Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 1st, 2016

In an intermediate-caliber Club Pairs game my partner dealt himself: ♠ A-2, 5-3, A-K-J-7, ♣ K-Q-10-9-4. What is this hand worth on opening bid, and how do you plan to rebid after a major-suit response?

Chock Full o’Nuts, Macon, Ga.

The combination of a 5-4-2-2 pattern and a small doubleton, coupled with an easy way to show extras, makes this a ‘no-contest’. Open one club and rebid two diamonds over either major-suit response or over a response of one no-trump. You could easily persuade me to open one no-trump, if you switched round the heart five and club king.

When responding to a no-trump with a long major I’ve been accustomed to transferring at the two level, then jumping to game. Is this best, or is a treatment someone recommended to me, of Texas Transfers, a sounder idea?

Dump Truck, Great Falls, Mont.

In a strong no-trump base it might certainly make sense to use direct four-level transfers to the majors with no slam interest, or when about to follow up with an ace-ask, having set the major as trump. Meanwhile, a two-level transfer followed by a raise to game is a mild slam-try with a six-card suit, while a two-level transfer if followed by four no-trump is quantitative not Blackwood. And for the record, a transfer and jump to the four level in a new suit is a self-agreeing splinter. This also applies to a transfer to spades followed by a jump in hearts.

At a recent session of rubber bridge we had quite a few throwins/all pass. During the postmortem it was observed that we rarely see or hear about this by experts (probably because such hands don’t make the highlight reel). My question is, how common is this in an expert game?

No Bid for Bacon, Boca Raton, Fla.

These days in third or fourth seat it sometimes seems that 11-counts are opened as a matter of routine by most (though not by me, but I’m getting old). My view is that I open in third with a decent suit or moderate values. In fourth seat if my partner has passed nonvulnerable and I have 10/11 without spades, I may well pass. But I don’t pass 12-counts that often.

A multiple part question for you. At pairs you hear a minor-suit preempt to your left passed round to you. You hold: ♠ A-8-2, A-5-3-2, Q-5-3, ♣ K-9-4. Would you ever balance over a preempt in clubs or diamonds at the three-level… or over a two diamond preempt? Would the vulnerability affect your choice?

Truly Scrumptious, Winston Salem, N.C.

Since I would act over a one-level minor opening in direct or balancing seat (with a double in direct seat or a balancing notrump in fourth seat) I feel as if I am almost bound to reopen, probably by doubling. If my opponents are non-vulnerable it would seem only right to pass if RHO is trapping or I’m turning a minus into a plus. And yet…I might have to read my RHO’s table-action to give you my answer. Neither doubling nor passing could be crimed.

With both sides vulnerable you hold ♠ K, J-8, K-Q-9-8-3-2, ♣ A-Q-J-2. After one spade to your left, raised to two, you bid three diamonds and hear three spades to your left. Would you bid again? And if you do act, how do you rate double, four clubs, or even three no-trump for the minors?

Pat the Dog, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Pass feels wrong, so I would act; but double guarantees heart length, so that is out. Thus the choice is reduced to four clubs or three no-trump, which in my book would show diamonds with secondary clubs. That looks too good to be true, doesn’t it? But I don’t see the catch — unless you think three no-trump is to play. I do not.

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 ClimieMay 15th, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Hi Bobby,
Can I just share a bridge related story which shows what a small world it is and how much the people we meet should be cherished. I've been working 230 miles from home during the week, and play at a couple of local clubs where I've been made very welcome. Talking to an older member at one, we discussed our family histories and found that he's lived for many years in Warrington, a medium sized town where I was born although my parents moved South shortly afterwards. My mother's family home was there.
Further chat found that he's lived in Grappenhall, a posh suburb on the outskirts where my Grandmother spent most of her life. She taught me to play simple card games when I was about 5, then came Whist and then bridge. The chap knew her and many of the family, and had played tennis with my mother at a local club in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Then we checked the actual addresses and he and his wife had lived next door to my grandmother! Sadly my mother died a couple months ago aged 85, but bridge has given me a link to the family's past out of nowhere! We talked for some time about who had done what, when and where over the last 50 years. I like to think that ultimately the best thing about bridge is the people you meet, as well as the pleasure and intellectual challenge of playing. I hadn't expected proof!

Judy Kay-WolffMay 16th, 2016 at 5:15 am

Hi Iain,

What an amazingly delightful story! It seems that bridge is often entwined with other facets of our lives. Bobby and I often reminisce about happenings in our wonderful game, playing in the same tournament, remembering the identical incident and knowing the same people — in different cities we both visited and under unrelated circumstances. Yet, we had never said a word to each other until 2002 .. two years before we were married. We recall so many functions which we both attended. In fact, he can begin a story and we often find I can finish it.

Bridge makes strange bed fellows! What a miracle we found each other!! Someone from above was smiling down upon us.

bobby wolffMay 16th, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, you presented a nostalgic, but wonderful personal account of your early life, involving bridge, (your mention of learning Whist, Contract Bridge’s Grandfather, got my rapt attention).

No doubt the playing of bridge is a unique way of expressing commonality which, in almost every case, also describes a positive intellectual exercise shared by people who both benefitted by its special mental effect.

Let all of its benefactors continue to seek and find both its disciplines and its challenge, which, at least to me, keeps our minds as agile and no doubt, young as is possible even though “time flies by when one is enjoying life”.

Fortunately for you, Judy intercepted your post, (she’s an inveterate scene stealer), but her joyful commentary always seems to override her apparent meddling.

Yes we have known each other for over 50 years (She married Norman Kay in 1963), but never spoke a word for the next 40. And believe me, neither of us can be identified as the silent type.

However when you didn’t return a club on that hand last Friday, if someone above was smiling down upon us, he was just preparing himself for a good laugh.

In this way I can create a diversion from my, shall we say, “indiscretion”, or better yet, mistake in judgment.

Iain ClimieMay 17th, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Hi Judy, Bobby,

Thanks for the kind comments and they are also a reminder that, in an uncertain world, we should always be ready to seize the moment with family, friends and even acquaintances. It is always worth keeping in touch instead of letting friendships fade.


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