Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Life always gets harder toward the summit — the cold increases, the responsibility increases.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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

*Limit-raise or better in spades


In today's deal North's three-diamond cue-bid showed a spade raise. Later, when South made a forcing pass of five clubs, North's five-diamond call showed the diamond ace and suggested slam interest. That was all South needed to take a shot at the spade slam.

On the top-club lead declarer realized he was short of intermediates in the diamond suit, but he appreciated the significance of the fact that West was a Scotsman. The diamond nine, traditionally known as the Curse of Scotland, would play a n important part in South’s plans.

South won the club lead in hand and drew trump in two rounds, ending in dummy, then ruffed a club, cashed the three top hearts, and ruffed a heart. He now had three diamonds and two trumps in each hand, with the lead in North.

Declarer called for a low diamond from dummy, and when East played low, he put in the diamond nine, endplaying West either to lead a diamond back around to South’s queen, or to give him a ruff and discard, whereupon the diamond loser would go away. It would have done East no good to hop up with his diamond 10 on the first round (though this is the best defense. (What if the diamond nine and eight were switched?). Had East gone up with the 10, South would have covered with the queen, and his possession of the diamond nine would have brought about an identical endplay on West.

Here a jump to four no-trump is unusual, suggesting this pattern and approximately these values. You may not be able to make game, or you may be cold for slam, but you don't have to decide that. Let your partner make the decision on where to play and at what level, once you have told him what you have.


♠ 5
 8 6
 K J 8 5 3
♣ K Q J 10 5
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 3

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


Iain ClimieNovember 5th, 2013 at 10:02 am

Hi Bobby,

Neat play, although Jim2 may point out the risk that a well known theory would give East DJ10 doubleton (although the rule of restricted choice applies). Can I ask a quick favour, though?

The secretary of one club where I play is trying to drum up some political support for getting mind sports recognised for support over here in the same way that government funding is applied to physical sports. As a bit of a fanatic swimmer I’m into both, but any chance of writing a paragraph or two summarising your views on the benefits of the game – or just point me to a post where I could lift info?

I think I can probably trawl through a few articles, and cut/paste info, but I’d rather be able to quote you directly if at all possible.

Apologies for the cheek!


Iain Climie

jim2November 5th, 2013 at 12:22 pm


(I must admit, though, that West’s 2N makes that holding by East very unlikely.)

Iain ClimieNovember 5th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

True enough, but …..

Bobby WolffNovember 5th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

First, thanks for between the two of you, and on today’s bridge blogging AOB hand, covering the bridge waterfront, the discussion of a possible J10 diamond doubleton in the East hand, complete with bringing up “Restrictive Choice,” but as is one of the calling cards of bridge, the quote of Damon Runyon, an American poet famous for his interest in gambling, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet” and the always present accurate philosophical replies by you both.

Now to Iain’s request which comes at an appropriate time for me, since I have very recently been requested to write a plaintiff proposal for the inclusion of teaching bridge in our (North American) primary and secondary schools and perhaps how to sell
the idea to our educational system. The following may result in a positive practice assignment for my attempt.

Bridge is a game like no other and before explaining why that is, let me first relate to you my 69 years (learning how to play when I was 12 years old) of experience of playing the game beginning with an anomaly.

Some (many more than one might think) absolutely off-the-charts brilliant people, who have graduated to great achievements (major degrees in our most prestigious universities, together with being instrumental in working on the Manhattan Project –the breaking of the atom in the hopes of ending WWII by the discovery of the Atomic bomb – plus countless other successful, innovative and complex discoveries in many different arenas have loved (to the point of obsession) and played the game with almost no personal success, with conspicuous lack of talent, but nevertheless was undoubtedly served as a major source of entertainment and consequently was an important pastime for them.

Let us examine the reasons why and what is it about our game which makes it so worthwhile and by so doing, serves as a very positive learning tool which helps in multiple endeavors in later life.

First it involves constant problem solving and, following that, it requires legal partnership communication, using a code language (bidding) which is very limited as to the choice of legal words allowed. It involves games psychology which is extremely challenging, especially while playing against ‘world class’ players from around the globe, who are both adept and experienced in what is involved. The rules themselves require active ‘ethicality’ which forbids the use of what is accurately called unauthorized information (UI) which, in turn, pressures both the bidding and the defense to not study in a situation which might impart illegal knowledge to partner who needs to lean over backward not to take advantage of what that study may mean. The mind battles which occur vary greatly and, like the game of poker, being right is all that is important. The results speak for themselves and no excuses, which often are present, are ever, nor should they be, given for failure to be on target.

Finally and possibly most important is the simple word numeracy which MUST be possessed and in great quantity by would be bridge warriors. Numeracy, as applied to bridge, may be defined as the constant thought of numbers, not restricted to arithmetic or mathematics, but rather to the constant distribution of the other 39 of the 52 cards in the deck during the bidding and, after the opening lead and the dummy comes down, the other 26 together not only to the distribution of the suits, but a general guess as to where the specific high cards are located because of the bidding heard, the hand one holds, what the opening lead represents (for the other two live players) and as the play unfolds from there.

To state it differently the numbers are relatively simple, coming in groups of 13 (the four suits, the high cards, and sometimes the intermediates, adding to that concept the necessity of knowing or at least educationally being able to guess accurately (from the evidence) which of the unseen cards are located where. That is the name of the game if success while playing the game is the goal.

The above represents the sleuthing evident on most hands and then together with what can and should be called technical excellence, e.g., the ability to play and defend the actual hand to best advantage, also keeping in mind the deception necessary to prevent one’s adversary, one player while defending, but two players while declaring is like during warfare — keeping the enemy from knowing as much as possible about your side’s assets and where they are located.

As one should be able to summarize, bridge is a game involving fairly simple exercises, counting to 13, remembering everything which transpires (even opponent’s hitches while bidding, defending and playing as declarer, including telltale hesitations by the opponent(s), their tendencies, and your partnership’s bidding system, but always keeping in mind that the opponents are entitled to be privy to all methods to which your partnership has special knowledge.

The immediate above refers to the ethics required to play the game properly and respectfully, a condition which is demanded with penalties for not complying always looming. That fact is one of the great educational and positive influences necessary to teach young minds which bridge offers and other endeavors do not. That, in turn, encourages honesty with discipline waiting in the wings for those who do not comply.

As one grows into developing his (or her) bridge game, he achieves consistency in performance, learns to totally concentrate on the task at hand, play at a regular rarely-varying tempo, be a tough minded and very competitive opponent, but always remembering his ethical obligations not only to his worthy opponents, but to the game itself.

This statement has caused the World Bridge Federation to use as its motto, “Bridge for Peace” since mutual admiration, rather than disdain and thus discord, is always the result when bridge players meet and compete from countries located all around the world, including the Middle East and Israel, China and Taiwan and all other countries which now and at times in the future will have strained political relationships. RESPECT for each other is the medicine which cures and the mind sets between the world’s bridge players create it.

The above is not always achieved by everyone, but the process of trying and while young and enthusiastic, can only result in a very positive result by all who seek to grow.
I may be biased and undoubtedly am, but my long experience of living a life in bridge causes me to give it the highest recommendation for all to, at the very least, be granted the experience of learning what is involved, in what is to me, a “slam dunk”, that bridge is the greatest of all mind games.

Iain ClimieNovember 5th, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Hi Bobby.

Many thanks for this and it has been fired off for use (with grateful acknowledgements!) unless you have any worries.



Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2013 at 1:30 am

Hi Iain,

Absolutely no worries! Hope both bridge and swimming flourish and float in your group’s physical and mind games world.

Good luck!