Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

To be able to practice five things under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… They are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.


East North
Neither ♠ Q
 A 7 5
 A K 9 6 4 2
♣ A 7 3
West East
♠ A 10 6 4 2
 Q 10 3
♣ J 9 5 4
♠ J 7 5 3
 K 9 6
 10 8 5 3
♣ Q 10
♠ K 9 8
 J 8 4 2
 Q 7
♣ K 8 6 2
South West North East
1 Pass
1 NT Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All pass    


This Christmas I'd like to look back on the life of Seymon Deutsch, who died June 13.

We met in San Antonio in late 1953 and stayed friends for life. Although he had a 20-year hiatus from bridge, Seymon is the only player ever to win both the Rosenblum Cup and the Olympiad Teams in the World Bridge Games.

Seymon was generous, personable, upbeat and fun-loving. He had a house in Aspen, which allowed me as president of the WBF in the summer of 1993 to have a management meeting there at the Little Nell Hotel. With Seymon’s help it turned out to be a spectacular location, and the best WBF management meeting ever.

He lived a very active, productive life with a wonderful family — a beautiful and lovely wife Linda, together with his four children. The family was very active in the Joe Brand store, which was a showplace in Laredo and attracted people from far and wide. It was established by his father-in-law, but Seymon ran it for nearly 40 years.

Here is Seymon at a 1980s national championships. He bypassed his weak four-card heart suit at his first turn, getting him to the no-trump game. Then, when the spade queen held the first trick, Seymon innocently led a low diamond from dummy to trick two. When East neglected to put in the eight, Seymon inserted the seven, keeping East off lead. This maneuver set up the diamonds while shutting out East, so the spade king would remain protected.

When you do not have perfect shape for a negative double, have no biddable suit, and no support for partner, it is perfectly acceptable to pass, as here. If your partner is short in clubs, he might well reopen with a double or a further suit-bid. If he is not short in clubs, defending two clubs looks like a perfectly reasonable course of action.


♠ K 9 8
 J 8 4 2
 Q 7
♣ K 8 6 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 8th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

The Deutsch play is one of those that fuels debates over swindle versus technical chances.

The correct technical play may have been to win the QS and come to hand with a club and advance the diamond seven. The intent would be to play low if West plays the JD, but to go up otherwise and play back to the QD.

The technical line wins on the actual hand (and any 3-2 layout, of course), while Deutsch’s would fail if East had played the 8D, but is not nearly as good a story!

(Also, East could have been dealt J853 of diamonds, making the play of the 8D even harder to find at the table.)

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 8th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Hi Jim2

I’m not a perfect declarer but the line you suggest wouldnt work if West has been dealt with singleton Diamond 10. But Seymon’s line would work even if East has been dealt with J8xx of Diamonds & West Singleton 10 and even if East plays Diamond 8 also if Diamond 8 is not covered by Queen. Its hard but not impossible to play West for singleton J or 10. The catch is you go down when Diamonds are 3-2.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Jane AJanuary 8th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

What if partner doubles back in on the BWTA hand? Now what? Bid or sit? I have to confess I would make a neg double with the hand and hope for the best. If pard has four hearts or spades, pretty good news. If he rebids diamonds, not so bad since dummy would have Qx. If he bids two NT, even better. Seems like we can’t have the perfect hand all the time. I know the neg double here should promise both majors, but do we really want the opps to play two clubs, which could easily happen? Down one, or even two untouched could be a big plus for the opps. Pard has opened so he has to have something.

jim2January 8th, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Shantanu Rastogi –

Seymon Deutsch would not have played low if East had inserted the 8D, so his line would NOT work if West had been dealt the 10D singleton (or the actual hand, for that matter). He was almost certainly going to play for diamonds to be 3-2 (and go QD, AD, KD) UNLESS East played a card that his own 7D could not beat.

Another way to put it was that his line always works with diamonds 3-2 but with the added chance that East might fail to play a diamond higher than the 7D.

The technical line, OTOH, always wins if diamonds are 3-2, or if West has the singleton JD.

(Both lines also win if West has four diamonds.)

If this were a prepared hand, instead of a real-life one, then the columnist would switch the JD and the 10D.

Bobby WolffJanuary 8th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Jim2 & Shantanu,

Between your two comments everything is said which needs to be said except perhaps one.

Often in bridge, as probably in football and in war, the element of surprise wins the battle. Catching an opponent, even a wily one is not unheard of. Even, perhaps if East has J1053, he may be asleep at the switch and play low when a low diamond is led off the dummy. It happens more often than many think and is often called the “declarer’s advantage”, probably because he is not sure the spade situation is exactly as it is, simply because he is not looking at his 26 assets but only about half of his and half of his opponents.

In any event credit should go to declarer for taking advantage of whatever he can and this is the message, although this site is certainly appropriate and encouraging for the wide discussion which ensued.

Bobby WolffJanuary 8th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Hi Jane A,

Yes I, like you, would not require both 4 card majors and immediately make a negative double. It is expected, however, that many, perhaps most, would require both 4 card majors, pretty as it sounds, and because of that, our discussion goes as it did.

My thoughts sometimes vary and if I held 4-3-4-2 making it more likely that my LHO would raise his partner’s overcall, perhaps even jump sometimes depending on the vulnerability, now to not have both 4 card majors may become more awkward.

Yes, there are many nuances to consider and that is probably the reason that, at least in my opinion, there are so few players, perhaps no one ever, who has ever achieved world class status until he (she) has had many years of experience playing beaucoup hands against the best the world has to offer.

Bobby WolffJanuary 8th, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi All and hopefully others who would like a better description,

During my long partnership with Bob Hamman, perhaps the angriest he got with me was over the following hand, which might in turn, begin to explain some of the unknown aspects of what might be called the high-level game:
North (Garozzo)
s. 109
h. 1097
d. A753
c. 8642

West (Hamman) East (Wolff)
s. K4 s. 765
h. Q543 h. KJ8
d. KQ86 d. J1092
c. 1053 c. Q107

South (Belladonna)
s. AQJ832
h. A62
d. 4
c. AKJ

Bidding: Both vul South dealer

South West North East
1C* P 1D (0-7) P
1S P 1NT P
4S All Pass

Opening lead: King of diamonds

I played the jack of diamonds immediately after Giorgio played the ace from dummy, whereupon after following suit himself, again immediately called for the 10 of spades which I quickly followed suit with the 6 and then after Giorgio played the deuce Bob paused, but then resolutely won the king. Giorgio then ruffed the diamond queen return, led a spade to dummy and took a winning club finesse for his contract.

While the above was not close to the exact hand (my memory is not all that good, this having occurred in Stockholm, 1983 during the WC, but the same theme was palpably present). I had played too quickly, not giving Bob a chance to analyze the whole hand, enabling Giorgio to take advantage of the tempo and play rapidly, thereby gaining a significant advantage to locating the cards against him and therefore taking the correct declarer view. If Bob would have ducked, which he no doubt would have, Belladonna was very likely to continue the spade finesse and go one down in his contract.

Good table presence most times needs thinking time in order to defend the right way and world class players, both declarers and defenders, know that and I with my seemingly innocuous plays, became the conspicuous culprit.

At least to me, this theme indicates what I am trying to say about experience in many different expert type situations eventually allows potential excellent players to improve their games, but it takes plenty of time for it all to sink in.

I hope that when I post this comment the hand does not run together (it usually does for me) but if so, I hope it is still decipherable.

Is bridge a great game with all of its many challenges, or what?

*Super Precision

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 9th, 2014 at 4:22 am

Hi Jim2

With Spade length and possible equal distributions in hearts & Clubs 4 diamonds with West are most unlikely but singleton honours are most likely. So someone who has won world championship twice is expected to not cover 8 of diamonds. I may be totally wrong though. 🙂

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffJanuary 9th, 2014 at 5:59 am

Hi Shantanu,

You may be wrong in percentage chance, but you would be right as rain on this hand since West would have to win his singleton jack of diamonds and allow Seymon to have scored up his contract, even if East would have risen to the challenge with his diamond 8.

What we are talking about, at least IMO, is the difference between world class players and those who only want to be. There is really no way to legitimately define what it takes, it merely narrows down to bidding and playing up to what is necessary to win, nothing more, nothing less.

jim2January 9th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Shantanu Rastogi –

Even with some implied greater spade length (5 for West and 4 for East), the odds still favor hearts to be 3-2. Hence, not covering the 8H would mean Deutsch would go down if hearts were (some examples):

J53 – 108

J105 – 83

105 – J83

Thus, letting the 8 hold would mean the contract would fail on almost any 3-2 (or 2-3) hand for the much smaller chance that West held a singleton jack or ten.

Deutsch’s play gained and ADDITIONAL chance, one based on human tendencies, on top of the 3-2 probability.

Playing small towards the board would have also have gained an additional chance on top of the 3-2 probability, but one based only on TECHNICAL chances.

bobby wolffJanuary 9th, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

There is little doubt that you are correct percentage wise and therefore technically.

Also Deutsch’s play, as you mentioned, will automatically catch a sleepy defender sitting East and is, of course, the salient point in Seymon’s deception.

However, call it table feel or just magic, some (but not many) of the greatest players have a capacity to feel their (in this case) RHO has the intensity which might indicate to them that East is looking at 4 diamonds, not 2 or 3 little ones which possibly unbeknownst to them is giving his hand away.

To me, an avid sports fan, it is like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and in the past, Joe Montana playing every play in a perfect manner as he led his team down field for the winning drive in the late fourth quarter of an important game or some of the greatest tennis players playing the last games of a 5th set match without anything close to an error in the finals while in the prime of their careers. And how about Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods (before his scandal) in golf the last round in the final holes to sew up a major?

To me that is what World Class is all about and nothing less.