Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Dear Mr. Wolff:

How does the rule of 11 work if your opponents play third and lowest leads, not fourth highest?

—  Number Cruncher, Texarkana, Texas

ANSWER: Just to clarify for nonexperts: With fourth-highest leads, third hand and declarer can subtract the spot-card lead from 11 to find out how many cards higher than the lead are held by the other three players. If partner leads the six, with K-10-4 in dummy and the A-J-8 in your hand, declarer won’t be able to beat the eight, since you can see five cards higher than the six. Against a third-highest lead, you subtract the spot-card led from 12. If you believe the card is lowest from five, subtract it from 10.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

South held SPADES K-Q, HEARTS J-3-2, DIAMONDS Q-7-4, CLUBS Q-J-10-9-4. After a three-diamond bid by West, North doubled, and you recommended a bid of three no-trump as the game most likely to succeed despite the “diaphanous diamond stop.” What lies behind the expert decision to trade the near certainty of a smaller plus for the uncertainty of the higher score?

—  On the Line, Casper, Wyo.

ANSWER: I might feel different if my side-cards were sure tricks. But consider that facing a minimum double with the club ace-king and spade ace, three no-trump our way and three diamonds their way might make! The softer my side-suit cards are, the less I feel like defending. And in this example I don’t really have a sure trick in my hand.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

My partner and I were on completely different wavelengths when I opened one diamond and heard two clubs on my left, pass from my partner, and a two-spade bid on my right. When I doubled for takeout, my partner assumed that I actually had spades! Who is right here?

—  Trump Trouble, Little Rock, Ark.

ANSWER: In the old days a double here would have been intended to expose the psyche, but perhaps we are less suspicious these days. The general rule is that all doubles (except perhaps those of a no-trump call) facing a partner who has not bid, or has only passed, are for takeout. This is simple and pretty close to optimal.

  Dear Mr. Wolff:

My partner disagreed with my bidding. Holding SPADES A-J-3-2, HEARTS K-Q-7-4, DIAMONDS K-J-4-3, CLUBS Q in fourth seat, I opened one diamond and heard a one-heart overcall. When that was passed back to me, I thought our best chance to go plus was to defend, but I found my partner with five small spades and ace-third of clubs. Even four spades had a chance to come home on accurate card-reading.

—  Missed Moment, Atlanta, Ga.

ANSWER: You certainly have my sympathy. Imagine finding ace-fifth of clubs and three small spades opposite instead! Yes, bidding one spade here might be a reasonable choice, I agree, but quite sensibly you assumed that the one suit you wouldn’t be facing was spades, in the absence of even a negative double, and you surely weren’t going to find diamond support as you hadn’t been raised. Chalk it up (or down) to bad luck!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

With no one vulnerable, I opened one diamond, my LHO said one heart, and my partner had a dilemma with this hand: SPADES A-Q-2, HEARTS 7-3-2, DIAMONDS 7-4-2, CLUBS K-10-4-3. A bid of one no-trump would promise a heart stop, double would promise four spades, two diamonds could catch partner with a three-card suit, and two clubs is an overbid by a queen or so. What do you suggest — other than an out-of-tempo pass?

—  None of the Above, Houston, Texas

ANSWER: As you suspected, there is no right answer. I’d guess to double, and hope we don’t find a 3-3 spade fit facing a hand without a heart stop. A bid of two clubs is too much for me. (The club jack or a fifth club might make it palatable, especially by a passed hand.) Bidding two diamonds with no honor in the suit just feels wrong. So double looks like the least lie, with passing a close second, planning to back in as appropriate, or to defend one heart and hope for 100 if all pass.


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