Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

God knows what he knows,
And what his wits infer from what he sees
And feels and hears.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

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


In today's deal from the Cavendish teams of 1999 North-South look destined to reach three no-trump whether East pre-empts or not. The attractive alternative would be if they can stop off to double their opponents should they go overboard in diamonds. Having said that, though, when the defense to three no-trump starts with West setting up the diamonds, nine tricks seem a long way off. Nonetheless, in the match between the teams captained by Wayne Chu and Gerald Sosler, both tables reached the no-trump game and did remarkably well.

When Craig Gower as South was declarer, Kay Schulle led a top diamond. Gower took the second diamond, then led the heart queen, covered by the king and ace, and next played off the top spades to try to exert a little pressure on West. When Schulle pitched two diamonds, declarer worked out why.

Gower determined that West had to be preserving a heart guard, so he cashed the 10 of hearts, then took the heart finesse. Next he played off the last heart winner and threw West in with a diamond. She could cash her diamond winners, but would eventually have to lead clubs, setting up the queen for declarer and conceding the ninth trick.

Remarkably, this nice play simply minimized Gower’s losses on the deal, since in the other room David Berkowitz had made exactly the same play in three no-trump doubled, landing nine tricks.

Your partner's cue-bid asks you primarily for a spade stopper. If you do not have one, you should describe your hand as effectively as possible. Here, with only half a spade stopper, you should bid three diamonds, waiting to see where partner wants to go next. Passing is an equally sensible approach if you consider your trump support unsatisfactory.


♠ J 5 3
 A J 8 7
 10 9 7
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
1 1♠
Dbl. Pass 2♠ Dbl.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonMay 28th, 2013 at 9:18 am

HBJ : I am a little perplexed about this hand because why should declarer place the king of clubs with West. Surely there is room for that card to be in East’s hand, if a weak 2 in spades promises 5-9 points.
If one assumes the king of clubs is with East ( and why not ) then after 2 rounds of diamonds and 4 rounds of hearts, East must come down to 7 cards in the black suits …….probably keeping 4 S and 3 clubs. Now the play involves cashing 2 top spades, throwing East in with a third to cash his two winners….but now he is end played in clubs.

Michael BeyroutiMay 28th, 2013 at 10:33 am

To HBJ: there are two answers to your very legitimate question. The first is in the quotation at the top of the article…
My second answer is that when West is allowed to cash his diamonds he is actually squeezing his own partner. At trick 11, East must discard to come down to 2 cards, yet he has to keep the SQ. Therefore only one club, whether it’s the king or not. On this trick Declarer will discard the S4, keeping CQ7 in Dummy and CA8 in hand.
I hope our host will not shame me for saying something stupid…

Michael BeyroutiMay 28th, 2013 at 10:50 am

First P.S. This is the kind of brilliant play I am capable of when looking at all 4 hands with my morning coffee, never at the bridge table.

Second P.S. I confess that like you HBJ, after seeing the HK and DKQJ with West, I would place the CK with East (he has to have something besides his SQ) and would attempt to end-play him. But a question – to our host – just occured to me: Does it mean that if West does not cash his last diamond and instead exits with a small club he would give declarer a problem?

David WarheitMay 28th, 2013 at 11:19 am

On BWA you suggest passing partner’s cuebid. Thqt can’t be right; what were you trying to say?

Michael BeyroutiMay 28th, 2013 at 11:25 am

David, East doubled the cue-bid.

Yasser HaiderMay 28th, 2013 at 11:44 am

Hi Michael
As declarer I still would not know what to play at trick 12 when LHO exits with a club. If RHO has bare (by now) KC then obviously a low club needs to be played from dummy but if LHO has it then Q needs to be played. Which brings us back to HBJs point. I am sure Bobby will make everything clear as usual

John Howard GibsonMay 28th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

HBJ : Just to clarify, the first six tricks go by the way of two rounds of diamonds ( declarer ducking first) and 4 hearts. This clarifies East’s 7-2-1-3 holding. Now comes to top spades to throw East in with 2 spade tricks. Now declarer just sits and waits to take 2 clubs to make his contract, PROVIDING EAST HAS THE KING OF CLUBS.

Iain ClimieMay 28th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Hi Bobby, Gents,

On BWTA is there a case for using redbl to show a half stop? This helps partner with Ax(x) to get into NT (clearly the right way up if he only has 2 spades) while a slightly stronger hand (e.g. With SKxx) could bid 3S now angling for partner to bid NT with (say) Qx or J10x.

On the main column hand, though, it is hard to blame that West for doubling although if East had held SKJ10 and North xxx, results would have been similar. Perhaps misfits in defence should also sound alarm bells on occasion – West can’t make any use of East’s spade assets here, even if they were better.



Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi HBJ, Michael, David, Yasser and Iain, some more than once and do not forget JHG, HBJ’s alter ego,

First and foremost, to the column hand and also considering the quote. As all of you are apparently well aware, declarer has a choice of end plays, whether to trust East’s weak two bid, which in spite of 7, not 6, weak spades seems to need the king of clubs to justify his vulnerable bid, while West, although not inclined to bid regardless of either having the king of clubs or not simply because South’s 2NT bid before him eliminated the wind from his sails, by assuring the EW misfit, but at the same time created great hope for a significant set to NS.
However to now double may cause wary opponents to seek safety (likely 4 clubs rather than risk West’s judgment).

No such happening since South stuck it out, so let us proceed to the next critical point, the play. The evidence, as determined by the declarer will be based on the bidding, already discussed (indicating perhaps 80% or more that East, not West held the club monarch, although the final double by West certainly helped, an excellent declarer, David Berkowitz,with his decision), however the discarding, man (or woman made), not computer shuffled, may lead to an opposite conclusion.

What it narrows down to is declarer getting a reading on his EW opponents as to whether, by their table demeanor, the mood felt by declarer at the table, emanating from his opponents, led him to the right conclusion.

Both declarer’s triumphed, in spite of both having plenty of time to reconstruct the defensive hands and, of course, to remember the bidding.

In retrospect, all I can do is pass on to you what I think, of course, based on my experience. Table feel, at this high-level, will always trump technical ability, and being declarer and then of course, totally in charge, instead of when instead, on defense, having to coordinate with partner, sometimes a daunting task, is enabling and one definition, that of world class (which is sometimes casually bantered around) comes into play and that is exactly the status which a huge percentage of time makes the winning final decision. No more, no less!

The lesson learned and to satisfy the bridge gods is that sometimes the greed represented by a final double, gives away some hands, and especially to the highest level world class players, suggesting that, at least on that hand, it would be better to not double and also check one’s emotions at the door and valiantly not give away one’s optimism while defending, otherwise the chances for success dwindle.

I appreciate all of you for your interest in this hand, which truly represents one of the superior qualities of our game, high level judgment as to where important cards lie.

David WarheitMay 28th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Michael: Thanks; I guess I haven’t had my coffee yet.

Jeff SMay 28th, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Could West have considered making the incredibly bold move of discarding the 9C making it impossible to throw him in with a diamond and making it look like his partner had the KC? By that stage, his partner had already shown that his hand was very weak for the opening bid so it would be reasonable for declarer to place the KC with East, not West.

Or is this sheer fantasy?

Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Hi Jeff,

Not fantasy at all and very good bridge, since these situations are always mind games, usually conducted between peers who are keeping up with both the offensive and defensive options.

The very best players win these psychological battles, not unlike superior poker players win their bluffs and also tantalize opponents to call them when they want them to.

Nothing magic about it, just an understanding of mind battles and the way to win them.

BTW, the lesser known player has a definite advantage since it is usually well understood how good the ultra experienced one is, but are not so educated about his opponent, so usually lesser known, but ultra aware, are the winning weapons.