Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 19th, 2014

I opened one diamond with ♠ A-Q-3,  6-5,  Q-10-9-6-5-2, ♣ K-4. I heard my partner respond one spade, and RHO overcall two clubs. How do you rate the merits of a pass, repeating diamonds, or bidding two spades?

Calling Card, Eau Claire, Wis.

I'd hate to pass with extra shape. Bidding two spades seems right — we've told partner about our diamonds but not our spade support so far. And the diamonds are not so impressive that we need to draw attention to them. Of course, a support double to show three-card trump support would be just fine — assuming you play this method.

With only one entry to dummy, what is the best way to play a holding of three to the nine in dummy facing A-J-10-8-3-2 in hand for one loser? Does your play depend on the caliber of your opponents?

Bobby Shafto, Summit, N.J.

Finessing, then playing for the drop on the next round, loses to a singleton honor on your left. Cashing the ace loses to a small singleton on your left. It looks like even money, but in abstract the finesse is better, since that way you pick up the 4-0 trump break on your right. But if you lead the nine from dummy, you might, I suppose, elicit a twitch from a weak opponent who has both honors.

From your earlier comments, you have made it clear that you like to get into auctions as quickly as possible. Would you therefore make a takeout double of one club (or even of one diamond or one spade), holding ♠ Q-10-5,  A-K-7-5,  9-7-5, ♣ A-8-3?

Picking the Spot, Augusta, Ga.

I'd advocate doubling one club or one diamond when nonvulnerable. If vulnerable facing a passed hand, I would probably still double, though not like it as much. And I would double one spade if nonvulnerable too, or facing an unpassed partner. I think direct action much safer than passing and then balancing. And my view is shared by more and more players who prefer winning to style points.

My partner and do not agree about the significance of following with an honor on partner's ace lead; similarly, what is the meaning of the discard of an honor (or the unblock of an honor under declarer's or dummy's play of a higher card)?

Message Bearer, Little Rock, Ark.

My view is that if you drop an honor on partner's lead, it suggests either a doubleton, or a suit solid down from that card, denying a higher honor. Similarly, discarding a queen suggests the jack and 10, without the king. A play of this sort might be suit-preference, or even a wake-up call to find an unusual play, but that would surely be the exception here, not the rule.

I held ♠ Q-7-3-2,  Q-6-5,  A-Q-6-5, ♣ 10-4. I responded one spade to one club, and my partner raised to two spades. Because we were playing teams, I tried three diamonds, getting us to a poor, though makable, four-spade contract. My partner said I needed a fifth trump to make a try with these values. What do you think?

Risk and Reward, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Assuming that your partner has 12-14 points with four spades (if you are lucky), you do not rate to have enough points for game. So to make a try with these values, you need a real fit for his first suit, (imagine he had opened one diamond instead of one club) or extra shape in the form of trump length. Turn your club four into a spade, and you would be worth a try for game with a call of three diamonds.

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


ClarksburgNovember 2nd, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Good Morning Mr. Wolff,
Last Sunday’s blog comments addressed whether to open 1NT depending upon general shape, quality at the top of a long minor, overall strength and short-suit stops.
By “educationally-happy-co-incidence”, the hand below came up in a local game this week. Seems to raise somewhat difficult issues of hand evaluation and the rebid over 1 Spade.
Dealer, playing five-card Majors and 15-17 1NT, held:
H AQ109
D A4
C 96543

Open it 1NT?
Would a 1NT rebid be a significant underbid?

bobby wolffNovember 2nd, 2014 at 3:26 pm

And a top of the morning back at you, Mr. Clarksburg,

While hurrying through different stages on the elevator going up in bridge, the only short cuts available (at least the way I see it) are concepts rather than specific bids or plays.

While, of course, playing your style (which I generally now play, although, in my heart of hearts, prefer 4 card majors and a forcing club) I will attempt to summarize in a few words:

1. Yes, I would open 1NT since a 1NT rebid is a very significant underbid. Not only the so-called 15 HCP’s present, but the undervaluation of aces (should be closer to 4 1/2 points each, particularly so with a likely key Jack next to the first, Mr. Ace, the Q109 cuddling up to the second Mr. Ace and even the weak 5 card club suit as opposed to only 4 little clubs and 3 diamonds instead of 2. Reason being that sometimes, more often than realized, that 5th club can be an extra trick think KQJ or AKx with partner, while less often, the 3rd diamond can gain any additional value.

In other words, those 15 viewed points, at least to me, manifest themselves as much stronger than Mr. Goren commercially sold the large (at that time) gullible public.

Ely Culbertson, slightly before Charley, was much more accurate, although Goren was a better salesman (and, like many things in life) came along at the perfect time.