Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 16th, 2016

What do you consider the correct response to a one spade opening bid is here? I held ♠ A-9-4-2, K-J-10-3, Q-7-5-2, ♣ 3, and chose to bid four spades, feeling I did not have enough for a for a splinter jump to four clubs. This led to our missing a slam on a perfect fit. But what would you recommend here?

Yankee Clipper, Greenville, S.C.

An invitational jump would not do your hand justice here. Equally, a jump to game is preemptive, and a splinter should deliver more in the way of highcards. You can perhaps solve your dilemma by playing a jump to three no-trump over the opening bid as a good raise to four spades. An alternative, of playing mini-splinters, is discussed at Bridge Winners.

At my club recently someone mentioned a Merrimac (or is it Merrimack?) Coup, which I thought was something to do with the Civil War. Can you fill me in on the details?

Military Buff, Dallas, Texas

There are two different boats with nearly identical names. The bridge coup refers to the boat with the first listed spelling, since it was scuttled in Santiago Harbor in an attempt to blockade the enemy fleet in there. The bridge coup sees the sacrifice of an honor to remove a critical entry from declarer’s or dummy’s hand.

Can you give me some help in interpreting the rule of 11 – and can you tell me if it applies when the opponents lead third and fifth or third and lowest?

Count Dracula, Saint John, New Brunswick

If your partner’s lead appears to be fourth highest from length, subtract the value of his spot-card from 11. The residue equals how many higher cards will be held by the other three hands. So, on the lead of a five, if dummy has the 10-8, and you have the kingseven, there are six higher cards held by the other three players of which you can see four. Thus declarer has two cards higher than the five. Against 3rd/5th leads a variant (the rule of 10/12) can be used.

Recently you suggested that a double of a Drury two club call should be for the lead. I recall you saying a double of an artificial raise by an unpassed hand may sensibly be played either as takeout or showing the suit doubled. Since a third-hand opener might be light, and Drury doesn’t promise a great hand, can’t it still be our hand? So why does a double of Drury show clubs rather than being for take-out?

Wood-Chopper, Janesville, Wis.

As a passed hand with take-out double shape, plan only to come in if they die in two of a major. If they bid game you will surely be happy you stayed silent. Double may be your last chance to show clubs. The subtext is that when they invite game, double for the lead. When they show fit but don’t guarantee high cards it may still be your hand – and you most frequently want to come in on hands short in their suit.

How would you evaluate the options when you hear your partner open one diamond and the next player overcalls one spade, when you hold ♠ Q-9-8-6-3, A-10-4, Q-J-4, ♣ K-2? Would the vulnerability matter, or would you take the same action at all colors? And, incidentally, would your view change if partner had opened one club?

Head-Hunter, Helena, Mont.

My soft diamond values and length argue against defending. I’d bid three no-trump at all colors facing a one diamond opener. The hand is more interesting facing a one club opener, but the spade suit really doesn’t feel right for defending here. You could persuade me otherwise at pairs at some vulnerabilities, if the spade three and diamond jack were switched in their suits.

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


ClarksburgOctober 30th, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Hello Mr Wolff
Further to Yankee Clipper’s great question.
Given the quality four-card Heart suit I would probably have splintered with that hand, the intended message being “we have enough for game and I have a singleton Club”.
How much extra HCP (or rearrangement of the red suits) would you recommend as enough to fully justify a splinter?

Lilyan FrankOctober 30th, 2016 at 5:45 pm

In a recent article in the SF Chronicle, you mentioned a tournament in Paris in the summer. How do I find out about bridge in Europe?

Gord RobertsOctober 30th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Would like to receive a daily bridge hand.

bobby wolffOctober 30th, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

AKAIK many of the top bridge partnerships differentiate limit bid hcps with splinters and limit bid hcps without splinters. The practical application allows immediate splinters (in this case) with what might be called lower limit game forces, just to show partner that one has a short suit, but limited high cards.

With balanced hands a GF raise is preferred (Jacoby 2NT and whatever else may be used) in order to learn a short suit the opening bidder may possess. Also, then often 3NT, sort of not necessary for (old time meaning of just balanced with GF point count and not primary trump support) but to take the place of a raise to 4 of the major with a good hand, but still limited.

This would then mean an immediate jump to 4 of partner’s major as preemptive and low in hcps, e.g. after partner’s one heart opening, perhaps, s. x. h. QJxxx, d. KJxxx, c. Jx, but hoping to describe one’s hand and, at the same time, make it as difficult for the opponents as possible.

I hope that you and other readers can glean the combination above, since it appears to be a composite of where current high-level bridge has landed, on that subject.

Good luck in moving forward.

bobby wolffOctober 30th, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Hi Lilyan,

The best bet is either an inquiry on the internet or directly write the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) at 6575Windchase Blvd., Horn Lake Mississippi 38637, or perhaps call them at 662-253-3100, Fax 662-253-3187.

Good luck and if you do, at least in years past, their bridge tournaments were elegant.

bobby wolffOctober 30th, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Hi Gord,

In years past, no sophisticated newspaper would ever not possess a daily bridge column, but now with newspapers not experiencing their finest hour, some features have been cancelled. But through it all my column and several other fierce competitors are still alive and kicking, so talk to your local newspaper and tell them how important your daily bridge fix has gotten to be, but in the absence of success you can still read my column Aces on Bridge (AOB) two weeks delayed and the various write-ins, all, to be sure, are first class people.

Yes, on the eve of our Presidential Election I am becoming slightly political.