Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

What is your opinion as to how to deal with a hand with a five-card major and a weak suit, such as ♠ A-K-2, K-J-9-7-4, 9-4-3, ♣ A-J? I elected to open one no-trump and when my RHO balanced into two clubs I tried two hearts, which was not a success. Once I had concealed my five-carder on opening bid, should I leave it dead and buried?

Hidden Depths, Bay City, Mich.

Your initial call was on the money; anything but a one notrump opener will leave you very poorly paced at the next turn. After intervention, you cannot be crimed for introducing your long suit at what seemed to be a convenient level. Sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions and well-judged calls.

Could you clarify a point for me about opener’s rebids, if playing 2/1 as game-forcing? Does a reverse at the two-level by opener or a new suit at the three-level guarantee extra values or extra shape?

Rapid Response, Newport News, Va.

I believe (though it is by no means unanimous) that for a sequence such as one spade – two hearts – three clubs opener will not hold a minimum opening bid with 5-4 pattern. Occasionally that requires opener to repeat a relatively feeble major, or bid no-trump when he would rather not do so. I think that is a perfectly reasonable trade off.

One of the very strong pairs in our area seldom bid close games or slams, at Matchpoints Pairs, if they judge the field will not be bidding it. They want to be down the middle in the same contract as the field, and then outplay them. For strong card players, it seems to work out well. What do you think of this approach?

Boondocks, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

I don’t think I agree with such pessimism. I will say bidding grand slams at the club should require you to count 13 tricks. And inviting games (especially at no-trump) and risking the plus score is something to be considered very carefully. That said, I think you try to bid your hand and let the chips fall where they may.

Recently you ran a deal where responder to an opening bid of two clubs had an ace and five spades to the king-jack. What is your view on the minimum suit quality required for a positive response – and does it matter whether you make that response at the two or three level?

Waiting for Godot, Augusta, Maine

After a two club opener, the modern style is for suit responses to promise a decent five card or longer suit. A response of two diamonds is thus consistent with a bad hand, or one with values but no long suit worth bidding. For me, a two heart response could be headed by something like the kingjack, if I have positive values, since I’m not preempting my partner’s next call. The same basically applies for a two spade call — though the higher you go, the more you need in the suit.

Recently you analyzed the options for a passed hand with a chunky five-card heart suit of A-J-10-3-2. He responded one heart to one club and heard his partner rebid one spade. You suggested that a rebid by responder in hearts would have implied a six-carder. Is that likely if he didn’t open a weak two?

Seconds Out, Manchester, N.H.

Responder’s suit-rebid guarantees six cards, or a five-card suit playable facing a singleton. A-J-10-8-2 might almost be enough; but remember that since a weak-two bid guarantees a certain strength within the suit, there are plenty of six-card suits you wouldn’t open but might want to bid and rebid after passing.

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1February 5th, 2017 at 3:10 am

Hi Bobby,

Glad to see the page back. I was worried for a bit. Hope it was just a glitch. All the best!

Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2017 at 9:44 am

HI Bobby,

Can I echo Mircea’s comment – I’ve been missing my daily fix.


Patrick CheuFebruary 5th, 2017 at 11:11 am

Hi Bobby,Wow it’s not a mirage,let’s do a reality glad to see this page again! Best regards~Patrick.

ClarksburgFebruary 5th, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Yes, great to see the Blog available again!

North 1054 J63 Q754 1075
East AJ9 A942 K8 J862
South Q83 K10 A10632 AQ4
West K762 Q875 J9 K93

East opened 1C. South overcalled 1NT. West Doubled. Passed out.
The double-dummy hand analysis says 1NT can be set two tricks.
Any advice on good opening lead, and how EW can go about getting their eight defensive tricks; and / or how Declarer can best play the hand.

Bill CubleyFebruary 5th, 2017 at 4:40 pm


I have found that after a strong 2 Club opener it is not as vital for the big hand to be declarer vs. a 1/2NT bid. So I aggressively bid 5 card majors with enough HCP to guarantee game or slam. Seems to work just fine over the years.

Partner often has good support with only three trump and the auction 2C -2M, 3M – 4M easily show my minimum. Partner can continue with extras as always.

The defenders can hope to find a good lead from the back of their
convention card. Sort of like Roth never bidding too many suits. I am, however, considered more polite than the late Mr. Roth by those who knew him. I have also been very lucky not to get a table lesson of my errors from you.

I love the Kantar story about playing KO with Roth buying a ticket home every day before the match. 😉

Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Hi Micea1,

Thanks for your concern. Yes, it appears to have been a glitch, but there was some talk of a “hack”.

In any event it seems to be “up and running” although I am having some problems in receiving incoming posts.

Wonderful people like you keep me remaining optimistic that everything is A-OK.

Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, our little diversion has reminded me just how important our around the world friendships have become to me,

Thanks for your beautiful note. A heartfelt decree from me to you that your next five finesses (plus necessary favorable suit breaks) will be your immediate destiny.

Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, by all means. This diversion was scary and, especially for my friendships like yours, it makes me appreciate our back and forth posts even more.

I never thought I could miss anything that much!

Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2017 at 8:16 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Thanks for your sincere greeting.

No doubt, the lead of a heart (instead of a spade or, of course, a club) works out best for the defense. but mainly enabling East to slide the jack of spades through declarer, successfully hoping that declarer only possessed the queen rather than the king. Therein after a heart lead and either an immediate switch to spades (best) or waiting until he got in with the king of diamonds and therefore taking 3 heart tricks, 4 spades and the king of diamonds.

Keep in mind that when West doubled 1NT and East then showed up with the ace of hearts, the inferred A or K of spades (also the jack) plus the king of diamonds, declarer will (should) know not to take the club finesse since it was almost sure for that king to be offside even though and because of his bid East might be thought to be in possession of it, especially if the bottom point count of EW’s opening NT (he did open one club instead) was 15. Also, even if not, it would be doubtful that West would have doubled with a scattered 7 count and no clear cut opening lead.

I hope the above is complete and understandable to all aspiring good bridge players since the reasoning above applies to so many declarer hands and basically serves as a foundation for the high-level game itself.

It is very nice for my peace of mind to be back dealing with questions from you and others who only add to this enjoyable process.

Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, I do agree for the partner of a strong 2 bid opener to bid suits if possible (especially majors) with KJxxx or better in order to get the suit in early, hoping for a fit. Otherwise, since the auction starts out at the 2 level a partnership can get past 3NT much too fast, sometimes, if it is not done.

Yes Roth was unique in both his views (a superior bridge theorist) and his acid tongue, thus being thought of being somewhat rude by tender and sensitive personalities.

He also was known as always having his bags packed and ready to head for the airport while playing in a KO team game, especially at the Nationals or a team trials.

But as to my pointing out your bridge errors at the table, I am sure I wouldn’t have cause to do such a thing, simply because they would never occur.

Maybe today is “All Saints day” and in effect it is, with the restoration of the AOB site.

JudyFebruary 5th, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Hi to all you stimulating and caring commenters. The AOB outage for a few days was an enormous frustration for Bobby. Your uplifting remarks were very much appreciated. Nothing we could do about it but to just keep calling the site. Hopefully, they have put this crisis to rest.
The Lone Wolffess

ClarksburgFebruary 6th, 2017 at 1:39 am

A note that might help some participants:
For a day or two, when I tried to access the Blog page I was taken to another page. That page seemed and may have been totally legitimate, but I didn’t risk going to some “for-help” links they provided.
Today I just deleted all “browsing history” and now have normal access on all devices…desktop, notebook and cell phone.

Bobby WolffFebruary 6th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Thanks for the G2. No doubt something bad happened to cause this “glitch’ and it may have been hackers.

I, myself, have no idea and am not sure anyone else does either, but we all appreciate your report.