Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Please explain the law of symmetry. Do experts still believe in this idea?

—  Fearful Symmetry, Greenville, S.C.


ANSWER: Ely Culbertson suggested that if one hand had a singleton, it was more likely that other players also had a singleton. That is fallacious; but the underlying idea that if one player is short in one suit he is likely to be longer in another suit (sometimes called the Law of Vacant Spaces) is certainly mathematically sound.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding Q-8-4-2, K-9, A-J-10-3, 4-3-2, I raised my partner’s opening bid of one spade to three to show a limit raise. Now my partner rebid four clubs and I cooperated with four diamonds, and eventually we reached a poor slam. My partner later described his four-club call as a help-suit try. Is this normal practice?

—  Help Wanted, Wichita Falls, Texas


ANSWER: It is not normal practice, but it does make very good sense for opener, the strong hand, to use help-suit slam-tries when facing a jump raise — in the same way that he uses help-suit game tries facing a simple raise. But without prior agreement I’d take the four-club call as a cue-bid here and respond with a diamond cue-bid in return, just as you did.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

My partner opened one heart in third seat. When this was doubled, I redoubled with 10 points and two hearts. This was passed back to my RHO, who escaped to two clubs, and I passed since I could not double this contract. This was passed out and got us a bad score since we could have made two diamonds or two hearts. Who was wrong here?

—  Petering Out, Fredericksburg, Va.

  ANSWER: Your pass would clearly be forcing were it not for the fact that some third-in-hand openers might take a view and let the opponents play undoubled if they had opened extremely light. Opener must act if he has anything approaching full opening values here. He can bid a second suit, repeat his own suit with extra length or strength, or double if balanced.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In third seat, with K-2, Q-J-4-2, K-J-9-7-6, Q-8, I elected to force to game facing a one-spade opener by bidding two diamonds. Over my partner’s rebid of two spades, would you go to four spades, or look for no-trump now? And does a three-spade call show a minimum or extras?

—  Big Game Hunter, Sunbury, Pa.


ANSWER: If you play two-over-one game-forcing, you have to decide whether jumps to game in forcing auctions are weak (the so-called Principle of Fast Arrival), which is simple if not particularly efficient, or more complex methods. Even assuming a jump to four spades was a minimum hand, I’d prefer the two-no-trump rebid. Your hand looks singularly unappetizing for the suit game.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently you discussed this hand in your bidding forum: A-K-9-7-3, A-Q-8-2, Q-6-3, 10. After an opening bid of one club to your right,. I agree with your choice of bidding one spade because you can get both majors into the action efficiently. What is your opinion of a Michaels Cuebid of two clubs here to show both majors with one bid?

—  Twofer, Grand Forks, N.D.


ANSWER: That you can bid spades, then double or bid two hearts, and get all the suits into the action in the right order is key to starting with one spade. As to the Michaels Cuebid, with the same hand but 5-4 the other way and with three small diamonds I can see a case, but I would not do it myself. Mike Lawrence has occasionally recommended that action with the right hand. I’m still on the fence.


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