Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

I am driven Into a desperate strait and cannot steer A middle course.

Philip Massinger

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

*Spade raise


At the 2007 World Championships, Sweden lost its round robin meeting with Brazil, but right at the end of the encounter, Fredrik Nystrom got to show off as declarer — and his teammate Anders Morath had a chance for a crafty defensive play.

Against five spades, Miguel Villas Boas started with the diamond jack. Nystrom won the ace and put the spade jack on the table. Villas Boas won perforce and continued with the diamond king, then a deceptive club queen. Nystrom took the club ace, ruffed a club, played a spade to dummy’s king and ruffed a diamond. He then cashed two more trumps. The key to making the contract was figuring out how to play hearts for no losers, if indeed it was possible.

The bidding did not eliminate the possibility of West holding a doubleton heart queen. Nystrom eventually played a heart to dummy’s king, following it up again after some thought, with the jack. When Gabriel Chagas followed low, Nystrom ran it. That was good for plus 650.

Morath started with the club king, and play followed a line similar to that in the open room. (Morath played the diamond 10 when in with the spade ace.) At the critical point, however, when declarer played a low heart from hand, Morath produced the heart 10, pretending that he had started with queen-10 doubleton. Indeed, declarer fell for it, winning the heart king in dummy and playing the jack to his ace. When the queen did not fall, it was one down and 13 IMPs to Sweden.

Bid three clubs. Despite not really having extra values in terms of high cards, our shape is enough to justify taking a free bid. This describes our hand well, suggesting our nine or more cards in the minors. You hope it will help partner judge what to do if your left-hand opponent raises to four spades. If partner passes, you will too, of course.


♠ A
 10 2
 K J 10 6 5
♣ K Q 9 8 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 2 ♠

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Hello Everyone,

Horribly, the bidding is very screwed up with NS, not EW bidding to 5 spades at both tables with the bidding diagram starting with East passing and then all bids moving one to the left so that South, not East become declarer.

I feel exactly like Philip Massinger’s poignant quote above.

Very confusing to everyone and many apologies, only worrying how this happened and promising to do our utmost to keep it from happening again.

Thanks for your indulgence.

Iain ClimieJanuary 7th, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

No worries at all but time for the gremlins to realise they’ve failed Geography 101 and for open season to be declared early on them in 2020. Do you think declarer in the 2nd room should have been fooled, though? East has punted 5C with the hand shown; he might have done the same without the HQ I suspect, as it will hardly be pulling its weight. West surely has 2H, the false card from 10x seems a little crude but there again there are double bluffs. Still, credit to West for digging the hole.



jim2January 7th, 2020 at 5:21 pm


And there I was, trying to imagine how just how astonishingly crafty Fredrik Nystrom had to have been to make that sitting West ….

bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2020 at 7:41 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

In many highly competitive games (many of them also highly moneyed), there usually develops what could be called “a game within a game”.

Not physical, but almost always entirely psychological, where the specific competitors (in team games such as American football, often between the quarterback, or the coach who calls the plays, and the defense, in baseball, the pitcher (with the catcher’s help) and the batter, also in basketball with the dribbler and usually his closest defender.

In bridge, it seems to be between the declarer and the story woven by the defenders, or perhaps just one, who draws, by sheer chance, the short straw for representing the enemy.

All the above and often, revolves itself around the participants being aware of the already disclosed evidence supplied earlier, which in fact is close to 100% proven, limiting opportunities so telltale as to already being a fait accompli.

From the above, all that could be discussed, especially when strength is playing against strength (in all competitions) always be aware that opponents, at least at that moment in time, are your mortal enemies who are trying to do the same thing to you that you are hoping to do to them, so beware, with the only sound advice I could offer is for the good guys to know the habits of the bad guys better than they know you.

At least to me, the above in bridge is more important than systems played, exact percentage lines followed, plenty of rest before, or any other old wives tale told about being competitive.

So I, like Jim2, am also wondering what Fredrik Nystrom was thinking when he played the jack and of course, than ran it.

jim2January 7th, 2020 at 11:30 pm

No, I did not wonder that at all!

I was wondering how he — sitting WEST — found a crafty way to make 5S with his AS facing 92 doubleton by way of support!!

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

You’ve got your TOCM TM, I live with SH, the H standing for happens and the S the beginning of a four letter odious word, definitely not for spades.

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Hi again,

And now I realize that Nystrom was declarer and sitting South when he ran the jack of hearts from dummy.

When last I played bridge, day before yesterday, at the local bridge club, I now know what a stranger sitting as my LHO, meant, when he pointedly after the hand asked me, “How do you think you will enjoy playing bridge”?

jim2January 8th, 2020 at 4:35 pm


At college, one very excitable and opinionated player often made such snarky comments.

In one case, he loudly asked his partner when he had learned to play bridge, then quickly followed with:

“I know it was today, but at what time?”

Iain ClimieJanuary 8th, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Hi Folks,

“Well-defended” to a declarer by either dummy or opponent(s) is another naughty wind-up. There’s no point, though – it’ll just irritate the victim into making mistakes against the next pair who are sitting the same way you are. I did once try to console a weak but friendly pair at one club after we’d taken them to the cleaners over 2 boards, saying “They’ve gone now, it is only pairs, a couple of poor boards and you can get it back later.” I was complimented on my kindness but told the lady that I just didn’t want her to mess up against the next pairs sitting the same way. Hilariously she refused point blank to believe that I could be that manipulative. Sometimes you tell the truth and nobody trusts you.



bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2020 at 7:58 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain

Yes, today, and you should follow suit, ASAP. Not that you ever will or ever could seems the proper response.

And Iain, easily remedied, never ever tell the truth or at least without withholding necessary contradictions, like politicians always have and now the media has joined that group.

However, since mental trickery is very much a positive factor with our chosen game, those ladies need to change their tunes, as if they haven’t already.