Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 10th, 2013

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.

John Kenneth Galbraith

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

*Bergen: four trumps in a limit raise


Today's deal is a defensive problem for East, but it features a convention my readers often ask me about. Although I am not a great fan of Bergen raises, this is a good opportunity to explain them.

Marty Bergen, one of the biggest innovators in Standard American, was responsible for the idea that when holding four-card support for partner’s major and less than an opening bid, your hand could be immediately and accurately described in one of three ways. A double-jump is pre-emptive (say 2-5 HCP), while a jump to three clubs shows a mixed raise, with 6-9 HCP. And a jump to three diamonds, as here, shows a limit raise with 10-11 HCP.

The underlying logic is that whenever you have four-trumps, you are prepared to compete to the three-level sooner or later, and acting at once makes your opponents’ life far harder.

Against four hearts, West led the diamond king, won by declarer’s ace. South now played a heart to his ace and another heart. As East, you win the heart king, but what do you do next?

If you play a second diamond, partner might not realize that you want a diamond overruff. He might play you for the ace-queen of spades and shift to a spade — after all, that is how you would defend if this were the case. Help him to do the right thing by cashing your spade ace before leading a second diamond; then there will be nothing else for him to try but a third diamond.

It would be nice to shuffle your cards and pick one at random — nothing looks attractive. I'll opt for the most passive lead I can find, the club eight, but since I hate all the options, I am not convinced I'm doing the right thing.


♠ A 5 3
 Q 10 6 4
 J 9 7 5
♣ 8 2
South West North East
1 Pass 2
Pass 3♣ Pass 3 NT
All 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 23rd, 2013 at 9:51 am

Hi Bobby,

Can’t declarer do better in two ways here, although only the first is really plausible at the table? Ducking the diamond at trick 1 is surely a fair idea; a double dummy line takes the DA then cashing CAK, heart to the Ace and playing clubs repeatedly through East also works.


Iain Climie

Patrick CheuJune 23rd, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi Iain, your idea of ducking a diamond has merit, it only fails if West has six diamonds and the ace of spades in which case he might have bid.Cashing the ace of spades before the second diamond is certainly the key to the diamond ruff here.Regards~Patrick.

jim2June 23rd, 2013 at 11:44 am

Got to get up early in BWTA!

I thought it was a play problem and did duck the KD.

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Hi Iain & Patrick,

No doubt that declarer could have done better with either going for the club line after unblocking the AK and then going to the ace of hearts and leading clubs or ducking the ace of diamonds at trick one and hoping East, not West, has the ace of spades and, of course also praying that West has not 6 diamonds originally.

However the diamond signal by East, because of the specific spots held, regardless whether they are playing standard or upside down count signals by them, cannot be accurately deciphered, but may be determined by an ultra sensitive declarer possessing great intuitive feel. I guess it could even be a singleton diamond king lead with East having the ace of spades ready to rumble to give his partner a diamond ruff after, at trick two West switches to a spade with the hearts 2-2 all the time and West not holding the king.

Unlikely, but although very rare, not above being mentioned by a defensive bridge columnist to justify his not discussing the choices afforded the declarer in order to concentrate on the defensive gambit of cashing the ace of spades before returning his doubleton diamond, while holding 3 hearts to the king.

Thanks to both of you for both teaching and monitoring factors along the Yellow Brick Road to bridge success. Your comments will tend to make possibly talented up and comers aware of different possibilities which lurk around the many street corners which often surround winning declarer play.

bobby wolffJune 23rd, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

We, as is often, were writing concurrently and your play is likely the winning one, except this time West held: s. Axxx, h. J, d. KQ10, c. 10xxxx and switched to a club at trick 2 after getting a discourging signal, and your personal disease manifested itself in clubs which is a less serious and entirely treatable one compared to one which appears in spades.

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Hi again Jim2,

And to make matters even more depressing, upon your return to your team’s table, and comparison, when this hand arrived and your EW teammates announced -620 and you confirmed -100 for 12 IMPs gone, your beloved teammate bellowed, “I guess your card migration affliction caused them to lead a club originally, while my opponent led the king of diamonds”.

No court would ever convict you from answering, “of course”!

Patrick CheuJune 23rd, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Bobby,re the Brian Glubok’s hand,what is the datum on the board? How many declarers make 4H? Though unlikely,West could have KQ stiff clubs n 10xx diamonds?!Would you have taken the double finesse in clubs at the table?Maybe the singleton heart in East hand influence declarer in the play? Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJune 23rd, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi Patrick,

I do not know the datum on that particular hand. In the absence of a trump lead, many different ways of playing the hand are possible and when one considers the possibility of the King of Clubs lead, depending on the bidding, sometimes brilliant declarer’s play only gets one back to average.

Variation is the credo of the great declarer, by adjusting to the actual layout and finding a way to score up the contract, whatever the distribution, if in fact, it is possible to do so.

One does not always succeed, but the problem solving nature of declarer’s endeavor is a constant goal, usually occurring several times during many sessions, and is especially uplifting against good players.

Sorry for the lack of datum knowledge.