Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 20th, 2013

So was the huntsman by the bear oppressed
Whose hide he sold — before he caught the beast!

Edmund Waller

East North
Neither ♠ K 4
 10 5
 A K J 7 6 2
♣ 9 8 2
West East
♠ 10
 8 7 3
 Q 10 5 4
♣ A 10 7 4 3
♠ A Q 7 6 3
 K J 9 6 2
♣ J 6
♠ J 9 8 5 2
 A Q 4
 9 8
♣ K Q 5
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 2
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


On this deal from the 1999 Cavendish, Michael Seamon found an excellent line to bring home three no-trump. After an informative auction David Berkowitz led the heart eight, and Seamon thought for a long while, then put up dummy's 10 and ducked East's king.

Larry Cohen continued the attack on hearts, and Seamon won the trick, then advanced the diamond eight. When Berkowitz ducked, Seamon let it run and subsequently finessed again in diamonds to bring home nine tricks. Should Berkowitz have worked out to block the diamond suit by covering the diamond eight? If his partner had started with the singleton diamond nine, this would not have been a success. But I suppose declarer’s pause at trick one might have persuaded Berkowitz that this was precisely what declarer was planning to do — and if so, that should perhaps have directed him toward the correct defense.

By contrast, when Norberto Bocchi and Giorgio Duboin defended three no-trump, Bocchi led a club. Declarer had to duck this, and now East shifted to the heart jack. (Note that if East plays a low heart, declarer lets it run to dummy’s 10, but the shift to the jack effectively surrounds dummy’s holding.)

Declarer covered the heart jack with the queen, and next dislodged the club ace himself. Back came a second heart, then the diamond eight, covered by Bocchi, and now three no-trump had to go down.

Some calls are made easier with the use of conventional calls; some are about judgment, not system. Here I would like to be able to show a spade raise with a diamond suit that I want partner to lead. If you play a convention called McCabe, then you can bid three diamonds to show precisely that. A jump to four diamonds would be diamonds and a spade fit (the same hand, but with the spade five, not the heart five).


♠ K 4
 10 5
 A K J 7 6 2
♣ 9 8 2
South West North East
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


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 9:21 am

Dear Mr Wolff

Fine play & defence but the bidding is very perplexing. With neither vul even 1 Spade Doubled can fetch a decent 2 down which could be 3 down if there is misplay. Take out to 2 hearts could fare better but why would anayone want to chance 2 level contract. 1 NT by South on just 12 HCP with Spade length looks to me astonishing and gives me confidence that with right partner I can crack the highest level. 🙂

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Hi Shantanu,

While you are right in your overall description of the bridge bidding, sometimes and with the cast of characters present, something less than acknowledged first class bridge prevails, simply because a less than 1st class sponsor is participating. If so, it probably was Michael Seamon’s partner, and a person I do not know, with also no incentive or inclination to find out.

In the world of make believe good bridge, with one (or sometimes two) mediocre playing sponsors playing at the same table, the bridge played is skewed, simply because the professional feels pressure at the table to do what he can to distort his way to a better board than if he gave his top flight opponents free reign to strut their stuff.

No doubt, you can hold your own at most bridge tables, but unless you are partnered up strong, the percentage against you succeeding is substantial unless your partner has the bridge smarts plus the positive experience necessary to compete on a hand to hand basis. The above example hand is an aberration and only chosen because of its interesting twists and turns.

The good news for you is that if you could (like you suggest) find a good partner, then subject yourself to top flight competition, there is no legitimate reason that you would not eventually succeed. Try it, you might like it!

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 1:44 pm

HBJ : Hello there again. Just wanted to ask what would happen on a club switch at trick 2 ?
South would have to duck in order not to expose the suit should East get in with a spade.
Naturally a second club to partner’s Ace , followed by a spade switch puts the contract down straight away (2S 2C,1H). Even if East plays a heart at thick 3 , all declarer can do is harvest 6 diamonds and two hearts for one down .

Bobby WolffJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 3:37 pm


First, it is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Second, upon the club jack shift declarer must put up the queen and let us suppose that West lets it hold. Then when South leads the 8 of diamonds West needs to cover, therefore blocking the suit, making it impossible for the game to be scored up.

However, if West carelessly doesn’t cover the 8 of diamonds, therein blocking the diamond suit down would go declarer and by several tricks. However since South could have 83 instead of 98 the cover would allow South to after finessing the jack against a cover by West and though winning the finesse would find the diamonds unblocked when East follows with his theoretical 9 and then back to a good heart, cash the other good heart and then finesse dummy’s 7 of diamonds to score up the game.

In bridge, instant decisions sometimes need to be made which are dependent on different holdings when there is no time to think about it for fear of tipping declarer off by the study.
West is in one of those quandaries with little to go on, so good luck to him, but better him than me.

Again thanks for being heard. We miss you when you are gone for long periods (or even short ones).

Greg NowakJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Maybe it was time for Seamon to steal the pot on a fake semi suicide squeeze bunt on 4th down.
Bring on the awe and wonder of bridge.

Bobby WolffJanuary 3rd, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Hi Greg,

Maybe so, but he probably was only trying to keep his partner from defending a low part score, where he was likely to give at least one trick away on defense.

In any event we’ll probably never know.