Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 9th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: East-West


K 10 8 4 3

8 6

9 6 4

A K 6


Q 9 2

9 5 4

A Q 5 2

J 9 2


7 6

J 7 2

J 10 8 7 3

10 7 4


A J 5

A K Q 10 3


Q 8 5 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT* Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: Diamond Ace

“Speech was given to the ordinary sort of men whereby to communicate their mind, but to wise men, whereby to conceal it.”

— Robert South

As a defender, whenever you hold the trump queen, you look for ways to protect it. Similarly, when you can infer that declarer is trying to find the trump queen and you know your partner has it, go out of your way to suggest that you have that card. Surely one of the most imaginative ways to put declarer on the wrong track came on the following deal from the European Championships between Iceland and Romania. It arose over 20 years ago — a highly relevant fact, in a curious way.


North-South reached the small slam in spades after South had shown a strong 3-5-1-4 shape. Gudmundur Arnarson led the diamond ace, which dropped declarer’s king. He could have continued with another diamond, in which case declarer would surely have guessed trumps correctly (since even 4-1 trumps onside might be negotiable via a trump coup).


But instead, Arnarson found the deeply devious shift to the spade nine at trick two. Declarer hopped up with dummy’s 10 and then decided to play a spade to his jack — can you blame him? This protected against the 4-1 splits — although it severely underestimated Arnarson, who would surely have pressed on with a diamond at trick two, had that been the case.


Had the Romanian declarer encountered the deal after Arnarson won the Bermuda Bowl in 1991, I doubt if he would have followed such a deeply unflattering line…


South Holds:

K 10 8 4 3
8 6
9 6 4
A K 6


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 2 NT Pass
ANSWER: You limited your hand at your second turn to a minimum overcall, and your partner has invited game, suggesting about 14-15 in high cards. In context, your hand is reasonably well put together, so you have just enough to accept the invitation: bid three no-trump.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonSeptember 23rd, 2011 at 7:52 pm

HBJ : Great hand … and great vision by the defender.

But is it not the case to put declarer on a guess early doors before he gleans anything else from the play of the hand. The 9 could well be singleton, but it could also be from a poor doubleton.

Yet….would a defender lead a trump suit giving declarer an easy finesse of the queen if East had it ? I think not ! I’m sure that if East held the queen , West would be in for a sound verbal bollocking.

Surely this sort of deception is (a) done by top defenders but (b) easily read by expert declarers. So yes….declarer is put to making an early decision ( guess) which he is always more likely to get wrong. Yours Johnny Supremo

Bobby WolffSeptember 24th, 2011 at 1:39 am


I, of course, had never seen this particular defensive play in motion, nor probably ever even considered it, but in retrospect and especially when it is fairly certain, based on the specific bidding, that NS only had a total of 8 trump (instead of a possible 9) this deception should be considered. The flaw of course is that from declarer’s viewpoint, would a good West player subject his partner’s would be Qxxx to such treatment?

It is indeed a game within a game and we all need to be as astute as Johnny Supremo to figure out what is going on.

John Howard GibsonSeptember 24th, 2011 at 5:41 am

HBJ : Hi Bobby…..just a final thought.

The defence might be more obvious if West just held the Q9 of spades !! Such a holding permits the nil desperandum coup to be employed. Yours Johnny

Bobby WolffSeptember 24th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Yes, JHG, but in bridge, genius is what genius does and by all standards, which can be seen and felt, is unforeseen and therefore unpredictable.

My experience from watching and then admiring, is the complete originality associated with winning plays, based on the special logic of the particular situation.

At least to me, it raises bridge

above all other like competitions and represents our game like Mt. Everest towers over other mountains.

Perhaps the most similar comparison might be the boldest abject bluff possible to win a poker pot.

“Just enjoy, baby, just enjoy”!