Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Today we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.

Bliss Carman

South North
Neither ♠ A K 3
 K 9
 J 6 3
♣ 10 8 7 6 2
West East
♠ Q 10 9 5 4
 10 5 2
♣ A K 4 3
♠ 8 7 6
 A J 10 6
 K 9 8
♣ J 9 5
♠ J 2
 Q 8 7 5 3 2
 A Q 7 4
♣ Q
South West North East
1 1♠ Dbl. 2♠
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 3 All pass


At matchpoints or point-a-board teams, scoring every trick counts, and an overtrick can have the same impact as making a grand slam. This will explain the goings-on in today's deal, which comes from the Warren Buffett Cup, the bridge event played between Europe and the USA along the lines of golf's Ryder Cup.

Against three hearts, Norberto Bocchi led a top club and switched to a diamond to the eight and queen. Declarer, David Berkowitz, continued with ace and another diamond and East, Giorgio Duboin (the hero of the tale), was in. He switched to a spade, covered by the jack, queen and king.

All that was left for declarer was to draw trumps, so he ruffed a club and led a heart toward dummy’s king. Had East won this and played another spade, declarer would have won in dummy and made the no-cost safety play of running the heart nine, a play that Duboin knew would succeed.

Instead, Duboin ducked the heart king! Now declarer continued with the heart nine, covered by Duboin’s 10. South could have guaranteed his contract by playing the queen (losing at most two heart tricks to go with a diamond and a club), but it looked certain to him that West had started with ace-doubleton of trumps, in which case he would make an overtrick if he ducked. So he ducked the heart 10, and now Duboin had to come to two more trump tricks to beat the partscore.

The simplest unambiguous way to show a good spade raise is to cue-bid two hearts — a call that cannot be misconstrued since you did not overcall in hearts at your first turn. Maybe a call of two diamonds should be artificial as well, but why put partner under unnecessary pressure?


♠ A K 3
 K 9
 J 6 3
♣ 10 8 7 6 2
South West North East
Pass 1 1♠ 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 10th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

In the bidding quiz, how much value was accorded the heart king-doubleton sitting in front of the heart bidder? (whose partner did not raise)

bobby wolffMarch 10th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

A good question and one whose answer should come from some good player with plenty of experience rather than from some percentage table, (which first do not exist and it they did, could not factor in all the necessary uncertainties, mostly the strength of the subject hand within the context of his bid).

My off the top of my head percentages (meaning, at most an educated guess) and using the Goren time honored, but suspected inaccurate measure of three for its average value:

Direction most likely to hold the ace of hearts:

East 371/2%
West 371/2%
South 25%

Direction most likely to hold the queen of hearts:

East 45%
West 271/2%
South 271/2%

Direction most likely to hold the jack of hearts (possibly not relevent but probably so, especially if North also holds the ten of hearts)

East 45%
West 25%
South 30%

The above tables should then demote the king to probably its average worth, a shade over two points instead of three.

Yours is a good question to ask others who aspire to becoming a good player and his or her willingness to answer will probably tell you much about that person’s numeracy quotient.

Good luck and if you follow through I, for one, would be interested in your results, particularly so their percentages and to your judgment to their overall eventual effect on the high-level bridge world, if any.