Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom; youth is the season of credulity.

William Pitt

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

*three spades and five hearts

**transfer to hearts


From last summer’s world junior championships came this elegant defense.

West, Oscar Nijssen of the Netherlands Youngsters team decided that since his partner seemed not to have very much, he would lead a low trump, against five hearts. This went to the six, five, and declarer’s seven. Declarer cashed his club ace and played another club to Nijssen’s king, while East signaled an odd number of clubs.

Clearly, declarer was threatening to draw trumps and run the clubs. But given the bad trump break, he would need a late dummy entry, which had to be the spade ace. To eliminate that entry, West boldly shifted to the spade king. South could not afford to duck, with the diamond ace still out. As it was, when South won the trick with dummy’s ace, he drew one round of trumps with dummy’s 10, and saw East discard a diamond.

Now declarer had to guess the diamonds, hoping to establish one winner there and ruff another in the dummy. When he tried a diamond to his king, Nijssen took the trick and led another trump. Declarer could try to pitch a diamond on the club queen, but West ruffed in and played a spade. East still had to collect the diamond queen, so the contract went two down.

Nijssen’s maneuver has a name. It follows an incident during the Spanish-American War at the turn of the last century, when the Americans scuttled the Merrimac to try to bottle up the Spanish fleet in their harbor. Hence the Merrimac Coup.

The philosophy of responding to one club is not a matter of right or wrong. I believe with limited hands one bids a major (no matter what quality) in front of a four- or five-card diamond suit. Here I bid one heart, since my partner would bypass a four-card heart suit in a balanced hand if I responded one diamond.


♠ K 9 2
 8 4 3 2
 A 7 6 4
♣ K 10
South West North East
  Pass 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact