Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

An umbrella is of no avail against a Scotch mist.

J. R. Lowell

W North
None ♠ A 9
 9 8 6 5
 K Q 10
♣ A K J 5
West East
♠ Q J 7 6 4
 7 6 3
♣ 10 8 6 2
♠ K 8
 A 10 7 4
 J 8 5 4
♣ Q 4 3
♠ 10 5 3 2
 K J 3 2
 A 9 2
♣ 9 7
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 4 All pass


Scotland won their first ever Gold Medal at bridge, at the 3rd Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship. Today’s hand from that event sees Tony Nunn of Australia drawing inferences from the bidding and play to land his contract.

After West dealt and passed, North-South bid unopposed to four hearts, against which West led the spade queen. Nunn rose with dummy’s ace, under which East played the king, a revealing card. Declarer called for the heart five from dummy. East followed with the four and Nunn rose with the king, collecting West’s queen.

After that, the rest was relatively plain sailing. Nunn led a club to the ace, the club king, then ruffed a low club – collecting East’s queen in the process. Next came three rounds of diamonds ending in dummy, and the club jack. East did the best he could when he ruffed with the seven, and South overruffed with the jack. That was nine tricks in the bag and with three trumps left in dummy to East’s two, the game was now assured.

You might ask yourself why Nunn led to the heart king at trick two. At trick one, East had unblocked the spade king under the ace. He surely wouldn’t have done so from a three-card suit, so he had either a singleton or doubleton king, which in turn meant that West had started with at least five decent spades. If West had also held the heart ace, Nunn reckoned he might well have overcalled at his second turn, hence East had that card.

One possibility is to cuebid two clubs to get partner to pick a major, but I believe you are about a queen short of an invitational sequence. I think I prefer the simple route of bidding one spade, planning to compete to two hearts when given an opportunity, so as to get both suits in economically. If the auction stops in one spade we will not have missed game.


♠ 10 5 3 2
 K J 3 2
 A 9 2
♣ 9 7
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 1

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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 3rd, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Hi Bobby,

Well done south but I think east was on flashy autopilot at trick 1. It is always nice to make such plays but not here where it could even cost a spade trick. A similar position in NT would be very different, but should east have known better?



jim2June 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Actually, I think the KH is the right play for a better reason than the one offered by the column.

Specifically, you cannot make the contract if the heart honors are switched. Look what happens if you play the JH and it forces the AH. West simply plays the JS and another spade. If you ruff with the 6H, then East over-ruffs for the third defensive trick and still has the Q10 of trump to your KH. So, you ruff with the 9/8 and East pitches.

Now, with the defense having scored the AH and the JS, the trump holdings are:




I see no way to prevent two more trump losers, does anyone?

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Hi Iain,

What you explained helped cover the waterfront or, to the point the bridgefront. The only other value I possibly could add is that when the positioning of the cards look good for one’s own side, try and do nothing to change that. Jettisoning the king of spades at trick one could and so did
exactly that.

Against suit contracts it is normal to lead a queen holding only the jack with it. Against NT from the West holding, it would be normal to lead low. For example if East had only the A10 doubleton in trumps, then by throwing the king of spades at trick 1, rising with the ace of trumps at trick 2, firing back a spade might enable the 10 to immediately score, but East with his actual holding is certainly going to duck the original trump lead from dummy and not do declarer’s work for him.

Cap it off by saying that high-level defense is a global effort by the partnership, certainly not usually an individual brilliance since defensive glitches are unfortunately even more common than genius acts and since overall partnership defense would, I think, be universally considered the most difficult part of the game, better to not hope for miracles (an exact lie of the cards based on little evidence) but rather by, if at all possible, wait and see tactics and then quickly pounce. Not unlike a lion (or a wolf, guffaw) after his prey.

In bridge it is usually better to be sensible and thought a fool then react emotionally, and remove all doubt.

bobby wolffJune 3rd, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt the king seems and no doubt is the indisputable correct play.

That fact has now been conclusively proven by your latest comment and finally a plus has emerged from that isolated disease of yours, TOCM TM. You, maybe more than any other bridge player currently alive, have become a super expert on what card combinations are alive which will defeat the contract which has now been reached.

Eventually in future bridge learning you, and no one else, will be the authority on what it takes to go set in a close contract, with the reality experience of having it so often occur.

Maybe, at this early date we should create the recognition you deserve for the difficult task of so accurately assessing the clear and present danger of so many final contracts.

In bridge you have located the jungle out there which is always barely visible to the trained eye.

jim2June 3rd, 2015 at 5:37 pm

TOCM ™ prevents me winning tourneys, so my only hope is to win the post mortems.

LeonJune 4th, 2015 at 9:06 am

Jim, Bobby,

King of hearts play is spectacular and certainly not obvious.

Jim: you correctly say that if you play the Jack and it loses to the bare ace, you have no chance of making the contact. That is correct.
But playing the king could be very wrong if east held QTx or AQTx in hearts. In both these cases you loose more trumps (and the contract) compared to playing a heart to the jack.

I don’t know what is the best line. South followed his table feel (and logic) and was rewarded, so well done by south.

bobby wolffJune 4th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Hi Leon,

Well thought and well expressed.

Try as we might, with purists in the game wanting every result to be determined by pure percentages rather than what they might determine “lucky” guesses.

That luck is what others (including me) describe as “feel”, a talent vitally necessary if one is attempting to be among the best.

That so called “feel” is nothing more than being at the table and feeling vibrations oft times accompanied by tempo variances, but usually attempting to be camouflaged by those giving them.

Always, since the real game of bridge has been developed, has the above fact been critical, and now, with so many very talented individual players from all around the world
vying for excellence, has it become the vital difference in results.

Do Not back away, but rather gather steam in doing everything possible to get better.