Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Please explain again how many flaws a pre-empt should, or could, have based on position and vulnerability.

—  Sounding Board, San Antonio, Texas

ANSWER: In second seat, pre-empts should be sounder than in first chair, while in third chair you can be quite relaxed about suit quality and side-suit shape. Equally, the more dangerous the vulnerability, the better the suit you must possess to pre-empt. So a second–in-hand vulnerable pre-empt must be very sound; a third-in-hand nonvulnerable pre-empt might be almost frivolous.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

If my partner overcalls or responds and the next hand doubles, what should a redouble show? Should this indicate some sort of raise?

—  Alarm Bell, Bristol, Va.

ANSWER: With the greatest respect to the inventor of the Rosenkrantz double, I think it is unsound to use a redouble after an overcall to show anything except a good hand, generally denying primary support for partner. Equally, a redouble by opener to show a three-card raise is ill-founded. In both cases the redouble simply says you have extras and are prepared to defend.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding A-10-3-2, A-Q-J-7-2, J-8-4, 3, I opened one heart, and my partner responded with a forcing one no-trump. What is my best choice of call now, assuming I do not risk my partner’s ire by passing?

—  Torn to Shreds, Tucson, Ariz.

ANSWER: You should not pass here (because of the effect on partnership morale if you are wrong), so the simple choice is to reverse to two spades — a gross overbid — or to rebid the hearts, which overstates the suit. That leaves a bid of two diamonds, a call consistent with a three-card suit, which should not overexcite your partner, even if he has a diamond fit.

  Dear Mr. Wolff:

Can you discuss the logic of an overcaller bidding two no-trump at his next turn to speak? Is that natural, or is it unusual? If the latter, what sort of hand does it show?

—  Call of the Wild, Lakeland, Fla.

ANSWER: Let’s say you made a two-diamond overcall over one heart, then, when the opponents bid two hearts, you came in again with two no-trump. That suggests 6-4 in the minors; a bid of three clubs would suggest a five-card club suit. Equally, bidding two clubs, then balancing with two no-trump, would suggest clubs and shorter diamonds.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I assume you would open one no-trump if you were dealt K-Q-7-3, A-9-2, K-7-4, K-10-3; but if your RHO opened one heart, would you pass, bid one no-trump, or double?

—  Upwardly Mobile, Elkhart, Ind.

ANSWER: You are right that the hand is a textbook strong no-trump (although minimum). These days nearly everyone plays the range as 15-17, not 16-18. But while I would bid one no-trump over a minor, I think I would double one heart. However, throw in the heart 10, and I would certainly be tempted to make the no-trump overcall.


If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, e-mail him at Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009.


bruce karlsonJune 7th, 2009 at 11:14 am







As dealer, I open 1 C, LHO bids 1 H, partner doubles, and RHO passes. Adding weght for my stiff D, I bid 1S; partner asked for aces, and I played 6S with a Moysian (AKxx/Qxx) fit. When the odds prevailed, the 4/2 spade break did me in. Perhaps partner should have been more cautious, but I still would like your opinion on my spade response to the double.

Bobby WolffJune 7th, 2009 at 1:20 pm


I confess I would also respond 1 spade to your partner’s negative double because of the summation of the following factors:

1. My distribution is suit oriented, not NT.

2. The alternative rebid of 2 clubs, while basically a picture bid, is not aggressive enough for my tastes. 1 Spade, although not promising extras, is more forward going, and I think my hand warrants it.

3. Although, as of yet you have not given me your partner’s hand, (I am happy that you have not), usually when a negative double is used at the 1 level it is not slam oriented (not that it is always wrong for it to be).

4. It seems that partner has omitted an important step before he committed the hand to slam (by asking for aces) without checking out your possible distributions, including you having only 3 spades. Partner might have cue bid 2 hearts first enabling you to rebid 3 clubs and then perhaps another cue bid of 3 hearts, probably eliciting 3NT from you and, more importantly, planting a very clear seed in his mind that you are likely to have only 3 spades. Whether any hand of his would then be in the slam zone would, of course, depend on what his 13 ducats (slang for cards) specifically were.

5. High-level bridge only becomes a piece of cake, if discipline in slam bidding, a very necessary element, becomes evident. Shortcutting one’s way to the final contract sometimes is called for (preempting the opponent’s and putting pressure on their judgment are good reasons), but NOT when your side is trying to get to the right level (possibly slam) and the right strain to play it in.

By your not giving me partner’s hand, I have been able to talk about general caveats, therefore eliminating the possibility of my playing results.

Good luck!

Doug GinsbergJune 7th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff:

“Holding ♠ A-10-3-2, ♥ A-Q-J-7-2, ♦ J-8-4, ♣ 3, I opened one heart, and my partner responded with a forcing one no-trump. What is my best choice of call now, assuming I do not risk my partner’s ire by passing? ”

A harder question is what do you do if the diamond 4 is instead the club 4, and you have 4-5-2-2 distribution?

Bobby WolffJune 8th, 2009 at 3:39 am

Hi Doug,

The good news is that you have several options. The bad news is that none of them are good.

Option 1-If you only play a 1NT response is intended forcing (upper limit is 12HCPs) you might risk a pass. Along with intended forcing, goes along always making an immediate limit raise of partner’s major with only 3 trump. Rated B- and awkward because of the 3 card limit raise.

Option 2-Bid 2 diamonds the normal 3 card minor, one bids when playing unlimited or almost, balanced strength with the 1NT response. Rated C+ and distorted.

Option 3-Play Flannery (2D shows 4-5 and 11-15 HCP’s) rated B+ but loses the 2D opening for something else.

Rated B+ Only because through the years I think I have a substantial net + using Flannery.

Option 4-Play a reverse to 2 spades after a 1 heart opening only shows more hearts than spades, but not extra and non forcing. Rated C+, natural but may take away the 2 spade option when one has a very good hand.

Option 5-Rebid 2 hearts (which is much more likely with 2-2 in the minors) and pretend one of your diamonds is a heart. Rated C-, although it doesn’t change things much except perhaps it will change your partner if he doesn’t cotton to that treatment.

Option 6-With 2-2 in the minors, play that 2 clubs can be only 2-Rated D since you, unless very fortunate may wind up playing some doozy trump fits (think maybe 2-3 when partner has a singleton heart).

Option7-Never pick up that hand-Rated A+ since nothing bad will ever happen.