Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Gold undiscovered (and all the better for being so).


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

*16-plus, any shape


In this deal from the Blue Ribbon semifinals, David Berkowitz found himself in a very ambitious three-no-trump contract. His Precision one-club opening bid was overcalled with a natural spade, which kept his side out of the spade contract that they were surely destined to find without intervention. Larry Cohen doubled to show 5-8 high-card points, then optimistically raised the one-no-trump rebid to game.

Even when you look at all four hands, it’s hard to see a way to more than seven tricks. West led a fourth-best spade, which Berkowitz won in dummy with the six. The club 10 was ducked around to the ace, setting up Berkowitz’s seventh trick. West persisted with spades, which Berkowitz won in dummy with the 10 to take a losing heart finesse. West got out with the heart jack, and now Berkowitz saw that he might be able to set up a heart for his eighth trick. And where there are eight…

He won the heart ace, played off the club king (to remove West’s exit card), cashed all the spades ending in dummy, and exited with a heart. West could take his good spade, but then had to lead a diamond away from his king. With the diamond queen scoring in hand, and the heart nine a winner in dummy, Berkowitz had his nine tricks — four spades, one club and two tricks in each red suit for plus 400 — almost all of the matchpoints.

It used to be that overcalls were limited in high cards to an opening bid and should promise a good suit. Those days are gone; bidding anything else but one spade with this hand would be a severe distortion. At the one-level, overcall with either a good suit or a good hand whenever you can.


♠ J 9 8 5 4
 K J 10
 K 9 2
♣ A 5
South West North East
Pass 1

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


Iain ClimieMay 30th, 2012 at 10:04 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,
Impressive declarer play but a couple of quick thoughts. Firstly, is it worth bidding tight games at matchpoints, especially if most others are not doing so? It seems a bit “all or nothing” and I think 2NT is less of a plunge. Might +150 have been worth 80+ percent anyway?

Secondly, if east splits the club honours, south covers and west exits with a club, east can then play a diamond or heart through. South can wriggle and cash black winners before endplaying west but I think it is only 8 tricks; as played, the defence lost a club trick. The club cover could misfire horribly if partner has a singleton honour of course.

Still you can’t argue too much with success.


Iain Climie

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hi Iain,

It would be difficult, probably irrational, to argue with any of your suggestons.

When Larry raised David’s Precision opening and rebid of 1NT to game, he was hoping there was not so much duplication in the opponents suit and that David’s hand would result in a better fit of high cards. When that blast is met with insufficient fit and not enough high card points, usually the result is a down contract and not worth talking about.

Here, of course, was an unusual defensive holding where, yes East made what turned out to be a defensive mistake in not covering with a club honor and the heart spots became magical for the declarer by presenting him with the game going trick. The above facts, coupled with adept timing, produced a remarkable result, but not one to be especially proud about.

Such is life in big time bridge when great luck seems to create a positive tidal wave. Appreciate it when that happens, since the opposite soon gets jealous and pays you back in NT (literally) for indiscretions.

Again, thanks for your eagle eye, your philosophical discussions and questions and above all, your kind and to the point presentations.

JaneMay 30th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

What belongs to declarer, belongs to declarer, so why not keep leading spades and make declarer play the hand. Of course, Mr. Berkowitz is one of the true wizards of bridge, so if anyone could have figured out a way to make the impossible, I suspect it would be him, but he did get some help on this hand. I like lain’s assessment as well.

Always interesting, but I wonder if the spade over call was worth it? West does not really want a spade lead, and waiting to see what happens is not such a bad thing. It looks like declarer would have been playing spades with a 5-0 break. With a strong hand opening first, why not lurk in the bushes, so to speak. Unlikely north is going to pass one club. Four spades has no chance, even for a wizard, and that could easily have been the contract since north was willing to put partner in three NT with his meager seven points.

Fun game, this bridge!

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 30th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Hi there , Great hand to demonstrate the point that ” all is ever lost , so plan to play the cards in accordance with what you hope is a layout ” that will see the contract home.
Indeed , declarer must set out to make 4S , 1C, 2H and 2D ……a big ask . One I might add that only an expert can first envisage……. and then execute.
This in my opinion is the type of hand which sorts out the men from the boys
( yours HBJ aged 12 )