Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What should the responses of three hearts and three spades to one no-trump be used for? Should they show both majors, invitational and strong respectively?

—  Solon, Mason City, Iowa


ANSWER: That is playable, but I believe transferring to spades, then bidding three hearts, takes care of the good hand. And using Stayman, then bidding two spades, can effectively describe an unbalanced invitational hand with five spades. Thus I marginally prefer using the direct jumps as game-forcing, showing both minors with 5-4 pattern. Responder bids his shortage to suggest three cards in the other major.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding 9, A-J-10-3-2, K-Q-7-4, K-J-4, I opened one heart and rebid two diamonds over a one-spade response. My partner now jumped to three spades. Should this be forcing or invitational, and if the latter what would you do now?

—  Bounceback, Harrisburg, Pa.


ANSWER: This sequence should be invitational, not forcing — your partner could use fourth-suit forcing to set up the game-force. Because you have a bit extra in high cards, it looks logical to bid three no-trump now. Partner can always overrule you with a hand that looks more appropriate to the suit game.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In a social duplicate match, South opened a strong no-trump, and West overcalled two clubs. If North was planning to make a Stayman call before the intervention, what is the best call to convey that? Two diamonds was suggested as a possibility (if agreed as a convention), although that would take away the normal two-diamond rebid from South, denying a four-card major.

—  Stymied, Midland, Mich.

  ANSWER: After intervention of two clubs (unless the call shows both majors), best is to ignore it and use double for Stayman, with transfers remaining in place. This is ONLY for the two-club call — and it is because you still have exactly the same scheme of responses available as you did before. If they intervene with higher calls, I suggest takeout doubles and an artificial two-no-trump call. Two-level calls are natural and weak; three-level calls, strong.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

An unopposed auction ran one heart – one spade – three spades – four diamonds – four hearts – four spades – all pass. In an expert game what inferences would the opening leader be able to draw about declarer’s (or dummy’s) holding a club control?

—  Infer a Penny, Durango, Colo.


ANSWER: In a top-class game the four-diamond call would tend to deny a club control, particularly if the partnership style was to cue-bid first- and second-round controls indiscriminately. The return cue-bid of four hearts would then guarantee a heart control and some control in clubs, or else that hand would have signed off, knowing there was no club control held.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently you discussed A-K-J-6-5-4, 2, A-10-6-3-2, 7. To me this looks like another one of those two-suiters best opened two clubs (since it is a five-loser hand) to avoid being passed out in one spade when game is cold, with North holding as little as the spade queen or diamond king and nothing else. What do you think?

—  Eager Beaver, Orlando, Fla.


ANSWER: The simple answer is that since one spade will almost never be passed out, I prefer one spade. If your diamonds included even the queen instead of the 10, the strong opening would be acceptable. With a two-suiter in this range, the one-level opening followed by a jump shift gets you to game and does not risk going overboard when partner assumes you have much more.


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Alex AlonSeptember 12th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

responding a suit on the 3 level after 1NT opening ( 15-17). My partner and me playing this as splinter bid, the suit being bid is singelton or void with game forcing hand or better and this way slams can be reached easy. The responders hand can be 4441 ( 1 in any suit) or 5440 ( 0 in major only). There are several answering options for the opener. This is some thing we thought about and calling it AAAA convention. We have been playing this over a year with very good results when this type hand occurs.

Alex Alon


Bobby WolffSeptember 12th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Hi Alex,

Thanks for suggesting and briefly describing the AAAA convention of which you play with your partner.

It would be irresponsible of me, not to mention inaccurate, for me to either recommend or not your new convention. I have not heard nor been privy to that type of handling so I would need to do much research in order to form a well considered opinion.

For what it is worth, any hoped for high-level convention involving excluding former heretofore sound treatments, therefore rendering them obsolete, needs to pass the following litmus test:

1. The conventional bid suggested MUST have enough bidding room available so that the partnership can find out in time to be able to sign off at the maximum final contract without jeopardizing getting too high.

2. When experimenting with the slam range, there must be enough room to exchange 1st and 2d round control bids and still have sign-off options as well as forward going efforts to explore higher contracts. Keep in mind that concerning AAAA and after the partner of the NT bidder jumps to the 3 level with his shortness that the NT’er needs to confirm which suit should be trump immediately. Note: Sometimes 4-4 fits will produce an extra trick over either 5-3 or even 5-4 fits.

3. Problems which need to be identified and consequently provided for:

A. Which suit is chosen to be trump.

B. Controls in all suits, but the willy-nilly treatment of 1st and 2d round control bids alike could lead to being off two cashable aces.

C. Enough meat, in the form of high cards between the hands to warrant a small slam effort, and an even moreso requirement for a grand.

D. Although different players, even world class ones, have varied problems with memory when it comes to relatively small nuances in later round bidding. (my own experience is that misunderstandings in slam type conventions, including key card BW, have cost my team winning at least one world championship and, if my memory serves, none of these conventions have ever helped me win one).

E. In no way am I being negative toward AAAA or any other convention, but what I am saying is that in order to do so and then to play it in the big time, no possible weakness should be left unexplored.

Good luck to you and keep me posted with how well AAAA continues to do.

Alex AlonSeptember 12th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Dear Bobby Wolff,

you are for a fact one of the greatest bridge players of all time but your kindness is exceeding your bridge skills.

I will keep you informed about the convention AAAA, and also will write you the answers and treatments we have been using so far.

The great appeal in AAAA is that it is not interfering with our or others regular methods like Stayman, transfers Jacoby and Texas smolen and so on.