Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 3rd, 2018

People under pressure don’t work better; they just work faster.

Tom DeMarco

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


When South plays six no-trump, West leads the heart queen. East discards a spade, and you win with the king. You have 11 top tricks and will need either 3-3 spades or some form of pressure; you need either a squeeze in hearts and a second suit against West or, more likely, a spade-diamond squeeze against East.

First, cash the clubs, discarding a diamond from the board. When both defenders follow to three clubs, West has revealed 10 cards in hearts and clubs, so no squeeze will be possible on him. You must therefore hope that East holds the sole guard in both spades and diamonds. You need to maximize the amount of pressure you can bring to bear on East. How may this be done?

The answer is to play the spade ace and king, West pitching a heart, then lead the heart seven and duck West’s eight. By surrendering a trick now, you will extract one more card from the East hand.

West can do no better than return a heart, but this has the effect of squeezing East, since after nine tricks have been played in hearts, clubs and spades, dummy is down to two diamonds and the doubleton spade queen, while you have three diamonds and a spade in hand. East can see he must keep spades, so he will pitch a diamond, and you can take the spade queen then cash all three of your diamonds for 12 tricks.

By surrendering the trick you have to lose, you extract a spare card from the defenders, which makes it much easier to execute a possible squeeze.

You are torn between your desire to get out of hearts and your lack of values, suggesting that you should not encourage your partner to go any higher. With a minor club honor, I might risk two no-trump; as it is, I think passing is the safer approach.


♠ J 10 8 5 3
 Q 10 9 7 5
♣ 9 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2 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


Jeff SAugust 17th, 2018 at 1:45 pm

All right, I acknowledge that it is early here on the west coast and I am still tired, but isn’t the point that by ducking a heart, we are able to play a third round of hearts and force an extra discard from East? (I also acknowledge that I didn’t see that elegant solution until I read the text).

So I am probably missing something obvious, but why is it necessary to play the spade AK before ducking the heart?


jim2August 17th, 2018 at 2:33 pm

First of all, I am not Our Host.

I believe you are right in that declarer expects to squeeze East the moment East discards on the opening heart lead.

Next, though, declarer needs to do some basic hand counting, which involved clearing clubs. (Note that if clubs turned out to be 5-2, declarer might defer the fourth round for a bit). Once clubs are cleared, West is known to have three diamonds+spades. So, declarer plays spades in case all of West’s three cards are spades and the suit is 3-3, giving the 12th trick simply, or are all diamonds (see bottom). Then,

At this point, declarer can concede a heart knowing the squeeze will be there at then end, just as you said. The text ending is probably easier to describe and visualize. However, methinks once West follows to three clubs and one spade (hence does not not have three diamonds), an all-expert table would move on to the next deal as declarer would say something like:

“If spades are not 3-3, I’ll duck a heart and squeeze East in the pointed suits.”

The hand is not makeable on best defense if West was 0-7-3-3. This is why the text was worded, “hope that East holds the sole guard in both spades and diamonds.”

If that is the case, then after the black suits are played, the N-S hands would be:



In this one case, West will have left three hearts and three diamonds, while East has two spades and three diamonds, so there is no squeeze.

This is why the text was careful to call out that the next step after clubs was to play spades – to confirm this was not the holding, which means declarer can relax once West follows once, hence limiting West to at most 2 diamonds.

(BTW, note that declarer needed to win the first heart in hand)

BobliptonAugust 17th, 2018 at 3:30 pm

I would have played this in a different order. Having won the first trick, I would have cashed the Spade Ace and King, since if both defenders followed to to rounds, it’s a claim. West failing on the second (presumably throwing a heart) I would play two rounds of clubs. When both follow, I would finish the clubs, throwing a diamond from the board. Now I would have a full count and know I had the Spade-Diamond squeeze on East. I would duck a heart, win the return and, if necessary, play the last Heart, squeezing East.

As the cards lie, all roads lead to the squeeze.


bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Hi Jeff S and of course, Jim2,

And in response to first Jim2 declaring “I am not not our host”, I only wish I could be as accurate and inclusive by construction in what could be described as a “classic simple squeeze”.

While I will not even attempt to change a single word, I could only add a tiny identifier by calling the ducking of a heart before the execution of the squeeze “rectifying the count” (RTC), (BTW it is not necessary to cash the AK of spades early, but also, by doing so, it is like chicken soup, it can’t hurt and it may give the declarer a psychological advantage for the next hand (and, or the match) by causing astute defenders to harbor the false hope of perhaps declarer will forget to duck a heart which becomes critical to succeed.

RTC is an integral part of any squeeze process which demands losing all tricks necessary to pare down the remaining cards to the bare bones attempt of gaining only the one trick to be gained, in order to create the necessary timing to effect the squeeze.

Hopefully the above (Jim2’s, at least close to perfect description) will enable you to either totally understand the underpinnings of squeeze play or at least set in motion the necessary elements in effecting it.

The only positive I can suggest is that it is not as complicated as some may think and quite like learning to ride a bicycle, “once learned, never forgotten”.

Clyde Love wrote a long ago but excellent, easily understood but to the point book, on an easy way to both learn, execute and remember, how to.

Finally, much sincere thanks to Jim2 for taking the time to create a very worthwhile accurate treatise on squeeze play while using the column hand as the prime example.

Jeff SAugust 17th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Thank you all so much for the instructive replies. Squeezes are hard for me – when I successfully execute one I always feel like I fell down a flight of stairs and somehow landed on my feet so the help is appreciated.

A V Ramana RaoAugust 17th, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff and all the bloggers
Saw the hand belatedly. When east shows out on first heart, why not simply duck it rectifying the count for an eventual squeeze on east. And when south wins the return and west follows to three clubs, south can claim

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, both you and Jim2 exhibit impatience in finding out whether the squeeze is going to be either a slam dunk or possibly, instead having to depend on a 3-3 spade break or lastly, an unlikely defensive gaffe.

Kind of like eating a succulent steak, whether to eat the tenderloin first or rather save it to the end. Matter for a psychologist to determine why.

If the subject goes to whether to be able to claim on a squeeze, yes that may be an upper for some, but likely to wind up at the very least, for one or both of your opponents to glare at you as if you are trying to bluff your way (usually, at least to him or them,) by intimidation) to a good result.

I prefer to spare the horses (not that there is a right or wrong way to do it).

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2018 at 5:13 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Do not feel alone. Possibly the over and under number for years to take before squeezes become 2nd nature (if they ever do) perhaps we can start with 30 years and probably go higher as the bets are placed.

The good news in your case, is that broken bones are rarely the result of your fantasy, only a bit of embarrassment and I hope often, not even that.

However, you may have to wait another 20 years or so.

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2018 at 5:22 pm


Yes, your suggestion may win the beauty contest or get the most style points, but, at the same time, make the opponents suffer more.

Reason being, soon enough they will have to reconcile a very bad board and after listening to the claim, not understanding why, (at that time) but politely acquiescing, then, almost immediately, have to feel bad on three counts.

Of course, if you are playing against jerks, by all means, since Stephen Potter, the author of Gamesmanship and Oneupmanship, will be smiling and very proud.

jim2August 17th, 2018 at 6:50 pm


It is unlikely (but still possible) that West began with 4-7-1-1 or 4-7-0-2 or 4-7-2-0 (and a few others such as 5-7-0-1).

In any of those 3 cases, declarer could duck a minor suit loser to East and then squeeze West in the majors.

That option would be lost if declarer conceded a heart on the opening lead before learning the hand layout.

I think declarer could still get home with a minor suit squeeze of East, though. (The 2-card ending would be North on lead with a club and a diamond, facing South with Hx of clubs.)

Also, if spades are 3-3, I think 13 tricks are there on a squeeze like the one above on East.

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2018 at 9:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

No one, especially I, can argue with your perfection, especially if the right word is being used to indicate that your suggestions cannot be improved upon.

What I worry about, and during my long career are those who are almost obsessed with playing the hand as perfectly as possible.

Reason being is quite simple. That process may detract from other thought processes, such as location of key cards, tempo problems not beneficial to this specific player, irritating slowness while playing with a relatively impatient partner and even the time delay together with wandering concentration being more likely to cause silly errors than it gains by being 100% on target rather than 99.44% pure thought to be true with Ivory soap advertised in a long ago radio commercial.

I, nor anyone else, could present anything really against the thought of being perfect, that is, unless by doing so, collateral damage a new concept for a change, may waltz into the room.

The person himself or herself, must of course, make that decision, but and above all ,it is a necessary choice to make, even if one respects the upside of the definition of perfection.