Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

When declaring a contract against competent opponents, which is better, to try to give yourself an extra chance at the risk of being defeated by best defense, or to assume the lie of the cards (however unlikely that may be) that you need to make the hand? I suppose either could be right, but I think, in an expert game, you must assume best defense and play accordingly.

—  Table Turner, Tupelo, Miss.


ANSWER: Your question of whether to try the best line in abstract or in practice has no simple answer, but I’m big on what is best in practice. If I would not solve the problem I’m setting for my expert opponent, I’ll go for the swindle. I went down in a slam in a world championship by trying a Chinese finesse when missing six clubs to the king (and yes, the king WAS singleton!) so I’ll put my money where my mouth is.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held K-9, A-10-9-3, 10-4-3-2, Q-8-5. My LHO opened a weak two diamonds and my partner doubled. When my RHO bid three diamonds, should I double or bid hearts? If the latter, should I bid game?

—  Olive Oyl, Cartersville, Ga.


ANSWER: You have a good hand for hearts facing short diamonds, but your partner knows his short diamonds will be useful. I’d bid four hearts with as little as the heart jack instead of the three, but as it is, I feel three hearts is enough. A double should show both majors here, I believe, and is for takeout not penalties.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In today’s bridge article, I think you were using a system that I do not recognize. The opener bid two clubs, explained as “natural, 11-15 points.” What does “natural” mean? Do you have a pamphlet or book that explains your system?

—  Lost in Neverland, Seattle, Wash.

  ANSWER: I was not recommending this system. With hands from real life I present the bidding as it happened, not what I suggest you play! The pair in question use a strong club, so they bid one club with all hands of 16 or more points; hence two clubs is natural (showing clubs) and limited. Please forgive me if I did not make this clear.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding A-10-4-3-2, K-9, 2, A-Q-J-10-3, I opened one club and rebid one spade over my partner’s one-heart response. When my partner rebid one no-trump, I tried two spades, and played there, making eight tricks when trumps split 3-3. My partner said this sequence suggested six clubs and five spades, but I thought the suit-quality disparity was such that a one-club opening bid was sounder. What do you say?

—  The Major or the Minor?, Erie, Pa.


ANSWER: Your idea used to be the mainstream position. Players with 5-5 in the black suits would open one club no matter which suit was better. These days the reverse holds true; majors come before minors at all times, it seems. I’m somewhere in the middle: I like to bid good suits before bad ones — particularly on strong hands — so I can sympathize with your approach here.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In a recent column, you held 10-4, K-9-7-4-3, Q-9-2, J-7-3. Partner opened two clubs, you responded two diamonds, and partner rebid two spades. You recommended a call of two no-trump, saying you’d prefer “better hearts” to bid them. How good does the heart suit have to be to become biddable?

—  Rags to Riches, Winston-Salem, N.C.


ANSWER: Off the cuff, I’d say the minimum standard is a five-card suit headed by two of the top four honors, thus Q-J-9-x-x or so. However, with more shape in the minors I might also start with three hearts. So, if that hand had queen-jack-fourth of diamonds and two small clubs, I’d go the other way and bid my hearts.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact