Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 7, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

J 10 4 2
10 5 4
A 10 9 6
8 5
West East
Q 9 7 5 3 8 6
K 3 2 A J 9 6
Q 7 4 3 J 5 2
9 Q 10 6 3
Q 8 7
K 8
A K J 7 4 2


South West North East

Pass 2 Pass

Pass 3* Pass
3 NT All Pass    

Opening Lead:5

“An umbrella is of no avail against a Scotch mist.”

— James Lowell

Today’s deal, from the Senior Teams at the 2006 World Championships, featured a textbook defense by two English players, Ian Panto and Irving Gordon. Gordon, irreverently known throughout the bridge world as “Haggis” because of his Scots origins, was the winner of the 1998 World Senior Pairs in partnership with Boris Schapiro, who was then 90 years old.


Against three no-trump West led his fourth-highest spade to the two, eight and ace. South immediately set about clubs, the ace fetching the nine from West. The diamond eight to the ace for a finesse of the club jack brought good news — the jack held — but also bad news, that there would eventually be a club loser.


Declarer cashed the club king, then led a fourth round of the suit to Panto’s 10, who now found the only defense to set the hand when he wisely returned the heart jack. This is known as a surrounding play, and it forced South to cover with the queen, captured by West’s king. The heart return through dummy’s 10 gave the defenders the four heart tricks they needed to set the contract, whatever declarer did.


Note that East’s shift to the jack is the only card to prevent declarer from making a heart trick, “surrounding” dummy’s 10. If East plays a low heart, declarer might guess to duck and thus build a heart trick for himself. (Of course, if East had the ace-king, he might do best to underlead them, but would an untrusting declarer now guess to rise with the queen?)

ANSWER: It feels right to lead a spade rather than a heart, in the hope that partner can win and lead hearts through declarer. My choice would be to lead the nine, which may temporarily mislead partner into thinking I have only two, but will not mislead him about the honor location.


South Holds:

9 6 3
K J 5 3 2
Q 7 3
A 4


South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 2 NT
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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact