Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

As responder to a two-club opening bid, when the opponents intervene, I would like to be quiet when negative and vocal when positive (using the pass as weaker than a double and bids as positives), but our club experts tell me this is the reverse of how the pros handle interference. Who is right?

—  Passive-Aggressive, Arlington, Texas


ANSWER: There is NO technical merit that I can see to playing double as weaker than a pass, or vice versa. It seems that once an idea is established, it is stuck to, right or wrong. Go right ahead with whatever you like in this position. By the way, you are not alone in your preferences! In competition, you should, however, be prepared to shade a positive response if you have a good suit. Still, all that matters is that you have an agreement and can remember it.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held Q-9, Q-3-2, J-8-7-2, K-Q-7-4. When my RHO opened one diamond, I passed this around to my partner, who doubled. How would you now rate a call of two clubs, three clubs, and one no-trump?

—  Rating System, Newport News, Va.


ANSWER: If you believe, as I do, that partner will bid one no-trump with most balanced or quasi-balanced hands in the 10-15 range, then a call of one no-trump by you suggests 10-13 or so. I’d be happier to make that call with the diamond nine instead of the eight (now we have a second diamond stop facing any minor diamond honor), but I’ll do it anyway! Second choice: two clubs, not three clubs.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Do you enforce the rules on penalty cards if an opponent drops a card or leads out of turn? Do you enforce the penalty selectively, all of the time, or none of the time?

—  Legal Beagle, Rockford, Ill.

  ANSWER: At the local club I’m inclined to let players pick up their penalty cards, unless my partner would be upset by my being lenient. In serious competition I expect the rules to be enforced on me, and would normally stick by the rules myself unless playing against a someone with a physical disability, when it would not be appropriate to be a stickler.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In third seat, holding 9-6-3, 7, A-J-7-4, A-Q-9-6-4, I opened one club. My LHO overcalled one spade, my partner doubled, and I was not sure which minor suit to bid, or whether to gamble on one no-trump. My partner told me later that a call of two diamonds would not show extras, since the concept of a reverse does not apply in this auction. Is that so?

—  Shady Pines, Jackson, Miss.


ANSWER: With reservations, I agree. I would open your hand one club (some would bid one diamond), and — specifically — after my partner’s negative double, I believe any suit at the minimum level, such as a call of two diamonds, DENIES extras. With reversing values, one would have to jump to three diamonds, or cue-bid if prepared to force to game, then bid diamonds.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

At the Duplicate Club what can you do about folks who replay every hand and jabber away about who should have done what? Is there a rule about limiting conversations?

—  Trappist Monk, Lorain, Ohio


ANSWER: There is really no way to stop a post-mortem. Even when players are running late, it is human nature to want to attribute blame appropriately. One must rely on the director to assist in the smooth running of the game, but if a pair is not overly late, it is hard to hurry them up. A firm comment such as “We are running late — PLEASE let’s start the new deal” sometimes helps … but not always.


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


DarinTApril 18th, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Re: Passive-aggressive, I can see one slight advantage to using double as weakness-showing. If one doubles to show weakness, one possible option by the 2C opener is to pass for penalties, most likely showing a notrump-oriented hand. This puts a bit more pressure on the LHO of the doubler, who doesn’t know whether to raise partner’s preempt or not. If LHO raises when opener was planning to pass out for penalties, he suffers an additional penalty when he didn’t have to. If LHO passes when opener was going to bid, he loses out on taking away bidding room.

That said, it is far better and far more profitable to have firm agreements one understands and remembers than to have a mixed bag of agreements for specific situations that one is apt to forget.

Bobby WolffApril 19th, 2010 at 2:09 am

Hi Darin T,

Perhaps another factor not discussed is when an opponent preempts over the 2 club opening, double becomes unequivocal that it is a basic double negative, maximum of one queen or two jacks as well as not a hand such as xxxxxx, void, xxxx, xxx where against a heart preempt, of course, I would bid 4 spades, instead of pass since my hand certainly appears to be (although it may not be) somewhat valuble offensively. To put it another way, double to show a very poor hand allows the responder to distinguish between a bid, a pass, or the double negative which over a defensive preempt probably should be extended to a balanced 4 or even 5 count, but not one wherein it would be a good dummy for at least two suits.

Usually these discussions result in a lot of what ifs depending on the type hands which are dealt, but yes your point about the slight advantage of partner being able to leave the double in is worth mentioning, but in actual practice my instincts say that since that situation arises so infrequently together with so much good judgment required to be successful that it really becomes close to a tossup as to what to do.

Thanks for expressing your views. Little by little we can all improve together!