Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 29th, 2013

We ran into a problem when playing negative doubles. I opened one heart and my LHO overcalled two clubs, which was passed back to me. What should I have done, holding ♠ Q-4,  A-Q-J-6-4,  Q-8-6-4, ♣ K-10? (Just for the record, reopening was NOT a success!)

Double Trouble, Bremerton, Wash.

You have so much in clubs that you should assume your partner probably does not have a penalty double. This makes it likely that he simply has a weak hand — and so the opponents probably have the spades. I'd probably let two clubs go, hoping that the opponents might have missed the boat in either black suit.

Facing an opening bid from partner in a red suit, when should you bid a five-card minor instead of a four-card major? If so, how would the doubler find an eight-card major suit?

Light Fitter, Monterey, Calif.

With game-forcing values, you won't lose the major by starting with the call of two of a minor. You bid your major at your next turn and partner knows what you have. The cutoff comes at about an 11-count, where you must decide whether to bid a minor and force to game, or bid the major first, and perhaps not get your suits bid in the best order, in exchange for finding the fit in your major cheaply. But don't ignore suit-quality issues; some four-carders look like five, and the reverse holds true as well.

When your partner opens one heart and the next hand overcall three clubs, should you double, raise the major, or do something else with ♠ Q-7-5-4,  Q-5-4,  A-10-2, ♣ 6-4-3?

Truly Scrumptious, Tupelo, Miss.

This feels like a three-heart bid to me. I'd rather get the hand off my chest at one go, in case my LHO competes further. My spades are not so good that I am not sure I want to find a 4-4 fit. When in doubt, support with support.

My partner and I were faced with a disagreement about what is standard and what is not. I'm an occasional duplicate player and heard my partner open one no-trump and the next hand overcall two diamonds. How do I get to hearts here? Is the default position to play transfers?

Can't Get There From Here, Dover, Del.

Assuming you play transfers in an uncontested sequence, should you play transfers in competition? I say no — though some do. I use double as takeout, two-level calls as natural and nonforcing, and all three-level calls as natural and game-forcing. I subvert responder's two-no-trump call to a sign-off in clubs or various other hands (if strong with a diamond guard) or an invitation in one major when I bid that suit next. A direct cue-bid is Stayman without a stopper. This method is called Lebensohl and is described here.

After a three- or four-level pre-empt, how good a hand do I need for me to double, either vulnerable or nonvulnerable?

Silent Witness, Danville, Ill.

The vulnerability is almost irrelevant; a minimum opener with shortness should suffice over any pre-empt, if facing an unpassed hand. Here a small doubleton equates to shortage, but if vulnerable, you'd now want a full opener. The standards increase still further for doubling a four-level pre-empt. But again, with real shortage you want to bid when you can. In the pass-out seat, one can be even more aggressive than in direct seat.

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


John StoreyJanuary 12th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Hi Bobby – just to let you know, your column has disappeared again from the RSS feed that is provided for your site. I can still find your column if I search on your name on Google, however.

Have a great weekend!

bobby wolffJanuary 12th, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for the information.

All I can do is to check with our resident computer guru, John Gould (who handles the site), and pass on your experience.

I appreciate you informing me.

Patrick cheuJanuary 12th, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Hi Bobby,please could you advise on the following two hands from pairs. North s AJxxx h Kxxx d void c KQxx South s Kx h Qxxx d AKxx c AJx. 1S-2D,2H-4C(cue),4D(mark time bid by me,5H,a better bid perhaps asking p to bid 6H with good hearts?)-4N(1403),5H(2 without QH)-6H bid by South.How do we stop in 5H,due to bad hearts? Second hand: North s J10xxx h xxx d Kx c xxx South s AKx h KQ9x d 108xx c Ax. East(ew vul)1C South Dbl West pass North 1S,East 2D South Dbl-is this second Dbl take-out or penalty? I thought it was t-out pard maintains its penalty,and pointed out that as I have Kx diamonds pass is mandatory.I bid 2S and he raise to 4S and I bid 4S….ooops.If South thought his second Dbl is penalty,do you think is hand is strong enough?Your thoughts would be much appreciated~regards~Patrick.(NB EW can make 2D).

Patrick cheuJanuary 12th, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Hi Bobby,sorry for typing error, South raise to 3S on second hand n I bid 4S.

Patrick cheuJanuary 12th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

The question of good hearts to bid 6H,who should be asking? Are we to assume good hearts being AQxx,KJxx, being min requirement n not just one Hxxx?regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJanuary 12th, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Hi Patrick,

On the first hand I suggest:
N 1S, S, 2D, N, 2H, S.3H, N., 4H (because of lack of fit, void in diamonds, S. 5C (cue bid), N, 5D (cue bid) S. 6H. Bad contract but still about 25% by guessing a doubleton ace and who has it.

Bids like 5H asking for good trumps are all seriously flawed since neither partner knows about a critical ace. Please understand what bridge optimists continue to forget that there is only so much available in any bidding sequence and more often than not some guesswork needs to be done. 6 Clubs is the best contract, by far, but let someone else other than me tell you how to get there.

On the second hand everything is OK until your partner doubled 2 diamonds. He is at least an ace short of doing that and he should never attempt to double for penalties which will only warn the opponents to not go higher because the breaks will not be good.

Your partner is dreaming if he thinks he has enough to double, but he, also, has to glean experience from this and other hands and get better.

Good luck and I am happy to agree with you, even your pushy 4 spade bid after you had to bid 1 and 2 spades and still got raised to 3. Because of the last sentence I would accept partner’s invitation to bid game.

Do not get discouraged since bridge is difficult to get down pat and there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Patrick cheuJanuary 12th, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Hi Bobby, my very sincere thanks for your help and encouragement in a game that we both love.You were right about 25% slam in hearts,I play a low heart to the Q,it held,RHO playing the 9H.I play a low one from dummy,RHO play the 10H,picturing the J109 in RHO and LHO Ax,I play low..from Kxx.LHO shows out,a chuckle is in order from me,concentrate to make 11 on a cross ruff,nobody else bid the slam,so zero..but we did win.Thanks again for your thoughts,which have given me a lot of confidence.Best regards~Patrick.