Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 24th, 2016

How would you respond to a takeout double of one diamond, holding ♠ 10-3, 9-6-4, 10-9-7-6-3, ♣ Q-J-7? Is there anything to be said for responding one no-trump as opposed to bidding one heart – or should you bid your better three-card suit and respond two clubs?

Cleft Stick, Pasadena, Calif.

Do not bid one notrump – that shows 7-10 or so. The received wisdom here is to bid your cheapest three-card suit, so bid one heart – and hope it keeps fine for you!

My ladies in our social rubber bridge game have taken to bringing and using pre-prepared aids to remind themselves of the meaning of the conventional calls. I can’t say I like this – I think memory is part of the game. But if they do not share the answers from them with anyone else, is this legal?

Forget-me-not, Reno, Nev.

I cannot say that I am an expert on this aspect of the laws, but I believe that you are not allowed to bring any manual aids to the table. That includes writing anything down or reading other people’s written material, or even your own convention card. But you may look at your opponents’ convention card of course.

I was in second seat with ♠ K-10, A-Q-6-4-3-2, 10, ♣ A-Q-7-4. I opened one heart and heard the next hand overcall one spade. My partner made a negative double, and I was stuck. Should I rebid in hearts or clubs – and at what level?

Dry as a Bone, Marietta, Ga.

A jump to three clubs shows extras but is non-forcing, and must therefore be a reasonable choice, while a call of two clubs somewhat understates the hand’s assets. Meanwhile a rebid of two hearts would be pusillanimous, and a jump to three hearts might lose clubs altogether. I vote for the call of three clubs, hoping to get back to hearts facing any extra values opposite.

Do you have any suggestions for where to keep up to date with current bridge events? I find the ACBL website does not have that much in the way of gossip and current affairs.

Cleft Stick, Pasadena, Calif.

I can recommend two sites: the one you’re reading now, which includes the personal blogs of several experts, and Bridge Winners, which is an excellent resource for news and views.

Can you suggest what continuations are appropriate after asking for aces using regular Blackwood? In particular how should one ask for kings?

Fulbright Scholar, Kansas City, Mo.

The most sensible grand slam tries to make are to use a five no-trump continuation as asking for specific kings. New non-natural suits ask for third round control in that suit. There are more options after Roman Keycard Blackwood, but of course more options bring more complexity.

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2016 at 1:06 am

Hi Bobby,

On forget-me-not’s comment, I’ve often seen beginners coming from classes into simple systems relaxed pairs sessions trying to refer to notes. I don’t think it helps – players wind up trying to play by mantra instead of developing a good feel for the game. Terence Reese could be a bit of a “GOF” on occasion, but his comment that a player who said “I had x number of points so I had to bid such and such ” was beyond hope did contain an element of truth.



slarFebruary 8th, 2016 at 2:16 am

I had a crazy one last week. Playing a Precision pair, I had Qxx/T9/xxx/AQxxx. My LHO opened 1C (strong) and the bidding pinged back and forth (alert, alert, alert…) until hitting 3C which I doubled. It was passed back to RHO who redoubled and they played it there. Partner dutifully led his club and RHO revealed his expected 2=4=3=4 distribution with Kxxx in clubs. I took my Q and decided that drawing trump would lead to me losing control somewhere so I decided to look for 4 club tricks. I led a heart and declarer continued twice. I ruffed the third round but my hopes were dashed when it was overruffed by declarer. Partner turned out to be 5=5=2=1 and only scored his SK so we slumped back to our teammates with -840 and -14 IMPs. (Our captain was so chagrined that I never found out what happened there.)

Unfortunately I don’t recall where the high cards were but I was wondering if you could take a stab at my questions anyway.
1. What is the minimum holding you need to make a lead-directing double at each level?
2. Was it reasonable for me to look for four trump tricks as opposed to drawing trumps?
3. Double dummy I would discard a diamond on the third round of hearts. Is there any reasonable way for me to know that I need to make this play at the table?

In other words, was I wrong or just unlucky? I’m not sure what my lesson is here.

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2016 at 4:51 am

Hi Iain,

No doubt, when all levels of players compete in the same room, let alone vie in the same tournament, the random nature of the game comes into play, hence more scrutiny.

There is IMO a huge advantage to be able to compete with very good players, particularly when one is attracted to the positive features of the game and wants to improve as quickly as he or she can.

However and no doubt, there are relatively strict ethics required such as no unauthorized information to be passed between partners other than the card played or the bid made.

The above advantage does at times, get lost in the shuffle (excuse my word use) when one person’s intention is to play seriously (at least to me, the way to go) but another treating it only like a social occasion.

No props allowed including memory enhancers and although the experienced players should indeed allow some slack for well meaning players who are just learning, still there will need to be at least some patience shown by both sides along the way.

Yes I agree and the term “points? schmoints” has much to recommend it. As you know and put to good use, aces, kings and trump support are to be upgraded while queens, jacks and shortness in partner’s first bid suit should depreciate the value.

As always, thanks for your post and even more so, your love for the game.

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2016 at 5:00 am

Hi Slar,

As you might suspect, in order for me to attempt to be accurate in assessing your double of 3 clubs I would have to know more about your hand.

It is indeed worth a gamble in order to get partner to lead the right suit, so in spite of the risk of what happened to you, my guess it was worth it. Also it seems right to lead the 3rd club so that the wily declarer will have to use2 of his trumps on that trick and prevent him from scoring an extra trump trick by making them separately.

I would have to know more about the bidding, the dummy and the “table action” from the opponents to be able to answer what you would first discard, but since your 3 diamonds were all very small while your hearts at least provided the 10 and the 9 it might have been wise to discard what you are implying was the right one for your side, a diamond.

Anyway good luck and just chalk what happened up to bad luck. To win as much as you would like you need to be aggressive (as you were) but the more you play the more you will start to understand better what to do in both the play, defense and of course, how to please partner with your bidding.

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2016 at 9:28 am

Hi Slar,

At least your partner led the suit; I once shot myself in the foot holding (amongst other assets) SAK1096 and a minimum opening bid. RHO opened 1NT (12-14), I bid 2D (showing a single suited major hand), LHO bid 2H natural and RHO bid 2S (again natural, curious). I doubled and all passed. Instead of leading a top trump for a look, I tried something indeterminate and dummy had SQJx opposite declarer’s 87xxx. Declarer gleefully managed to take 3 ruffs on table using 4 winners in hand as entries before exiting with a losing heart. Partner won but declarer and I were now down to 5 trumps each. Partner led a plain card ruffed with the 8 and over-ruffed by myself but I had to concede trick 13 to the S7! Message to self – lead a trump, here – you asked for that!



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