Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Here is something I have never been able to figure out. It happens sometimes at teams or duplicate pairs that the opponents have stopped in three of a major. You are pretty sure you can make four of a minor. But if you bid on, they may bid to game and make it. What should you do – and does it matter if you are playing matchpoints or IMPs?

Faint Heart, Salinas, Calif.

Bid on; assume if the opponents stop in three of a major deliberately, they are right the first time and won’t bid four or make it, if given a second chance. On any auction where the opponents have a chance to bid game and decline to do so, you should assume they haven’t had an accident, but are aware they are short of the values to bid game.

Is there a difference between a revoke and a renege? I see both these terms used in the books, but they are never fully explained. Nor is the penalty ever set out in full, it seems.

Legal Beagle, Atlanta, Ga.

The two terms are identical. As to penalties: there is no penalty if, from the revoke tricks onwards the offending side won no more tricks. If they won only one trick on or after the revoke, the penalty is one trick. Even if they won two or more tricks after the revoke, the penalty will only be two tricks if: specifically the player who revoked (as opposed to his partner) won the revoke trick; OR the revoking player later won a trick with a card he could have played on the revoke trick. But if these penalties do not restore equity, the tournament director may adjust the score.

I picked up ♠ 7-2, J-2, A-K-J-8-7-3-2, ♣ J-4. I opened one diamond in second seat, and rebid the suit. Now my partner who held the bare diamond queen asked for aces and settled in six no-trump, making for a top board when diamonds were 3-2. Afterwards my opponents gave me grief, saying this was not worth an opening bid. I thought it was too good to pre-empt or pass on.

Bid’em Up Bosworth, East Lansing, Mich.

Vulnerable I might preempt, but non-vulnerable I like your choice of opening one diamond in first seat. I would never pass this hand, whatever I did, since I would want to get this suit into the action as fast as was legal.

Because I am frequently traveling, I find I cannot read your daily bridge column as regularly as I would like. Is there any daily feature on bridge (like a crossword puzzle book) that you would recommend to replace my daily reading/ playing of the card game from the newspaper?

Door-to-door Donald, Mason City, Iowa

There are many (maybe too many) books on bridge! The authors I always recommend are Mike Lawrence, Eddie Kantar, Terence Reese and Hugh Kelsey. For my daily column online, go to

I recently held: ♠ 7-2, J-6-4-2, Q-J-7-3-2, ♣ J-2. After my partner opened one spade, and my RHO bid two hearts, I passed. In the balancing seat, my partner doubled for take-out. What ought I to do now?

Higgs Boson, Levittown, Pa.

I frequently bid two spades with a doubleton on parallel auctions to this, if no better action seems available, but here your diamonds are too good to pass up. It looks natural to bid three diamonds — though experts might argue that the wide range of hands for your initial pass should allow you to use a call of three diamonds here as promising values. You would then have to go through two no-trump as an artificial route to show a weak hand – just as one does in Lebensohl auctions.

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 17th, 2016 at 12:31 pm

HI Bobby,

Can I suggest that the reaction of “Bid Em Up Bosworth’s” opponents was slightly sour grapes. As the hand is clearly too strong for 2D, 3D or pass, what else is left? 4D might be OK in 3rd hand Non-Vulnerable but it bypasses 3N. I admit it is all too easy to be a results merchant (6NT is a good contract and makes, therefore 1D must be right) but 1D strikes me as pretty reasonable.

Also a stray query, playing (very) old-fashioned Acol. I opened 1D on Kx A8xx AKQJx xx and pard bid 1S. I bid 2H (strictly speaking non-forcing in steam age Acol with 16+pts , 4+ H and 5+ diamonds with Diamons longer than H) and partner bid 2S. How would you now rate 3S 4S, Pass, 3C (4th suit) or anythign else?



bobbywolffApril 17th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Hi Iain,

It has been often said that most people play results in not only competitions but with life itself, always wondering why they, themselves didn’t do this or that simply because this and that worked while what they did do, didn’t.

From that and dealing with only bridge and especially tournament duplicate when someone makes a bid which all would not, but it works, injudicious comments seem to be the medicine some seek in order to quiet one’s anger. Yes the term “sour grapes” is the name and bridge is often the game. As to quieting revenge, seek the next time one plays that opponent and he gets “lucky” on some hand especially causing him to just smile and be affable, turn and congratulate him on being one of the friendliest “winners” in the room.

I would rate 3 spades 100%, Pass 30%, 4S 10% and 3C or anything else -10%. However if our Acol agreement extends to only rebidding spades at the lowest level is not only NF but basically a signoff, eg. s. QJxxxx, Jxx, d. xx, c. Qx I would raise Pass to 70% reaping a reward if partner had s. Jxxxxx and the approximately same rest of the above example but wanted to keep the bidding open, not ever a terrible idea, in case partner had. s. AK10x. h. x d. AKxxxx, c.Ax where with just decent luck would be great for a spade slam.

However that hand may qualify for an old time Acol 2 bid, forcing for one round.

BTW, in my very early bridge playing years, Acol was my favorite general method and still remains very high on my overall list (assuming a few tweaks, “check signals”, perhaps not so few).

Iain ClimieApril 17th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for this, although I won’t go into the gruesome details of what happened at the table (where I did bid 3S, incidentally). Suffice it to say that partner’s hand was in no way what I expected!



AviApril 18th, 2016 at 6:54 am

Bobby hi

I have a somewhat embarrasing question.
Given the following auction: dealer opens 1s, X, 2s
what does a double from the 4th seat mean now?

I discussed this with my partner yesterday.
We agreed that 2NT can’t be to play, since if we can make 2nt, we can set them back by at least 2 tricks. Therefor it’s a takeout for the minors (at least 4-4).
Also, since partner strongly suggests 4 hearts, or some sort of big double, with 4+ hearts and values, I would always bid 3H (are we wrong here?).
So is double for TO or penalties?

bobbywolffApril 18th, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Hi Avi,

Starting wrong side up, no, double should be for take out showing a balanced hand (always or at least usually, at least 3 cards in all unbid suits) and averaging about 8-10 points.

Also I prefer 2NT to be values plus, of course the opponents suit, at the very least singularly stopped eg. s. AJx, h. xx, d. Jxx, c. AJ9xx. Why? simply because the raise to 2 spades could and should have a lower limit of 0 high card points, s. xxxx, h. x, d. xxxxxx, c. xx where the only intelligent discussion might be instead of a raise to 2 spades, perhaps that hand is better to raise to either 3 or 4.

Yes, the other major usually will win the choice, if it is also in the running. Of course, some very good players (perhaps a majority) will play that 2NT as a response is only for the minors, and if so, because of frequency of occurrence. but it is not universally thought to be that, at least, unless my bridge antenna has gone 100% sour on me.

Finally, never underestimate the value of distribution, especially when deciding to penalty double or not. A surplus of trumps and then at least one very short suit, can produce a number of tricks when the opponents hands fit well. Be wary before penalty doubling since when they fit well, your side then often fits well with your longest trump suit named.

Finally, don’t just assume that free bridge advice from even sincere friends is gospel. Usually advice, like other freebies, is often only worth what you pay for it!