Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 8th, 2012

My bridge reputation rides on the following hand. Holding ♠ 10-9-8-6-5-4-2,  A-K-9,  Q, ♣ A-K, I opened one spade; my partner responded two diamonds. Opinions of what I should have rebid vary widely, but I chose three spades as the only way to get the length and strength across.

Foxy Lady, Winston-Salem, N.C.

If two diamonds did not guarantee a second call, I don't disagree with your choice — not because I LIKE the three-spade bid (I don't), but because nothing else is better! If two diamonds guaranteed a second bid (either because you play two-over-one game-forcing or you play responder's suit rebid is invitational but everything else is game-forcing), then three spades is wrong, as it shows at most a one-loser suit. Simply rebid two spades.

My partner held ♠ J-9-5-4-2,  A-9-4,  K-4, ♣ Q-4-3 and responded one spade to one club. I raised to two spades and he passed, missing a decent game that needed one of two finesses. What determines whether to bid on or not?

Undercooked, Casper, Wyo.

When you find a spade fit, your hand gets much better. The fifth trump really improves the hand, maybe just enough to make a game-try of three clubs. It's certainly close, but paradoxically your bad spades makes your hand improve even more when you find a fit.

A new edition of the Encyclopedia of Bridge has just been published. I own an older edition. What would justify my buying the latest one?

Bookworm, Jackson, Tenn.

Brent Manley has produced what in my opinion is a masterwork. He has reorganized the contents of the book into sections that are far easier to follow, and has updated the book so that it covers modern bidding and play conventions for everyone, no matter what their level.

At our local duplicate club most tables were confronted with a diamond pre-empt by East. At unfavorable vulnerability South had ♠ A-J-10-9-4,  K-9-6-2,  Q-4, ♣ Q-4. Is correct to act over a three- or four-diamond pre-empt here?

Fair Catch, Woodlands Hills, Calif.

This is indeed a difficult hand. I think I would double a one- or two-level opening bid in diamonds, but my soft values, especially the doubleton trump queen, argue for restraint. Put it this way: With the doubleton king of diamonds I would double either a three-diamond or four-diamond opening. But I'd treat your hand as a minimum and pass now.

What is the largest penalty you've ever seen recorded in a serious event?

Record Keeper, Detroit, Mich.

Funny you should ask! When I went to Veldhoven this fall, a pair of ladies (who went on to win a medal!) had an auction where one player tried to transfer into spades no less than six times. Obviously there was a partnership misunderstanding, since the final contract was four hearts redoubled on a 3-1 fit. It went down 3400.

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Laib EltonApril 22nd, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff, I recently bought “Advanced Bridge Bidding for the 21st. Century”by Max Hardy. Notwithstanding that he is dead this is a terrible book. Do you have an opinion on the book by Eric Rodwell and Mark Horton to help me before I dive in again? Thanks

bobbywolffApril 22nd, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Hi Laib,

Sadly, I have not had the opportunity to read the book by Rodwell and Horton, so I have no opinion to offer.

Max Hardy was an early advocate of the popular system in vogue today of 5 card majors with 1NT forcing over partner’s one of a major and was able to contribute to its development

At least at the higher levels of talent, bridge bidding is continuing to evolve with much effort put into making maximum use of heretofore little used (in frequency) bids. The good news is that, at least to me, progress in the language of bridge (bidding) is, if anything, accelerating, but, alas, for the non-serious, but still bridge enthusiast, the artificiality of putting those new bids to use, cause memory tests, which will inevitably create more bidding misunderstandings and lead to, at the very least, less good from their emergence.

Possibly like love and marriage, and for the future of high-level bridge, one cannot have one without the other.

Thanks for writing and apologies for not being more up to date on the newer books on the market.