Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, 5 February, 2024


Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2024 at 10:58 am

Hi Bobby,

Just looking at the NS spade holding today, can you think of a more obvious example of where TOCM can strike. If you can see all the cards, there is a guaranteed way of ensuring no more than one loser but…. Point taken about bashing down the Ace first even if only to avoid the mental torture of taking two finesses, seeing the first one fail and the remaining small card appear on the 2nd round. Anyone who reckons choice is always a good thing needs to have a rethink or perhaps has never played cards.



bobbywolffFebruary 5th, 2024 at 1:47 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt you have well described a newbie to which learning card combinations will not
be natural and thus, at least at first, more difficult than usual. It would (should) take at least, a bit longer, for him or her to digest the early going, but perhaps it may be different in other attempts to discuss bridge logic, such as the science involved with bidding as well as other non-arithmetic features necessary for success (not that many available).

However, since simple math is so prevalent throughout, a bridge teacher needs to understand that all people are not just wired to be stars (to say the least).

Robert LiptonFebruary 5th, 2024 at 2:35 pm

For those interested in the odds, when you have nine cards, there’s a 41% chance of the cards being split 2-2 among the opponents, and a 51% chance of the suit being split 3-1; add in the probability of the singleton being an honor means that’s useful 66% of the time. Add in the 3-1 split with the honors both in west’s hand, and that means that means an additional 13%, for a total chance of around 79%.Taking the double finesse against East works only when the cards are 4-0 with East holding the four (5%), or 3-1 with East holding both honors (13%) or West’s singleton being the an honor 26%. Even taking on the reduction due to the odds not being precisely additive, that’s way less.

There is, of course, a chance of holding trump losers to none (west’s singleton is the Jack), but that’s balanced by the extra loser, as here.

Bob Lipton

bobbywolffFebruary 5th, 2024 at 3:12 pm

Hi Robert,

Quite often the specific odds, even with bridge learning, are nothing much more than icing on the cake. But here, and because of your industry, your above odds making, becomes important, what the bridge teacher offered, and definitely right to the point.

Much thanks for that and for many of our readers, your descriptions will be remembered and, more than that, likely acted upon immediately, or realistically, at their next bridge

Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2024 at 4:50 pm

HI Bob,

Taking the double finesse also works when East has Jx or Kx to be fair as the relevant card pops up on the 2nd round. I just go for the more pragmatic approach of sparing myself the agony of the 2nd finesse decision when West might have K alone vs KJ alone and I know there is a way home which I’m going to talk myself out of. TOCM doesn’t normally apply until I start thinking!

Years ago I used to take an anti-percentage line with (say) AJ109x opposite xxxx. In the absence of any other info of course the right play is to take two finesses and that picks up KQx and KQxx onside too while you’re OK if East has K or Q alone provided you don’t panic on the 2nd play. Maybe it was due to hands being manually dealt (this was the late 1970s and early 80s) but I’d just bash down the bullet and be prepared to apologise when it failed. KQ alone offside came up more often than the theoretical figures would predict. An old friend and partner found a different approach once. Faced with an agonised KJx(x) opposite xx guess late on with absolutely no clues (and he had to play the suit himself) he apologised in advance to the opponents and tossed a coin – and got lucky.

Anyone ever seen “No Country for Old Men”, although the consequences of getting it wrong at cards are less severe?