Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 15th, 2022


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 29th, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
This hand provides many interesting possibilities. After winning lead in hand and leading diamond Q, when west did not cover, suppose declarer passes it instead of playing A. If east wins and returns club, declarer needs club finesse to work. Instead if east returns trump, declarer draws trumps and leads spade K and A just in case Q J are bare and if not, pitches spades on diamonds and relies on club finesse. But today, diamond Q wins. Now declarer can draw trumps, and lead A of spades and spade. If east produces an honor, south wins and hopes west has remaining honor but if east has it, declarer falls back on club finesse. If east plays low ( as he would today) , west wins and has the unpleasant choice of presenting two club tricks or two diamond tricks in the elegant ending for declarer. And most interestingly, after drawing trump, pitching club on diamond A, a short-sighted declarer can try A and Q of clubs hoping for a spade return and with proper guess, declarer survives but now an alert defense can get him by providing ruff and discard and suddenly there is no twelfth trick

bobbywolffJanuary 29th, 2022 at 4:24 pm


Thanks, as always, for, at the very least, giving your readers a fast resume to their options.

The only positives I could add have to do with psychological additions if and when the declarer is likely a faster thinker than his opponents. The first case might consist of immediately winning the heart lead in hand and then producing the queen of diamonds post haste on the table.

Since bridge ethics say nothing about fast tempo plays, it may be thought that there is no such thing, and a faster thinker should be able to take full advantage of his wit, in order, of course, to receive a better indication of where important cards are located.

In this case, the opening leader is unlikely to immediately realize that during the bidding, declarer has shown short diamonds (zero or 1)
so that, if indeed it immediately came to mind, it is an easy duck, but if not, the damage will be done, because with a marked hesitation by West marks him as ethically bound to possess the king.

Of course, with the varied nature of bridge committees, there are different schools of thought to applying ethics, and if that committee either dislikes the declarer or the chairman strongly expresses his opinion, any and all results are likely.

A thorny problem, YOU BET IT IS, but even during the long time, years ago to which I chaired bridge appeals committees those important subjects rarely came up except for the times I used to bring them up, for others to consider,

I doubt seriously whether they do so now or not, but if not, they should, since doing so rather than not is the difference between having ones head in the sand, ostrich like, or much better, addressing those problems before they come up, but if not, then be quiet and let the chairman (if he is learned) exercise his opinion.

Strong post to follow, but thanks for listening!

Finally, yes I made a few enemies, some evidence of which is true even today, by being dictatorial, but doing so is just part of the problem with achieving progress. At least to me, better to ruffle feathers and move forward, then to remain circumspect, and not.

bobbywolffJanuary 29th, 2022 at 5:59 pm

Hi again,

Perhaps since the above subject has been brought up, it may be wise to point out that when experienced and better players compete against each other, the advantage (like the server in tennis) belongs to the declarer. He is usually in control of the tempo, since the opponents need to practice “active ethics’ which, in effect, suggest that no unauthorized , (usually gratuitous) can be passed between the defenders other than the playing of cards, in proper tempo (not too hot, nor too cold) and, if just vaguely possible, never with the idea of cluing partner in (by any gesture or emphasis) of any extra information than the card itself served.

It is sometimes quite difficult to prevent at least some extraneous, and thus unauthorized, knowledge to partner, but every effort needs to be exerted to achieve it.

The declarer is not subject to such strict rules, although he or she should not attempt to convey false knowledge intentionally, which should also be illegal.

The good news, at least in my experience and when dealing with REAL bridge lovers is that when four of them sit at the same table, the respect they have for each other is often based on how ethical they are, rather than their talent and therefore, when that is palpable, the bridge gods around know it and no doubt smile.

Finally, perhaps the reader may now realize just how heinous bridge cheats can be, since when they are present the favorites to win are always them, even if they are playing against top class world experts.

Perhaps then we should consider forever banishment for players who decide to transgress, possibly resulting in some of the oh so many of them worldwide (with almost no country exempted) and over the years, ruining (or attempting to) what is no doubt (at least IMO) the greatest mind game ever invented.

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 30th, 2022 at 9:25 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
The last para : ” Perhaps then we should consider forever banishment for players who decide to transgress . ”
If only it can be implemented strictly, it would definitely serve as a deterrent and certainly would bring down the pandemic of cheating. It is difficult to understand why people cheat at bridge instead of playing the game with passion. But unfortunately , if one gathers from various reports, the sad fact is there is increase in the number of people cheating

bobbywolffJanuary 30th, 2022 at 2:35 pm


Sadly, when professionalism entered high-level bridge, similar to business practices in other forms of money grabbing, players who were only on the fringes of being decent players, “lowered down”, instead of “perking up” and, although knowing their limitations, soon realized that illegal signals in bridge, (easy to communicate at the table), enabled them to overcome the extremely difficult part of coordinating right opening leads, as well as the sophistication of knowing when it really pays off to bid with weak hands (illegal specific information from partner) as well as forcing that information both during the bidding, the crucial opening lead and also, of course, the entire defense.

IOW, our game is all about doing well from the inferences of the bidding and play as well as other psychological factors blending into the greatest mind sport ever, but the cheap way done with cheating, changes everything in favor of being presented that vital information on a silver platter.

Probably in business, various types of information become off limits, either with laws or with practice, and although shady to worse conduct often appears, the illegal nature becomes dangerous because of self-protection of others as well as well known laws which tend to protect it by threatening worse than banishment in bridge, if the culprits are caught.

In any event, the more high-level bridge rose, and it continued to get much better in the last 50+ years, the more parasites decided to partake cheating for both money and, of course, feigned ego satisfaction.

The Blue team (in the early 1950’s) was one of the first major efforts to form and establish just how vulnerable bridge became to coordinated cheating, and even today, there are bridge idiots left who really think they were innocent. Since then the numbers of partnerships who turned to very bold illegality became an outstanding number, followed by individual parasites who adopted a scorched earth policy of doing any and everything possible to seek illegal advantage in so many different ways (board copping, individual players in contact during the event, being mailed the bridge hand records before the event, partner’s and teammates being wired by kibitzers and random players scattered throughout the room as well as in KO’s, information left in restrooms or other spots or notes passed at the half when boards are exchanged or even in at least two cases, going to the hotel telephone and talking to a kibitzer who had been at the other table).

In truth, at least with logic, anyone or more who cheat while playing a mind sport (especially the best one ever) has got to be seriously and mentally sick but professionalism when money becomes involved, paid by clients, probably allowed it to just take off and thrive.

Will it ever stop, before bridge falls totally off the map? It likely depends on how serious the penalties for being caught the first time become and, at least to me (because of the above description), the penalty cannot be severe enough. We vitally NEED to stop it in its tracks!

BTW, it is a dangerous enterprise for lawyers to take a stand against severe and automatic penalties, since by doing so, they are merely sticking up for their own profession (my father, only brother, nephew and niece are all lawyers, so I should understand their view).

All I can say is that in my whole career and that included all forms of developing committees to
decide, Ethical Oversight, National Recorder and Active Ethics were all my ACBL invention besides often being the lead WBF committee chairman who chaired almost every case which might have included cheating, held for about 10+ years on a worldwide basis. Some were real doozies!