Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Would you ever open ♠ Q-10-8,  A-4.  K-5-4, ♣ A-J-9-5-2 with a strong no-trump, either for tactical reasons or because you believe the hand is worth that action?

Far From the Adding Crowd, Newark, N.J.

At matchpoints when nonvulnerable I can see the argument for getting the no-trump in first. A chunky five-card suit must be worth something, and since you might well want to play the hand your way up, it is not absurd to make the call. This is especially true in third seat when you should also aim to make the opponents' search for a major-suit fit rather more challenging.

I recently read an Aces column where you explained Bergen raises to the reader, implying that you weren’t particularly in favor of using them. I’ve used them ever since I read “To Bid or Not to Bid.” What don’t you like about them?

The Raiser's Edge, Winston-Salem, N.C.

They fall into the category of bids where judgment takes second place to system. They also allow lead-directing doubles rather too easily. One doesn’t always use Stayman when holding a four-card major; equally, one sometimes raises a major to two with four trumps and a defensive hand. That said, giving up jump responses in a minor is not a big loss, I agree. There are some sensible alternative “natural” uses, though weak jump responses may not be among them.

Imagine at matchpoints that you held ♠ A-10-3-2,  A-Q-9-4,  9-7-5-4-2 ♣ — in third chair. Would you open the hand — and if so, what call would you prefer?

Open Sesame Paste, Orlando, Fla.

Since I am under oath, I think I'd pass if vulnerable and open nonvulnerable; I would marginally prefer a one-heart bid to the other choices. I really do not want to bid diamonds to see partner leading his doubleton ace, king or queen! Bidding long suits in third position is somewhat overrated; bidding good suits with one-bid hands has a lot to recommend it.

A friend gave me a somewhat garbled description of Snapdragon doubles. In what position do they apply, and how do they work exactly? More importantly, are they a good idea?

Boldly Advancing, Seneca, S.C.

When LHO opens, partner overcalls, and RHO makes a low-level bid, doubles of that bid should be for takeout. Doubling a bid-and-raised suit shows the unbid suits and a fair hand. If RHO introduced a new suit, double suggests values, with the unbid suit AND support for partner. Since you rarely have a penalty double in this position, the idea behind the convention is a sound one.

I always thought that if I had two equal or close to equal suits I should open with the higher of touching suits and the lower of nontouching suits. In one of your recent columns, you described a reverse as whenever the player bids any lower suit before a higher suit, in this case clubs and then hearts. Can you describe how these two ideas overlap?

Circle of Confusion, New York City, N.Y.

Anytime in an noncompetitive auction that you bid the low suit at the one-level, then a higher suit at the two-level, so that responder has to give preference to the first one at the three-level, it's a reverse. So, for example, opening one club, then bidding two hearts over one spade, guarantees reversing extras. You may have to repeat clubs or bid one no-trump without those extras.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgDecember 29th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
Question unrelated to today’s column:
Teams-of-four is really catching on in our area! Soon, there will two regular monthly games, with one of them being a sanctioned “league” of teams from various Clubs / towns. These games will probably be typically no larger than 8 or 9 Teams.
In choosing what games/movements to play, and the scoring, we of course have some choices. Board-a Match scoring has some appeal for practical reasons. But to me, B-A-M seems a bit like “head-to-head Matchpoints on Steroids”, and perhaps not as enjoyable as “real” Bridge.
In your view, would B-A-M be appropriate for such games? What game-format and scoring would you recommend?

bobby wolffDecember 29th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I’ll try and make my reply brief, but to the point.

BAM scoring is, in many ways, the best scoring system bridge has to offer. The exactness of both the bidding and, even more so, the play which is required to score well at BAM, is unequaled. The final day of the Reisinger (5th and 6th sessions), annually held at the Fall Nationals the final weekend, is unquestionably the toughest day
in bridge, at least to me, much more difficult than the final sessions of an ordinary World Championship.

However, while no one could really select a better way to judge the best bridge playing, perhaps your group is not quite ready for it, but, on the other hand, it may get you ready faster than any other form of bridge competition.

When very good players are involved, always the case the final day of the Reisinger, it becomes a real challenge and in order to win it, the whole team must be playing well.

After the above, it is your choice, but why not experiment and then send me some controversial hands. I’ll give you an opinion on what should have been done and perhaps that will bring valuable back and forth discussion to your enthusiastic bridge group.

Good luck in making your choice.