Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

'Avoid it,' cried our pilot, 'check
The shout, restrain the eager eye!’

Robert Browning

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


Today's deal emphasizes that it is not sufficient to reach your best trump fit; sometimes you have to consider whether positional considerations may override playing in the obvious strain.

When the United States took on the Netherlands here, Vincent Ramondt and Anton Maas put up a good smokescreen to get to four spades, but North, David Berkowitz, was unwilling to sell out cheaply. He intelligently competed to five clubs. Larry Cohen made a fine decision when he decided to pass this, protecting the diamond suit from attack.

Ramondt now chose the well-reasoned lead of the spade four, with the idea of putting his partner in for a diamond through. But North held the spade king, which Larry Cohen inserted at trick one. When it held, it gave Cohen pause for thought. Why had West underled his spade ace? There were two plausible reasons — either West was void in hearts, or his diamonds were such that an urgent switch was required.

Since West was marked with no more than three cards in clubs and hearts on the bidding, Cohen continued with dummy’s club queen, then a finesse of the 10 — a safety play to make sure he could prevent East from getting the lead in trump. When the club 10 held, the rest of the trumps were drawn, then the hearts were cashed, for 13 tricks. As you can see, five hearts would have failed on a diamond lead by East, since the defenders take two diamonds and a ruff.

Your partner's call of two spades is nonforcing, though consistent with a decent suit in a moderate hand. However good your hearts might be, you should view your spade support as entirely adequate, while your values are not very good. Pass, and hope your partner can make it, while being prepared to compete in spades if necessary.


♠ K 5
 A K J 10 7 4
 10 7 5
♣ Q 7
South West North East
1 2♣ 2♠ 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 14th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Poor West. Card migration at its finest!

Consider play after the 9H lead. Surely, declarer will place West with a singleton heart and a doubleton club.

Consider play after a quite pedestrian AS and a small spade continuation. Declarer gets a diamond pitch, but still has to work out the club position. There really is no safety play available, as losing a club to West allows the AD to be cashed for down one.

In another reference to Victor Mollo’s Bridge in the Menagerie, surely sitting West was Papa the Greek.

bobby wolffMarch 14th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Hi Jim2,

Exactly and emotionally explained like a Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.

Other expert nuances would explain that East would give his partner a high spade (on the ace lead), which in this case should only deny a supporting diamond honor, which to West could only mean no king.

In order for West to lead the nine of hearts instead of from a pointed suit, West would indeed realistically, need to be Clark Kent (with his X-Ray eyes seeing and deciphering all four hands), instead of even Mollo’s Papa the Greek who is just as clever as you know him to be, but without devine powers.

The Dutch pair mentioned are indeed world class, with vivid imaginations, as are Berkowitz and Cohen, and these types of psychologiical battles, are what seems to separate the best which bridge has to offer from just the ordinary.

All of our readers should appreciate your right on visualization and analysis.