Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 21st, 2018

If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. Legal process is an essential part of the democratic process.

Judge Felix Frankfurter

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



In the readers’ letters last month I was asked about how to identify deals on which a squeeze might be relevant. I don’t want to get into Felix Frankfurter’s dictum that you will know it when you see it. Instead, I’ll be trying to show examples over the course of the next month or two.

Typically the possibilities for a squeeze exist when declarer has top winners rather than top losers, and is one trick short of his target. Without being unusually devious, let’s take a hand that lends itself to a squeeze in six hearts. At teams, you wouldn’t really care about the overtrick; but at pairs, the question is how to avoid a diamond loser in six hearts.

The defenders lead a spade against six hearts. You win the ace, and after playing to ruff a club low in hand, you lead out the heart king and jack. When the bad break comes to light, you cross to the diamond king to draw trumps, pitching two diamonds from hand.

The fourth trump puts West under pressure: In the five-card ending, dummy has two diamonds, a spade and a heart, while you have three spades and the bare diamond ace in hand. If West pitches a spade, the spades ruff out; if a diamond, then trick 13 will be won with dummy’s long diamond.

Note that if we change North’s spades to Q-J doubleton, we have a fast loser but no slow losers. So we change our approach: We drive out the spade ace, then ruff a club in hand and pitch dummy’s diamond on the spade winner.

While a club is as likely to cost a trick as a diamond, I can see good logic in trying to set up clubs fast (before they go on dummy’s spades) and possibly force dummy, in an attempt to build extra trump tricks for myself. So I would lead a low club, not a diamond.


♠ 4 2
 Q 9 6 5
 J 6 4
♣ K J 6 3
South West North East
  2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 3
Pass 4 All pass  

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 4th, 2018 at 9:07 am

Hi Bobby,

This is maybe over-picky but is there a case for cashing HKJ first, then ruffing a club. Someone might have 2-2 in the round suits, or the H10 might drop alleviating any risk of an overruff. I can’t imagine the extra chance is more than 1% if that, mind you.



David WarheitJune 4th, 2018 at 10:29 am

The suggested line depends on declarer correctly reading the end position, plus avoiding the position Iain notes. How about: win CA, cash HK, then CK and club ruff. Now cash HJ, cross to SA and draw trump, discarding 2 diamonds from dummy. Now play SA and ruff a spade. In the 3-card ending, North has DK84 and South has S6 and DA9. If the spade isn’t good, try to run the diamonds, hoping someone started with 4 or more spades and 4 or more diamonds. Guess what, West did; making 7. Note that although I did go after trumps immediately, I only drew one round. Drawing one round is completely safe and guards against very little but does guard against something, such as West having two clubs and singleton H10. But drawing a second heart loses to East having H10xx and a doubleton club.

Bob LiptonJune 4th, 2018 at 11:22 am

I am not sure but that Iain is already saying it, but I don’t see any squeeze needed to make this hand at all. Win the spade on in hand, cash two high trump, Club Ace, Club King, ruff a club, back to dummy with the diamond King, draw trump, claim with five trump, Ace-King in each plain suit and a club ruff. Is the hand miscopied? Am I missing something? I’m making 7 on this line if west is 5=1=4=3, but I don’t think that’s the point of today’s column.


Iain ClimieJune 4th, 2018 at 11:27 am

Hi Gents,

Yes, I think there are 12 tricks once the club ruff has passed off safely and trumps aren’t 5-0. I think David’s H10xx and two clubs is a little more likely than what I worried about too. Early posts, though – I’m the other side of the pond, and I know about David’s unusual hours, but Bob must be an early bird too.


jim2June 4th, 2018 at 11:52 am

The text discussion was about trying for an over-trick at pairs.

Iain ClimieJune 4th, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Today’s lesson – read the article properly before hitting Submit Comment. I think the discussion on extra chances are still valid, though.


Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Hi Iain, David, Jim2, & Bob,

Yes, Iain, your keen eye is helpful in generally and gently reminding declarer to be as careful as can be,
watching for more effective mouse traps, but before accepting, attempting to cover the waterfront.

Here, a possible doubeton club held by East, while holding only 3 hearts to the ten might cause an unnecessary loss of a club ruff in hand, but in no way am I claiming that your suggestion is anti-percentage, but only it is to be considered, especially at pairs, but, of course, today’s declarer would also fall victim.

Next, today’s hand came up lacking in a clearer discussion of playing for an overtrick, (sorry, Bob), sometimes essential at pairs, and/or when if done, also mirrors a careful declarer who has won and lost matches by 1 IMP. Also David’s post does more to touch on his usual perfection and Jim2’s comment is very necessary for the many other readers who, no doubt, were also confused as to the main thrust of this hand, experiencing proper technique in executing a simple (certainly not so for most), squeeze.

However still, and at least to me, the elephant in this room (which trunks the attention) is that NS had only a combined 31 hcps, no singletons and only one 5 card suit, yet quite easily takes 12 tricks and with the play suggested (more or less) adds one more.

The reason is crying out to all of us, how important (and undervalued) are aces and kings to which NS had them all.

However, South, with his minimum of only 15 hcps accepted North’s clear invitation to which he could have either returned to only 5 hearts (partner should then pass) or if holding the same hand minus a 3rd heart (thinking the jack which could be in another suit) then merely play a final 4NT.

Therefore this hand, in a bridge school could be used for declarer’s play involving squeezes, bidding judgment, hand valuation, difference in IMPs and matchpoints, or merely an advanced class, to talk about overall bridge theory.

Thanks to all of you for your continued immense contributions. If only we could together keep our beautiful game from eventually, but surely going extinct.

Brandon TaylorJune 4th, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Hi Bobby.

I came across a deal in which I, as South, received this hand from North:
C 10
D A 9 6 5 3
H A 9 8 4 3
S 8 2

And the bidding started as thus:
N: 2NT E: 3C S: ???

My situation is, even as East cut off my Stayman response, I could conceivably call for a Jacoby transfer to either of my red suits. My question is, what Jacoby transfer bid should I make at this point, if a Jacoby transfer is in fact warranted at all?

Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Hi Brandon (and welcome to Aces on Bridge),

Warranted is as partnership discussion directs. While and of course, opponent’s overcalling RHO’s 2NT is indeed rare, but when, and if it does, partnerships need to be ready with previous discussion, otherwise chaos becomes the order of the day.

Let’s assume that over a club intervention (since major suit transfers are not materially effected) we can then exercise both suits) we bid 3 diamonds, and then over partner’s 3 heart response, should definitely bid 4 diamonds to show both a forward going hand and at least nine red suit cards, including 5+ hearts. For the record, if I held s. xx, h. AJxxx, d. Jxxx, c. Jx I would rebid 3NT over partner’s 3 heart bid. IOW, yes I do not have a club stop, but I will leave it up to partner to decide between playing 4 hearts or 3NT depending on his own holding.

However my advice over a 3 diamond intervention by your RHO and then moving my other minor suit to clubs, to make do, by eschewing transfers and just bidding 3 hearts with the intention of later bidding diamonds unless partner only just raises to 4 hearts. If he bids 3 NT it is then close whether with the hand you gave me, whether to go forward with 4 diamonds or just pass 3NT. Factors: I do not like the club lead coming through partner, so I might get conservative and pass 3NT, but it is only a guess, since perhaps the result of this hand is hanging in the balance, but my judgment is very close as to what our chances happen to be.

All any partnership can do is be prepared for an overcall, rather than attempt to then get all choices right while bidding.

PeteJune 4th, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Hi Bobby,
Just for the record the phrase, ‘I know it when I see it’ comes from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his test for obscenity.

Joe1June 4th, 2018 at 8:42 pm

But sometimes the law is an ass (Dickens). And the “know it when you see it” line, I believe, comes from Potter Stewart. That said, knowing there may be a squeeze position, and hoping there is one, are two different things. Another strategy, if one trick short, is an end play, but declarer doesn’t seem to have the cards for this. So in playing for, or hoping for, a squeeze, how or when should one “rectify the count”. These things are easier double dummy, challenging in the heat of the moment.

Bobby WolffJune 4th, 2018 at 10:23 pm

Hi Pete & Joe1,

Even though Justice Potter Stewart published his somewhat lyrical phrase first, it seems to apply in bridge applications, especially in hoped for declarer’s play (and defender) endings in bridge.

Add the word obscene and it all depends on “to whom” it is happening.

“Rectifying the count” is a fancy name for prematurely losing all the tricks, save the one the potential squeeze will gain, (visualize Axx opposite xxx, leading a small one and ducking) early, usually required in making a potential squeeze, viable to execute.

And when Clyde Love is the author of what I would call the classic book on squeeze endings, everyone will be then given a thought of romance, rather than the crude way Charles Dickens described the law (perhaps instead, the dickens you say, although I often agree with him).

All these descriptions take me back many years when these coups were first getting their names, much like the recent royal wedding got the world’s rapt attention.

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