Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 13th, 2015

In the past, you have mentioned opening two clubs with a two-suiter including one or both majors. The idea would be to avoid getting passed out by partner holding less than a traditional response. Recently you showed a hand 6-4 in the black suits with the ace-queen of spades and ace-king sixth of clubs, plus the diamond ace. Applying the same principle, with this four-loser hand, why not open two clubs here?

Rocket Man, Houston, Texas

My view on hands of this sort is that I run the risk of getting too high with a two club opener, and that someone will be short enough in clubs to find a call, even when partner is weak and might have passed the deal out. We might miss game I admit; those are the eggs that have to be broken for the perfect omelet.

Holding ♠ Q-7-5-2, A-2, A-9-3, ♣ A-J-3-2 I heard my partner pass and my RHO opened one diamond. Is it better to double or bid one notrump?

Monkey Mike, Carmel, Calif.

You should never double with a doubleton in an unbid major, unless you had much more than a strong no-trump. While overcalling one no-trump facing a passed partner is not without risk, you are just about within range. Passing, planning to back in with a double if the opponents get to hearts, is not absurd.

I read your columns online and would appreciate some help here. North was dealer and East bid first — out of turn. Would it be possible for you to explain the rules concerning penalties for this and other bids out of turn?

Chaos Warrior, London, England

The auction reverts to the real dealer. After a second in hand opening out of turn, if the real dealer passes, the call out of turn must be accepted, and there is no penalty. If the dealer opens, or if it is a player in any other seat who has opened out of turn, the auction reverts to the real dealer, but now the partner of the offender must pass throughout. There may also be lead penalties on defense. Note: the offender can bid what he likes whenever it is his turn to speak.

Playing pairs as dealer I held: ♠ Q, J-9-7-6-4, 9-3, ♣ A-K-J-7-2. In the hand below I ignored my weak hearts, after a one diamond opener by my partner. Instead I passed, discounting the two points for the singleton spade queen, particularly since the hearts were so ugly. Was I unduly pessimistic? We missed the chance to blow the opponents out of the water in hearts.

Dropping the Pilot, Hazelton, Pa.

Your action was entirely reasonable. Switch the hearts and clubs and I ignore the high card issue and open one heart to get my partner off to the right lead. One can become unduly hung up on points, and in the process you fail to bid the suits that you want partner to lead, or raise. With weak hearts, as here, your pass makes good sense.

How many trump should a weak jump raise promise? In the hand below I ignored my weak hearts, which I would have bid had they constituted a better suit. Instead I responded three diamonds at favorable vulnerability with ♠ J-10-2, 9-6-4-2, J-10-6-4, ♣ 5-2 trying to mess up the opponents. We ended up down three for a bottom (though had partner escaped for two down it would have been a very decent score). My partner said he hated my choice; what say you?

Princess Pushy, Albuquerque, N.M.

I may be getting old, but your action is just too rich for me. I like to play the jump as promising five trump if weak. When vulnerable, though I prefer a range of 6-9 not 0-4 HCP; one man’s meat is another man’s poison. It all depends on style, I admit, but I think I’m closer to your partner.

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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgDecember 27th, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Matchpoints Pairs. Both VUL. Dealer West has passed. You are North in second seat, holding:
K8 9 108753 AK832.
This is from a recent (Dec 22) page of Andrew Robson’s “The Times Bridge Calendar”.
Mr. Robson prefers Passing, offering the explanatory comment: “Rule of 20 opener, but second chair openers should be kept up to strength, especially as North would be opening a pictureless 1D…”.
Assuming at-the-Table opponents, and “the field” are of uniform ability, would like to hear your thoughts about this.

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, I have the utmost respect for Andrew’s judgment and most of all, his conscientious respect for bridge, proven by his devotion to all things bridge, even often at the cost of ego (carefully listening to others he values), a trait not always evident among top level players.

Next, while I will offer an opinion and why on your specific question, I, no doubt, will confess to a bias to avoid making abnormal bridge bids and plays wherein I sincerely attempt to remain consistent.

Having said the above, I would open 1 diamond
but fully respect his not so doing. Perhaps, though, only because of my fear of not opening I will be sorry. In other words, I think he is right, but I do not have the courage to merely pass when my overwhelming preference. if given a reasonable choice, is to bid as often as I can.

Other openings, besides one diamond, just do not cut it, nor even come close, but the thought of the alternative of pass, is difficult for me to accept.

Jane ADecember 27th, 2015 at 10:44 pm

Perhaps I am not reading the question asked by Dropping the Pilot correctly, but is he saying that after his partner opened one diamond, he did not respond one heart with the hand that is posted? It looks like something is getting mixed up with the Princess Pushy question since the verbiage is the same for parts of both questions. As dealer I agree he should not open the hand, but I can’t imagine not bidding one heart as responder to his partner’s open.

Jeff SDecember 28th, 2015 at 12:37 am

I was also very confused by the Dropping the Pilot question, but I think Jane has figured it out. If the “after a one diamond opener by my partner” is moved to the following question, it makes a lot more sense. As does the Pushy Princess question where we are left to infer that her partner opened 1D.

To be fair, your answer to Pilot’s question says that if you switch the hearts and clubs, you would OPEN one heart which makes the situation a little clearer – so maybe a little post-holiday fatigue all around!

bobby wolffDecember 28th, 2015 at 1:04 am

Hi Jane A,

Yes, an apology is in order as just this minute, after your post, I read what you have just commented on.

It seems some answers got mixed up among the letters. No doubt the Dropping the Pilot post was correct in not opening the bidding with his weak hearts and not enough on the side, but obviously he should be happy to merely respond one heart especially after not opening the bidding.

The Princess Pushy question seemed a reasonable one, marking time with the switch to jumps in partner’s suit becoming not only weaker in high cards, but not having nearly good enough distribution either.

Sorry for the confusion and since we are pretty much at the mercy of others we need to depend on them to get it right. They usually do and horror of horrors too often the trouble is right here in River City, it rhymes with sloth and no one is better off.

Sorry for the time of yours that we have wasted, and we’ll try to prevent it from happening again.

We do appreciate your alerting us, for sometimes when we have other responsibilities, I am not attentive enough and I need to know about it.

Jane ADecember 28th, 2015 at 3:22 am

I have plenty of time and it is not wasted reading about bridge. Can I now say I am an official assistant to Bobby Wolff? (Don’t burst my bubble!)

Seriously, I always appreciate the time and effort you take to educate us in bridge and feel very lucky to have you right here in “River City”.

Happy New Year to you and Judy.

bobby wolffDecember 28th, 2015 at 5:31 am

Hi Jeff S & Jane A,

To learn bridge and be the very best player one can be is a worthwhile goal.

Of course, to do so, and to get the results one dreams about, while not exactly a walk in the park, is indeed a possibility.

However, all aspiring players need to understand from the beginning, that lady luck will always be a factor. Of course, as one gets better, so will magically also be his or her good fortune.

Almost every hand played has some gamble to it, and since old man bridge is not going to change his ways, do not shy away from first learning, next, sticking out one’s neck, and then daring whoever is competing to stand toe to toe and let the better player win.

No guarantees, but the above is the formula to follow. Always consider that to not be very aggressive is much too dangerous to consider, so hop on the roller-coaster and let the non-believer sleep in the streets.

Yes Jane, I am proud to consider you my official assistant and a very healthy, happy and prosperous New Year to both of you.

Bob TacyDecember 31st, 2015 at 2:46 pm

I would like to comment on todays bridge hand (Dec 31, 2015). After drawing trump, and then cashing the K of diamonds, lead the 10 of diamonds and duck it into East. East is now end-played. Whatever suit East leads (even if east had another diamond) gives declarer his 10th trick.