Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe.

Third Marquess of Salisbury

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


The Cavendish Invitational brings together the world’s best pairs and teams for a week of competition with some of the largest cash prizes in bridge. It is currently held in Monaco, but for many years it was organized in Las Vegas. One of the favorites in those years was the partnership of Brad Moss and Fred Gitelman, who had considerable success both as a partnership and individually. Gitelman combines a talent for playing the game with a real acumen for marketing the game through computers and the internet.

Gitelman is the developer of Bridge Master, educational software that features many useful elements of technique to improve the game of everyone from beginners to experts. It was therefore especially piquant that today’s deal cropped up as a problem for Gitelman in the 2001 Cavendish Pairs.

Of all the little-known percentage plays, one of the most obscure is featured in the spade suit on this deal. There might be something to be said for playing six clubs here, but six no-trump looks like the more normal spot. How should you play the key suit of spades to maximize your chances for four tricks?

The answer is to run the spade queen! If the suit is 3-3, you have a blind guess; if the suit is 4-2, you can pick up three of the four honor-doubletons by leading the queen. No other play achieves that result. It is only fitting that when Gitelman was faced with the challenge in six no-trump, he duly made the right play and was rewarded when the cards cooperated.

This hand is worth a jump to three spades, which should be played as invitational, not forcing. Note: Many people play two no-trump as artificial here, an extension of Lebensohl. If you do that, the jump to three spades shows five, while going through two no-trump to three spades shows four.


♠ Q 9 8 5 2
 K 9
 J 5 4
♣ Q J 6
South West North East
  2 Dbl. 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 30th, 2018 at 11:08 am

Hi Bobby,

I cynically love the comment today, reminiscent of “Ex = has been, spurt = drip under pressure”, a favourite of my old boss – a great guy if incredibly erratic bridge player. There again, I know exactly who I want if we’re talking dentistry or surgery.

I rattled through the combinations for fun. If you do play A then 10, getting small from your left, you should rise with the Q as that picks up Jx on your right while you can’t pick up Jxxx on your left. Playing the Ace also gains on a few occasions where spades are 5-1 with a singleton honour, although not enough to affect the overall assessment. You just know that TOCM would either give West SKJx if the SQ were tried (when Mrs Guggenheim would play A then 10 and wonder about the problem) or East KJx if Ace and another hit the deck. Interesting to see there could be two cards involved instead of one – TOCM squared or at least doubled.



Bruce karlsonMay 30th, 2018 at 11:15 am

BWTA: Partners can agree on strength required for direct 2 level doubles. Is there an accepted practice in the land of the wizards? The

jim2May 30th, 2018 at 11:25 am


bobbywolffMay 30th, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Hi Iain,

I veritably loved your post: witty, philosophical, on point, live examples, a well-known fictional character, representing utter futility, exceptions (often in fact, while more or less contrary, in reality, acquiescing to the column’s assessment).

Oft times, the internet and especially its social networks, media in action, and, of course the sometimes brutal world and local news,
brings so many, not so popular thoughts and actions, with enough voiced criticism to last a lifetime, seems to help ruin my day, week and what sometimes feels my forever.

You bring, at least to me, fun, reason, logic and, above all, compatibility, partly because of the positive wonders of our beautiful game, but mostly through and how, you go about describing it.

Above all, just simply, thank you, and, my guess, from a humble, like me, many others.

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi Bruce,

Your question (concerning today’s BWTA), the specific answer and, of course, your use of the term wizards, definitely reminds me of the actor, Frank Morgan, hiding behind drapes (while at his regal quarters in the Emerald City) during my favorite movie of the “Wizard of Oz” and fraudulently pretending to be very much in charge to all who would listen to him.

With your specific question, it is very marginal (not nearly exact and subject to substantial error) in all forms of contract bridge, whether at the top level, just learning, or anywhere in between.

In spite of the gobligook we use to jump to 3 spades, I prefer only 2 (since my only king is the wrong one, in front of the 2 heart opener). However, the fifth spade and scattered values would demand an acceptance by me if my partner (over my minimum response) did pursue onward with spades as trump.

The tidbit about Lebensohl is valid, but only from a what if possibility. BTW I am not a big Lebensohl fan in general, especially in that situation as the natural 2NT response then (a common occurrence) needs then to disappear, at least to me, too significant a price to pay.

Live and learn, learn and live, but any aspiring bridge partnership needs to decide (after learning the strengths AND weaknesses of possible conventions before adopting them).

I appreciate your interest and please accept my opinion. Very few, so-called, wonderful additions, are what Donald Duck might claim they are and “not what they are quacked up to be”.

bobbywolffMay 30th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

Very much, NOTED!

Iain ClimieMay 30th, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the kind words, although my determination to bring light relief to the game has been known to go over the top. Obviously I behave when playing tournaments but in relaxed club games I’m prepared to spread a little mirth. The grimmest situation I’ve ever been in at bridge had me (albeit under my breath) coming up with some appallingly black humour.

One really nice guy collapsed at Hitchin club (a hugely friendly place) and I would up hauling him out of his chair then hammering away giving him CPR, sadly in an ultimately failed attempt to keep him alive. The paramedics were there in a few minutes and got him to hospital but efforts eventually were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead about 90 mins later. While bashing away, though, I was twisted enough to wonder internally what on earth his partner had bid.

You can see why I refuse to take the game too seriously, although I was very different in my youth.



bobbywolffMay 30th, 2018 at 5:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Are you comparing a relatively unimportant failed attempt of life and death with the enormity of getting a sophisticated original puzzle involving high-level bridge 100% correct?

If so, perhaps you have overrated your love for our beloved game, and need to turn in your official bridge membership badge and relegate your attention to less important humanitarian efforts such as peace and prosperity on earth.

What some people will do just to be loved. Next thing to expect in today’s phony world is to downgrade a backwash squeeze into thinking it is some kind of sexual paradise.

Iain ClimieMay 30th, 2018 at 7:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m afraid so, clahing with Liverpool football club’s Bill Shankly who jokingly said “Football’s not a matter of life and death; it’s far more important.” Lezs flippantly, I would reommend xefibrillators. I got an email from one club where I’d played saying “Remember so and so; he’s srill alive because we had one.”



Iain ClimieMay 30th, 2018 at 10:01 pm

Must use the laptop not the mobile phone when posting. Either that or a trip to the opticians beckons!