Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

If you are in fourth seat with ♠ K-3,  K-10-6,  A-K-7-2, ♣ J-4-3-2 and hear a weak two-spade opening passed around to you, what are your thoughts on bidding? And if you do act, would you overcall two no-trump or double?

Splitting Hares, Kansas City, Mo.

This hand is on the cusp for action. Your badly placed spade honor makes the decision especially awkward. I can see that doubling might get you to the right partscore, but you probably won't make game unless partner has spade length and opening values. A call of two no-trump is just about possible; at least it protects your spade king.

I read recently that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were keen bridge players. Do they play in tournament events at all? And are there any other celebrities who play seriously?

Star Search, Dover, Del.

Both Warren and especially Bill are regular visitors to national events. Bill plays in the very top events and does respectably. I've seen Isaac Mizrahi play in New York events, and NASA astronaut Greg Johnson and author Michael Palmer are also regulars on the tournament scene — among many other famous people.

Last week at our friendly bridge club we encountered an incredibly odd hand that generated several suggested bidding sequences for reaching the right contract. Dealer held ♠ A-K-J-10-7-4-3,  A-K-Q-10-6-2,  —, ♣ —. How should you explore properly here?

Major Major, Mitchell, S.D.

I think I'd open two clubs, rebid two spades, then jump to seven hearts to get partner to choose a suit. My partner will know all I need him to do is to pick the better trump suit. Mind you I might just bid seven spades at my first turn, doing that for the first (and probably last) time in my life. The other approach is far sounder, though.

Do you have strong views about two-level pre-empts when it comes to the question of good or bad suits, and would you ever pre-empt with a five-carder?

Over the Top, Wilmington, N.C.

At favorable vulnerability in either third (or even first) chair, I've been known to treat a two-suiter with a very good five-carder as a weak two. But I would not recommend this style to others. Equally, in the same seats I might open a six-card suit which was missing two of the top honors — especially if holding decent intermediates, which are often a good substitute for the missing high card.

I was in third seat, my having partner opened one diamond and the next hand having bid two spades. I held ♠ K-4,  K-Q-10-6-2,  Q-7-2, ♣ 10-4-3. What were my choices now?

Options Trader, Huntingdon, W.Va.

The best way forward now looks to be a negative double. This way you find your heart fit when you have one, and if your partner rebids two no-trump, you can pass. I suggest you correct three clubs to three diamonds, and pass a three-diamond rebid. This would be a much harder task if you had three spades and two diamonds, when a double might get you to an inferior partscore.

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


Iain ClimieAugust 5th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

I’m surprised you didn’t mention film star Omar Sharif to Star Search in today’s answers. It may be a long time since Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia and the like, but he was huge box office in the 1960s and was a very fine player too.


Iain Climie

David WarheitAugust 6th, 2012 at 12:56 am

Major: You left out the best part of the story: The partner of this player held ♠652 ♥543 ♦5432 ♣432 and afterwards went around showing everyone his hand. They all felt so sorry for him, that they bought him all the drinks he could handle. Finally, one of them asked him what the opponents had made on the hand, and having drunk a bit too much, he told them: we made 7♠! Nobody offered to pay his cab fare home.

bobby wolffAugust 6th, 2012 at 1:19 am

Hi Iain,

Yes there were many stars we left off, Phyllis Diller, Meredith Baxter, Burt Lancaster, George Burns, Chico Marx and George S. Kaufman to mention just a few, besides Omar.

Yes, Omar is still a great friend and back in 1970 the Aces toured the USA played 7 matches against him and his famous bridge playing circus, in 7 different US cities, every one of which lasted a full week, which included the three greatest Italian Blue Team stars.

Dr. Zhivago was indeed a good guy and an excellent bridge player who had great gambling instincts together with his love for bridge.

Thanks for traveling back with me through memory lane.

bobby wolffAugust 6th, 2012 at 1:24 am

Hi David,

Since everyone seems to love an unlucky card player, he should have never disclosed what happened on that hand. Oh well, live and learn, but to take all the tricks opposite that hand probably was worth the price for the cab ride home, plus, of course, the free liquor.

Jeff HAugust 7th, 2012 at 8:59 pm

The oddest thing about the Major Major hand is that some of the time the big hand will be dummy. It is popular where I live to respond 2H to 2C with a bust (less than an Ace or King or 2 Queens is the usual citeria). I can well imagine him holding something like 65 7543 5432 543 and being declarer in 7H.

bobby wolffAugust 8th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Hi Jeff H,

And to make the ending even more spectacular, he would be almost laydown for the heart grand slam, only a 4-0 spade break defeating him with either the spades on lead or a 4-0 spade break together with a 3-0 heart break with again the spades on lead, but not leading them.

A bridge story for the ages!