Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

I’m not sure what the standard expert treatment is when it comes to doubling minor-suit openers with balanced hands. Would you pass or double one club (or one diamond?) holding ♠ Q-10-8, A-9-8-3, K-8-5, ♣ K-10-3? What are the critical elements in your decision as to whether to act? And is there a difference of opinion amongst experts here?

Herringbones, Charlottesville, Va.

There is no consensus here about whether to double or not. I’d say that most people would double a minor at all forms of scoring even vulnerable, facing a passed hand. Conversely, many would not double one spade, and push the auction to the two-level. Certainly I and all the Italians would double like a shot.

I enjoy watching bridge; can you tell me what are the rights and responsibilities of a kibitzer? And if I want to watch online, where should I go?

Word to the Wise, Detroit, Mich.

If you consider that a kibitzer is present on sufferance and should say or do nothing, you won’t be too far wrong. You can volunteer to turn the dummy when that player leaves the table. But if you want to watch online, go to Bridge Base Online, where you can watch real experts play and even follow the commentary.

My partner opened one diamond and the next hand overcalled two clubs. I held ♠ K-Q-7-3, A-K-4-2, 9-4-2, ♣ 7-5. When I doubled, my partner bid two hearts. What would you do now? I chose to drive to four hearts, but this turned out to be a 4-3 fit, and had no chance to succeed.

Cautionary Tale, Perth Amboy, N.J.

Opener is often forced to choose between unpleasant options on this auction with for example a 3-3-4-3 hand and no club stopper. You shouldn’t play partner for that hand, but you might have made a cuebid raise to three clubs — suggesting these values since a simple raise would guarantee extras. Then you might give up over a three-heart call if feeling pessimistic.

Holding ♠ Q-3, Q-3-2, J-6-4-2, ♣ A-Q-10-3, I heard my partner open one spade and responded with a forcing no-trump. When the opponents came in with two diamonds and my partner bid two hearts, I did not know whether he had four or five cards. My weak diamond suit discouraged me from bidding two no-trump, but raising either hearts or spades looked unattractive.

Curb your Enthusiasm, Miami, Fla.

The free two heart bid could be any hand (even a dead minimum) with 5-4 or better in the majors. On this sequence some would play a double of two diamonds as take-out, in which case a bid of two hearts would suggest an unbalanced hand, unsuitable for that action – but it would still not promise five hearts. I’d guess to bid two no-trump, relying on my partner to describe his hand further with extra shape.

What would you recommend playing over a two no-trump opener by your partner, when you hold ♠ A-10, J-3, K-J-7-3-2, ♣ Q-9-5-3? Is this worth a slam try, or a slam drive, and how should you get both suits in?

Movin’ on up, Tupelo, Miss.

You must try for slam, and many experts these days eschew Minor Suit Stayman. Instead they play a three spade response as puppeting three no-trump. Next you show a one- or twosuited slam-try with the minors. Some focus on showing which minor is longer, some on showing major-suit shortage. You might even bid four no-trump over three no-trump to suggest your actual hand. Check Bridge Winners for a range of options.

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


Bill CubleyNovember 6th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

There are dangers to kibitzing.

I celebrated a birthday by kibitzing the Women’s Trials some years back. I know some players and I thought they would welcome someone rooting for them.

I was watching a tough match when the RHO of the woman I was kibitzing turned right away from my friend, to her partner with a certain look. This is the look normally seen in bars, parties etc. Up and down with obvious delight. Then she said, “”Do you have implants?” I was so grateful not be sipping my coffee.

The tension level rose a mere 10,000%. Finally a reply. “No, they’re real. And they’ve never been used.” Again grateful I was not sipping coffee.

Names withheld for personal safety – mine. I was born in Detroit and this was a very scary situation for me. And I could not call the director.

BobliptonNovember 6th, 2016 at 2:15 pm

On the issue of doubling minor suit openings: this happened to me recently at the Duplicate table. Righty was an excellent professional playing with a weak partner and open 1D. I held

Q Axxx AQJx AKxx

and eventually decided to double, planning to converted the expected Spade response to NT, The bidding ran

Pro Me Client CHO
1C X P P!
1H X P P
1S 2C 2S 3C

It was obvious to me that we should be playing in diamonds, but there was no way of bidding it — partner would take it as a cuebid.

There was a club lead(!) and partner put down a hand very close to what I imagined.

xxx x Kxxxx JTxx

Cold for five. We made 6 when the client made three errors. squeezing her partner in the majors.

So I agree: when the opponents open a minor, doubling is a lot less shape-dependent than when opponents open a major.


Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, it could have been even more awkward, if you would have claimed to be a TD and pretended to be a monitor at that table, not just a kibitzer.

Because of your status, you had a right to see for yourself whether RHO’s partner was telling the truth about the IMPLANTS convention, which you had heard was a robust double, needing very little from partner to be forcing to game (any).

Of course, since all the other players may have suspected that you were only a kibitzer they may have ignored you, but it would have only taken one, to perhaps have found a new partner.

Apologies to wives and such, but you, being a well known bridge player, should not miss an opportunity to make a contract.

Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Hi Bob,

In once in a lifetime experiences, yours would still rate as most unusual, but I do think after the first round of bidding and after partner passed the first TO double of your RHO’s 1 club opening to merely just jump to 5 clubs over the 1 heart run-out appears justified, if only to prevent confusion later.

Why your partner didn’t merely respond one diamond instead of passing your TO double defies my imagination but his not having much better clubs than J10xx is, to say the least, surprising. However I would fear that a club slam (with an opening bid on my right) may not have a good enough play so I would just bid what I think I might make.

However your partner’s penalty pass may, in fact, be more fun than bridge, but to do so cannot be expected.

BobliptonNovember 6th, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Well, Bobby, the reason he didn’t pass 1C is that I typoed the auction. Righty opened 1D!


Bobby WolffNovember 6th, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Hi Bob,

Clubs, diamonds, what is the difference? Of course diamonds are (were) the strong hand’s best partnership suit, but to then arrive in a slam in that suit doesn’t happen every year or even every millennium but it is fun (sort of) to talk about.

In any event, thanks for writing.

Bill CubleyNovember 6th, 2016 at 10:41 pm


The offended lady smiles at me when we meet at a tournament. She laughed when I asked for an explanation over “…never been used.” She has a talented daughter.

ClarksburgNovember 6th, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Hi Mr Wolff
Further to Cautionary Tale’s question and your response.
Could you kindly expand a bit on the underlying reasons(s) / Bridge logic as to why, in that auction context, the direct raise shows more than the cuebid raise.

ClarksburgNovember 6th, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Hi again Mr. Wolff.
Could you comment on the relative merits of 20VP versus 30 VP scales for Swiss teams scoring.
Why do I ask? I run a monthly Swiss Teams game which I have been scoring on the 20 VP scale because, from my general reading it “is recommended”. In our final Round on Friday, my Team was matched against the other top contender. We won that match, but they placed first by 1 VP. If the game had been scored on the 30VP scale, we would have won by 5VPs.
Seems to me the 30 Point scale, which rewards relatively more for simply “winning” and relatively less for winning big, is a more sensible method.
Do you agree? Any other comments / advice?

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 2:11 am

Hi Bill,

“Never been used” is a promotion to which even a used car salesman rarely will confess.

However, to each his own, and however the cow ate the cabbage is of little notice.

No doubt your note set the record straight.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 3:04 am

Hi Clarksburg,

First. the matter of the direct raise vs. the cue bid:

1. All of us must never forget that bidding is only a code language for describing bridge hands, so that in an effort to describe as accurately as possible, including consistent calibration, we, as bridge players, hoped for intelligent human beings, apply different meanings in various situations in order to hop to the task.

2. While going back many years the cue bid (an artificial attempt, usually in a suit bid by an opponent, to suggest a specific feature in the hope of partner then, with the hand he holds, will be better placed to make what well could be the final decision or at least either take over the captaincy or instead make a more comprehensive assessment.

3. Concerning your example, rather than making the final decision with the 4 heart jump, a cue bid by you, will leave it up to partner to show his minimum, or in this case choose between 4 hearts, a very little extra, but at least then guaranteeing himself holding 4, or, if only 3 (as you know sometimes the better bid while holding, s. AJ, h. QJX, d. KQJx, c. xxxx) would then be better placed to bid 3 diamonds, eschewing a rebid of those 3 hearts only.

4. Therefore the negative doubler should pass either a return to 3 hearts or a rebid of 3 diamonds, since his hand needed a heart rebid to confirm the 4 he would be thought to have, but did not, so rebid his solid diamonds although only holding 4 of them.

Finally the above, while definitely manufactured by a thinking person’s bridge logic, needs to be honored as the type hand to expect.

I will answer your query about the 20 and 30 point Swiss Team Victory Point Scale later as I need to leave at this moment.

Good luck and above all, think about this discussion, because by doing so, you will have begun to understand high-level logic as played by the excellent players who have progressed that far.

In other words, keep even cue bids as not necessarily great hands but the bid to make when the auction becomes difficult.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

Many years ago, when I was very active in ACBL administration, the problem you mention about Swiss Teams arose, with many players complaining that they won all their matches with the 20 point Victory Point scale (VP) and yet lost the event to one or even two-loss teams who made up for it with a series of blitzes usually against much lesser teams.

Therefore I created the 30 point scale with the different calibrations, specifically 18-12 for winning a match by one VP, not the 11-9 afforded with the 20 point scale.

It did make a difference and basically accomplished the goal of leading toward making winners of matches in much better percentage position of finishing higher than other teams which suffered one loss (or, believe it or not, even two who sometimes by barreling over some weaker teams made up for it in numbers and even won the event.

As you know the 30 point scale still exists and is at the option of the host unit at Regionals and Sectionals to use it if desired.

I did write a fairly long article in the ACBL Bulletin, perhaps 20+ years ago, explaining how and why I thought it as more fair since sitting down against any team and defeating them should be worth, IMO (and others, for example, you) more than just no specific recognition for defeating them, even by a very small margin.

Many of our better and more experienced players did not agree, claiming one IMP here or there should make no difference, but basically that disagreement is the only one which usually eventually decides what IMP scale to choose.

History dictates that when the day long Swiss Team came into play (in the early 1970’s for the ACBL) it was first based only with wins and losses with 1 and 2 point victories being called winning and losing ties and being awarded 3/4s of a win and, of course, 1/4 for the loss.

They were used to basically break ties for position, but later fell victim to an entire VP scale with gradations for wins and losses.

So you can see, that you and I certainly think alike about this particular problem and, of course, I am somewhat disappointed when the 20 point scale is used instead of the 30, but such is the result when two viable thoughts can clash on the way to trying to achieve what is thought as better.

To be sure, my original article is available in the ACBL archives, if you or someone else is interested in reading it, since more details in the discussion will be forthcoming.

ClarksburgNovember 7th, 2016 at 4:38 pm

As our monthly Swiss Teams is my game, I will score it my way, and switch permanently to the 30-point scale. (I had tried it once or twice before).
By the way, this came up last week when one of the stronger, experienced Players in my game noted that he is finding increasing use of the 30-point scale.
I have put the 30 vs 20 comparison into a graphical form with two scales. The two “curves” start at common end points (10-10 and 15-15) and finish at common end points (20-0 and 30-0). The “gap” in between shows nicely the “30-scale reward” for simply winning, particularly for small margins. I will use that chart to help explain to the regular Team Captains why I am switching.
I will of course try to get a look at your article.