Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 28th, 2018

I happened to see your column recently, as a retiree living in Bentonville, Arizona. I have a lot of time on my hands. Do you have any suggestions as to where I might go to learn bridge? I played for a little while in Vietnam, when it helped to keep our mind off other things.

Green Giant, Bentonville, Ariz.

I think the best (and cheapest, and most efficient) way to explore your options is to call 1-800-264-2743. This is the telephone number for ACBL. You can reach a real person who will tell you about clubs in your area. But I also googled Bentonville bridge clubs, and I suspect you may find your answer if you do the same.

In fourth chair, I held ♠ A-J-4,  Q-10-6-3,  Q-J-3, ♣ Q-7-4 at pairs. My partner opened one club, and I responded an invitational two no-trump, figuring I had no ruffing values and hoping to conceal my hand from my opponents if we ended in no-trump. Should my partner with 3-4-3-3 shape and 14 points bid on? The opponents allowed me to take nine tricks, while the rest of the room made nine tricks in hearts (mostly in game).

Lumberjack, Detroit, Mich.

Your partner should surely have accepted the invitation with a good 14. I do not blame you for bidding two no-trump — it may be against the field, but it might still be right (as here), even facing four hearts. As you can see, matchpoints often involves non-bridge considerations.

I notice you play an extremely simple convention card in comparison to most of the world’s other experts. If we were to rewind your clock some 40 years, would you adopt a more sophisticated system? The reason I ask is that I have a hunch that most of today’s conventions work well only half the time. In the long term, there is no gain, no loss. In other words, we’re just as well off without them as with them.

Mike Drop, Albuquerque, N.M.

Even top players who may basically feel the same way about the game itself often differ on specifics in incalculable ways. If given a chance, and I were 40 years younger, I would play a sophisticated relay system, but only with a player who was willing and able to work to learn the methods and iron out all the kinks.

I’d welcome your opinion on a recent deal. I held ♠ A-4,  Q-4,  A-10-9-8-6-5-4-3, ♣ 2, with neither side vulnerable. I heard my right-hand opponent open one club in second seat. Would you pre-empt in diamonds, and if so, to what level?

Aces and Spaces, Levittown, Pa.

Non-vulnerable, a jump to four diamonds seems about right. Vulnerable, a call of three diamonds seems sufficient, but it is a blind guess! In situations like this, you do not know if you want the next hand to bid on or not, so it is hard to judge in which direction to try to push them.

I have just formed a new partnership with a player who is somewhat older than I, and to whom I feel I should pay respect. We have a few occasional disasters like everyone, I suppose. The problem is that when we have one or two bad or unlucky hands, my partner loses discipline. What would you tell him? I’m sure this happened to you once or twice, so what did you do in such a position?

Learning Curve, Mitchell, S.D.

I tell my partners: “I don’t mind a disaster, but I do mind the second disaster when you were still thinking about the first. You can’t change the past result, but you can influence the next one!”

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


ClarksburgFebruary 11th, 2018 at 6:20 pm

From a recent local Club game.

N 852 QJ54 K8 AQJ9
E 43 K1083 10542 K106
S AQ9 A96 QJ63 872
W KJ1076 72 A97 543

South declares 3NT. (Not known if and how many Wests mentioned Spades).
The Double Dummy analyser shows it can make 3NT against any defence, and will make an overtrick on the favourable opening lead of any Spade. The NS field included several decent local Club players; six of seven got the favourable Spade lead; nobody made 3NT. !!
Let’s say the opening lead is H7.
Could you kindly give us your thoughts on how to size this up and plan the initial line of play?
(I hope this question is not too trivial for you and your readers; it certainly wasn’t for our Club’s mortals !! )

Iain ClimieFebruary 11th, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

A quick word for Green Giant – George Bernard Shaw said that “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” See also a recent EBU article:

Yes, we need more youngsters, but let’s not forget the role bridge can play in bringing company and mental stimulation to those who are rather less so.



bobbywolffFebruary 11th, 2018 at 7:45 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

The first order of business is simply to clear up the “myth” of where one ranks in bridge and its possible effect on our expectations and, more important, actual play.

Back in the late 1940’s and 50’s it was estimated in the USA (and I’ll restrict my writing to just our country since my administrative knowledge of other bridge playing countries, of which there are many (and (highly populated ones) is certainly not accurate enough to give opinions.

At that time it was estimated that there were 40 million people in the US who played bridge, at least at some level, with about 150,000 being members of the tournament division, the ACBL. While there are still about the same or perhaps a few more playing tournaments, there are now about only eight million other rubber bridge players still playing, and most of those are fast aging and/or already old.

Obviously the major reasons are the younger people today have so many other options on their time, besides having to support themselves and no small reason of not trusting their parents judgment on many varied subjects, including wars, mores, and other style, lives.

Cutting to the chase, your group, no doubt, is up in the top 1% of all the players in our country, perhaps even the top 1/2 of 1%, but that doesn’t mean that you are anywhere near to what you could be. If you had the time, talent, and determination to seek higher ground, you may or may not accept that challenge.

The many players who took up the game years ago were no great shakes, but after they started playing duplicate bridge they improved greatly, until they encountered the wall which always occurs, to advance any further you have to devote much more time than you can afford to even have a chance to be one in a thousand instead of several in a hundred.

The nine of spades in the declarer’s hand makes it possible for you to have a basic 100% line since you can now duck the heart led, allowing East to play the 10, and then when declarer wins with his ace and leads the 9 back that key nine of spades wards off the bogey man by forcing West to win the spade and not return one. From there it is easy to see that 3 club tricks can be developed along with 2 diamond tricks, added to 3 hearts and 1 spade, presto magico adding up to 9 tricks and maybe 10.

Of course, with other leads, it still will be relatively easy (especially double dummy) to also guarantee at least 9 tricks, but the nine of spades is responsible for that phenomena.

While I didn’t go into details I do not think you need them to agree, but if you don’t (or anyone else doubts it) please respond.

Nothing is too trivial, especially while discussing my favorite subject, for me to feel vital, but, of course, I fervently wish that our great game would and should be established in our educational process, if, for no other reason for others to profit from the irrefutable logic
which our game brings to the developing mind, which, in turn, especially in the numeracy field, makes us so much better to understand how to generally think about many subjects, not necessary to list at this time.

bobbywolffFebruary 11th, 2018 at 9:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Except for John Bennett, who, in 1929 in Kansas City, his wife shot him to death after he got through declaring a hand.

Although I am not sure what was said at her trial, he did, in fact, play that particular hand very poorly. perhaps, in the minds of some, exonerating her.

I can only imagine GB Shaw’s reaction.

JudyFebruary 11th, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Bobby dear,

You neglected to mention Mrs. Bennett got off scot-free. But .. mind you .. the courts today would not be as lenient. So .. lucky for me (and you) that your dummy play is not too bad!

Iain ClimieFebruary 11th, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

Perhaps disproving the old adage “There is no such thing as bad publicity” – although it did raise public awareness of the game and was still arguably better than cheating scandals (JB ight not concur).



PeterFebruary 12th, 2018 at 3:31 am

hi Green Giant

I think there are computer programs that can help you play, and by all means, look for a club, but you can play at home with the computer robots and practice and learn that way faster because you would play much more.

PeterFebruary 12th, 2018 at 3:33 am

dear Drop

I think that the most valuable advice for my age is K.I.S.S.

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2018 at 5:41 am

Hi Peter,

Not that I know enough to testify, but, from what I have heard, playing against the robots is a fairy tale if one thinks about bridge, where the four directions each have a witch, similar to Oz, but all of them are wicked or worse, stupid, instead of the original, female Billie Burke, a sweet long ago comedian, who appeared as soon as Dorothy crash landed over the Rainbow, in Oz.

“Ding dong, the witch is dead, which old witch?, the wicked witch. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead”!