Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 27th, 2018

In duplicate bridge, when should third hand (the partner of the opening leader) break the rule of third hand high? Is there a simple set of guidelines to follow?

Gasoline Alley, Grand Forks, N.D.

You must try to avoid finessing against partner unnecessarily, so when dummy has nothing, third hand must almost always play high to keep declarer from scoring a cheap trick. But say, for example, in a suit contract, dummy has J-7-2 in the suit partner leads and you have K-9-3 or Q-9-3. When dummy plays a small card, you should surely follow with the nine (which is the right play whenever partner has the 10). Of course, if your holding were Q-10-2 or K-10-2, you’d insert the 10 without needing to think about it.

I was dealt ♠ K-10-9-7-2 ,  K-J-5-3,  A-8, ♣ 9-4, and my partner opened one diamond, which was doubled on my right. I redoubled to show 10 HCP, thinking that I could bid my suits later on, but my LHO jumped to three clubs, meaning it as pre-emptive. I could still bid my spades, but we never got hearts into play. What are your thoughts on our bidding?

Quick Fix, Syracuse, N.Y.

It is a good rule to bid out a one-suiter after a double, regardless of strength. Only redouble when you can handle all likely actions by your LHO in response to the double. Having said that, I do have sympathy with redoubling here, since the opponents tend to bid the majors after this start.

In a suit contract, what factors should I consider when faced with the choice of leading the top of a small doubleton or leading from four to an honor?

Just the Fax, Bay City, Mich.

I tend to be slightly more in favor than most of leading from the doubleton here, regardless of my trump holding, if I think passive defense is called for. Four to an unsupported honor is less appealing, but give me a suit headed by a two-card sequence, and I tend to go for that instead. Of course, a ruff may be counter-effective if I surrender a trump trick, or trump control, in the process.

I was in third seat when my partner opened one heart. The next hand bid two hearts to show spades and a minor, and I had ♠ K-5-4,  A-K-10-9-2,  8-5, ♣ 10-8-3. What were my bidding options?

Rocking Rooster, Phoenix, Ariz.

The logic here is that a bid of three hearts is competitive, not a limit raise. This means that you have to use the cue-bid of two spades to show a good hand with hearts. Double by you shows a good hand, typically without real fit, but that wouldn’t be suitable in this case. The real issue is whether you will stay out of game if partner signs off over your cue-bid. I’m on the fence!

My partner explained to me that all jump bids by opener at his second turn are forcing to game. If the bid is a jump-shift, then I can understand it being forcing to game; but if the jump is in a bid suit, I don’t believe that rule applies. Do you? Also, is the jump shift in a new suit forcing for one round or game forcing?

Truly Scrumptious, Shreveport, La.

A jump-shift shows a game force. But as opener, it is important to distinguish such a thing from jump rebids either in your own suit or in support of partner’s suit, neither of which is forcing. Once responder has shown limit-plus values, perhaps by something like a two-level response, these auctions do become forcing. One further caveat: In response to a negative double, jumps in a new suit show extras, but are not forcing. A cue-bid sets up the game force.

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bruce KarlsonJune 10th, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Rocking Rooster. I would use the law of total tricks and hope that my SK is well placed to bid 4 H. Does that make any sense?

ClarksburgJune 10th, 2018 at 5:34 pm

@ Bruce
I was wondering about it too. (not just on LOTT, but general strength).
On picking that hand up, I would have it not much short of Opening bid strength.
But with the ten-card fit, is there significant wasted strength in the Heart suit? better placed in side suit(s) ?
Teams or Matchpoints?
Can I rely on Partner to always have a sound opening bid?
Looking forward to Bobby’s full viewpoint, from his announced perch on the fence.

Bobby WolffJune 10th, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Hi Bruce,

Methinks you are making nothing less than sense (cents) and more likely dollars.

However, these types of hands usually involve more guile than just bridge knowledge. Certainly, depending on both the overall vulnerability and the amount of aggression of your specific opponents, your “mission” will often involve buying the hand as cheaply as possible (eg contracting for 10 tricks rather than 11 and/or instead of, a not high enough number available from doubling your worthy adversaries.

Therefore and usual, it becomes different strokes for different pairs, a talent one only learns from considerable experience and not growing on trees, nor talking around with players of one’s own ability. Reason: serious bridge of the winning variety is to be cherished, not expected and rare, defining an explanation why there have never been very young players, at least to my knowledge, who are born, blessed with the “feel’ of what to do, while playing against peers.

Furthermore, at least some luck is normally needed. for example your partner possessing 5 (or 6) small hearts instead of the likely wasted Q&J. However that hope would only come to fruition if you were able to buy the hand at 4 hearts and only score up 10 tricks instead of 11 or whatever the player in your seat needed to do in order to get a par result for your side (of course, including your partner).

No doubt, no one can ordain any of this, but only try and outfox (I’d rather describe it as outwolf) them for whichever way it drove you to succeed.

As far as your spade king value being well placed, YES SIR!, where, when this hand was being dealt, the ace will be behind the king exactly 33 1/3%, but on this auction, my guess it likely drops to about 5% or less.

While the law of total tricks is certainly helpful and a large percent valid, the various numeric possibilities are necessary to be both learned and more importantly, vitally felt with a direct line and link to one’s bridge brain.

From your comments and my previous experiences with your posts, I think you will be well qualified to move quickly up the ladder in bridge, if in fact you can devote enough time to getting it done.

And to that I can only offer you a profound, GOOD LUCK!

Bobby WolffJune 10th, 2018 at 6:48 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Obviously our two posts (see above to Bruce) crossed in the mail.

And when it comes to bridge sometimes it is difficult to impossible to “shut me up or if cards could bounce, just dribble”.

Concerning your two opinions, yes, the hand mentioned is clearly an opening bid by today’s high-level players and yes (as Bruce suggested) the king of spades is gold, but the balanced nature (no short suit) is a minus. Also and of course, since the stand out difference between teams and pairs (amount of gain vs. frequency of gain) definitely enters into the decision. However the strategy differs depending on partner and the specific pair one is playing against making our wonderful game multi-faceted and never boring.

And when I publicly say “I’m on the fence” it is strictly a cop out, but since space is crucial and I cannot fully explain what I did to Bruce, it is better for me, although that may be arguable, for me not to verbalize what I consider malarkey, rather than to deal with half-truths.

scr888 kiosk apkJune 14th, 2018 at 6:47 pm

It’s a shame you don’t have a doate button! I’d without a doubt donate
to this outstanding blog! I guess for now i’ll settle ffor bookmarking and adding you RSS feed to my Google
account. I loo forward to fresh updates and wwill talk about
tthis website with mmy Faxebook group. Talk soon!