Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

You recently presented a hand where opener raised his partner’s one-level response with three trumps, rather than introducing a second suit. How does the partner ever find out how many trumps he will be facing if the raise can be made with either holding? And why not rebid one no-trump with only three trumps, if the hand is almost balanced?

—  Doubting Thomas, Galveston, Texas

ANSWER: Raising partner is the best way to get to game when you have a fit — and to stay low when you know you don’t have a fit. If responder wants to find out about the range of the opening hand after a raise, a sophisticated way is to ask with a relay of two no-trump. Responses are by steps: three trumps, minimum hand; three, maximum; four, minimum; four, maximum.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held 9, J-9-3-2, A-10-3-2, K-Q-7-4. As a passed hand I responded one no-trump to one spade, and the next hand butted in with two diamonds. What did my partner show by doubling? Was it extra values, takeout or penalty?

—  No Compass, Atlanta, Ga.

ANSWER: While there is no firm agreement on what a double means here, I like it to be takeout, and this is what your hand suggests it to be. Partner’s typical shape would be a 5-3-1-4 pattern. (With both majors one might simply bid hearts, not double.) So with your actual hand, passing would not be absurd, but maybe cue-bidding three diamonds also works. You plan to bid no-trump over a three-spade call, raise hearts, or cue-bid your diamond ace over a club call, looking for a club slam.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I play rubber bridge every week with the same group. One of the players tends to win more often than the others. Some say it’s because he gets all the cards. Over the years, would you not expect the cards to average out?

—  Lucky Charms, Montreal, Quebec

  ANSWER: Unless your friend is good at dealing himself aces (but you would have noticed that!), I’d say the luck evens out. But beware: the better players always seem lucky. As Gary Player said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding Q-10-9-5-3, 2, 10-3, A-K-Q-7-4, the young Turks in our neighborhood open one spade, planning to rebid the suit after a two-level red-suit response. The old-timers, like me, prefer one club, planning to rebid spades twice, with the partnership agreement that this does not promise extras. What say you?

—  Show and Tell, Durham, N.C.


ANSWER: My first instinct is to go along with you, bidding suits I want my partner to lead. The problem auctions sometimes come at your third turn after opening clubs and bidding spades: How do you distinguish a minimum 5-5 from one with an extra ace? It is not an easy problem! But perhaps you open one spade with much better spades than clubs, or with a stronger hand — and open one club with this hand.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I assume you would open one club, planning to rebid one no-trump over any one-level response, with K-J-9, J-10-2, 10-8, A-K-Q-7-4. That was what I did. I heard one diamond on my left, a negative double from partner, and now I had to guess what to do. The deal came up at pairs, with no one vulnerable.

—  Gerry Meandering, Sioux Falls, S.D.


ANSWER: I agree with your decision to open one club, although in playing strength the hand resembles a strong no-trump. Now you have to decide what to rebid. If partner has a diamond stop, you may be best off in no-trump; but I would guess to bid one heart because even facing one diamond stopper, you may find you need to take diamond ruffs in the short trump hand.


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