Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.

Larry Niven

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


The role of computers in bridge is an interesting one. At the moment their bidding is unpredictable — they are a long way away from learning the nuances of constructive or competitive auctions. Their card play is another matter. While they struggle with complex low-level contracts, they are not afraid of squeezes. (They understand how to play them, but they don't know what a squeeze is!)

Onno Eskes recently wrote a series of deals for IMP magazine in the Netherlands featuring the computer GIB — which stands for Goren in a Box or Ginsberg’s Intelligent Bridgeplayer. Here is a deal in which GIB did not disappoint.

At the table, the defense against four hearts began with two top diamonds, a diamond ruff, and a spade exit. The question was whether GIB would spot the winning line: spade ace, spade ruffed with the jack, then a heart finesse, spade ruffed with the ace, and another heart finesse.

And indeed, GIB found this line immediately. The next question was how West should have defended. There are two ways to set the contract: the first is by returning a trump after the diamond ruff; the second is to refuse the diamond ruff.

GIB proves that it can work through all aspects of the hand: It refuses to ruff the third round of diamonds, pitching a spade instead. Then it ruffs the fourth diamond to play a trump, and now declarer cannot set up and enjoy dummy’s long spades whatever he does.

This hand is totally unsuitable for a pre-empt (with too many controls, too playable in three strains, and with intermediates that bolster all your honors). As a general rule, you should not pass moderate hands with good suits. Either pre-empt or open at the one-level, the latter being my choice here. An initial pass followed by a pre-empt therefore suggests a two-suiter.


♠ A J 10 4 3 2
 K 10 9
 Q 10 8 2
♣ —
South West North East

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuFebruary 11th, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Hi Bobby,BWTA,would you pre-empt with a void first in hand?If pard was a passed hand,anything goes as regards pre-empting,is how I would play it..regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieFebruary 11th, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

How would you expect the bidding to go on the column play hand? I can imagine cautious players stopping in a spade part score, for example.



Patrick CheuFebruary 11th, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Hi Iain, think it is a difficult hand playing Acol to get to 4H,unless you play 2D as forcing for one round..otherwise as you said,some might be languishing in 2S or 3S.Be interesting to hear from our host…regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 1:40 am

Hi Patrick,

Usually, when faced with a choice, bid rather than pass and hope something good happens later. However regarding the BWTA I would open 1 spade and never think of any other action.

Yes everything being equal there a few hands such as: s. QJ10xx
h. Kxxxxx
d. Qx
c . void
I would pass originally but with the king of diamonds rather than the queen I would open 1 spade, intending to bid and rebid hearts and hoping to come out alive.

I’ve found (at least enough to strongly recommend) it best to bid but with only Qx in diamonds the hand is just too weak to open 1 and too awkward (too much potential in the suit you do not open) to open a WTB.

Nothing guaranteed, of course, but whatever the above is my advice.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 1:47 am

Hi Iain,

I would expect the bidding to be the same with the first 4 bids, but I would bid 2 spades, not 3 hearts over 2 hearts and then with the South hand, bid 2NT, with North now venturing 3 hearts belatedly, which I would pass. Not disciplined but practical which doesn’t prove much except to emphasize that judgment is still the number one quality in a very good player with whatever is in second
place not close behind.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2014 at 1:49 am

Hi Patrick & Iain,

Bridge is not for the feint of heart, nor for the overly aggressive. Mama Bear is closest to the goal with somewhere in the middle, usually getting the later kudos.