Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 1st, 2013

I assume that if holding ♠ K-Q-7-5-4,  A-Q-5-4,  10-2, ♣ A-4, you would open one spade and rebid two hearts over partner's two-club response — which we do not play as game-forcing. But when partner bids three diamonds, fourth suit and game-forcing, what would you do next?

Caught Napping, Grand Forks, N.D.

Help! The fact that you have extras means a call of four clubs, going past three no-trump, is not terrible, but partner will expect you to hold three clubs, of course. The other choices are to rebid three spades (I'd do that with the spade jack instead of the seven) or three no-trump, hoping partner has either diamond length or a major-suit fit. If he has 2-3-2-6 shape, I'll apologize handsomely.

Several of my bridge friends claim there is a written rule that says a player may change his first bid into a completely different bid if it is done in the same breath. I didn’t agree. What is the rule on this subject?

Legal Eagle, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

The simple rule is that a change of mind is not permitted, but an instantaneous correction of a played card is sometimes allowed and a correction of a mechanical error with a bidding box is also allowed. Here, though, when you utter a call, you very rarely say the wrong thing — you change your mind. That's a no-no.

One of our opponents at my local club used a gadget I'd never heard of. He was defending four hearts and his partner led the diamond king, then the ace, from A-K-J-fifth. With ♠ K-J-7-5,  Q-2,  10-3-2, ♣ J-9-4-3, he followed with the two, then the 10, and afterwards explained to his partner that this was suit preference. I thought that only applied to discards.

Inspector Gadget, Dallas, Texas

I like an inquiring mind! You are right that suit preference often occurs on discards, but any time you have a choice of cards in a holding where partner knows what you have, an unnecessarily high or low card may be used to convey suit preference. This even happens from time to time at trick one, when a continuation of the suit led is obviously not in question.

Is it ever proper to keep the auction open with a really weak hand facing a one-club opening bid? One of my opponents uses one diamond as an artificial bid showing fewer than six points.

Stretching the Truth, Bristol, Va.

I certainly wouldn't go that far. When nonvulnerable, I do often respond light to a one-club opening bid if short in clubs. Equally, I occasionally do bid one diamond over one club on a three-card suit, when a one-no-trump response or club raise is undesirable. But this is more improvisation than partnership agreement.

I know you are not the biggest fan of Keycard Blackwood, but can you tell me how to show the trump queen after answering keycards?

Find the Lady, Sunbury, Pa.

Let's say trumps are hearts. After a five-club response, five diamonds asks, and in response five hearts denies the trump queen. All other bids show it, with six hearts denying any side-suit king, and all other calls show your cheapest king. Five no-trump can be used to promise extras and no king. If the response was five diamonds, five hearts by the inquirer would be to play, so five spades asks for the queen. Six hearts denies it, five no-trump says you have the queen and no kings, and all other responses are your cheapest king plus the trump queen.

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 CheuDecember 15th, 2013 at 11:23 am

Hi Bobby,re Caught Napping hand,I know you would prefer to rebid 3S with KQJxx,surely if 4S is to have a chance,it depends on what the two spades are in pard’s hand if he has 2326 shape,if xx hopeless,if Ax A10 or AJ there are chances depending on how spades break..If I bid 3NT and pard has 2326 shape,and it goes off,when 5C or 4S can make,I do not think any handsome apology will work unless I quote your terms of reference..hope it meets with your approval. regards~Patrick 🙂

ClarksburgDecember 15th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Mr Wolff,
For Caught Napping’s partner to forego the FSF and just bid 3NT directly, what type of length-only Diamond holding would be adequate?

Jane ADecember 15th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

My partners and I play that for opener to bid three NT over a fourth suit forcing bid, opener has to be able to handle the fourth suit lead or responder would have bid three NT himself. System agreement, I understand. In this type of auction, as in Caught Napping’s hand, I rebid the five card major with less that a terrific holding because I don’t have help in the fourth suit and only have two of partner’s first bid suit. Clarksburg’s question is a good one, and I look forward to your answer. Also, what should opener hold in the fourth suit to bid three NT?

Thanks, as always.

Bill CubleyDecember 15th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I can understand why you are not a fan of Keycard Blackwood. For me it is Eddie Kantar’s 1430 RKC. I kibitzed Lew Stansby in a Spingold match. Chip twice passed the 1430 queen ask. Decided I was not going to learn much so I left. They were smiling the next day so I asked Chip if Eddie had given him a refund. He called me a jinx but I said I kibitzed Lew and Lew bid and played very well.

I also wrote Eddie and explained if a top pair cannot play 1430 than it certainly is not for me. Btw they won the match and the Spingold.

Chip and I have a standing joke about a free play or an honorary degree. I helped on of the UC Davis faculty get his naturalization back on track with an email and I naturalized some of his students

Bobby WolffDecember 15th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Hi Patrick,

Although I am certainly not thought to be a flatterer, especially by people in my bridge life, as I rarely choose random compliments when a somewhat harsh critique is in order, I admire your adding the jack of spades and speaking to that.

However, in spite of what you are suggesting, I would now just make the mundane bid of 4 clubs, while still pondering if I would change that to 3 spades, if I did hold that, ever so precious, solidifying spade jack.

Four clubs by me should not be read as more than it is. My partner’s 4th suit 3 diamonds merely continues the bidding, but now any and all (well almost, but necessary to be sane) partners will realize the two messages given are GF and please continue to describe, in greater detail, your distribution, and until otherwise contradicted, only a minimum both as to values and to distribution. Change the two minor suit holdings to Ax in diamonds and xx in clubs and 3NT would be my standout choice, but if I did hold that ever challenging spade jack, again, perhaps 3 spades would become more descriptive, (and to understand high-level bridge to which you have a natural bent) that card alone might be worth the same value as an extra ace on many hands, depending on what your partner holds and, of course, what the adverse distribution might be.

Lesson to be learned is that never try to do too much, only what stands out in front of one’s face and once partner bids a 4th suit 3 diamonds he MUST be prepared for you to be able to describe your hand without worrying about going past 3NT. For example, if partner holds, J, Kxx, KQ9x, KQxxx it would be off the charts wrong to bid 3 diamonds instead of 3NT unless 2NT is still GF and then, and only then, would that choice be acceptable as long as the next bid made was always a minimum bid in NT, unless partner took complete charge or bid something determined to be VERY unusual.

Bobby WolffDecember 15th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

For the responder to bid 3NT he should (almost must) have diamonds stopped, at least 4 to the J and with it usually the 10 as well). The sometimes difficult hand (which does rarely actually come up) is when the 3NT bidders have 3 little opposite 3 little, but a combined 9 top tricks and either a 4-3 opponent’s distribution or a non-diamond lead (sometimes for only reasons the opponents can conjure up).

As an additional caveat when responder has exactly the ace of the unbid suit, that ace is so powerful itself at a suit contract rather than just a single stop in NT, other contracts should be explored (if practical) because sometimes that ace (particularly facing a singleton) enables other games, and sometimes even slams, to be much better contracts.

Bobby WolffDecember 15th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi Jane A,

In spite of my writing specifically to each one of the questions, obviously all of my comments together should be thought of as one very long (perhaps too much so) answer.

If given a choice the perfect type hand for the opening bidder to finally rebid NT is, of course, a stopper and better yet, not the ace but secondary values, QJx is close to perfect, not good for suits but extremely valuable to stop suits being run.

Try to find a suit fit first, but lacking that likelihood, someone has got to bid 3NT before we get past it. Remember earlier said, that a responder should not make a 4th suit bid if a normal response from partner in a suit gets them past the 3NT level.

Bobby WolffDecember 15th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Bill,

You have had an interesting bridge life, knowing quite a few of the top players and devoting time to kibitzing them. All in all a wonderful way to improve one’s game without having to undergo the sometimes tedious and pressurized alternative of participating yourself.

You have been a fly on the wall in a number of very important endeavors, such as the ones you have just mentioned, and seem to enjoy doing it. Good for you and also good for all who get to know you.

Bill CubleyDecember 16th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thanks Bobby. On that day I had played in the original Fast Pairs. My partner became physically ill and I had seen enough bad bridge that day.

There was one highlight.

2C – 2D
2NT – 3C
3S – 5NT from ailing partner

Dummy is
S Q87 H Axxx D Kxx C xxx vs

Trump lead and they were 2-4. So I took the heart finesse through LHO. Clubs were 3-3 with QJx on side for the double finesse. Got a 64 top against the late Trudi Nugent and Hamish Bennet. Mr. Bennet complimented my play then and the next day. I used the Law of Empty Spaces and desperation to make the hand.

The rest of the set was a poor as my partner’s health. That’s how I kibitzed Lew.