Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Don’t ever become a pessimist … a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.

Robert Heinlein

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

*Promising a king


Against six spades, a trump lead would work best to disrupt dummy’s late entries, and I suppose you can make a good case for it if you consider how weak partner’s hand is likely to be. But few of us would look too far beyond the heart sequence, so South should plan the play after winning with his heart ace at the first trick.

A poor player would pitch his diamond on the heart winner and would end up with two club losers. Meanwhile, an optimist would put all his faith in a diamond break or the convenient fall of a diamond honor. He would cross to dummy to take the diamond finesse and go down.

But the expert will rely on the diamonds breaking no worse than 4-2 — in which case he really doesn’t need any help with the fall of an honor, thanks to dummy’s trump entries.

At trick two, he plays the diamond ace, then the queen. As the cards lie, West must win and can do no better than lead a trump. Declarer wins with dummy’s spade six, underplaying it with his own three, then ruffs a diamond with the spade ace. He leads the spade seven to dummy’s eight, ruffs a diamond with the trump king, and can finally lead the spade nine to the 10. The club losers disappear on the heart king and the good diamond.

Incidentally, after a trump lead, declarer could technically succeed by winning in dummy and running the club jack, covered all around. Then he takes all his hearts and trumps to catch West in a club-diamond squeeze at the end.

I cannot guarantee that your side can make game here. But the combination of your singleton spade and weak hearts facing likely shortage (partner did not make a support double) means that your values appear to be working well and your spade shortage will surely prove useful. I would jump to three spades as a splinter agreeing clubs.


♠ 5
 J 10 9 7 4
 K J 6 3
♣ K Q 5
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 1 ♠ 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


Bruce KarlsonDecember 5th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Suspect I would lead the club K knowing partner has nothing. The Diamond K looks good given the auction as a later entry. That seems to scuttle declarers options. What am I missing?/

Bruce KarlsonDecember 5th, 2018 at 12:22 pm


A V Ramana RaoDecember 5th, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Regarding last para: perhaps there is no squeeze as after winning club, West returns a heart and there is no transport too dummy. In the four card position ( after seven spades , one heart and one club) South is stuck in hand with A Q of diamonds and A 10 of clubs and whichever card south plays, West will.make one more trick. ( And if South reaches dummy after winning heart and tries to cash heart K , South hand gets squeezed as West can discard the same minor which South discarded on heart K)

Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Hi Bruce,

Declarer takes CA and can dump his DQ on the HK after unblocking HA and crossing in trumps. He then just lose as a club. I still sympathise with the lead, though – there is surely room for partner to have CJ and it will undoubtedly apply pressure on declarer if that is the case. There is a BOLS bridge tip (from one of the Blue Team, I believe) that small slams need to be attacked (unless the auction has gone 1N 4N 6N or similar) as declarer will often have tricks to burn. This particularly applies after auctions like (say) 1S 3H 3S 4N 5D 6S if (say) the opening leader has xxx Qxx KJxx 109x. That H holding suggests the suit will run so a diamond lead I surely the best chance of beating it.

Hi Bobby,

The flip side of optimists is that they say things like “If we clutch at enough straws we can build a raft.” So we did, and clambered aboard; it sank.



bobbywolffDecember 5th, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yes, you are missing what declarer, after the king of clubs lead will do—-merely throw the losing diamond away and later lead up to the jack of clubs.

Reminds me of the old joke about the fighter who shouts to all who will listen, how he will pummel his opponent with left jabs, right crosses, and later a KO punch, but does not allow for what his worthy opponent will be doing to him at the same time, at least with the clever lead of a trump.

No doubt, at least IMO, the most easily overlooked development of key tricks is with eventually suit establishment by the declarer, and, of course, so it is with today’s hand.

bobbywolffDecember 5th, 2018 at 4:37 pm


We need to do some supposing in order to effect a squeeze. Win the trump lead and lead the jack of clubs from dummy. Therein, assuming the club honors are split (following the percentage) East will need to cover in order to prevent another eventual winning club finesses (after, of course, throwing away the losing diamond).

Then after the cover winning in hand drawing both trump after cashing the ace of hearts while throwing away a club on the king of hearts and then squeeze and end playing West with whatever minor suit holding he keeps.

Somewhat dramatic but doable! That 10 of diamonds in dummy becomes necessary as is, of course, the jack of diamonds also being in the hand (West) who became strip squeezed.

“Aren’t we devils” the trademark comment by Ralph Edwards, who used to MC “Truth or Consequences” on radio.

A V Ramana RaoDecember 5th, 2018 at 4:59 pm

I was addressing the actual layout. But on a trump lead , only hope is that club honours are split and win in dummy and lead J of clubs and hope West holds remaining honour cards in diamonds

Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Hasn’t TOCM just got you on a trump lead if you run the CJ? It works when West has at most one club honour (75%) and the DK but today, his club holding avoids the strip squeeze as he gets in early and still has a safe heart exit. Declarer can’t take an early discard on the HK as West will later be able to discard safely or get back to it later if he runs all the trumps. Am I missing something here?

I quite agree with the 84% line you propose on a non-trump lead but wonder if a trump lead means declarer should try the D finesse plus the chance of the J dropping. Seems better than 75% * 50% for the strip squeeze although the latter is much, much more elegant.



jim2December 5th, 2018 at 6:13 pm

My work is done here.


bobbywolffDecember 5th, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt and for a change your work was done, since lo and behold you didn’t have to correct.

However, your presence, because of TOCM TM, has caused another name for a classic end of hand adventure: Instead of executing an end play you wind up getting played in the end.

bobbywolffDecember 5th, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Hi Iain,

You wind up getting rafted and crafted, but still elegant for being relevant.