Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 16th, 2015

As dummy, when if ever am I allowed to speak, either to correct my partner from revoking, or to draw attention to the opponents’ revoke? And what about stopping partner from leading from the wrong hand?

Silent Partner, Winston-Salem, N.C.

You are not allowed to draw your partner’s attention to the opponent’s revoke during the hand, but after the play is complete you may call the director and make your case. During the hand you are allowed to stop partner from revoking or from leading from the wrong hand. And when an infraction is agreed to have taken place, you should call the director – even if no one else at the table is willing or able to do so.

Holding: ♠ Q-J-7-6-4, Q-10, Q-3-2, ♣ K-4-3 would you overcall one spade over one club? Would the vulnerability or form of scoring matter? And would you feel differently if your partner was a passed hand – or indeed, if the opening bid were one heart or one diamond?

Squeaky Clean, Las Vegas, Nevada

My spade spots are not that impressive but the two honors in the suit encourage me to act over one club at any form of scoring or vulnerability, to take up the opponents’ bidding space. Note that this applies to a one-level action only. By contrast I would try never to overcall on a suit this weak at the two-level. And the less space such an overcall consumes, the less attractive it becomes.

As dealer, holding: ♠ A, A-Q-4, Q-9-6-2 ♣ Q-9-7-4-2 what is your opening bid, and how do you plan to continue after a response by your partner in a major?

Cunning Plan, Vancouver, Wash.

I would much prefer to open one club and either raise hearts or bid one no-trump over a one spade response. The rebid at no-trump doesn’t often deliver a singleton as opposed to a small doubleton — but at least my singleton is the ace if partner insists on spades. You may very rarely open hands of this pattern with a four-card diamond suit; but not this one.

I know this question may not be answerable in five lines, but can you please explain the rationale of the negative double. I used to know it but have forgotten. I would appreciate your answer.

Chop-Chop, Honolulu, Hawaii

After opener bids and the next hand overcalls, responder’s double of anything but a natural no-trump call is take-out, suggesting the unbid major(s). The logic is that you are more likely to be short, not long, in the suit the opponents act in. If you do have length in their suit, you tend to pass and await partner’s reopening take-out double. A negative double of one heart suggests exactly four spades – you bid the suit with five. A one-level double shows 6+ HCP, a two-level double shows approximately 8+, a three-level double 10+.

What is the logic behind playing a weak no trump as opposed to a strong no-trump? And how can you tell if a bidder is opening with a weak or a strong no trump?

Torquemada, Anchorage, Alaska

The range of your opening no-trump is more a matter of personal philosophy than anything else. The strong notrump is safer, the weak no-trump more obstructive. In duplicate play in the US normal procedure is to announce the range of your partner’s no-trump call to your opponents each time one is opened.

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


Iain ClimieAugust 30th, 2015 at 9:37 am

Hi Bobby,

Silent Partner’s comments were interesting today as I only realised a few years ago why dummy should not say, for example, “None / no more of those” when an opponent shows out. It may seem to be kindly helping an opponent avoid a revoke, and could perhaps be tolerated if playing in a rubber bridge game with beginners, but it also unfairly alerts a dozy partner who failed to notice that an opponent had shed a club on a spade.

On the subject of ethics, I once pointed out to a partner that he’d revoked and that opponents had overlooked this, taking the slightly masochistic attitude that I didn’t want to win like that. Partner, although originally less than pleased, eventually agreed but do you feel I was being overly moral here? Mind you, such concerns appear fairly minor relative to the latest possible scandal where their own team mates have accused a top Israeli pair of foul play. Any thoughts on this, apart from deep disappointment in either the pair or the rest of the team; it is probably too early to say much.


Iain Climie

ClarksburgAugust 30th, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
In the Blog of Wed Aug 26, in response to Ari, you provided clarification on Gerber and Quantitative. Specifically, while jumps to 4C over 1NT opening, or over 2NT opening or rebid, are Gerber, non-jump 4C over 3NT is not Gerber; over 3NT, for Gerber, one must jump to 5C. Thanks for that! Having always played it that way, I have initiated “discussions” with Partners and other Clubmates.

I am curious about whether, and when, some form of Gerber would be appropriate in “suit-contract” auctions. (in non-expert Club games, Players seem to misinterpret or mess up “4C as always Gerber” with alarming frequency!).
Your Wed response used the term “Super Gerber”. I understand Super Gerber is intended for “space-saving” use in “minor-suit-fit” auctions, and is initiated by a jump to the four level in the cheapest unbid suit. (Presumably the jump is to differentiate Super Gerber from a control-showing call…correct??). All this seems pretty clear and straightforward and not overly susceptible to “accidents”, so I may consider employing it.

Would appreciate any comment / advice about use, by non-experts, of Super Gerber or any other form of Gerber in “suit” auctions.


bobby wolffAugust 30th, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Hi Iain,

You do not spare the horses when it comes to straightforward questions about ethics and other well meaning bridge ventures, which even some may take or perhaps just wonder, whether they were well meaning or rather just self serving.

Playing bridge, like judging living life, is not made up of a single episode of review. Regarding bridge, all any human being can positively do is act in such a way which puts playing bridge in its proper perspective, that of playing it in an honest manner with the primary idea of restoring the status quo when possible and not take advantage of undue technicalities when they occur.

However, because of the sensitive and unusual nature of our partnership (and often team) game, sometimes penalties need to be applied to right wrongs and create necessary discipline.

While most of our duplicate (tournament) laws are written (mostly by the late and great Edgar Kaplan) in a hoped for sensitive way I hope (and think) that they are at least close to quietly accurate in maintaining the above high-intended goal. Adding to that, through the years, have become better worded and have been rewritten to neither, like the three bears porridge, become not too hot nor too cold in getting that important job done.

In any event I would welcome a person adept with words, to currently read them over and see, within reason, whether they could be significantly improved.

In reference to the conundrums possibly created by your “speaking up” about trying to be actively ethical in keeping the opponents
from revoking, while at the same time not trying to advantage your partner, but rather to restore consistent equity to each hand that is played, I, for one, heartily endorse your standard.

However you need to be prepared for those who are used to rather malevolent thoughts which unfortunately (not always) pass through a strangers (to you) mind, resulting in you having to learn to, if you will excuse, deal with them.

All you can do is remain a Johnny Appleseed (in American lore a long ago promoter of agriculture, particularly apples, while touring the country (always with good intentions) and let the devil take the hindmost.

On your very serious subject of “cheating at bridge” my history revolves itself around creating many avenues (but perhaps not enough) to attack and eventually rid our cherished game of as many cheating miscreants as possible, keeping in mind that in determining bridge cheating, complete and sincere effort must be made not to make mistakes in judgment, while at the same time strictly adhere to American jurisprudence in not overstepping.

The result through the years of helping be responsible for perhaps double digit successes with, of course, much help from other concerned and talented players and administrators. While I personally created both the ACBL Recorder system 1985 (which did the hard work necessary) and the Ethics Oversight Committee, also middle 1980’s, (hopefully the august body which is charged with judging the final decision and, if guilty, its punishment) it is indeed a very sensitive and far reaching process.

The current event in process with the Israeli pair and their accusers and then challengers, is still, at least to me, in its (believe it or not) beginning process with still tons worth of water to flow under the dam.

I am currently not still active and believe me a cheating case, from the womb to the tomb, and particularly with so with possible world class players involved, is not to be taken lightly.

So many relatively big names have gone through this process through the last large number of years, almost from the beginning of contract bridge as we know it (from the year 1927, if even noted by the late and great New Yorker magazine back in those earlier days depicting social bridge cheating boldly with intended laughs by a humorist named Webster) and my longevity has at least acquainted me with the pitfalls and of course, the elation of getting it “right” at the end.

My success, whether it is justified or not, has given me a great and proud remembrance of every occasion in which I played a part, and although unbelievably necessary to maintain our game through all these years, nevertheless seems to be full of naysayers who appear, sometimes illusory, of going to extreme thinking and action to cry from the mountaintops regaling the innocence of this person or that pair.

Such is life in the fast lane of a bridge aficionado and to that, I plead guilty.

bobby wolffAugust 30th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Since I just got through writing comments comparable to a tome to Iain, I appreciate your valid concerns about using Gerber type actions while interested in slams.

When 3NT has been the last bid, 4NT is always quantitative, making 5 clubs, Super Gerber. Possible confusing sequence: 1 of a suit (other than clubs) P, 3C’s (strong jump shift), P,
3NT, P, 5C’s is still Super Gerber, so to not ask for aces 4C’s is just natural and then a follow up of 5C’s is merely a minimum.

Therefore, only a 5 club bid can accurately be called Super Gerber. However, yes there are other (in the past no other real agreed meaning, but therefore just lying dormant and ready to go into action by any forward thinking bridge lover who could come up with a best use for) and presto, magico ace asking conventions appeared such as Redwood meaning 4 diamonds or 4 hearts as ace asking when 4 clubs would not be Gerber. Even when diamonds were likely to be the eventual trump suit a bid of 4 diamonds over 3 diamonds would still be Redwood, but when 4 diamonds could be shortness or (who knows, any other useful description, TBD) then a jump to 4 hearts would instead be ask asking.

The advantage is obviously keeping the bidding level as low as possible for either possible abilities to sign off as low as possible or else to have more bidding room available to theoretically have a better chance of eventually finding the right final contract.

The bottom line is as above, making use of previously wasted language available to be able to find out as much information as possible.

However, DO NOT fall victim to no disadvantages since the opponents are also listening and entitled to know everything about the bids made or not made, therefore lionizing their defense, beginning with the opening lead. IOW sometimes a partnership has to give to get, and whether it is worth it or not has to do with the results.

Words to the wise, these so-called improvements work on some hands but with others sometimes fail miserably, however some hopeful bridge lovers would not leave home without them. Don’t become a victim of Gullible’s Travels.

With a Super Gerber 5 clubs, there is not, nor should there be, a number of kings ask.

David WarheitAugust 30th, 2015 at 8:19 pm

I am happy to report that the New Yorker is still alive and kicking; not just the great but the greatest magazine there is, even though it doesn’t have a bridge column.

Iain ClimieAugust 30th, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the terrific response and, on the subject of ethics, I passed your comments on ethics to a British player you praised a few weeks ago on this front, Andrew Robson He was both grateful and flattered; praise from you on this topic counts at least double!

Hi David,

Does your praise for the New Yorker partly arise from Carles Addams’ marvellous cartoons? As well as the family, my favourite is probably a slightly plump middle-aged woman running along a beach and screaming loudly and in horror. In front of her is a huge winged shadow, clearly cast by something which has swooped down and grabbed her husband. The caption, showing a suitably practical streak even at the moment if maximum terror and panic, is “George, George, drop the keys!”



bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Hi Iain & David,

Yes the creator of the Addams family left us with the obvious thought of George, the then being carried away husband, “Well my wife at the least, loves me right behind her feelings about needing our vehicle”. Ever the optimist!