Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Recently, I have observed many top pairs using a no-trump range of 14-16. Is this done to increase the frequency of opening with that call, or to allow other opening bids to be adjusted down by one point? And do you have an opinion on this lower range?

Weight Lifter, Phoenix, Ariz.

Using the lower range lets you open all balanced 11 counts if you wish. The logic behind having a three-point range for the no-trump opening (be it 12-14, 15-17, or 16-18) is that responder can clarify if opener has a minimum or maximum by inviting. It makes sense for your opening and no-trump rebids each to be three points wide. Of course opening these 11-counts requires you to be more disciplined in inviting or driving to game. Easier said than done.

When looking for an old Aces column I found this source of back hands online: It appears it is two weeks behind, right? In other words, one cannot retrieve a current deal for a fortnight?

Little Engine, Atlanta, Ga.

Yes; the idea is that the column can only be read timeously in the paper not online. This is a very generous service offered by the syndicator – and I hope it is a way to read the column outside the United States.

I was at favorable vulnerability playing teams when my LHO opened two hearts. I held: ♠ J-4, K-Q-7-4, A-9, ♣ A-Q-74-2. What would you consider the relative merits of balancing with three clubs or two no-trump, or of doubling?

Aces and Spaces, Massapequa, N.Y.

Bidding two no-trump to show a strong no-trump is the mainstream action, and I might do it even if there are many ways that the call could rebound on you. the problem with a call of three clubs is that partner isn’t likely to head for three no-trump. Since doubling is impossible, I think passing at this specific vulnerability might be our best chance to go plus. If we make three no-trump, won’t we collect 300 or so?

I had an opening lead problem against one no-trump, passed out. We were vulnerable, our opponents not, and I held ♠ K-Q- 3-2, Q-10-8-3, -9 4 ♣ 9 6 5. As a couple of subsidiary questions, would you lead differently if LHO had raised to three no-trump? And does the presence or absence of the heart eight affect your lead.

Robber Baron, East Brunswick, N.J.

The heart eight does not affect my choice, but the presence of the heart 10 makes me think a heart lead is better than a spade against either partscore or game. I’m not sure I can explain why except that with the spade ace likely on my right I’m jeopardizing a ‘sure’ trick by leading that suit. Without the heart 10, it is a toss-up.

You recently wrote about second degree assumptions as declarer. This is not a concept I am familiar, with so any help would be appreciated.

Milkman Mike, Mitchell, S.D.

Terence Reese was the first person I know of to discuss the idea of placing the cards that were missing (either onside if you were in optimistic contract or offside if you were in a good one) so as to decide how to play a two-way finesse. This is discussed in Master Play but there are many other books he wrote that should help you in this area.

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact

1 Comment

slarJanuary 31st, 2017 at 1:29 am

The thought of passing in the balancing seat with favorable vulnerability never occurred to me. Interesting.

Perhaps the sequel to my soon-to-be-award-winning-book “Don’t Take That Trick!” will be “Pass!”. There are many times where the book bid leads to unexpected problems. Yesterday my LHO opened 1S, my partner overcalled 2C, and RHO had xx/xxxx/Ax/AJxxx and made the standard negative double. They ended up playing 2S in a 5-2 fit and getting shredded when my partner and I found our cross-ruff.