Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The true way to be deceived is to think oneself more clever than others.

La Rochefoucauld

S North
None ♠ 6 3
 7 4 3
 9 7 4 3
♣ K Q 8 4
West East
♠ 7 4
 A Q J 10 9 6
 A K Q
♣ 6 2
♠ 9 5 2
 10 8 6 5 2
♣ J 10 9 3
♠ A K Q J 10 8
 K 5 2
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 Pass Pass
Dbl. 3 Pass Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass


Today’s deal illustrates an idea that you might well consider impossible, namely that a player can fall victim to a “one-suit squeeze”. You don’t believe me? Read on.

Against four spades West tried to cash two diamonds. South ruffed, and saw that with the heart ace surely wrong, the main chance seemed to be a 3-3 club break. However, there was nothing to be lost by getting a count of the hand first. Declarer drew two rounds of trump, crossed to the club queen, and ruffed a diamond high. At this point West had shown up with three diamonds, two spades and from his strong bidding he rated to have six hearts. It was clear that the clubs were not breaking, so the only hope lay in an end-play in hearts. South played off the rest of his trumps, throwing a club and a diamond from dummy, and cashed the club ace and king.

The position with three cards to play was that dummy and declarer each had their three original hearts left, while East had the heart eight and two minor winners. West had to find a discard from his four remaining hearts, the A-Q-J-6.

If he parted with the six, declarer would play a low heart from each hand to throw West in to lead a heart round to his king, so West discarded his heart jack. Now declarer led a low heart from dummy and covered East’s eight with the king. West won but had to concede the last trick to dummy’s heart seven!

The simple option would be to bid four spades, but a more ambitious action uses a spot of delicate modern science. How about a call of four diamonds? Since a bid of three diamonds would be natural and game-forcing, a jump to four diamonds is a self-agreeing splinter, showing short diamonds and a hand worth game in spades. Facing ace-queen fifth in hearts, you do have 12 tricks, after all.


♠ A K Q J 10 8
 K 5 2
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
1 ♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1June 13th, 2015 at 11:17 am

Hi Bobby,

I’m just curious how many top pairs do you estimate would find this play, say in the QF of a major tournament (Vanderbilt, Spingold, Bermuda Bowl)?

jim2June 13th, 2015 at 12:29 pm

In BWTA, how would one bid a spade-diamond two-suiter not quite worth a two clubs opening?

bobby wolffJune 13th, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, of course your proposition is a perplexing one. However, do not underestimate the learned
imagination of a wannabe top player.

This particular spectacular type squeeze is very unusual (I do not ever remember dealing with one, although I am then not sure what to think), but, as you can surely see, the cards remaining with West, except for the low heart spot card, are easily kept up with making the task at hand for West to keep his lowest heart available allowing his partner to win the first heart blowing up the master declarer plan.

In other words a large percentage of great players will see the devastating ending to the defense and this particular hand is very easy to count both offensively and defensively.

However the ending will come down to the offensive and defensive players sitting South and West, testing their attention to detail, with first West feeling the pressure to not throw away his lowest heart, and then South to realize that if he is up to that ploy, then he must know when to cover East’s spot card.

My off-the-cuff answer to you is more than one might think (if the field is up to normal strength), however the last named poisoned flowers will trip some of them up.

bobby wolffJune 13th, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

Again, you always know what to say and how to say it.

As the TV commercials about various life endangering adventures continually say, “Don’t try this at home!”. Yes, in the absence of previous partnership discussions the 4 diamond bid would only be describing 11 or 12 cards between those 2 suits and a very good hand. However if an aspiring partnership prefers to instead show a self styled great hand with a solid first suit and likely a void in the jumped suit, then “full speed ahead” on to great results, that is, until the first forget which could lead to an immediate bridge divorce.

I certainly wish I knew how to show a smiley for you.

Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Hi Bobby,
Assuming this was frivolous, 🙂 is one way. Or copy and paste an inserted character from a Word document. If not, apologies for not seeing through it, but I liked today’s hints to Kelsey and Ottlik’s “Adventures in Card Play” plus the quote. Metaphorical minefields are littered with the cratered remains of those who knew they were right and tried to prove it.




Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Sorry, what I put was : – ) with no spaces and it jumped in. Colon, dash, close bracket / parenthesis if it does it again! I didn’t expect the smiley to come up.


jim2June 14th, 2015 at 12:04 am

Too bad the rules of bridge do not allow one to add a descriptor to a bid. Here, “Natural” or “Two-suiter” or “Splinter” would have been nice. Here: the bidding would have gone:

1S (“natural”) —– 1N (“forcing”)
4D (“splinter”)

Then, when one held spades and diamonds, one could say, instead, 4D (“Two-suiter”)

It would make doubles more useful, too, as one could add “Take-out” or “Penalty” to match the occasion.

Redoubles could really benefit from being able to add “Rescue” or “Play”

2D bids could really be great, as one could say “Flannery” or “Precision” or “Weak” or even “Strong” — no longer would one have to open 2C and leave all guessing, as one could say “Strong” and mean a club suit.

One of partners frequently counsels me that “all [his] strange bids are forcing” and I always reply that if I find any bid sufficiently confusing, I reserve the right to pass on the theory that if undoubled, it keeps down the loss while if doubled he would get another bid to rescue himself.

This has brought a measure of discipline to our auctions ….


AviJune 14th, 2015 at 6:32 am

Bobby hi
This may be a little flambouyant, but on the BWTA, how about a 2NT response?
The hand has near 7 sure tricks, and hopefully partner can cover the remaining 1.5 tricks needed…

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2015 at 8:56 am

Hi Avi, Bobby,

Is 3N worth a try here if you want to gamble? Occasionally there will be 9 tricks only in both spades and NT; I recall talking myself out of such a bid recently when it would have worked beautifully, albeit after 1H X 2H P when I had a 2-6-3-2 17 count with solid hearts.



bobby wolffJune 14th, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Hi Avi & Iain,

Yes Avi, 2NT is a bit flamboyant, but no doubt as Iain has echoed, it might lead to being a bell ringer.

However if so, I prefer to go all the way with Iain’s suggestion to not spare the horses and jump to 3.

To delve deeper, often in reflection, but not always at the table, to do so, at least to me, would be much preferred to not hold a singleton but rather be some form of a 6-3-2-2 hand. The reason being very simply that the double goal of making the contract plus having the more traveled road bid of 4 of the major not be on, is much more likely when no short suits are held since singletons are, of course, often of immense value in suits, but, if anything, a distinct minus in NT.

“You pays your money, you takes your choice”.

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

I wasn’t trying to neglect your rule change suggestion, only wondering the best way to answer it.

First, many years ago when bridge had captivated interest in the USA and because of Charles Goren and Ely Culbertson, was played by perhaps 40 million Americans as opposed to only about 8 million now (numbers suggested by sample polls), “kitchen bridge” as it was fondly nicknamed was played very close to your recommendation. Instead of Blackwood, yes 4NT was bid, but the vocal bid of however many aces partner had was instead answered vocally in order to simplify the response. Also as a memory enhancer brand new conventions like Stayman and take out doubles were also emphasized orally instead of taking a chance on random memory.

Today, vocal reminders, even with the much more sophisticated attempt at nuances you suggest but were not yet born, (splinters, different meanings of doubles, cue bids, etc) might not be well accepted at bridge clubs since noise travels and at least rabbits would have bugsy advantages.

Of course my deafness is making me biased against, but if you feel so inclined, I promise not to wail out against it.

Herreman RSeptember 1st, 2015 at 8:06 am

Is this what they call a ” strip squeeze ” ?