Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I held: ♠ K-9,  K-Q-4-3,  K-Q-10-5-4, ♣ 7-4. In first position, I opened one diamond and my partner responded one spade. RHO bid two clubs. Should I n ow pass, bid two diamonds, or bid two hearts? (After an overcall, is two hearts considered a reverse?) I couldn't double, because this would have been a support double.

Nowhere to Go, Montreal

You can play a double as support (and if not support, then it would be for penalties not negative). Two diamonds shows six cards, and two hearts does indeed show a reverse (just as it would have done without opposition bidding). So passing is correct here; you have no extras, no fit and no convenient call.

Incidentally, if partner doubles, you bid two hearts to show your approximate red-suit pattern.

This board came up at our local duplicate and I'm not looking to place blame. I just would like to know how to handle it if it ever comes up again. (We got a zero for this deal.) After my partner opened one no-trump, I heard two spades on my right and was looking at ♠ 9-3,  4,  K-10-8-5-4-2, ♣ A-Q-J-2. I thought three diamonds would be forcing here so I bid it. I'm still waiting for my partner to bid!

The Force Be With You, Little Rock, Ark.

Answering your question properly might require adding a conventional agreement to your armory. See whether you like it — it is called Lebensohl, and the way it works is that after the opponents overcall your side's no-trump opening, all two-level actions are natural and weak. All three-level suits are game-forcing, and double is takeout. Use two no-trump as a transfer to three clubs. It's a way to get out cheaply with a long minor.

Have you ever played bridge on a cruise ship? Would you ever consider teaching in that environment?

Shuffleboard Enthusiast, Panama City, Fla.

I know that some of my friends enjoy that sort of thing, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for it myself. Larry Cohen has a knack for that, though. Now if the BBC ever brought back their televised competition – which involved, among others, Zia Mahmood and Bob Hamman – you might tempt me back to the sea.

Recently you ran a problem where South held ♠ 5,  K-Q-J-3-2,  K-J-5-4, ♣ A-7-3. His partner opened one spade and, in response to two hearts, advanced to three diamonds. In my opinion Blackwood is reasonable, as North needs more than a minimum for his forcing diamond bid. If he has two or more aces, there should be an excellent play for slam. This may be a little aggressive, but any other bid could leave you short of slam.

No Guts No Glory, Palm Springs Calif.

The unspoken subtext in my answer was that some play the three-diamond call to promise extra shape, but not necessarily additional high cards – that would be most peoples’ view if playing two-over-one. If (and only if) a call of four clubs shows a good raise in diamonds here, then it may be better to do that and not take control. If, however, the three-diamond bid guarantees real extras in high cards, driving to slam facing two aces is certainly plausible.

My partner and I had a discussion about the minimum values required for a response to an opening bid. I dealt and opened one club with 13 points and 4-3-3-3 distribution. My LHO passed and my partner had three points — specifically the diamond jack and the heart queen with a 3-4-3-3 pattern. What would be your call: pass, one diamond or one heart?

Squeaker, Augusta, Ga.

Passing is the indicated action, but sometimes for strategic reasons one keeps the bidding open – and sometimes one regrets it! Bidding one heart might well work better than inventing a diamond suit, even though the chance of an inconvenient raise is somewhat lower.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgMay 12th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Mr. Wolff
Supplementary question re The Force’s question and your answer:
What about the (less-likely) situation where responder calls 2C Stayman, or a transfer call, and Responder’s LHO then overcalls? What agreements would you recommend for that?

bobby wolffMay 12th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Common bridge sense should apply, and the Nt’er should, over Stayman bid a major suit at the two level, if he has one and is able, and even at the three level with an above average NT. He, also, should accept the transfer, holding either four of that suit, or three with a good hand. If the Nt’er, instead, doubles the intervenor it is penalties.

The above then leaves a pass to mean that he either has no 4 card major at the 2 level and if the 3 level is required he might have 4 of a major but with a minimum NT. When the bidding gets back around to the responder he will be in as good as position as he can be to know whether to carry on or not. Of course the same rules would apply to transfers and if responder is weak he is likely to pass, but he does so, knowing partner has a flaw in his offensive potential. If responder then doubles, he is giving his partner an option to carry on, with penalty overtones, wherein if his hand is defensively suited and no real fit is established so that leaving the double in for penalties is certainly a live choice.

When the above choices begin to flow for both partners and, if asked, they would each give similar explanations to how they would handle it, and from both sides of the table, a bridge doctor would be pleased, and would feel confident that this particular partnership would be well equipped to perform, which, in turn, would instill confidence, as long as the judgment shown by each partner passed scrutiny.

In conclusion, I think I should say that if the responder to the NT opener had: s. void, h. 1098762, d. J876, c. J10x and heard it go 1NT P 2D (transfer) 2S (by LHO) double (for penalties), the responder should take out to 3 hearts to play without fear of being wrong, although it is still possible that he would be, if partner had about 3+ trump tricks and enough other tricks to set them.

That is just one of the uncertainties which bridge represents, but if partner had s. KQ8x, h. KJ, d. A10xx, c. Axx he should double the intervention, but his partner needs to come to his aid to prevent disaster in the form of 2 spades doubled making by the opponents.

Mature judgment is the MOST important single quality in the very good player, ranking ahead of technical excellence, choice of a system which fits the personality of both, being a wonderful and compassionate partner, and being ready to play at all times.

Never forget that responsibility and while no one is ever right anywhere close to all judgments, that particular feature can never be overestimated.

Good luck!

ClarksburgMay 12th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Many thanks for response.
In a recent club game, two newcomers had their 2C Stayman overcalled and didn’t know how to proceed. After the game they asked me. My thoughts were in fact along the lines of your reply, but I just said they should have an agreement, and I’d look into it.
Now I can help them, with your reply in hand.
So, the benefit flowing from your time taken to respond will be multiplied!!

bobby wolffMay 15th, 2013 at 9:55 am

Hi Clarksburg,

First of all, I apologize for not getting back more quickly to your kind response, complete with educational advantages.

In most cases, and especially in controversial and debatable situations, common bridge sense usually applies, never forgetting the partnership responsibilities required of both partners, especially when uncharted waters demands a combination of down the middle moderation.

To draw on an analogy would be to recount the story of the three bears, when assessing the heat and taste of the porridge served, neither too hot nor too cold, but rather just right (or close to) as decided by the participants.

Bridge has a characteristic of making each controversy, at the very least, somewhat different, therefore causing deft judgment by each partner, then in turn remembering experience, which, while acting in concert achieves success. The above is well worth learning slowly but surely and can be described as the maturation of that partnership.

Thanks for multiplying our response. Together, you and I will act like Johnny Bridgeseed might (if there only was one), spreading the word about our great game.