Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.

Chinese proverb

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


In Larry Cohen’s “Tricks of the Trade,” he makes many sensible points, one of which I will now echo wholeheartedly.

For most of us, the primary signal is attitude, and only rarely count; when following suit on declarer’s leads, we do not signal unless partner needs to know the count. So far, so good; however, many players slavishly switch to suit preference when dummy has a singleton. I can certainly understand this inclination, but it is important to regard those signals as suggestions, not commands.

Here is Cohen describing a defense he and David Berkowitz produced. Against South’s four hearts, David led a top diamond. In view of dummy’s singleton, the partnership treated the meaning of East’s card as suit preference. Since Cohen had strong spades, he could afford to play the diamond 10.

But, as Cohen says, this does not mean, “Please skewer me by shifting to the spade jack.” Instead, it simply suggests that East has spade values. Armed with this information, West can judge that best defense is a trump switch (rather than a shift to the spade jack, which would cost a trick as the cards lie). If, instead, West had three low clubs, then he might have switched to spades.

As an aside, Cohen adds that showing he likes a suit does not necessarily demand a shift to that suit, and he has persuaded his partner to that effect. Cohen says Berkowitz wouldn’t mind if he called him an old dog — even though he has learned new tricks!

In the context of a strong no-trump base, when you have a 10-count, it is generally wise not to invite game without a fit. The logic is that partner will have either 12-14 high-card points, making game unlikely, or an unbalanced hand of more than 15 points, in which case he is likely to take another call. So I would simply bid one no-trump, my nice diamond intermediates notwithstanding.


♠ A Q 8
 J 2
 Q 10 9 7 2
♣ J 7 6
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyMay 23rd, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Larry jokes that once in a while he led wrong and David nicknamed in Golden Arm. But this deal reminds us always to think and remember the cards are often imperfect so let declarer lead the suit and lose 3 tricks for the set.

This hand is a corollary to a suit with QXX facing JXX. Make declarer lead first.

bobbywolffMay 23rd, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Hi Bill,

We all remember General Patton, when talking about warfare to a bunch of new recruits saying; “The idea is not to die for your country, but instead, let the fellow on the other side die for his”.

Perhaps while considering bridge, the most important caveat available to every player who attempts to play our great game is to, whenever possible, force the other side to play 1st and 3rd to the next trick, with our side playing 2nd and 4th aka, “sitting in the cat bird position”, that is, unless you are declaring a grand slam.

In just a few hours CONGRATULATIONS!!!! when you’ll join Jack Benny at 39 years young.