Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 13th, 2013

My partner opened one club and the next hand overcalled one spade. With ♠ 3-2,  A-J-10-7-4,  K-Q-9-4, ♣ 10-9, would you make a negative double or bid two hearts? How would you modify the hand to make the other choice more appealing?

Worker Bee, Dallas, Texas

Two factors to consider are that a two-heart call should have real prospects of game facing a mildly suitable hand in the 12-14 range. More important, try not to endplay yourself in the auction. If you double, what will you do if the opponents raise themselves to two spades? If you bid two hearts, are there any rebids partner can make that will fix you? I dislike the first scenario more, so I would bid two hearts, but turn my heart 10 into the two and I double.

If you respond with Stayman to a one-no-trump or two-no-trump opening bid, what is a subsequent jump to four no-trump? Is that quantitative, or Blackwood for partner's major? What if he denies a major?

Gone Fishing, Kansas City, Mo.

Stayman followed by four no-trump should be quantitative whatever partner's response. So one needs a way to set partner's major, if he has shown one. After Stayman in response to a no-trump opening finds a major, the cheapest call in the other major at the three-level or higher (thus one no-trump – two clubs – two hearts – three spades) sets partner's major as trump, and a subsequent four-no-trump call would be Blackwood. Other jumps are splinter raises of the major.

I opened one club somewhat light, holding ♠ Q-6-3-2,  A-Q-4,  4, ♣ K-10-6-5-3. The next hand overcalled one diamond, my partner bid one heart, and when my RHO bid two diamonds, I bid two hearts. Afterwards, my partner suggested that I show my minimum hand best by passing here. What do you think?

Talking Heads, Staten Island, N.Y.

I agree with the opening call and would raise hearts for sure at my second turn. Whether I bid two hearts or doubled (the so-called support double showing a three-card raise) would depend on the methods I used.

After partner opens and the next hand doubles, when is it right to redouble with tolerance or support for partner? Has it to do with the values held, or the quality of the support?

Sporting Life, Bellingham, Wash.

Normally when partner opens a major and the next hand doubles, you show support immediately rather than redoubling. Exceptions come when you have a full opening bid so that you are worried you might miss slam, or when the trumps are weak and outside defense is very strong. I like to have a way to make a simple constructive as well as obstructive raise, and a way to invite and pre-empt with a jump. More on this in due course…

I'm sure you would use Stayman over your partner's strong no-trump with this hand: ♠ J-7-2,  A-J-9-4,  K-J-7-4, ♣ 10-2. When the next hand doubles two clubs and partner bids two spades, would you consider playing spades, not no-trump?

Second Thoughts, Laredo, Texas

I do not have to commit myself. I can cuebid the opponents' suit to ask partner whether he is happy with our side's club stopper. In this sequence the cuebid simply asks partner to describe his hand, with clubs clearly the danger suit.

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJanuary 27th, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi Bobby, playing pairs, I held:A7 A K8754 AJ764 and LHO open two spades weak (All non-vul)pass round to me.I venture three spades and pard bids four diamonds and I raise to five.Five diamonds should make but went minus one.I did not bid four no-trump cos the suits’quality were poor.Yet after four diamonds, and no action from RHO,I felt five diamonds may have a chance,sounds like a contradiction.What are your thoughts? West:Q6 QJ972 A109 1053,North:A7 A K8754 AJ764,East:K98543 865 —KQ92,South:J102 K1043 QJ632 8.Best regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Hi Patrick,

Several thoughts and therefore questions come to mind. Was your cue bid conventionally emphasizing the minors and if so, (although it is not a slam dunk) partner should relieve you of difficult judgment by jumping to 5 diamonds himself. It is inconsistent for you to raise 4 diamonds to 5 since he might easily have only 3 diamonds with something like: 3 or 4, 5, 3, 1 or 2. At least to me, there is nothing wrong with your bid (although a distinct overbid), if 3 cue bid spades was not for minors, but merely a very good forcing TO, but instead I suggest to aggressively jump to 4NT which, of course, should be a clear message of 2 long minor suits and a very good hand.

Having said the above and no doubt, receiving the lead of the queen of spades, all declarer needs to do is to win it in dummy and lead a diamond to the queen. Yes, the defense can kill the spade jack by West ruffing it, but that leaves, after drawing the last trump, two trumps in dummy to take care of declarer’s other losers, contract made.

Sure, in an effort to make 12 tricks declarer may attempt to throw the losing spade on his king of hearts, but the 3-0 trump break may cause 5 diamonds to come up one trick short.

I choose not to spend a long time analyzing the matchpoint ramifications in choosing from those two lines of play except to say, sometimes matchpoints becomes just too difficult to play, having to guess when it is worth chancing the contract for an extra matchpoint or two.

In the recent discussions on our bridge site, some have sung the praises of matchpoints as against IMPs or rubber bridge, but I agree with the other side. Whist, the grandfather of Contract Bridge, had no dummy and was almost impossible to play the least bit well, and eventually that game phased out in favor of Auction Bridge (Contract’s father) which was very flawed in that a side did not have to bid game or slam in order to get credit for all they made and with lucky honors out on all hands (3 or more between the partners of the trump honors) which were significant amounts proportionally, compared to other bonus’ with that game. When Harold S. Vanderbilt then invented Contract Bridge, with tweaks later, it has become, at least in my opinion, the greatest mind game ever created with possibly Chess a distant second, although Chess is all mainly brain power with no luck involved, but only very complicated reasoning and above the heads of most of our population, although a very intelligent game, demanding high IQs and total dedication to the process.

I apologize for the above ranting, but I thought a valid opportunity to bring up facts about what;

1. The best way to handle your problem hand.

2. Contributing to why I believe what I do about all games mentioned in the above dialogue together with reasons for those beliefs.

ClarksburgJanuary 27th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Re first item: (worker Bee’s question and Mr. Wolff’s answer).
Great question, and illuminating answer! Thanks to both!
My partner and I (and I suspect many or most intermediate players) would have evaluated the hand at 11-12 and think “OK I’m 10+ with a five-card suit, so I’m bidding Two Hearts”.
Again lacking the Heart 10, but with the black-suit doubleton’s changed to x-xxx, or xxx-x, is it now back to a Two Heart bid?

Patrick CheuJanuary 27th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Hi Bobby, many thanks for your analysis and profound thoughts on this complex game of ours,much appreciated.Very Best Regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I, for one, basically agree with your evaluation and the reasons why. Of course, I, with your last sentence, would (without the heart 10) and with a singleton club (my partner’s suit) would devalue my hand to a negative double, but with 3 clubs and a singleton spade would, even without the heart 10, always bid 2 hearts and accept partner’s raise to 3 hearts by bidding game and expect to make it (barring poor fortune).

bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Hi Patrick,

I appreciate your kind words and would like to assure you and others also, that I take great delight discussing the excellent questions which often are asked, if only, because of the love we all show, and the desire to improve, for the game we play.