Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is the correct opening lead from holdings such as Q-9-8-7 or Q-9-8-2 against a no-trump contract reached on an uninformative auction such as one no-trump – three no-trump, or after an abortive Stayman inquiry?

—  The Leading Edge, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

ANSWER: I would lead the nine from the first holding, and the fourth-highest card from the second sequence. I’m not sure I can provide you with a logical answer, except that I know I can afford the spot card in the first instance, and may not be able to do so in the second. From Q-10-9-2 I would probably lead the 10 though — just to make things more confusing!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I responded one spade to my partner’s one-club opening with SPADES Q-J-9-7-4, HEARTS K-3-2, DIAMONDS 10-6, CLUBS K-10-4. The next hand bid three diamonds, and my partner bid four diamonds. Can you tell me what to do next? I had no aces, so signed off in four spades, and was later told I had not done justice to my hand.

—  Pessimist, Columbia, S.C.

ANSWER: Think about it this way: you have five trumps, a working honor in both clubs and hearts, and two spade honors, facing a hand that has forced to game. As weak hands go, this is a lot closer to a slam-drive than a sign-off in game. I would use Keycard Blackwood to find out about the missing aces and the trump king, but my second choice would be a four-heart cue-bid.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is the likelihood that the United States will retain the Bermuda Bowl title, which it won in Sao Paulo two years ago, when the next championships take place next month?

—  Bookie, Pittsburgh, Pa.

  ANSWER: For the first time for a decade there are three strong U.S. teams, all of which are equally powerful and which have taken turns beating one another. They are captained by Nick Nickell, John Diamond, and Marty Fleisher, the last-named being one of the two teams qualified to play. Since the team of near-juniors that qualified as our second squad beat the other two squads en route to selection, I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What would you bid with SPADES A-Q-7-3-2, HEARTS K-10-3-2, DIAMONDS 10-4, CLUBS Q-8, when your RHO opens one club? What are the respective merits of doubling, making a Michaels Cuebid, and overcalling?

—  Forced Entry, Houston, Texas

ANSWER: Michaels shows 5-5 not 5-4, so I see no merit in that action. While doubling with limited hands when 5-4 in the majors with a good four-card suit and a weak five-carder might get both suits into play, the risk of doubling is to lose the 5-3 spade fit. My general advice is to overcall with a five-card major that you are not ashamed of.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

When both sides find a fit (after an auction in which you open hearts, your LHO overcalls spades, and the two suits are bid and supported to the three-level), how does opener differentiate slam-tries from game-going hands, and get his partner involved in whether to defend or bid on?

—  Helping Hand, Wilmington, N.C.

ANSWER: A simple answer is that new suits by opener are natural and show a second suit, allowing responder to bid on in competition. You can use a double or a call of three no-trump by opener as simply announcing that it is your side’s hand — setting up forcing passes. That in turn allows a reraise of the partnership suit to be natural; but it bars responder from joining in with a bid — as opposed to a double — if the opponents bid again.


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