Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 25th, 2018

I picked up ♠ J-9-2,  J-10-8-7,  J-5-3, ♣ A-10-8 and heard my partner open one diamond in third seat. The next player overcalled two clubs, and I wasn’t sure whether to make a negative double, raise diamonds or pass. What do you think?

Rumble Fish, Newport News, Va.

This is not a terrible example of an off-shape double, but you should reflect on the fact that partner did open in third chair, so there is always some question of whether he has a full opener. If you pass two clubs and your partner sells out as well, you probably have no great fit. If partner is short in clubs, he will reopen with a double or suit bid.

When is it prudent or acceptable to pass your partner’s one-club or one-diamond opening bid? Does the form of scoring matter for this decision?

Vacuum Cleaner, Hot Springs Village, Ark.

With balanced subminimum hands vulnerable, there is little merit in responding. With six HCP or more, you always respond; so it is the 4-6 HCP hands with a major and no fit where you would tend to respond to a minor. Similarly, you might pass a major-suit opener, since you already have found a playable spot. Non-vulnerable, the upsides of bidding include the tactical (stealing the hand or having them miss a game), finding a better fit or reaching game, or reducing your minus score.

I have a theoretical problem when holding 5-6 pattern with a longer minor. Holding, for example, ♠ Q-6,  A-J-9-5-3,  —, ♣ K-Q-9-8-3-2, should I include distribution points to make this hand strong enough for a reverse, or should I take a pragmatic approach by opening one heart and then repeating the clubs if necessary?

Going for Broke, Victoria, British Columbia

Reverses do not specifically guarantee a great hand; extra shape may allow you to upgrade certain hands. With a touching two-suiter and 5-6 shape with a minimum opening, I would tend to open the higher suit. When the six-carder is good and the five-carder bad, and the suits are non-touching, that may be too much of a distortion. Here, I might start with one club — who’s to say partner won’t start by bidding diamonds?

My question is about how much stock to put in shape as opposed to high cards when considering inviting game as responder. I recently picked up ♠ Q-10-4-2,  J-8-5-2,  —, ♣ A-Q-10-3-2 and responded one heart to my partner’s one-diamond opening. When he raised to two hearts, should I have bid on or passed?

Reach for the Skies, Juneau, Alaska

Vulnerable at teams, I would feel obliged to try for game. At pairs, my void in partner’s suit would be a negative in the context of only holding four trumps, as opposed to five or more. For the record, switch the hearts and clubs, and this hand is at least worth a try for game.

I am about to start working with a group of students who will begin bridge, and some of them have not played cards before. Do you think I should mention transfers in the beginning or introduce them later on? What about weak two-bids, or strong twos?

Tortoise Shell, Sacramento, Calif.

The most important concept is to understand what a trick is and what trumps are. Get them playing the cards before they learn to bid, and begin with Knock-out Whist if necessary. Weak twos are best, I think; they are just as “natural” as the strong variety. As for transfers, they can wait a while.

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Jane EdwardsMarch 11th, 2018 at 8:31 pm

Your column, Aces on Bridge, which appeared in the March 11 Oregonian included an offensive sexist comment. The advice regarding a bid “coincides with Punch’s advice to men considering marriage: “Don’t.'” This of course conjures up the the stereotype of women as shrews. The reference to the puppet Punch who in some stories beats his wife to death condones spousal abuse as an option for a husband with an unpleasant wife.

The Aces columnist owes his readers an apology.

Joe1March 11th, 2018 at 9:20 pm

Jane, as a regular reader of this column, I have not noted any trend toward sexism, racism, or any other “isms”. Of course I cannot speak for the columnist, but I can defend it as a place where respect, fairness, and inclusiveness is welcomed.

I can point out that if the “PC” police look closely and read too much into things, that it’s easy to encounter a thought or phrase that could be construed as offensive to somebody, somewhere.

Thanks for pointing it out though, hopefully an innocent mistake will not be repeated. The minefield of micro aggression is treacherous, even if not intended. After all of that, enjoy this site for what it means for thousands, an enjoyable, thoughtful, and kind respite from a chaotic world. Peace.

Iain ClimieMarch 11th, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Hi Jane,

I live in the UK and Punch magazine ran from 1841 to 1992, shut then was revived in 1996 but finally shut in 2002. The character Mr. Punch (who was used in its early days) was an appalling wife (and baby) beating, misogynistic caricature of a bloke going some way back in English History and his image featured in the early editions. If you’ll forgive me quoting Wikipedia:

“Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular, and usually violent puppet show featuring Pulcinella and his wife Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically Mr. Punch and one other character who usually falls victim to Judy’s club. It is often associated with traditional British seaside culture.” Yes, I remember seeing such shows as a child and (along with the British pantomime tradition) they do suggest that the British are a bit weird on occasion at best and have a very non-PC sense of humour. I once tried to keep a bridge player (who I knew and liked) alive with CPR while muttering under my breath “What on earth did your partner bid?”

The quote to which you refer seems to be from 1845 and was (as far as I can find out) advice to persons (not just men) about to marry i.e. “Don’t” – advice which my wife (who has been extremely tolerant of some of my annoying habits over nearly 30 years) could have sensibly taken. I honestly feel you’re being unfair here – there is a world of difference between what was (wrongly) taken for granted in the mid 19th century and a quote taken out of context. I accept that domestic violence is no laughing matter (think O J Simpson, for example) but I’ve been guilty of cracking bad taste Jokes about the Myrtle Bennett case in 1929, just in case you are unaware of it. I also treated one ex-girlfriend and bridge partner badly at the bridge table around 1979 -1980 and she’d frankly have been justified in putting at least a laxative and probably something far worse in my drinks. As she was not only intelligent and pleasant but very well-off, I got a well-deserved come-uppance in the end.

Bobby Wolff is a totally different person and, having blogged here for several years, is one of the most pleasant and tolerant people I could hope to correspond with. I think you’re jumping to unsound conclusions about him; anything rude you want to think about me is probably justified.

Kind regards,

Iain Climie

JudyMarch 11th, 2018 at 10:27 pm

Hi Iain and Joe 1,

As longtime readers, you are aware that the hands are written many months in advance and there is a two week delay until they appear here. Thus, I have no idea what the reference is to .. but without a sense of humor .. this is not the column to read. An apology?? The writer must be joking!

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2018 at 11:11 pm

Hi, Jane, Joe1, Iain, & Judy,

To Jane, please excuse my ignorance, but I, like Judy, will need to wait 2 weeks (since I promised her not to keep unlimited records since we have clutter enough on my desk) but I only have a hazy recall of my comment about Punch & Judy).

However, I do remember a popular Puppet show, many years ago primarily for children, which featured both a male & female puppet, at least one armed with a broom, creating a comedic atmosphere as they suddenly appeared and took pot shots at each other with what they held in hand.

In those long ago days, I thought they were considered kids entertainment, wholesome and, of course, slapstick (please excuse the pun).

I, of course, apologize since you considered them offensive.

However, I do ask you and everyone else who either thinks that way or not, please consider the current loss of what humor used to be (how about the Keystone Cops and even Kukla Fran & Ollie where Burr Tillstrom, the Puppeteer, used to supervise the bashing of Ollie, the dragon and Beulah Witch, in order to allow people to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

Evidently, our mores have changed to becoming much more literal, and, if so, I do prefer the past where when Abbott slapped Costello we laughed instead of calling the police.

However, the many cultures are indeed colliding with my hope that one day, and not that far away, we can look back at today and be glad that we survived all of what is going on.

BTW and to all three of you, Judy yelled in “Me To”!

Iain ClimieMarch 11th, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Hi Bobby, Jane,

Can I point out some very unacceptable homour in Romeo & Juliet where in Act 1 Scene 1 Gregory and Samson joke about cutting off the heads of the maidens (or their maidenheads – slang for hymens). Indecent assault and rape are not subjects for mirth but you have to take some account of the much socially rougher times when comments were first made. There again, look at Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Crimea if you think human behaviour is acceptable jusr because it is modern.



Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2018 at 12:03 am

Hi Joe1 & Iain,

Amen to both of you, making me feel totally blessed to have both of you, watching over me.

Iain’s comment about current behavior in the countries and area he mentioned should sound a clarion call to what must happen for every dictatorship (or close) to take peaceful views for their own people, otherwise nothing else makes sense.

One, at least, partial solution is to be able to laugh at oneself, but to do that requires humility, an emotion, in very short supply.

ClarksburgMarch 12th, 2018 at 12:11 am

I am a Canadian.
Our current Prime Minister is an avowed and highly visible feminist and virtue-signalling advocate for all manner of inclusiveness, equality and the rights of various supposedly hard-done-by minorities.
In a playful state of mind recently I envisioned an edict abolishing the long-standing male-dominant ranking of the face cards in Bridge.
“In Canada, beginning on 2018 July 1, the Red Queens shall outrank the Red Kings, whilst the Red Jacks shall remain Jacks but the Black Jacks shall be known as Jills.”
The disposition of the Aces has been referred to an inclusive committee of approximately 10 million people to, hopefully, reach a decision within 15 years.

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2018 at 1:12 am

Hi Clarksburg,

I am an optimist.

Also 85 years young, therefore when a decision is reached in 15 years, if your Prime Minister is still in charge, the percentage table may preclude me from that special moment and the table action with my statement may suggest the result I seek.

Perhaps I will, by that time, take up poker, and no doubt will expect my pair of queens to not only defeat a pair of aces and certainly kings, but also perhaps three of either.

David WarheitMarch 12th, 2018 at 11:28 am

Today people are perfectly free to marry whom they wish, including a man marrying a man. Jane’s obvious refusal to recognize that fact brands her as today’s racist.

David WarheitMarch 12th, 2018 at 11:30 am

Sorry, I meant sexist, not racist, although they go to the same school.

Iain ClimieMarch 12th, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Hi Folks,

Before we all get too wound up, can we keep things in perspective – see the following from Greece the other day, for example:

Going back to Jane Edwards who posted originally- any thoughts on all this?



Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Hi David,

Your post, at least to me, demands thought, and then after, makes total sense.

Perhaps Jane’s remembrance to “Punch & Judy”, instead of children’s humor, which, at that time was, I think, at least to most, was surely inferred to bringing lightheartedness and fun, reminded her of what she thought to be men’s brutality to women.

That, then led to what is now the “Me to” expose, which in fact caused women (especially in the workplace) great hardship, difficulty and significant embarrassment.

At the same time, the huge percentage of both men and women who never had experienced such horrors suddenly had lost their long ago enjoyment of “slapstick humor”.

In any event, it is hard to deny, it is a fast changing world, one which in Europe is not especially new with the markedly different cultures ever present among the many closely countries in proximity, extending to the middle East.

However in North America, at least up until fairly recently, the former newer immigrants tended to learn English and work to blend immediately into our society with our country able to maintain our tradition, our reverence and our holidays and, of course, our celebrations.

Now, and probably because of the increased numbers, all of us, especially those younger and just beginning will be faced with a new task of adjusting to each other.

Perhaps we should just wish them God’s Speed and let them work it out together, but hopefully not without all the senseless violence which has now so often occurred with, at least, at this moment in time, a very questionable future.

Thanks for your timely thoughts.

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi Iain,

While our posts were “crossing in the internet” it is just, at least, to me another example of a brutal response (with deadly weapons in view) to only a game.

Perhaps a law, with exaggerated penalties, for the appearance of dangerous weapons during may be a start, at least with a hoped for more than trivial effect for prevention.

However, to prevent petty winning defenses at the trial, a reference to “for the common good and to prevent tragic circumstances” (even with only one time), the punishment is raised to fit what could happen rather than what did.

Yes, very draconian, but can someone suggest a better solution?

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