Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

Dear Mr Wolff:

When using Key-Card Blackwood, if my partner responds five diamonds, how do I know if he is showing one ace or the trump king? If I held two aces, I would need this information to know whether to bid slam.

— Key-Card Conundrum, Atlanta, Ga.

ANSWER: If you have agreed a trump suit, you do NOT want to play slam if you are missing two aces, OR missing one ace and the trump king, as slam could be no better than the trump finesse. Sometimes that finesse can work, but you will rarely be in a position to take advantage of that information. So the trump king is as good as an ace — and you do not need to differentiate. Whether you always need the trump QUEEN is more problematic — but we’ll discuss that another day!

Dear Mr Wolff:

In third seat, after you hear partner open one diamond and your RHO bid one spade, what would you respond with SPADES J-9, HEARTS A-Q-7-3-2, DIAMONDS K-10-3-2, CLUBS 10-4? It seems the choice is to raise diamonds, bid hearts, or make a negative double — but if I double, how do I cope with a pre-emptive raise to three spades on my left?

— Tough Choices, Saint John’s, Newfoundland

ANSWER: Raising diamonds seems wrong — you might all too easily miss a heart contract. Because of the diamond fit, you could take a rosy view of this hand and bid two hearts, planning to raise diamonds later. If your minor suits were switched, a double might be more advisable since you have no certainty of a fit. As it is, if you double — not my choice — and hear the raise to three spades, I’d double again at my next turn. This would be primarily for takeout.

Dear Mr Wolff:

I find it easy enough to take care of the trumps when I am about to draw a few rounds, but find it more difficult when I’m playing to ruff things or scramble to score my small trumps. Any suggestions?

— Trump Manager, Grand Junction, Colo.

ANSWER: The key here is always to count trumps in the following fashion before playing to trick one. Add up your trumps and dummy’s, then subtract that number from 13. Count down from that number from now on. So if you are missing five trumps, when they ruff in, the number goes to four; you draw a round of trumps and if they both follow, that number is two, and so on.

  Dear Mr Wolff:

In fourth chair you hold SPADES J-4-2, HEARTS A-10-3-2, DIAMONDS K-J-7-4, CLUBS Q-9 and have heard a weak two hearts on your left, doubled by partner. Next, RHO bid three hearts, and you make a three-no-trump call, over which partner bids four spades. Should you bid on now?

— Overpowered, Cartersville, Ga.

ANSWER: You have a pretty good hand but you already showed most of it when you contracted for game. Now the question is whether you should cue-bid five hearts, or pass. Go for the pessimistic pass because with a slam-drive, partner might have done more himself.

Dear Mr Wolff:

My wife and I used to play a lot of bridge but then stopped for a number of years. Now I would like to explore getting back to playing, but I understand Goren is “history” and there are new bidding strategies. Could you recommend a book or two book that can familiarize us with the modern techniques?

— Rip Van Winkle, Houston, Texas

ANSWER: Congratulations on your return to the fold. Eric Rodwell and Audrey Grant have produced a book on two-over-one that might be at just the right level; “25 Bridge Conventions” by Seagram and Smith might also work. Max Hardy’s book on two-over-one is also still available.


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