Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Artificial Intelligence usually beats natural stupidity.


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


Last month I told you I would be running occasional deals to indicate how well or badly computers play. Here is an example of a computer outplaying a human — although as the original reporter (Onno Eskes for IMP magazine) said, the human being did a pretty good job too.

At the 1997 Dutch Mixed Pairs Championship, only Tjeerd Kootstra made 10 tricks in four hearts without assistance from the opponents. West led a spade, and East won and shifted to the diamond 10. Kootstra took the ace, played a heart to dummy’s ace, and exited in hearts. East took his king and reverted to spades, taken by South’s ace. The last trump was pulled, and now Koostra played a small club from hand, covering West’s eight with dummy’s nine. East won his 10 and played a third spade. Declarer ruffed, cashed the club king, and finessed in clubs to find a discard for his diamond loser. Nicely done.

When Eskes gave the board to GIB (Ginsberg’s Intelligent Bridgeplayer) the play began the same way. But at trick six GIB ruffed the spade 10 in dummy, drew the last trump, and played a club to dummy’s king. Next, GIB ducked a club to West’s jack, leaving that player endplayed to lead into the diamond tenace. This line wins against any doubleton club honor with West or a 3-3 club break, and does not require the guess of whether to finesse in clubs or play for the drop on the third round.

In this position, a pass by you does not suggest a place to play — not that you would object vehemently to defending that contract. (After all, it isn't game.) Instead, your pass simply indicates you have nothing to say. If partner runs to one heart, you won't sit for it if doubled — though it is not clear where you will end up.


♠ 8 6 5
 10 4
 Q 6 5 4 3 2
♣ J 8
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2July 20th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

In BWTA, that last sentence has me puzzled. I presume it is a reference to the following precise sequence:

—– 1D – Db – RD
Ps – Ps – 1H – Ps
Ps – Db – Ps – Ps

Why would I not pass?

Hearts could be 5-2 but, even if 4-2, do I think topless 6-1 (or 6-0) diamonds will play better one level higher (especially with at least 4 promised behind me)? Should I bid 1S and hope for a 4-3 fit but maybe end up in a 3-3 one? (if not 3-2)?

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, what you have brought up is real, and sometimes (hopefully not very often) ends in an unhappy result.

However, once this type of unseemly bidding sequence begins (usually called scrambling, but not there yet), it sometimes fixes itself, by one of the opponents bidding something instead of looking for ways to penalize 1 level opponents (usually a difficult task).

If apparently doubled in 1 heart (after partner sees fit to scramble there), I think a run to 1 spade is the percentage action (hoping partner is 4-4 in the majors, probably more likely than partner having 5 hearts, especially if doubled), but if doubled there also, perhaps 1NT doubled will be our least likely large penalty since, although they almost certainly outnumber our side in HCP’s, we may be able to scramble 4, 5 or even 6 tricks since excellent, much less perfect defense, often is hard to find.

As you pointed out the diamond length is behind you, not a good place for you the declarer, so the possibility of eventually risking a 2 diamond bid only increases the level, but may or may not be a good answer and would not be my choice.

No rose garden here, but nevertheless sometimes is the case, and your attempt to discuss it, is indeed educational and therefore very relevant.

Jeff SJuly 20th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

In the bidding sequence given by Jim, would a redouble by South have a specific meaning?

Bobby WolffJuly 20th, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Although those sorts of questions have different answers among specific partnerships, assuming you went to a bridge club which featured high-level players and played in a rubber bridge game with a good, experienced player and he redoubled as South after 1 heart was doubled and came back to him.

I would, as his partner, play him for making an SOS redouble (meaning please bid something) with either a singleton, but more likely a doubleton heart and at least 3 cards in both black suits, but likely not 4 cards in spades.

Also, it might be worth my saying that a good way to improve one’s own bridge is picture oneself on a desert island, with no one to ask, and after visualizing problems like the above, decide yourself, with the only legal language you have available is bidding, and then what makes more sense to have each available bid to mean, of course, depending entirely on the bidding sequence up to then.

By so doing, one’s bridge logic, even if he is only blessed with moderate numeracy talent, should improve by bounds and leaps enabling the lonely person to whom we refer, to go forward at a much faster pace than expected.

Finally, bridge logic is ALWAYS (among superior players) based on frequency of occurrence and what meaning will have the most utility.

The poisoned flowers to be wary of, are the too many self styled experts around who over value their own knowledge and pass it on to others who, in turn, judge wrongly to accept their opinions.

The above, at least IMO, prevents faster development by less experienced players, but with talent since after all, the game of bridge should be called the “ULTIMATE GAME OF LOGIC”.