Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Man is a slow, sloppy, and brilliant thinker; computers are fast, accurate, and stupid.

John Pfeiffer

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

*Spades and a minor

**Natural, value-showing


As Dutch expert Onno Eskes wrote, when discussing the bridge ability of computers, they prefer clear problems; so slams are easier for them than partscores. Have a look at our computer, GIB, tackling six no-trump.

You win the spade lead in dummy, play the diamond king to find the surprising news, then lead the club king, ducked all around, and now carefully cash both top hearts to remove West’s exit card. Next you play a second club, won by West, who exits in spades.

You have 12 tricks now, but watch what happens when you run the clubs; on the last one you have to pitch a diamond off dummy, but which one? It cannot be the diamond seven, because after finessing the 10, you’d be stuck in dummy. The 10 does not work either, because West will cover the nine, and his eight will score the setting trick.

So let’s go back to the situation after trick seven. West has just scored the club ace and returns a spade. GIB plays dummy’s king and overtakes with the ace! He then runs the clubs, and the last one squeezes West, who is down to four diamonds and the spade queen.

West clearly cannot spare a diamond, lest the leader pitches dummy’s losing spade and leads the diamond nine, making four diamond tricks. So he throws his master spade, and now the diamond seven is pitched from dummy, the diamond finesse is taken, and declarer comes back to hand with his spade six for a second diamond finesse.

Your partner's auction suggests extras, with club and heart length. (If he was balanced and minimum with four hearts, he would not have competed over two diamonds.) You needn't panic and pass two hearts just because you have no clear way forward. Revert to three clubs and let your partner move on if he wants to. Three diamonds would be the best forward-going move, if you decide to cooperate.


♠ A 6 3
 J 5 4
 9 4 2
♣ Q J 10 9
South West North East
1♣ 1
2♣ 2 2 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitDecember 4th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Since you are planning the play as you say, it seems to me that playing the SJ at trick one is a mistake. If W’s minor is clubs, your only hope is that he has the DQ, which will surely be either singleton or doubleton. If, instead, he has diamonds, then you should play the SK at trick one, since E could have the Q, but if so no more than doubleton, so your line would work, but not if you play the SJ at trick one. Having said that, I confess that it would have been very unlikely that I would have found your brilliant line.

bobby wolffDecember 4th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for your improved dummy play which only tends to prove John Pfeiffer’s quote

Nor me, and probably nor almost anyone, but the human mind is capable of the imagination (and the skills which go with) to envision all of the 52 cards (many of the low cards are almost always irrelevant), particularly when opposition bidding (as is here) directs the mind to only have to consider a significant lower percentage of the likely high card and distribution positions of the key suits.

Difficult? surely, worthwhile? certainly, challenging? absolutely, satisfying? off-the-charts!

jim2December 4th, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I did not get this one even double-dummy.

Before I looked at all four hands, I confess that I thought I would have to squeeze East in the reds and could not do it.

bobby wolffDecember 4th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

You are merely confirming what most of us know about our wonderful game. It, like chess, but much more captivating in a variety of ways, is a real forward thinking and super challenging numerical game which should be taught, together with the logic of ethical competition, in our educational system.

Much of Europe and now all of China are jumping ahead of North America in understanding the value of teaching children to think and by doing so, exploring the limits of what a healthy brain can first grasp and then maintain.

Instead of catering to seniors (like myself) the ACBL should try moving heaven and earth to insist on teaching bridge in our schools. All youngsters, at least at first, probably will not vitally succeed in immediately loving this new enterprise, but eventually it will catch on in no trump, and when it does, the specific education accomplished, will have an immeasurable positive result.

Much will need to be done in the way of writing and updating textbooks and, of course, finding the correct way to teach it, but as sure as the sun comes up in the East, it will become
the key to a much more intelligent universe.

Jane ADecember 4th, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Maybe I am missing something, but take the first trick with the spade jack and play the king of clubs. If ducked, play another club. West can take and lead a heart, but you still have two good clubs and can start the diamonds. If east holds the diamonds, you can’t make it anyway, seems like. I would have finessed towards the board playing my diamond nine and letting it ride, which would have been great as long as I figure out to play my clubs first after the nine holds to rid the board of that pesky low heart and one of the diamonds. Seems to me this works quite well?

West gives away the hand however by opening that awful two suiter to begin with. Given to their own devices, north could get to the NT slam and have lots of fun with the wacky distribution. He might make it but has to figure out the suits on his own and it is not a walk in the park. He does not have many entries to the board. Too cold to walk in the park today anyway.

jim2December 4th, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Jane A –

The third paragraph of the column is key.

Basically, West lets the KC win and takes the second club so you must use your only hand entry (AS) to cash the clubs. The 3H is the first board pitch but what is the second? Remember, you have no more hand entries to take a second diamond finesse:

– Pitch the 7D and the board overtakes your 9D, letting West score QD at the end.
– Pitch the 10D and West can cover the 9D and score the 8D at the end.

Jane ADecember 4th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I see your point. I don’t think I could make myself overtake my spade king with the ace however. The computer was not stupid this time!

jim2December 4th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

It’s not MY point! I swear! As I admitted in my first post, I did not get it right even looking at both hands! I had to read the column to see how to do it.

(I spent at least 15 minutes constructing a beautiful Vienna Coup [in hearts] against East’s presumed two red queens only to discover I could not get to 12 tricks even if East DID have both.)

Shantanu RastogiDecember 5th, 2013 at 8:38 am

Fantastic card play. Looking at quality of Robots on BBO this play by GIB is simply amazing.

bobby wolffDecember 5th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, GIB has seemed, if our reporting is correct, to have reached new heights.

All of us should realize what a great game bridge is, with seemingly even extraordinary space, to rise even higher.

Thanks for your positive comment and, if anything, “simply amazing” is perhaps an understatement.

Herreman RJanuary 16th, 2014 at 5:36 am

Bridge is beautyful.