Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their misdeeds with success, they think it is because they are right.

Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

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


Earlier this month, we talked about squeezes and how one might identify a deal where the aim was to bring pressure to bear on one or both opponents. The next step after determining that this might be relevant is to make sure you catch the opponents in the net.

In six no-trump after the lead of the heart 10, South can count 11 top tricks. He has a 12th trick if either spades or diamonds breaks 3-3. But there is one additional chance: if one opponent has length in both diamonds and spades.

It costs South nothing to prepare for this possibility. If either of those suits divides favorably, South will make his slam without breaking a sweat. But if neither suit breaks, simply cashing winners will not bring either defender under pressure.

Squeezes tend to work best when you have all the tricks you need but one; here, declarer has 11 tricks out of the 12 needed. So South must give up a trick (sometimes referred to as “rectifying the count”) by the strange-looking move of ducking a heart — which could be at trick one or two.

South wins the return and takes his club and heart winners. On the last of these, West, who guards both spades and diamonds, must concede the slam-going trick by unguarding one suit or the other. All South has to do is watch the discards, and he is home.

If South had not given up the heart trick, West would have one extra winner in his hand. He would not be squeezed, and the slam would be unmakable.

You are going to have to guess whether to play part-score or game — and which game to head for. My instincts tell me hearts must play better than no-trump, so I would transfer to hearts and play game, either using a Texas transfer or transferring and raising to game, depending on what methods are available.


♠ 10
 Q J 7 5 4
 10 2
♣ 9 6 5 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 2 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJune 13th, 2018 at 9:10 am

You say that in addition to either spades or diamonds breaking 3-3 that “there is one additional chance”, i.e. a spade-diamond squeeze. Actually there are 3 additional chances, including spade-heart and diamond-heart squeezes. Of the three chances, spade-diamond is the most likely, but it hurt my head trying to figure all that out.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2018 at 11:49 am

Hi David,

Yes, you are as correct as anyone can be, but declarer must make a choice, If indeed a defensive player had 5 hearts and either 4 diamonds or 4 spades a squeeze in those two suits would succeed by giving up a trick in the specific seven card suit which then would be guarded by his partner who had length in the other suit.

That process, which has been discussed from time to time with our group is called “rectifying the count” and is an integral factor in executing a trick gaining squeeze on the helpless and thus, hapless opponents.

However it is more likely that a single defender is the only guardian of two four card holdings, thus the percentage factor should direct a competent declarer to effect the squeeze in those two suits.

In this hand, yes hearts are 5-2 but the squeeze will only work against the defender who had the other two suits stopped and that can only be accomplished by ducking a heart somewhat early in the process.

As you know as well as I, head hurting or not, the rudiments of executing a trick gaining squeeze, but, when faced with choices, often in the mix, choose the one with the better percentage chance of occurring.

Yes, declaring in bridge is much easier when suits break evenly, but when they do, usually all players, good, indifferent and even poor make their contracts. However isn’t good fortune available in almost all known popular competitions, and that factor, if viewed head on, is not and should not be the determining factor, whatever the sport (and to me, bridge is a sport, although mental not physical) in winning and losing.

So, to Lebron James (whom I greatly admire), I may also say, “just shut up and dribble”, while he may return to you or me, in kind, “just shut up and deal”,
whenever the subject shifts to crucial world behavior other than basketball and/or bridge.

jim2June 13th, 2018 at 12:45 pm

I had, in fact, explored the chances David Warheit named, but eventually stopped for the very reason he named. ­čÖé

The thing that decided me to go the text line was that, if a defender did have 5 hearts, it also greatly improved the chances that the other defender had 4 spades and 4 diamonds.

David WarheitJune 13th, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Jim2: I think that the biggest difference between the suggested line and the two lines that I listed is that if you adopt either of the two lines, you give up on finding the suit where you concede a trick being 3-3.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

When you speak directly to the point, as your above post indicates, it astounds me that, while likely you, not being privy to much, if any, actual competing at the very high levels of our wondrous game, you still, consistently seem to embrace the most important issues and, even more impressive, the numerate reasons for it.

Pity that the USA does not have disciplined school bridge learning on a daily basis, since and no doubt, you would be in great demand as a lead instructor and top guru within the bridge teaching profession.

We might then have others who might flock to contract TOCM TM, if only to gain close to your elite status as bridge instructor extraordinaire with the live hope of returning most world bridge championships back to the USA.

However, even the thought of thinking that your ship has likely sailed, saddens me more than anyone could imagine.

Bruce karlsonJune 13th, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Playing pairs and executing the squeeze, TOCM sets in and Mitzy, with lots of enthusiasm but fewer than 10 MPs, simply takes her winners, barely noticing the then present 3/3 breaks and makes 13 tricks. Fortunately it is the last board and the bar is near..

jim2June 13th, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Been there. Seen that. Ran to bar; pounded my head on it.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Hi Bruce and Jim2,

The TOCM TM epidemic has worsened.

The bar has been ruled off limits, Mitzy bid the grand slam,
and that result allowed her to reach 10 MPs, with the good news that she wants to talk to both of you about being more optimistic in the bidding.

jim2June 13th, 2018 at 5:33 pm

What do you mean, “she wants to talk to [me]”?!

You obviously do not yet understand TOCM ™ !!

I was West! Bruce karlson was probably East!.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2018 at 6:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt you were West (or perhaps East), but when you defended the hand against Mitzy, her partnership bid a grand slam, all suits broke evenly, and down you went.

Or are you telling me that TOCM TM is very involved with tortuous means of delivering your horrible boards, making you not only have to accept them, but then having to subject yourself to both gloating and lesson giving from your opponents?

Just being squeezed by a competent declarer while playing a well bid slam, is not my idea of torture, since although I do not want it to be habit forming, but good bridge should have at least a certain ameliorating nature to it.

jim2June 13th, 2018 at 8:17 pm

TOCM ™ comes in many forms.

In fact, you were one of the greatest afflicted!

Remember when on the US team in the 1975 Bermuda Bowl when the Italians blundered into a club grand slam missing the K10 of trump, only to have Eddie Kantar turn up with both in front of the BOARD’s doubleton AQ ?

Per the accounts of the day, Belladonna clutched a hand to his heart when the Board’s trump holding came into view. Kantar claimed to have ransacked his cards looking for another club.

Meanwhile, you were innocently making a small slam in the other room, unaware that TOCM ™ had claimed you and the US Team.

BobliptonJune 13th, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Jim2, that is cruelty and nothing more.


jim2June 13th, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Boblipton –

Our Host and I have discussed that event before. If anything, he is a Charter Member of TOCM ™ , having “earned” that and more.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Hi Jim2 and others,

There is also two rest of the stories, the first one having to do with that infamous K10 of clubs sitting in front of the doubleton AQ in dummy. If, in fact, had Eddie falsecarded the king when Belladonna led toward dummy, many surmised and Giorgio later completely agreed that he would have played for his RHO to hold 10xxx, which would have required him ruffing himself down to the right number of trumps in order to be in dummy at trick 12 to complete the trump coup, which in turn would have allowed Eddie to early on overruff Belladonna preventing the making of that aberrant grand slam (he needed the trump queen for a future entry to dummy, although I forgot the entire layout (might check the hand from the 1975 Bermuda Bowl finals staged in January of 1975) in Bermuca (25th anniversary of the original BB first held in 1950.. Makes me think that I wish he had not found the 10 of clubs either, while looking for a 3rd one.

The other episode revolves itself from an earlier hand at that same tournament when playing in the semifinals against France (another close match) when the same Eddie Kantar almost miss defended an important contract (would have caused our loss) by switching to a tempting another suit. Up in our suite, immediately after comparing results to find we won, when he volunteered that if he had led the wrong thing he would have jumped out (pointing to) of the 15th story window of the Southhampton Princess Hotel, the site of the tournament. To which Bob Hamman casually replied, “Eddie, you wouldn’t have had to”.

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