Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 17th, 2015

The law regarding dealing plainly states that cards will be dealt one at a time. Do you have any thoughts about back-and-forth dealing whereby 12 of the cards in two hands are dealt two at a time and the 13 in each of the other hands are dealt one at a time? I called a director about this at a regional tourney and was told it was all right. I dislike this, since many people do not shuffle “thoroughly” as that law states.

Given the Pip, Greenville, S.C.

I hate people who don’t deal in the regular fashion (some deal in five piles, others do the sort of thing you describe). That said, the lack of shuffling and irregular dealing are such small absurdities that I reserve my fire for the more serious infractions. I try to breathe deeply and let it pass over me.

How would you advance at your third turn here? I held: ♠ Q-6-4-3, A-Q-8-7-3, K-Q-3, ♣ A and opened one heart and heard a one spade response. I elected to jump to four clubs (though of course a small singleton would have been preferable) over the one spade call. My partner now bid four diamonds and I was not sure whether to sign off, use Blackwood or cuebid next.

Yellow Light, Ketchikan, Alaska

My view is that one more cue-bid of four hearts is quite sufficient. If your partner signs off in four spades, you will surely have done enough, given your very weak trumps, in context. If you had the spade jack you might be able to take control, but as it is I’d worry about the possibility of losing two trump tricks, unless partner can find a further call.

There are plenty of people at my club who are less than proficient in the use of the bidding box, some because they have a physical disability, some because they reveal their lack of confidence in their actions. Does any penalty arise if you take a bid out of the bidding box and then put it back? Does it matter if the action was accidental, or if you changed your mind?

Shifting Sands, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

You can normally correct a call selected by accident even if it is put on the table. (This applies even after a call by your LHO, though he then gets to change his call too). In some cases if you change your mind about a bid, you are allowed to correct it before the next call. However this may pass Unauthorized Information to your partner, and there might be further consequences. It is always best to call the director if something like this happens.

I have just retired from the legal profession and would like to consider joining a bridge club or find a regular card game for beginners. I loved playing bridge in college about 45 years ago but since then my activities have been limited to a friendly game of hold’em poker. Do you have any suggestions?

On the River, Miami, Fla.

Go to the ACBL website and you will be able to find details of neighboring clubs. Good luck and good hunting!

When my partner held: ♠ A-10-8-6-5-2, J-3, 10, ♣ A-J-9-4 yesterday, he did something I did not agree with. He responded one spade to my one diamond opening, and I now leapt to four spades. What if anything is best now?

Santa Claus, Muncie, Ind.

It would be hard to argue with driving to six spades. Facing a typical 18-19 balanced hand, (because you did not make a splinter jump) slam is likely to have play while reaching a grand slam looks unlikely. You could argue that a slower route may tell the opponents what to lead if you make a cuebid. And you may give them a chance to double a Blackwood response for the lead.

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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgMay 31st, 2015 at 11:47 am

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
Your LHO opened 1D, Partner passed, and your RHO jumped to 2NT, passed out.
So you are now on lead against their 2NT.
You hold:
S QJ42 H 8742 D J7 C AQ4
What are your thoughts on choice(s) of opening lead?

jim2May 31st, 2015 at 1:21 pm

On the column’s second question (from “Yellow Light, Ketchikan, Alaska”), I also would bid 4H. In my view, partner’s 4D bid has greatly improved our chances in that there should be no minor suit losers. One nuance in letting the other hand bid 4N is that it will allow partner to hear about the QS in deciding on slam.

bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Hi Clarksburg (and a top of the morning back atya),

An excellent question, neatly posed, but nevertheless a critical fact omitted. Were you playing IMPs (also including rubber bridge which is concerned with amount of gain) or matchpoints (where frequency of gain reigns)?

This hybrid strategy causes me to lead the deuce of spades while defending at IMPs, since your spade honors are probably more likely to strike effectiveness in order to garner six tricks before declarer takes eight while I would (might) lead the eight of hearts at matchpoints in order to not give a telling overtrick (or contract trick) away (soft spade trick), the procedure to avoid at that sometimes very tedious competition. I would choose the eight of hearts (highest), rather than fourth best to help partner defend later.

Another positive event to happen would be for you to be given the right of passage to graduate from best and brightest mentee (may not be a word) to sophisticated bridge mentor.

However, the percentage difference between the choices may be so negligible as to go unnoticed in real bridge life, but in any event I can claim an intellectual response to an often asked query.

To basically repeat, this may be a decent, well-accepted answer, but likely an irrelevant one.

jim2May 31st, 2015 at 2:09 pm

There’s no point in me addressing the opening lead question, as TOCM ™ would always strike me down. 🙁

Iain ClimieMay 31st, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I have a terrible feeling that you’re going to tell us that LHO was 3-3-5-2, east was 3-3-4-3 with CJ10x and partner had CK9xxx and perhaps DKx. Is this true (what were the opposign hands please?) or is TOCM messing with my mind too?



PS I’d probably have led a small spade regardless.

bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

Everything you say is relevant, allowing me to only add, but not feeling compelled to subtract.

Your leading into an answer (about the negativity of holding the singleton ace of clubs, rather than having that ace being in another suit, eg. AQxx in spades and a low singleton in clubs) causes me to inject some subjectivity into my response, a common and necessary ingredient in slam bidding, whether the bridge purists around want to admit it or not.

Yes, the four club splinter on the hand given is a slight overbid (3 spades being the alternative) and because of that. I would not compound that excess with my 2nd choice of 5 diamonds, but rather only return to 4 spades.

Instead, since Blackwood is essentially bidding slam if not off two key cards (or aces as the case may be) is even overbidding more than is 5 diamonds since, after choosing that bid next partner returns to only 5 spades, I would certainly then be compelled to pass. Of course if I had in addition, either the jack of spades or being able to trade the queen of hearts for the king I would jump to ace asking post haste.

Perhaps one of the most important caveats in bridge, thought, but not necessarily vocalized in learning is that one’s hand is never just good, bad or somewhere in between, but rather only in relation to the previous bids made with it and applying that here is necessary, as mentioned above, because of the lack of a small, but perhaps critical, better overall major suit holding required to make this example a good percentage slam.

Of course, OTOH, Bob Hamman’s definition of a good slam is only, “one that makes”, and if so, and one feels in possession of devine powers any bid goes, as long as that person is always right.

bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

All of us are almost always looking for originality and creativeness, meaning a bridge book from you on leading while suffering from TOCM TM and its ramifications, should immediately be a best seller.

How could anything be more authoritative than coming right from the horse’s mouth? It would be like finding out before the Belmont who is going to win straight from American Pharaoh.

Be sure to include a chapter on how one feels before selecting a lead so that you can trap all psychiatrists and psychologists into buying books.

Run, don’t walk to your author’s desk. The bridge and shrink world nervously waits!

bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, in the latest Bridge World leading poll, conducted many months ago, on Clarksburg’s hand, the Queen of Clubs won hands down (in an honest game, that is what it would, no doubt, require) with the Ace of Clubs a close 2nd choice only losing out by fewer style points.

However, it has now been thoroughly investigated and sadly determined that the actual holder of this hand (someone who did lead the winning queen of clubs) is now residing in a bridge detention cell awaiting sentence for what is deemed to be an anonymous crime, for fear of being sued by the culprits, with the jury to consist of all non-bridge players who will decide guilt in bridge without having any familiarity with it.

Similar to Lord Foster’s tribunal on Terence, no doubt.

ClarksburgMay 31st, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Nice to see the question found some additional interest!
First of all, Mr Wollf the game was Matchpoints.
Iain, the hands were:
Dealer South, EW Vul
North S 10 7 H KJ3 D 10943 C K1096
East (Declarer) S A93 H A65 D Q865 C J85
South (as provided above) S QJ42 H 8742 D J7 C AQ4
West S K865 H Q109 D AK2 C 732

One EW pair in 2NT got the S2 lead and made 2 for a top
One EW Pait bid it to the Optimum 1NT, just making (lead unknown)

Several EWs, presumably in (unknown) two-level contracts were set 1 trick for shared bottom Boards.
Partner and I, bidding very, very conservatively, (to a fault!) passed it out. Both put off by the flatness….a 50% Board.
If I had been South, defending 2NT, my choice would have been H8

Were I to hve been South defending

bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First of all, thanks for both your attentiveness, memory and responsibility to be able to productively fulfill the finishing touches to the various enthusiastic responses from your fans. In other words, well done.

The important conclusions would be a provocative “Very Interesting” from a comedic very old time TV show, (perhaps called Laugh-in), a money prize of an undetermined amount from the proceeds of a gross amount of all money transacted over the last 10 years at Grand Central Station in NYC given by an older radio show of “It Pays To Be Ignorant” conducted weekly on one of the major networks and best, the undeniable and, of course, unarguable fact that the right lead is really, whatever works on that particular hand.

To further complicate matters, reminded by your personal choice of passing this hand out, is that a normally very intelligent person (perhaps 150 IQ) who was not terribly talented with our game, once argued that all pass out hands at duplicate should get a specific exactly average board regardless of whether or not 7NT was cold (unlikely) or whatever was made on that hand at other tables.

It was at that time (perhaps being 15 years young) I decided what a great idea it would be if bridge could be taught in schools, just to counter this guys argument.

However, since, and many years later, I have begun to worry about what horror would befall that class if the teacher assigned to teach it, would agree with him.

Iain ClimieMay 31st, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hi Bobby, Clarksburg, Jim2,

A lesson that plus (or even zero) scores are rarely too bad on part score hands, and you don’t need to stretch for games at pairs in uncontested auctions. If west opened a 12-14 NT, east isn’t obliged to bid 2N for example. I just had a feeling about that club suit, though.



bobby wolffMay 31st, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt that part score battles take priority at matchpoints but games and slams reign at IMPs.

You are so right when the partner of a 12-14 WNTer has a pretty good eleven, even including a 5 card minor suit, but still decides to pass and not invite while playing matchpoints. To take the upward push risks going down at either 2 or 3 NT as decided by partner, making the raise a bad percentage risk.

However a word to the wise, do not open a 12-14 NT with a maximum and a 5 card suit, but instead take the chance with an 11 count plus a 5 card minor. That kind of slight risk will work out much better than the other way around and again in the long run will result in significantly better results. That is, if your partnership has a habit of taking your tricks on both offense and defense.

Yes you should alert 11 1/2-14 as your NT range.

In the long run, do as is suggested, take a plus score and save being bold for IMPs (or rubber bridge).