Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 14th, 2016

The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.

Thomas Merton

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


In the Bermuda Bowl qualifying match between Australia and Poland the two declarers reached quite different contracts – and with differing results.

In one room, as North Nye Griffiths overcalled three spades over three hearts and Liam Milne drove him to slam. Griffiths won the club king lead with the ace and led a spade to his ace then took the diamond finesse. When the diamond queen scored he left the spade king in dummy, instead playing the diamond ace, pitching a club. Now he led a third diamond, ruffed and over-ruffed, and East had a club to cash for down one.

For Poland, Jacek Kalita passed over three hearts, and Michal Nowosadzki as South ended in five diamonds. Nowosadzki won the heart ace and led a diamond to the queen followed by two more rounds of diamonds. West won the third diamond and returned the club nine, overtaken by East with the 10, which Nowosadzki ducked — to rectify the count for a possible squeeze.

When East switched to the spade queen Nowosadzki accurately won the spade king and ran the diamonds, coming down to the bare spade ace and jackdoubleton of clubs in dummy, facing two low spades and the bare club ace in hand.

If East discarded a club, declarer would cash the club ace then cross to the spade to cash the club jack. He actually threw a spade, and declarer cashed the spade ace then came back to hand with a club to cash the small spade – a perfect criss-cross squeeze.

Preempting style is largely a matter of philosophy, but since I believe mine is as good as anyone else’s I’ll share my thoughts here. While I might open this hand in third seat, I hate to open a preempt with unexpected defense, or too much playability in three suits (especially the unbid major). The weak spade spots are the real killer here. Passing may not get the job done but it feels right on all counts.


♠ A 9 7 6 5 4
 A 5 4
♣ J 8 7
South West North East

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2October 28th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

How many times was that deal played with West having 14 cards and East holding 12?

BobliptonOctober 28th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I would say, Jim2, often enough to make the squeeze work.


bobby wolffOctober 28th, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Hi Jim2 & Bob,

Just horrible, nothing less. East actually held the deuce of clubs from West.

No excuses, only sloth, comprising indifference to detail and lack of attention from me.

Jane AOctober 28th, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Had to be that TOCM Jim. Good catch. I also like four hearts doubled down two for a better score that five diamonds making. Or four spades making. What say you, Bobby?

bobby wolffOctober 28th, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Hi Jane A,

No doubt right on all counts.

However, at least to me, even vulnerable with unfavorable conditions (us but not them) sometimes produce, what others may judge as undeserved gains.

But are they? Since when the bidding starts out high, there is often a pure “guessing” element present, which causes even great players (and the ones today are both young and on their way to great bridge careers) to judge wrong.

Other very good players can play it safe, feel secure with what they think is perfect justification, but at the end of the day, is that really the right strategy? And with the EW hands, (even with each only holding 13 cards) who should do the doubling?

Only “The Shadow knows” (Lamont Cranston of radio fame) and he has not been heard from in a very long time. However, no doubt you are as “Right (Write) as Eversharp” another long ago advertising expression, promoting a popular pen in its day.

slarOctober 28th, 2016 at 7:03 pm

RE BWTA: One of my biggest challenges in bidding is when partner passes with a good but unbiddable hand like this one. One time my partner had a similar hand but 4-0 in the minors instead of 3-1. I heard pass but then a slam try after my 1NT opening and some interference. I had 16HCP, 3 card support, and a side doubleton. I choked.

You have to be willing to believe that partner may have reason to pass with a fairly nice hand.

David WarheitOctober 28th, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Jane (and Bobby): 4H is (or should be) down 3. N leads a D, S wins & returns a trump, which N ducks. Dummy wins and leads a S, N wins SA, cashes HA, leads a C to S who cashes DA and gives partner a D ruff. Down 3.

bobby wolffOctober 29th, 2016 at 2:42 am

Hi Slar,

While the above BWTA is a case in point, I usually decide on bidding, rather than not, when faced with a reasonable choice.

Why? Simply to keep partner informed that I have some values, whether they are offensive or defensive, but usually opening something higher than the one level is indicative of unbalanced hands, which, of course point to offense if we can find, or have already, determined a good trump suit.

Getting there early, often becomes of inestimable value, especially in a higher ranking suit (one of the majors) merely because it takes so much bidding space away from those pesky opponents.

If any partnership runs into a series of hands to which they have not found a fit they were dealt, because of either conservatism or trying to avoid a big set, merely should indicate that they have settled on caution rather than daring, result then being embracing the commonplace, rather than going after good results instead of quietly waiting for excellent opponents to make mistakes.

On this specific issue there is really no right or wrong, only a concept of trying to be consistently difficult opponents. It reminds me of the last century when Roth-Stone, (pass first and bid later) became very popular.

However now, high-level bridge is offering the opposite and in no uncertain way.

Sure there are occasional hands where pass might win out over an opening bid: S. void, h. xxxx, d. AKQ, c. Jxxxxx and I’ll accept that action but not to come in later, even if the opponents are in 3 spades or even higher, when next it is your turn, makes me think that any bad result which then is forthcoming to you, is well deserved.

bobby wolffOctober 29th, 2016 at 2:44 am

Hi David,

Yes, your proposed defense to 4 hearts doubled makes good sense.