Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Given that today is the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, do you know whether any prominent bridge players died in the attacks?

—  Day of Infamy, Grand Forks, N.D.

ANSWER: There were a great many bridge-playing options traders working in the vicinity of Wall Street, but I believe none died. Relatives of bridge players were killed, I know, but that is the closest connection I’m aware of.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding SPADES 9-6-4-2, HEARTS J-7-3-2, DIAMONDS A, CLUBS K-9-7-4, I was on lead against six diamonds, reached after an inverted-minor sequence. Declarer had shown a balanced minimum and dummy had driven to slam. What would you have led?

—  Kickoff, Anchorage, Alaska

ANSWER: There is a lot to be said for leading your trump ace, not so much to look at dummy as to get the albatross off your neck. If you don’t, you may be endplayed with it later, forced to lead one of the other suits and clear up a guess or, worse, give up your side’s trick in that suit.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

As dealer, I held this minimum balanced hand: SPADES Q-9, HEARTS A-K-7-3-2, DIAMONDS J-3-2, CLUBS A-9-6. I opened one heart, rebidding one no-trump over my partner’s one-spade response. He now inquired with two clubs (New Minor Forcing), then jumped to three spades over my two-heart rebid. What should I have done next?

—  Ray of Sunshine, Albany, Ga.

ANSWER: With a fitting spade honor and good controls, you have too much to raise to four spades. You should show slam interest by cue-bidding four clubs, hoping to bid four hearts over a return cue-bid of four diamonds from your partner. In some cases, even if you only had second-round club control, you might be worth a cue-bid. Imagine the same hand with the spade king and club king instead of your actual honors.

  Dear Mr. Wolff:

When filling out an ACBL card, I can see the conventions they advise us might be relevant. But what are the extra agreements you like to make in a scratch partnership, when sitting down with an expert for the first time?

—  Fill-In Phil, Vancouver, British Columbia

ANSWER: Among other things, I think it important to discuss responder’s various forms of checkback over a one-no-trump or two-no-trump rebid by opener, and also the way we play fourth-suit forcing. Additionally, we need to decide whether jump shifts are weak or fit-showing, and to discuss our two-suited overcalls and our defense to our opponents’ two-suiters.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Here is what happened to me in a match we lost by 1 IMP. I was dealt SPADES 9, HEARTS A-K-Q-2, DIAMONDS J-9-3-2, CLUBS K-J-10-4 and opened one club (lead-directing). My partner bid two no-trump and I raised to three, doubled by the hand on lead to the game. Was I wrong to redouble? I thought this expressed doubt, but it led to minus 1000 while our teammates defended against five clubs, which could not be beaten. The player on lead had solid spades, of course.

—  Unlucky Expert, Kansas City, Mo.

ANSWER: When people write to me, I hate to disagree with them, but in this case I believe the redouble is not SOS, but to play. I would have guessed, by the way, that if anyone is supposed to remove the double, it is you. Here, your singleton spade is a red flag; your partner may not be able to guess which suit is the danger, but you know. I do agree with the one-club opening though!


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


JaneSeptember 25th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

The bidding that the Kansas City player used puzzles me. With this 4-4-4-1 hand, why is it OK to open a club? Seems to me if you open a diamond, you have a safe second bid in clubs if partner bids a spade. (My partners always bid a spade when I hold a singleton). The hand is not good enough to jump or reverse, right? In this case, when his partner bids two NT, three clubs could then be bid, saying that opener’s hand is not well suited for NT in one of the majors. I know three NT could make with the right spade holding in responder’s hand, but at least opener can suggest his hand is not perfect for game in NT. His redouble did not make much sense to me. By going to game in NT, he suggested that is a good spot to play. Looks like it is a bit too late to worry that NT could be dangerous.

Thanks in advance, as always!

Bobby WolffSeptember 25th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Hi Jane,

To paraphrase, 2nd citizen again in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in response to Mark Antony’s great speech at Caesar’s funeral, “Methinks there is much reason in what he (she) says”.

HOWEVER, we must never forget that the game of bridge owns us, we do not own it. While I agree with your premise about, after opening 1 diamond, you can then comfortably rebid 3 clubs over 2NT instead of 3NT, and, at least on this hand all roads will almost surely lead you to game in clubs rather than NT (since partner possibly held Jxx in both majors) with, no doubt, most of his strength in diamonds and probably (from the result at the other table) his length in clubs.

Again, however, this is only 1 hand and bridge, a far cry from being always having one’s choice of bid a study in perfection, is much less predictable and often forces a bidder to choose a bid of lesser evils, in order to begin painting (at the very best) a decent picture.

Here, dear Jane, is the rub and that is the opening leader’s choice of a penalty double before his opening lead. Unless he had a real “wild” reputation as a gambler at bridge, it would usually be more prudent to take him at face value and, after his suggestion of your defeat, then run to 4 diamonds (after opening a club or 4 clubs if instead, you would have, like you said, opened one diamond to start with, and consequently, based on the new information, let your partner then decide what to do.

Thanks always for writing and

setting in motion what no doubt others would also like to discuss.