Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces On Bridge: Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Dear Mr Wolff:

I am familiar with the idea that after a suit-opening bid by my partner and a double by my RHO, then my jump to two no-trump is Jordan, suggesting four trumps and a limit raise or better. Does this also apply to a passed hand?

— Both Sides of Jordan, Springfield, Mass.

ANSWER: Yes, it works exactly the same: two no-trump by a passed hand is a limit raise (not a game force, so there is no contradiction). But bear in mind that neither call promises four trumps. It could be based on an unbalanced hand with three trumps. Incidentally, in this auction jumps in new suits by passed hands are fit-jumps, suggesting four trumps and a strong side-suit.

Dear Mr Wolff:

I held SPADES J-10-8-7-4-2, HEARTS 2, DIAMONDS 2, CLUBS Q-J-8-5-4. My partner opened one no-trump and I transferred into spades. My partner completed the transfer, and the next hand overcalled three hearts. Now I competed with three spades, and my partner bid three no-trump. Was I wrong to pass? My partner said she had no idea I had six spades, but I felt I had shown them by rebidding the suit.

— Suiting Up, Harrisburg, Pa.

ANSWER: When you have a weak hand and a long suit, you always want to play in the suit. The rare exceptions come when partner has a seven-carder of his own. Facing a no-trump bid, that happens only rarely! So here you were right to transfer and bid spades again, and your partner was probably wrong to bid three no-trump, but you should have overruled her and bid four spades.

Dear Mr Wolff:

Should the point-count range for an overcall of one no-trump in direct seat be 15-17 or 15-18? What does it promise about stoppers in the opponents’ bid suit?

— Risk Management, Ketchikan, Alaska

ANSWER: Stoppers are important — but not especially so when an opponent opens one club, since if I appear to be showing clubs, my LHO probably won’t lead the suit. So I may bid one no-trump over a club with any hand in the right range — regardless of club stoppers. As to the range, most people who say it is 16-18 bid it with 15 anyway. I say if it looks like a duck …

  Dear Mr Wolff:

As opener or responder, do you ever bid the higher of four- or five-card suits before a lower four- or five-card suit? In other words, if you have both majors, when do you bid hearts before spades?

— Priority Pete, Kingston, Ontario

ANSWER: The simple rule is when you have two five-carders, respond or open in the higher of touching suits. But when opening or responding, start with the lower of four-card suits — except that as responder with fewer than 10 HCP, respond in a major, not in diamonds. The other rule is that when responding, you will not bid a five-card minor suit at the two-level before a four-card major, unless you are worth a two-level response.

Dear Mr Wolff:

Last month you discussed support doubles, which I understand apply only to opener, and to bids at or below two of partner’s suit. What if the opponents’ intervention applies at the three-level, or if their call is at the two-level, above two of partner’s suit?

— Higher Math, Albany, Ga.

ANSWER: It is hard to generalize, but in principle all such doubles are between takeout and optional in nature and show real extras. If you have extra shape, you may well have a simple natural call, but typically you do not hold an entirely balanced hand (or you would have opened one no-trump or rebid two no-trump to show 18-19). However, I accept that you may be awkwardly placed if you do have a balanced hand without a stop, since you’d be forced to double here too.


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


Michael BeyroutiJune 12th, 2011 at 10:37 am

Dear Mr Wolff,

in following the US Seniors Trials (CONGRATULATIONS to you and the Schwartz team) I noticed you play an extremely simple convention card. Is this to ease the stress and strain on the brain or out of belief that simpler is better? If we were to rewind the clock some 40 years would you adopt a more sophisticated system? The reason I ask is that I have a hunch that most of today’s conventions work well 50% of the time. In the long term, there is no gain, no loss. In other words, we’re just as well with them as without them. What say you? Thanks.

Bruce KarlsonJune 12th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Agree… It intrigues me that a new or even a regular partnership spends 90% of its time on conventions, many of which are applicable infrequently at best. I agree with Cohen that most players should stick to 16 conventions – no train wrecks, fewer arguements.

Defense is half the game and gets short shrift. Too many pairs cannot even be sure what partner will lead from 864 having supported/not supported partner’s suit!!! It is more fun to discuss leaping Michaels than those dreary defensive issues.

I was unable to find Maestro Wolff’s card. Perhaps he will put it up on his site as I, for one, would like to see it.

bobbywolffJune 12th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Hi Michael,

Your subject is probably the one I have my strongest opinion.

First, your description of what is involved and even your quoted percentage is as close, at least in my view, to reality, as it gets.

It is a question of moving parts and conventions and their application always involve relatively unknown previous communication, even between two top players who may even basically feel the same way about the game itself.

In regard to your question about what would I do 40 years ago, if given a chance, my answer would depend on the philosophical direction of my then partner. Yes, I could and would play a sophisticated relay system, but only with a player who was fully capable, much bridge talent, and a desire to work out the details in the best possible way. Life seldom directs such a liaison, and so I must wait to Heaven or whatever its substitute, to then decide my eternal fate. (mostly kidding since I am not very religious).

Bridge, like in life, usually concerns itself with adjustments and in bridge, since everyone, especially the top players, all have different emphasis on what they do best. Rarely, perhaps never, have two people blended together in anywhere near a perfect duo, in the game of bridge itself. There are just too many moving parts and even if there wasn’t, how often can it be that both partners were ready to come together at any particular specific time.

Accepting the above, all we can do is try to simplify so that we wind up on the same wave length, or at least sort of, and that almost always involves making sure that we, l. understand fully the few conventions that we play and 2. under the threat of death or even greater, DO NOT FORGET the nuances of what we are dealing with.

Simply put, it is off the charts difficult for any two people to even begin to get on the same parallel, much less to stay there for long. Make do, but insist on both partners learning what they are doing, why that must be so, and totally give oneself to the project.

Does the above indicate to you just how important I think the way I do?

Thanks for writing with nothing short of a brilliant question.

bobbywolffJune 12th, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Hi Bruce,

When I began answering Michael, your blog had not appeared, so please excuse the delay in my responding.

Again, like my retort to Michael, you are on target in what you gleaned from watching the just completed Senior Trials. Bridge, perhaps even more so than in big time moneyed sports, requires repetition training, like the shortstop and 3rd baseman’s throws to first in baseball, 1st and 2nd serves in tennis, many different forms of shots in golf, various types of attempted scoring shots in basketball, certainly including the mindset necessary for successful free throws, lift off for all runners in track and field, and a never ending list involving any other sport one would like to discuss.

The above is seldom done, even among world class players, although my guess is that some of the younger Scandinavian great players do more of it than others around the world.

When you mention that partnerships would rather discuss the allure of “Leaping Michaels” than the heart and soul necessity of various defensive signaling methods you are reading their mail. Such are the trials and tribulations of getting there from here, for the average wannabe professional player.

Sadly, the allure of easy money, (sort of), takes precedence over the difficult learning process on one’s way to merely having a chance to eventually become a world class player. Such is the probable future of big time bridge and even more sadly, stands the fact that bridge itself would, in another life and on another planet, have an opportunity to present almost the perfect game, especially if played honestly and with active ethics. To say it requires more that most can give, is a definite understatement, but perhaps, if a few talented enough people would try to be messengers for getting it done, that is all I can hope for in my relatively last numbers of viable years.

Just like I said to Michael, thanks for writing, if only wanting to get out this important message, almost never said, to what our great game is all about.