Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

Recently, I picked up ♠ A-Q-J-6-3,  —,  K-2, ♣ A-K-J-9-4-3. Would you have opened one club or forced to game with a call of two clubs? Then, assuming you went for the latter option, would you introduce the major first or bid clubs?

Full to the Brim, Greenville, S.C.

Both bids make sense, I suppose. However, even if the opponents stay silent over two clubs, you may still find it hard to describe what you have. And if they come in, you may not be able to describe your hand at all. If your diamonds were the doubleton ace, a two-club call might be right. But as it is, put me firmly in the one-club camp.

How hard do you find the seniors’ game compared to the open? I see you have played in seniors’ events in the past.

Aged Annie, Vancouver, Wash.

To do well as a U.S. team at the Senior World Championships, you need to beat plenty of former world champions to qualify in your zone. At the world events, you will find that more than half the squads consist of players who previously represented their countries at the open level. There are no free rides anymore,

Please help us with this bridge question: What is the name of this famous bridge hand: ♠ A-K-Q,  A-K-Q-J,  A-K, ♣ K-J-9-7?

Fell off My Chair, Holland, Mich.

This is the Duke of Cumberland’s hand from a famously rigged deal in the 18th century. With small variations, you can find details on the internet under that name. At whist, played for high stakes, with clubs as trump, the Duke (a son of George III) led a trump. The cards lay in such a way that he could not take a trick! Compare the Mississippi Heart hand for a similar rigged deal.

My left-hand opponent opened one diamond, and my partner doubled. My right-hand opponent raised to two diamonds. I passed again, and my partner backed in with another double. The question is, was this second double for take-out? I assumed this was optional rather than pure take-out. Was I wrong?

Curious George, Chester, Pa.

Once you start by showing one sort of hand, you can’t change it at your next turn. Such second-round actions are take-out, simply promising extras. Most low-level doubles facing a partner who has not acted are assumed to be for take-out. The only time you double with strength in the opponents’ suit, you will have 18-20 or more, and you will bid no-trump at your next turn.

Lately, a player at my local club has taken to criticizing his partner’s and his opponents’ play. Is he wrong to do this? Can we ask him to stop?

Kicking Up a Fuss, Waterbury, Conn.

You certainly can. It is important that everyone feel comfortable at bridge; if not, it is the surest route to losing players. Constructive criticism is a good way to learn, but only when it is done politely and away from the table. If it is unwanted or during play, it is not acceptable and contrary to normal ethical practice.

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 5th, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

On full to the brim’s hand, another reason for opening 1C is that somebody somewhere is likely to get in the bidding. This is one hand where “It’s a bidder’s game” could rebound badly e.g. after 1C (P) P (1H) when opener can happily blast off with 2S or 2H. Give partner SKxx and 2 small clubs and RHO will really regret opening his / her mouth.



PS A belated Happy New Year to Judy and yourself too.

bobbywolffJanuary 5th, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, you have my full agreement.

While our unmatched game has much science, particularly slam range hands which often require informed delicacy (as the bidding develops) to either get to the ones which make or stay out of the ones that don’t.

However, we tend to forget highly distributional very good hands, but still allow the opponents to compete with their combined long suit or suits and, not much doubt, those good fits of their own, which oft times lead to very good sacrifices or even miracle makes which, if we are not careful, may lead to abomination for our side.

Alas, the poker element in bridge should allow us, at least a good chance, of finding our fit and controls, while camouflaging our super hand from the opponents, so that when we get to high levels they will be more likely to guess the wrong final solution for thinking, “Why should we go set, instead of them?”

Many, if not all players, ranging from relative newcomers, although talented, will then learn to appreciate an occasional highly distributional hand where both sides can take many tricks while naming the trump suit, as against their well learned opponents, at least until then, who do not have this critical experience to guide them.

All the above begins with keeping this specific hand in mind with the idea of possibly playing a game of cat and mouse with one’s opponents, harboring the thought of winding up being the cat who has at last found a delicious dinner.

And BTW that Happy New Year you offered is happily returned to you and yours in kind and in grand slam style.