Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Recently, I opened a strong no-trump, and my partner held ♠ A-9,  A-10-8-4-2,  9-5, ♣ 10-7-3-2. He responded two diamonds as a transfer, and I dutifully answered two hearts. What should his next bid have been? Would your answer be different if he were a passed hand?

Vantage Point, Janesville, Wis.

At pairs, passing two hearts seems sensible enough, since you probably only want to be in game facing a maximum hand with a fit, in which case your partner might already have broken the transfer. If you bid on, a call of two no-trump may be best; you limit your hand nicely, at the cost of an overbid of no more than the heart nine. Some might use Stayman and then follow up with two no-trump to invite game.

When my partner opened one heart in third seat, I had no idea what to do, holding ♠ K-J-9-7-2,  A-J-2,  Q-2, ♣ 9-7-3. Should I raise to three and risk that he has a weak opener, or underbid with a raise to two — or even temporize with spades? Do you agree with the initial pass?

Coming a Cropper, San Antonio, Texas

Passing when vulnerable is fine. I might open one spade if I could pass a one-no-trump response. As a passed hand, I’d advocate that a regular partnership use Drury, a two-club response to a major-suit opening. It shows a maximum pass and three or more trumps. Opener can sign off with a minimum, bid game with a maximum or develop the hand naturally with a game- or slam-try. Failing that, I’d respond one spade, then jump to three hearts or make a fit-jump to two spades.

When (if ever) would you lead a high as opposed to a low card from Q-J-3-2 or K-Q-3-2 after the opponents have reached three no-trump on a brief auction where this is an unbid suit?

Heavens to Betsy, Portland, Ore.

This is only a personal view, but I tend to lead an honor from the queen-jack if my right-hand opponent has shown a strong no-trump or better (and thus the other honors are likely to be on my right). The king-queen holding is more awkward, since you may turn two tricks into one; in that case, I’d lead an honor only if I felt it necessary to try to cash out. Add in as little as the nine, and an honor lead becomes more attractive.

Holding ♠ A-Q-J,  9-4-3,  Q-7, ♣ Q-7-6-5-2, my left-hand opponent opened two hearts, which my partner doubled. When the next player passed, what would you advocate, and why?

Crock Pot, Richmond, Va.

I referred in an earlier answer this month to the idea that an extension of the Lebensohl convention uses two no-trump as a puppet to three clubs to show a weak hand with a minor, while a call in either minor is natural and invitational. That being the case here, I’d bid three clubs and hope we didn’t miss game if partner passed.

Please explain to me what happens when you have a bidding box accident? When are you allowed to take back a bid made using bidding boxes, and when are you not permitted to do so?

Klumsy Karp, Horn Lake, Miss.

Let’s say you open one no-trump, and as your partner I bid two hearts. If I meant to bid two diamonds as a transfer to hearts, I can change my bid; mechanical errors can be corrected with no penalties. If I meant to bid hearts, forgetting we were playing transfers, and only remembered later that we play transfers, then I may NOT change the bid. You may correct only a physical error, not a mental 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.
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David WarheitOctober 14th, 2018 at 9:50 am

In a recent hand from Frank Stewart, S held AJ63, KJ5, AK3,764 and N held 842, A7, 7672, AK853. S dealt and opened 1NT and N raised to 3NT. W led a H, E played the 9, & S won the J. S then cashed CAK, trusting C to be 3-2. If so he would make 4. They weren’t and so he went down. But at duplicate I believe the right play would be to duck a C at trick 2, then assuming a H return cross to a D and lead another C. If W follows, win in dummy, hoping for C to be 3-2. But perhaps W would show out, in which case duck and settle for making 3. In short, it is right to try for the overtrick, but half the time when you do you find out in time that such is literally not in the cards, and so you can settle for making 3. Any thoughts?

Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2018 at 10:11 am

Hi David,

I think your line is spot on; even at pairs this is a legitimate extra chance (being prepared to duck the 2nd club if necessary) not an out and out safety play. In similar vein, suppose you open 2N and partner raises to 3N with CAKxxx and nothing else opposite declarer’s CQxx. Playing the CQ then another costs nothing and. if LHO shows out, you can safely duck. It is “only” a 14% chance that clubs are 1-4 but that’s a gain one time in 7. The intiuitively obvious C to the Ace, club the Queen just leads to a red face instead.



A V Ramana RaoOctober 14th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Wishing you
“A Very Happy Birthday and Many more Happy Returns ”

Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many happy returns for today and for many more to come. Thanks AVRR!



bobbywolffOctober 14th, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Definitely yes and no doubt, David’s line is superior and should be used as the poster hand for while playing tournament pair matchpoints or board-a-match, to cater to AMAP (as much as possible) the imperfections of that game, still the thought process should include as little chance as one can, by catering to the principle of frequency of gain as opposed to amount of gain but still to use, as much safety play technique as is possible (it very well might be percentage to disdain any sort of safety play on this particular hand, but and certainly, David’s proposed way is 50% better than none at all).

Just another aspect of bridge which can mirror real life problems when one is faced with vitally wanting success and thus needing to take risks (health or business) going for it, but doing everything possible to lower the downside.

Frank Stewart is a fine bridge writer,, a super guy and a legitimate bridge expert who would echo what you have said, but, like AOB, might be restricted by the number of words he can use.

Bill CubleyOctober 14th, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Happy Birthday.

The last letter from Klumsy Karp in Horn Lake MS might be from the Chief Tournament Director of the ACBL? 😉

The game would be much more competitive if we could take back our mental errors. 😉

I am approaching my final rank advancement. Bring Judy to Charleston for a free drink after Christmas. Conde Nast rates Charleston consistently better than San Francisco!

bobbywolffOctober 14th, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Hi AVRR & Iain,

Much sincere thanks for the recognition and taking both your precious time for congratulations.

No doubt, I have been extremely fortunate to live a long life pretty much doing what I love to do.

However without great friends like you, life’s problems would not be as easy to solve nor would be the onset of old age (by only referring to it as the onset for me is underbidding),
to be willfully accepted.

Ever onward. ever hopeful, but extremely fearful unless, and at the high-levels of worldwide bridge, unless despicable cheating can be forever eliminated (by lifetime expulsion for ones who are caught) our sensational world bridge competition goes from being, at least in my estimation, a clear number one for all mind games, to a game which is totally worthless to be contested.

To think differently, at least in my view, is putting the cart before the horse, since when cheating is present we, in actuality, and every knowledgeable person should agree, have no game at all. It would be like teaching a very unlucky person, who has no arms at all, how to salute.

Obviously I would like to see this solved during my lifetime.



bobbywolffOctober 14th, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Hi Bill,

Judy and I would love to join you in Charleston for eating, drinking and games, but we had just about given up traveling (its been several years). However we are likely to show up in Hawaii for the Fall Nationals so, if you are there we can make up for some valued lost time.

The law you mentioned I certainly approve, since there are so many mental errors in bridge, being specially defined, as meant to bid whatever bidding card one selects.

Obviously the reason is to prevent unauthorized information (UI) to be passed, when one, in the example above, meant to bid 2 natural diamonds, but the lawmakers not wanting that UI to be passed between the partner’s when that bid has or wants to be changed.

Bridge, being the game we love, has its own logic, and when our home office is made up of many who do not even play it, how is it possible for those non-players to naturally just promote it.

IOW the wrong strokes for first, talking the USA
Educational Division into instilling what so much of the world has done, to use the teaching of bridge to further natural education in life which serves as a great foundation for sheer life logic, particularly with numeracy.

It downright makes me very sad, that no one will follow my lead and make (or at least) try to the above happen. The Chinese took my advice and as we here write, up to 200 million students are learning our great game (5 days every week) and, from what I hear, to rave notices, from the students, teachers, and of the utmost importance, the parents of the students.

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