Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 26th, 2020


Iain ClimieFebruary 9th, 2020 at 11:39 am

Hi Bobby,

I’d add a caveat to the reply to Off Balance; be careful doing so against (known) very weak players. Sometimes they’ve underbid massively but then realise and come back to life. Leave them to play quietly in 2S (after 1S 2S say) and they may still make a trick less than other players who’ve been pushed to 3S. Once in a while they’ll wind up in 4S, partner will double and 10 easy tricks will roll in. Balancing then turns a top into first an average and then a bottom (or corresponding IMP loss). You can natural imagine why I’m sounding such a warning – frequent painful experience!

Against known pushy players, of course, the opposite can apply – sandbagging opportunities arise. If in dire need of a swing or a top, or just wanting to create a bit of havoc, pass a hand after 1S 2S which is worth a game try or even a punt; then when LHO comes back in, just bash game. The psychological impact in a teams match (especially NV, when it is only 6 IMPs away) can be massive although partner needs to see the funny side if it does misfire.



bobbywolffFebruary 9th, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, your advice, when dealing with inexperienced players (please note, a euphemistic description) is both sensible and necessary for good tournament bridge results.

However, a thoughtful opponent to those types of players needs to get his practical master’s degree in psychology in order to determine his actions. IOW, while pursuing one’s experience while advancing up the line in general high-level bridge technique, it is also quite necessary to being enabled to evaluate opponents as to their strengths and above all, their weaknesses, a process, to which all players are privy to, with every one of his bridge outings.

At least to me, the result of the above is every bit as important as any other bridge technical quality and indeed quite necessary to possess, if consistent winning is the goal.

Yes, knowing various bridge techniques, an integrated bidding system, both together with general other qualities of playing to win are also necessary, but, make no mistake, knowing or at least having a good nose for what is going on at the table with those specific adversaries becomes as important as likely choosing the right opening lead or not forgetting one’s own conventions in determining what the number one issue in bridge, or more generally, likely all or certainly most forms of competition.

Perhaps a better description would be simply, when playing bridge, don’t let one’s mind drift away from all facets of what you are there to do, concentrate on your hand, your partner, and just as important, your current opponents, for without doing so at least IMO, a player lowers the ceiling on just how much winning he will ever accomplish.

However, nothing above is contradictory to what you are discussing, only trying to convince all who are trying to move up the ladder, as you are also doing, to give everything you can to get it right, with the above more important than most realize.

Michael BeyroutiFebruary 9th, 2020 at 3:26 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
I am confused about yesterday’s article. Sorry to be late. From the way the article describes the play I counted four tricks lost by declarer: a trump to East, two diamonds to West and later a spade to East. Am I missing something?

bobbywolffFebruary 9th, 2020 at 4:03 pm

Hi Michael,

Just barely, since declarer only lost one diamond to West. When South threw East in with his heart trick, he had to get out with a diamond, whereupon declarer played low in hand forcing West to lose a possible defensive diamond trick.

Actually the main theme of this hand concerns itself with threatening and then following through with making the defense lead 1st and 3rd, instead of the always preferred 2nd and 4th to normal tricks.

I should have made it more clear what happened in diamonds when West inserted his jack, but whatever he would play would, of course, cost him his 2nd diamond trick.

Michael BeyroutiFebruary 9th, 2020 at 4:20 pm

Thank you Mr Wolff!
I missed the fact that West’s Jack was gone and that declarer was left with Q-10 and thus made a second diamond trick.

Iain ClimieFebruary 9th, 2020 at 5:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and I must admit to messing with an opponent’s mind in the semi-final an inter-club tournament (the NICKO over here between clubs) on an early hand in an 8 board match. After an uninterrupted 1S 3S start, I cue-bid 4D not really expecting a slam but, if partner could bid 4H we might just be in business if he had ideal cards and we had the space to try but stop safely. Partner bid 4S so I let it go happy to be in a safe game but my minor suit holdings included the DA and CAKx. LHO led a small club and dummy tabled CJ9x. A look at their convention card showed they would lead 2nd highest from 10xxx so up went the J which held at T1. LHO knew my partner to be a decent player and we’d played many tournaments together in the 1980s with some success. he didn’t know me from Adam.

Terse grumblings rent the air on the lines of “Normal bidding denies first or second round control of clubs doesn’t it” addressed to nobody in particular and his internal reaction can be imagined i.e. who is this idiot and how has he fooled me? He managed to get his equanimity back fairly quickly though, we gained an IMP and he just about managed to see the funny side at the end of the set of boards when I told him I’d been 1st reserve for the Camrose pre-trial with this partner in 1982 (when I played seriously and stopped enjoying the game) so had just been messing with him. I suspect he’s been scrawling the hand on bits of paper ever since as a lead problem and pretending he’d been playing pairs. Did I do wrong, though? It was a wind-up bid not a wind-up comment after all.

In the same event we played a pair of fairly friendly ladies from a Sussex club, got through the hands quickly and partner disappeared for his inevitable cigarette. We chatted away (the usual – have a good trip up here, where do you play, I used to live in Sussex in the late 80s but I’m BACK IN Hampshire now etc) but they said “At least you’re smiling – everyone else we’ve played against has looked miserable as sin.” I agreed, and said that the people we’d played (and, sadly, my partner some of the time) looked like the “Before” picture in a constipation cure advert. I remember playing against Zia in the 1980s and he was all smiles while Boris Schapiro was similar, albeit after he’d just fixed my partner and I outrageously. In top-level tournaments then clearly players have to be intense and aloof albeit still courteous. At club level though, how many newbies could be lost this way, especially youngsters who we really need to keep the game alive?



bobbywolffFebruary 9th, 2020 at 8:40 pm

Hi Iain,

There appears to be a major difference, between being out-muscled in a physical game as against getting one’s head figutively handed to him in a mental one.

Therefore, and since Zia is a very clever rascal, he needs to, and I think he does, stays chipper and acts friendly to all who enter his domain.

Somehow good cheer and big smiles dull the senses, allowing victims to, at the least, make jokes when Zia baffles them. “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone”.

In certain respects, playing bridge (at so many different levels) could be the poster child for the above, since sometimes in only one session (be it tournament or rubber) all four players (on any one hand) may be subjected to both.