Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Holding: ♠ K-10-4, K-10-6, J-3-2, ♣ A-Q-9-2 you see your partner open one club and the next hand bid one heart. Should you head directly to the most likely goal of three no-trump or take a slow route by cuebidding and finding out what your partner has?

Roger Rabbit, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Since you don’t have a guaranteed second heart stop, maybe the right route here is to cuebid two hearts, showing a club raise, then follow up a with a call of three no-trump. This indicates a little more doubt as to the final contract, plus it shows your support. This way you get partner involved in the final decision.

Could you clarify a point of rubber bridge scoring? Is there a one hundred point bonus for a part score, or is it 50 points for the part score? Would you kindly verify the correct ruling?

Number Cruncher, Bristol, Va.

There are two issues here — let us make sure we are not confusing apples and oranges. Playing Duplicate, the bonus for a part score is 50 points. At Chicago or in an unfinished rubber the partscore on the last hand is worth 100 rather 50 points. There is no partscore bonus in a finished rubber.

I always look for your column for the good quotes, even though I don’t know how to play bridge. I liked “In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures, life may perfect be.” But it’s Ben Jonson, not Johnson.

By the Book, Springfield, Mass.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Even three ‘Hail Mary’s won’t suffice. Could I blame my editors? Probably not! (Note: Online, the column in question has been changed.) I’m a bridge writer, not an intellectual. But I’m shocked (seriously) that more people have picked up on this than my typical bridge error…

I have seen the suggestion that there has been a change at the top in US bridge in terms of younger players rising up the tree. Is that true – or is there some small indication to that effect?

Kid Stuff, Orlando, Fla.

The US had a team of world-beating juniors 12 years ago, most of whom are in their late 30’s now. Many of them have starred in recent US International teams, so I’d say the future is brighter now than it has been for a decade or two. Whether it will translate into world titles remains to be seen.

Facing a strong no-trump, if you hold: ♠ 10-3, J-9-2, ♣ K-J-9-2, ♣ K-10-8-3, would you pass, invite game, or bid three no-trump?

Range Finder, Carmel, Calif.

One thing I would not want to do is to invite game via Stayman, which would give the opponents far too much information on our way to our final contract. If I had a simple raise to two no-trump available as invitational, I might make it at teams, if vulnerable. But at pairs I pass and hope to go plus.

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


ClarksburgAugust 9th, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Good morning Mr Wolff. Here’s yet another Sunday morning lead off question.
RHO opens 1Spade.
You are in second seat, VUL against Not Vul, Matchpoint Pairs.
You hold:
S void
H 43
D QJ1065
C AK10842
Your at-the-Table opponents are competent but not as strong as is your partnership.
Do you make a two-suiter call, e.g. UNT? Overcall with Two Clubs? Something else?

Now suppose the top of your Diamond holding weakens to 109876. Any change in your call?

Finally, suppose with that same weakened five-card Diamond holding, your Club suit is now seven-long, i,e,your hand is:
S void
H 4
D 109876
C AK108432
What now?

Why am I asking these question? Well, in a recent Hand-of-the-Week pre-game Seminar at our Clab, a very strong and accomplished player indicated that the two-suiter call is appropriate even for the last example, i.e.0 1 5 7 shape and Clubs much stronger than Diamonds.
Would really appreciate your comments on evaluation, judgement, and tactics.

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

If you’ll forgive my less than top-flight thought, you can combine approaches e.g. with the 0157 case you mention, you aren’t going to sell out cheaply so bidding 2C then (say) 4NT after a spade raise on your left and 4S on the right. Probably find pard with 5620 or something equally horrible, of course! Bobby’s views will be illuminating, especially on whether the spade void is good news for bidding high or should suggest caution given partner’s possible trump stack. Interesting problem although terribly likely to be judged purely by what would have happened at the table.



bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Hi Clarksburg (with Iain nearby),

I just was finishing up a long discussion with you on the various strategies involved and poof! my computer went off the rails and trashed the whole thing. I will start again soon, but need a break, but before I do, there is one extremely necessary tidbit to live by.

When making a 2 suited bid, always (or almost and if not equal length) have more of the lower ranking suit since with the same number 3-3 or fewer partner should always prefer to TO into the lower ranking suit, If one is 6-5 instead of 5-6 then a simple overcall will work better in the long run expecting to suggest the other suit if the level gets higher, but still within reasonable range to compete.

That discussion is critical to discuss with one’s regular partner so that he (or she) will not be inclined with equal length to bid his strongest suit. The above is simply a word to the wise.

I’ll offer more later, and apologize for the delay, but I am now seething at what I am looking directly at, my computer.

bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Hi again Clarksburg (and hopefully Iain),

Since I have felt for most of my adult life at bridge that the difference between the top level is basically psychological strategies, I then need to give an example;

When one has a two suiter and makes only an overcall in his longest suit, gets supported in a competitive auction and then rebids his suit at perhaps the five level, he has a major advantage over another fine partnership who has shown both suits earlier with one bid.

Sure all very good players will fear doubling because of that possibility (depending on his specific hand) but still all top players understand that percentages rule, but some players are more difficult to play against because of their planned strategies.

Many very good players will contradict at least some of what is now being said by exclaiming, “What about including partner from the beginning and allowing him to be better placed, if an opponent makes a premature jump?”

All I can do is agree, but what if, instead the auction just flows wherein none of the other three players are clued in. Yes, sometimes at the death, partner will be less well placed to make an informed decision, but my contention is that those situations do not come up as often as a more or less straightforward one at a time competitive fray.

With regard to the 5-7 hand with very good clubs, merely overcall clubs and then, as Iain has suggested follow up by bidding NT over the last high level competition, suggesting length in diamonds, but basically inviting partner to return to clubs unless his preference for diamonds is worth making that decision.

One more likely worthwhile tidbit, before closing. While holding something like:
s. x, AKQ10x, d. x, c. A109xxx and hearing RHO open 1 spade I would suggest overcalling a simple 2 hearts and then assuming it comes back to you at 4 spades (hardly an unlikely occurrence) rather than merely now venture 5 clubs (I realize the vulnerability is always important, but not to what is to follow) first venture 4NT which I prefer showing a longer minor and alert partner to do something intelligent knowing that. For example holding:
s. xx, H. xxx, d. xxxxx, c. Kxx he would have an easy 5 club bid, expecting that to be your other suit, but if not, it would even probably be better offensively. Of course, if instead our hero (the original overcaller) bids 5 clubs straight out then normal preferences would, of course, apply.

Just making use of possible opportunities to use otherwise meaningless bids to show vastly different holdings, which at times can be match savers.

That’s all I have for now, but soon I may reopen your very important subject. Since I finally finished I probably will forgive my computer, but perhaps you will not, since you (and/or Iain) may not agree with my views.

However, for the next period of time, try to at least mentally record the competitive auctions to which you engage and often (I think) the winner is the player that has a surprise for their opponents. Of course, also record when 2nd suits are kept a mystery how that might also hurt partner’s judgment causing chaos for that partnership.

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the useful insights here. My fear would be TOCM with the 0157 hand would find pard with DAKJx(x) and a trump trick when he’d hit 4S possibly before I had the chance to bid 4N. If I bid 2N, he’d have DAxx and Q(x) in C so would pick diamonds. These would break 4-1 and control would be lost at T1!

Can I ask Clarksburg what the actual hand was, assuming the debate was based on reality rather than possibilities?


ClarksburgAugust 10th, 2015 at 12:40 am

Here are the hands.

West (RHO)

North (you)


South (Partner) (Iain, your 5620 guess was pretty close!)

Not surprisingly, in a Club game, no EWs got to 3NT. One EW Pair declared 4S. Most contracts were in Hearts. Typical mediocre Club-game defence let the 4S through, and also let through 10 and 11 tricks in severl of the plays of NS Heart contracts.

bobby wolffAugust 10th, 2015 at 9:48 am

Hi Iain & Clarksburg,

When North soon realizes partner’s hand was 4-7-2-0 he may be horrified by the terrible misfit opposite 0-2-5-6. However if North merely overcalls 2 clubs and East of course raises spades, South would (should) chirp at least 3 hearts over 2 spades or 4 hearts over 3 spades and if both opponents then double (one only is enough) but lead their suit, spades, then declarer after being able to trump 2 spades in dummy and throw both losing diamonds on the ace king of clubs, will score it up.

Sure it turns out to be a woulda, coulda, shoulda bidding contest, but even high-level bridge often lends itself to that, and this hand is probably no exception.

To the victor go the spoils and however that is legally attained, the method should not go unnoticed.

Iain ClimieAugust 10th, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Can I just thank Clarksburg for an interesting problem with lots of FUN potential – if you’ll excuse my warped humour, it stands for players being able to Foul Up Nicely, Noisily, Nastily etc. Having Fun, Pard? could be seen as provocative.


bobby wolffAugust 10th, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Hi Iain,

It has always been my opinion (at least in the last 30+ years) that at a certain finite time in life (varying greatly for many) a potential excellent player stops learning about the technical part of the game and starts featuring the psychological (poker) part.

With it, if that person is dedicated to the game, his potential starts heading North with an alarming pace. He begins outguessing his opponents (they usually wind up doing what he wants), his antenna leaps to reality instead of guesswork, and very simply put, he reaches within sight of becoming World Class.

Without this assent he will either lessen or stop his enthusiasm, and, in effect never be heard from again. At least to me, this is what makes high-level bridge, far and away the greatest mind game ever, but of course, I have not had enough contact nor knowledge about chess to prove what I say.

Iain ClimieAugust 10th, 2015 at 10:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

I used to play chess to UK county (so US State?) first team level. It has a certain Asperger’s syndrome purity but give me bridge for imagination, company, variety and even bad luck stories. Someone said about chess that it is too serious to be a game and too much of a game to be taken seriously. Bridge, even at a purely social level, has advantages over such a straight laced alternative – except playing ina bar of course.



Iain ClimieAugust 10th, 2015 at 11:00 pm

… In the bar, typo!

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Hi Iain,

But never forget (and no doubt, you haven’t), by winning in chess one doesn’t have to share glory with one’s undeserving partner (some claim always the case), and who needs a partner (especially a male one) to share the attention of one’s fair damsel, especially if she feels generous, or sometimes even vanquished.

Oh to be young (most important and also unattached yes, morally not to be denied), however while instead being old, and attached, definitely has its rewards and never to be taken either lightly or especially for granted.