Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Playing two-over-one game forcing, I opened one spade and my partner responded at the two-level in a suit (say diamonds) for which I had four-card support. When should I make a simple raise to three diamonds, and when should I bid four diamonds?

Rumble Fish, Edmonton, Calgary

Many people would do more than make a simple raise when they have strong slam potential. The more sophisticated bidders play a jump in a new suit as a splinter — showing extras, with real support for partner and a singleton or void in the bid suit. If you play that way, a jump raise shows extras but denies side-suit shortage.

My RHO opened two hearts and I had ♠ K,  A-3,  A-Q-10-5-4, ♣ Q-7-6-3-2. I bid three no-trump, intending it as unusual. My partner assumed I had a strong hand and jumped to six no-trump, which I managed to hold to down three. He opined that I could have doubled for takeout and forced a bid. I responded that since I did NOT do that, the bid must show something else. What do you think?

Robert the Bruce, Durango, Colo.

A three no-trump response shows more than 18HCP, balanced, but is also consistent with a hand with a long suit. Doubling then bidding three no-trump is natural, but is a hand that is prepared to hear partner remove to a major. Note that no-trump calls by a passed hand might be minors, and a jump to four no-trump is always for the minors. With your hand I'd bid three diamonds, followed by a call in clubs if I got the chance.

When in a slam-going auction, does a jump in a major to the five-level ask for something specific? My partner told me it always asks for good trumps. Is that right?

Bacon Burger, Lakeland, Fla.

A jump to the five-level often asks for good trumps. However if you are in a cue-bidding auction when there is one suit (or an opponent's suit) which has not been cue-bid, the jump would ask for a first- or second-round control in that suit. And, rarely, the jump shows good trumps and nothing to cue-bid. Responder's hand will normally tell him which.

Should I pre-empt, pass, or open at the one-level with 10 or 11 points and a six-card suit? I know about using Marty Bergen's Rule of 20. But Bergen says even if you can count to 20 (the length of the two longest suits plus your HCP), you should still have a couple of quick tricks. Can you clarify this for me?

The Wonder Horse, Augusta, Ga.

There are no cast-iron rules here, but when you have a good suit, open either one or two, but do not pass the hand — you can never catch up. I try not to open at the one-level with marginal values and fewer controls than an ace and king. The vulnerability and position also affect the calculation. In second seat or vulnerable, your openings should be sounder than elsewhere.

What is the minimum shape on which you should make a takeout double of an opening minor suit? Can you do it on a completely balanced hand?

Slightly Unbalanced, Rockford, Ill.

With a full opener but not enough for a one-no-trump overcall, it is just fine to double with a 4-3-3-3 hand, or even a hand 4-4 in the majors and a doubleton in the other minor. It will occasionally lead to a huge penalty, but will generally let your side into the auction cheaply and safely — and you cannot ask for more than that.

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


ClarksburgSeptember 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Mr. Wolff
This is further to Rumble Fish’s question and your answer.
You answered in part “…If you play that way, a jump raise shows extras but denies side-suit shortage…”
My previous understanding was that, splinter aside, Opener must jump to show extras only over Partner’s wide-range forcing 1NT, and can otherwise go slow. Would the jump you recommend apply only when the known or most-likely strain is a minor? (i.e. if that particular 2/1 auction is forcing to only 4 of a minor, the jump helps get it to game). ?

Bobby WolffSeptember 23rd, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

A jump to 4 diamonds would deny a singleton, usually 5-2-4-2 e.g. AKxxx, xx, AQxx, Ax, but possibly AKxxx, xx, AKJ, Axx. It immediately suggests slam and asks for cue bidding, unless partner already then decides to bid either a small or grand slam and so then asks for aces or instead, asks for a cooperative slam investigation by, in this case bidding 4 hearts with: x, AKx, Qxxxxx, KQx allowing you to either decide on slam by taking charge yourself or instead continuing to show 1st round controls in an usual attempt to decide between a grand or a small slam.

For best results, especially when taking on a new partner, commuter simulation will allow hundreds of hands to be dealt out with the program requiring a certain minimum number of high card points (say 26) and, of course, a big trump fit. That process will allow practice on how the bidding should flow (not just stagger) and is instrumental in gaining partnership confidence).

Hard work at times, in the way of intense concentration, but well worth it in the form of results, in the long run.