Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Falsehood, tricked in virtue's attributes,
Long sanctified all deeds of vice and woe.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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


Larry Cohen and David Berkowitz, representing the U.S,A. in Maastricht in 2000 as members of the George Jacobs team, found themselves on defense against four hearts in this deal.

After a club lead, declarer has a tricky play problem. Perhaps the right thing is to ruff a club at once and lead the diamond 10 from dummy. Even if the defenders take two diamonds and a ruff, declarer can ruff his last club in dummy and come to 10 tricks. However, declarer actually took a diamond finesse at once. If Cohen wins the diamond queen to play a trump, declarer can arrange to ruff a club and play a second diamond to set up the suit, coming to five hearts, two diamonds, two aces and a club ruff for 10 tricks.

But when declarer led a diamond to the 10 at trick two, Cohen won with the ace! He then shifted to the heart eight, and declarer won the ace in dummy, played the spade ace, ruffed a spade, ruffed a club on which Cohen unblocked the king, ruffed a spade, and played two more rounds of trump.

In the ending, declarer had eight tricks, and even though Cohen still had a trump, there were chances for the contract. East confidently repeated the diamond finesse. Disaster! Cohen won the queen and played a club to Berkowitz’s hand. Another club allowed Cohen to pitch his low diamond, for down two.

Your partner should have four spades but also real clubs – he would have surely rebid one no-trump with a balanced hand here. So one choice is to repeat the hearts; if so, a call of two hearts would surely be enough. The alternative would be to try a stopperless call of one no-trump, or to raise clubs — either a simple raise or a jump raise. None of these thrill me; I’ll go for the two-club call.


♠ 4
 K Q J 7 3
 9 5 4 3
♣ A 4 2
South West North East
1♣ 1
1 Pass 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

The line you mentioned of leading the D10 after ruffing a club is much easier if dummy has the DQ not K. Is this a case of too many options; if dummy had been slightly weaker, the contract might have made. Great defence but choice can be a very mixed blessing!

To rub it in, south might have wanted to pass 3H with a spade misfit but may have been in a forcing situation; would you have considered passing North’s raise on the column hand, if systemically permitted?



Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hi Iain,

You bring up an important theoretical bridge point.

Even with 2 over 1 usual GF responses, some systems, particularly one of the first systems to so play, Kaplan-Sheinwold, had special rules for 1 spade P 2 heart sequences. From that beginning all weak sounding continuations (2S, 3H, and 2NT) all could be passed.

Here and with the column hand, evidently all (or almost) continuations are GF, witness the North hand, which we probably will agree, that a simple raise is GF, otherwise North would probably opt for either 4 hearts, or possibly even a stronger 4 club splinter raise.

Also, your point about a weaker diamond holding, QJ10 instead of KJ10 might have produced a winner instead of the stronger holding which served to enable Larry Cohen to be brilliant with his great play, is very well taken.

However, there are so many enigmas connected to the play (or sometimes the bidding) at bridge, that what you correctly surmise is hardly ever a stranger.

Also, true, I would, as South, pass North’s 3 hearts if partner’s bid is not intended forcing because, as you say, my fit nor trick taking ability does not seem sufficient to likely take 10 tricks.

BTW, Judy is doing some writing on her blog site concerning a topical subject of high-level appeals which I strongly agree with, since, of course, some of these ideas are mine, having gleaned much experience while acting mostly with WBF appeals and their investigation and ultimate emerging current bridge jurisprudence.

In order for our world to gain the proper respect for hoped for eventual inclusion in the Olympics (mind sports now, with greater thrust to follow), our administrators need to concentrate on logic, consistency, ethical conundrums and clearly understood rules concerning our do’s and don’t’s.

I appreciate your inquiring mind and bridge enthusiasm, without which, our game may not achieve the heights to which it is worthy.

Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, and I have a simple rule of thumb (albeit at a much lower level) on ethics, related to slow decisions when partner is still there.

If in doubt, and I’ve hesitated, I’ll bid or double rather than pass slowly. If I’ve been slower still, I’ll Bid on rather than make a slow double. I’d sooner take this approach than put the ethical pressure on partner; it also forces me to think ahead and not dither. Is it sound, or are there flaws? If so, please yell!

In pass out position (after competition) a slow pass is maybe better than a slow double while partner clearly mustn’t make any play assumptions on the speed of my bids either. If partner makes a slow pass or penalty double, I’m prepared to pass unless very sure I can justify a bid; I’d sooner be honest and lose points than get a reputation for sharp practice.

Could such guidelines, although very basic, be of any use or do the laws already address them enough?

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Hi Iain,

You do all the right things, rather than be thought to be unethical. One of the first rules of a partnership should never to place partner in an embarrassing position where he has a Hobson’s choice of bid and be thrown to the wolves or pass and get a terrible result.

Each case which arises is different with random facts, some of which may contradict each other. We need to be true to one entity and that is ourselves. All else is unimportant and subject to the ravings of lunatics.

However it is also timely to not rationalize the facts and therefore the truth.

The laws IMO are not well enough written, mainly because the bridge laws which the world recognizes (most of which were written by Edgar Kaplan, who dedicated his bridge career to doing well by the bridge community) the administrators of those laws as probably biased, somewhat incompetent, not conscientious to the game itself, and below all, political and self-serving, he, in turn did not want to give them the power to practice their evil art.

However, if the person in charge of doing right by bridge, knows enough to honor the game, separate unethical players looking for every edge as against honorable ones who genuinely love the game and rule accordingly, problems will soon vanish.

Patrick CheuJune 12th, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Hi Bobby,watching the USBC Semifinal recently,Board 44, in the match between Nickells n Kranyak teams leaves quite an impression as played by North(Dwyer) in four spades after:W(Rodwell)1D*~N(Dwyer)Pass~E(Meckstroth)1H~S(Bathurst)DBL~W:2D~N:3S~E:Pass~S:4S.Lead 7D by East.North-J10987 A Q9832 97,East-A5 QJ9432 7 J864,South-KQ3 K1076 4 AK1032,West-642 85 AKJ1065 Q5.West won with KD,and switch to a spade on trick2,East won with AS and play a second spade.Declarer now in dummy with QS,plays a low club towards his 97,West hops up with QC and plays a third spade to KS,East discards a low heart.North plays a heart to AH,and plays JS,West disc a D, East a H,South 7H.Now North(Dwyer)plays 7C to Dummy’s10C clubs! NS+620,though in other room the defence try AD on T2 and got ruffed NS +650.My question being why declarer not try for clubs 33 after ducking first rd of club?Secondly,if West plays an unlikely 5C from Q5,and East wins with JC,would North have played the second rd of clubs differently?Would you have played the clubs that way?Perhaps North based the club 10 finesse on the fact that West has shown up with 6D 3S and 1H?Still room for another heart,hence clubs 4-2?Not QJ stiff clubs hopefully.Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Hi Patrick,

I did watch that match and saw perhaps 1/3 of it.

I’ve tried to decipher the hand that you described, but am having trouble doing it and need you to, if possible, make it easier to understand.

Apologies from me for not understanding your whole hand diagram, but oft times different players need different presentations.

Thanks for understanding my problem.



Patrick CheuJune 12th, 2013 at 9:58 pm

North-J10987-A-Q9832-97 /East:A5-QJ9432-7-J864/South:KQ3-K1076-4-AK1032/West:642-85-AKJ1065-Q5.Hi Bobby,Hope this helps,my typing is not good.The suits are in the order of spades -hearts-diamonds-clubs. North plays in four spades and East leads the 7D singleton. regards -Patrick.

Patrick CheuJune 12th, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Hi Bobby,West won the 7D with KD,switches to a spade.East won with AS,and plays a second spade.QS wins in dummy.Declarer plays low c and West hops up with the QC and plays a third spade to KS in dummy,East discards a heart.Declarer plays a heart to AH.He next plays JS East pitches another heart,Dummy a heart,and West a diamond.Now he plays a club to 10C! in dummy.NS+620.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2013 at 1:20 am

Hi Patrick,

First, thanks for the clear description of the whole hand.

These hands have no real right and wrong, only a guess as you go with the mindset of 10 tricks for the declarer, while the defense is looking for 4.

Usually ties go to the declarer since he is looking at all 26 of his assets and he has the bidding and the early defense as guides to the distribution of the opponents, Here West could have easily had the jack of clubs and one less diamond or heart, forcing the declarer to guess the clubs if he is to make the hand.

Nothing spectacular, only competitive.