Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Neither



J 6 3

10 6 4 3

Q 9 8 4 3


Q 9 8 2

7 4

K Q J 7 2

K 6


6 5

K Q 10

A 9 8

J 10 7 5 2


K J 10 7 4 3

A 9 8 5 2




South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Diamond King

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”

— Robert Ingersoll

Bob Hamman once won a U.S. trials by refusing to overruff dummy’s small trump with the 10 when the four top trump honors were all still out. Hamman’s victim then was Larry Cohen, and it was Cohen’s partner, David Berkowitz, who pulled off this similar coup several years later.


After South ended in four hearts, West led and continued diamonds, declarer ruffing the second. South next cashed dummy’s spade ace, returned to the club ace, and cashed the spade king. Declarer continued with the spade jack, with the nine appearing from West, and had South let the knave run, he would have been heading for home. But with no indication that spades were not breaking evenly, declarer ruffed in dummy.


Berkowitz was wise to discard rather than overruff — the same decision he would have made had dummy ruffed low. South re-entered hand with the heart ace and ruffed another spade, and again East discarded. Declarer trumped a club in hand and had reduced to a position with two master spades and two low hearts. East had the two master trumps; West, a small heart. The lead was in declarer’s hand, but if he now played a trump, East would draw trump and take the rest. Declarer tried a spade, trumped by Cohen with the seven. With the heart king and queen still to come for East, that spelled one down. Had Berkowitz overruffed dummy at either opportunity, declarer would have regained trump control and made his game.


South Holds:

Q 9 8 2
7 4
K Q J 7 2
K 6


South West North East
  1 Pass 1
ANSWER: Your hand is a bare minimum for a takeout double, but you should definitely make that call. There is no reason why this should not be your hand, or that by bidding, you might force the opponents up beyond their safety level. Bidding now is far safer than backing in when the opponents have limited their hands and found a fit.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitNovember 14th, 2011 at 7:57 am

Let’s see: east-west have 21 HCP and an excellent diamond fit and yet never said peep. Why? The most likely answer is that west had spades and so reasonably did not act over south’s opening bid of 1 spade. It’s a small clue, but I think that it is enough for south to let the spade jack ride.

Ramesh AbhiramanNovember 15th, 2011 at 3:15 am

Great hand. Messrs. Izdebski, Krzemien and Klinger have used this hand as a example of defensive trump control in their book “Deadly Defence”.

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Hi David and Ramesh,

There is no doubt that many great defensive plays could not keep a good guessing declarer from still bringing his contract home. However it always seems to never change the nature of the defensive play and reduce its majesty.

When a defender refuses to overruff in what appears to be a simple play to make and it turns out to cause the defeat of the contract it moves mountains and is remembered.

To that unusual play will bridge writers pay homage.