Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is the advantage of leading third and fifth (or third and low) as opposed to fourth highest?

—  Fearless Leader, Columbia, S.C.

ANSWER: The benefits are relatively small, but in bridge one wants to differentiate between similar holdings. Leading fourth highest, but also lowest from three, makes those holdings hard to tell apart. Leading a higher card from two or four cards, but low from three or five, means that any ambiguity should be between holdings that are two cards apart. You are thus less likely to have that confusion.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

If you were dealt A-J, K-9-6, K-10-6-4-2, 6-3-2, would you open in fourth seat, and would the vulnerability affect the decision?

—  Lightweight, Wausau, Wis.

ANSWER: Playing pairs, I tend to open my 11-12 point hands when vulnerable (even when relatively short in spades, a criterion others take seriously). My logic is that my partner is likely to be close to an opener since he passed in second seat. As for my RHO, anyone who passes in third seat nonvulnerable is surely weak, so it rates to be our hand.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Can you explain what is supposed to happen in a tournament if a pair cannot play a board, either because of an accident in the movement or because of a late play.

—  Lost in Space, Janesville, Wis.

ANSWER: I’m not an experienced director, but I think if you cannot play a deal because of something to which you contributed (by playing the deal at the wrong table), you get an average or average minus. Your real opponents — who did nothing wrong — get an average plus.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

If you open a major suit and your partner responds one no-trump, are you allowed to invite by bidding two no-trump with a good 16-count, or do you have to pass? What is the minimum you need to rebid two no-trump or even three no-trump?

—  A Little Extra, Augusta, Ga.

ANSWER: A jump to three no-trump is very unusual and suggests six decent cards in your major. With a good 17-19 and a balanced hand, you can raise to two no-trump. So what do you do with a balanced 15-16 count? Open one no-trump, temporarily concealing the major in return for showing your high cards at one go. If you have a 5-4 pattern, just bid the second suit and take it from there.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Say you picked up Q-2, Q-6-4-3-2, 10-7-4, A-3-2 in third seat and heard your partner open three clubs at favorable vulnerability. Would you pass, bid five clubs, or try to steal the hand at four clubs?

—  Bouncing Bob, Mason City, Kan.

ANSWER: My philosophy here is simple. I’ve no idea who can make what, so I want to give my opponents the hardest problem I can. I suspect they can make a game, so let’s see them work out what to do over my jump to five clubs. Yes, we might go for 800, but maybe I can give my partner a spade ruff, or he can set up the hearts and get out cheaply — or the opponents might overbid. I would do this at pairs, teams, or rubber.

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave comments at this blog. This column is reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 2009.