Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 12th, 2020


Joe1September 26th, 2020 at 11:21 am

From the Marriage of Geraint. According to Tennyson, if Fortune smiles on us and we have good fortune, then we smile. But if fortune frowns on us we still smile, because we do not allow our lives to be governed by luck. Rather we make our own fortune with our own hands. We as humans are in control of our own fate, or destiny. We are not mere creatures of Fortune – for man is man and master of his fate.

Same applies to bridge, I enjoy these theme weeks, will be on my toes in third seat, and try to keep the smile

Steve ConradSeptember 26th, 2020 at 1:35 pm

That was a most thoughtful defense play that I admit I would NEVER have seen till I reviewed the hand records. May I ask if this arose in a real game or from some brilliant world champion’s wolf-like cunning mind 🙂

jim2September 26th, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Today’s quotation and the first line of the column text reminded me of a hand played by a young and upcoming expert, when he first faced off against perhaps the best and most famous French player around (I shall call him “FF”). The young man was on a team whose mantra was not to try to try to be a hero but to simply play the odds at all times. Discipline was the byword.

So, that’s the background when our protagonist found himself at a normal-enough-looking four hearts contract arrived at w/o opposition. Here’s the hand as he saw it:



FF led a small club, East won the AC and returned another to FF’s KC who then cashed the AS and got off lead with a small one. This meant our protagonist had to play the trump suit for no losers.

The odds are clear: finesse. But through which defender?

Any 3-2 distribution is a 50% guess as to which defender to play for the QH. If they are 5-0, it’s probably hopeless no matter who holds Her Majesty. The 4-1’s, however, are a different story. Finessing though East allows cashing the KH first, in case West has the singleton QH, and then being able to finesse against the 9H if West shows out. Finessing through West does not allow cashing the AH first if one is to allow for West to hold four trump, so East would be able to win a first round finesse with a singleton QH.

Thus, the odds line is to play the KH and advance the 10H for a finesse. If East covers and West shows out, the way is clear to finesse against the 9H.

Our protagonist decided that the FF would only cash the AS if he thought he could see the setting trick, and that had to be the QH: specifically, Q9xx.

So, he decided to break the team rule and be master of his fate. On the first round of trump he led the JH! Then, when FF covered, he won the KH, came back to hand, and let the 8H to finesse against the 9H! It won with East showing out!! Four hearts bid and made.

The year was 1971, and the place was the World Championship. FF was the redoubtable Henri Svarc.

I think you can guess our Hero. 🙂

A V Ramana RaoSeptember 26th, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff and all
A ver…..y instructive column . East’s holding appears to be so innocuous and the winning defense can be easily missed. As Joe1 mentions , man should be master of his fate and not just che sara sara . And Jim2,: no awards for guessing the hero of the hand. It must be our dear host

Jeff SSeptember 26th, 2020 at 8:29 pm

For Jim2 – Great story, thank you for sharing.

For Our Hero,

The BWTA hand is the type that drives me to distraction. Not so much the first round, but the second. How do I respond to 1S or 1NT? What if he bids 2D? Any of those bids would leave me to believe the opps have the preponderance of the points – so why are they silent? Finally, what if partner shows a balanced 18-19 with 2NT? Now, we have the balance of power, but do I leave him there? I never know what to do in this situation.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 3:23 pm

Hi Joe1,

Lord Tennyson appears right on to me, and especially playing bridge as a good example to rely on his advice.

Real competition can be divided into two separate entities, mental and physical and while discussing mind games. chess lovers may think otherwise, the particular varied roads to run and mountains to climb, at least to me while competing, offer the combatant and his foes, all he or she can handle.

Both for combining skill with both challenge and fortune (in terms of success), creating, at least pure enjoyment for humans, who, from a practical standpoint, are proficient with numbers.

Yes, theme weeks for bridge, developed by the team, not I, seem to have an attraction.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 4:49 pm

Hi Steve,

After a while, when involved with our great game, good plays sometimes just evolve, with my guess that it has happened before, but perhaps decades fly by, without it being replicated.

And perhaps wolf-like should be thought only to apply to enthusiastic players with the experience of realizing just how important a “saved” ten can be when next on lead while facing specific original card combinations in the hunt, on a hand in question.

Wasn’t there a long ago romantic song which included in its lyrics, “I can dream, can’t I”? Yes, too long ago, even for me, but to my taste, wish, during our current chaos, they would return and the sooner the better.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes and undoubtedly Henri, remember 49 years ago, was a bit too cavalier this lone time and got bitten, but that is the one advantage a no-namer has, when playing bridge against players who are in a much grander league.

Believe it or not, Henri (a great guy as well as a very successful business man from France) and I then became life long friends, searching either other out whenever or where after we wound up at the same place, always because of bridge.

Perhaps, today being Sunday, I will bet on the SF 49ers in honor of this being the 49th year anniversary of the hand you mention.

Thanks much for your recognition.

jim2September 27th, 2020 at 6:15 pm


And you just happened to work both “lone” and wolf” into your last two posts … 🙂

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 10:11 pm


A problem which could stem from the third hand 8 of spades player might easily result in many third seat bridge competitors average about10 minutes before playing his first card. Also I can see the title of somebodies next book, “Third hand Not So High”.

Thanks for your guess of it being me, but for the last 49 years, I am batting 0 for 49 in doing similar things.

However it has caused me to think about writing something called, “Cold contracts which have been butchered” but, as of yet, I haven’t determined who I will name author.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Just pass any of your partner’s NF responses. It may work out good or bad, but the better report may have possibly discouraged those pesky opponents into going quietly and now pass.

The worst result then might be decent, without you presenting a blueprint as to your partnership’s combined strength and if nothing else become a tougher opponent.

Even a bell ringer result may occur with your partner doing something positive which may happen more than you expect. In any case, you will make your partnership more competitive than most, which, in time will result in more high finishes.

Forgive me, for leaving off the apologies which partner may demand from you, but the last writer on any subject should always be treated well, at least if it is me.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since my last post, the SF 49ers have won and covered so let’s make these fun fests a regular thing.

It is difficult or perhaps impossible to say anything good about the Corona 19 virus except perhaps by the quarantine on tournament face to face bridge, there have been many fewer bridge playing errors worldwide.

Bridge club owners will lose the right to sweep up all those lost tricks.