Stephen Cooper


Online bridge can be a very social event. Sometimes, I am chatting with friends while still trying to play. My advice? TTYL, which translates into:  Talk To Ya Later, as every chat enthusiast knows! Best to focus on one thing at a time.

Now that I have set up my excuse, pick up the East cards and defend this hand:

















Dummy, North opened 1D, and raised his partner’s 1H response to just 3 (!). When South carried on to game, my partner led the 9 of Clubs. Declarer, perforce,  won the Ace, following with the Ten from his hand, and then played Ace and another Heart. Partner followed to the trump Ace with the Queen, and, on the second round of trumps, threw a conventional low, odd, club, indicating the Ace of Diamonds. You are in with the Ten. What is your plan? Decide before you read on…


It looked to me like 4 easy tricks. My two high trumps, the Ace of Diamonds, and a Diamond ruff. I saw the hand as an exercise in trying to make sure partner would win the second round of Diamonds, and not the first. Easy! Just play a Diamond, and he will duck the first round. How does he know to do that? Because if you had a stiff Diamond, you would cash your (marked) King of trumps first, and then play the Diamond back to partner. Textbook stuff.

Pleased with my analysis, I watched my partner take my Diamond switch with the Ace (“C’mon, now partner; the inference is clear – maybe he’s chatting, too?”), and switch to a Spade! (“Lovely”, I thought, “He has misread this and thinks I have the Spade King which must be established before my trump is knocked out.”) I did not see that coming. But, no, partner’s play was immaculate. The full hand:
























There never was a Diamond ruff to be had. In any case, my defense would only succeed if declarer had exactly 3 Diamonds. Even then, the winning defense would still work: Continue clubs at every opportunity. What is instructive here is the simple counting that would lead you to this answer: Declarer has the King of Clubs left, to stop one round; your side is in at the critical stage with the Ten of hearts, and will have two more chances to play Clubs, once with the other high trump, and once with the Ace of Diamonds. That is a total of three more chances to play Clubs. Both defenders have enough Clubs to play one when in. So, declarer will have to deal with three more rounds of Clubs. The first one he can win with the King, but both of the later two rounds must be ruffed, and he will run out. That will eventually promote your little trump to the setting trick.

But at least I had a nice chat!


LindaJuly 9th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

That is a cool hand.

I completely agree that it is hard to concentrate enough on BBO. Even when I am not chatting there are many other distractions. The telephone rings. Somebody comes into my office. I try to do 3 things at once.

It is also hard for me to concentrate as deeply as I can when playing in a serious event.

I can see that you could get deep enough into this hand to find the right defence but it is easy to do exactly what you did.

It is similar to forming a plan as declarer and then not thinking about whether you an improve it.

Stephen CooperJuly 9th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Focus and concentration are the keys to success. live or online. Harder to do online. Everyone knows the famous Terence Reese strory, with the naked call-girl…

Dave Memphis MOJOJuly 9th, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Nice hand.

When I play online, I might also be in an online poker tournament and watching baseball on TV! I’ve under-ruffed, miscounted trumps and all kinds of atrocities!

Gabrielle (cerulean)July 9th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

No, Stephen, I don’t know the Terrence Reese story. Do tell…

Cam FrenchJuly 10th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Stephen refers to a legend which has grown over time where one expert bet another that Reese (who was famed for his concentration) would not so much as look up from the table if a nude woman walked around.

Apparently, she was only topless, sat at the table for a few minutes, the others getting an eyeful and Reese not so much as batting an eyelid.

Whether it is fact or fiction it remains a popular yarn that (like most) has grown with time.

Like the one where they were playing at a high stakes club a form of what we call “ring the bell”. if a player makes a mistake, on play or defense, a kibitzer can “ring the bell” and take their place. After one hour Reese took himself out announcing “I never make mistakes”…….


Judy Kay-WolffJuly 16th, 2010 at 1:46 am

I had never heard the Reese story, but I have one of my own to which I can bear witness.

I was playing with my late husband Norman in New York in a Mixed Pairs where the woman was wearing an ultra-provocative blouse. Norman was the declarer in a very difficult contract (doubled and made if my memory serves me correctly). When the couple hustled away from the table, I turned to him and asked facetiously, “Did you catch a glimpse of your RHO? She reminded me of Elsie the Cow from the old Borden Milk ad,” I commented. “What girl, he nonchallantly replied” as he picked up his hand for the next round.

Stephen CooperJuly 19th, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Ahh, true love! 🙂

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