Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 18th, 2012

What is the minimum strength required for a Michaels cuebid? For instance is there any vulnerability at which you would bid two diamonds over one diamond to show the majors with ♠ Q-9-8-3-2,  J-10-9-7-4,  Q-9, ♣ A? If you wouldn't cuebid, would you overcall or pass?

Lightly Does It, Columbia, S.C.

I would show the majors with a call of two diamonds if nonvulnerable, but make a one-spade overcall and hope to get hearts in later if vulnerable. I would never pass here. Note: to cuebid over one spade to show hearts and a minor does require a somewhat better hand than this, even if nonvulnerable, since partner has to act at the three-level.

My partner and I were defending against a doubled slam and had already taken two tricks when we discovered that my partner had two cards left while I had four. Our opponents claimed a misdeal, but I said that even if we took no more tricks, we should still get our 200. What do the laws say?

Out for Blood, Spokane, Wash.

Whenever players receive the wrong number of cards, the deal must be canceled, so you don't get your penalty. Sorry! One way to look at it is that the play might have been completely different with no misdeal. Another is just to say that from the outset the deal was invalid.

What is the best approach to use when partner opens one club and the next hand overcalls one no-trump? Should one use natural or artificial bids? Specifically, how would you cope with ♠ J-10-7-2,  A-Q-9-5-3,  7-3, ♣ 9-4? Would it be too aggressive to double here?

Sunny Side Up, Anchorage, Alaska

There is a good case for saying that the only person who has shown clubs here is your RHO, not partner. If so, and many feel that way, then it does make sense to use what some call Mitchell Stayman, where a bid of two clubs by you would now show the majors. Partner is allowed to exercise discretion and pass with long clubs and fewer than three cards in each major, or to ask you to bid your better major by bidding two diamonds. Incidentally, you are a queen short of a penalty double here.

I have read about using artificial continuations over a two-club opening and a two-diamond response. Can you let me know if there is anything simple you would recommend here?

Powerball, Durango, Colo.

Eric Kokish's excellent suggestion is to retain opener's direct two-no-trump bid as 22-24. All higher bids are natural in the minors, but show long diamonds and four spades in the majors. He suggests using the two-heart rebid by opener as a puppet to two spades. Now opener's two-no-trump call is forcing, and delayed bids at the three-level by opener show hearts and a second suit.

What was the right call for fourth hand, holding ♠ A-Q-2,  J-7,  K-Q-7-4-3-2, ♣ Q-4 when my partner opened one diamond and the next hand bid two hearts? I felt I needed to invent a club suit because I thought I needed a heart control to bid three hearts. Is this so?

Spaced Out, Tupelo, Miss.

When the opponents interfere, a cuebid below three no-trump asks for a stopper rather than promising one. Here, you are perfectly placed to raise diamonds if partner cannot bid no-trump himself. And since the cuebid almost always delivers support for partner and a good hand, he can aim high if he has extra values.

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgDecember 2nd, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Mr. Wolff
What opening bid would you recommend for a hand such as
S KJxx
H Kxxxx
C Ax
>playing Flannery or not playing it; and upper limit of strength for it.
>strength requirements for reverse.
> open it 1NT?
> if opened 1NT and responder calls 2 to respond to the Stayman?
> how might two or three nice intermediates influence the various choices?
Lot of questions here!! Guidance on any aspect would be most appreciated

bobbywolffDecember 2nd, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First of all, good morning!

1. Even when playing Flannery, this hand is just too strong, although the spot cards (in hearts) are below average, the hand is too rich both in controls and the AQ of diamonds being together is worth more than usual.

2. Because of the above evaluation I would open 1 heart, with plans for a reverse, although I do fear the heart spots, if winding up in a heart contract opposite a random doubleton. Call it player’s luck.

3. Although I have long been an advocate of strange looking 1NT openings, this one is outside the limits with 9 cards in the majors and so many HCPS’s and prime controls. If partner a couple of major suit queens and little else, with (of course) 4 card length in one of those majors, this combination offers many tricks in the right (or both) major suits.

4. If we also had good spot cards (the two major suit 10’s come into our imagination) it only makes a planned reverse better and a 1NT opening even more ridiculous.

5. Another factor is what holding aces does for improving the flexibility of declarer’s play making the holding of the A10 of clubs, worth, at least to me, a full point in valuation (consider partner holding either the jack or the queen for you (with at least 3 card length) and one can then see in neon the value of that 10, especially if the opening lead is a club). In truth, if I was asked my opinion (and I have not been recently), Culbertson was more on target than Work and Goren with his evaluation, but the second two were the ones who really popularized the game during the formulative bridge years (middle of the last century), without which we might not be playing it now. Also remember that Goren had to keep it relatively simple (hence 4-3-2-1) to entice the masses to accept the game.

I hope all of the above makes some sense as a guide. Remember in this world, there are more guides than gods, especially in our beloved game.

Your attitude toward learning is just another reason why courses in teaching bridge in primary and secondary schools is so necessary and wonderfully educational to many youngsters, which would serve to teach them to think much more logically during their formulative years, and do so enthusiastically, because of having so much fun while learning to play our highly competitive mind game.

ClarksburgDecember 2nd, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Many Thanks! Most helpful!

Kevin MooreDecember 3rd, 2012 at 7:12 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

As dealer North, I had the following hand:

S KQ98

I opened the bidding with 2nt, thinking that this would be better than opening 1!c with a short suit based on the continuation (more later). My partner bid 3C (Stayman), followed by 3S, 3NT.

My partner turned out to have a strong holding:
H JT84
D J972
C AJ73

In looking back on this hand, I thought this was particularly hard to bid and wanted your thoughts on this hand. Would the best bidding for both have been like this?

N: 1C
4NT (Quantitative)?

I also have a second question. Given that I opened 2nt, clearly 3nt was too passive by South. What would you bid as South after 2nt – 3c – 3s?

Concord CA

bobby wolffDecember 3rd, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hi Kevin,

With your combined collection, passing 3NT is certainly the preferred contract since there is no 8 card fit and 6NT is anti-percentage. Even with a lucky distribution of the diamond suit, which, allowing 3 (out of 4 tricks) there still needs to be a guess, or better said, a combination of suit plays intended to attempt the right combination to find trick #12 without conceding 2 losers along the way.

Still, I must confess I might (probably would) jump to 5NT over 3NT asking partner to bid another suit up the line so that I could pass, venturing a small slam, but hoping for a preferred 4-4 fit. By doing that however, I would wind up playing the inferior contract of 6NT, but at least, I could claim bad luck for not having another 8 card fit.

Bridge is not now, nor ever has been, any where near a perfect science. It is only a percentage game with a well oiled partnership playing methods which are both practical and effective.

Sometimes we need to take chances, and still giving it our best effort when we wind up having to suffer through reaching (in this case) a relatively poor contract.

Good luck and remember a positive attitude toward the game itself and what is involved, is indeed an effective beginning to what could eventually be established as a sound and winning partnership