Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Is the following hand worth a game-force or just an invitation? In fourth chair I heard my partner open one heart, and the next hand bid two diamonds. I held ♠ 10-8-7-2,  Q-4-2,  K-J-3, ♣ A-Q-3. Was I supposed to raise hearts, bid no-trump, or double — and to what level should I commit the hand?

Torn in Three, Albuquerque, N.M.

It looks most flexible to start with a double (raising partner's major may be too committal and bidding no-trump might lose the fit in either major). After you get a response, you will have to decide where to go — I fancy three no-trump, unless a spade fit comes to light, but if necessary, you might cue-bid next to obtain more information.

Playing rubber bridge with very few conventions, I picked up ♠ K-4,  K-Q-J-6-5-3,  Q-J, ♣ A-Q-2. I opened one heart and heard an overcall of one spade. Now my partner jumped to three diamonds, strong. What would you recommend?

Slamma Jamma, Albany, Ga.

Assuming three diamonds shows a respectable suit, there is much to be said for a simple Blackwood bid. Even if this doesn't help you find out directly about the diamond king, you can do so at your next turn and then play six or seven no-trump. Please note that if partner simply has game-going values and, say, ace-fifth of diamonds, he should just bid two diamonds. This is forcing and doesn't waste space.

I liked your 'tip for beginners' a few weeks ago. Can you offer some more simple guidance for beginners — or for intermediates who might still benefit from simple advice?

Help Wanted, Lorain, Ohio

Here goes! When counting trump, do not keep a running count up to 13. Instead, when dummy comes down, add up your trump and dummy's trump. Take that number from 13, and this is the number of trumps out. Now forget about your trump and dummy's, just focus on that number, whether it be four, five or six, and count down to zero from there.

Let's say partner opens one heart. The next hand overcalls two clubs, you pass with ♠ Q-8-7-4,  J-5,  10-5-4-2, ♣ Q-10-2, and partner re-opens with a double. Would you pass or bid — and if you do bid, what should you do?

Stick Shift, Janesville, Wis.

This is awkward. Passing out a takeout double with only one trump trick looks wrong. But I can see a case for acting by bidding either four-card suit or even raising partner. I'll go for the two heart call because that way at least I know one of us will have long trumps.

You mentioned the Wolff signoff in a recent column. Could you explain how that works in just a little more detail?

Seeking an Edge, Woodland Hills, Calif.

If you respond light to an opening bid and hear partner jump to two no-trump, you need both to check for partner having a fit in your suit, but also occasionally to be able to sign off in your own suit. One way to do this is to use responder's rebid of three clubs as artificial. The no-trumper now bids three diamonds (after which your bid of three of your major is to play and three no-trump offers a choice of games). Every other auction by responder is forcing to game and natural.

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


Iain ClimieDecember 8th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

I can see the point of the Wolff 3C bid but what do you do with hands like:
SKQxxx Hxx Dxx CAJxx (or the szzme hand with one less diamond and one more club) after 1H-1S-2N? In such cases, you need to look for a 5-3 spade fit and also to consider a club game or even slam (or, occasionally 4H if responder has 5-2-1-5 opposite 2-5-3-3).



clarksburgDecember 8th, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Question unrelated to today’s column:
After opening 2NT with a flat 20-21, passed out, Declarer may often end up playing a lopsided 2NT with a flat near-bust Dummy.
Is opening such hands at one of a minor worth considering as an alternative opening?

bobby wolffDecember 8th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi Iain,

Probably the best method (in a general sort of way) would be to rebid 3 spades which, of course, is forcing, asking for 3 card support, and then over 3NT, which denies 3 then proceed with 4 clubs which would inform partner that you have at least 9 black cards and enough values to consider slam.

If the opener would have started with 1 club, then your responsive hand takes on greater responsibility to introduce the clubs making 1 club P 1 of a major, P, 2NT, P 3 clubs, P 3 diamonds, P, 3NT, a hand which confirms support for clubs and allows the strong hand to go past 3NT if he thinks his hand warrants it, distributionally, for either a better game contract or possible slam.

Not a perfect fluidity, but nevertheless it will usually get the job done. Somewhat strangely, if the responder holds either Axxxx or Kxxxx in spades or hearts (and a side suit) his hand will usually be better for play in the side suit rather then NT (especially holding 5 of them) when partner has only a doubleton opposite his original response. Of course remember that if the responders side suit is not clubs, but either diamonds or hearts, a natural bid of 3 of that suit tends to show a distributional hand and is often forward going toward higher contracts past game.

bobby wolffDecember 8th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

While, of course, there are some hands while holding a good 19-21 HCP’s which will not fetch 8 tricks opposite a near Yarborough, but there are advantages to opening 2NT such as:

1. Shutting out RHO’s ability to help direct the opening lead or even competing in the bidding when, in spite of your strength, the opponent’s fit might enable them to score something up, assuming you allow him to bid something at the 1 or 2 level.

2. Making a limit bid which always has a prime purpose in every partnership to allow partner to make an informed decision once he asks and finds out what he needs to know.

3. Opening one of a minor and then enabling LHO to preempt (usually with favorable vulnerability) forcing you, the strong hand to not be able to describe your hand which will dis-enable partner from having the judgment he would have had once you had opened 2NT.

4. Always keep in mind that bidding in bridge is far from perfect, even with the opponents remaining silent, so that any time a player has a very descriptive bid available, it usually works out better to do it ASAP.

ClarksburgDecember 9th, 2013 at 12:33 am

Mr. Wolff,
My question was of course rather trivial, and the answer (No) was as expected.
However, when you set out all the benefits / risks of opening / not-opening 2NT that was very helpful.

Iain ClimieDecember 9th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, and illuminating. A further thought is how to handle hands which contain (say) 4 spades and 5 or 6 clubs but which are not strong enough for 2 over 1. Is there a case for bidding 3C forcing 3D then bidding 3N to show this hand type so opener can consider 5C or possibly even 4S on a 4-3 fit? You stated in the column that 1x -1Maj – 2N – 3Maj 3N would have offered choice of games but 1x – 1Maj – 2N -3Maj already seems to do that when opener has a 5 card major. Is there possible duplicaztion and a useful extra sequence here?




Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2013 at 10:34 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, exactly when a responder after 1 of a suit (usually a minor), P, 1 spade or 1 heart P, 2NT, then 3 clubs, P, 3 diamonds (forced), P, 3NT (by the original responder) shows clubs and a hand which either offers clubs as an original suit (if partner has opened 1 diamond) or club support (if partner has opened 1 club) GF, but offering a choice between 5 or possibly more clubs and 3NT.

Two likely examples for that bid would be first in response to partner’s opening 1 club bid, s. Axxx, x, Qxxx, KJxx when partner should pass holding: Kx, KQ10, KJ10, AQxxx, but move toward clubs (and a likely slam) holding: Kx, AJx, KJ10, AQxxx. I would Pass with the first hand and cue bid 4 hearts, (agreeing clubs) on the second one. Over the 4 heart cue bid I would return a 4 spade cue bid which not only shows 1st round spade control, but also a hand suitable for a club slam. With instead, KJx, KQJ, KJ10, Axxx (or even AJxx in clubs) I would Pass 3NT even when partner went through 3 clubs, but then returned to 3NT since my hand, at least to me, and when partner has turned his attention to clubs but still offered only 3NT, I would decline and simply pass since my hand figures to not be great for clubs lacking both red suit controls and weaker clubs.

What the above advice suggests to my view is that sometimes slam possibilities change from bid to bid and here with that second example would possibly be worth a 4 club cue bid on the way to 4 spades by opener, if partner had offered 3 spades (GF) instead of 3 clubs first, when partner could have: AQxxx, xxx, Axx, Kx (a decent slam) or something similar like AQxxxx, xx, Axx, Kx (a cold one).

A partnership should consider in order:
1. Values, 2. Strain, 3. if no suit fit, tread carefully for slam in either our combined best suit or more likely in NT, but because of no raging fit, conservatively, but if at least an adequate fit, then make below game cue bids signifying interest and slowly make sure that the partnership is not off the controls necessary to not lose the first two tricks. Keep in mind that at least one of the partners may have something he is worried about before agreeing on a slam venture.

Once an ace asking bid is made the partner asking is committed to bidding slam if not off two controls or perhaps the trump queen in certain sequences (certainly extreme combined length in the trump suit such as 10+ trump precludes the necessity for possessing the trump queen).

The above will sound both complicated and perhaps too sophisticated for some, but in reality it is not as long as both partners respect the other one and understand that bridge itself is often in control and close hands one way or the other, often determine final results, but there is no way to avoid this happening.

Finally feint heart rarely wins fair lady nor important bridge tournaments so be prepared to be aggressive and let others talk themselves out of competing as fiercely as they probably should.

Finally, in answer to your last question, the rebid of a major suit after partner has jumped to 2NT over your original response, while forcing, is not “rocket science” and judgment is involved. For example with Qxxxx, Kx, Qxx, Jxx, I, after responding, 1 spade to partner’s original 1 of a minor would not opt to rebid 3 spades, but just to raise to game in NT, (although that action could be wrong) but anyone who tends to try and be too scientific in bridge bidding is likely to wind up sleeping in the streets, since good judgment is the guiding force which usually determines who wins and who loses with the main point being that there is not enough language available in bridge to deftly separate out this or that contract and always be right. If one doesn’t believe that, he is under a severe handicap of not understanding the game itself and the limitations which even the best systems available can provide.

Good luck and ask more questions when you either think or experience them.