of clubs. On the last club winner, dummy had SA D10x CJ and he had DKQ and SKJ. If I’ve got the SQ he’s stuck regardless, but he panicked and let the diamond go. So, ruff a diamond with my last trump, cross back to the SA and 13 tricks.

The position to look for tends to be 1 trump in hand plus a winner on table which can either be an entry if you can ruff a suit out, or clobbers the honour that the victim has just unguarded. Although the squeeze shouldn’t work, just bashing out cards briskly but amiably can do terrible things to defenders.



jim2May 15th, 2015 at 7:11 pm

If that link does not work, then simply google:

eddie kantar first board

jim2May 15th, 2015 at 7:18 pm

Iain Clime —

Nicely played.

I understand the squeeze position and all that. I think the specific set up falls through a specific “hole” in my pattern recognition ability. I fear there may be … many … others.

Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for the kind words, and maybe think back to the first ever Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi’s disembodied voice tells Luke to turn off the tageting cpomputer and rely on “feel” (aka the force). OPK, my wife will tell you I’m sad and geeky but I can always tell at an early stage what sort of session I’m in for. I played that hand at fair speed without too much thought and it went well; on my less effective nights, I think hard, my brow furrows and out comes a totally duff play for a half thought-out reason e.g. based on diamonds being 4-4-5-1 round the table (that happens too often, it is worrying).

Relax and just play instead of thinking, as one eccentric partner once told me. Also, if I really think hard, take ages and then mess up, it is so much more annoying and embarrassing, plus it costs me beer afterwards!

Have a good weekend,


Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2015 at 7:48 pm

PS I had the opposite approach to EK with one partner. He was a decent player but the first board just kept going wrong so, mentally write off anything more than 10%, start joking about -730 to come (even NV) and bemuse oppo who don’t know why we’re laughing so hard before a card has been played. Also, try to cheer oppo up at pairs if they’ve messed up – otherwise they’ll mess up the next few boards against the pairs sitting our way in a typical club Mitchell with NS and EW winners. You need your victims to be on top form for the rest of the night!

David WarheitMay 16th, 2015 at 9:41 am

Jim2: Thanks for the reference. In Kantar’s hands, declarer pretends to be void in a suit while winning the trick. He waits while the opponents get angry at each other and then corrects his revoke. I would never do that. All I did was play cards that I was entitled to play, which I believe I am perfectly entitled to do, even if our host doesn’t approve. On my all-time favorite hand, I pulled off a double squeeze. Dummy started off with Axx2 of clubs. I carefully discarded the xx and at the end, when opponents were each forced to come down to a singleton club, cashed the A and then the deuce at trick 13. They didn’t seem to mind (or possibly notice), but I smile every time I think of it.

jim2May 16th, 2015 at 10:11 am

It is a bridge humor book, after all.

Iain ClimieMay 16th, 2015 at 11:20 am

Hi Folks,

I think (and hope) that there is some tongue in cheek humour being taken too seriously here. Mind you, David’s ploy with Axx2 in a suit is woirth noting. It may yield a legitimate extra chance if in the concealed hand – a careless opponent may misdefend through assuming declarer is down to bare ace and a squeeze may effectively work when the conditions arer wrong for it. Of course we’d only ever smile inwardly at the table, and sympathise with the opponents.

On less subtle abuse of the opponents, I’m with Bobby although this may just be the fear factor. England play Australia at cricket this summer, with the Aussies famous for “sledging” i.e. verbal windups to batsmen. If England fail to cope (or up the ante by trying it themselves), I confidently expect the competition between these two teams to have England trying to come 3rd. Still, even sledging can misfire.

An irascible bowler in England once narrowly missed out on dismissing one of the world’s great batsman, a West Indian, who could easily have been out bowled or caught if the ball or the path of the bat had been a few millimetres differently placed. Bowler “Hey Viv (Richards), it is small, round, red and you’re supposed to hit it with your bat; it’s called a BALL!” Richards hit the next ball from the bowler with terrifying power and perfect timing clean out of the ground and some way beyond, probably at least 100 yds before the ball bounced. He then smiled “AS you know what it looks like, why don’t you go and find it?”.



Mircea1May 16th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m sure that if any of us would be in declarer’s seat on this hand, TOCM will strike and East will follow to the third heart. How would you go about the diamonds now? Is it a pure guess?

Bobby WolffMay 17th, 2015 at 12:35 am

Hi Mircea1,

Although I just arrived back to this hand I can see that much has been discussed, but I’ll take your question first and say, Yes it is a guess, but when (and, of course, if East follows to a 3rd heart he might even have 4 of them so that the percentages definitely favor a diamond finesse, rather than the fancy criss-cross minor suit squeeze on East.

Of course if notoriety is what one wants, in spite of what I am saying about what I think are percentages, go for the squeeze, with a hold-out position of even after making the play that loses, still tell everyone the opposite.

There one has it, learn the right bridge play, either execute it or not, but have in reserve, a fall back gain for the occasion, irrespective of what really happened.

Now to get to David’s ploy and what some of us may think are the ethics du jour.

To me and to apply in most all competitive game situations (exceptions being love and war) a sense of humor helps more that it hurts, but only when one makes himself the object of the humor not the jokester who enjoys a laugh over another’s misfortune.

However, over a lifetime of very competitive bridge played by many different type people involving countless cultures, perhaps humor and its ramifications is the most unpredictable emotion, at least on this planet.

Even in America, think two people, Jack Benny and Don Rickles where one was usually making fun of himself, but the other not so. Most of us will choose either one or the other we would rather listen to, but when the game of bridge is directly concerned, my preference is definitely to not employ Stephen Potter’s Oneupmanship, even if by doing so, your partnership may benefit immediately by infuriating the opponents.

However, David, you have my permission to save your lowest club for the contract winning squeeze trick, if playing against me.

jim2May 17th, 2015 at 1:57 am

(I should have mentioned that Our Host is a named character in the very next chapter in that Eddie Kantar book, the one with his nightmare)


Judy Kay-WolffMay 17th, 2015 at 4:14 am


Curious as to Bobby’s reference in Eddie’s book. Do you know the pages where it appears? Thanks.


jim2May 17th, 2015 at 12:29 pm

My Lady!

The book title is “Classic Kantar: A Collection of Bridge Humor”

The chapter “Panel Time” begins on page 56. To understand the context, one really needs to begin there.

The mention is in the middle of page 57.

If it is not on your shelves, the text can be read as follows:

– google eddie kantar “first board” (with those last two words within quotation marks)
– toggle the first choice the search provides (which is that book)
– your browser will land you on page 49

He doubtless is mentioned elsewhere in the book, as well.

Judy-Kay WolffMay 17th, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Thanks Jim2,

I look forward to checking it out.


My Lady

jim2May 18th, 2015 at 1:21 am

I exist to serve!

(just remember I can’t cook!)