Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.

Arnold Glasgow

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


In today’s deal as South after an optimistic auction to four hearts you receive the lead of the diamond nine.

It looks right to win in dummy with the king and lead a spade toward your hand. When East plays low without a flicker, it seems logical to put in the jack, losing to the queen. The heart four comes back; you play low from dummy and win cheaply in hand when East plays the three. Now you advance the spade king. When West plays low, you discard a diamond from dummy, and your spade king holds. Things are looking up; but take care…

You must next lead a low spade from hand, and when West covers with the eight, pitch dummy’s losing diamond, rather than ruffing in. If spades split 4-3 you may have surrendered an overtrick, but should lose no more than one further trump trick.

However, when the 5-2 spade break comes to light, it complicates matters. It can do West no good to play a spade, to set the suit up for you. Instead, West reverts to diamonds, and dummy’s jack is covered by the queen. You take the ace, then ruff a diamond as West discards a club. Now you ruff a club to hand, and ruff a spade with the heart ace. Another club ruff to hand sees you ruff your last spade with the heart jack. East can overruff and return his last diamond, but you ruff with the six and draw his last trump at trick 13 with your heart king.

You are of course far too good to consider passing. Your real choice is whether to make a simple raise of diamonds, or to cuebid three clubs to suggest a better hand than the raise. This would be my choice because I have so few honors in clubs; facing a 5-5 hand type, my collection should produce a surprising number of tricks for my partner.


♠ 7
 A J 8 7
 K J 8 2
♣ Q 10 8 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2July 25th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Suppose West wins with the AS (and not the QS) and returns a second diamond to your AD?

Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

My initial reaction to your clever (TBD) deception in spades would be to then “guess” the reaction of declarer. He then would cash the now good king of spades, throwing a diamond and then upon leading another spade would, after being deceived, lead one more spade and, expecting East to have the queen, perhaps ruff low and get overruffed with a trump then back.

However, if West is capable of such deception, might declarer also not be gullible enough to trust West, a form of “Gullible Travels” or some such.

Therefore, whether EW winds up with a created “windfall” result or one only Lilliputian in nature but, no doubt, will occur “SWIFTLY”,
in effect, a likely GIANT gain.

One thing for sure is that your TOCM TM malady has not diminished your imagination.

jim2July 25th, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Well, it is not a particularly Brobdingnagian deception, as it cost nothing. That is, West will always get just one spade trick and declarer will always get one discard. It just has the potential to get declarer to misplace cards and distribution.

Of course, if I were declarer and played that way, TOCM ™ would re-arrange the trump suit to let East over-ruff with the nine, a third diamond, then a fourth one with the trump queen ready to shift hands depending if I ruffed low or high.

Bobby WolffJuly 25th, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

From your description, that TOCM TM virus is both aware and also extremely shifty, allowing it to have the important attributes of an All American running back in USA football.

If it became human, such as the computer “Hal” did in “2001, A Space Odyssey” it could moonlight as a highly paid great running back in the NFL and be a double threat, running amok in both bridge and football.

Iain ClimieJuly 25th, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

In 2001, A Space Odyssey, HAL’s overriding priority is the success of the mission. He / it realises that the highest risk comes from the astronauts, so acts accordingly. It is therefore very important that we don’t let intelligent machines be part of teams with human players if they’ve been programmed to win at all costs. A Terminator-like cull of human players might follow leaving the baize battlefield to silicon bridge superstars.

Tongue in cheek of course, but chess is interesting in terms of what could happen. When Gary Kasparov got beaten in a match by a computer, it didn’t herald the death of top level human chess, but computers have been massively utilised in preparation and analysis. People still want to see the personal struggle, while bridge is less transparent than chess, where everything is potentially able to be seen. One of the pioneers of computer chess, ex world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, was disillusioned that brute force searching dominated artificial intelligence approaches as computing power soared. It will be interesting to see how bridge programmes develop.



Joe1July 26th, 2015 at 1:16 am

Brute force, identifying possible if obscure winning lines, is what computers can contribute. But our game’s psychology, reading your opponent, timing, etc, can not be replaced by computers. Chess on the other hand, has less psychology or intuition, though definitely some, granted, so can not be compared effectively. The fun for me in bridge includes the psychology (as well as the process, of course) but the personal, or fifth dimension, is a source of fascination.

Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 5:50 am

Hi Iain & Joe1

Between the two of you:

1. Humanized a man generated computer, (long before its time) to at least consider human thinking, but falling back on the likely result of having to accept mechanical failure to succeed.

2. Compared chess psychology to bridge, alluding to but not actually following through that the major difference being bridge is constantly pitting man (or woman) against another human as mind opponents in many different ways, but restricting chess psychology to basically intimidation value but little else.

3. While there will always be deference to computer perfection, it is much less noticeable in bridge, simply because computers are not there yet and will likely never be, while chess, being finite, has been there for decades. Maybe mental telepathy will spook its way into recognition, better defining the competitive thought process necessary to win at the top in bridge. Let’s face it, computers are marvelous for supreme final analysis in both games, in chess all the way to the Emerald City, but in bridge much less along the Yellow Brick road where the wicked witches and poisoned flowers forever lurk, creating non-numerate
hard to pinpoint conundrums.

Either tragic or perhaps to be expected cheating in very high class bridge and chess have always followed different stimulus, from computer generated best lines for winning at chess, but only stealthy illegal signalling between partners, with no wasting time of waiting in vain for legal signals, which sometimes either never come or cannot be read, due to the cards held are simply not transparent, but since the chess board always is, the cheating there follows different lines.

No doubt, cheating at either game, is perhaps similar in morality to what IS stands for in war. but similar to the recent jailbreak in New York, one might even admire the thought and effort put in by the jailbirds.

4. (and finally) I agree with Joe1 about his love of the psychology of bridge and, as he describes, the personal or fifth dimension, to which I am also completely fascinated and have been for more years than I can count.

In any event, final winning positions in both games, will no doubt, take all the oxygen out of the air, for those aficionados who adore both miracles, or even perhaps only just one.

Obviously I am biased in favor of bridge, being the more challenging and enjoyable game between the two, but I certainly would like to hear from whoever it might be to be the best bridge player who also plays excellent chess and, of course the opposite comparison of the best chess player who also plays top level bridge.

Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2015 at 10:40 am

Hi Bobby,

Emanuel Lasker (world chess champion in the early part of the 20th century) played reasonable bridge I belive, and Gerald Abrahams was a British Chess Master who wrote a well-received book “Brians in Bridge” if I remember rightly.



Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 11:38 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the references to both bridge & chess masters who had time to work on both games.

Since both games require dedication to get there from here, I am relatively sure there is much more to add about their differences and to what personal attributes and specific talents are necessary to join the list of top players.

At least to me, when one adds poker to the discussion, still other comments become appropriate. In regard to the corollary side of cheating, with poker it seems to be the totally different ploy of including a secret confederate in the game whose job it is to cooperate with his unknown partner in crime (to the other players) to keep the rest of the players (in that specific group) confused as to who has the winning hand and by professionally (dark connotation) joining in with this illegal activity become nothing less than overpowering in guaranteeing a significant advantage, which will lead to bad guys (and sometimes gals) stealing money from others.

Curiously when one adds the game of Blackjack to this discussion, a well known casino game, begun on this side of the pond in America, but now generally making a big splash on the other side, still another advantage was discovered by a certain Dr. Thorpe, a college professor at a New Mexico university who wrote a book called “Beat The Dealer”, with legal ways to prove that a player could win legitimately if he was able to vary his bets to offset the cards still remaining in the deck, during particular deals which came up often enough to allow the law of averages to act in favor of the player, not the house.

However, the home team (casinos around the world) came up with their form of policing of that game which enabled them to keep dealing that popular pastime in spite of what had been the original rules which Dr. Thorpe proved can and would have relegated that game into a losing position for the house if and when there would have been enough wily customers who took it upon themselves to play the original game (still to this day being available) but without the casino stringent watchful eye who merely intimidates the said players into complying with carried out threats of being barred from playing that game while at that casino.

The above is simply a brief, but no doubt incomplete history, of some of the most popular game pastimes, their value, their byproducts, and their current colorful status, including the warts attached. Add to that the dealing involved in “shady” casinos in the past of what used to be called “seconds” meaning a professional dealer who was closer to a magician in being able to manipulate a deck of cards in order to manually effect the producing of the right card when he needs to do it and this discussion at least becomes sophisticated enough to cover the past circumstances which was somewhat common in years past, but thankfully, much less now.

All the above might just suggest is that sex and extreme violence are not the only subjects to be “X” rated for public consumption.