Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

Q 10 5
Q 8 2
A 5 2
Q 9 6 4
West East
A 8 7 2 J 9 6 4
5 3 9 7
10 8 7 3 K Q 9 6
10 8 7 A J 3
K 3
A K J 10 6 4
J 4
K 5 2


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Dbl.
3 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead:3

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

— Hippocrates

At the World Championships in Verona in 2006 the best result by a junior player was by Eldad Ginossar of Israel, who collected a bronze medal for finishing third in the World Open Teams Championship, playing with a Turkish partner and Israeli teammates. Here’s Ginossar in action, declaring four hearts.


A diamond was led and declarer played low from dummy to start to cut the defenders’ communications. He could not avoid the loss of a diamond whatever he did.


The diamond went to East’s queen, and a heart was returned. Ginossar drew two rounds of trump and played the spade king. West won the ace and made the fatal mistake of returning a diamond. That was won by dummy’s ace, and a club went to the king. Now Ginossar played off all his trumps, reducing to a three-card ending.


He could keep two spades and the bare club queen in dummy, but what was East to hold onto? With four cards left he had retained the guarded spade jack and the club ace and jack. But now, if he discarded a spade, declarer would lead to the queen and take the 10. If he pitched a club, as he did, Ginossar could throw East in with his club ace to concede the last two tricks to dummy’s spades.


Should West have worked out, when in with the spade ace, that he needed to play a second spade? It is certainly easier with all four hands in view.

ANSWER: The best call here is to double. This is technically known as a responsive double. (These apply when you double a bid-and-raised suit in response to your partner’s double.) The sequence suggests the minors, not spades, since if you had spades, you would bid them yourself. If partner picks diamonds, there is a decent chance he has five of them.


South Holds:

Q 10 5
Q 8 2
A 5 2
Q 9 6 4


South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Ross TaylorDecember 31st, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Bobby, this was indeed well played, but as is often the case in a squeeze position, the defense’s tempo and carding likely telegraphed the winning line for declarer. If East planned his discards in advance and stiffed his jack of spades smoothly, there’s a reasonable chance declarer would simply take the spade finesse. His actual line would then fail as the club jack would be the setting trick.

Similarly, if East were not dealt the jack of spades, but say AJ10x of clubs and 9xx of spades, he would want to dissuade declarer from the winning spade finesse. He would pitch away the jack of clubs and come down to S9 and C A10 and hope declarer tries the ‘Miami end play’. Of course, one would hope his pitch of the jack of clubs was smooth and in tempo, and not agonized, since that would be coffee housing.

It’s funny, when many poker players hear comments like that last one, they just don’t get it, since masking your cards and position with your behaviour is a standard ploy in poker, yet abhorrent in bridge.

Bobby WolffJanuary 2nd, 2010 at 12:48 am

Hi Ross,

As always, you seem multi-faceted in your talent and ability to produce probing questions, which, at least to me, go right to the heart of your topic. In one simple blog, you have managed to dissect this AOB hand into a learning experience regarding both high-level bridge playing, featuring card reading and the unique ethics of the game.

Reading cards from the declarer’s standpoint is very much concerned with all that has happened up to the zero hour, e.g. the moment of decision. As you know so well, the evidence comes from the bidding of the opponents or as Hitchcock may have surmised “the dog which did not bark”, plus the opening lead (especially if there was no howling whatsoever), and, of course, the order of discarding as well as the honest tempo of the opponents.

Honest tempo should mean just that, no extra time or especially added emphasis on plays when none is warranted. Bridge was originally and I hope still, now thought of as a gentleman’s game played by ladies and gentlemen who are straightforward and basically without guile in physical actions designed to deceive.

Why is that, someone may ask, as do your poker friends? Probably because of it being a partnership game wherein the only legal authorized information which can be passed is done so through the bidding and the play of the cards themselves. In poker, being an individual contest, it is definitely player beware, since so called coffee-housing is not only allowed, but rather, totally expected. Probably in a perfect world, (which has not been seen, especially lately) bridge might be, but hasn’t up to now, allowed physical deception between opponents. Until that ethic changes we should be bound by the way our grandparents played and that is “No phony acting or expression” has a place in our game.

Having said and accepting the above, actually contributes to making bridge the superior intellectual game of choice, since I doubt if anyone can dispute that chicanery, other than the aformentioned bidding and play of the cards, should be allowed to influence the result. The problem solving needed in playing solid, excellent bridge is difficult enough when proper bridge ethics are used, crying out to all who are interested to not add advantage to ones who feel differently.

As in the hand you discuss, I have always firmly believed that those who think and react quickly, similar to in basketball, to those who can jump higher, have won the right to be favored by the rules. Likewise in most forms of competition, physical and mental attributes should and do play great parts in achieving success. Some of the greatest players in our history would certainly, if defending the subject hand, have discarded in a certain way, possibly differently, depending on who the declarer was, in order to get him or her to adopt the wrong end position. That is where the real talent and psychological abilities come into play which only adds, at least to me, to the great allure the game already has.

Perhaps your poker friends would like to challenge the way bridge is played, they themselves opting for an anything-goes policy. If so, it may prove to be an interesting discussion and one in which a person’s real personality will come sallying forth.

By the way, what say you?