Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 19th, 2018

If the opposition overcalls our side’s no-trump opening bid, what combination of takeout and penalty doubles would you advocate?

Wellington Boot, Orlando, Fla.

First of all, simplest is best. How about this agreement: If double is the first action from either side (other than one or more passes) after the no-trump call, then the double is takeout. As soon as your side makes a positive call, most doubles are penalty. If you transfer and then double any opposition intervention, that shows values rather than being a trump stack; most other doubles show trump length.

We were playing against strong opponents. My LHO opened four hearts, doubled by my partner to show cards. I had 12 points and six spades to the A-Q-J with a singleton heart. What would you suggest, knowing your partner is conservative by temperament?

John Stuart Mill, North Bay, Ontario

If you don’t simply jump to slam, a five-spade call here could just be a better hand than one that would bid four spades. Some might believe that bidding four no-trump (which is typically two-suited for the minors), followed by correcting partner’s response to five spades, shows a heart control. If so, the jump to five spades might be a slam try, typically with no heart control.

My question is about which card to lead on the second round of a suit. In this instance, my partner led a low card against three no-trump and found a singleton in dummy, while I had Q-10-5-4. Declarer captured my queen with his ace and lost a finesse to me. Should I now lead back the four or the 10?

Rube Goldberg, Holland, Mich.

Either play may be right, though some critical factors are which spot partner led (does he have four or five cards?) and whether you need to cash out to set the game. The 10 is probably only essential if you need to cash three tricks in the suit on the go. Regardless, there is no definitively right answer, but the four is the right count card if that is what is important to partner.

I find it very hard to know when, as first, second or third hand, I should play the higher from touching honors and when the lower. Also, when discarding, the same point applies. Is there a simple rule?

Follow my Leader, Albuquerque, N.M.

This is a potential minefield, as my answer will show. As third hand, you try to win the trick by following with the lower of touching honors; however, when dropping an honor under partner’s ace or king lead, you play the higher from touching honors. When declarer leads a suit and you are second to play with two touching honors, I suggest you play the lower one, but you should play the top from a sequence of three honors. As long as your partnership has an agreement — any agreement — it is better than nothing.

In one of your deals a month or two ago, the dealer held ♠ A-Q-6-2,  K-5-4,  A-10-5-3-2, ♣ 2, and opened one diamond. He then had a rebid problem over a game-forcing response of two clubs. How would you evaluate the possibilities — and would you do the same if opener’s diamond 10 were the queen?

Second Chances, Washington, D.C.

A rebid of two no-trump shows a balanced hand, not an unbalanced hand like this. It may contain a four-card major, but it denies as much shape as this. Since I don’t believe in rebidding a five-card diamond suit just to show I have one, I am happy to bid two spades with both hands. However, if you feel that call would systematically promise extras — then a two-diamond rebid, planning to raise spades or bid no-trump next, is also acceptable.

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Peter PengSeptember 2nd, 2018 at 8:04 pm

hello Mr. Wolff

question some disaggreement in my club. we play 2/1 forcing to game:

auction goes –

Partner dealt and opens

1S – P – 2C by me – P

2H – P – 3C – P
3NT – P – 4C –

I held


Please comment on the auction.


Could 4C have been interpreted as Gerber?
Some pairs said that after any NT bid, 4C is Gerber.

Is the 4C bid passable?

thanks for your comments

bobbywolffSeptember 2nd, 2018 at 11:57 pm

Hi Peter,

Very good question. Not very complicated nor earth-shattering but completely necessary in order to go bursting through layers of thought to be, superior bridge intellects, but in reality just following proper high-level logic.

4 clubs is still forcing to game (FG) and is much interested for partner to specifically cue bid aces with both 4NT and 5 clubs showing not only a minimum but also lacking controls.

If partner now chirps 4 diamonds, you will have the option of either jumping to 6 clubs or if not, bidding 4 hearts, then passing a return to 4NT or 5C. If partner would instead bid 4 spades I then would jump to 6 clubs, but again, if partner signs off I would give him the great honor of respecting his wishes and pass.

Good bridge, especially slam bidding, is only as strong as the weaker partner, but above all it is usually a pair effort and not unilateral judgment.

Like old-time dancing, it is a learned exercise and does not come just naturally. The options are to follow the discipline and greatly improve or rather make your own moves, AKA decisions, and with it, get no better.

Good luck!

FWIW: GF means GF and nothing less and good bidding has little to do with each individual bid, but rather the totality of bidding by both partners.

bobbywolffSeptember 3rd, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Hi again Peter,

Please forgive me for not directly answering your question about a 4 club bid now (over partner’s 3NT) being a Gerber ace ask.

Not! since Gerber, if used over a last NT bid, is never an ace ask unless directly over a natural 1NT or 2NT opening or natural limit bid up to 2NT, but never over 3NT.

Some intelligent players (my opinion) sometimes use a jump to 5 clubs over a 3NT response as an ace ask, similar to the utility of Gerber with responses of 5 diamonds 0-4, 5 hearts 1, 5 spades 2, and 5NT 3. Then no king ask available, but then 6 of another suit, below the trump suit, being values and, of course inviting a grand slam bid by partner.

Sorry for leaving the above out which is necessary if one wants to find a way to ask for aces other than the old fashioned way of 4NT. When 3NT has been bid, then a raise to 4NT is only an invitation to higher bidding, having nothing to do with ace asking.

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