Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 10th, 2016

When I held ♠ Q-10-7-2, A-6-4-2, Q-J-7-3, ♣ J, I heard my partner open two clubs and I could not think of any call to make but two diamonds; did I have a sensible alternative action? When my partner bid two no-trumps, how was I supposed to advance this hand now, if three clubs would be natural?

Hypothetical, Galveston, Texas

I agree with the two diamond call initially, but after your partner shows a balanced 22-24 HCP, you should continue with a Stayman three club bid — just as you would do over an opening two no-trump. If partner shows a major, you want to invite to slam (a call of five clubs would be a splinter raise of partner’s major). If your partner bids three diamonds, a quantitative four no-trump bid looks about right, or even five no-trumps, asking partner to bid suits up the line at the six level.

Will you please confirm to me whether the Flannery convention is still being used at this time or whether its time has come and gone? I teach bridge at my local center, but I did not know how to answer this question.

Market Gardener, Kenosha, Wis.

A Flannery two diamond opener shows five hearts and four spades with fewer than 16 HCP. That allows a response of one spade to one heart to show five, and a response of one no-trump may conceal four spades. After this opening, one can play either two notrump or three clubs as an enquiry about pattern and range. I still play Flannery myself but only say, 10-15 percent of experts do; and the number is in decline, I believe. The rest tend to play a weak two diamonds.

Are there any revolutionary alterations to standard bidding you would recommend? If not, I would like to propose a new bid, “Undouble”! I play at Little Rock Duplicate and three times this week my partner doubled a contract that the opponents made! We came in second on both occasions, but would have won without the doubled contracts.

Heavens to Betsy, Greenville, S.C.

I like it. Of course we could expand the theme; some people would like to have both a penalty double and a take-out double available to them. And some people I know can make that distinction in very subtle fashion, even without having any obviously legal way to do so…

I am wondering whether you have published any articles describing your experience with the Aces. What would be my best bet to obtain a history of the whole process of the formation and success of the Aces?

Record Keeper, Springfield, Mass.

There is a book “Play Bridge with the Aces” by Ira Corn, and both Bob Hamman’s autobiography (“At the table”) and my own “The Lone Wolff” are accurate contemporary records of how the team was formed and how it evolved.

What would you have done with the South and North cards on this pairs deal? In first seat, East opened two spades. South held: ♠ K-J-9-7-6, 4, A-7-2, ♣ A-K-10-2. If South passes, North will have to decide whether to balance holding ♠ —, K-9-7-6, Q-J-4-3, ♣ Q-J-7-6-4. Any thoughts on the best calls for both players?

Janus, Taos, N.M.

Overcalling over two spades with the South cards is very awkward (the only call that makes sense is to bid two no-trump, and I might do it, or pass smoothly hoping partner can reopen.) If you do pass, the contract might just be two spades, undoubled. However, many Norths would reopen with a double, (points, schmoints). South will then have to choose between passing, bidding no-trump, or heading towards a club game or slam. Sometimes the hands are just too hard.

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


slarApril 24th, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Regarding Hypothetical, if he is not inclined to treat 3C as Stayman then he certainly wouldn’t be inclined to treat 5C as a splinter. (While I prefer to treat all second round new jump suits as splinters, my advancing partners aren’t inclined to concur.) That means if I want to invite slam, I’ll just have to hold my nose and bid 5. (Forget the expression, the five-level belongs to me.)

Anyway, playing with someone with limited bidding methods, I would treat that 4-4-4-1 hand as balanced and bid 2NT instead of 2D. I can raise three suits and 3NT. In the rare event that partner has clubs, I at least have something for him.

bobby wolffApril 24th, 2016 at 11:52 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt when one is playing with either a beginning partner or one who cares, but is very undisciplined and inexperienced to boot, the task of doing well is never easy.

Yes, some accommodation may help, that is, bidding naturally (the suit bid is always the suit held in length) and also what you suggest to bid (2NT) over a strong 2 club opening holding the 4-4-4-1 hand described.

However, good results are usually few and far between, but the better news is that both partners will get experience playing tough contracts which likely will gain in the long run in how to play the dummy as declarer.

In truth, there is no sense in really discussing such antics on this site, since new players tuning in will (may) get the wrong impression in what is to be learned.

Good luck and may your fortunes in future partners take a turn upward. As you know contract bridge is a sensational game and worth learning to play, at least as well as one can, considering he has only limited time to devote.

Peter PengApril 25th, 2016 at 1:25 am

hi Mr. Wolff

I have a copy of the Ira Corn book, very worn, and where he describes a hand played beautifully by Arnold Palmer,

I had Arnold Palmer autograph that page!

Is there anyone that could be interested in this….

Best always


ClarksburgApril 25th, 2016 at 3:10 am

So…is this a Bridge item or a Golf item?
If Golf, maybe the Golf Hall of fame? Or perhaps at Arnie’s golf course?

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Hi Peter & Clarksburg,

Through the years there have been many celebrities who have loved to play bridge, George Burns, Burt Lancaster, Chico Marx, Meredith Baxter, Phyllis Diller, Omar Sharif, George Kaufman, Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens and many sports stars, including golfers who gathered in the locker rooms, playing bridge during rain delays, and earlier in the golf week before the weekly tour event got serious, just to mention only a few who had become fascinated and thus addicted, to our great game.

For whatever psychological reason, many “stars” in other fields loved to let it be known, that their interests included a love for bridge as their favorite “other” game.

What these endorsements are worth I do not know, but I do remember the number of show business celebrities who gathered at Ira Corn’s large house in Dallas and for several years, especially during road show engagements while passing through. No doubt their enthusiasm for our game was noteworthy and in some cases told us, that the bridge they played with us was the highlight of their week.

Peter, I am sorry for not being of more help, but like many things in the USA, you may need to do some research from autograph collectors in order to satisfy your curiosity.