Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 26th, 2014

In second seat, you pick up ♠ A-K-Q-J,  10,  A-K-J-7, ♣ 10-9-8-2 and hear your RHO bid one spade. I chose to pass, thinking I was not quite good enough to correct to three of a minor when partner bid two hearts over a double. Now the auction continued with a forcing no-trump to my left and two spades to my right. What were my options now?

Hall Monitor, Pottsville, Pa.

Your first pass was quite reasonable, simply because nothing is appealing.

Double by you at your second turn is heavy penalty or light takeout; partner should know which! If your partner does remove, he should only bid hearts with five or more cards, two no-trump being a scramble with two or more places to play.

What is the best way to handle a 4-4-2-3 shape with about 6-7 HCP opposite a 15-17 NT, that is to say not quite an invitational hand? Until now I have passed, figuring we are probably in a reasonable contract, given our combined high cards. I could bid Stayman, but there is no guarantee a major will be dramatically better, and if we don't find a 4-4 fit, we would probably be worse off.

Chef's Hat, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Can I suggest that when in doubt, you look at the strength of your majors and your doubleton, and decide accordingly? To take two extremes: with all your points in the majors use Stayman, and with none of them in the majors a pass is equally clear-cut. The weaker your hand, the more sense Stayman makes.

I overcalled one heart with one no-trump, holding ♠ 10-5,  K-J-4,  A-Q-10, ♣ K-Q-10-6-4. Would you agree with that choice? When this was doubled by my LHO, should I have run to two clubs when this got passed back to me? I did — and found that one no-trump would have been cheaper, as my partner had a 4-3-4-2 one-count!

Flight of the Concord, Boise, Idaho

I sympathize with both your one-no-trump call (which I think is better than two clubs, since your action is more likely to get you to game) and equally with your decision to run to two clubs. Regardless of the result, you had reason to expect that two clubs would have been less catastrophic than playing one no-trump doubled.

What are the rules about bidding again after pre-empting? Holding ♠ 10-4,  —,  Q-J-9-4, ♣ A-Q-10-6-5-3-2, I opened three clubs, and over three hearts my partner competed to four clubs. My RHO bid four hearts and I sacrificed in five clubs. Was I wrong?

Overdone, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Yes, you were probably wrong to bid again. Your partner's four clubs is not a request for you to continus bidding — if he wanted to sacrifice, he might have done it himself. Once you pre-empt, be it a weak jump or a pre-emptive opening, you transfer responsibility for further bidding to your partner. Maybe your feeling you had not done enough suggests you might have opened four clubs to get across your extra shape at your first turn.

What is the proper course of action when a card is shown during the deal? Is it a misdeal? Is the card put back into the undealt deck, or can the card be kept at the option of the receiver? Does it matter whether we are playing rubber or duplicate?

Butterfingers, North Bay, Ontario

Should the Rubber Bridge dealer accidentally face a card when dealing, or if the cards are not dealt in the correct manner, the cards should be reshuffled, cut, and redealt. An opponent may also ask for a redeal. In a Duplicate event, redealing is typically only allowed prior to the first time the cards are played (and not if all four players pass the first time a duplicate deal is played).

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuFebruary 9th, 2014 at 11:33 am

Hi Bobby, re Chef’s Hat Stayman hand,there is the chance of ‘improving’ the contract by playing in a 4-3 major fit after 2D by NT bidder,hence may not be ‘worst off’,unless sAKxx hxxxx dxxx cxx,when responder bids 2H over 2D and opener passes with sQxx h Kxx..regards Patrick.

jim2February 9th, 2014 at 1:12 pm

On the first letter, would 2N over 2S by the given hand be a minor takeout?

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Hi Patrick,

You offer a good question, but because of what makes it good, makes for an iffy answer.

You cite a hand where you would much prefer to play in your strongest suit 7 card combined major suit, but only if you had equal combined cards in both. Since bridge is the master, and always will be, some hands just do not lend themselves to guarantees and the one offered by you is one of them.

All I can do is suggest what may work the best for you in the long run, fully realizing that on any one hand, it may not.

However, with the equanimity which you have always shown, you will understand more than most others, that there are seldom sure roads to success in bridge, particularly with bidding decisions.

Hang in there, accept what goes wrong, but always strive to gain experience as you go, and continue to move up the ladder in ability. The best of all time bridge players have probably not yet been born, our job (at least what I try and do) is keep it available and have it still being played far into the future, mainly by encouraging would be players and above all, attempting to continue the world wide movement to get it into the schools as a course to be taken.

Both China and many countries in Europe should be congratulated for their efforts in getting the above done. We MUST copy them or sadly, expect it to die in the Western Hemisphere at some future date.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, 2NT the 2nd round of the bidding, would definitely be a minor suit TO. However a penalty double looks to be the better choice, since its upside, figures to produce a better score than would a minor suit part score make your way.

However, especially if TOCM takes a vacation, I would choose your bid in preference to passing since it would just be too wimpy to sell out to 2 spades undoubled, and that choice would depend on whether one’s partner would understand that doubling in this auction and for perhaps 80+ years has always been totally penalty. DO NOT double if partner is not on your wave length and plays almost all low level doubles for TO.

Yes for TO is modern and has been creeping into existence, but that does not mean that playing it that way is correct. Also a 1-6-3-3 distribution would probably be my guess as to partner’s most likely distribution and with not many high cards making a misunderstanding here possibly very costly. My mention of the possibility of a weak TO is only to acknowledge a modern trend, but secretly I do not care for that interpretation.

ClarksburgFebruary 9th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Mr. Wolff,
I have just posted a follow-up question on the Sunday Jan 5th blog comments.

jim2February 9th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

The reason that I asked was that the question was: “What were my options now?”

BTW, I would love to hear the rest of that deal. The 2S bidder might well have a seven card suit with the notrump bidder holding 0-5-4-4 and six or seven HCP. Thus, any suit contract the questioner’s partner declares could begin with two spade ruffs as partner probably has 2-3 HCP. (Give the opener 13, the NT responder 7, and add “our” 17 = 37 HCP accounted for).

A true TOCM would have the hands something like this:

———- North
——–H x
——–D AKJx
——–C 1098x

West ———– East
S xxxxxxx —-S –
H Ax ———-H KQ10xx
D x ————D Qxxxx
C AKJ ———C xxx

——— South
——–S xx
——–H Jxxxxx
——–D xxx
——–C Qxx

Here, a penalty double does not work as 2S makes. If the one notrump bidder flees to 3H and gets doubled, that also makes (two S ruffs, 3 top trump, 1 D ruff, 3 C). Meanwhile should the questioner’s partner bid, it will not go well.

Patrick CheuFebruary 9th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hi Bobby,re Jim2,if you double 2S,and pard bids 2N,is that to play or T/out?Remind me TOCM is? Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I just complied and it is on the real January 19th column, which appeared in my newspapers on January 5th. I hope it helps, but I am not positive of what question you wanted discussed.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is safe to say that you are not on the ballot for the “Optimist of the Year” award. No doubt the 100 honors in spades hand will fail to defeat 2 spades in some percentage of the time, maybe up to 10 or 15%, but it is still the way to bet, although I may be wrong. One thing to beware and that is, other than the opponents scoring up their contract, the possibility of partner misunderstanding your intention when you do double.

All I can add is that from the 1940’s to the present, that type of double has always been interpreted by old time bridge players as penalties, the same as 1D P 1H P
2D dbl or if the opener instead of 2D rebids 1NT then an immediate dbl is also penalties.

Sure those interpretations are often changed by bridge modernists, but it is sheer fallacy to just then suppose that this new interpretation is better, simply because, based on frequency, the old time style of penalties has much to recommend continuing to play that way.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, a 2NT bid the 2nd round and still between 2 bidders should be conventional for the other 2 suits with distribution the key rather than high cards. And a response to a TO double at the 2 or higher level after first passing is a convention (penalties is normal) and, if so, 2NT by the responder would be two suits, usually minors and asks the doubler to bid suits starting at the bottom. With 3-3 in the minors he should bid clubs.

TOCM has been brought to us by Jim2 and has to do with supernatural forces arranging the opponent’s hands into the worst possible locations of both the distribution and high cards for the poor declarer’s benefit.

However, he has assured me (I think) that TOCM is not contagious and no one else, except, of course, Jim2 will be the worse for it

ClarksburgFebruary 9th, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Earlier today you said:
Hi Clarksburg,
“…I just complied and it is on the real January 19th column, which appeared in my newspapers on January 5th. I hope it helps, but I am not positive of what question you wanted discussed…”
Actually what I posted today was an addition to the Comments on the Jan 5th blog, which ties back to the Dec 22 newspaper column. I looked at the blogs for various possible dates, and couldn’t find what you posted today in response.
Weird. You may not have seen my questions, and I couldn’t find your answers! So I guess we were both psyching our partner. 🙂

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

The response is now up on the earlier site (this time correct one) and an earlier in the response quote of ration should be ratio.

Again I hope this answers your question(s) and contributes to your rise from out of the ashes.

jim2February 9th, 2014 at 8:24 pm

TOCM ™ = Theory Of Card Migration

The simplest example might be the two-way finesse for a queen. Say you have AJ10 facing KXX. If you play the ace, the queen will be behind the king. If you cash the king, the queen will be behind the ace.

If you lead the jack, the queen will remain in quantum space (like Schrodinger’s Cat) until you play the king or let it ride. Once you play from the Board, the queen will migrate to the “wrong” hand.

TOCM ™ applies to bidding, as well, as this hand demonstrates.


ClarksburgFebruary 9th, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Found it…read it…got it!
Clarksburg (now aka “the Phoenix”) 🙂

Patrick CheuFebruary 9th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Hi Bobby and Jim2,thanks for your explanation of TOCM and its origin…:)

jim2February 9th, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Patrick –

Amusingly, if one googles Theory of Card Migration ….