Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 29th, 2018

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on steppingstones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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

*Weak, 0-5 high-card points


The elegantly named steppingstone squeeze makes an appearance in today’s deal. South refused to stop short of six spades, and West led the diamond 10 against the slam.

Declarer won with the ace, drew trumps in four rounds and tested the clubs, West showing out on the second round. All would have been well had diamonds been 3-3, since declarer could have overtaken on the third round. But if West held four diamonds alongside the heart ace, South realized that he might come under pressure on the last trump.

If West threw a diamond, declarer would be able to overtake his jack with the queen, scoring his 12th trick with dummy’s fourth diamond.

If, instead, West threw the heart queen, declarer would cash his remaining top diamond and throw West on lead with a heart to the ace, to force him to lead to dummy’s diamond queen. West’s only other option would be to pitch the heart ace. This would beat the contract if East held the heart king, but as the cards lay it would allow South to score his heart king.

Oddly enough, if East had held four diamonds and four clubs, declarer could have caught him in the stepping-stone squeeze instead! The fifth round of trumps would have forced him to throw his last heart, retaining four diamonds and his club guard. South could then have cashed the diamond K-J and thrown East in with the fourth round of clubs to give dummy the diamond queen. Yes, in that instance, a simple minor-suit squeeze would work as well.

Normally one responds in a major when partner opens a minor, but with a hand this weak, the last thing you want to do is to encourage your partner to soar to the stratosphere. So respond one diamond to try to slow partner down; he should be less likely to jump in support of a minor than a major. This same argument might work no matter what the level of the opening club bid.


♠ 5 2
 7 6 5 2
 Q 7 6 4
♣ 6 4 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieOctober 13th, 2018 at 11:45 am

Hi Bobby,

Should west consider leading the HA on the basis that South surely doesn’t have HKx here opposite a very weak partner. If he does, then he mustn’t play another heart at T2 or he is squashed flat in the red suits by 5 spades and 3 clubs. Instead he has to play a diamond (or a club as the cards lie) and leave East(!) to guard the hearts while he clutches tight to his diamond length.



bobbywolffOctober 13th, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Who is to say that your comment about leading the ace of hearts is not right-on? However and also to be considered is that South is possibly (even perhaps likely), to perhaps be void in hearts with dummy holding the king as its only value with some abstruse entry (10 of spades or whatever)) to reach it.

The fun or, if you will, possibly described as player’s luck, which, although random, does, without doubt, add a distinct feature to which chess, for example, doesn’t include.

In no way am I following by saying, advantage bridge, since for testing skill, the less luck involved usually the better, but for thrills and interest, a feature, which fits many competitors taste for both variety and excitement, not to mention allowing lesser talented players, some chance for success, rather than fly to no luck. Therefore so little reason to keep butting one’s head against a stone wall with absolutely never being able to celebrate a victory.

The process of learning our great game is worthwhile enough, if only for learning life’s logic, often concerning dogs who sometimes bark, but, and for a reason to be surmised, sometimes do not.

Proceeding further, perhaps the “blind” opening lead, rather than the dummy being exposed first, was designed in contract bridge for just this reason. No doubt, and at the very top levels, no one can possibly be added to that short list, who is not an extremely talented performer. In his or her determination and most importantly, valued experience, making that difficult choice a sometimes, but not always, somewhat random choice.

Iain, thanks always for introducing your keen visualization of our game in general and then opening that key subject for discussion.

Without you, and, of course, other cherished regulars on this site, our combined learning experiences with back and forth, to be considered views, would at least IMO, markedly detract.