Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

What is the lower threshold for a game-invitational response to a strong no-trump? For example, holding ♠ A-Q-10,  9-8-3-2,  10-7-4, ♣ Q-9-7, would my intermediates be enough for me to invite game? If so, should I use Stayman, or invite in no-trump with such square shape?

At Loose Ends, Naples, Fla.

I would pass here, a flat eight-count not offering quite enough for an invitation. But change a small diamond into a small spade and the presence of both four-card majors would be just enough to tempt me into using Stayman. Just for the record: With your actual hand, but the diamond jack instead of the10, I'd bid two no-trump and ignore my four-card major.

I remember in the past that at least twice you have advocated two-club openings with good two-suiters, to avoid getting passed out and missing a major-suit game. It would seem that the same principle applies to a good three-suiter, dummy passing with as little as king-third in your long suit. What are your thoughts here?

Tony the Tiger, Houston, Texas

I'm more inclined to open two clubs than some, but three suiters ARE awkward. That extra round of bidding you lose at the first go often comes back to bite you. Opening at the one-level with a three-suiter based on a long minor is surely right, unless you have at least 24 HCP.

Playing the forcing no-trump, I opened one heart with ♠ Q-9-3-2,  A-J-7-4-3,  K-4, ♣ K-10. Over my partner's one-no-trump response I bid two clubs. (I considered passing, but did not want my partner to have a coronary.) Now my partner bid two spades! I decided to pass to avoid a disaster but instead found I had created one. What should I have done?

Lawless Lucy, Greenville, S.C.

Yes, passing one no-trump might have worked, but I understand your action. When your partner bid two spades, an impossible suit, you should have played him for a maximum hand and a club raise. (He cannot have spades, or he would have bid them over one heart.) You must bid two no-trump, suggesting a minimum balanced hand, to let your partner work it out from there.

I've noticed that many major events at the U.S. Nationals are won by foreigners. Are the events open to everyone?

Circumnavigator, Fredericksburg, Va.

As recently as 20 years ago there was a proposal to close the events that determined who would play in the U.S. Trials, making them available only for U.S. players. Thankfully, when the trials system changed and became open to everyone, we started attracting a huge foreign base of players to our national events. These days our nationals are as strong as world championships — in some cases stronger.

How do suit-preference signals work? Do they take precedence over attitude or count signals, or are they an adjunct to them.

Jumping Jack, Casper, Wyo.

When your holding in a suit as a defender is already known, or is just about to be known, do not tell your partner the same message again. Instead, use your irrelevant small cards to show your interest in the higher or lower of the other suits. When your partner opens a weak two and leads the king in that suit, dummy having three cards and you four, you know that declarer will be ruffing and that partner will work out what you have. Don't tell him again; your signal should be suit preference.

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