Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Up to what level of opening bid should we play penalty doubles of our opponents’ no-trump opening — and what ranges should we treat as a strong no-trump? What methods would you recommend we play if either side removes the double?

Baker’s Dozen, Spartanburg, S.C.

Any no-trump that includes a 13-count should be treated as weak (and you might also double third-seat no-trump openers by those playing strong clubs). If you double a weak no-trump, you can pretend your partner opened one no-trump. Play Stayman and transfers if you bid. Deal with the opponents’ runouts as if they had overcalled your partner’s no-trump opener.

In second seat, I picked up ♠ 5-2,  A-K-7-6-4-3,  A-3, ♣ J-8-3 and opened one heart. When my partner jumped to four clubs, showing a singleton club and game values, did I have enough to cue-bid four diamonds, or should I have signed off in four hearts?

Raising the Roof, Columbus, Ohio

With real extras, you would normally cue-bid four diamonds, expecting your partner to sign off without a spade control. If you bid four hearts, the auction will be over, of course. In this auction, the four-diamond call might lead partner to do too much if he has the spade ace but a minimum; however, I think the combination of your sixth trump and third-round controls in both diamonds and spades require you to do it.

I am a very rusty life master (I haven’t played more than 10 times in the last 20 years) who just retired in August. A recent deal of yours saw an opener act with ♠ K-J-4,  K-J-3-2,  Q-3-2, ♣ Q-9-3, but I count only 12 high-card points and seven losers, with no quick tricks and no five-card suit. Is this really an advisable opening bid?

Back in the Saddle, Albuquerque, N. M.

I absolutely agree this isn’t a great opening bid! Non-vulnerable at matchpoints, there may be more to be gained by bidding than passing, but should you open? I’m not sure. If playing a 15-17 no-trump, where a no-trump rebid shows 12-14, you aren’t far off base. But you could sell me on passing if your other option is to open a suit you don’t want partner to lead or raise!

What would be the best use for transferring into a major, then bidding a minor? Do the same rules apply after a two no-trump as after a one no-trump opener?

Down Under, Sydney, Australia

These unopposed transfer auctions show a second suit, are game forcing and imply doubt about strain or level. That means you either have slam interest (you will always have slam interest in the two no-trump sequences) or are worried no-trump might not be right. So without any slam interest — say 9-13 high-card points — and with a 5-4 pattern, you might ignore the minor over a one no-trump opener, unless you have a small side-suit singleton.

I was the opener and passed with ♠ Q-7-4,  Q-7-5-2,  K-8-3, ♣ Q-J-6. Around the table, I heard my lef-thand opponent open one club and my partner bid one heart, with a negative double showing four spades to my right. What is the right plan of campaign my hand now?

Plain Sailing, Waterbury, Conn.

A redouble by you would suggest values, the unbid suit and at least tolerance for partner, not real support as here. Your soft values really do not suggest you have enough for a cue-bid raise. Despite your fourth trump, you might simply raise to two hearts and compete again to three hearts if the subsequent auction suggests that is appropriate.

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Bill CubleyApril 7th, 2019 at 3:30 pm


Please do not help my opponents in SC tournaments to bid slam. 😉

I need all the help I can get. BTW I did help us win 14 IMPS yesterday by making a slam while our rookie teammates led well and set the slam!

I agree with the cue bid.

Iain ClimieApril 7th, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

Another point on Raising the Roof’s hand is that Losing Trick Count, although a sometimes crude technique, suggests you have 1 less loser than a normal opening bid as the heart suit (even opposite 4 small) is very likely to be solid.

Hi Bill,

Out of interest, was the winning lead against the slam active or passive? Passivity is fine against grand slams and 1N 4N 6N. In hands where the oppo have values to spare, and at IMPs, aggression can pay off although many players bottle out of it.



bobbywolffApril 7th, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Hi Bill,

By popular demand you can take it to the bank that if anyone takes our slam bidding advice, they do so, first at their own risk and last making it difficult for them to find a partner.

However in spite of the governing bridge authority demanding we exhibit the above disclaimer we sometimes escape a double by bidding a slam when others are in game the other way making (and sometimes in the same suit).

Thanks for agreeing on the 4 diamond cue bid. BTW, what exactly is a cue bid, but whatever, it is a friendly gesture to offer.

bobbywolffApril 7th, 2019 at 8:57 pm

Hi Iain,

Actually, I think the cue bid is really a, (please excuse) slam dunk, and, of course hoping (if we wind up bidding one) that partner does first lay down 4 small trumps, making it likely that all his cards are working, rather than overkill.

Whether one plays a losing trick count or just basically “feels his way” that sixth trump is very under rated since it represents a clear cut winner instead of a possible loser. And also critical is the side ace, rather than even a marriage of a KQ it holds off an immediate loser and helps insure against an immediate two losers.

IMO you gave a very healthy comment against defending a suit slam, be aggressive with an attempt to establish the setting trick, in order to cash it when in with the trick those ugly opponents expected to lose.

While not always working exactly that way, it to me, is clearly the percentage way to go, and for the reason(s) you gave.

Tricks which lay in waiting while declarer is throwing away the potential setting trick have little residual value after the opponents are scoring up their tentative bid and made slam.

Almost just as important, is that your side will not have to listen to the sure to come cackle from both parties. Listening to the opponents scream at each other instead, becomes beautiful music.

Bill CubleyApril 7th, 2019 at 10:19 pm


They took their ace of clubs. Trump had to be drawn. But now dummy’s 3 trump were gone. Hearts were 4-2 and they lost a heart trick.

Moi got a diamond lead into my K9 doubleton with RHO playing the queen. So I took my ace jack of diamonds and pitched my. So I make whether or not hearts were 3-3 pr 4-2 with my 5=5=2=1 shape.

Thanks for asking!