Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

From the Richardson sectional with neither side vulnerable I held: ♠ —,  K-Q-7-6-5-3,  10, ♣ A-10-9-7-3-2, and overcalled one heart over one club. Now came one spade to my left and a double from my partner (just showing a good hand and suggesting diamonds). What would you do now after my RHO raised spades?

Shrinking Violet, Waterbury, Conn.

After the double, I think all bids in clubs should be natural. I think even though my LHO has shown clubs, I must do the same. I would jump to three clubs, suggesting clubs and hearts. With sixfive come alive; with six-six, I want to end up declaring the hand.

Holding ♠ 10-9-7-5-3,  K-9-7-4,  J-5-3-2, ♣ — after you hear partner open two no-trumps, how would you best describe your hand?

Thyme Well Spent, Honolulu, Hawaii

Starting with Stayman and bidding game over a response of three hearts or three spades looks easy enough. Over a call of three diamonds the best treatment is a common one over a one no-trump opener. Here you can bid three hearts to show four hearts plus five spades, and game forcing values. This is known as Smolen, and the logic of playing this way is to get the strong hand as declarer if you have a 5-3 fit.

We had an auction where I had a strong hand with five clubs, three hearts and four spades. I opened one club, heard my partner bid one spade, and a two diamond overcall. I doubled to show three spades, and my partner passed, without alerting. What are my ethical responsibilities about informing the opponents?

Stuck in the Mud, Sacramento, Calif.

The failure to alert shouldn’t affect you during the bidding; just assume your partner did alert it. But since your opponents may have been misinformed by the failure to alert, they may be due some recompense. Be careful though: if you end up on defense, don’t alert them till the end of the play, rather than the end of the auction.

I wanted to ask about a recent problem I had. Holding ♠ Q-10-8,  K-Q-10-7-2,  J-4, ♣ Q-8-5, I heard my partner open and rebid diamonds over my one heart response. Could I now rebid hearts, clearly indicating that I have five of them, not four? After all, my partner could have three hearts, and given that we were playing matchpoints, hearts might outscore diamonds — even facing a doubleton.

Making a Match, Jackson, Miss.

A call of two hearts might work, I agree. But note that I might raise as opener with three trumps at my second turn, even with 6-3 pattern, unless my hearts were weak. In that context, repeating the heart suit becomes less attractive. Typically, a call of two hearts here would show six, or five very good cards, and is not really an invitation. It tends to deliver mildly constructive values – though even that would be less clear if your partner had bid a second suit, as opposed to rebidding his own suit.

I play that Gerber four clubs only applies to a jump after a one or two no-trump opening or rebid, with the exception being in a Stayman sequence over one no-trump where you find a fit. Is this passé?

Ace of Base, Corpus Christi, Texas

Your explanation of when you play Gerber makes excellent sense. You can vary, to add or subtract from the sequences you suggest, but I say stick with what you have. Never use it unless it is a jump and unless no-trump have ‘just’ been bid. A little Gerber goes a remarkably long 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


Bill CubleyJuly 16th, 2017 at 1:21 pm


Re: Ace of Base and Gerber. I often wonder why, when Gerber is on the cc that the auction 1NT/2NT P 4C P, 4H is ethically fielded as ace showing WHEN aces were NOT asked for. Seems with zero aces, one can pass 4NT. Fielding conventional answers to bids where aces were not asked for seems ethically dubious to me.

I fail to see the difference when a top player is found to be unethical, yet lesser mortals can make bids which are, to me, ethically questionable.

I am likely wrong here, but a word or two from you might help educate me or other players. Incidentally the SAYC prohibits this, so it seems we do have a definition of standard practice.

Thanks for your comments.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Hi Bill,

First, a few truisms and then queries. Since a few, not many, still play what is called South African transfers (SAT), 4 clubs to 4 hearts and 4 diamonds to 4 spades instead of only one under the suit, known as Texas and much more common today. SAT was done many years ago to allow the NT responder to respond in the vacant space to announce a slam oriented opening NT as opposed to not, with just accepting the transfer by skipping a suit.

Besides, then sometimes getting the play from the less favored non-NT side, it gave the opponents more opportunities for important lead directing doubles or, the dog which didn’t bark, which also gave them what could be thought, at least a minor lead advantage.

If truth be known, and Johnny Gerber from Houston was one of the great long ago players and living close by to him was an early mentor of mine, his original convention having many more nuances than many think.

A Gerber 4C, sometimes just in the flow of bidding, was, in those days, still asking for aces in many sequences, often in a potential power sequence 4 clubs, not a jump, was still ace asking, but only after a suit had been established by that partnership, with number of kings then being asked when the bid after the ace response (as long as the trump suit was not re-responded) was the inquiry for number of kings (instead of a jump to 5 clubs, now more commonly, used today).

Yes, sometimes more complicated, thus at least slightly dangerous, because of the moving parts it represented.

The problem you refer to, a current unethical use of the responses to 4 clubs, may or may not be because SAT is still played by a few (usually old time players) who may have created something new with the responses or maybe they do not alert it, thinking it is not on the alert chart (whether it is or not is not known by me).

No doubt, early habits die slowly with older players, and making the twain meet often can
cause confusion.

Peter PengJuly 16th, 2017 at 11:16 pm

hi Bobby

on the question posed by the Jackson Miss player,

would not 3C (New Minor) show that the H suit was 5 cards and that there were some values at the same time?

then opener can dib 3D or 3H.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2017 at 11:46 pm

Hi Peter,

Ah! If only bridge bidding was as simple as all that, becoming a beautiful dream.

While all you say has much truth, your hand is just not strong enough to satisfy your strength requirement. When a responder rebids a new suit, especially at the three level or, of course, higher, he is expected to have game going values as well as at least suggesting his distribution. Suppose you substitute holding your 8 of spades for the ace of clubs, then your strength responsibilities are satisfied, so that if partner bids 3NT you will be happy to pass, or if he instead, supports hearts, you can then bid game in hearts and be reasonably sure you will have a good play for it. In either case it is worth a try, but not if you are dealt the weaker hand you are stuck with.

Level and strain, strain and level, say it slow or fast, but both requirements need to be satisfied if one expects to consistently shine with your results.

No doubt bridge is a partnership game, not a unilateral one, so the bidding information you bridge to partner needs, at the very least, to be close to what he has a right to expect.

However, your question is a very good one, and no doubt, many readers would like to ask the same one, so hang in there and continue your climb in skill while playing, increasing your shared love with all of us.

Aula de Canto onlineJuly 20th, 2017 at 5:16 pm

I read this post completely regarding the difference of hottest and previous technologies,
it’s remarkable article.