Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 2nd, 2018

The splendid achievements of the intellect, like the soul, are everlasting.


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


At his first turn, North felt his hand was inappropriate for a negative double and that he could not bid one no-trump without a heart stopper. While his partner could have been 4-4 in the majors, he took a reasonable shot to raise diamonds. Then he produced an imaginative raise of his partner’s two-spade call, sensibly noting that his own failure to make a negative double at his first turn had limited his spade holding to three cards. That got his side to the best game, four spades.

West started the defense by leading out three top hearts, of course. How was declarer supposed to tackle the hand?

The problem with ruffing the third heart and drawing trumps is that in the (somewhat unlikely) event that West has four spades, declarer will be left with an inevitable club loser and will have to lose a trick to the long trump. Even if East has the long trumps, 10 tricks will not be assured. It is far better to discard the almost inevitable club loser at trick three.

When the defenders shift to trumps, declarer should try to draw trumps in three rounds. If they split, declarer will either attempt to ruff out the clubs, or must fall back on diamonds behaving. If trumps are 4-2 as in the diagram, four rounds of spades will almost certainly squeeze East in the minors. Since West has nine cards in the majors, the minors will run for six tricks unless West also has honor-third in clubs.

Were you tempted to treat this hand as worthy of an invitation to game? Despite your fine intermediates, this hand is nothing more than a maximum raise to two spades — and that is especially true if you play the forcing no-trump, where a simple raise is already a constructive hand. There are many ways to go minus when you should be going plus. This is one of the more common!


♠ Q J 10
 9 4 3
 A 3 2
♣ K 10 8 7
South West North East
    1 ♠ 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 16th, 2018 at 10:52 am

There is a way to beat 4S: W leads a trump at trick 1! If he cashes a H & then switches to a trump, too late. But after a trump at trick one, declarer will lead H, but W will win and keep leading trump. Fascinating; the defense succeeds by leading its weakest suit (S) at every opportunity, and declarer tries (but fails) to succeed by leading his side’s weakest suit (H) at every opportunity. I don’t think that this defense is impossible since W knows that declarer is playing a 4-3 fit. On the other hand, if declarer or dummy has the DJ and dummy lacks the S10, only repeated H leads will allow EW to defeat 4S.

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 16th, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Hi David
(With the permission of our host)
Not really – as dummy wins fist spade,leads heart which west wins and leads another spade which
Dummy wins again and leads another heart which west wins and now if he leads a trump, south draws trumps . In seven card position, east is compelled to retain four diamonds and three clubs and perforce discard last heart. Now declarer makes the contract as Club Q falls in two rounds and a club is conceded. Defense gets two hearts and a club.

Bobby WolffFebruary 16th, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Hi David,

And you my friend, have, at the very least, validated Sallust’s memorable quote to the fullest.

Yes, bridge often presents its own significant challenges, and you have performed non-pareil, ever complete with a key theoretical whereas.

And to think, some may wonder what others do not see, (the defense not allowing declarer to rectify the count to execute the contract making squeeze) while playing our great game.

If only our youth were exposed to learning it, they, like others who love art, music, and the melody of sports, usually held in the winter Olympics (now going on), could see the magic so often included.

Much thanks for your comment, to which I, for at least one, am grateful.

Bruce karlsonFebruary 16th, 2018 at 1:11 pm

BWTA,,, I deduct one HCP for all flat hands so game visions will not come from me. Further, and likely to bring hammers upon my head, I would bid 1NT (forcing with most Ps). I see no ruffing power and 9 tricks may be more likely than 10 in Spades. Thoughts?

BobliptonFebruary 16th, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Meanwhile, at my table, the bidding goes 1NT-3NT, West cashes five hearts and South claims the rest.


Bobby WolffFebruary 16th, 2018 at 1:23 pm


No doubt, after certainly giving you permission to seek the truth, you have won the battle and deserve the spoils.

Obviously, we crossed in the mail, with the result of you slaying both dragons.

Congratulations to you for both your always present tact, and, most importantly, your thoroughly thought out accurate analysis.

My tail is now back between my legs, and no doubt join with David in admiration of the “splendid achievement of your intellect”.

However, nothing occurred to deny the special wonders of our game, only to prove how difficult and therefore challenging bridge can be, especially to two out of three of us, who spoke too soon.

Finally, I’d offer you a job as my assistant, but, by so doing, and your acceptance, it likely would lead into a hasty role reversal between the two of us. The good news for you is that, if you would have accepted, the pay would not be representative of your talent.

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 16th, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Honestly Sir , I feel honoured

David WarheitFebruary 16th, 2018 at 4:30 pm

AV: You are right–great analysis. Poor East. The bridge gods deal him all of 2 HCP, and then whichever of the two lines of defense his partner takes, he gets squeezed in two very different ways. I think East is looking for a charity, but unfortunately the nearest one is three towns over, and he lacks the bus fare to get there.

Bobby WolffFebruary 16th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Hi Bruce & Bob,

Yes, no doubt many NS’s would flounder in 3NT, but that is an advantage to a bridge columnist, since in not reporting a real hand, we will be able to report a daring 4 spade contract with a 4-3 fit.

However, although it turns out that 4 spades makes, a couple of us thought by an unlikely opening lead it wouldn’t, but after being set straight by AVRR, we were right the first time, but not before some controversy.

Furthermore, on the actual bidding, it seems so automatic to lead the high hearts, while holding 4 spades, in order to gain trump control (which would happen), but still not succeed in defeating it), since this specific hand leans the opposite but not without a twist.

‘Nuff said, since more often than to be believed, our beautiful game has a mind of its own.

Bobby WolffFebruary 16th, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Hi again AVRR & David,

First, to AVRR, you should be honored since your 2 eyes defeated our 4 and yes David, the art of the squeeze (since day before yesterday was Valentine’s day, at least in the USA) while normally pleasantly romantic, in bridge to be squeezed, has almost the exact opposite feeling.