Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

Dear Mr. Wolff:

How should I value 10s, and five-card suits in deciding whether to open the bidding? Are there 14-counts I can upgrade to a one-no-trump opening, or 11-counts I should open at the one-level?

—  Stretch, Little Rock, Ark.

ANSWER: When in doubt, trust your instincts to evaluate balanced hands. I upgrade 14-counts or downgrade 18-counts to open one no-trump when sensible. Equally, with a decent five-card suit and a little shape in an 11-count, and particularly if I have an easy rebid, I will open the bidding. It is important to try to get partner off to the right lead. Whoever said “Thrice blest is he who gets his blow in first” knew what he was talking about.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held SPADES J-9-6, HEARTS J-9-2, DIAMONDS 3-2, CLUBS A-Q-10-4-3, and passed. My LHO bid one spade, my partner overcalled three hearts (intermediate), and my RHO bid three spades. Did I have enough to bid now?

—  Head-First, Sacramento, Calif.

ANSWER: I would bid, but I would not raise to four hearts. As a passed hand I can bid four clubs, meaning it as an unequivocal call in support of hearts. This gets my partner off to the best lead against four spades if the opponents decide to bid on over our four-heart contract.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Are there advantages to leading fourth highest as opposed to third and lowest against suit contracts? Is it worth changing from the former method to the latter?

—  Looking for an Edge, Midland, Mich.

  ANSWER: The advantages of one method over the other are pretty small. You tend to find out more about suit length when you lead low from three or five cards and third highest from four. You sometimes find out more about honors if you play fourth highest and second from four small. So long as you don’t lead MUD from three cards, any method of leading is fine by me.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

In second seat, holding SPADES Q-J-9-4, HEARTS A-Q-7-3, DIAMONDS K-10, CLUBS 9-6-4, I elected to double a one-club opening bid. I heard one heart on my right and two diamonds from my partner. Was I wrong to try to improve the contract by bidding two no-trump? I did not achieve my target!

—  Fallen Oak, Great Falls, Mont.

ANSWER: A double is normally shape-suitable for the unbid major(s) with opening values. If off-shape, you should have real extras. When balanced with a stopper in their suit, pass with a minimum, unless you have the right shape. But with 15-17, bid one no-trump; with 18-20, double then bid no-trump. Here doubling is fine, but you must pass the response. You gambled and lost — don’t make it worse!

Dear Mr. Wolff:

What is the best way to learn about advanced card play such as squeezes? What are the best books on the subject?

—  Advanced Placement, Boise, Idaho

ANSWER: Without wanting to sound too revolutionary, I strongly advise you to focus on drawing trumps, taking finesses and cashing winners. I promise you that most declarer-play errors at the top level fall into those areas and not squeezes. The basic squeeze is well covered in a book called “Squeezes Made Simple” by Marc Smith and David Bird — but don’t say I didn’t warn you!


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