Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 8th, 2015

Having opened one diamond in a Swiss Teams event with ♠ K-10, 7-2, A-K-Q-9-4, ♣ A-Q-7-4, I heard my partner respond two clubs and had no idea what to do next. I chose to rebid two hearts rather than jump to four clubs, to discourage a heart lead if three notrump became the final contract. Was I simply being too clever for my own good?

Second Degree, Bay City, Mich.

I would have bid four clubs at my second turn – there are plenty of major-suit losers, but once partner showed a decent hand I can’t believe three notrump is our last making game. There are hands where bidding a weak suit as a semi-psychic maneuver can pay dividends. But the problem may be that partner will never believe you have this much support for clubs.

Are honors counted if four or five of the top honors are held in an opponent’s hand? This happened in our game when the final contract was four spades. Declarer had six spades to the ace and his partner had a doubleton, but one of the opponents had K-Q-J-10 of spades. Who gets the honors?

Topped and Tailed, White Plains, N.Y.

Yes, honors are counted in the opponents’ hands. Once on an unopposed auction where my partner had opened one heart and had raised himself to three hearts after I had given delayed preference, I conceded 900 (a penalty of 800 and one opponent had 100 honors to six [!] hearts). Worse, this was at Rubber Bridge. That was a supposedly fun experience I’ll try never to do again.

In a recent column of yours on West’s opening lead of the spade king against no-trump, East followed with the four, top of a doubleton, to give count. This worked well here, but in general is it best to give count or to give attitude in cases like this?

Frere Jacques, Newark, Calif.

Against no-trump I advocate keeping the king as a strong holding requesting unblock, or failing that, count. Then the lead of an ace or queen receives an attitude signal. By partnership agreement one can invert this: The lead of an ace or queen respectively requests the unblock of the queen or jack, while the king receives an attitude signal. Either way works – as indeed do Rusinow leads (second highest lead from touching honors). But make sure you and your partner agree.

I am looking for the best book to teach me Bridge rules and strategies. I am a beginner with no experience in the game of Bridge.

Christmas Tree, Muncie, Ind.

I’m assuming you have mastered the rules via something like Five Weeks to Winning Bridge by Alfred Sheinwold. 50 years old and still the best. For the improving player check out Eddie Kantar Teaches Modern Bridge Defense and Eddie Kantar Teaches Topics in Declarer Play at bridge, the latter of which can also be purchased as an interactive CD-ROM. Anything at the basic end by Kantar will be a good read, well written and funny – so I can guarantee you will enjoy it.

If you have a blind guess for the queen of trumps, should you play for the queen to lie over the jack?

Ruling Class, Fayetteville, N.C.

That is an old wives tale. If you REALLY can’t decide which way to play trumps, finesse into the hand of the opponent you like more – no one likes to lose a finesse to an enemy! This is known as Bentley’s Law. More seriously, if your LHO had a non-obvious lead, when he might have led a trump from two or three small cards, play him for the trump queen. Equally, if one hand overcalls or bids to show shape, perhaps play his partner for trump length.

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


Patrick CheuNovember 22nd, 2015 at 9:26 am

Hi Bobby,Is this hand worth an upgrade opposite a weak no trump? N A10 K84 KJ952 AK4..1N(12-14)-4N-pass out..S KJ4 AQJ6 Q87 953? regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffNovember 22nd, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Hi Patrick,

I’ll answer your worthwhile question with one of my own.

What if the weak NTer held the jack of clubs instead of the queen of diamonds?

If so, would not the holders of this hand be more likely to go down in 4NT than the ones in your example of making 6NT (about 90+%, with only A10xx offside not A10xxx, likely being
the reason)?

What does it all mean? My off hand answer to that would be that with the actual hand, 13 HCP’s he might accept because of the two jacks being supported by higher honors and an isolated queen is in practice more than one point better than normally an isolated jack.

However, my above gobbledygook is just sayin.., you are on center stage, go make the best of it…just be RIGHT!

Sometimes even bridge World Championships are determined by doing the right thing, and other times only club games are, but whatever the venue, keep your eyes and ears open and that invaluable experience will make you wiser.

In America, Charles Goren used his superior work ethic and dedication to promote our great game to the public, after Ely Culbertson had gotten it started. Do not blame them, not that you have, for using a little salesmanship to keep it simple and recommend a flawed mechanism.

It is for those who followed them to reeducate the few interested would be experts in separating the sheep from the goats.

Both honor tricks (Ely) and point count (Charley) are only rough guides. BTW, on your subject hand, perhaps two way Stayman would eventually get the NTer to appreciate his queen of diamonds once the responder showed his long suit, together with being interested in slam.

Does that do the job? No it doesn’t, but it merely improves that partnerships prospect.

Patrick CheuNovember 22nd, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts especially’what does it all mean…’,I did pass 4N cos the 4333 shape and xxx in clubs +13,but forgot to look at the positives ..look forward to the next hand!Best regards~Patrick.

Bob JohnsonNovember 22nd, 2015 at 7:43 pm

“Five Weeks to Winning Bridge” is still an excellent book”. I just hope we aren’t exposing our age.