Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 30th, 2012

My partner and I have a bet on your answer here, and a lot of personal pride rides on this. You are in fourth seat and the auction goes three clubs on your left, three spades from partner, and five clubs on your right. You hold ♠ 3-2,  A-Q-7-4-3,  A-Q-9-7-3, ♣ A. What would you bid? One of us believes you would double, one that you would bid six spades — but did we miss another possibility?

Searching for Solomon, Honolulu, Hawaii

I might double at unfavorable vulnerability. especially if my opponents were known lunatics, but I'd actually drive to slam by bidding five no-trump. In contested auctions this is not a grand slam force, but says pick a slam. Since partner could easily be 6-4, I'd expect him to bid a second suit if he had one, while he could temporize with six clubs, or emphasize his spades by repeating them.

Is there a simple rule for when to respond in the higher or lower of suits of the same length, be it four or five cards, and when to bid a major rather than a minor? I get confused when I read contradictory advice.

Pure and Simple, Miami, Fla.

The simple answer is always to bid your longer suit first with game-forcing values and always to bid the higher of five-card suits first. Bid the lower of four-card suits first with the following exception: In a hand with less than solid invitational values, either with two four-card suits, one a major and one diamonds, or a four-card major and a five-card minor suit, bid the major before the minor.

Say you were responding to an opening bid of one club after your RHO overcalled two hearts. You hold ♠ K-8-3-2,  A-4,  A-Q-9-7-3, ♣ J-10. Would you make a negative double, or bid three diamonds to set up the game-force?

Simple Pleasures, Albuquerque, N.M.

You might lose the spades completely unless you double now. By contrast, over a one-heart overcall I would have no problems with a response of two diamonds, expecting to get spades in later and not lose the opportunity to bid diamonds cheaply.

What is the best meaning to assign to a jump cue-bid of the suit your RHO has opened? Does it matter whether that suit is a minor or a major?

Raising the Roof, Corpus Christi, Texas

Yes, it does matter. After your RHO opens a major suit, the best meaning to assign to a double jump in that suit is asking for a stopper, suggesting that you have a solid minor and want to play three no-trump if your partner can stop the suit. The jump in a minor is probably best played as natural and pre-emptive. This would typically be a seven-card suit since the likelihood of your RHO having real length there is higher than usual.

Why do some experts lead king from ace-king? How does your partner know which holding you are leading from? And what if your partner is void? Might he not ruff the trick?

Ken the Card, Atlanta, Ga.

The world is split between those who lead king and those who lead ace.The main disadvantage of the king-lead is how to signal in response to it with jack-third. As against that, the lead of the ace denies the king, so makes it easy to signal attitude on that lead. If the ace could be from ace-king or unsupported, it is hard to signal intelligently on it. That is why, regardless of what you lead at trick one, you must play king from ace-king in midhand, since cashing out is so important.

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


jim2October 14th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

On the first question, what would a bid of 6C have shown?

bobby wolffOctober 14th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

You’ve struck a nerve.

My best explanation is that the difference between 5NT and 6 clubs is only involved with how your partner perceives it. In both cases partner should definitely bid a 2nd suit, if he has one or if has for example:

(1)s. AQJ9xx as opposed to: (2) s. AQ10xxx
h. Kx h. Kx
d. K10x d. KJx
c. xx c. xx

With 1 I would probably choose 6 spades, but with 2 I would choose 6 diamonds.

Unfortunately there are a few other hands which could be accepted as reasonable 3 spade overcalls (perhaps 2 million or so), but hopefully my example is not off the charts poor and, at least, a somewhat guide to what just another bridge idiot (I) believe.

Various cue bids should take on the meaning of what is likely necessary to want to be known. If you and your favorite friend were on an island together with nothing left to do but discuss your bridge system, hopefully most of the discussion would be along pragmatic lines and consequently some of our potential best and brightest future bridge stars would understand that instead of assigning absolute meanings to bidding while playing a game which, by its very nature, has to be inconsistent with science because of the extremely limited language available.

To understand that last paragraph would be, at least to me, the first lesson given at a bridge school intended to develop bridge champions and from an already group of students who pass a fairly high standard to even be considered.

Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

While I can see where you are coming from with 5NT as a “pick a slam” try, I’d want to be in a very well-defined partnerership before I preferred it to 6C in case partner thought “Grand Slam Force” and bashed out 7S – or am I just being a bit paranoid here?

As a more general query, what modifications can sensibly be made to the GSF in cases where partner can be assumed to have a decent suit? This would not necessarily apply here but would do in cases where partner is known to have a long, strong suit e.g. if he / she had opened 4 of a major?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 14th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Hi Iain,

You are asking a very complex question to which I am going only to offer a simple solution.

The GSF, named Josephine throughout Europe, in honor of Josephine Culbertson who is thought (by at least one of two people to have either invented it or used it early in the history of Contract Bridge) is certainly a scientific method of asking for 2 of the 3 top honors in a known trump suit. In order to be in a position of being able to use it, the 5NT bidder should have, except in very unusual circumstances, be expected to have one of the three top honors himself (or herself) and be sure of 1st round control, in all other suits by the partnership (sometimes determined earlier in the bidding, as well as a known source of enough tricks to add up to 13.

Rarely, if ever, will 5NT be the GSF unless all the above is possible to be determined before the bid itself. The only other fact of interest is that some high-level (many) have some earlier bids which show a solid no loser suit, thus enabling its use without the 5NT bidder having a major honor himself.

All the above is my excuse for saying that partner should also know the above, without which, our partnership needs to spend our time on learning to crawl before we walk.

Therefore, presto chango, 5NT in the hand in question would ask another question as would 6 cue bid clubs, and between the two choices it seems to me that since so much bidding room has been deprived by our worthy opponents that either 5NT or 6 clubs should draw another suit from partner if he has one, since he knows we are powerful, but still need some answers from us.

One small advantage, IMHO, of 5NT, instead of 6 clubs is that 6 clubs sounds like a great fit in spades and, of course, interested in at least a small slam and thus also the big Bambino. 5NT, used in this context should keep a very good partner, whether young or not so, on his toes and off of yours in getting our bridge minds in sync.

What did I say about simplicity? I lie a lot!