Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 17th, 2018

I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning.


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

*Trump queen and club king


The second qualifying session of the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs from San Diego last fall threw up a challenge for the analysts. Debbie Rosenberg posed this problem: What is the optimal contract for North-South on best play and defense?

With the heart finesse working, you can make six no-trump by setting up a club or building a second spade trick, should the opponents lead that suit. But how about seven diamonds, reached after Blackwood and an ask for the trump queen?

The line of play you could follow in six diamonds as North on a trump lead (win the diamond king, cash the club ace and club queen, play a diamond to dummy, take a club ruff high, then draw trumps and eventually take the heart finesse) seems to work.

Ah, but what about an initial heart lead? Your late entry to the heart suit has now gone. But Deep Finesse (the analytical tool that looks at best play by all four hands) still obstinately insists that seven diamonds can be made. Back to the drawing board!

The solution is not intrinsically complex, but the choice of lines makes it hard to spot.

Win the heart jack, ruff a heart, then draw four rounds of trumps to reduce down to a seven-card ending. East is caught in a three-suit squeeze on the last trump. To reduce to fewer than three hearts and four clubs would immediately be fatal. But to retain those cards, East must pitch the spade king. Declarer can unblock clubs, cash the heart ace and king, then finesse in spades.

Of course this is too good for a pass, so it seems obvious to raise clubs here. But this hand is still too good for a simple raise to three clubs — you would make that call if the spade ace were the jack or queen. If you trust your partner, you should bid two spades, a call that shows values like this. You cannot have spades since you bypassed the suit at your first turn.


♠ A 10 5
 Q J 10 9
♣ K 10 9 7 5
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 NT 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


David WarheitDecember 1st, 2018 at 10:04 am

In 7D by S on a H lead, I would win, ruff a H, cross to CA, ruff another H, cash DQJ, cross to CQ and claim. Unfortunately, W discards a C on the third round of H and so ruffs my CQ. So I fail because W has doubleton H and doubleton C; what are the chances of that? The suggested line succeeds because E is triple squeezed since he not only has 5H and 4C, he also has CJ and a S honor; what are the chances of that? (Well, if he lacks CJ, then C run, and he must have at least one S honor, since otherwise W would have led SK at trick 1, but he could have SKQ). So, DOUBLE DUMMY the suggested line wins, but we were asked for the OPTIMAL line of play, so I stick with my line.

bobbywolffDecember 1st, 2018 at 11:59 am

Hi David,

What is the big idea of injecting declarer logic with his choice of play at a grand slam, no less.

Not to mention the lead of the 7 of hearts (declarer’s primary suit) right into the jaws of death, but only to test a player’s analytical acumen, when that lead serves the defense with its best beginning.

Obviously this beauty of a hand, 3 suit squeeze and all, will serve as an instructional hand in achieving the desired result, less than even a whisper of its realization, being any more that just that.

Kudos to you for conjuring up what appears to be the best percentage line, rather than a not so quick lesson in solving a double dummy problem which requires a lesser percentage line to achieve the contract.

Not to say that wrestling with the column line will not produce some positive thoughts about triple squeezes as such, but and no doubt, you win the rational award while others may glean a different fantasy victory, but nevertheless, and in its own way, perhaps somewhat instructional.

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