Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

You recently wrote that no revoke penalty would be assessed if your side did not win a subsequent trick. However, you also state that in rubber bridge, if you did not bid game, adding the extra penalty trick(s) would not entitle you to the game bonus. Is the situation therefore different for duplicate bridge or in Chicago scoring?

—  Shifting Sands, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.


ANSWER: Apologies! I did not write clearly enough, and you read more into my words than I intended. Let me restate the law and its impact. The revoke law never does anything except change the number of tricks TAKEN. It never changes the tricks CONTRACTED FOR. The contract always remains the same. Hence revoke tricks simply produce over- or under-tricks (or change a making contract into one going down or vice versa) no matter what form of bridge you play.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Would you open the bidding with A-J-9, A-Q-7, 10-7-3-2, J-7-4? I thought that despite my minimum point-count and flat hand that the two aces were enough to demand an opening bid. My partner did not agree, although the traveling score-slip at our duplicate suggested that nobody else passed either!

—  Golden Silence, Detroit, Mich.


ANSWER: Flat 12-counts do not have to be opened — particularly if you would be bidding a bad suit, as here, which may get partner off to the wrong lead. I do not feel strongly on this one, but for sure if I had two four-card suits, I would open the bidding here.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Suppose you are 5-5 or 5-6 in the majors and hear your RHO, a solid citizen, open one spade. Should one trap-pass, hoping to hear your partner balance with a takeout double? Or should you ignore the five-card spade suit and overcall in hearts?

—  Lurk Theory, Austin, Texas

  ANSWER: Much depends on suit quality. No one would overcall with five bad hearts and five good spades; most people WOULD bid with the majors reversed. It is clearer when you have length in your RHO’s bid minor, when the opening does not guarantee length and you may never get a second chance if you don’t bid at once.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In a recent column you posed the problem with 8-6, J-2, A-J-8-5, A-J-9-4-2, where your partner overcalled two hearts over one spade. I see reason no not to advance with a natural and forcing three-club call. Am I right?

—  Up and Over, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


ANSWER: I’m worried that raising clubs may get us past three no-trump rather too often. And my view of two-level overcalls is that a doubleton and a ruffing value is decent enough support. I try not to come in on bad suits and expect my partner to do the same!


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Do you have any comments about leading from a three-card suit such as Q-10-2? When if ever would it be right to lead the queen to try to unblock the suit?

—  Unorthodox, Olympia, Wash.


ANSWER: The answer depends on the strength of the rest of your hand (and thus how many entries your partner may have), and also what sort of stop declarer has promised. I’d lead low unless I could see that my partner was sufficiently weak so that I’d need to lead the high card to help protect his entries. Leading the honors costs a trick more often than one would realize.


If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, e-mail him at Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009.


bruce karlsonJune 6th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

RE: Golden Silence

Thank you for putting a muzzle on the “open all 12 counts” bunch. I have not opened a few hands like that and only heard about it when the pass out hurt us. I am surprised that you would akways open something like AQ, AJx, 10643, J743. It seems to me that the perils still outnumber the opportunities. Perhaps I am not giving enough weight to the possible 4/4 minor fit. Is that the difference??

Denis KristandaJune 7th, 2010 at 1:33 am

Re: not open with 12hcp

I guess that’s one of the reasons weak 1NT is getting more popular. All those balance bid that don’t have a rebid can be opened with 1NT, and the rest should be able to be easily open and rebid.

I used to be that selective when I have balance 12hcp marginal, and missed a few part score – but getting much better when playing weak NT.

What do you think Mr Wolff?

Bobby WolffJune 7th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Hi Bruce,

You call those 4 card suits? I call them moth eaten nothings.

Seriously though, you are talking about something that is too close to call. The advantages of opening the bidding:

1. In case LHO is able to get the bidding up high, like in an opening preempt, it could cause our side to be frozen where partner has a full opening bid, but the wrong shape or texture and the opponents will steal the hand from us going down a couple of tricks undoubled while we are cold for 9 tricks at NT.

2. Also if LHO merely opens the bidding we do not have a good hand to compete with, if after partner passes and RHO merely raises his partner’s suit leaving it up to chance that partner will see fit to balance, causing us to lose the part score battle, our hands seemed destined to win.

3. Perhaps, if we do open the bidding, partner, with a fit will be able to vigorously jump raise, causing the opponents to either get too high or otherwise do the wrong thing.

4. We have enough defense to allow partner to double the final contract if he thinks the opponents are stealing from us.


1. Get too high because partner expects more.

2. Get partner off to the wrong lead, especally against 3NT.

Our bridge balance sheet seems to favor opening the bidding and thus my opinion is directed that way, be it ever so slight.

However, please keep in mind that again it is too close to call leaving it up to a specific partnership to be consistent in their judgments, which could be either way.

Thanks for bringing this ever popular subject, and for 50+ years, up for discussion.

Bobby WolffJune 7th, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Hi Denis,

Since my wife, Judy, and I play twice a week at our favorite bridge club, here in Las Vegas and we do play weak NT not vulnerable (11 1/2-14) I have gotten some experience which I never had before since weak NT was never in my repertoire. It is, as you say, a way of getting in the bidding, causing some preemptive effect on the opponents and at the same time getting the first blow in.

The disadvantage is that when partner has 10 or so balanced points we may buy the hand at 1NT but therefore miss a better 4-4 fit in a major suit. That possible minus does not seem to be that important, however, but rather playing weak NT then, we are compelled to play that rebidding 1NT after our non-vulnerable one level opening of a minor would show a strong NT sometimes causes small problems when the opponents compete at the 1 level.

Overall I enjoy the different looks and I think that Judy and I have shown a plus by so doing, but I wouldn’t bet the farm that we have.

Playing weak NT or not should be a matter of choice between the partners. We got the idea from Judy’s learning Kaplan-Sheinwold,

from her late husband, Norman, whose lifelong bridge partner was Edgar Kaplan himself. However, since Judy has capitulated in playing all other aspects of our bidding system my way, I cannot complain.

Thanks for mentioning what you think is the answer for opening these borderline 12 counts.