Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 28th, 2021


JeffSMarch 14th, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Going back to yesterday’s hand, I also could not figure out how to beat the trump lead. Jim’s solution making the JC the danger card early works brilliantly, but I didn’t understand David’s solution.

Can someone help me out? When West gets thrown in, he has only black cards left. Why can’t he just lead a high spade? Try as I might, with the JS gone, I can’t see how to squeeze him at the end.


bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2021 at 3:39 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Since the singleton jack of spades was discarded from dummy on the opening lead of the king of hearts from West and, of course won in hand with the ace.

Then when one small spade was ruffed in dummy immediately, together with drawing the enemy trump, finally then taking the first finesse into West and losing to a club honor, West was then faced with being end played in spades (if he led the king or Queen declarer can win the ace and lead back the 10, forcing West to give up a 2nd spade trick, Also a heart lead would then be into the Jx (after his opening lead of the king) and, of course a club back would also result in losing an additional club trick, Diamonds, of course had been eliminated.

Don’t despair since and no doubt, this hand is a VERY unusual hand especially to be able to endplay an opponent to lose a trick in three suits and, of course, his now being without the 4th suit (trumps) to lead.

Since you were not the real declarer, no harm was done, but you can see how and, more importantly, why it is so important to concentrate deeply on the hand involved, otherwise an inexperienced players lack of concentration may well (and often does) betray him at crucial times, unless and until he fully determines to not suffer a lack of doing so.

You can and will make it through this stage of bridge development, if you continue to go through this difficult period of overall dedication to our great game.

Believe me, doing so is worth it, but possibly only for three games, bridge, poker and chess.

Chess is too formal and with absolutely no luck involved requires much too much concentration with no let-up. Poker is fun and full of interesting and different mind battles, but it is NOT a card game which requires total concentration almost every second one is at the table. Leaving bridge, far and away the more versatile and overall challenging contest of the three.

You have the talent to succeed, but more than that, your delving deeper into these hands is nothing short of a brilliant desire to not move on until (like your valid question today) it is solved to your satisfaction.

To say GOOD LUCK to you is not necessary, since you will create it as you take your bridge elevator up to as close to the top as you can.

It won’t happen in a day, week, month or even year, but it will someday. if you don’t lose your zeal to succeed.

Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Hi Bobby,

You can have good luck at chess but not bad luck (apart from drawing the best player in a knockout competition). Suppose I make a mistake which my opponent fails to exploit with the best reply. I’ve actually got lucky although we’ve both erred. Perhaps stretching the definition though!



JeffSMarch 14th, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thank you for your response and your constant encouragement. You are a fantastic ambassador for the game.

My question wasn’t about the column line – which was one of the most intriguing hands I have seen in a long time. I was asking about a trump lead. Jim provided his brilliant “trip to Vienna” line, but David suggested an alternate line – take the diamond lead in hand, trump a heart, cross over to hand with a second diamond, cash the AH discarding the JS and then trump the last heart and lead a club to the Q. In that line, what I am failing to understand is why West cannot now play back a high spade. The crucial difference to me is that in Jim’s line, the AC is taken early and all the diamonds run while South still has the option of leading a club or a spade from the board cruelly squeezing poor West.

Thanks again!

bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2021 at 6:14 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, the elements of luck can be broadly decided to include one’s day at birth and all things relevant from then on.

However, at least for my definition of a specific game, in chess, both players make their own luck by their plays with nothing randomly dealt (such as bridge) so that all moves are seen by all, and no one to blame for being caught by surprise, especially like the fortune in bridge when low percentage happenings often foil the best theoretical plays, plans and methods.

However, such as life, there is unlimited chances for being in the right or wrong place when either opportunity or danger appears, plus the person himself, who is then held responsible for what he or she does, but not having second sight, either does what he thinks is the right way, or right decision, but how it turns out could have a major effect with his entire life.

We could go on, but even if we did, I doubt seriously that much would change, if anything, but we all seem to accept the challenge of what I think Shakespeare wrote “or fly to others who we know not of”.

bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Hi Jeff,

Again read Jeff’s analysis and you’ll agree with him since when West would get out with the spade king, after winning the first club finesse, declarer would let it ride to the ace and then lead back the ten, forcing West to cover with his queen, then, after ruffing that trick in dummy, he would return to hand with his club ace and discard the last club in dummy on his spade nine. (one club went away on the heart ace earlier).

Nothing to it, just another day at the bridge office, brilliantly done by David who is constantly glorifying our beautiful game with
successful endings to difficult hands.

Jeff SMarch 14th, 2021 at 7:31 pm

Now I finally see it. For some reason after taking the AS, I was trying to trump a small spade and running out of entries. Lead the 10 right away and take the ruffing finesse (since East hasn’t shown out yet). West covers, back to the AC and there you go. West can try to mislead by ducking and hoping dealer has noticed all those high cards he has already shown, but you’ve previously instructed us on why the percentages say you have to let the 10 ride in that case (I do pay attention when you talk 🙂 ) so it shouldn’t work.

Thanks again for using your valuable time to explain this to me.

bobbywolffMarch 14th, 2021 at 7:45 pm

Hi everyone,

I’d like to present a games scenario and value your opinions. Of course, if anyone does not have have any interest in the subject I am presenting (it is not restricted to bridge, but it could be applicable to it), it is definitely 100% OK not to respond.

In all competitive games or exercises, if one player or team has defeated another 2 or more times without being defeated by him, her, or them (such as college basketball in the USA, about to start March Madness next week) and yet they are then matched up again (happens often in bridge, but not in all sports, only some,
do the previous winners have an advantage or not the next time they compete?

Let’s assume that the games up to then were close, but not both (or whatever) either runaways or last second heroics, but just fairly close and no extraneous factors (like a star player missing and such). The G2 (intelligence) would suggest that the upcoming contest could be considered a toss-up.

Choices: (and ready to accept others)
1. The previous winner starts out with an edge.

2. Instead the previous loser starts out with one.

3. Strongly depends on what the specific competition is about.

4. Different type competitions, mainly the difference between physical (track and field, boxing, etc) and mental (bridge, chess, poker, other cerebral contests) and of course world
sports which to our way of thinking are all physical.

5. How much the previous contests and in what context had they occurred and how, if any, it would effect the next encounter?

6. If some kind of cheating is possible (many different forms in bridge and perhaps poker and chess) steroids in physical sports, gambling schemes, referee tampering and possible small additional, sign stealing, deflategate,. but not any form of throwing like the Black Sox in 1919 (almost always done for money).

7. What I would like to determine are the mind sets of most competitors and what mental factors contribute to their playing well or badly.
up to speed or the opposite.

All of us have our own experiences, but do not usually publicly discuss it.

Again, there is no need to reply to this, only if you, like I, find it very interesting.

Jeff SMarch 14th, 2021 at 10:16 pm

I’d say all things being equal, the previous winners have a small edge having already proven superior (at least) twice before. But “all things being equal” is not very likely.

In my experience, it is not the game, but the players that matter. The losing team has to be mentally tough enough to avoid that “here we go again, we just can’t beat these guys” feeling when there are setbacks as there are sure to be. But it is easy for the previous winners to take their eye off the ball so to speak and not maintain the mental discipline needed to prevail. Given it is a fairly close competition, any lack of focus could cost them the game.

I think the dynamics change if you are talking about a series as opposed to games or matches that happen one at a time. A team that falls behind 2-0 in a seven game series, for example, in my opinion has an edge (given the setup here that they are capable of winning and not just out-classed). They are going to be desperate and give their absolute maximum effort while the winning team is likely to let up just a bit thinking things are well in hand. But, again, I believe it is going to come down to mental toughness.

Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2021 at 10:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’d say option 1 an ironically, going back to chess, a player called Victor Korchnoi pointed out a circular set of players who “had each other’s number”. Korchnoi best Tal regularly, Tal beat Portisch, Portisch had Keres number but Keres gave Korchnoi himself a rough time – if I remember rightly. Trickier at bridge of course but there are some players of similar standards where clashes are disproportionately weighted one way over time. Psychologically difficult to keep objective in such cases I suspect.



bobbywolffMarch 15th, 2021 at 12:47 am

Thanks Jeff & Iain,

Certainly appreciate your experiences and as well as you can guess, the reasons for it.

Not much doubt, IMO, that mental readiness contributes to future results with lady luck merely looking into her vanity mirror, but allowing the mental states of the competitors to do its thing.

Over the many years of my competitive bridge, my guess is that most of my opponents did not often show the level they had reached, only because they tried to do too much to force the results they craved, rather than just letting whatever happens to happen instead of just assigning too much importance to every hand.

IOW, and whatever the competition, no one will ever be able to guarantee any results, but only to take extreme caution to not stand in the way of the other side’s mistakes and, no doubt, receive the profit from them.

IOW, don’t waste one’s time trying to defy the law of averages, just play it cool and allow whatever result possible to happen, but instead concentrate on not committing dumb errors, while allowing the opponents to not follow in kind.

However, in no way can I guarantee what has happened, only the general atmosphere surrounding the actual competition where sometimes top line players do not come close to playing their best, for reasons I will never completely understand.

Only the top Italians of the infamous past, not the majority of the Blue team played well, but in addition, they needed to add their magic (and we know what that was) to fulfill what their first captain, the infamous Carl Albert Perroux, an Italian lawyer, had basically contracted to do, JUST WIN, and sadly it happened that way, however this downright awful experience exploded, right in our face as well as other significant and talented opponents.

What it has done to our magnificent game, will never be fully measured, but, at least to me, bridge has suffered and unless some real magic appears in the future our game will never recover.

JudyMarch 15th, 2021 at 6:28 pm


Having a ‘log in’ problem. They are working on it. Sorry for the delay.