Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 22nd, 2017

There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement.

E.B. White

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


One of the partnerships that dominated the pairs scene in the U.S. for over a decade was David Berkowitz and Larry Cohen. On this hand from the early rounds of the Spingold, David Berkowitz as West had to work out what his partner was showing, and then try to decide where to go from there. If you cover up the East and South hands, you can put yourself in his seat.

When Berkowitz led a top diamond against four hearts, his partner’s diamond five was encouraging (consistent with a doubleton or the queen). Giving his partner a ruff was one possible defense — but on the auction declarer was far more likely to have only two diamonds than three. If his partner had three diamonds to the queen, Berkowitz could see three tricks for the defense, but the danger of a minor-suit squeeze loomed large.

Imagine that you cash the ace and lead another diamond; declarer ruffs, draws trumps and pitches his club loser on the diamond jack. But if you exit passively in trumps at trick two, declarer will be able to draw trumps, give up a diamond, then squeeze you between the fourth round of diamonds and the club king. So what would you have done?

There was only one way to beat the hand, and Berkowitz found it. He led a low diamond at trick two to his partner’s queen. Cohen accurately returned a third diamond, and Berkowitz led a fourth diamond when in with the spade ace, to kill the squeeze.

When the opponents have bid and raised a suit, almost all initial doubles are for takeout; this sequence is no exception. Bid three clubs and let your partner take it from there. If he has game-going values, he can act again and let you head for no-trump.


♠ A 7 2
 5 3
 A K 7 3
♣ K 8 6 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Dbl. 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 5th, 2018 at 10:57 am

After S bids 2S, if N wants to overbid, it seems to me he should try 3N, which as the cards lie cannot be defeated even by Mr. Berkowitz. By the way, note the enormous power of the 3 tens held by NS. What do you think N should have done?

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Hi David,

Despite your right on analysis, complete with not only the “enormous power” you rightfully assign to the three often underrated tens, held collectively by NS, but also their specific placements, especially the black ones, in which hand they are held, it might take voodoo or such to divan out a logical path to 3NT.

In reality, at least according to Goren, there are only 22 hcps between NS as well as only one five card suit with the declaring side therein not boding well for attempting 3NT, but no gain in not even suggesting a possible winning sequence to a making game.

South should IMO, reopen with a simple 1 heart (after North is just too light to initially enter the bidding at his first opportunity).
Then a 2 diamond cue bid, suggesting a maximum pass and at least a semi-fit for partner’s suit by North. Since South should positively view his 4-5-2-2 distribution while holding both major suits and (what turns out to be) the 10 of spades to go with his KQ and choose 2 spades, although some may only rebid 2 hearts (which, if instead, chosen) would undoubtedly end the bidding.

Then North, might venture 2NT, since while not loving his balanced shape, has already implied heart support but has not shown his likely diamond stop. No doubt South would then have three choices, a slightly conservative return to 3 hearts (which should also end the auction), an aggressive jump to 4 hearts, or an equally bold raise to 3NT which would show (at least to me) a 2-2 holding in the minors instead of 3-1 or especially 4-0.

The above sounds like science at work and accomplished by very talented and experienced players, but in reality the proper adjectives IMO, should be at least a bit too much, but only just hopeful the hand will be laying just right and of course, the “X” factor from South, with confidence in your parrtner’s declarer abilities.

No doubt, the very best players are capable of putting the utmost pressure on their opponents by bidding these fairly low percentage games, expecting their finesses to work and for the right number of tricks to appear. It happens on this hand, but in order for it to occur, all of the above decisions need to be made.

Finally, for partnerships to both be happy for their aggressive style to be a winning one, they need to be able to deal with consistent failures as well as “lucky makes” and treat those two imposters just the same.

Nico de NijsJanuary 6th, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Dear Bobby,

First of all still a happy NY from a fan reader in Amsterdam.

I read your educational columns with great interest, a big thanks for this!

On the 4 hearts: I don’t understand how this game can be made after a trump switch in trick 2, as after 3 times trumps North only has one entry left to develop diamonds?

Kind regards,

bobbywolffJanuary 6th, 2018 at 11:11 pm

Hi Nico,

Many thanks for the NY wish, your kind words, and for taking your time to respond.

If West switches to a trump, declarer can win in dummy and start on spades, immediately or later finessing the 10. He then can lead a diamond, won by East (in order nor to eventually make good a diamond) go to dummy and ruff another diamond, leaving West with the diamond ace.

Then, when back on lead, simply runs all his trumps and 13th spade squeezing West in the minor suits. Luckily for declarer the club suit is frozen for the defense to break that key suit, (meaning if either West or East breaks the clubs they will forfeit the setting trick then and there).

As you can see West gets left in a death like grip since dummy will be waiting with the losing diamond but the ace, ten of clubs behind his high diamond and Kx of clubs.

Again, thanks for your contribution and speaking for our entire AOB group, please join in, whenever you feel the urge.