Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

No need that sort of king should ever die.

Robert Browning

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


Today’s deal offers an interesting declarer-play problem both for North and South. Let’s look at four hearts on the bidding shown, with South in the hot seat.

Game is easy to reach and appears to be a good contract. It gets worse, though, when West leads the club queen and the defense takes three tricks in that suit. As declarer, you should refrain from contributing the club king on either the first or second round of the suit from dummy since East (unless West is a very calculating customer) has the ace — but it might be singleton or doubleton. When East wins the third club, he will probably play the diamond king, taken by the ace.

One chance is that the spades will split 33, but there is also a squeeze chance. The only trick you are worrying about is the last, so lead out all the trumps. Lo and behold, East cannot keep the diamond queen and his spades!

This is the simplest of squeezes, but now imagine you are declaring four hearts from North on a top diamond lead, perhaps after an optimistic two-no-trump opener and a transfer sequence. Instead of relying on a squeeze here, you simply draw trumps and play four rounds of spades. If the suit breaks, you pitch your diamond from dummy. If it does not, you ruff the fourth spade and exit with the diamond jack to East, who must break clubs for you or give you a ruff-sluff. Either way, you are home safe with 10 tricks.

Your partner has suggested limited values and heart tolerance. Your fifth heart strongly suggests competing to two hearts to make it harder for the opponents to get together. The Law of Total Tricks makes it clear you have an eight-card fit, so you must contract for at least eight tricks rather than sell out.


♠ Q 7 5
 K Q 10 5 2
 J 4
♣ 8 7 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 ♣ 1
1 Pass Pass Dbl.

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
At he first table , perhaps west can get wise after two clubs and shift to a diamond breaking the impending squeeze

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 12:06 pm


Good try but the trouble is that declarer takes the DA and runs off 5 rounds of hearts throwing the D6 on the last one. What does East come down to? He can let 2 diamonds go, but not the 3rd one, or the CA or a spade!



A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Hi lain
Well- east gets triple sqùeezed while I am making efforts to enjoy eating my crow

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 12:32 pm


On the last heart East can still hold the contract to 10 by letting go a spade or a diamond; in the latter case the DJ squeezes North first, in the former South can run 4 spades but then has to lose a club. If East dumps the CA, though, then the CK squeezes him again. All good fun, albeit not for East.


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Hi lain
The triple squeeze on east is progessive an nets ten tricks for south. Interestingly , if dummy holds diiamond J , the squeeze fails but the declarer at second table would have prevailed nevertheless. It only proves what a tricky , fascinating and sometimes cruel game Bridge is

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 12:55 pm

I’ll go with that cruel bit after last night. I could probably have hogged 6C but let partner play 6N with AQ9xx Kxx AJx Jx opposite my xx None KQxx AK1098xx. Against 6C, it would be very tempting for the hand on lead to bash down the HA. In 6N it went heart Q to the Ace, heart back and partner had a club guess which he got wrong (ehy were 2-2, 1x offside). Minus 5, with the spade finesse working anyway. Ow!


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Hi lain
We need to undergo the ordained fate

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 2:53 pm


Or partner succumbed to TOCM (TM) too…!


bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 4:14 pm


Since I was born and raised in Texas, before in my later years leaving for Nevada, the state motto became “Don’t mess with Texas” (however I think that thought was originally meant, not to leave a littering mess on the highways like napkins after your crow dinner). However, the same in bridge when Iain is listening.

And when you speak of cruel, how about East feeling like King Kong while holding the ace of clubs over the king, KQ of diamonds over the ace and the spades stopped, all while getting the desired lead of partner’s queen of clubs, only to succumb to a squeeze.

It would be OK if romance was in the air, but in bridge, one would prefer to be the squeezor rather than the squeezee.

Yes, and I hope Jim2 is listening, it could get worse (more cruel) only if East also had the singleton king of hearts (trumps) behind the ace, but because of East’s opening bid, a wide awake declarer, picked it off since his bid had given its location away.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Hi Iain,

When your partner finished going down 5 in 6NT you could have consoled him by saying, don’t be so sad, I probably would have finessed the club also, thus making only our 6 club contract, but no overtrick.

That’s what considerate partner’s do, but usually only after the medics have loaded him in the ambulance for his bashed in face.

Then 10 years or so, after you have sort of, gotten over that hand, you could suggest that TOCM TM has changed its spelling to simply, GREED TM!

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

Instinct said punt 6C (after 1S – 2C – 2N = 15-19 forcing 3D 3N but I bid 4C when, if he bids 4D, I” just bid 6C). Over 4C pard bashed 6N to protect his HK, not totally unreasonable but ….

That’ll teach me! I’m on a horrendous run at the moment, so may take Jeremy Flint’s advice from “Tiger bridge” – have a break, do something totally different; he even suggested taking the wife / girlfriend / mistress out for dinner as if it were the absolute last resort.



bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 4:49 pm


And in response to your very kind remark about accepting ordained fate, I prefer General Patton’s philosophy, “Let the other guy give his life for his country”.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Only if its agreed before hand to flip a coin as to “who is paying” and that is only the next to last resort.

Notice that with your example, I may have a 75% chance to win, that is, if all four agree to go or did you carelessly mean either or.

The last one is the obvious, “my recent bad bridge luck is demanding of an expense free evening”.

Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

Could get tricky although I suppose that is one way of getting four for bridge IF you have that number of intimate female friends; I suspect that it may not be a very safe one. Something about hell, fury and scorned women (or those who’ve just found out about each other) may make provoking Myrtle Bennett look safe.


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
Wrt your responsecto lain ( comment no 10) , I recall what Shienwold mentions in one of the hands( read may be a zillion years ago hence may not be verbatim) : South goes one down in a cold contract but his partner consoles him — Don’t bother partner, I know someone in Singapore who could have gone down two on this hand
Yes Bridge can be also humorous ( to opponents-on General Patton’s lines)

A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 19th, 2019 at 5:37 pm

I had been typing on my mobile so please bear with me regarding ” Regards” in above post

jim2March 19th, 2019 at 9:28 pm


bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 11:09 pm

In the morning at dawning ain’t we got fun.
in between times and the mean times……..Jim2, Since I am all out, I need to borrow one of those smileys from you.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2019 at 11:13 pm


Why is it that when someone loses a trick, other times five or more (like here), nothing seems funny?

ClarksburgMarch 20th, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Good morning Bobby.
Here’s a hopefully interesting hand from a recent Club game.
Matchpoints, both VUL, Dealer West
West KJ543 K109 void AKJ76
North Q72 J32 A32 Q1083
East A6 87654 J97 542
South 1098 AQ KQ108654 9
At our Table, I was West and the auction was :
1S P 1NT(forcing) 2D X 3D P P 4D P 4S passed out.
My initial Double was intended to keep both Hearts and Clubs in play as possible trump suits,, and my 4D cue bid was to confirm big hand and an attempt to coax Partner to choose where to play.
As you will readily see, Hearts is our best strain and can make four.
In our Club game, no EW Pair found Hearts and all played in Spades going for big sets.
A few questions about the auction:
Is the East hand worth the 1NT call?
South’s VUL 2D overcall seems the best call? Is that correct?
Does my attempt to bid the West hand make sense? If not, then what?
There are also some interesting play issues at Hearts, and to at least make the best of the poor Spade contracts.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Curious as to why your partner didn’t bid 4H, I must say. I might have bid more than 3D with the South hand on the first round, though, while it is tempting for East just to pass 1S, although 1N could keep them out of something if you were (much) weaker. Over 2D, I might bid 3C and then (if / when 3D is passed back to me) double although I can understand 4D when partner has dredged up 1N.

Bobby’s views will be more trustworthy, though.



Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Sorry, 3D or more rather than 2D

bobbywolffMarch 20th, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Hi All,

I do think, after West opens 1 spade that both North and East should pass followed by two or three diamonds by South. Over 2 diamonds with 5-3-0-5 I would rebid 3 clubs instead of double but if South reopens with 3 diamonds I might still rebid 4 clubs, but while that is dangerous, double, encouraging hearts really needs to have four of them with the limited amount of high cards contained.

Four hearts, as a contract, happens to be one of the luckiest makes imaginable with the spots being three, deuce in the North hand preventing a promotion for the setting trick, along with spades splitting evenly. Because of the likely down several, doubled in a normal 4 hearts, I think West should only bid his black suits, not encourage hearts to be bid unless East just decides to bid them on his own (which I would not).

EW will only be able to make 8 tricks in diamonds, losing 3 spades, 1 club and 1 heart although after the lead of the king of clubs West may be end played into having to concede 9 tricks to them.

All in all an unbelievably lucky hand (on both offense and defense for EW) but next time with those same cards but slightly different defense distributions instead of 10 tricks in hearts it could well be only 7 or 8.

ClarksburgMarch 20th, 2019 at 5:42 pm

Thanks Bobby and Iain
Seems then that with the HCPs split 20/20, and sound bidding by both sides , the key issue is whether the competition gets to 3D by South, or 4C by West; and if it does, the prize goes to Defenders who find a Penalty Double and defend well. Is that about it?
Another question: suppose East had held invitational strength with the five Hearts. Playing common simple 2/1 how can that be shown? Jump to 3H ?

bobbywolffMarch 21st, 2019 at 10:51 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No one should confuse bridge, even the game played by the world’s best, to be synonymous with anything approaching total consistency.

While both declarer play and partnership defense may often achieve various percentage ratings, but working out (I should say guessing) what those are, require more time than is allowed, not to mention the degree of difficulty, in doing so.

Therefore when then to add bidding to the calibration, one needs to think art and innate talent (from bridge smarts and experience) since bids which work against certain opponents sometimes should be last choice against others.

But before a former bridge purist is suddenly awakened from his dream of perfection, the elements are so mixed in bridge that nature could get up and say to all the world, “Contract Bridge Is The Noblest Game of All”.

With all due apologies to William Shakespeare.