Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020


jim2January 5th, 2021 at 1:59 pm

Over 50 years ago I was a new (and cocky) freshman when I wandered into the university’s chess club and sat down to play. Over the next couple weeks, I cut an undefeated, un-drawn swath through their ranks only to be challenged to a blindfold match by the club president. I had never played one before. Then, with most of the club gathered around to see this new-comer get his comeuppance, I disappointed them all by winning.

I never went back to the chess club. In fact, I never played another serious chess game in my life. The stress of trying to play at that level takes a toll, and how could I ever top that?

If I had played this 1996 hand like Robson did in front of such an audience, I would have stood up at the end, thanked everyone, and walked out and probably never touched a card again!

How could I ever top or even match that?!

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 5th, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
South played well but perhaps when east returned a heart, assuming it is low heart, south could have played low . It looks like east is leading from a honor ( if West held Q J of hearts, perhaps he would have led the suit initially though no one can blame him for spade lead) . West needs to play J , dummy wins and south can finesse east for Q obviating the need for heart ruff and assuming east covers , south wins, reaches dummy with diamond A for club finesse. It doesn’t help east to lead Q of hearts. South wins and plays as per the column line but had east returned Q of hearts!! after winning the spade lead instead of the passive spade, south does not have any play.
An initial heart lead defeats the contract straightaway but after East’s bid perhaps West is justified in the spade lead

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 5th, 2021 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jim2
I too used to play chess ( a die hard fan of another Bobby ; Fischer then and now Wolff) and won few tournaments but never tried blindfold. Congratulations on learning about your accomplishments

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2021 at 4:12 pm

Yes, I know I am answering in inverse order.
Pity, Pinnochio could well have substituted you to sit on his shoulder when and if he played bridge .. but unfortunately our game had not been utilized at that time and instead our model parson (when his nose didn't grow) was instead relegated to only having a sadly uninformed non-playing bridge bird.
However, the good news is that he could superstitiously knock on wood, to satisfy his superstition, with ease.

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your information has informally made you the very best #1 in more than one major competition, bridge (which is obvious to all who understand TOCM TM and the reason for it) and now chess, since like Gene Tunney (almost a century ago) retired as an undefeated boxing heavyweight champion.

Up to now, the intention of fate is never to allow such a thing.

Iain ClimieJanuary 5th, 2021 at 4:56 pm

HI Jim2,

What if TOCM is Caissa (apparently the goddess of chess) swiping at you for stopping while ahead or at the top? I used to play too but regret the overly monastic nature of the time I spent on it. Discussions on systems over beers are far more pleasant.



bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Chess is all skill, no luck, while bridge is about 50-50, skill and luck. No real difference since the immutable law of averages, in the long run, watches over. Genius prefers chess, while bridge is attractive to game players.
To me, the tipping point for choice, is judgment (including multiple factors), not just unadulterated intelligence, both a compromise to the gambling instinct, which rivals and thus determines both addictions in preference.

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2021 at 7:27 pm

Sorry Jim2,

Since I again overlooked TOCM TM and
its enormous influence. You and you alone, in the antithesis of a pandemic (only one infected person), to have forgotten your existence.

And worse still, since your incredible talent(s) started this whole discussion.

jim2January 5th, 2021 at 8:09 pm

So often the other chess player was far better than I and with so much more experience in tournaments, etc.

My only recourse was to concentrate, hard. So hard did I focus that my clothes became soaked from perspiration, my jaws ached from gritting them together to prevent my teeth from chattering due to adrenaline. I kept my hands under the table so they would not be seen to be shaking, and they were in fists so hard that my palms would have welts from where my short nails dug into them.

But I had no other choice. If my opponent could “see” three moves ahead, my only chance was to drive my brain to see 3.5 moves ahead.

If one made even a small mistake or suboptimum move. one had to live with it for hours and struggle to recover.

Bridge became vastly more attractive because one soon dealt the cards again.

Iain ClimieJanuary 5th, 2021 at 11:43 pm

HI Bobby,

Strangely there can be luck at chess but in an odd way. If you draw the strongest player in a KO tournament that is bad luck but applies across all sports and games. If I make a mistake which my opponent fails to exploit then I’ve had good luck to compensate for my good. He hasn’t been unlucky though!

I prefer bridge!


David SnookJanuary 6th, 2021 at 4:02 am

Good lord… what a beautiful hand…

Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Hi Iain & David,

Yes, Iain, there is always a broad sense of luck in most every daily life, which certainly includes chess the way you suggest it.

But down deep, a chess player has charge of every move with nothing untoward or unknown on the board (and thus the perceived result) to dissuade him.

Only either to later rejoice in the perfection of his move or sadly to endure the intervention of a great opponent who out thinks, and lays asunder one’s hope.

However, no one can doubt your definition of luck, since almost every day on one’s time on earth. it occurs.

Yes, David, today featured an especially graceful hand which no doubt, featured a very clear bridge mind to succeed.

Bobby WolffJanuary 6th, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your description of a crucial chess game should be a prize-winning effort.

Losing in bridge is never that horrific since there are so many excuses (perhaps a few even valid) available, partner, system, playing conditions, cheating, not to mention, and, of course, the fortune (luck) to which we were subjected.

To me, your adventure would have caused a cross between a superior and mindgrabbing horror movie and/or a violently passionate love affair, neither event, to be taken for granted.

In truth, you may have experienced the feelings necessary to have created TOCM TM, and if so, research on that possibility might produce a cure or at least enable you to enjoy again, a competition to which you are so very talented.

At the least and concerning the pandemic, operation Warp
Speed or whatever they might call it, should allow all of us to get vaccinated before something else (forget old age) kills us. However, more bad news, DON’T COUNT ON IT!