Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Playing rubber bridge with an expert partner, I held ♠ 9-8-3-2,  A-7-4,  Q-9-7, ♣ A-Q-10. I responded one spade to one diamond, and when my partner jumped to three clubs, I gave preference to three diamonds. Now my partner bid three no-trump. What would you recommend next?

Great Expectations, Dover, Del.

Facing likely short spades in my partner's hand, I'd expect him to be 5-5 or 5-4 and 18-19 points. With no wasted values in spades, I have enough for a jump to five no-trump to get my partner to pick a slam — although, to be frank, I cannot immediately see when any slam but six diamonds should be in the picture.

I often have problems with 9-11 points and five hearts facing a one spade opening. As an unpassed hand I cannot bid two hearts, which would be forcing to game and overstate my values. But if I bid a forcing no-trump and my partner responds in a possible three-carder, how can I safely introduce hearts or show my values?

Tight Fit, Selma, Ala.

A solution exists over opener's two-club rebid but it requires some artificiality. Use responder's rebid of two diamonds to show various hands including those with values and five hearts, while his rebid of two hearts should show six. This was invented by Les Bart; details, including more complex versions that allow you to unwind the problems caused by the forcing no-trump, can be found here.

You hold ♠ Q-10  K-J-9,  A-Q-7-4,  A-Q-9-3, and open one club. When your partner responds one spade, I assume you would jump to two no-trump, and now your partner bids four hearts. What should you expect your partner to hold?

Space Cadet, Twin Falls, Idaho

This is a tricky one. With spades and hearts and slam interest you know partner would bid three hearts first, then make a slam-try if he found a fit. But is your partner making a self-agreeing splinter (I think not, without prior discussion), or showing a weak hand with both majors and asking you to pass or correct? That would be my best guess, but I do see the specter of disaster hovering over my shoulder as I extract the pass card from the box!

With both sides not vulnerable, the bidding started with one diamond in first seat by my RHO. Holding ♠ 3-2,  A-K-9-7-6-5-4-2,  A-J, ♣ 7, I bid four hearts. After five diamonds by my LHO, my partner bid five spades! With no real clue as to what was going on, I passed eventually, and we made six. (Partner had seven solid spades and three small doubletons.) Should I have bid on? Was five spades forcing?

Hot Spot, Marion, Iowa

I think some might play the five-spade bid as lead-directing with a heart fit, helping to plan the defense. But overall the natural interpretation seems better to me. While I would be reluctant to bid six spades, I might have risked a call of five no-trump. This covers all bases if in fact what your partner had was a concealed heart fit and a request for a spade lead.

Recently you ran an interesting play problem that featured declarer in five spades doubled, after he had responded one spade at his first turn after his partner had opened one diamond, doubled on his right. His hand was ♠ A-Q-9-7,  9-6-5,  2, ♣ 10-9-8-5-4. My question is whether South's bid of one spade should show at least five cards or whether it is best simply to ignore the double.

Double Trouble, Duke City, New Mexico

After a minor is doubled, any five-card major is good enough to bid, and any major of four cards where you are happy to be raised on three to an honor. A hand on the cusp would be declarer's hand, where he had four spades to the ace in a balanced hand and an eight count. He might opt for one no-trump.

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


Jeff HFebruary 21st, 2012 at 3:32 pm

In your response to Tight Fit’s question you link to the July 2007 issue of Neil Timm’s newsletter for a description of the BART convention. In the January 2008 issue he describes the Lisa convention which serves the same purpose. He descrives Lisa as “Bart’s smarter younger sister”. I suppose this is appropote as Sunday was the 500th episode of the Simpsons.

Jeff HFebruary 21st, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Do you agree with Hot Spot’s bid of 4H? With 3 quick tricks, I might have been inclined to make a simple overcall of 1H. I feel I am likely to get to bid again, so I don’t see a need to jump to game immediately. I think it might make life easier when partner has a very good hand.

bobby wolffFebruary 25th, 2012 at 4:45 am

Hi Jeff H,

i’m sorry for my delay in responding.

Neil Timm may be right about Lisa, but Bart has the credit for the original idea and it is hard to fault his fairly easy to remember meanings.

In any event, at least in my opinion and over the last large numbers of years, these basic improvements have raised the world standard of bridge significantly and not just for world class players, but for the large numbers who take bridge seriously, but do not have the spare time to reach the top.

My answer to your second comment about Hot Spot’s jump to 4 hearts rather than to take it slowly with only 1 heart, it narrows down to whether one likes chocolate, vanilla, or even strawberry twirl which in bridge clothing might be a simple pass, but certainly with the intent to bid later.

It probably depends on who one’s partner is and how the opponents may respond to various apparently illogical actions. Four hearts would be the book bid, expecting to make it or to come close and include partner in on future decisions if there are any. One heart is called in bridge vernacular “walking the dog” hoping it will turn into a high level competitive hand and that the opponents will eventually opt to double you without enough tricks to set you.

A lst round pass is actually a psychic bid (distortion with intent) and is similar to a bluff in poker. Sometimes it is the thing to do at the beginning of a long KO match or even a set rubber bridge game in order for the opponents to become overly wary of what you may or may not do and, by doing so, tend to read your actions incorrectly in the future.

On this hand it is up to you, including a possible stop at your local Baskin & Robbins ice cream store.