Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Now that we have been granted the right to open one no-trump with a singleton, does that require us to make some changes in our styles to respond to one no-trump? One example might be not using a Texas transfer with six weak trumps, and generally not jumping to game in a major, since you do not know if opener has a singleton in your six-card major. What do you suggest in such cases?

Keeping Count, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Generally, a singleton honor facing a reasonable six-card suit won’t be too bad. So no changes are really necessary, except maybe to treat six small cards as a five-card suit. But my advice regarding singleton honors and no-trump openers coincides with Punch’s advice to men considering marriage: “Don’t!”

Holding ♠ Q-10-7-3-2,  A-4,  K-7-4, ♣ 10-9-3, I passed initially and responded one spade to my partner’s one-heart bid. When he raised to two spades, was I supposed to make a game-try? I passed, and although my partner had only three spades, he had a singleton club, so four spades would have been easy to make.

Hindsight, Monterey, Calif.

You certainly had an awkward decision. Your partner will quite often raise one spade to two (even facing a passed hand) with three trumps in an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand. I think you are close to a three-diamond game try, and if vulnerable at teams, I would indeed bid on. At pairs, I suspect I’m supposed to be trying to ensure the plus score here, so I would pass.

Please explain my ethical obligations when my LHO opens with a pre-empt and I judge that my partner has been thinking of acting. When the auction comes back to me and I have either a clear action or a marginal one, what should I do?

Straight and Narrow, Springfield, Mass.

If you judge that your partner’s demeanor or tempo points you in a specific direction, you are not supposed to take that action — unless you believe there are no logical alternatives to that action. Hence, in your example, bid if you have a clear action, but pass with any action you deem marginal. If you have a choice of calls, take the action that you consider counterindicated by your partner’s tempo.

With neither side vulnerable, my partner in a teams game decided to open one diamond rather than one no-trump, holding ♠ K-Q,  K-9,  K-9-7-4-3, ♣ K-Q-10-4. Do you agree? I responded one spade, and she rebid two clubs, at which point I raised to three clubs. Is it better to pass or bid now, and if the latter, what call is most appropriate?

Movin’ on Up, Sedona, Ariz.

The auction is fine as far as it goes, though no one could argue against a no-trump opener. But your partner is missing four aces and the minor trump honors, which argues for caution, not aggression. You must surely have two aces, so how could game be much worse than a finesse in a red suit? With the heart king protected, I might gamble on five clubs rather than three no-trump.

You often recommend books on bridge play and bidding. I’m about to order my first. Which do you recommend? I’m playing duplicate now, and I want to improve.

Vampire Slayer, Texarkana, Texas

For an early duplicate book, I suggest Norman Kay’s “The Complete Book of Duplicate Bridge.” Mike Lawrence’s books on play, bidding and competitive auctions are also excellent. You have read Watson’s “Play of the Hand,” I assume? That is one of the best books written on bridge, more than 80 years ago.

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 25th, 2018 at 7:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the subject of ethics, even Cricket is disgracing itself at the moment – see the recent South Africa Australia game (and one or two flare-ups in the games before it – including crowds winding up the Australian vice captain about his wife’s past involving another sportsman). Keep up the integrity in a world where win at all costs is leading to increasingly bad behaviour.



PeterMarch 25th, 2018 at 8:56 pm

to Vampire Slayer

I found Mike Lawrence’s Topics on Bridge most useful.

These are booklets, 20 pages typically, that separate bridge into 30 topics.

Starting with the simplest, say bidding 1NT and Finesses, and ending with the most difficult, say Timing and End Plays,

Mike does not mix stuff, thus keeping matters the most simple and natural.

Just to tell you how good these books are, I had all 30 (ordered in a package) and now I have about 5 or 6, the most difficult, that nobody wanted, and I do not know where the rest are.

Welcome to the game!

bobbywolffMarch 25th, 2018 at 9:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Ethics have several sides. One, of course, sometimes only concerns itself with general behavior, aka, being a good winner or good loser, as well as limiting intimidation and not going to non-game extremes trying to seek advantage.

Since our beloved game bridge, is a partnership one, the rules need to include so much more than others since at times, there is only a fine line, between being unethical, trying to get away with achieving the best of what should be neutral, as against something totally heinous like cheating, aka stealthy illegal signals which if left to their own devices, will render our beautiful game totally unplayable and thus if proven, should IMO bar those involved from ever darkening playing tournament bridge for life.

If one, in the cold light of day, ever intelligently considers the above, there can never be any other conclusion.

1. It is so very difficult to prove cheating and furthermore, close to an impossibility to a lay jury, 2. IMO a 50% competent partnership will win 90% of the time, if cheating, against a 100% competent partnership 3. If the above estimates are anywhere near correct, what would be the sense of ever sitting down to play when it is even a consideration that one of the two pairs is so illegally wired?

IOWs, although there are bleeding hearts regarding all forms of wrongdoing, even mass murderers, which perhaps from the dictates of some beliefs should be given some consideration because of a whole list of unfortunate circumstances.

And so it goes, but none of the above should ever allow a convicted bridge cheat from ever playing tournament bridge again, otherwise, especially with the possibility of money prizes, not to mention just ego itself, how can anyone ever justify such despicable behavior except to say, ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

Life and/or the rules for living are never 100% fair, so all the governing bodies can do is try their best to decide as Gilbert and Sullivan set to music, “Let the punishment fit the crime”!

I apologize for the rant, especially to people who are only on the periphery of bridge, but right now with some of the horrific discoveries around this big wide wonderful world, we are now, if you excuse the expression, the heart of the matter. However in truth and through the years, horrendous cheating has not been restricted to only a few countries, but rather worldwide with no large area being excluded from very sadly having to deal with their own.

bobbywolffMarch 25th, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your robust recommendation. All I can say is that Mike has done a marvelous job, and being one of the original Aces (1968), tends to make me very proud of his writing accomplishments.

Writers like him are so very helpful in allowing others to learn enough to really go full speed into all the thrills which makes the playing of bridge challenging and so much fun, not to mention educational in many aspects of real life.