Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 19th, 2015

The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.

Jean Kerr

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

*Constructive, 7-11 or so


Today’s deal features an unusual theme, in a hand where you are declaring a diamond slam on an auction where West is marked with the heart king from his initial preempt.

The defenders lead clubs, the two going round to your ace. you next cash the diamond ace and queen. When you lead a spade to your queen, one of your best chances for the contract appears to have vanished when West wins the king and exits with a trump. The chance of clubs breaking 3-3 has still not gone up in smoke, but the opening lead makes that remote. A better chance might be to try and exert pressure on one opponent or the other in the ending. Can you see how you might do that?

The answer is to win the third trump in hand and to try to catch East in a heart-club squeeze. To transfer the menace in hearts to him, lead the heart queen, covered by the king and ace. Now comes the spade ace, and a spade ruff. Then you lead a club to your queen.

You are now in position to run the trumps, and after three spades, one heart, five diamonds and two clubs, you are down to a two-card ending with the heart 10 and a club in hand and the doubleton club king in dummy. At this point you squeeze East in clubs and hearts. He must pitch his heart jack to keep the clubs guarded, hoping his partner has the heart 10, but now you can cash that card at trick 12.

Why force yourself to guess which minor to play in? Bid two no-trump to show a two-suited hand, and partner will now bid his lowest four-card suit. When both hands have passed, two no-trump is never natural and to play. It is always two-suited, and partner assumes the minors unless you put him right subsequently.


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


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 2nd, 2016 at 11:05 am

Hello Mr Wolff

In BWTA does the doubler should also have two places to play (4 cards each) or does 3433 doubles (which doubler may have made assuming Spade shortness with partner) are also acceptable though they may lead to not conforming to law of total tricks ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffJanuary 2nd, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Your reasoning is pretty much on track except:

The doubler (in this case the balancer), starts out at having three places (suits, at least 3 pieces, but not always, especially in a minor) to play.

Bridge thinking should suggest (in today’s BWTA example) that having 3 spades instead of two restricts partner to having no more than 2 (assuming the opponents are playing 5 card majors) then following that holding a perfectly balanced hand (4, triple 3) will get some distributional help from partner (this fact is an advantage for the old time very popular, and surprisingly to some, effective 4 card majors)

Yes the law of total tricks (LOTT) is a valuable tool, but DO NOT overestimate its importance. In normal decisions (either deciding when to balance, or how to respond in an attempt to find the partnership’s longest combined suit), the LOTT is not a factor.

The idea of competing is merely an attempt to be tough opponents and force your worthy adversaries to not always remain in a comfort zone of buying a part score contract at as cheap a level as possible.

In another way to look at it, when the opponents have quit their bidding at the two level, your sides work may have just begun in trying to then use the knowledge gleaned by their stop, to up the ante in just what contract one or the other side will eventually play.

The LOTT will only help players determine approximately how many tricks each side may take, assuming they both find their longest trump suit. However, it often is a guess since all players at the table will normally be unsure of exactly how many hoped for trumps his or her partner actually has.

Add the above to not knowing for sure how many finesses or other trick taking gimmicks will be present on the hand being bid, and, like it or not, only guesses, not sure knowledge becomes the realism, du jour.

However, never forget that the above fact is as true for the opponents as it is for your side, hence the poker element in bridge becomes alive and well and, of course, the reliance on the LOTT then goes slightly down in value.