Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Recently, I held ♠ 10-2,  A-Q-J-3-2,  K-4, ♣ A-Q-3-2, and because I was worried about protecting my diamond king, I was tempted to open one no-trump rather than risking a one-heart call and hearing a response of one no-trump. What do you think about the general principle here?

Melting Moments, Taos, N.M.

I would never open one no-trump with a 5-4 pattern that includes a chunky five-card major, and would think it a major distortion of my hand to do so. Note that unprotecting your small doubleton spade is just as inelegant as protecting your doubleton king — which may not need protecting at all. A 5-4 pattern with a major is not a balanced hand, especially this hand.

I managed to pull two cards out of my hand simultaneously in the same suit, and the tournament director explained that this was only a minor penalty card, not a major penalty card. This is a new one on me, so I hope you will explain how the rules work.

Bumble Bee, Newark, N.J.

When two cards are played simultaneously or a card is dropped, and the exposed card is not an honor, you trigger the minor penalty-card rules. In such instances, the player must play the exposed card before any other non-honor card of the same suit. So you could play or discard the heart jack, but not the heart three, before (say) an exposed heart seven.

If your agreed style is to bid majors before diamonds in response to one club, what happens if you hold a 4-6 shape with clubs and a major, and you open one club and hear a one-diamond response? Should you bid the major or does it depend on suit quality?

Overpass, Corpus Christi, Texas

As opener, I would bid my major rather than repeat my clubs, almost no matter how weak the major and how strong my clubs. An exception might be to bypass an honorless major in favor of repeating a good six-card club suit. But even then, you might lose your 4-4 fit.

Do you have any simple rules as to what sort of hand passes over an opening bid, then comes into a live auction (i.e., not in the balancing seat) at his next turn? I’m contrasting what it means to pass then double after hearing one club to your right, one heart to your left and two clubs to your right.

Stepping Stone, Greenville, S.C.

Passing then reopening in the balancing seat conveys no special message, as you said. But backing into a live auction — as in the sequence quoted — when responder could still have a good hand, guarantees length in opener’s first-bid suit. Since you must have a good hand to act; you should have length in opener’s suit, or you would already have bid. Typically, you would be close to 4-1-4-4 with opening values.

When you open one club and raise partner’s one spade to two spades, with ♠ A-Q-3-2,  Q-5-3,  K-10, ♣ J-9-4-2, how would you bid on over a call of three diamonds from your partner?

Lumpfish, Wausau, Wis.

A simple raise to four spades looks right. You have a minimum, but if partner has length in diamonds, your holding looks ideal. Switch your red suits, and you should sign off in three spades since honor-third is not a great holding if partner needs help. By contrast, honor-doubleton lets your partner ruff the suit in your hand.

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact