Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 20th, 2017

I don’t play bridge, however, I enjoy reading the quotes you use. I would enjoy reading them as a collection. How do you accumulate them and do you have a favorite?

Rueful Rick, Trenton, N.J.

This is actually the most fun element of my work. I use dictionaries of quotations and the internet to prompt me for ideas, starting out with a keyword or concept. There are very few quotes that stay with me, but one by Matthew Arnold that I have never been able to forget is as follows: “We do not what we ought, what we ought not, we do, and lean upon the thought, that chance will bring us through.”

I assume you would use Stayman in response to an opening no-trump with ♠ J-9-4-2,  A-Q-3-2,  Q-5-3, ♣ K-10. If the next hand overcalled in a major, would you try to play for penalty at equal vulnerability, or would you head to game – and if the latter, would you look to play the other major or settle for no-trump?

Jack-O-Lantern, Dallas, Texas

I’m sure I’d use Stayman in an uncontested auction, but I might double an overcall of two of a major for take out, then bid three no-trump even if my partner showed a major. That way I’m suggesting four in partner’s major and a stopper for no-trump. Then my partner can decide whether he wants to play the suit or no-trump.

As fourth player to speak, what is the best treatment for low level doubles in competition where no side has identified a fit? For instance, imagine partner overcalls one heart over one diamond, and the next hand bids either two clubs or one no-trump, and you now double. What does that mean? Mercy Rule, Charlottesville, Va.

Both sequences fit under the convention called Snapdragon. In both cases when three suits have been mentioned around the table, a double shows that the fourth player has five+ cards or four very good cards in the fourth suit, along with values and tolerance for your partner. Where RHO rebids one no-trump, the best treatment (in theory) is to play the double as both unbid suits. But that does require specific agreement.

How do you evaluate the following hand, after hearing two hearts to your right, four hearts to your left, and a double from partner? You have: ♠ A-10,  J-3,  K-J-7-3-2, ♣ Q-9-5-3 and are playing pairs, with nobody vulnerable.

On the Cusp, Union City, Tenn.

Were the majors switched, I might pass and lead a spade, but as it is I’m inclined to assume I should remove partner’s take-out double and the obvious call is four no-trump. That suggests both minors, and lets partner pick where he wants to settle.

Do you play RONF (Raise Only Non-Force) in response to a weak two bid? If so, what do you play jumps to be, and are new suits forcing for one round or forcing to game?

Calling Cards, Willoughby, Ohio

If you play a new suit as forcing, then it makes reasonably good sense to play jumps to the three level as invitational (good strong suits in hands with a minimum opening bid strength). If you bid a new suit then rebid it, that would therefore be forcing, as would the call of a second suit. But reversion to partner’s suit or a rebid of two no-trump would be non-forcing.

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


Iain ClimieSeptember 3rd, 2017 at 6:19 pm

HI Bobby,

A quick message for Rueful Rick. My late father took early retirement and never really coped with not workingg; sadly he spent about 25 years fretting and generally having a miserable time. You don’t have to aspire to be a strong player, but bridge is an ideal way to keep the mind lively in later years and to make new friends; you have a motivation to go and see people if you play in a regular game. Please consider trying the game unless you are already overwelmed by outside interests.

As a warning, an exec at a Canadian aerospace company asked me how long I thought the company paid pensions to the shop floor guys. I guessed at around 7-8 years, assuming retirement at 65. It was 18 months! He said that many people just fell apart without a structure to their day and the human company they had lost. The social benefits of the game should never be under-estimated.



Bobby WolffSeptember 3rd, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Hi Iain,

First, since, good or bad, I have had a lifetime of being very close to our beautiful game, so therefore am not qualified to give worthwhile opinions on retiring early and what to do to keep one’s life exciting.

Second, I think you have eloquently explained the advantage and challenges of playing bridge, both socially and in tournaments. Our
minds seem to require positive thought, competition, and the social opportunity which is always present while playing our game, whether it is held at one of our homes, meeting places, or bridge clubs.

My sincere feeling is that the mind competition which is ever present in every bridge game, and regardless of the abilities of the players, continually exercises our brains and tends to keep us, as time passes, as sharp as possible.

Of course my view is somewhat biased, but even though Judy and I play only twice a week at the bridge club, those hours are cherished by me.

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