Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 12th, 2017

I am a fan of strong jump shifts in response to an opening bid, but I can see that there are situations where preemption outweighs the need for constructive slam exploration. I think I want to find out as soon as possible if my partner has a big hand. Are you and I both old fashioned?

Dated Dave, Twin Falls, Idaho

Yes to the last question; that does not make us wrong, though. While preemptive openers and overcalls are designed to obstruct, weak jumps in response to partner’s opening bids only make sense to me in competitive auctions. Otherwise they should be strong. Incidentally, by a passed hand or in response to an overcall, I prefer to use a jumps to show a decent source of tricks, promising a fit for partner.

In your private life do you continue to use standard discards and are there many other top players who use them?

The Abbot, Vancouver, British Columbia

Regular signals may not be technically best but my priority is that my partners know and understand the methods in play – whatever it is. A discard system that lets me pitch from a suit other than the one I have interest in may be technically superior. But it is better to know one’s methods well than to play something complex and mess it up.

What are the rules about dealer requesting a new deck of cards in a social game? I play party bridge with a two-table group whereby we play six hands each round. When one of my colleagues asked to use the same deck for two hands in a row, or to change out one of the decks, another player objected.

Law and Order, Palm Springs, Calif.

The Laws proscribe that if you have two decks they should be alternated; anyone can call for a shuffle or cut. One side has one color, one side the other, and that should continue through your set of six hands. While a player may not have the right to call for a new deck, if there are spares available I cannot imagine anyone objecting – no matter how good the cards they had been receiving with the old deck…

Are there any print magazines that focus on bridge for players at intermediate or at expert levels?

Hard Copy, Staten Island, N.Y.

The unparalleled English-language magazine is The Bridge World, at, which is run by Jeff Rubens. I also read the magazine of the International Bridge Press Association – which is open to any writer and which keeps me up to date with tournaments around the world. These are both aimed at duplicate players.

Vulnerable, I held ♠ Q-4-3-2, Q-5-4, Q-5-4-3, ♣ K-J, and when my partner overcalled one spade over one club, I thought I had to go to three spades. Since I was prepared to compete to the three level, I made that call at my first turn. This did not work out well – we were down two for minus 200, the kiss of death at pairs. Was I too optimistic?

Rose Colored Glasses, Nashville, Tenn.

Leaving aside the issue that I would play the jump as primarily distributional not high cards, I would suggest that not all 10-counts are created equal. Normally one would make a cue-bid raise of partner’s suit with four trump; not here, where your lack of controls and absence of intermediates make this a simple raise to the two-level. Yes, you might compete to three spades I suppose, but that is a different story.

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.
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Patrick CheuFebruary 26th, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Hi Bobby,We did not get to 3N(0nly game making contract or 4S which goes off on a trump lead),but should we be in 3N and who should bid it on this hand-Dealer West All NV pairs-West T7 875432 K3 863 North A63 AQ QT95 QJ94 East KQJ98 KT A62 AK5 South 542 J96 J874 T72.West pass North 1D East X South pass~W 1H N 2C E 2D S p~W 2H N p E 2S pass out +2 for average.Some in 3N making.Pard(East) thought West should bid 2N..on Kx of diamonds..?! Regards~Patrick.

ClarksburgFebruary 26th, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Actually, from a quick look via a Double Dummy hand analyser, those hands do make 3S and 3NT, but the “optimum contract” is actually 4H making from either side.

Bobby WolffFebruary 26th, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Hi Patrick & Clarksburg,

This hand is a typical example of what bridge and its competition is all about: 1. tough competitive judgment, 2. a balance between optimism and pessimism, 3. appreciation of high card and solidity as opposed to some waste paper. 4. applying all of the above.

May I suggest two bidding sequences: 1. N. 1D
E. Dbl. S. P W. 1 H N. P, E. 2D (cue bid) S. P W. 2H, N. P, E. 2NT, S. P, W. 4H All pass or N. 1NT (15-17) E. D. S. P, W. 2H, N. P E. 2NT, E. P W. 4H all pass.

With the above, and depending on whether N. starts out with 1D or 1NT either being somewhat frequent (depending on system), East has rock solid values, not just 20 HCPs, but aces and kings and a semi-solid suit likely to unilaterally produce tricks (sometimes with a little luck). West has a very weak hand which gets better as the bidding progresses: 1. a 6 card major suit holding (although very weak) 2. a diamond card which starts out weak but gets much stronger when East bids NT over the diamond opening bid or even after partner bids 2NT after first doubling 1NT.

The 6th heart is gold as is the location (from Wests viewpoint) of East’s position over the opening bid. Of course the 10 of spades becomes ultra valuable which is nothing more than player’s luck, but somehow luck seems to follow aggressive bidders although it seems to conservative players to not be warranted, but IMO it is.

Patrick, thanks for presenting this hand and although not all actions always show positive results (far from it, especially against high class opponents) it has been proven, at least to me, that is definitely the way to go.

Also to Clarksburg for your analyser since the ace of hearts onside and a probable 3-2 break in them is more than likely together with the key king of diamonds, after East’s bidding.

The old time Goren disclosure of needing about 26 points for a major suit game (or 3NT) is applicable, but never forget that includes the usual wastage of from, on average, 3-5 of them.

On this hand there is almost guaranteed no wastage since all values including West’s 6 card major and East’s excellent 5 card spade suit (together with that golden 10 of spades, unpredictable though it may be).

Patrick CheuFebruary 26th, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Hi Bobby,If West did not have six hearts,would you bid 3N after 2N(by East) based on Kx diamonds?Or if Kx is in a side suit?

Patrick CheuFebruary 26th, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Hi Clarksburg,Your comment has prompted me to take another look at the results,three pairs in 4H and only one in 3N,some in partscores..4H gone off twice and made once and 3N making.Thanks again for your helpful comment as regards 4H being the right contract.

ClarksburgFebruary 26th, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Another possible auction scenario:
North opens a strong 1NT, and EW are playing some form of “interference over their 1NT” wherein a X by East would be conventional, such as “long minor” or “both Majors” etc.
What should East do?
1) Simply take a pot shot at 3NT?
2) Pass? …TRUSTING Partner 100% to come in with good playing shape irrespective of HCP. If it’s passed out, NS can be set three tricks at 1NT or two of either Minor.
3) Something else?

Bill CubleyFebruary 26th, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Excellent reply to the Abbot [I thought he was English ;-)] about the best methods are the methods we know and understand. Lots of gadget players don’t comprehend that NO system handles all hands well. Odd-even signalers hate getting spots of 8-6-2 and 7-5-3 and cannot signal properly in their methods. I try to keep an open mind.

The wife says I can play some regionals since I am wanting to get that last rank advancement for the good news this year.

Bobby WolffFebruary 26th, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your question deserves an answer, but that answer depends on the experience and good or not so, valuations of one’s partner. With only an isolated king I would usually not raise to 3NT, but if I also held a queen somewhere I would, that is, with a partner who knew what he or she is doing.

Usually be aggressive, but not so much with only one key card. With kings queens and jacks they are potentially good for NT, but aces are suit cards since distribution is so much more important while playing in a suit, partly caused by the guaranteed entry provided by an ace, rather than a lesser card.

Finally, if because of a long strong suit the big hand should almost always gamble 3NT instead of inviting with only 2 when looking at a sure 8 tricks. Otherwise and not to do so, shows a certain anal quality which usually is a minus in the high-level bridge world. IOW, results are the goal, not winning the post-mortem.

Patrick CheuFebruary 26th, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Hi Bobby,Your thoughts are much appreciated here and my enthusiasm fully restored for the next game.Thanks again.Very Best Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffFebruary 26th, 2017 at 8:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg and Bill,

First to Bill, congratulations for conning your adorable wife, but always keep in mind that happiness is usually looking forward to achieving a goal, but once it is done, like sultry Peggy Lee used to sing in her theme song about life, the mournful “Is that all there is?”

Now to Clarksburg and bridge business:

Players who play all sorts of conventions are ones who like spreading tacks in the road to puncture their opponent’s tires. IOW, making it difficult for the opponents like “Strong Pass” advocates used to preach, “more than half the game is making sure the opponents do not play well”.

While that may very well be true, the beauty of our game is its logic, numeracy, legal partnership communications, and, most importantly, being at least one step up from those dreaded opponents, what Steven Potter used to write in his series of books with one of them being “Oneupsmanship”.

Of course, yes I am from the “old” (very), of players who have resisted that above intention and play double as penalties over a 1NT opening and of course, Patrick’s example certainly fits that requirement. “Nuff said”!

BobliptonFebruary 26th, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Nice point, Bobby. I am dispirited by the number of Duplicate players who are taught methods without understand how to apply them. Yesterday, I held

A9xx AKQx Axx Jx

I decided I didn’t like the concentration in hearts and the Jx in clubs, so I downgraded by a point and opened a 15-17 1NT. Lefty bid 2C, which promised at least nine cards in clubs and an unspecified major. Partner thought for a while and finally bid 3NT. A low club was led and partner put down

KJT Tx JT9x KQ9xx

and I eventually made five, since lefty’s hand was xx Jxxx x Axxxxxx.

Partner told me that he could on me to stop hearts. In that case, I said, he should have doubled. However, my contempt is reserved for whoever explained this sort of overcall to her.


Bobby WolffFebruary 27th, 2017 at 1:04 am

Hi Bob,

True, bridge allows for many to join, create their own impressions of meanings for bids and then to play in organized tournaments, limited only by disclosure rules and conventions or treatments accepted by the ACBL (or whoever runs the bridge in that country).

Because of the above many of the participants need to have patience and not show disrespect to those who are new on the scene.

However, those who start off being way off the mark soon learn to conform, or if not, try some other organized endeavor, but stay away from bridge tournaments until a certain minimum acceptance is, at the very least, achieved.

Not perfect, but in a free society, no other form of ostracism should prevent anyone who chooses to pay their entry fee and participate.

The good news is that the self governing aspect usually is strong enough to keep the field level enough to not endanger the credibility of the game itself.

Everyone would agree with you that before undertaking a convention both partners need to discuss how to play it, when to use it, and be expected to add to, not subtract from, the enjoyment of the other tournament players themselves.

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