Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 27th, 2018

There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.

Frank Herbert

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


The Common Game in the U.S. allows for the same deals to be played all around the country. A good declarer was in the driver’s seat here, playing four spades after a typically aggressive auction, and if the defenders had simply led hearts, he would have needed to find the trump jack to make.

When West instead led the club queen, South could infer that trumps were likely to break, with the ace to his left. It was unclear whether he could afford to let East in early, so he led a spade to the king and a spade back to West’s jack.

At this point, West fell from grace: A heart switch would now leave (South him) with nowhere to go, but (West he) actually cashed the spade ace before exiting with a low heart. The defenders seemed sure to collect one trick in each red suit. It did not work out that way; after declarer took the heart king with his ace, he cashed one more trump and ran the clubs.

South had reduced to a four-card ending where dummy had two cards in each red suit, and he had three diamonds and a trump in hand. What four cards should West keep? If (West he) came down to one heart, (declarer he) could set up the heart nine by ruffing a heart in hand, while when (West he) actually came down to two cards in each red suit declarer took the diamond ace and ducked a diamond, and his last two cards in hand were high.

This position could perhaps be described as a ruffing squeeze, and it is certainly an elegant position.

After a negative double, you will sometimes (maybe often) be forced into a slightly ugly call. Here you have two disgusting choices: rebid a four-card club suit or bid no-trump with three small in the danger suit. Instead, why not bid one spade facing your partner’s known four-card suit? I suspect that this call shows three more often than four nowadays.


♠ K 8 6
 9 4 2
 A 6 3
♣ A J 6 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 Dbl. Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


PaulJanuary 10th, 2019 at 11:37 am

Perhaps west could still have saved the day after cashing spade ace by leading heart Queen .
On BWTA my question to the host is whether North should pass or double on something like Aqx xxx qxxx xxx and maybe even a j to be added in the pointed suits and thereby take the risk of playing a three three fit .

jim2January 10th, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Curious symmetry in the major suits.

West can avoid the squeeze by beginning hearts by leading the QH (Paul also noted that) from Q10xxx, but declarer can avoid the need for it by beginning trump by leading the QS from Q10.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Hi Paul,

Yes, and no doubt to me should have gotten out with the queen of hearts, but the end position with the defense, involving East keeping both hearts and the diamond jack (or not) is close to being too complicated not only to do but worse to explain. I prefer to just rest on the theme, “a ruffing squeeze”.

Regarding your poignant question about the necessities for a low level negative double, while I will advice to be relatively loose about those requirements, but understand that while doing so without holding 4 cards in the unbid major can (and will) cause a few 3-3 final fits with the declarer’s trump suit.

Of course by doing so if somehow the declarer can secure 5 tricks or more from trump (of the cross variety) then, of course he will likely not only make his low level contract, but, more importantly have a great story for his “hooked” bridge friends.

However, with the more likely going set result, it may offset the above joy and worse, get a “fish eye” from partner, likely referring to your bridge sanity.

However, with everything considered, it is probably best to ALWAYS, when you resort to using that tool, have at least 4 of the unbid major suit, except, of course, when you don’t.

Also I agree to beefing up the strength, at least slightly more than an extraneous jack, perhaps also a queen or more jacks before venturing any sort of bid, unless, and of course, one has a minor suit fit, four or more, to at least be able to return to that suit, while also hoping the bidding has not gotten too high when and if, that happens.

However, keeping one’s partner on edge might serve an advantage by getting his attention, to make up for a few wrong final contracts.

Iain ClimieJanuary 10th, 2019 at 5:38 pm

HI Bobby,

On the bidding problem, I opened 1D the other night with A6x 10x AK8xx 108x LHO bid 1H, pard doubled so I bid 1S. I found myself catapulted into 6S opposite QJ97x Ax Q AKQxx and LHO led a small club. This looked horribly like a singleton so my first reaction of playing DQ, S to Ace DA dumping heart off table then another spade seemed unwise – what if East had SKx although I’d probably have taken that chance on a heart lead. That club looked horribly like a singleton so I played DQ and ran the SQ. West had somehow found a low club lead from K KQJ9x J10xx xxx.

Instinct told me to play SA and then one, my attempt to get into (weak) LHO’s head misfired horribly. So much for thinking! Lack of a heart lead suggests West hasn’t got KQ (so probably has the SK) unless the club is singleton. Blunder or bad luck do you think?



Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

While, as usual, everything you say is true, except possibly some end positions arriving after the exit with the queen of hearts, involving one’s partner and his possible late hand assortment.

However, at least to me, when you did not declare that your head started hurting (and worse than normal) I then decided that your doctor feel good, had advised you to not delve into bridge as deeply as you usually do, just to keep from going daffy, a mental condition indigenous to bridge nuts who do an overtake with analysis.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2019 at 6:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Simply, the same thing I have always said to partner after he has lost one or more tricks he could have avoided losing by some other even very difficult line of play.

When have you learned to play this game, certainly not earlier than today, but what time today and when so doing did you check your IQ at the door or perhaps you never had one to begin with.

Other than that, nothing critical just hard luck, but I trust you have another immediately available partner waiting in the wings since without which you would undoubtedly hold the record for shortest held partnerships in bridge tied with yourself, likely on many different occasions.

And, BTW you owe me for my tournament entry (assuming it was not a rubber bridge game) since everyone would be sure instead of only suspecting that I had lost my mind by agreeing to partner you.

However I would then resort to my usual cordial self as I left the table and out the door.

Other than the above and after careful reflection I might have second thoughts about my one way slightly critical soliloquy and return to the table with the intention of saying something really ugly to him, only resisting if he was only barely able or inclined to possibly throw a punch.

Other than the above, I think you deserved a better fate for your effort, but from the view, and while holding the king of spades (to which his hand on the bidding should hold) he would, (should) not expect partner to have an entry so when leading a singleton off suit is more likely to unnecessarily unveil that suit’s distribution to a wily declarer.

The above is just another episode in my never ending attempt to make my bridge partners feel better about themselves.

Iain ClimieJanuary 10th, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that, although I must say I’m overcalling 1H NV with (say) 10xxx KQJ9x J0xx x after 1D. These things always seem to happen when I have a long hard think about the hand and very rarely when I play by feel. There’s a lesson there!

Don’t worry, though, partners rarely annoy me despite (or because of?) my time in the gym or pool.



Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2019 at 11:36 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt I would also overcall 1 heart with the hand you cited rendering my above opinion a total loser.

However your 2nd paragraph about gyms and pools, if it didn’t already, confirms my January fool of an answer. And besides it takes great talent, not to mention extraordinary modesty, to relate such a tale of woe.

In any event I also prefer “feel” to percentages and by a substantial margin, allowing my intended humorous post to attack a major bridge lover, consistent winner and wondrous contributor in so many ways, who has the moxie to call spades trump, supply a likely overall layout, and then have the courage to back his judgment, when declaring it.