Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Recently you discussed a sequence where opener bids one spade and the next hand overcalls two hearts. What four options of raising spades are open to the next hand? I would regard two spades as typically showing three-card support and 6-9 points; a jump would show three-card support with 10-12 points. Meanwhile a jump to four spades shows at least four-card support with a moderate hand, while a cuebid forces to game. Is this standard treatment nowadays?

—  All Bases Covered, Holland, Mich.


ANSWER: Your interpretation is reasonable, but modern competitive bridge players have altered the meaning of the jump raise. Instead of playing it as limit, they use it as weak — say 3-7 HCP and four trumps. So with a limit raise they must cuebid, losing the ability to force to game with support via the cuebid. You win some and you lose some!


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Playing two-over-one, my partner opened one club, and I held J-9-3, K-Q-J-9-8-5, 3-2, 10-4. I was planning to bid and rebid my hearts, but my RHO overcalled one spade, and now I did not know if my call of two hearts would set up a game force or if it would be an overbid even if that were not the case.

—  Heart in Hand, Pottsville, Pa.


ANSWER: Using two-over-one in a noncompetitive auction means a response of — say — two hearts to one spade forces to game. With a hand like yours, you must respond one no-trump then bid hearts to show less than a game-force plus a long heart suit. After the one-spade overcall, your choice is to bid and rebid hearts, which I would do with an additional side queen, or to make a negative double and then convert partner’s response to hearts, suggesting these approximate values.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

If I plan to overcall a strong no-trump to show a single-suited hand, what are the criteria I should use in deciding whether to act or pass? Conversely, if my partner opens a no-trump and the next hand overcalls, does a suit bid from me at the two-level promise four or guarantee five — and is it forcing?

—  Jumping Jack, Charlottesville, Va.

  ANSWER: Don’t come in over one no-trump without playing strength. It is much better to hold six hearts to the Q-J and a side K-Q than a solid five-card suit in a balanced 13-count. You might balance with the latter hand though.


If the opponents intervene over partner’s no-trump, a free bid by you (of two spades over two hearts in our example) suggests five with 5-8 points or so, as you could double for takeout.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is the best defense against an opponent’s pre-emptive bids? I don’t always feel that I have the correct hand to make a takeout double. For example, over my RHO’s three-heart call, I felt I had to bid four diamonds with 13 points and six diamonds, four spades, and three hearts. However, we missed our cold four-spade contract.

—  Crystal-Gazer, Seneca, S.C.


ANSWER: You did just fine and you were thinking along the right lines when you did what you did. Takeout doubles are the best defense available; one-suiters are relatively easy to bid, and two-suiters can sometimes be shown with a cue-bid, sometimes by bidding both suits if allowed. But here, your void in clubs and your six diamonds forced you to pass or bid four diamonds. Don’t worry about the result; you did the best with what you had.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Say you are in fourth chair after hearing one diamond to your left and one spade to your right. Does it makes sense to bid either of your opponents’ suits as artificial as opposed to natural? My thinking is that the diamond call normally delivers diamonds, so why bid the suit yourself?

—  Real or Fake? Elkhart, Ind.


ANSWER: Standard American assumes that because minors are always suspect (and strong clubbers’ one-diamond openings even more so), we don’t worry about our opponents’ minimum opening lengths. Fourth hand’s bids are natural — end of story. Also, since we have double and a jump to two no-trump for takeout, we don’t need a third call. A bid of one no-trump is best used as strong, and all suit-bids are natural. Is it best? I say yes, but even if not best, it is simplest.


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

1 Comment

bobbywolffDecember 27th, 2010 at 11:57 am

Hi Stefan,

Thanks for your greeting and kind words.

The warmth of the season to you and yours and please keep reading along. I appreciate your first comment and look forward to others as we tackle 2011 and cross the bridge together.