Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 27th, 2018

The age of chivalry has gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.

Edmund Burke

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


To describe something as “done like a computer” might be flattering in almost every area but in the world of bridge, where computers have yet to achieve top-class play. However, things are beginning to change, as Al Levy, coordinator of the Computer World Championships, demonstrated.

He reported this brilliant example from Round Six of the Lyon qualifying event last year. It was a fine example of good defense defeating accurate declarer play.

Against four hearts, West got off to an efficient start by going passive and leading a trump. Any other card, except the spade ace, would have let through the contract immediately. Declarer won and saw that he could no longer ruff a diamond in dummy. So he drew a second round of trumps, then led a small spade toward dummy’s king. West again made the right play of rising with the ace, as East signaled count, then continued accurately by shifting to a diamond to East’s queen. Declarer ducked this trick, and East now played a small diamond, (rather than the “routine” 10, which would have been fatal).

Declarer won his diamond ace and ran all his trumps. West had to find five discards, to reduce to three cards; he pitched two spades, a club and the diamond jack, then went into what for a computer was a long pause. For his final discard, he let go of the diamond king, thus avoiding the throw-in. East could now win South’s diamond exit and play a club, taking the contract down.

When your partner has passed in third seat, your chances of beating the game are slim. At pairs, I’d settle for a passive spade lead (the five if leading second-highest from four small). At teams, you could sell me on a desperate heart ace. Maybe partner will come through with a fifth heart or some other goodies in that suit.


♠ 8 5 4 2
 A Q 3
 7 3
♣ 8 6 4 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieSeptember 10th, 2018 at 11:32 am

HI Bobby,

Interesting but if declarer held the D10 and not the CA West’s circuits go red faced, although there are still 4 losers. East maybe does better to stick a club through after the DQ has held and now declarer is stuffed. Swap the CA and K round, though, and West then has to duck the CK if South plays it.

Still very interesting to see the progress that has been made in this area.



jim2September 10th, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Is the BTWA answer affected by the fact that North’s pass was NOT in third seat?

bobbywolffSeptember 10th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Hi Iain,

First, Al Levy, a long time good friend from NY, and a bridge computer legitimate guru, seemingly has dedicated his bridge life to accomplish the gains which computer bridge has achieved.

Second, it has always been deemed incredible to me, since so much constant progress has been made in the general computer world, but when it comes to going straight forward while programming high-level bridge, the difficulty in handling consistent and, of course, bridge thinking, remains enormous.

Bad and good, bridge robots, as a rule, remain in the dark ages, but thanks to Al’s dedicated work, at the least (and today’s hand is an example) of overcoming difficult bridge ploys, being at times seemingly inconsistent, cause chaos, but to his credit, he has steadfastly and courageously stayed with it.

Just one of the real bridge heroes, along with Fred Gitelman who created Bridge Base Online (BBO), who will never get his due, as loving our game as much as anyone possibly could.

Finally, the good, of how bridge experts have to deal with those inconsistencies, again with today’s hand and your suggestions in order to, at the very least, analyze what needs to be done in both declarer’s play and defense to create anywhere near the perfection which is often required for success.

bobbywolffSeptember 10th, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, should have been written more clearly.

A 3rd seat pass, not shown in today’s auction, only might emphasize the need to try for lightening in a bottle and lead hearts from hand.

However I would prefer the heart queen, gambling that the dummy didn’t have a singleton king, to lead from that given hand, pretending partner was on lead, and guessing that hearts may be his longest suit, with only no Stayman attempted by responder, as evidence.

The queen may originally be more difficult for partner to understand, but it might, on happy occasions, create more flexibility for the entire defense.

Furthermore, I would definitely lead a heart at IMPs, but to do so at pairs (where overtricks are of immense importance), is sheer lunacy (at least IMO). However that is just my thinking, and others may disagree.

Thanks for the “Heads Up”!

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