Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 6th, 2015

What is a society without a heroic dimension?

Jean Baudrillard

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


Today’s deal comes from the match between Indonesia and Australia in the 1980 Olympiad and Dick Cummings was the hero.

In the closed room Indonesia had stopped in partscore but Dick promoted himself to the heart game. After a top diamond lead Cummings ruffed and made the practical play of the heart ace from hand.

He continued with the heart jack, and East won his heart queen and avoided shortening declarer’s trumps by playing a second diamond. Instead he led a spade to the jack and ace. Cummings therefore shortened his trumps himself by ruffing a diamond, then cashed the king and queen of spades.

Instead of taking the club finesse, Cummings realized that he needed nothing more than that East should have one club. He therefore carefully led a club to the ace and tried the spade 10. If East ruffed this high or low it would be suicidal, so he discarded a club, as did declarer. Cummings now ruffed dummy’s last diamond, and at this point exited from hand with his last club. South’s last two cards were the heart 9-7, securely poised over the king-eight, and that guaranteed him one more trick.

As you can see, if East had held the doubleton club king, taking the club finesse would have allowed the defense to prevail in the six-card ending by winning the king and returning the suit; now the timing is all wrong for the trump coup.

This hand epitomizes the strategy identified by Rixi Markus; “Bid boldly, play safe”.

You are far too good to pass, since you could be cold for game in two or three different strains. While this is a normal response of one spade to an opening one heart bid, I would prefer to bid two clubs in response to an overcall. It may make it harder to get to spades, but I would avoid responding in a four-card suit if I had a sensible alternative.


♠ A 10 6 3
 10 6 2
♣ A Q 7 6 2
South West North East
  1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJune 20th, 2015 at 9:39 am

How about: ruff the D, lead a S to the A, lead the H6 and play the J (unless E very unlikely plays an honor, in which case S makes 5). This line of play should work against any 3-2 H break and the one 4-1 break S can do something about, namely W with the singleton 10.

bobby wolffJune 20th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Hi David,

What you suggest does have its merits, but what if the Jack of hearts finesse loses to a singleton honor and a club comes back?

At least, by playing the ace of hearts directly from hand, declarer was better able to control the later tempo of plays.

Dick Cummings along with the also late Tim Seres, both from Austalia, formed one of the best world class partnerships ever who also represented table ethics of the highest order.

Their presence will always be missed by any player who had the privilege of just playing against them.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 20th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Dear Mr Wolff
Well executed Trump coup by declarer. However it is little surprising how the Moysian fit in Spades has been missed . Apparently 4 Spades is making as the cards lay ( even if the Club K is interchanged as declarer has to play J of clubs & duck even if K appears from W hoping for clubs to break )Declarer needs only trumps to break
Yes . I remember to have read few hands played by Tim Seres Long ago. Great player & great partnership with Dick Cummings.

bobby wolffJune 20th, 2015 at 1:10 pm


No doubt your reference to the 4-3 Moysian trump fit (pertaining to Sonny Moyse, a flamboyant, long-ago, former owner of the American Bridge World magazine) has relevance. However to choose that seemingly few (7 instead of the recommended 8 trumps) is often a subject of futility and in most cases should only be sought as a likely last resort. Usually in preference to a minor suit (where 11 tricks are necessary for game) or NT when another suit is wide open for the opponents to run (at least 5 tricks).

Thanks for sharing with me remembrances of the Seres-Cummings partnership. I guess as we get older, trips down Memory Lane become more commonplace, especially when we seek out remembering our happier and proudest moments.

Maybe however, it is just because, becoming an historian, has a happy ring to it.

Best regards back at you,


jim2June 20th, 2015 at 11:43 pm


What line are you suggesting after East’s A/KD lead? (Assume when you lead the JC, West covers, and you duck as you said, and then West continues diamonds.)

(OTOH, I think if declarer ruffs, wins the two clubs, and crossruffs, the defenders are helpless.)

jim2June 21st, 2015 at 1:55 am


BTW, I think your line also works if declarer ducks diamonds until ruffing the 4th round in hand, cashes spade marriage, returns to hand to draw trump, etc. I just wondered if you had a different line.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 21st, 2015 at 3:40 am

Hi Jim2
The probable leads in 4 S are: D A/K , H K and a trump.
In case a diamond A/K is led, declarer ruffs in dummy and plays C J and passes ( ducking even if K appearing from W) and on diamond continuation, pitches two hearts from dummy, ruffs 4th diamond in hand, plays S K & Q, crosses over to C A, removes the outstanding trump and claims.
If a trump is led, wins with K in dummy, passes C J , arranges to ruff one diamond in dummy , removes trumps and runs clubs.
If H K is led, wins with A, passes C J , & a) if a heart is returned, ruffs in hand, ruffs a diamond , plays S K & Q , crosses over to C A, removes the outstanding trump and claims.& b) if a diamond is led ruffs in dummy and has easy 10 tricks
& in the unlikely event of a club lead, declarer simply ducks C K and as all suits are controlled will have easy route to 10 tricks.
However , not landing in 4 S contract and choosing to play in 4 H , the brilliance of Dick Cummings in rejecting the C finesse and making 10 tricks should be adequately respected


David WarheitJune 21st, 2015 at 3:44 am

Here is my analysis as to the merits of Cummings line of play and mine. I think that it is a very fair assumption that W does not have a singleton C, otherwise he almost certainly would have led it. Now, as to H. If they are 3-2, either line of play will almost certainly work. If they are 5-0, both lines will fail. If W has 4, both lines are the same. So, the only distribution of H that matters is if W has a singleton. If the singleton is the 10, my line works, Cummings line still has a chance, but will not always work. If W has the 5 or 8, my line is clearly better, although either might work. If W has the Q or K, Cummings line is clearly better, although either might work. It seems to me that these last 2 situations (stiff 5 or 8 versus stiff Q or K) cancel each other out, leaving only stiff 10 where my line is superior, and therefore my line is superior overall.

David WarheitJune 21st, 2015 at 5:07 am

Final point. How could anyone not admire Cummings play; after all he pulled off a trump coup and Warheit only pulled off a finesse. If Cummings had adopted my line of play, probably no one would ever remember the hand. The correct standard is always who comes up with the line of play most likely to succeed, not who comes up with the most sensational line. I am not in the least criticizing Cummings; he found a very good line of play and executed it perfectly. But it just so happens there was a better line.

bobby wolffJune 21st, 2015 at 11:28 am

Hi David,

No doubt you are a superior analyst and again with this hand you are no less than directly in the ballpark with your excellent line of play by trading on your choice of a heart to the jack rather than Dick Cummings play of the hearts head on from his declarer’s side (A, then the jack, when the 10 appeared).

However au contraire, when your line is chosen, some moving parts are created which need to be dealt with. First, with your choice the first heart needs to be led from the dummy, which means that a spade to the ace would precede the trump plays. By so doing you will risk, by finessing the jack of hearts next, West continuing spades, if in fact your jack of hearts loses to an honor and if the spades were 5-1 (with West) down you might go if West also then originally held 3 hearts.

To make your line superior let’s pretend that West had something similar to s. Jxx, h. K5, d. QJ9xxxx, c. x, would he lead his singleton club or would you from that hand? West would, upon winning his king of hearts, certainly switch to his club (with or without the king) but he might not lead one on opening lead. Even
change the 5 of hearts to the queen and your great line becomes less effective.

One last minor point is that with the vulnerability on this hand (EW only) many random players, even good ones, are not as predictable at whether they will bid or not even at the lower levels since they sometimes decide that they are outgunned and therefore rather remain mysterious about where the defensive high cards are located.

I DO NOT agree with that strategy, but nevertheless they also do not agree with me.

Obviously every play in important bridge tournaments is subject to eagle eye scrutiny and, of course this hand is no different. Perhaps upon further mathematical computation (if that is possible) your play still reigns supreme, but experience suggests that allowing more moving parts (which Cummings did not) sometimes comes home to roost.

All of the above is not in any way to take away from your continual suggested brilliance, only
to remind all of us (especially me) that as far as bridge choices continue to exist there will often be room to roam in deciding the better line, but to be fair, all factors pertaining need to be in the mix.

But even to that, let the winner do the explaining and on this hand Dick was the winner, or at least it turned out that way, although you would have also succeeded.

jim2June 21st, 2015 at 12:43 pm


That was about what I thought. Ruff AD, duck club, pitch on next two Ds, etc. As I said, even a straight crossruff also works. Sonny Moyse is likely somewhere grinning …

David WarheitJune 21st, 2015 at 8:58 pm

You ask what happens if W has the singleton HQ or K and returns a C. The answer is that in that event Cummings line would have been better than mine, but I already noted that. You failed to ask the other question: Suppose W has the singleton H 5 or 8 and we follow Cummings line. Now the opponents cannot make a mistake. So it comes down to this: if W has singleton H10, my line is better. If W has singleton 5 or 8, my line is better if opponents make a mistake, otherwise the lines are identical. If W has singleton Q or K, Cummings line is better if opponents make a mistake, but only if they can make a mistake, i.e. E has CK and W fails to lead a C when he wins his singleton H honor, otherwise the lines are identical. If you add up all three situations and do not just concentrate on one, it should be obvious that my line is better. And yes you do raise a fair question: what if W had 5S & 3H? The chances of that are extremely small, especially when you consider what the 3H would have to be: they could not include both the 5 & 8, otherwise E would have played a H honor when S led dummy’s H, and S could not now go wrong (win the A & return the 9).

Finally, my hat is off to Mr. Cummings; and I envy you for having had the chance to play against him.

bobby wolffJune 21st, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Hi David,

Even knowing what we now both have discussed, I do not know what the exact percentage would be if all pertinent facts are mixed.

My caveat is only one which, through the years has caused me to not take an overwhelming interest in attempting to either take or even discuss exact percentage lines.

I guess the reason could be called collateral truths, which are usually not significant (such as the potential spade ruff plus finding an against percentage trump length in the hand which has more accounted for cards, East, a probable low percentage).

Although of interest to someone trying to suggest or prove a point, it, at least to me, is a waste of time since, like the playing of Blackjack in a casino environment, it is vitally important, as a player, to make right percentage decisions as to when to hit, but some (many) choices are only fractionally apart, making the effort for perfection a difficult task indeed.

With that knowledge securely in tow, I then prefer not to even discuss those infinitesimal differences for fear that which has commonly been mentioned on this site before, my head begins to hurt (I think Jim2’s quote).

I am not saying that I am right, chiefly because I am not, but it is my excuse for not wanting to delve that deep. However I did not want to not mention the collateral possibilities often present, but sometimes glossed over for the possible fear of being slightly wrong.

Finally, I regard slightly right and slightly wrong in this difficult area in bridge, the same. However I do respect others who may not agree with the preceding sentence and offer no challenge to what they think (unless they are just off base, which you, of course, are, according to the past, never).

And for a final, final statement, perfection can be a cherished quality, except for the time consumed in attempting to achieve it.
It sometimes interferes with the opponents attempted enjoyment of the game, a propriety which is famously and specifically mentioned in the bridge law book.