On the hunt for the News Letter’s 1917 bridge correspondent

Ace of Trumps' column first appeared in the News Letter dated Saturday, December 8, 1917
Ace of Trumps' column first appeared in the News Letter dated Saturday, December 8, 1917

For more than three years – between 1917 and 1920 – the News Letter ran a weekly bridge column written by ‘Ace of Trumps’.

One hundred years on, the author of a book on British bridge is trying to find out the identity of the columnist.

A close up of Ace of Trumps' Problem No 1

A close up of Ace of Trumps' Problem No 1

Ken Deighton from Bournemouth, who has published a book on the history of bridge and is working on a second volume, contacted the News Letter asking if we could help with his search for the author of the Ace of Trumps column which appeared in the paper every Saturday.

He said: “Ace of Trumps ran a column in the Belfast News Letter starting with Problem No 1 in the Saturday, December 8, 1917 issue under the heading ‘Royal Auction Bridge’.

Royal Auction Bridge was developed in 1904, pre-dating Contract Bridge – the most popular form of the game around today – the rules of which were set out in 1925.

Ken said: “The final article (by Ace of Trumps) appears to have been Problem No 59 on Saturday, April 10, 1920.

“Much as I have tried, it’s been impossible to identify who he was. It’s so sad that someone who made such a contribution goes entirely unrecognised today.”

NIBU secretary Michael McFaul guessed that the column may not have been written by someone from the Province: “Because bridge didn’t really take off in Northern Ireland until the 1930s I would say this has been a column that has been syndicated from a national contributor.”

On Saturday, December 8, 1917, in introducing the column the News Letter stated: “We publish to-day the first instalment of a weekly article on Royal Auction Bridge.

“This game has now become very popular as an indoor winter recreation. It is a game of great skill, and our contributor is a leading authority upon it.

“We hope many of our readers will find matter for pleasant study in this new feature, which will appear in our Saturday issues during the winter.”

In his first problem (pictured above) Ace of Trumps gave the reader all the details they need to know about a particular game including the score, the declaration, and both partners’ hands, then asked how the hand should be played and why.

Solutions could be sent to the News Letter, c/o Fleet Street in London – a further indication that the column may have been syndicated.