Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is a safety play? Does it sacrifice a trick (like a gambit at chess), or is there a more subtle meaning?

—  Safety Zone, Columbia, S.C.

ANSWER: A safety play is an imprecise term, covering two sorts of play. One (typically) is to make a play in a suit that might lose one trick in total to ensure not losing two. This is done even when there is a chance of playing a line that might lose no tricks. The second sort of safety play involves playing a suit to guard against a bad break, even when your play does not risk losing an extra trick.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

My new partner, who was first to speak with A-9-7-4-3-2, 6, —, K-J-7-6-3-2, opened two spades. Of course I held a spade void and passed, and though my partner played incredibly well to get 10 tricks, it was a near bottom since we could have made five or even six clubs. I maintained that the best opening call would be pass. What do you think?

—  A Nonspeaking Role, Olympia, Wash.

ANSWER: Curiously, with the suits reversed, I do have a little sympathy with a two-spade bid, but this is very much the wrong holding in spades on which to pre-empt (defense but no intermediates) and you cannot afford not to get the clubs in. As you say, it is best to pass and show your hand on the next round.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Can you tell me what I should do when my partner hesitates after the opponents pre-empt? Must I pass or can I bid when I have a clear action?

—  Jerky Tempo, Dallas, Texas

ANSWER: There are two issues here. The first is that the pre-empter is supposed to make a skip-bid warning and your partner is supposed to pause for 10 seconds, whether or not he has a problem. The second point is that if your partner breaks tempo and obviously has a problem, your ethical obligation is to make any call that you consider clear-cut. But if there is no such action, you should avoid making any call suggested by your partner’s tempo.

  Dear Mr. Wolff:

My RHO opened one spade, and I held J-3-2, 9-8-6, A-K-6, A-K-Q-3. I was stuck but guessed to bid one no-trump. The opponents signed off at three hearts, allegedly because they thought I had a spade stopper. They said I broke the rules. What did I do wrong? Would I be penalized in a tournament?

—  Nervous Newby, Winston-Salem, N.C.

ANSWER: Your opponents misunderstood the situation. Bidding one no-trump without a stopper is not illegal. It may be ill-judged or well-judged, but all the call says is that you have a strong balanced hand, typically with a spade stop. You can even make a call outside your range if you want to. As long as partner has no reason to expect it, you can do what you like.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I am currently teaching an intermediate bridge class on competitive bidding. They were taught that when facing an overcall, a one-level advance is not forcing but a two-level advance is. I have always thought that both advances are constructive but not forcing. Also, can a major-suit advance of a one-diamond overcall show a four-card suit?

—  On the Level, Little Rock, Ark.

ANSWER: I would teach them that an advance of a two-level overcall is almost forcing (because the overcall shows a good hand), but an advance of a one-level overcall, even by an unpassed hand, is constructive but can be passed (as the exception not the rule). Whether a new suit promises five or not is also a tough one; I’d say it shows five, but you may occasionally do it on four if pressed.


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