Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

How should I respond to a double of a four-spade opening bid? If I remove the double, is a call of four no-trump natural or artificial?

—  Mile High, Riverside, Calif.


ANSWER: The double is best played as something close to optional. You pass the double unless you can remove to a contract you expect to make. The call of four no-trump in response to a double would definitely not be natural. It suggests a two-suiter, initially the minors though one can have hearts and a minor, planning to correct an inconvenient response to the next higher suit.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding K-9-4-2, Q-7-5-2, A-9-3, 3-2, how would you bid when your LHO opens one club and your partner overcalls one diamond? Should you pass, raise diamonds, or bid a major?

—  Standard Bearer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


ANSWER: I am way too good to pass. My choice is to raise diamonds (hoping partner will introduce a major with extras) or to respond one heart myself. I believe that if I bid a major here, I should be happy to be raised if partner has three. This hand does not qualify under that heading, but give me the heart jack instead of the two, and I might change my mind and bid one heart.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently you ran a deal where South held K-8-2, J-10, K-Q-7-6-5-4 Q-3 and had opened one diamond. When I asked my bridge partner what she thought South should rebid, the reply was: “I don’t think South should have opened one diamond to begin with!” Her reasoning was that opener can’t count both points and length, or give full HCP credit to doubletons headed by a queen or jack. So is this really a weak two-bid?

—  Demanding a Recount, Columbia, S.C.

  ANSWER: It is not perfect, but I tend to follow the rule that a six-card suit plus 11 HCP equals an opening bid because the two points I mentally add for the six-carder make it up to 13. That said, I do not object to opening two diamonds. Indeed, the absence of aces may make it the value bid, but the weak diamond spots keep me from loving that call. This one is close enough that you both have sensible arguments, and no one is wrong. How Solomonic!


Dear Mr. Wolff:

If you open one no-trump and the opponents intervene, does doubling under or over the trump suit indicate whether that call is penalty or takeout? And does it matter whether you are responder or opener?

—  Axolotl, San Francisco, Calif.


ANSWER: There is no right or wrong here, just partnership agreement. I play takeout doubles by both sides at the first turn after they overcall our no-trump bid, but in some partnerships I’ve made an exception for when opener hears his RHO balance. Frankly, takeout doubles are better, in my opinion, but any agreement is fine here, so long as you both know it.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently the ACBL bulletin suggested that in first seat at unfavorable vulnerability, if you hold K-10-8-7-6-5-4-3, 2, 6-5-4-3, —, an opening bid of three spades rather than four spades might be appropriate. What is your opinion? Is this hand not worth seven tricks? Would you consider passing with such a poor suit?

—  On the Fence, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.


ANSWER: If I bid four spades, it often acts as a transfer to “double.” If so, will I be happy? I think not. The fourth diamond represents extra trick-taking, but my weak spade spots worry me. I’d feel different with the spade jack instead of the three.


I’d open the hand four hearts if my spades and hearts were switched, but here three spades is enough — just so that next time partner can rely on my having full values when I do open four spades vulnerable.


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