Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 5th, 2016

She should have died hereafter.

William Shakespeare

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



Manchester’s Michelle Brunner, who died far too young a few years ago, achieved something no other player has done before or since, when she won herself the International Bridge Press Association’s Best Defense of the year in consecutive years.

You may care to play the East cards and cover up the West and South hands to test yourself before reading on. West led the heart jack, ducked in dummy, which you won with the king. How do you envisage defeating four spades?

If you now look at all four hands now you may decide that it still looks impossible to set the game. But at trick two Brunner found the diabolical switch to the club nine! Now put yourself in declarer’s shoes. The nine looked for all the world like a singleton, so in order to reduce the risk of a ruff South played ace and another spade. West won the king and continued with a second club. Quite understandably, declarer finessed; now East won her king and gave her partner a club ruff to beat the superficially unbeatable game.

Note that normal play and defense would have seen declarer make her contract easily. Not only did Michelle have to have the imagination to spot the possibility, but she also needed to paint a false picture for declarer. And of course she had to find the rest of the cards lying the way she wanted.

The real world doesn’t always work that way, as we all know, but today the stars aligned perfectly.

The phrase “It goes without saying” is almost redundant, especially at bridge. Here it almost goes without saying that when you have game-forcing values facing an opening bid, you should normally respond in your longest suit. Exceptions come when your second-suit is a major and of much better quality than your minor. That is emphatically not so here, so bid two clubs.


♠ J 8 7 4
 A 5
 A J
♣ A Q 10 7 4
South West North East
  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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


BobliptonNovember 19th, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Bobby, I think on the bidding problem of the day, this hand is strong enough for a strong jump-shift to 3C. I need some way to indicate some slam interest opposite a boring Ax xxxx KQTxx Kxx. I know weak jump shifts are far more popular these days, and in competition they often make more sense. However, even though no great player has picked up a strong hand since 1983, I still get two or three a year, and I like to let partner know.


slarNovember 19th, 2016 at 2:43 pm

I’ve often had success leading from Kxx. It isn’t unusual for it to make declarer see ghosts.

slarNovember 19th, 2016 at 2:52 pm

I don’t like a strong jump shift there (even if it is part of the system) because it is too early to see where the auction is headed. You could belong anywhere but hearts. The convention / system treatment I like is for unnecessary jumps to 3NT (after a 2/1 bid) to show extras – usually 15-17 HCP – and no fit. In this case it would be opener making the jump, for example 1D-2C;2H-2S;3NT with opener being 3=4=5=1. This would wake me up and get me to make a slam try with 4NT. If opener ever bids 2NT, I can infer that there is no slam and sign off safely in 3NT. If this is the blue moon and opener actually has a monster hand, 3NT will not be passed.

Bill CubleyNovember 19th, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Nothing like a thief on defense to steal your contract!

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Hi Bob,

Your feeling about strong jump shifts in uncontested auctions does have the advantage of injecting slam in the air immediately.

However, it consumes space (one level of bidding lost) and when no trump fit nor independent suit is agreed, bidding level takes on significant need in order to explore that strain.

The British development of Acol, long ago, but then the most popular bidding system in the world with the closest to it the original Goren with its four card majors and many close choices not forcing at all, much less to game, became de rigueur.

However and through the years, expert bridge has come to accept, in my view correct, that immediate jump shifts need to clarify what suit is trump (whether the jump shift suit or with the second round when the responder then shows primary support for partner’s opener, e.g !D P 2H, P 2NT P 3D or 3H, (either s. Ax, h. AKJx, d, AJxxx, c. xx or, s. Ax, h. AKQJxxx, Kx, c. xx which then implies, thus demands to both partners the trump suit and then forever more on that hand there can be no doubt, perhaps leaving enough room for only then exploring the exactness in the level of the final contract.

Simple, straightforward and thus playable. However, that in no way, is a direct denial of your sincere attempt to immediately notify partner of the partnership strength, but only to suggest that of the two methods, I believe modern is at least, slightly better, thus preferred.

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Hi Slar,

It is one thing to lead from Kxx and quite another to lead from it when AQ10xx is on your right and fully visible.

Obviously to make such a counter intuitive move the whole game plan needs to be envisioned and to dear Michelle, “By George this is it”. Brilliant imagination, based primarily on of course, the bidding, the final contract and the play up to then, are the contributing factors, but to actually do it. rather than just talk about it, and be off-the-charts successful should take every aspiring bridge player’s breath away.

Also, of course, thanks for your personal views of what is involved in whether to jump shift or not with random strong hands, but at that moment no agreed trump fit in either partner’s mind.

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Hi Bill,

While playing the dummy or defending in bridge, being a thief is a high compliment rather than an insult, and Michelle’s brilliancy is an excellent example.