Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 22th, 2012

As a neophyte, I am frequently intrigued by the bidding. In a recent article, South opened one no-trump and North responded two hearts with long spades. Then South bid two spades with only two of them! Please explain.

Bidding What You Don't Have, Atlanta, Ga.

Mea culpa. I often forget that I should be explaining Jacoby transfers to my readers. (In my defense, I believe most players are now taught transfers in response to one no-trump, but not all my readers learned recently, and not all of them learn transfers.) Responses in a red suit to one no-trump are intended as a transfer to the suit above, showing five cards in that suit. Continuations are natural and are discussed here.

In fourth chair I opened two diamonds. My LHO doubled, and my RHO, who held ♠ A-J-3,  10-9-4,  K-3, ♣ Q-10-4-3-2, bid three clubs, claiming that this showed a good hand. I don't understand why it should not be very weak.

Disinformation, Casper, Wyo.

I'm not sure I agree with your RHO. He might have taken a shot at three no-trump himself, hoping to buy a diamond stop or be able to run the clubs. But perhaps he was playing that his call of two no-trump was the Lebensohl convention, acting as a transfer to three clubs. In that case a direct three-club call would indeed be constructive — but not forcing.

If I open one club or one diamond (playing five-card majors, thus opening the so-called better minor), do I have to have an honor in the suit?

Honor-Bound,Bellevue, Wash.

Absolutely not; open your longer minor, or one club with three cards in each minor. The closest I get to your rule is that with 4-4 in the minors I tend to open the better suit — but others have different rules to break that tie.

I heard a two-diamond pre-empt to my left and my partner bid two spades. What choices do I have with ♠ J,  Q-10-8-4-3,  K-10-5, ♣ K-J-9-4?

Lost in Spades, Charleston, S.C.

I think the lack of fit suggests bidding two no-trump now. Once in a while you might miss a game, but you make it a lot easier for your partner if he can describe his hand fully at his next turn.

Yesterday at our club West opened the bidding one heart and heard a two no-trump response, alerted as Jacoby. West, with a void in clubs now bid two clubs. The director was called, ruled that the insufficient call was conventional, and that East must now pass any sufficient call made by West. West now bid and made six hearts. Has the law been changed, or was this ruling correct?

No Justice, No Peace, Houston, Texas

Over the Jacoby bid, West clearly had a bidding box accident and so should be allowed to change his bid to three clubs. Had he really intended to bid two clubs, then if the next hand did not condone the call, the TD's ruling would be correct. However, the "insufficient" law has recently been changed. If the insufficient call did not convey additional information, then even if it were conventional, it might be permitted. The laws are not easy to enforce here.

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


MikeFebruary 5th, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Dear Mr. Wollf,

I don’t understand your answers to questions 2 and 5 above.

On 2, the hand would have been passed out if the questioner did not open in 4th seat. Why would his RHO bid game with a balanced hand, 5 C’s notwithstanding? 3C seems correct whether playing Lebensohl or not.

On 5, the 2C card is nowhere near 3C card. It cannot be a mechanical error, but clearly a mental error. It happens to me a lot I am sorry to say. He should not be allowed to change the bid.

Bobby WolffFebruary 6th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Hi Mike,

On letter #2 you are 100% correct (perhaps 101%) and obviously we did not realize that both of the competitors had passed originally.

On hand #5, it probably should be up to the judgment and discretion of the TD. If he thought West was aware of partner’s 2NT call (and its meaning) then to allow him to bid 3 clubs, perhaps the bid he meant to make in response to his partner’s conventional ask, bridge could proceed without anyone advantaged. But, if perhaps the opening bidder was envisioning partner responding only 1NT (instead of 2NT) and then, of course, unauthorized information is passed and the TD ruling is correct.

To try and exclude subjective reasoning out of the game entirely, especially in its laws division, and by a so-called officer of the court, the TD, is, at least according to me, a mistake.

Thanks for writing and I do apologize about hand #2’s significant gaffe.

Jeff HFebruary 6th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Regarding hand #5, I disagree with Mike about the 2C card being nowhere near the 3C card. If you use the bidding box as I was taught and pull the desired card and those beneath it, the 2C card tab is just above the 3C card tab. A fraction of an inch apart. Thus the possibility of a mechanical error is a very real one. And since we are told the 2NT bid was alerted and explained as Jacoby, opener is obviously aware that partner had responded 2NT, unless they are playing something weird where 1NT would be explained as Jacoby.

Bobby WolffFebruary 7th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hi Jeff H,

While I am not in a position, nor probably have the judgment to determine whether or not a mechanical error, such as the one described in letter #5, should be allowed to be corrected, I will offer some advice on how to prevent mechanical errors while using the bidding box.

It could be, and usually is, caused by a relaxation of concentration. That can be prevented, by, before making one’s bid, by planting the intended bid pulled from the box on the table, one develops the discipline to look at it while concentrating and therefore will have the ability to change it, if the wrong one is pulled.

When one plays tournament bridge often, he should not ever have what happened happen, not only for his sake, but for also his partner’s and most importantly, for the game itself to be run glitch free.