Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Is it correct that only declarer can claim honors? I thought any player at the table could claim honors – but I’ve been told that you have to play the hand to take them.

— Shut Out, North Bay, Ontario

ANSWER: You are right. Anyone, be it dummy or defender, gets them if entitled. At a trump contract anyone with at least four of the five trump honors can claim them. As I think I mentioned before, I have had the embarrassment of having an opponent claim honors when I was in four hearts doubled!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held Q-3, K-9-7-3-2, A-J-7-4, K-3 and opened one heart in third seat. My LHO made a two-diamond overcall, and my partner doubled, negative. What would you do now? I passed, and catching my partner with three hearts, five spades and six points, so two diamonds came home.

— Trapper John, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

ANSWER: Your action was quite reasonable, since it sounds as if your partner actually had an entirely normal raise to two hearts, not a double. Though spades might have been the best strain for your side, a simple raise to two hearts by him gets you into a playable fit and limits the hand — two things that one should try to do as quickly as possible on any deal!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

In your Bid with the Aces problems, do you assume IMPs or matchpoints? Sometimes it doesn’t seem clear to me.– or are you deliberately not telling us?

— Inquiring Minds, Panama City, Fla.

ANSWER: You can assume that you are playing teams or rubber bridge. Having said that, I firmly believe that the idea of not letting the opponents have too easy a life springs from pairs, but should be carried over to teams as well. The occasional disaster is more than outweighed by the moderate but frequent gains by this approach.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Playing rubber bridge on the last hand of a Chicago my hand was: A-K-3, Q-J-10-4, J-7-3-2, A-4. My LHO opened one club and was raised to two clubs, which would have been game for the opponents. I doubled, and when my partner bid two hearts and I heard three clubs on my right. Was I supposed to bid three hearts? Suffice it to say I got it wrong!

— Rueful Roland, Springfield, Mass.

ANSWER: Playing with a competent partner, especially an aggressive one, you are supposed to pass. If three hearts is a sensible action, he will bid it himself. Playing with a weak partner, you may have to bid his cards for him — and apologize if wrong.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

You recently discussed an auction where you open one club, LHO bids one heart, partner bids one spade, RHO raises to two hearts, and you double. You say your double shows “extras.” Really? Or does it just confirm short hearts and an unwillingness to sell out to two hearts when the opponents have at least an eight-card fit?

— Marking Time, Trenton, N.J.

ANSWER: You are correct in a sense that the extras you have shown may just be shape, not significant high cards. But assuming that the double does not specifically guarantee three-card spade support (the ever-popular support double), I’d take your double to suggest 3-1 or 2-2 in the majors and 15-plus points.

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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Chris HasneyApril 26th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

In my new beginner book “Simplicity Bridge” which features 4-deal Cavendish style rubber bridge I bring back honors to 4-deal bridge. When I was taught 4-deal it was Chicago style and lacked 100 or 150 points for honors. I’m wondering if that’s true in most Chicago games or if it’s all based on local customs. Pity the rubber clubs are mostly gone.

Bobby WolffMay 5th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Hi Chris,

As you suggest, it is likely now based on local customs, but my guess is that honors are still usually counted in 4 deal “Chicago bridge”.

Since the father of Contract bridge, Auction bridge, had honors on every hand with the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten all being honors and depending on which partnership possessed the majority of them, the bidding sometimes became skewed. For 3 out of 5 they got credit for 30 honors, 4 out of five, 40 honors and all five, 50. However if only one hand had 4 then 80 and finally 100 to any one hand which held all 5.

In those days many partnerships, in order to get the honors, often played very short trump holdings in order to score up the honors, a practice which does not represent a logical way to play the game as we now know it.

When I first started in the late 1940’s, Contract Bridge was very popular, therefore most of the bridge players knew about its history, Auction Bridge and its grandfather, Whist. Unfortunately that is not true anymore, which has somewhat diminished its unique tradition.

martha strackMarch 27th, 2015 at 1:55 pm

can one claim honors when game is complete but just starting shuffling for next game