Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

When your partner opens a weak-two in diamonds and you hold J-3, K-Q-10-6-4, A-Q-7, 10-3-2, what should you do? Do you pass, raise diamonds (and if so, how high?) or introduce the hearts?

—  Pointed Question, Albuquerque, N.M.

ANSWER: I would bid two hearts, intending it as natural and forcing, not because I thought we could make four hearts. but because with my big diamond fit I’d want to try to keep the opponents quiet. Suggesting I have a good hand with hearts might just do that. I plan to give preference to diamonds at my next turn, unless partner raises hearts, and that would be nonforcing.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I have a lot of problems when discarding in a suit contract. Does pitching an encouraging high card send a stronger message than throwing a discouraging low card in another suit? And what does it mean when you start with the discard of a neutral suit (one you cannot want to encourage in)?

—  Discard Dilemmas, Corpus Christi, Texas

ANSWER: Pitching a neutral suit first always dilutes the message that follows. (If you felt strongly about one suit or another, you’d begin by sending that message.) But if you want to encourage a suit, it is sometimes clearer and safer to discourage the other suit. That way, you retain all your winners in the key suit.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I assume that you would respond one heart to one diamond when you hold A-9-6-4, K-9-6-4, 2, 10-8-6-4. When partner rebids two clubs, should you pass or raise to three clubs? If you would pass, how much more might you need to bid three clubs?

—  Gear Changer, Springfield, Mass.

  ANSWER: I would pass, expecting there was a fair chance that my heart king would not be pulling much weight (facing shortage). But change the heart king to the ace and I’d dredge up a raise to three clubs. I might even bid on at teams if I had as little additional as the jack in one of my long suits.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

You recently answered a letter about Gerber, restricting its use to no-trump auctions. Why not use it after a one-heart opening is raised to three, for example?

—  All-Purpose Bid, Miami, Fla.


ANSWER: Four no-trump asks for aces, but if the call has another meaning, we need to ask for aces a different way. Sometimes the four-no-trump call is quantitative: bid on with a maximum or pass with a minimum. This happens only when the last bid was in no-trump. Accordingly, four no-trump is always available as Blackwood UNLESS the last call was one or two no-trump, when it is quantitative. Hence, Gerber is needed only in those auctions.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Say you elected to open one no-trump with A-J-7-4-3, 9-2, A-Q-7, A-Q-3. After two hearts on your left, I assume you balance with two spades, and now partner raises to three spades. What next?

—  Lost in Space, Phoenix, Ariz.


ANSWER: This hand is deeply flawed for a one-no-trump opening. It is too strong, with both a five-card major and a weak doubleton. I’d open one spade and raise one no-trump to two no-trump, showing 18-19 or so. Having balanced with two spades (suggesting some of these extras), I guess I would bid game now. I’d hope to find nothing in hearts opposite and maybe a minor I could establish.


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