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Learning and Playing Online Has Some Fring Benefits
By: Alan Truscott

Originally Published in The New York Times, May 3, 2001

The newest way to learn the game is on your computer. Last month the American Contract Bridge League introduced Learn to Play Bridge, which can be downloaded from its Web site, It is also available on a free CD-ROM by calling (901) 332-5586.

The programming was the work of Fred Gitelman, who has contributed more than anyone else in this field. His latest production is BBO, which stands for Bridge Base Online. It can be downloaded free on the Internet at and has many features, primarily educational, that are rarely if ever available elsewhere. Among them are a partnership bidding area, a double-dummy room, a library, a Vugraph theater, a chat room and a lecture hall. It also has tools for bridge teachers and for setting up your own online bridge community.

Opening lead: K

Gitelman and his partner, Sheri Winestock, had a defensive triumph on the diagramed deal, played in a Regional Knockout Team Championship in Toronto last month. Try to guess how the defense achieved the setting trick. But be warned: You will not be right.

Trading on the favorable vulnerability, South opened two spades with one fewer card than the usual length for a weak two-bid. This ended the bidding, and Winestock, West, led the diamond king. She shifted to a heart, and when South played low from dummy Gitelman won with the king. He returned a club to the queen, king and ace.

The spade king was led and allowed to win. At this point South should have cashed the heart ace, unblocking. Instead he led a second trump, and East was able to win with the ace and play a heart.

South was now in dummy again, and in difficulty. He did not wish to shorten his trumps by ruffing a club, so he led a diamond. East discarded a heart, and West won with the 10.

The obvious road for the defense was to play clubs, but Winestock made a more elegant move. She cashed the diamond ace, on which her partner threw his last heart, and a heart ruff defeated the contract. The result was the same one down as it would have been after a club return from West.

Did you guess that East-West, who began with a 4-4 heart fit, would score a ruff in that suit? Readers who claim to have foreseen this possibility will strain my credulity.

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