Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 19th, 2012

I wander in the ways of men,
Alike unknowing and unknown.

Robert Burns

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


Today's deal was provided to me by Alan Sontag. It came up in a practice match in New York, organized by Mark Gordon before the Seattle Nationals in November. Mark was the hero in a delicate contract of four hearts. Against this contract in the other room West led a club, and declarer had made the normal play of tackling trumps by leading the suit from the top, going down one.

In the other room David Berkowitz had quite reasonably elected to lead a diamond rather than a club, which does not appear to make any significant difference, but Gordon was quick to seize on his extra chance. He took the diamond king at the first trick, cashed the heart ace and king, then played the diamond ace, ruffed a diamond, crossed to the club ace, and led the fourth diamond, discarding his club loser.

West was forced to win the trick and exit with a club, letting Gordon ruff and play for his only remaining chance of finding West with an embarrassing spade holding. When he exited from hand with a low spade, West won the trick, but whatever he returned allowed declarer to avoid a spade loser and concede just one more trick to the master trump.

The defenders are helpless in the ending, since once trumps break badly, declarer’s only legitimate chance against excellent defense is to play a low spade as he did, and find West with both spade honors or honor-10 doubleton.

Do you invite game or drive to game? And do you use Stayman or treat the hand as balanced and focus on no-trump? The answer to the first question is that your lack of intermediates makes this hand worth no more than an invitation, and you should look for spades rather than ignoring your major. If you find a fit and your partner has weakness or shortage in any side-suit, you will be glad you did.


♠ J 9 7 2
 8 5 2
 A 8 6 2
♣ A 2
South West North East
1 NT 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


Iain ClimieJune 2nd, 2012 at 10:37 am

Hi Mr. Wolff

If west sees the endplay coming (and Dave Berkowitz would), should he exit wih a small spade not a club? South might play hIm for Q10 x(x) although then west would surely exit with a club or even the SQ. if he were going to broach spades. Declarer should prevail but you never know and it looks worth a shot.



bobby wolffJune 2nd, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Hi Iain,

And the top of the morning to you.

Yes, David would certainly see the end play coming but what to do about it? Obviously all top players would try and obfuscate the actual holding the best they could. When a low spade is led from hand and if West ducked, declarer has to play him for the King and Queen since East, if winning the trick can always cash his known high heart and get out with an exit club. Only if he had KQ doubleton would the nine work and that would leave East with KQ of spades, QJ of hearts and diamonds and probably already shown the King of clubs, not as likely as West holding the KQ of spades.

Yes, bridge is a game which emphasizes detective work and then, based on the evidence found, action taken. None of this discounts anything you said and is merely to serve as Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, counseling you by whispering in your ear.

Is bridge some game, or what?