Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

When I hold an ace, my partner will often hold the king of the same suit, but neither of us will lead the suit because we do not want to underlead an ace or king. How often is it fatally wrong to cash an unsupported ace against a slam?

—  Living Dangerously, Charleston, S.C.

ANSWER: The question of whether more slams are let through by cashing an ace unwisely as opposed to not cashing an ace is such a vexed one that many partnerships have split up over it. My view is not to lead an ace unless the auction sounds so strong that I imagine my tricks may go away. And when I have a sequence, I normally would lead that instead.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Playing rubber bridge, I held —, K-J-10-9-7-5-3, A-K-J-7-3, 10. My RHO opened four spades, I doubled, and, alas, all passed. They made 12 tricks. What call should I have made? My partner assumed I was doubling for penalty. She held four diamonds to the queen, and five diamonds would have been a good sacrifice.

—  Hidden Treasure, Dallas, Texas

ANSWER: I prefer to use the double for takeout. Partner removes with shape or values, but can pass with a flat weak hand. When you have shape, you should bid your long-suit at an appropriate level, or make a two-suited takeout bid. Most people play a bid of four no-trump here as a two-suited takeout, and that action would get you to a diamond contract. Equally, with 7-5 shape you might just bid hearts and not worry about the second suit.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

My LHO opened the bidding and my RHO now jumped to two spades to show a weak hand and a long suit. I doubled and the next two hands passed. My RHO was thinking of bidding when his partner jocularly asked him if he knew that two spades doubled was game. Was this appropriate – and, by the way, wasn’t my double for takeout, not penalties?

—  Innocent Bystander, Macon, Ga.

  ANSWER: It is worse than inappropriate — it is wholly wrong for LHO to suggest to his partner to pass when he may have been about to bid. That would be considered a very grave offense at high levels of the game. Your double sounds like takeout to me. (Most players believe that a double, at your first turn, of any contract except no-trump is for takeut.) Even doubles at your second turn will be takeout if facing a passed partner, of if the opponents have announced a fit.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Say you deal yourself A-9-3, A-Q-3-2, K-Q-7-3-2, 10. If you open one diamond and hear a response of one spade, what options would you consider sensible?

—  Chunky Monkey, West Palm Beach, Fla.


ANSWER: You have a good but not great hand, nearly good enough for a reverse to two hearts because of the spade fit, but not quite. Give yourself the diamond jack instead of a small one and you’d do that. Since you cannot repeat diamonds or bid no-trump, you’re left with a slightly inelegant raise to two spades. You are a little too strong but have only three trumps — on balance, it is about right.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I follow your column on a daily basis in “The Gazette” in Montreal. From what source do you get the quotes that precede the analyses? Do you research them yourself or do you have a staff member who finds them for you?

—  Marion the Librarian, Montreal


ANSWER: Bartlett’s, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and the web suffice. Generally, I have a thematic idea I’m looking for, which ties into the deal. Occasionally, when the deal suggests nothing, I go to some bridge collections and browse for something funny, entertaining or thought-provoking.


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