Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 14th, 2016

I used to play that the direct cuebid of the suit opened on my right was stronger than a take-out double. I have been told that this is oldfashioned and that such hands can be handled by doubling, then bidding on over a minimum response. Should I learn the Michaels Cuebid, or is there any better possible use for this call?

Mickey Fingers, Albuquerque, N.M.

I recommend the Michaels Cuebid, since you get to describe a potentially awkward hand in one go. (Specifically, the cuebid of a minor-suit opener shows a twosuiter with both majors with 5-5 pattern, the cuebid of a major shows the other major and an unspecified minor). As against that, the call is often misused on hands with weak suits, and is not without risk. For details of how the call works click here.

At duplicate if a board arrives at the table with one or more cards face up, so that an opponent sees the cards what is the tournament director supposed to do?

Turning Turtle, Tupelo, Miss.

The director should instruct the players to continue play, after establishing away from the table with each player who saw what. Unless one side feels that they have been damaged, the result should stand. If play cannot sensibly continue, both sides will get an average plus on the board. Don’t penalize the offenders unless it is a repeat offense.

I watched two experts try to deal with the following hand after opening one spade and hearing a one no-trump response. With ♠ K-Q-10-8-6-2, A-10-9, A-K-8-2, ♣ — one expert forced to game with a call of three diamonds, while one bid two diamonds. Each went down in five diamonds, facing a nine-count with a doubleton spade and four diamonds. Since four spades would have made, don’t you think a rebid of three spades makes sense here?

Milli Vanilli, Summit, N.J.

I admit it could work and I might do so today, but equally, facing short spades it might prove disastrous. With a good 6-4 one tends not to rebid the major unless it is the only choice. I have a sneaking admiration for a two diamond call – perhaps planning to rebid three spades if raised, intending to remove a three no-trump rebid to four hearts. There is no good answer, though, I admit.

I recently read a couple of columns which I felt were way above the average bridge player’s ability. I still enjoy reading bridge columns but I wonder if the target should be to educate or to improve the average bridge player.

Over the top, Sunny Isles, Fla.

Thank you for your comment. I tend to work on deals in my files or from the tournaments last year that have taken my fancy as a player or spectator. So I am somewhat limited by what I have to work with. My target is normally to start off easily on Monday, then work up to a tougher problem on Saturday. But sometimes I get carried away, I admit!

In a recent column you mentioned that at no-trump on the first trick you can agree to lead the king to suggest a strong holding, allowing partner to unblock the jack or queen. I thought the ACE requested the unblock, whereas the king would be from the top of a weaker sequence.

Cough it Up, Columbia, S.C.

There are two distinct schools of thought here. One can either agree to play ace and queen for attitude, king for count or unblock; or to play king for attitude and ace and queen for unblock. Both agreements are equally sound — all that matters is that you do one or the other (having no unblock card is unsound) and that you know what your partner does!

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


ClarksburgFebruary 28th, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Hello Mr Wolff,
Hope you are having a good Sadie Hawkins Day with many highly-numerate girls clambouring to be your Bridge Partner!

Today I’m looking for some guidance on approaches to “asking” for Key Cards. The context is an Intermediate Pair looking for some incremental improvement over employing 1430 in every case, but without introducing too much accident-prone complexity.
Assuming major suit as trump, is it worth using 1430 when the strong hand asks, but 0314 when the weaker hand asks (given of course a clear agreement about which is the strong hand in auction context).
Also, assuming a minor suit as trump, to avoid the complexity of such things as Minorwood etc, does it make any sense to revert to straight Blackwood, particularly for Clubs?
Your assessment of the above, or better still your suggestions would be most appreciated.

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 28th, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I always enjoy reading your comments .. but had to offer my two cents re the above. Sadie Hawkins Day or not .. “Mr. Wolff” is spoken for. I am probably the luckiest female bridge player in the world for the last twelve years to be facing The Lone Wolff twice a week at the duplicates and local sectionals and regionals. We are enjoying the luxuries of aging on the home front and don’t do much traveling anymore. It has been an incredible learning experience. Great for the brain .. but bad for the ego!



bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

After turning to see what’s going on with the column site, I saw your back and forth with Judy regarding Sadie Hawkins Day.

Oh yes, Daisy Mae, if I remember correctly, was L’ll Abners girlfriend which was read often by me. Al Capp was one of the forward thinking cartoonists, whose thoughts helped make America great, back when our country really was such. Among his collections was Fearless Fosdick, the consummate detective, the Schmoo who loved dying so others could enjoy eating him, making him the perfect animal and other spoofs including Joe Bxllpkk?? who traveled around with a black cloud over him, signifying gloom. Also was Lena the Hyena a Capp production? If so, Jim2 might have a mixed pair partner when next he attends the Slush Regional.

Does Sadie Hawkins day suggest that girls ask boys for dates instead of the other way around? If so, and practiced, I would probably have had many lonely nights. Oh well!!!

Lets get back to bridge. The advantage given by emphasizing keeping it as low as possible in order to stop in clubs and having different type hands change that order might work well on paper, at least once every 10,000 hands, but, as you suggested, the disadvantage of indecision and failure to remember offsets that advantage to the tune of about 20 or 30 to 1.

Just think that if all efforts would go to taking tricks, reinforcing frequent partnership understandings of conventions which average coming up over once per session, when each partner either tends to become aggressive or conservative (possibly with different vulnerabilities or even different order of seats or still against what quality of opponents) that partnership will gain practical knowledge instead of theoretical.

Keep it simple, bid a lot, tend to get off to aggressive leads, and never be an easy opponent all work much better than unimportant understandings which may make someone feel better and more enlightened, but in effect, only takes energy away.

I happen to think, unlike other so-called authorities that KCB is very overrated, since the king of trumps is not as valuable as an ace (at least in many cases) but even more importantly the opening lead against a key card opponent’s slam is much easier to make (being able to lead a trump from the jack when the opening leader knows that his opponents have the AKQ between them and also for some sacrifice decisions during the bidding.

CAUTION: Most very good players do not agree with me, so proceed carefully before discarding that beloved convention. I only know I lost one world championship because my teammates were playing KCB, consequently that emotional experience may also be affecting my judgment.

Sorry for my lack of help, but better to remain quiet and thought a fool than give advice and remove all doubt.

ClarksburgFebruary 28th, 2016 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for the helpful general comments.
Back to Li’l Abner:
Although it is not well known, in the mid-40s General Bullmoo$$e put together what was to be the first pro Bridge team. Mammy and Pappy Yokum were paired to play all natural methods; the youthful Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae were to play more scientific methods. When it was suggested that perhaps the Team should learn how to cheat, these simple country folk were uncomfortable, and Fearless Fosdick put his foot down. The Team never did make it into competition.

bobbywolffFebruary 29th, 2016 at 12:43 am

And again speaking about Fearless Fosdick, when someone mentioned that life too often was run by bad guys, causing ill feelings, FF suggested standing at the corner of 42nd and Broadway (Times Square) and using his Tommy gun (then a nickname for a machine gun) to mow all the pedestrians present down, claiming he was only trying to serve justice and do away with as many bad guys as he could.

It is sometimes strange what some of us remember.

I don’t remember that bridge match being suggested, but Al Capp probably was a bridge player since at that time in the USA alone there was estimated to be almost 40 million people who played bridge, down to only about 8 million now.

ClarksburgFebruary 29th, 2016 at 12:55 am

“…It is sometimes strange what some of us remember…”

Or, perhaps some of us just make thing up, with tongue in cheek, linking to later real events in the real world. 🙂

jim2February 29th, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Sorry not to be chiming in, but I am at TVIW in Chattanooga right now and generally off-net.