Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

My RHO dealt and opened one spade, and I held Q-2, Q-7, K-J-7-6-5-3, Q-8-3. What are the pluses and minuses of acting. Would the vulnerability be critical?

—  Weighing In, Dayton, Ohio

ANSWER: Your hand looks more useful on defense. (All those queens might score tricks on defense, but are less likely to be winners when you are declarer.) Also, you have a moderate suit without intermediates. Look at it this way: I’d expect an extra king for a two-level overcall. Move a queen from the majors into diamonds, and a weak jump would be acceptable at any vulnerability but unfavorable.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Please explain the stop-card procedures. I am new to duplicate bridge and do not really understand why I need to use them when I raise one no-trump to three.

—  Slow Coach, Mitchell, S.D.

ANSWER: By using a stop card whenever you make a skip-bid, you allow your LHO time to decide whether he has a problem — indeed, even when he is not likely to have a problem. Sometimes a player DOES want to double when the opponents reach game, or does want to sacrifice. In addition, when your RHO pre-empts or makes a weak jump raise, you will often need time to think. By introducing a mandatory pause, you try to eliminate the passing of information that comes from an otherwise slow action.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I was in third chair with Q-J-10, Q-6-5-3-2, K-J-7, Q-9 after three clubs from partner and double on my right. Should I raise to four clubs, or do my soft defensive cards tell me to sit back and go passive? My partner actually had seven clubs and four diamonds, enough for a cheap save over four spades.

—  Calculating Risk, Springfield, Mass.

  ANSWER: Don’t be swayed by one deal into thinking you should act with a hand like this, with all those defensive cards. Yes, when partner has extra shape, you might have a save in five clubs, but equally, when all he has is six clubs to the ace-king (it happens!), they cannot make anything at the three-level. You were right to pass, and you did it for the right reasons.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Often, when I open one club, my LHO overcalls or doubles, my partner raises to two clubs, and the next hand either supports his partner or bids a new suit. If I have clubs (say four in a balanced or semibalanced hand), should I bid three clubs? What if I have five clubs in a balanced hand?

—  Gone Clubbing, Jackson, Tenn.

ANSWER: When your partner raises clubs, you hope he will have five, but expect him to have additional shape or values if he has only four. Hence, if you have four clubs and any additional side-suit shape, you should feel happy to compete to the three-level. With five trumps I would always bid on to three clubs, even if I had a balanced minimum.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held 9-4-2, A-Q-7-4-2, K-5-3, 8-3. My partner opened one club, and my RHO bid one spade. Is my hand good enough for me to bid two hearts? I thought not, so I made a negative double, and now heard a raise to two spades on my left, passed back to me. What is appropriate now?

—  Broken Hearts, Elkhart, Ind.

ANSWER: You were right not to bid two hearts, although you might have taken that action as a passed hand. The minimum for a two-level bid should be an invitation facing a suitable 12-14 balanced hand. So with a sixth heart (or the heart jack instead of a small card), bidding two hearts would be fine. On the actual auction I’d regretfully pass out two spades. It may not be our best possible plus-score, but it looks like our best chance to go plus.


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