Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020


Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2020 at 9:36 am

HI Bobby,

If a weak or moderate player leads a small spade with declarer holding A9 or A9x then the 50-50 chance of the S10 on the left is best. If a good player does so should declarer rise with the SJ despite the risk of the infamous Grosvener coup if West hasn’t found the surround play?



Bob LiptonMay 20th, 2020 at 11:02 am

The implied swindle is for declarer to cover West’s switch to the S10…. then Queen and Ace. Now when East is in with the DK, he’s confronted with a bunch of possibilities, the only one of which is right is to play West for the T842. East should find the right answer…. and given it’s a hiding to nothing, declarer might as well.

The other possible swindle is the classic one of declarer winning the first trick with the HK.



bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 11:09 am

Hi Iain,

When you continue to ask those very sophisticated questions of yours, I will resort to bridge language and double.

Double that is, by giving you a double YES to both of your queries.

Just another example of picking one’s spots to judge differently with the theme being “different strokes for different folks”.

Playing “up” or “down” to players in different stages of expertise could be the more important reason to bet on a clever so-called “lucky semi-expert” while betting against an “unlucky” but otherwise complete one.

One may then ask, which type of high-level player should one wish to be, with a decent answer, “of course, the lucky semi-expert, since before long he or she will usually shed the semi label while the other seems to almost always in practice, continue to remain unlucky”.

Since, at least before the Coronavirus arrived, and at a world level, plays like the “surround play” were almost as common as were straight 50-50 finesses back at the dawn of contract bridge almost three digit years ago.

Hopefully the pandemic will disappear long before face to face bridge does, since otherwise and only my guess, there is no other type of our game, certainly including online, which has any real chance of replacing the great social advantages (and table feel) which, at least to me, makes our favorite pass time far and away the greatest mind game ever, if only to add another key and sensational element, without which, our superlative competition would fall to a relatively boring straight percentage contest, better off to be taught in schools as advanced mathematics, rather than to be, what great bridge is now, worshiped.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2020 at 11:12 am

Hi Bob,

The nightmare is that West has S109x of course, although then declarer might not have jumped in with the SJ but ducked twice hoping the player with the 2nd high diamond hasn’t got the 13th spade or that spades somehow get blocked.



bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 11:37 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, and no doubt, you have firmly undressed what today’s column represented, but obviously in good conscience.

However, since among the many unwashed but otherwise capable bridge addicts, an occasional reminder to what other roosters in the barnyards are doing cannot, like chicken soup (pardon the pun) really do damage.

And even though the heart false card of the ace or king at trick one has much more glamour, the defensive layout sadly might include East being able to hop up at trick 3 to foil our best laid ruse. (also please excuse the column writer from exercising his rights to, at least, appear to be bridge smart).

Also, most of the time, multiple trick ponies are usually more in demand, than single.

jim2May 20th, 2020 at 11:50 am

Perhaps declarer should cash four rounds of clubs before playing diamonds.

bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yours is an interesting observation.

Usually fully disclosing isn’t best against very good opponents, but the advantage of cashing those clubs might be worth it while playing against even slightly lesser ones.

MirceaMay 20th, 2020 at 3:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

I don’t want to change the subject, but if I understand it right from your reply to Iain, you’re not very fond of online bridge.

IMO online bridge is one of the very few rays of hope for our game. Despite the lack of social advantages, which in some cases may not be that great (see the killing of that player by his wife last century), or even table feel, playing online has the huge advantage of making the game extraordinary more accessible. Sites like BBO are proving it. Also, making the cards virtual could potentially eliminate all cheating, which is not a small thing. Certainly the feel of the game is different, but the game itself is the same. What do you think?

bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Hi Mircea,

No doubt, the elimination of table feel can be overcome, especially when a large percentage of it sometimes develops between partners, which, in essence is more unethical than the amount transmitted not illegally between opponents.

I intentionally did not delve into that subject since, very simply, it is difficult to impossible to completely stop it.

Also and yes, at least one murder likely occurred between a husband and wife and although once every 100 years is not a serious trend, arguments resulting in bad blood between partners is not as likely to occur (more inconvenient) with online.

However, when you suggest the elimination of all cheating that gets my attention, since perhaps I, at least up to now, cannot imagine how that is even remotely possible to fully prevent it.

Since so much of my administrative time was taken up dealing with very serious world wide cheating (face to face) and it, still going on and with bridge courts and bridge administrators turning the other cheek to keep blind eyes and ears for more reasons than many of us can count, perhaps I need being brought up to date in how and why you think it can be lessened, much less totally eliminated.

Believe me, and especially at the high levels, our beautiful game is not even worth playing when a partnership gets together based on cheating aspirations. Furthermore I need for you to educate me on what you have in mind and by so doing I can relay stories for months, weeks and days and how often and vicious world wide cheating (more some places than others, but always very prevalent within the USA and in all forms of the game, at the table, getting the hand records, in the seeding, getting help from other pairs having already played the hands, and, at least in my knowledge (or lack of same) in what your idea of online bridge involves, not to mention so many varying ways to simply and conveniently pulling it off with simple, but horrible, overt signalling.

Finally, yes all forms of bridge can be played honestly, but only with a huge cost to the organizers and a bridge justice system which does not allow for anyone caught to ever be allowed back in. And, with the incredible number of ways people can now communicate
electronically, our beloved game has its work really cut out for them to even continue to play face to face.

I doubt anyone can convince me that players who are inclined to cheat, do not, in fact, have a combination of hating the game itself as well as a terrible inferiority complex themselves about attempting to even just compete in it.

Please set me straight as to why I am wrong.

Strong letter to follow!!!!!

MirceaMay 20th, 2020 at 6:04 pm


I agree, eliminating cheating at bridge completely is probably impossible for the simple fact that the game is played by more than 2 people (is cheating possible in chess?). But, if you physically separate all the interested parties in cheating (i.e. players) and force them to use controlled electronic devices instead of real cards to play the game in isolation from each other, you have eliminated a huge part of their means to muddle the game. Sure, there are many questions that need answered but that’s the idea.

bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 6:32 pm

Hi Mircea,

OK, now I understand, since the way you describe it has been on the table, off and on, for a few years.

Yes, that (and a security system which would prevent the designated hands for that match to be not under the complete control of only a very few) plus (IMO) a real bridge expert (or several) to be available (as monitors) in case of an untoward happening strongly suggesting an illegal wire in advance.

Your description would take some getting used to and possibly, in time, that process, used only to determine world or country ranking might be a forerunner of what bridge might look like in years to come. Not pretty, no society, a feeling of isolation, but nevertheless a wave of what major championships in bridge would look like.

For social bridge, the kind which reached its world peak, perhaps 60+ years ago when Charles Goren appeared on the cover of Time magazine (USA), it would likely remain as it is now face to face, but I agree that for purity sake, your description would be more or less, what to expect for the important world competition, which bridge deserves, if only for the logical thinking necessary which separates those at the top, together with a mindset (as well as a well-oiled partnership) to have what it takes to be a winner at that level.

Thanks to you, others may now begin to understand what it will take to deal with bridge at the world’s top, at least to me, a real challenge like no other mind sport could ever be, even chess, since at least to me, the player’s luck which is needed in bridge, but not chess, is a favorable feature which like many physical sports, tends to make our favorite game much more exciting to impressively match its challenge against any other.

bobbywolffMay 20th, 2020 at 6:49 pm

Hi again Mircea,

Cheating in chess has at least been referred to a player being wired with an outside source, enabling him to get outside advice without it being known to others, thereby accomplishing ganging up on his opponent with the use of several minds, likely also the illegal use of a chess trained computer, making the competition a totally unfair one, if, in fact, it is supposed to be only a one on one battle between two humans.