Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Say you open one diamond, holding ♠ Q-7,  A-9-4,  A-K-8-3-2, ♣ J-5-4, and hear two spades on your left, over which your partner makes a negative double. What is your most sensible option?

Nowhere to Run, Vancouver, British Columbia

I could imagine that any one of the three following calls might work: two no-trump, three clubs, or three diamonds. The advantage of bidding two no-trump confidently is that if partner has a spade stopper, you have right-sided no-trump, and the defenders may not lead spades when it is right to do so. My second choice would be to repeat the diamonds.

When I open the bidding and my partner responds in a new-suit at the one-level, is it acceptable to rebid one no-trump with an unguarded suit? The sort of hand I mean is ♠ 8-4-3,  Q-4,  A-K-J-6-5, ♣ K-4-3 after a one-diamond opening and one-heart response.

Least of Evils, Olympia, Wash.

Not only is the one-no-trump response acceptable, but it is the only practical choice, since rebidding the suit you opened tends to suggest six cards, not five. The rare exceptions to that rule come if your hand is 4-5 in hearts and a minor. After opening your long suit and hearing a one-spade response, you might rebid a strong five-card suit rather than bid no-trump with a small doubleton in the other minor.

I just heard that the ACBL has mandated that the minimum age for seniors will now be 60, not 55. Do you agree?

Junior Mints, Madison, Wis.

Not only do I agree, but I agree strongly. With the average age of bridge players sneaking up to the mid-60s, it truly makes no sense to have an artificial cut-off at 55, particularly when the rest of the world is using 60 as the threshold for senior bridge. Additionally, a grandfathering clause (how apt!) will mean nobody will be too harshly penalized by the change in legislation.

Holding ♠ 7-6-4-3,  4,  A-Q-4-3, ♣ A-K-J-4, I opened one club and my partner responded one diamond. Should I now bid one spade or raise diamonds — and if I raise, what level is appropriate? With the spades and diamonds reversed, would you do differently?

Mynah Bird, Sacramento, Calif.

The hand is certainly not good enough for a jump to three diamonds, so the choice is to bid the major, or to bypass the weak spades and raise diamonds. I'd go for the latter, since I expect partner to have values (neither opponent bid hearts) and bid on, thus allowing me to describe my hand more fully. With the suits switched, I would bid one spade, not wishing to lose the fit.

We had a dispute in our friendly rubber game. Opener kicked off with a strong two-heart call, and the next player bid three diamonds. The next two players were looking at Yarboroughs and passed. Opener later commented that her partner should have bid because the opening bid was forcing to game. Meanwhile, responder thought she was right to pass because the overcall took her off the hook. Who is correct?

Open Season, Taos, N.M.

After a strong two-heart call, the opener is forced to bid again when the auction comes back to her, but responder, while obliged to keep the auction open in an uncontested auction, does not have to bid if the opponents come in. With a weak hand and heart support, she jumps to game, while a three-heart call would show values. Pass suggests neither heart support nor values. Double would be penalty.

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


ClarksburgMarch 2nd, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
Our club has started a monthly teams-of-four game. The plan is to keep cumulative total scores throughout the year toward a final standings, and a two-tier playoff. (four teams in each tier, as we have eight teams).
We are currently playing a full round-robin each month (seven short matches of three Boards). We are scoring by Board-a-Match (partly to keep the at-the-game scoring process very simple).
One way to keep the “standings” is by cumulative win / tie / loss record, but we are not sure whether three Boards is enough, or whether that’s too volatile to reliably find a winner. The other way is to keep the standings based upon cumulative BAM points.
(In future years we may switch to a schedule with fewer but longer matches, but for this year we will stick to the full round robin, three-Board matches.

Your views / comments / suggestions on scoring would be most appreciated, i.e. W/ L record or total BAM points? Also, any other suggestions?


bobby wolffMarch 2nd, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

In most ways, perhaps all, your league and your overall scoring method, BAM, might just be the most effective way of scoring.

However, if my understanding of what you mean by cumulative scoring, is what I think it might, then I do not agree since only wins, losses and ties should count, not the total amounts of scoring, plus and minus, since that method of scoring, IMO, is severely flawed and not true to life, since just one or two huge swings can overcome many small victories (like overtricks) which may indeed require stellar play, bidding and defense.

I will suggest that in order to break ties at the end, among the winners in both brackets, the individual record between the matches between the two tied teams should be the first tiebreaker, e.g. if Teams A & B tied in bracket 1 for the two leading scores in that bracket, than the results between those two teams would then determine who wins and who finishes 2nd. If a 3rd team is also tied with the top two then that bracket should be decided by the #1 team in quotient between the three tied teams. If that is tied there should be a 3 board match between the tied teams (overtime) which would be the 2nd way of determining who wins and still, if tied, continue to play 3 board matches until the tie is broken. If all 4 teams wind up tied for first then cards should be drawn with the two highest (bridge order, spades before hearts, etc.) should determine the matchups and then the two winners would play each other in the final, but this contingency is wildly unlikely.

BAM scoring, in some ways, is the truest form of scoring because every hand, whether part score, game or slam hand, takes on equal importance and experience dictates that overall all encompassing bridge skill itself usually will separate the teams rather than some luck involved with bidding and making slams (for example) which large number will overrate that achievement in the final result.

The above is especially true in short matches, which your overall tournament will feature.

May the best team win. You know who I will be rooting for.

ClarksburgMarch 2nd, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Just to be sure I have made my question clear, and fully understood your advice:
All scoring of Boards is by BAM scoring. Winning a Board by 10 points counts the same as a win by 800 points.
We are scoring 2 for a win and 1 for a tie. The narrowest margin of victory would thus be 4-2; a sweep of all three Boards would be 6-0. If I understand you correctly you are saying that a 6-0 win is not worth any more than a 4-2 win.
Extending that to the full-year-end standings, we should be using W/L/T record of 3-Board matches won, not total number of Boards won, through the year.
Is that your intent and advice?
Thanks again.

bobby wolffMarch 2nd, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Not exactly,

First I recommend, instead of 2-1-0 to make it 1-1/2-0 which is the universal way of scoring B-A-M.

Then those totals would carry forth. I incorrectly was thinking your group was intending to also differentiate how much the board was won or lost by and use that much larger number to carry forth. Since you were only interested in real B-A-M scoring the total number of points won does carry forward, as long as it (under my proposed scale) never be greater than 1 to 0 per board. With 3 board matches 3 to 0 is the highest score possible. to carry forward. Obviously your proposed 2-1-0 would not alter anything from mine since the proportion would be the same.

In your explanation 4-2 would be the the narrowest margin of victory, but 3-3 would also be common. Compare that with 2-1 or 11/2-11/2.

No misunderstandings, no doubts, no errors, no player confused with the only possible imperfection possible (and maybe likely) would be, one or more terrible (basic novice) team(s) competing may cause a larger luck element than wanted since that team or teams will be no threat to win (or even come close to average) but still have an undue influence on which teams do, by the chance happening of how difficult the hands come up at those tables. Perhaps an answer would be to try and not have any of those teams (if there are any lurking) enter by demanding some credentials. Sometimes that causes hard feelings, in spite of it being done in the best interest of the event itself.

In a very long event like all real bridge World Championships have become, luck has time to even out so that by the time the later stages of the event occur, there are only the best teams still competing, thereby solving the problem. Since your event is an entire round robin with no playoffs at the end, your event will be subject to more chance than longer events would be.

I do not recommend any change because of this, but if this event becomes popular then later you can change the format to provide protection.