Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 28th, 2019

When a deal is passed out on the first round of a duplicate, are we allowed to re-deal the hand without asking the director for permission?

Thrown for a Loop, Naples, Fla.

While the paying customer has one fewer deal to play because of the throw-in, that would be missing the point. Say I or my partner had passed a hand others might open. Should we not get the good or bad result from that decision? Also, you can be confident that on most pass-outs, someone, somewhere, will find a reason to bid, no matter how flimsy the pretext.

If a defender shows his card, when may he be excused from playing that card, assuming it has not actually been put on the table? I thought I was allowed to change my mind here.

Faulty Towers, Wilmington, N.C.

There are different rules for declarer and the defenders. For declarer, a card has to be played — or the equivalent of played — rather than accidentally dropped. (Declarer doesn’t have a partner who might benefit from unauthorized information.) For the defenders, a card is played if it is actually or potentially in view. Thus, a partly or wholly visible card is normally treated as played.

I picked up ♠ 9-4,  7-4-2,  A-Q-7-5-3, ♣ K-3-2 and heard one club from my partner, then one spade on my right. Is this hand suitable for a negative double? I thought not, so I passed, and now a raise to two spades was passed back to me. What would be appropriate now?

Lurking Warbeck, Dodge City, Kan.

You were right not to double or bid two diamonds, though you might take the latter action as a passed hand. Here, I’d bid two no-trump at my second turn if I trusted my partner to be fully present. A call of two no-trump is logically take-out for the minors, not natural. It denies four clubs, since I would already have raised if I had that hand. Something like this hand would therefore be perfect for the call.

Is there a simple way to learn the rules for the percentages as they apply to calculating how the opponents’ missing cards might divide?

Life’s a Bore(l), Honolulu, Hawaii

In broad terms, two missing cards will probably split, but in all other cases, an even number of missing cards will probably not divide evenly. The odds of them splitting exactly are slightly more than 1 in 3 in most cases, while a one-from-even split is a 50-50 shot. An odd number of cards split as close to evenly as possible, with odds about 2 in 3 for that. Start from those numbers; for other cases, the more normal the split, the more likely it is.

I was second to speak, with ♠ A-8,  A-Q-7-3-2,  J-4-3-2, ♣ A-4, and I opened one heart. The next hand doubled, and my partner jumped to three hearts. I passed, and we missed a game. Afterward, he said there was no way to show less than a limit raise but more than a pre-empt. He mentioned the concept of a mixed raise. Have you heard of this call?

Mixed Nuts, Detroit, Mich.

A mixed raise is a jump cue-bid in competition, facing an overcall, to show a four-card raise with 6-9 points or so. It is mixed, as it has the shape for a pre-emptive raise and the values for a single raise. Since this call has no other useful meaning, it makes good sense to play this convention — as long as your partnership has agreed. One could also use the jump in the unbid major after a major suit is doubled to show precisely this hand; so here, a call of two spades would show this.

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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ClarksburgMay 12th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Good morning Bobby
Matchpoints NS VUL East Dealer
North J852 962 J5 K986
South Q63 A7 AKQ93 AQ2 (Declaring 3NT)

LHO West 1094 KQ10853 7 J53
East AK7 J4 108642 1074

Auction: P 2NT 3H 3NT P P P (most Wests probably passed)
Opening Lead HK
3NT at all Tables making 3 except one South made 10 tricks

Could you comment on the key points of Declarer’s planned line and East’s best defense.

Steve RoundsMay 12th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff:

My partner and I play upside down attitude, as it avoids throwing away high cards in a suit you like. It seems most who play this also play upside down count. Is there a reason that these two should go together? Is it reasonable to play upside down attitude and standard count?

bobbywolffMay 12th, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Declarer should win the 2nd heart and then lead two top clubs from hand. A great player like Garozzo, while sitting East, would likely drop the 10 of clubs on the second round but normally and of course, almost all others, would not. Then another club would be led from South definitely noticing the equal distribution. Then after cashing the good club from dummy, and noticing spades discarded from both hands, I think that the conditions present, matchpoints and East not throwing a diamond would convince a “great declarer” to finesse the nine of diamonds on the second round.

Bidding and making 9 tricks in 3NT is as average a board as one can get and if East had 3 or 4 small diamonds (not including the ten he would tend to discard a diamond rather than to throw away a spade from four to the A9 or K9.

Yes, it is a gamble, but that 10th trick figures to pick up an extra trick which values out close to 1/2 a board, but I think the above reasoning is worth the risk and should do it.

Moral: Good opponents also realize that 1 additional trick is golden whether on defense or as declarer, but, as so often happens, the defense is in no position to know exactly what declarer’s distribution is, only to guess, but discarding a diamond by East would only be done if holding 1, (almost impossible) 2, 3 or 4 little (not while holding the ten).

Good hand to discuss and in a formal bridge school would be an important discussion item for a class in about their 4th year.

As you can probably tell, I would love to be
the dean of any 10 year or so bridge curriculum so that I could help write the textbooks and mingle with the teachers.

Maybe in the next life!

bobbywolffMay 12th, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Hi Steve,

First welcome to AOB and thanks for the good question.

Sure, I could choose the answer to your query, but if so, it would only be a sheer guess, since I would in no way know for sure.

Of course, being old, I have played standard, high equals positive and even, leaving low to be negative and odd, for many years and not felt compelled to change (neither attitude nor count).

Your announced reason is certainly a factor, but what about 1032 or sometimes worse, 10432.

Summing up, and seemingly experience has convinced me that rarely cannot I spare a card which partner can read as high when I seriously want him to know and even if early in the defense if I am guessing which card from only 102 to discard, (admittedly rare) the pendulum switches to old time methods.

However, my first statement still holds and, since I haven’t ever felt the need to switch doesn’t, in any way, mean that I can prove that I am right and do not want to influence you one way or the other when other respected players think otherwise.

No, I do not think that it would make much difference to play count one way or the other, except when playing with a newbie who doesn’t want to have to slow down his play in order to remember what was agreed.

Sorry for my ambivalence, since usually I do have positive opinions.

Finally, don’t be a stranger if you desire other answers to your on target questions.

ClarksburgMay 12th, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Hi Bobby and Steve
Bobby, as you may recall I keep a file of lessons I have learned here, starting as a virtual beginner many years ago.
Steve’s question and your answer rang a bell. Below is an excerpt of your answer to my question, 2012 May 7!! I have stuck with standard, and sometimes ask inverted-signalling good friends “when’s the last time it made a difference?”

“…As far back as the late 1960′s when the Aces began their training in Dallas, Texas, the late Bobby Goldman, one of the original Aces and hard working, creative bridge researcher, later did some simulation on whatever happened to be, at that time, the most modern computer available with the subject being what is the most useful form of signalling, taking into account the advantages and disadvantages of the different types and finally after much detail, relayed the results. Every known form at that time was, according to him, almost exactly equal, so even if one took his social security number and using the numbers in order for first attitude and then count, it would matter not which one was chosen.
Although I never had my own opinion and still do not, I am willing to take his considerable effort to be valid and so have stuck to what I originally learned that high is encouraging and an even number and low is discouraging and an odd number, often called standard because, as far as I know, it was the first one suggested perhaps 80+ years ago…”

Bob LiptonMay 12th, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Clarksburg, I would not attempt to argue against Mr. Goldman’s work. However, so long as all the methods are approximately equal, then you can let your own taste dictate which one you choose. I call it “Which mistake do you prefer to make?” Playing 2/1 with a longterm partner, the second time we found ourselves playing in A 4-2 minor suit contract, we decided to incorporate Flannery.

Even if all cases were equal, we discovered that we soon tired of the error of throwing high cards in suits we wanted partner to lead. Upside Down attitudes was the mistake we preferred to make.


bobbywolffMay 13th, 2019 at 1:28 am

Hi Bob,

Your advice looks good to me, at least 50%, for better or worse and furthermore no more 2-4 or is it 4-2 minor suit fits. However moving up to only 4-2 major suit fits allowed your partnership a higher number, just in case you scored it up.

And what would you follow your partner’s king opening lead, while holding 1032? If the three, would it be in tempo? However, none of the above is meant to contradict your partnership choice, only to relatively new players, simply represent the other side.

Bob LiptonMay 13th, 2019 at 12:39 pm

If the suit is not mentioned, or made clear by the bidding, I would throw the Ten. I always try to offer the clearest signal possible, and the Ten is quite clear, and likely to be worthless. Occasionally, of course, it is not. That is the mistake I prefer to make.

Just as, on the opposing side, playing standard signals, the deuce is the lowest card; should partner continue, the three is almost certainly the continuation. And, occasionally, I will find myself thrown in and in need of an exit card to endplay declarer, and not have it. That is the mistake others prefer to make.

On a side note, partner leads the K, promising either the Ace or the Queen — standard signals. You hold QJT2. How many times have you seen beginners play the Jack or even the Ten when they wish to encourage? They’re all equivalent, they’ll argue. However, if playing this vaguely, then the lower two honors are unclear. Will partner read your intentions. I was taught, and still insist, that the Queen promises either the Jack or a singleton. For the sake of partner, always play the highest card you can afford.


And yes, when playing a face card, that still applied in our version of upside-down attitudes.

bobbywolffMay 13th, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the thorough, I think on target discussion of overall high-level treatment of following suit, third seat defensive play.

No doubt, learning the basics for the enthusiastic new student of bridge is a valuable tool for them to learn as they go.