Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 22nd, 2021


A V Ramana RaoMay 6th, 2021 at 10:45 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I feel west is responsible for letting the game slip through ( not because he played low on spade J) . He has three spades with Q and need not aspire for a ruff and in case he gets a ruff, it would be too ambitious to score second ruff and if he doesn’t score second ruff, the Q of spades may not win a trick. Assuming so, west could have led J of clubs instead of heart led ( not even diamond) and saved the mortification and also explaining with a red face to teammates how the contract made.East wins and on trump return from east, things would be clear to west and declarer loses one trick in each suit

A V Ramana RaoMay 6th, 2021 at 10:50 am

Also it appears that EW have a save in five clubs going one down. Bad compared to plus 50 or 100 to EW on other table but much better compared to minus 590

bobbywolffMay 6th, 2021 at 3:16 pm


First, everything you have said and explained is right on, worth listening to and thinking about, as well, as the column’s quote suggests, learning to possess all of those assets mentioned, for without which, we may fail to proceed in the right direction.

However, (as you might now suspect) you have failed to give credit where it is certainly due, to Joe Grue and his brilliancy, with his first spade, the jack, played from hand.

When someone makes that kind of play, which, of course, might suggest that partner’s double was, in part, the possession of trump tricks (perhaps the AK doubleton) and, if so, how could you be so naive as to volunteer your queen to go on the chopping block?

All I am saying is that one of the greatest tributes to our unmatched mind-competitive game is the fairly often chance (more often than suspected) to read the situation early and have the courage to act on what one first feels, and then suspects.

Sure, at times that declarer (in this case) may get egg on his face, but upon further reflection, Joe Grue’s gambit was indeed brilliant and caught the fish.

IMO, no one (not even West) is to blame and life and bridge (combined, offering two sensational opportunities) goes on.

Thanks for listening to me (hopefully you will) and turn that anger into awe. Not so easy a task, but especially for Joe’s LHO, especially when his partner had to play low, as fourth seat on the first lead of trump, only then to realize, what is happening.

As for taking the save at five clubs, on the bidding given it was not easy for East, in spite of his excellent playing hand, to come into the bidding, and as for the critique later, who would be proud to sacrifice against a normally doomed contract?

However, thanks much for your always having the courage and bridge intelligence to speak your mind. You are, and always will be, very much appreciated.

A V Ramana RaoMay 6th, 2021 at 3:33 pm

Really sorry for not highliting the very imaginative play by declarer putting Dame of trumps to sleep and bringing the game home
Yes, it is rather easy to analyse later than to actually play at the table. Kudos to Grue for his presence of mind

Robert LiptonMay 6th, 2021 at 4:08 pm

I think we all play too much tournament bridge and not enough cut-around money bridge. We are focused — and not wrongly for the game where all you’re risking in a number on a score pad — on the technical issues, the details of hand evaluation, whether a ten or a nine is a plus value, how to play a suit combination in the absence of any information, and how a call or partial count affects the odds. As a result, we forget the utility, even the beauty of the swindle play, the delights and usefulness of looking someone in the eye and deciding this is how to make an unmakable contract against this particular player. Gauging people is much harder than memorizing the odds of suit splits, but in a pick-up money game it’s the difference between duck for dinner and sleeping on the street. When you have no idea of how your partner thinks or evaluates a hand, it’s much more useful to play the player than the cards, and that’s what Mr. Grue did here.

One of the books in my bridge library is a collection of short pieces about leading British players in the 1930s. Does it praise their technical skills? No. Most of the hands are about their various psychic bids, all of which are triumphs!

Learning to bid well is important. Learning to play a hand well is important. Learning to defend properly is almost impossible. But of all these virtues, the greatest is reading the opponents and swindling them out of some of their tricks. Bravo!


bobbywolffMay 7th, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Hi AVRR & Bob,

First AVRR, (and sorry for being later than usual but Judy and I broke our playing bridge drought, after 14 months) yesterday with a tune-up at the local bridge club, which and no doubt, have endured the hardship of Covid19 for way too long).

Yes, Joe Grue deserves the immense credit he received for his incredibly imaginative jack of spades gambit, throwing the possibility of criticism where it belongs, if only to perform up to unusual standards while magnifying very high level imagination to achieve his aim and simply make his game.

Next, I also see mountains of logic behind Bob’s logic in his assessment of what it takes to advance from a virtual encyclopedia in following the necessary percentages ever present in all three areas of bridge (bidding, playing and defending) but also adding in his words…..”swindling them out of some of their tricks”.

From my point of experience and view and over many years, what Bob has advocated is the demarcation line in separating the many great worldwide players from each other, by adding that not so simple attribute, causing even their best opponents to be palpably uneasy when confronted with them at the table, allowing still another advantage to them while competing against each other.

Bob, thanks for taking the time to write about it, and, of course, to emphasize its both spectacular appearance, and no doubt underestimated, paralyzing greatness.