Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Dear Mr. Wolff:

At a pairs tournament what is the correct remedy if a partnership comes to the wrong table and starts to bid before the error is noticed? Should the result be thrown out for the nonoffenders? Should the offenders be penalized?

— Musical Chairs, Pleasanton, Calif.


ANSWER: No, the board is not automatically thrown out, in that once the right players come to the table, they should try to achieve a result. Unless the auction takes a significantly different route, making the deal impossible to play, the new result should stand. I’d be reluctant to penalize the guilty pair unless they really did something willfully stupid.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

You recently posed this problem: You hold SPADES Q-7-6-4-2, HEARTS 10-9-7, DIAMONDS Q-3, CLUBS A-Q-4. After partner opens one diamond and rebids two clubs over your one-spade response, you said that the best call is false preference to two diamonds. Would you consider using the fourth suit (forcing for one round) as a catch-all bid? Or do you play the fourth suit as a game force?

—  First Responder, Grand Forks, N.D.


ANSWER: I prefer the fourth suit by an unpassed hand to be a game force. The only time that playing the fourth suit as forcing produces a troubling result is if you hold invitational values with a weak suit of your own, no stopper in the fourth suit and no primary support for either of opener’s suits … as here. As a passed hand, either a raise to three clubs or a false preference to two diamonds is not unreasonable.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

If I open a weak two-bid and my LHO overcalls in a suit, is it ever acceptable for me to bid again, or am I supposed to assume my partner will always know what is right? I balanced with a takeout double on just such an auction, and my partner was NOT amused!

—  Double Dealer, Raleigh, N.C.


ANSWER: Just because a second action is unlikely does not make it impossible. If you have pre-empted with a two-suiter, you can bid again (at your own risk), and if you have a maximum and are short in the opponents’ suit, you can experiment with a takeout double, so long as you trust your partner to take an intelligent action now.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In third chair, with SPADES K-J-9, HEARTS A-Q-7-3-2, DIAMONDS 10-3, CLUBS A-7-4, I made a two-heart overcall over RHO’s one-spade bid. I caught my partner with one heart, four small spades, and only a three-count, and ended up taking a 500-point shellacking. Was I really so far out of line here?

—  Risky Business, Olympia, Wash.


ANSWER: There are some hands where you might feel compelled to act with a five-card suit, and some where discretion is called for. Here, your apparently well-placed spade honors make an overcall acceptable to my mind, but give yourself jack-third of spades and a doubleton diamond king and I might be less inclined to recommend acting.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

As a long-time reader of your bridge column, I cannot recall a discussion of Stayman and the continuations after a two-no-trump opening by partner.

—  Upper Levels, Dallas, Texas


ANSWER: My usual methods include playing a three-club response as Stayman for four-card majors. (Puppet Stayman for five-card majors is an option but not my preferred route.) After a three-diamond response to Stayman, Smolen applies, whereby bids in a major show 5-4 pattern with both majors, bidding the short suit. After a major-suit response, use the other major as a major slam-try, with bids of four of a minor as natural and strong, suggesting you also hold the other major.


If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, e-mail him at Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011.