Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Both



J 7 4

K Q J 7 3 2

K 6 5


K 7 5

10 9 5

A 8 6 4

9 7 3


J 9 6 4

A Q 6 3


10 8 4 2


A 10 8 3 2

K 8 2

9 5



South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: Heart 10

“Little drops of water

Little grains of sand,

Make the mighty ocean

And the pleasant land.”

— Julia Carney

Over the last two decades the junior camps have been one of the best ways for young players to learn the game and to meet other like-minded juniors. Today’s deal was played by Eugene Hung at an early U.S. junior camp.


Against three no-trump Hung received the lead of the heart 10 (top of a sequence or from J-10 with a higher nontouching honor) and decided to duck the trick in both hands, in case the lead was from a doubleton.


Declarer won the second heart, West having led the heart nine covered by the jack and queen. He could now infer that East was likely to have begun with four hearts. West’s lead from shortage, and not from a long club suit, suggested that it was West, if anyone, who might be long in diamonds.


South therefore played the diamond nine from hand to dummy’s jack. When East’s 10 appeared, declarer crossed back to hand in clubs and led a second diamond, but now had to guess what to play from dummy. In a sense this play is not so much about the percentages but more about your guess as to how easy East would find it to play the diamond 10 on the first round of the suit from A-10-8 or 10-8. If you deem him capable of such a play, then maybe you should play for the drop, but Eugene took the finesse of the diamond seven and was rewarded with a game swing.


South Holds:

J 9 6 4
A Q 6 3
10 8 4 2


South West North East
  2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: You are not worth a cue-bid and a drive to game, but would want to compete to the three-level if the opponents raise diamonds. Maybe the best way to be sure to get your suits in is to respond two spades, planning to bid three hearts if the opponents compete to three diamonds.


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


jim2October 4th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The play by declarer is all the more impressive because he had to foresee the possibility of a singleton 10 with East ahead of time. That is, he had to lead the 9 instead of the natural-seeming 5 just to have the option of finessing with the 7 on the second round of diamonds.

I never see these at the table, and only spot them in columns when I can see all four hands.

Bobby WolffOctober 4th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes the youngster who executed this brilliancy (first, seeing clear to lead the nine first and then following through with what he believed, that the 10 was real and not a false card) felt the freedom of youth to do what he thought irrespective of the consequences brought about if he judged wrong.

From our perspective he was nothing short of a bridge genius to do both things, but possibly from another view, if he had been wrong, all it would require him to do is like a bowler might say, “Set em up in another alley”.

No doubt this kid has talent, but it still remains a question as to whether this somewhat unilateral decision will be his “bridge calling card” which will alternate, as his partner or teammate worshiping and then reviling his choices in the future.

Please DO NOT despair about only spotting these plays in columns and not at the table. Quite often playing the nine first might be incorrect in case of the ten being singleton if, for example North, not South, had a 2nd club entry, enabling the diamond suit to be picked up, and then eventually cashed by less than desperation. Also who is to say that the reporting of this hand was not edited to fit the result?

Going further, the bridge writer doesn’t really have to see it at the table either, all he has to do is, like you, read about it somewhere, admire it, and then select it because it is worth reporting.

The good news is that the specific concept is original, the bad news is that usually players who are so equipped and therefore inclined to make these plays, sometimes overdo them because they are looking for the spotlight.

jim2October 4th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Packing for Veldhoven yet?


John Howard GibsonOctober 4th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

HBJ : What if after the first heart ducked…. the defence’s best chance is to play the king of spades swallowing dummy’s queen ( declarer obliged to duck ? ). Now at trick 3 West plays a second heart which East ducks letting declarer in with the king. Surely this has to be the best defence ?

If this were to happen, then 3NT is down 1 with the defence taking 3H, 1D and 1S.

jim2October 4th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Declarer would be forced to win the AS and hope that East did not hold the AD and West the spade J9.

Thus, the defense would get 1S, 2H, and 1D —- instead of 3H and 1D.

Eugene HungOctober 4th, 2011 at 11:32 pm

I am the declarer of the hand in question, the play happened exactly as reported, as I was able to tell the reporter about the hand immediately after the session. And playing the D9 is just good technique. As mentioned by the reporter, I played LHO for diamond length given his short-suit heart lead, so the only likely singleton 10 would be with East. In that situation, the unblock of the D9 is necessary given the paucity of entries to dummy.

jim2October 5th, 2011 at 12:33 am

My congratulations, sir.

It may have been “just good technique” to you, but it is one of the things I find hardest to identify at the table. I would have been much more likely to lead the 5D, see the 10 fall from East, and tardily realize I had missed the opportunity.

Or, as Maxwell Smart used to say (likely before your time): “missed it by THAT much.”

Eugene HungOctober 5th, 2011 at 1:07 am

Thank you for the compliment. While I’m happy I found the play, I really don’t think unblocking the 9 is “brilliant”, just a matter of being careful. In this hand, there is clearly no problem if diamonds are 3-2, so once the hearts were resolved I immediately started thinking about 4-1 breaks. I find that once a bridge hand boils down to a suit combination you can often work out the right play by brute force and logic. You just have to take your time, and be careful. I think many people can find this sort of play if they establish good habits and know that it’s often right to play hi-lo from a doubleton. I do admit that finessing the 7 required me to take a position, but I was pretty sure my RHO, also a junior, was not capable of finding that subtle falsecard in tempo.

Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2011 at 5:13 am

Hi Eugene,

First, it is a pleasure to meet you and we all appreciate you writing in with further insight and to verify that everything happened as reported.

This may not be the first time you have stolen the limelight, but even if it is, it is very doubtful that it will be your last time.

Keep up your extraordinary play and vision and all of us reading the report will eventually be able to say, I got to know Eugene before he got really famous.

Again thanks for removing all doubt as to your play’s authenticity.

David WarheitOctober 5th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Actually, Mr. Hung’s play was twice as good as everyone seems to be giving him credit for. It works not only when east has the singleton ten but also when he has the singleton eight!

Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Hi David,

Yes and sadly, maybe no. Since restrictive choice probably would apply, perhaps you are correct in that by not playing the nine from hand, the declarer would restrict himself, from being able to finesse for the ten on his second lead, but that may not be a necessarily bad thing, since East might have been dealt 108 leaving the suit breaking 3-2 all the time.

If that is not enough confusion and morass for a poor declarer, what about East having either the A108 on his original play of the 10 or, of course, the same holding on defenders non-falsecard play of the 8 on declarer’s non play of his 9.

If so, would a declarer get a gold star for not setting himself up to be vulnerable to a clever defender who knows (or at least should) more about what he holds than the declarer, unless, of course, the declarer has a Clark Kent quality of eyesight.

Someone was claimed to have said, “You pays your money you takes your chances”, was indeed a prophet, assuming he understood bridge.

Next question would be direct to Eugene Hung as to whether he considered what must be thought to be more likely percentage holdings than what he had played for, if in fact his RHO was prepared for what happened.

To now be somewhat silly, may I now assume (which I do) that Eugene would give a perfectly honest answer rather than comment that he did consider all those ramifications of just taking a unpercentage view and thus occasionally finding himself “HUNG”.

Does anyone now deny that the poker element, especially

in championship bridge, is not ever present?

Eugene HungOctober 5th, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Bobby. To answer your question, I knew at the time of the finesse that the true card situations were A10 and 10, and finessing the 7 would make the contract in both cases. The losing positions of A108 and 108 both involved “falsecards”. But I judged the two falsecards to be unlikely given the table action, RHO followed very smoothly with the 10. Since I was up against a junior, rather than a top champion capable of finding that falsecard in tempo, I was willing to pay off to him being brilliant.

To answer David, I’m not confident I would have picked up the singleton eight. Unlike the above situation, RHO would naturally play the 8 from 108 doubleton, so now I would risk going down when RHO was being normal. I don’t know if the inference from the heart opening lead was strong enough for me to take that anti-percentage play. I’d probably have to think a minute at the table after LHO follows with another x. I knew LHO had a 4-card suit yet didn’t lead it, but it could have been spades (or even 4 small clubs) instead of diamonds.

Bobby WolffOctober 5th, 2011 at 9:47 pm

To Eugene,

Your answer completes your profile- High-quality and imaginative player, with an honest approach to a very difficult game, doesn’t mind backing his judgment even when others will cry “less chance percentage”, and very well-balanced emotionally adding up, in the absence of future extenuating and preventative circumstances, and in summation, to try and quote or at least paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, “Yours is the bridge world and everything that’s in it, And–which is more–you’ll be a Champion, my friend”!

Jeff SOctober 5th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I have to ask – if you have 10-8 and declarer leads the 9, the 10 and 8 are now equivalent. So, why is it more natural to play the 8 than the 10? In other words, why would the 10 be considered a hard-to-find false card? I would think as soon as the 9 was led, I would automatically want to play the 10 because it will either win the trick or it will make no difference.

Thanks in advance!

Eugene HungOctober 5th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Jeff — You’re absolutely right, the 10 and the 8 are equivalents once the 9 is led, and if anything the 10 should be preferred to the 8 because it opens up a falsecard possibility But in practice, I find people tend to play the 8 even when the 108 are equivalent. It’s like leading the D5 from hand as Jim mentioned earlier. There’s a natural tendency to use the cheapest spot necessary, and going against that tendency usually requires a little thought, unless you can see a reason to make the non-intuitive play in advance. The falsecard of 10 from 108 is similar to J9 or QT falsecard positions, but finessing a 7 doesn’t occur that often so it’s harder to see. In practice, I do not play against players who are capable of finding those falsecards in tempo. And my philosophy is that if my opponent makes a play like that, he deserves to be rewarded!

I appreciate the kind words Bobby, but I am no longer a junior — this hand was taken from over a decade ago. While I enjoy playing high-level bridge, I am merely an amateur, not a professional, and it’s difficult to compete against my former peers who play full-time. I do spend my spare time working on, so if you are interested in high-quality content and discussions, come and check it out!