Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

As a relatively disciplined player, I wonder how the experts treat pre-empts these days. Do they require decent suits, or will position and vulnerability influence their decisions to bid or pass?

— Leaps and Bounds, Dover, Del.

ANSWER: At all forms of scoring, you can expect nonvulnerable players in first or third seat to be very aggressive, and also in second seat at favorable vulnerability. Conversely, when vulnerable, many experts (not all!) in first or second seat have very close to perfect hands for their pre-empts. Those playing strong club systems may be lighter (their opening thresholds are generally weaker).

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Is your method of discarding standard or nonstandard?

— Perfect Pitch, Mobile, Ala.

ANSWER: There may be some minor technical superiority to a method like Odd-Even, where odd cards encourage and even are suit preference; but in reality any expert pair playing standard signals also can show suit preference, pitching high or low cards in suits where their holdings are already defined. Standard has worked fine for me for 50 years, and I have never really seen a reason to change.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

In second seat, holding A-J-10-2, A-K-7, 4, Q-10-6-3-2, I opened one club and heard one heart from my partner and two on my right from the passed hand. I doubled and was told by my partner that this just showed a good hand. If I can’t double for penalties here, how do I show my hand?

— Forced Out, Riverside, Calif.

ANSWER: Your partner might have a point. First of all, I’m not sure you want to defend with such good hearts. Second, whenever you have a good hand without four hearts, you have to bid something, and double may be your only choice to show a good hand with no clear action.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Say you pick up A-Q-2, K-7-4-2, Q-J-7-4, 10-5 and open one diamond. Partner jumps to three clubs, strong, and you bid three no-trump. If partner now bids four diamonds; what would you do?

— Heads Up, Huntington, W. Va.

ANSWER: I can sign off (and if so, how?), or cue-bid (and if so, what?). Since slam may be laydown opposite your hand and you have already shown a minimum, I would not sign off in either four no-trump or five diamonds. I would cue-bid my spade ace, not my heart king; partner is more likely to want to hear about first-round controls.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

You mentioned that Standard American uses five-card majors and short minors for opening bids. However, our bridge group uses these criteria to bid in second or fourth position after an opponent has opened. Is this wise?

— Coming In, Eau Claire, Wis.

ANSWER: Overcalls in any suit, be it a major or a minor, show at least five cards, and strongly suggest six at the two-level. If you have enough to want to act but can’t overcall or bid one no-trump — showing 15-18 with a stop — you double with support for the other three suits; otherwise, pass. (By the way, responses to partner’s opening only guarantee a four-card suit.)

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.


bruce karlsonApril 12th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Re: “Forced Out”: Absent some assurance that partner will double me back in, I must do something. Why not simply support Hearts, prepared to live with a Moysian fit. The hand should be worth four and may provide five tricks if trumps behave, or if partner has five or the missing honors. Then, await events as our side may be able to set 3 Spades two tricks, one down is close to a certainty, or play comfortably in 3 Hearts. I might be a bit more cautious at unfavorable vulnerablity.

Bobby WolffApril 12th, 2009 at 2:13 pm


Methinks your comments are pretty close to right on, if not 100%. Anyone who thinks bridge is an exact science, instead of an art form, should think again and if double by you does not need at least some cooperation from partner than a bid of 3 hearts, being in the right direction, should be offered.

Your reference to a Moysian fit (Sonny Moyse, former Bridge World Magazine owner 40+ years ago), who believed that 4-3 trump fits were very playable, belies your claimed amateur status and explains your relatively mature approach to our game.

To top it off, your final comment about being cautious at unfavorable vulnerability (we are, they aren’t) needs to

have been said. Quit hiding and come up to the commentators table, where you no doubt belong.

bruce karlsonApril 12th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Your kind thoughts are much appreciated. Just made Life Master @ the Sandestin Regional (first in “B”) playing with a pick team in the Swiss. Perhaps there is hope. I shall have “bear down” to “play up”, and apply the knowledge I have garnered. Therein lies the rub!!!