Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 16th, 2021


Iain ClimieMarch 2nd, 2021 at 11:55 am

Hi Bobby,

The key question here I think is whether West would cover the CJ with CQ9x (he will do with Qx or Q9 alone, although it doesn’t matter in the latter case while with Qxx declarer is fine). We’re all taught not to cover the first honour with Q9x (as partner might have Kx on a different day) so declarer should assume that isn’t the case. With Mrs. Guggenheim sitting West with CQ9x, though, a good declarer may now be going off!



jim2March 2nd, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Perhaps declarer should begin with the 10C. A cover by the QC then is perhaps a stronger indication of a doubleton.

Iain ClimieMarch 2nd, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Hi Jin2,

A cunning plan (see Baldrick in the UK’s BBC TV Blackadder series if you haven’t run into that) although West (assuming south is paying the hand) should put 2 and 2 together with Q9x and cover it.

Are you keeping well and playing much online, by the way? I’m just doing the odd BBO 4 hands online session although I won one the other week – I stretched a hand to 2N with a long suit and got put in a grand slam by my robot partner which didn’t even need too much luck.



jim2March 2nd, 2021 at 5:30 pm

I prefer Sir Tony Robinson in his role on Time Team!

If I were West and performed such an addition, East would drop the knave.

I have not played semi-serious bridge in several decades. My on-line gaming is most World of Tanks.

bobbywolffMarch 2nd, 2021 at 5:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, it is all a great big “mind” battle, which always reminds me of (talking about it, but not doing much about it, if anything). However, each in our own way, may have ideas about sizing up our specific opponent and, of course, only if we win, think our method does the job.

The trouble with that is, if we do not win, we feel extra bad since we then lost two battles.

Also, since there are all kinds of personal battles going on (especially in the good ole USA), perhaps we should now refer to Mr. Guggenheim, since there is no evidence that he plays any better than his wife (assuming he is her husband). Also, blessed are the weak bridge minded, since the only way they can go, is to get better.

Judy and I are staying at home and so far it has worked well. We have stopped yelling at each other, good, but also are not speaking at all, (result to be decided). Leaving the big question, does familiarity breed contempt or just sore throats?

Neither one of us have played bridge (even one time), online or otherwise and although we do seriously miss it, my every day direct connection with it, the column and our site, keeps me going.

The bad news is that for whatever unknown reason, while in my youth, 70 years down, I had little connection with old people, thus not knowing what happens to one’s favorite body, has been a real learning experience.

Similar to bridge system advances, but not having things changing for the better, instead, and no doubt, for the worse.

However, compared with most, if not all, both Judy and I have been blessed.

Special kind regards (and from Judy),

Robot Wolff

Wishing you and your family a similar future, no doubt with many years to come.

bobbywolffMarch 2nd, 2021 at 5:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, leading the 10 (instead of the jack) figures to be more revealing, however too often, getting at least a hitch, with no queen.

Tanks for the hinformation!

jim2March 2nd, 2021 at 8:28 pm


I hope I did not treads on you … because that might really turret.

Mircea GiurgeuMarch 2nd, 2021 at 10:30 pm


For what it’s worth, I put the computer at work and it says that the best line to play this club suit combination for 4 tricks is to cash one top honor then to play the Jack (or the 10) and let it ride if West doesn’t cover. If West covers it, then play for an original 3-3 split (so don’t finesse). This is strictly based on percentages. assumes enough entries in both hands and an equal probability for either opponent to hold a particular distribution of the missing cards. BTW, the success probability for 4 tricks with this combo is 21.8012%

bobbywolffMarch 3rd, 2021 at 1:07 am

Hi Mircea,

Strictly my opinion, I think the percentages you quoted are 100% correct. However, when it comes down to having cashed the ace (and see no singleton queen fall) the most winning action is to come back to hand and lead the 10 of clubs,, being careful to watch (and attempt to figuratively feel your LHO’s emotion).

By so during, if you, the declarer, feels he has a choice of covering or not then of course,win it and lead back playing the jack. But, if you feel he played it because he had to, then of course finesse coming back.

As to probabilities, I will not quote the odds, since I do not know the exact percentages, but if you follow your instincts, I think you will be right about 75%+ of the time. Except against a world class player and then a non-super expert will usually be right about 40%. Incidentally I am expecting and will receive a 100% ethical play from my LHO, but the reasons for my above opinion is that episode exemplafies why that your LHO is a world class player and the declarer likely still needs more experience to improve his judgment.

Obviously there is scattered evidence: 1. Bidding, 2. tempo, 3. defense up to then including hesitations, 4. how you judge your LHO and very important, 5. how he judges you.

IOW, a very strong human factor, equivalent to top flight poker comes into play, like it or not.

Good luck and grow to enjoy this phase of the game and then be lucky enough to get to play against some of the best players.

You’ll know it when you see it and at least some of the above even occurs at club games.

Mircea GiurgeuMarch 3rd, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for this, Bobby.

I know you’re not going to like this, but I have to ask: why is it ethical for the declarer to watch LHO’s emotions when the Jack is led but not ethical for LHO to play back with those emotions? In other words, if declarer is allowed to take advantage of LHO’s emotions why can that player have to be honest with their emotions? This does not seem fair play

bobbywolffMarch 4th, 2021 at 12:15 am

Hi Mircea,

A good question and one which needs a direct answer. BTW, whether I like a question or not, and I certainly like yours, there is never a reason for me, or any bridge writer, not to respond in as positive a way as possible with what he thinks is the truth.

When I speak of emotions there is absolutely no reference to time taken or IOW tempo variations. There is nothing whatever to dislike or not trust or worse, to think unethical, any variations of emotions, only hesitations, when not holding anything of consequence to play except to follow suit.

What is unethical is to clearly pretend to take time to play when basically all the cards in that suit are same. IOW,, to say later that “I was thinking of giving count or was unprepared for you to be leading that suit, or I got my hand on the wrong card, etc., etc.” just will not be a justifiable answer, but rather what others might think. unethical.

The emotion I am talking about is perhaps his or her being tense or whatever some players do when they are (or at least think they are) under great pressure to play well.

IOW, ethics in bridge carry the responsibility to not try and mislead the declarer (or help partner illegally) by doing something which may be regarded as an intentional act of trying to deceive declarer, usually by undue hesitations with no reason to do so, but also could be illegally wrong with an undue comment or physical body act which could be construed as markedly misleading or, just as bad, unethically helping partner.

Obviously there are other strictures which are decidedly unethical during both the bidding and play, but in order to be, they will be presumed to be with the specific intent of “fooling” declarer or illegally informing partner.

The same applies to the declarer, if he for example has the AK doubleton in his hand of the suit the opening leader has just led, and now the dummy is then exposed. At least to me (others may feel differently) the declarer should announce to the table that he, if he doesn’t plan to play from dummy right away, to announce that he is studying the entire hand and may or may not (optional to say) but has no inference in what he may or may not play at trick one from either hand.

There is more to say, but I do not want to ramble past the above, since I am hoping you either understand and agree or not agree, but do not want you to be at all confused as to what is expected.

There can be small differences, but what I am attempting to discuss are general tenets of ethical behavior which doesn’t extend to sweaty hands, most facial expressions or anything to which the player himself cannot control.

Thanks for asking and do not ever be afraid or whatever to express your view(s) or what you have heard from others.