Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 30th, 2019

Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil.

John Milton

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


Success in today’s slam appeared to depend on a two-way finesse, but that turned out not to be so.

South had too much for a direct four-heart opening, which might be made with eight good hearts and little else. He therefore started with one heart and rebid four at his next turn. Under pressure, North, with his two aces and couple of heart entries, punted slam. He thought South probably had diamond shortness after his opponents’ vigorous bidding.

After winning his diamond ace, South immediately started on spades, hoping to get a count of the distribution and isolate the spade guard in one hand. He played a spade to the ace, ruffed a spade and forced out the heart ace. He then ruffed the diamond return, played a trump to dummy and ruffed another spade, leaving West with the only spade stopper.

On the run of the trumps, West could spare a diamond and a club, but he eventually had to release his club guard. Declarer did not have a surefire read of the hand, but since East had five major-suit cards and presumably six diamonds, that left him with just two clubs. If so, clubs were now 2-2, and declarer could cash out the suit from the top and fell the queen.

As South had surmised, the show-up squeeze had worked, and the club jack supplied declarer’s slam-going trick. (The squeeze is so named because if East had the doubleton club queen, it would show up, whereas if West has the critical card, he is forced to unguard it).

Partner might have redoubled to show something in hearts, such as king-doubleton. A heart lead might give declarer his ninth trick, so perhaps you should try to put your partner in to fire a heart through declarer’s king. For that purpose, a spade seems best. But a low heart lead is close behind, since that might work whenever partner has an entry and a doubleton heart.


♠ K 4 3
 A Q 9 7 4 2
 6 4
♣ 5 3
South West North East
      1 ♣
2 Dbl. Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 13th, 2020 at 4:57 pm

There is an easy to overlook timing point in the text.

Declarer must take the first spade ruff BEFORE leading trump. Otherwise, the defense could return a second trump (instead of a diamond) and use one of the Dummy entries prematurely. (Before a spade ruff could be taken with that entry)

Bobby WolffJanuary 13th, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, and when declarer sees fit to do that, such as this hand, it almost always signifies an intent for either an eventual throw-in or, as is here, when missing the ace of trump or another quick entry for the defense, not then a throw-in, but rather either an attempt to count the defensive hands for greater clarity. or execute a potential simple squeeze against the one defender who may be the only one unable to hold two keys cards at the death.

Finally, the only other apparent reason, establishing an eventual winning trick for the contract by the necessary expedient of maximizing his entries, is usually not defensible unless the defender or both can sometimes combine to throw him off the winning path by a well-timed false card to which the declarer decides to go wrongly, all in.

It would then only help with that legal deception for East, if holding xxxxx in a suit to not discard one early if given a chance, further possibly convincing that worthy declarer of one’s possession of an honor. ” Oh, what a web we weave when first we practice to deceive” is not only legal, it is highly recommended while playing or defending in bridge, particularly when cooperating on defense with an equally devious defender.

An example being, while holding: KQJ as West and not leading that suit as the opening leader, then following vs. A109x in dummy opposite declarer’s singleton (East holding xxxxxx instead of possibly Qxxxxx or Kxxxxx) with first the jack, then the king, hoping the declarer will fall for that ruse and let the 10 ride, thinking you would have led the king originally from KQJx or only the KQJ.

Bobby WolffJanuary 13th, 2020 at 8:02 pm

Hi again everyone,

And should there be doubts to the devilish nature of the defense combining to lead even a very good declarer astray, I would counter that fear by saying the closest analogy I can think of to explain their actions is to compare it with the most brilliant generals during warfare of misleading their lethal adversaries as to their best interests. Legal?, yes, ethical? Most Definitely!

Jeff SJanuary 13th, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Hi Everyone,

I am hoping someone can go into the (very recent) past to help me out here.

Sometime, I am thinking in the last couple of months, Bobby gave a brief overview of some of his preferred conventions. It featured four-card majors which I like and a strong NT and a few other features. I wanted to look at it more closely, but was too busy and foolishly believing I would be back to it in a day or two, I didn’t note the date.

Does anyone remember when exactly that was?


Joe1January 14th, 2020 at 1:58 am

I too was interested. It was Dec 11/Dec 25th column-a nice Christmas present. Not too many 4 card major players around here. I learned strong no trump originally, but have learned flexibility. Most systems can be effective, with a little effort, I suppose. I will not try to implement Precision though. Thanks to this column and our host’s expertise and humor for raising my game, as well as to our regular commentators, who remind me that I have a lot to learn, but can have fun while doing it.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2020 at 5:06 am

Hi Jeff S & Joe1,

Sincerely appreciate both your enthusiasm and kind words.

While 4 card majors, played correctly, especially in concert with a strong club, are far and away my favorite winning partnership system, either or both of you will have trouble with converting to 4 card majors the way I think you need to play them.

However, for all other aspects of what I am suggesting, it should not be difficult to develop the winning discipline and togetherness necessary in order to advance rapidly toward whatever goals you two individually possess, as long as your partner of choice is ready to forge ahead.

With that as a backdrop, when either of you becomes ready to ask questions I’ll be pleased to answer, complete with annotations.

However, and for your success, please choose someone who has the same enthusiastic approach as both of you appear to have.

For starters, I will suggest you get started on your own and then carefully write down hands to which problems may arise. I’ll be available whenever you post, allowing our other posters to add their wisdom, when and if, it becomes necessary.

Good luck and keep in mind, set your own pace, which will allow all of us not to worry if time interferes with progress. It is a long range hope which, if we are lucky, to not only help the principals, but also to others who keep informed.

Jeff SJanuary 14th, 2020 at 2:50 pm

Thanks Joe! And, always, a sincere thanks to our host for his generosity with his time and wisdom. I hope everyone realizes how absolutely rare it is to have someone at the top of his field – ANY field – be willing to engage with anyone and everyone. Always a huge appreciation to Bobby.