Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

On a sequence where you use fourth-suit game-forcing and then support partner’s second suit, which is known to be four-cards long, does not that delayed support promise only three trumps? I’m thinking of a sequence like 1 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 3 . The logic is that you would have raised directly with four trumps.

—  Stutter Step, Charlottesville, Va.


ANSWER: The problem with your idea is that the fourth-suit call could have concealed a game-forcing or slam-interested hand with four spades. This is because there is no forcing raise of spades for responder at his second turn — bar a jump to four spades. Therefore if (as here) you raise spades after using fourth-suit, it shows four trumps, not three. If you delayed raising spades for one round further, you would show only three trumps, but not by the route you suggest.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently you showed a sequence where responder holds a strong hand with four decent clubs and five hearts. He responded one heart to one club and heard partner jump to four clubs. What kind of club suit would you expect for that auction? Does it always show a heart fit too? And why would opener not show shortage in a side-suit instead of rebidding clubs?

—  Monkey Business, Vancouver, British Columbia


ANSWER: The jump to four clubs is conventional, in a sense. It shows heart support, good long clubs, and real extras — a hand like this would be a minimum: 9, A-J-7-3, A-Q, A-Q-10-4-3-2. Normally opener would possess better clubs. Opener rates not to have a void, as he might prefer to show that first, unless his clubs were solid. However, shortage somewhere is guaranteed, since opener has at least 10 cards in clubs and hearts.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I was fourth to speak, with a strong no-trump, facing an overcall, when both opponents were bidding their own suits. Before I jump to game in no-trump, how good a stopper would I need in each of the opponents’ suits? What about stoppers in the unbid suit? And if I cuebid, do I promise support here or just show a good hand?

—  Pinochle Deck, Greenville, S.C.

  ANSWER: When you are considering no-trump, weak length in an unbid suit should not worry you. Remember that, as fourth to speak, you can also double for takeout, suggesting a good hand with some length in the fourth suit and support or tolerance for partner. A double covers most awkward hands without three trumps; hence the cuebid would always deliver support here.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I was in third seat with A-Q-7-3-2, K-10-3-2, 10-4 J-2. When partner opened three clubs at favorable vulnerability, what should I do now? Would it affect my call if I thought my RHO had squirmed before passing?

—  Tactical Warrior, Bremerton, Wash.


ANSWER: This sort of deal is a good example of how tough the game is. On the surface of it, you don’t fear the opponents playing game in no-trump or either major, so passing seems logical. But you might tempt your RHO back into the auction if you raise to four clubs and pretend you are pre-empting with a fit. Of course, this might backfire on you horribly! If so, please don’t blame me.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

I am a beginner who enjoys reading your columns, but I only comprehend about half of them. It would help enormously if you actually showed exactly how the cards are played as you do for the bidding. When I try to understand what’s happening, I get lost in the lingo. (This is just a suggestion and may only apply to a novice like myself.)

—  Scooby-Newbie, Texarkana, Texas


ANSWER: You make a good point, one I don’t always take into account. I do try to spell things out in the column — but the problem is one of space. I have a strict limit on the number of words, and it is tough to cram a quart into a pint jar! By the way, the earlier the deal in the week, the easier I try to make it. I don’t always succeed.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


AviSeptember 26th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

This is a suggestion to Scooby-Newbie.

I myself a beginning player. When I find it hard to follow the play, I usually copy the deal (into some text editing program such as Word) and I start to eliminate the card played in the sequence described.

That way I get a clearer picture of the play.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2010 at 12:08 am

Hi Avi,

Most bridge teachers and maybe all bridge columnists have probably forgotten how difficult bridge can be at the very beginning.

There is little doubt that the above, added to the cold like atmosphere of a bridge column, could be real testy for newbies understanding all they need to know about what the bridge problem in the column is about,

My guess is that bridge columns are probably usually meant for problem solvers, entertainment and to just help staying acquainted with the game, rather than trying to learn how to play.

One thing is certain and will likely never change and that is for someone to want to learn bridge he must make sure that he sits down at the bridge table, either socially, taking bridge lessons, or even in club level tournaments in order to develop the experience necessary to advance to the next higher levels.

Whetting one’s appetite is one thing, but competing intelligently is quite another.

Thanks for writing and informing others the method you prefer to better understand the learning.