Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

When using Key-Card Blackwood, if my partner responds five diamonds, how do I know if he is showing one ace or the trump king? If I held two aces, I would need this information to know whether to bid slam.

—  Key-Card Conundrum, Atlanta, Ga.


ANSWER: If you have agreed a trump suit, you do NOT want to play slam if you are missing two aces, OR missing one ace and the trump king, as slam could be no better than the trump finesse. Sometimes that finesse can work, but you will rarely be in a position to take advantage of that information. So the trump king is as good as an ace — and you do not need to differentiate. Whether you always need the trump QUEEN is more problematic — but we’ll discuss that another day!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

In third seat, after you hear partner open one diamond and your RHO bid one spade, what would you respond with J-9, A-Q-7-3-2, K-10-3-2, 10-4? It seems the choice is to raise diamonds, bid hearts, or make a negative double — but if I double, how do I cope with a pre-emptive raise to three spades on my left?

—  Tough Choices, Saint John’s, Newfoundland


ANSWER: Raising diamonds seems wrong — you might all too easily miss a heart contract. Because of the diamond fit, you could take a rosy view of this hand and bid two hearts, planning to raise diamonds later. If your minor suits were switched, a double might be more advisable since you have no certainty of a fit. As it is, if you double — not my choice — and hear the raise to three spades, I’d double again at my next turn. This would be primarily for takeout.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I find it easy enough to take care of the trumps when I am about to draw a few rounds, but find it more difficult when I’m playing to ruff things or scramble to score my small trumps. Any suggestions?

—  Trump Manager, Grand Junction, Colo.


ANSWER: The key here is always to count trumps in the following fashion before playing to trick one. Add up your trumps and dummy’s, then subtract that number from 13. Count down from that number from now on. So if you are missing five trumps, when they ruff in, the number goes to four; you draw a round of trumps and if they both follow, that number is two, and so on.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In fourth chair you hold J-4-2, A-10-3-2, K-J-7-4, Q-9 and have heard a weak two hearts on your left, doubled by partner. Next, RHO bid three hearts, and you make a three-no-trump call, over which partner bids four spades. Should you bid on now?

—  Overpowered, Cartersville, Ga.


ANSWER: You have a pretty good hand but you already showed most of it when you contracted for game. Now the question is whether you should cue-bid five hearts, or pass. Go for the pessimistic pass because with a slam-drive, partner might have done more himself.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

My wife and I used to play a lot of bridge but then stopped for a number of years. Now I would like to explore getting back to playing, but I understand Goren is “history” and there are new bidding strategies. Could you recommend a book or two book that can familiarize us with the modern techniques?

—  Rip Van Winkle, Houston, Texas


ANSWER: Congratulations on your return to the fold. Eric Rodwell and Audrey Grant have produced a book on two-over-one that might be at just the right level; “25 Bridge Conventions” by Seagram and Smith might also work. Max Hardy’s book on two-over-one is also still available.


If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, e-mail him at Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2010.


bruce karlsonMay 16th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Re: “Tough choices”

I would bid 2 H here, following the Wolff Admonition to take an action early. Part of my reasoning would be that my nice diamonds increase the value of the hand offensively.

If there is a 3 spade bid on my left, partner has more information even thiough the odds are heavy that he passes and leaves it to me. In that case, after a few moments of thought, I probably double in MPs and pass in IMPs. (Suspect I have 3 tricks in my hand and, if Righty cannot easily get to the board, my pard should come up with 2.)

How many mistakes did I get into two paragraphs??

Bobby WolffMay 16th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Hi Bruce,

Mistakes? what mistakes? We will wait the results before determining what works. I would definitely bid 2 hearts, agreeing with you and relying on my diamond fit as my overriding reason.

Then after my LHO competes with 3 spades, passed back around to me, I would choose 4 diamonds, not double or the timid pass, as my next venture. If one of my small diamonds was say, the Jack of clubs, then I would keep it competitive by doubling, instead of passing, which I would probably choose without the stray Jack. Having the fourth diamond both increases our partnership’s offense, but, at the same time, reduces our defense.

YES, it comes down to a Jack or no Jack since it is that close, but others may judge differently. Your partner’s aggressive or not tendency and the opponent’s fierce competitive reputation also enters into my decision.

I, differently than you, would not guess as to where the defensive tricks will come from, since the possibilities are infinite, and therefore not subject to forecast. After all my lifetime of playing, I acquiesce to the Bridge Puppeteer and let him decide. Rather, and to repeat, I use the defensive negative, but the offensive positive of the 4th diamond to rule my thinking and help me determine. For what it is worth and from partner’s viewpoint, he, after my 4 diamond rebid, should know that I almost surely do not have 6 hearts since I didn’t open a weak 2 heart bid originally.

Thanks for your question, since I suspect that at least several readers would like to know yours and my judgment.