Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Can you comment on the use of screens in major events? Doesn't it make it hard to work out what cards are played — and doesn't it detract from the idea that bridge is a social game?

Hidden Depths, Mason City, Iowa

Screens are put in place to prevent accidental (or deliberate) conveying of information from one partner to another. As we saw in a recent world championship, determined cheaters may still break the rules. But it makes the game more relaxed when you cannot see your partner, or vice versa. I like screens for the top-level competitions, if not elsewhere.

What about the role of computers in bridge? Have they become more relevant recently, and would you recommend I get one to help me practice?

Square Eyes, Hartford, Conn.

These days one aspect of bridge on computers has become indispensable. BBO is the site that lets you play, practice and watch Vugraph — for free. Thanks to Fred Gitelman, everyone can watch, learn and play the game. Handheld computer games work pretty well, but I'm not sure they measure up to competing against real people. And I've been enjoying vubridge recently, where some challenging deals are posted.

Could you clarify for me what is best practice as to when to overcall and when to bid a moderate five-card suit on a limited hand? I held: ♠ K-10-4-3-2,  9-6-5,  A-Q-5-3, ♣ 3, and was not sure what to do over an opening call of one club on my right. Would it matter if the opening bid was one heart instead of one club?

White Collar, Doylestown, Pa.

Typically, with minimum values and a five-card major, I would take the opportunity to overcall at the one-level, not to double, whatever the opening bid. Just for the record: With five diamonds and 4-3 in the other unbid suits, I would normally double. However, suit quality does play a part in the calculation, and since overcalls are typically lead-directing, I try not to overcall in an honorless suit.

In Bid With the Aces, you recently stated that as responder after the unopposed sequence: one spade – one no-trump – three diamonds, you should cue-bid four hearts. That bid of course bypasses a four club cue-bid, which I thought would therefore imply that responder lacked both the ace and king of clubs. If responder cue-bids four clubs, then over four diamonds, he could next cue-bid four hearts. What am I missing?

Fruit Loops, Galveston, Texas

I'm not sure whether four clubs might not be natural in this sequence, since the one-no-trump response could conceal a club suit. Yes, partner has shown long diamonds, but mightn't you have equally long, or longer, clubs? By contrast, the four-heart call is unequivocally agreeing diamonds, and I don't think it denies a club control. I do see your point, though.

What is the experts' current treatment of the double of a splinter-bid? Should it be lead-directing, looking for a sacrifice — or something else altogether? And does the vulnerability matter in this situation?

Strawberry Fields, Kenosha, Wis.

The normal position is to play the double as lead-directing, prepared to sacrifice if the vulnerability looks favorable. However, some people play a convention invented by George Rosenkranz, whereby the double calls for a lead of a suit below the one you double. Of course, without a specific agreement, that treatment would be highly unusual.

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


Iain ClimieSeptember 21st, 2014 at 9:39 am

Hi Bobby,

I think somebody, somewhere may have assumed this blog is to do with a Wheatstone Bridge from electronic and electrical circuits. That is my best explanation for the comment above.

Iain ClimieSeptember 21st, 2014 at 9:50 am

OK, maybe this is overly grumpy and cynical as I’m stuck in the office on a nice day. Perhaps the first contributor wanted more detail



Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 21st, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Recently many strange messages have wandered onto my own site. They include references to Chainsaw Repairs; Nearby Restaurants; Gaming Attack; Heated Cat Houses. When I have the time, I just ‘trash’ them.



Iain ClimieSeptember 21st, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for this, and perhaps it is just the flip side of technology allowing more junk mail, nuisance messages, twitter storms and general mischief. The ratio of data to information in the world grows ever greater. Before this sounds too luddite and old-fashioned, I’m a big fan of modern trends in medicine and dentistry. I remember the latter in the 60s when I had one who thought “A bit of pain never hurt anyone!”



bobby wolffSeptember 21st, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Hi Iain & Judy,

You two, being inveterate bridge lovers, are merely applying your learned bridge detective talents to determine advertising poachers.

Yes Iain, modern surgeons and dentists do not now inflict as much pain as losing key finesses nor Judy, has my long life ever encountered an ad for a chain saw repair nor visiting a not heated cat house, especially during the winter.

RyanSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 12:11 am

Do your over calls change at all with hearts instead of spades? I have played to over call with a little less in spades since it slightly preempts the opponents.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 12:59 am

Hi Ryan,

Possibly true at the one level, since spades does preempt all suits, while hearts omits spades.

However, we are not talking about an important strategy, just a common sense bridge practicality.

AviSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 9:38 am

Hi Bobby

I have a LWTA question.
on an unopposed auction you hear RHO bid 1S, and LHO 2D (SAYC).
RHO bids 2NT and LHO closes to 3NT.
holding J9, K6xx, Txx, Q5xx which suit is better to lead and why?
Is there a preference or general guideline for leading away from a K or a Q?


AviSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 9:40 am

in a general guidline, I mean not 4th/5th, but rather which is generally a better lead vs. NT or suit contract? lowest from Q or from K

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Hi Avi,

Sorry for my delay in answering.

Methinks there is little to choose between leading from a guarded queen or king. Especially on this hand when the two unbid suits are both only 4 long with poor spot cards under them.

Leading away from a king, while slightly more likely to have a higher upside, usually loses a trick when partner has neither the ace or queen, while leading from a queen sometimes avoids a loss when partner contributes the ace, king or jack, especially when also possessing the ten.

However, there is so much more to the luck element all one can do is lead one or the other with my slight preference for leading a heart since neither opponent is likely to not bid hearts (major suit) if he has four, but might choose to overlook a 4 card minor (in this case clubs) and go directly to NT.

Whatever, don’t sweat the small stuff, but rather rely on the law of averages (Jim2, if you are listening, because of your TOCM affliction, feel exempt) and whatever choices you make here will even out luck wise over a period of time (in other words, sometimes fortune will favor you and sometimes it will not).

Good luck and may Dame Fortune not deal you too many difficult opening lead choices in the future.