Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 30th, 2017

If a partnership tends to open light, with initial actions starting at 10 HCP, does this need to be alerted? I had thought 10 HCP was the lower limit, unless a prealert is made. Then it might become an issue if some clubs won’t allow it in first or second seat.

What About Bob, Panama City, Fla.

I agree that systemically light openers starting at fewer than 11 points should be pre-alerted. Those people playing strong club often do it and don’t alert it; but in my opinion it is, at the very minimum, a courtesy you owe your opponents.

Can you comment on the merits or demerits of a Walsh style of responding to a club opener in a major rather than in diamonds unless you have invitational or better values? This may mean bidding a four-card major in front of a four- or even five-card diamond suit?

Road Warrior, Newark, N.J.

The plusses of the bypass are that opener gets to rebid one no-trump over one diamond when balanced, while bidding a major promises real clubs. It isn’t all one-way traffic of course, but I like the general idea. I believe that having opener rebid no-trump when balanced is a big plus. This doesn’t mean there won’t be counter-examples where diamonds get lost. But these days, minor suits seem to be going out of style.

After a one club opener to your right, with: ♠ J-2, A-J-9-8-6, K-10-6, ♣ A-Q-3 where do you stand on the issue of overcalling in the major or bidding one no-trump? And what are the factors that influence you in a decision of this sort?

Germanicus, Huntington, W. Va.

With a good five-carder and a small doubleton I think the odds are weighted to overcall in the major instead of bidding a strong no-trump. You may occasionally have to re-open with a take-out double if you overcall, when the opponents find spades, since you are at the top end of the range for an overcall. But I do not think we will often miss game if I make the simple overcall. We might miss hearts if I bid one no-trump, however.

If you play in three spades doubled and make two overtricks not vulnerable, I understand you double the trick score to get 180, then add 50 for insult and 300 for game. But is making the extra tricks worth 30 or 60 above the line?

Pack-Rat, Union City, Tenn.

The score for three spades doubled is indeed 180 for tricks, with 50 for insult, and 300 for game. But you score 100 for each doubled overtrick, which comes to 730. The general rule is that doubled overtricks are 100 non-vulnerable, 200 if vulnerable. Meanwhile redoubled overtricks are 200 or 400 each. Incidentally, the back of the cards in the bidding boxes lists all the possible outcomes for each contract, doubled or redoubled.

With: ♠ A-8-7-2, J-8, A-Q-9-6-4, ♣ Q-3, when you hear your partner open one club you respond one diamond and hear partner raise to two diamonds. Would you blast three no-trump now or take a slower route?

Psycho Killer, Hoboken, N.J.

I’m not averse to concealing my hand type under the right conditions. Here, though I am in doubt as to strain and level so I go with two spades. Notrump could easily be much better from my partner’s hand, by the way.

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuMay 14th, 2017 at 9:34 am

Hi Bobby,I know you don’t like support doubles maybe this hand could be another reason..north J4 KT8 K82 AKJ53~south 762 AQ96 T7 9862-bidding went North 1C E pass South 1H West 2D~N DBL(support x or stronger hand) E pass South 3C W pass N ? North bids 3N and the wheel came off.Should South bid 2H rather than 3C?South maintains 3C is to play and weak..We can make 3H and EW can make 3S as East did not bid spades..and 4C can would you bid this?We were playing Acol..and the ‘good thing’ about all this..we abandoned support doubles for the rest of the session. e AQT85 7543 Q64 7 w K93 J2 AJ953 QT4.

Bobby WolffMay 14th, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, not clarifying values, while playing “support doubles” creates another distraction, sometimes leaving the subject partnership unable to find either the right suit nor the right level and sometimes, as in your case, both.

Suppose South had essentially the same hand, but including both the queens of clubs and spades, he would likely, after North’s one club opening have bid exactly the same way, but then 3NT would have been frigid.

Of course, North may (probably should) open 1NT (15-17), changing the scenario into South (with the hand he did hold, passing, but with the pair of queens added, driving to 3NT).

However, this learning experience only suggests that there are “wicked witches” and poisoned flowers” on the way to bridge Nirvana.

And, at least the way I see it, “support doubles” cause more harm than they do good, particularly in allowing those worthy opponents to much better judge their hands when one of them has three of the opponents suit and with the use of a “support double” (embellished also when an opponent raises instead, then showing four) knows “much better” how to judge the potential of their partnership level (in their best suit) when they are presented the knowledge of exactly how many of the opponents suit his partner will have (a mirror holding of three is, of course, undesirable for offense).

Pursuing still further, after North’s one club opening (instead of 1NT allowed East an opportunity to “slide” with a 1 spade overcall, enabling the spade competition to begin, beginning to understand the frequent preemptive advantage of opening 1NT in sometimes stealing the hand from timid opponents.

However East didn’t rise to chirp 1 spade even over 1 club by his RHO, an expensive negative omission which only survived in results by their opponents undue aggression because of their lack of overall understanding of the use of their likely new “toy”, support doubles.

Multiple errors by both sides, but perhaps a valuable lesson to “next time” benefit both partnerships.

Patrick CheuMay 14th, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Hi Bobby,Your thoughts are much appreciated,we have to be on the same page ‘next time’.Very Best Regards~Patrick.

tom belsheMay 14th, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Hi Bobby Very much enjoy your column (and your book)
Problem I open one spade holding AJxxx, AKQx of hearts and xx of diamonds and clubs. P bids 2NT Jacoby and right hand bids 3 clubs. I bid 3H (feature), partner blasts to 4NT and I respond 5H which he passes holding KQxx of spades, AQxx of diamonds and J10xxx of hearts. Laydown seven.; Where did we go wrong?

Bobby WolffMay 14th, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Hi Tom,

First, thanks for the kind words about the column and the book.

Next, when you suggest, where did WE go wrong, you were being very kind.

Assuming you are playing “feature showing” instead of shortness over partner’s Jacoby 2NT (showing 4+ spade support and GF) your partner, instead of inquiring about aces (certainly not a key factor on this hand because of his void) should simply cue bid 4 clubs showing control of that suit. Then after your 4 heart cue bid showing at least the ace and, of course, slam interest he should rebid 5 diamonds showing 1st round control in diamonds. Then a repeat heart cue bid by you showing first and second round control, should get from him another club cue bid then after your third response with 6 hearts he should assume the ace of spades (at the very least) from you and bid the lawdown seven spades.

Of course, his fifth heart allows you to discard your second diamond, but after all the positives with both hands, the hand figures to be basically a laydown and if it isn’t should be no worse than a finesse, or even a favorable lead from the defenders.

You, of course, had nothing to do with the horrible result obtained, but still had to suffer from it. But use that hand to your partnership advantage by learning what to do next time.

Thanks for writing.