Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 13th, 2014

I'm weighing up several choices of leading styles. What is your view on leading from three, four or five small — and do circumstances alter cases as to what to lead?

Mini-Max, Riverside, Calif.

I believe that one should lead low from three or four small if partner might read you for a doubleton, but top if you have bid the suit or shown support for partner in that suit. I am not a fan of leading second-highest against suit contracts, though I might do that at no-trump if I had a second suit which partner might want to shift to. From almost any five-card suit I would lead fourth highest, unless my partner knows my length already.

As dealer I passed with ♠ K-6-5-2,  4-3,  K-7-6-5, ♣ K-Q-4. My LHO also passed, and my partner opened the bidding with one heart. I responded one no-trump. My partner passed and I made 11 tricks when my partner came down with five solid hearts, the spade ace and four diamonds to the queen. She said I should have bid more, but I do not know what I could have bid. Any thoughts?

At a Loss, Durango, Colo.

Every call was right up to a point. Your pass and partner’s one-heart call look right. Two no-trump by you would maybe now have been artificial, so your call of one no-trump is clearly right. But now your partner should bid two diamonds, and when you raise, she can rebid three no-trump. One should only pass one no-trump with a balanced 12-14 and no side four-card suit.

I would like your views on how I should have described my hand here. I held ♠ A-K-Q-5-2,  10-3,  —, ♣ A-K-Q-10-8-4. Is it right to open one club or two clubs — or even one spade? My partner held a 1-5-6-1 pattern with six hearts to the K-Q-J and five diamonds to the jack, with the singleton club jack. How should we get to the best contract (and what is it?).

None But the Brave, Ketchikan, Alaska.

Put me down firmly as a one-club bidder. I get to jump to two spades next (one club never gets passed out) and can then show my full hand when I rebid spades. As to the best contract; six clubs is down on a trump lead, while in six hearts the defenders do best to lead a trump and duck it — maybe not so easy to do.

I've been told that the best way to deal with intervention over my partner's one-no-trump opening is to use Mirror Doubles. Do you recommend them, or are they just a fad? And is there a better treatment you could suggest?

Grace Notes, Doylestown, Pa.

When opponents intervene over one no-trump with a natural or artificial call, then if you play transfers, a Mirror Double conventionally means that you would have made the call that they just did. All other transfers remain in place. This approach gives up on being able to play negative doubles over intervention. I prefer to use negative doubles (without transfers) of all intervention of two diamonds or higher, though you can play that transfers do apply after an overcall of two clubs.

I was involved in a highly competitive auction where we ended up playing five hearts doubled and making. One opponent remarked that I had been walking the dog — and I did not know if this was a compliment or an insult. Please let me know if I should have thanked him or slapped him!

Peke Condition, Willoughby, Ohio

Walking the dog is a lot easier to describe after the event than to recognize at the time. When one player realizes that his side has a big fit but wants to buy the contract as low as possible, he can occasionally make a deliberate underbid at his first turn, then try to buy the auction by bidding up the auction slowly. If you can do it, it is always very satisfying.

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuApril 27th, 2014 at 9:13 am

Hi Bobby,re None But the Brave,if the hand is in the 12-16/17 range would you open one spade? regards~Patrick.

alan wertheimerApril 27th, 2014 at 10:46 am

With respect to the second hand, why would 2N by a passed hand be artificial? And if the partners are not playing Flannery, would 1S be a plausible call?

ClarksburgApril 27th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Good Morning Mr. Wolff,
Re: At a Loss.
Your answer implies that 2NT would be the preferred call were it not being played “artificial”. Is that correct?
Otherwise, you endorse the 1NT call with 11HCP and a four-card Spade suit. Could you clarify or elaborate on why the presumably-forcing One Spade call should be by-passed? Is it because 1NT describes the shape well and the Spades suit is so skimpy?

bobby wolffApril 27th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi Patrick,

The question of what to open the bidding should NEVER be 1 spade, but could lie between 1 normal club and an artificial GF 2 clubs.

When faced with that choice, because of your unusual distribution (meaning others around the table also figure to have peculiar distributions) it will provide more bidding room for your side to bid the hand naturally, starting off with your longest suit clubs and then bidding and rebidding spades to get a normal preference.

Here, however, your partner will only hold 2 black cards (one of each) and although strong in hearts, as you can see, against best defense, either forcing the dummy with 2 rounds of diamonds or leading a low heart originally (not taking the ace the first round) will likely put paid to your 6 heart contract, preventing it from being made.

A “short cut description” would be “That is bridge, mister” and only confirms that the game itself is the master and all the players can do is hope for defensive mistakes (happens often) or divan it out in the bidding and stop in game, instead of going high.

I would simply open 1 club and rebid 2 spades over partner’s 1 heart response and then 3 spades over partner’s 3 heart rebid. However, as mentioned in our answer to that problem, we are at the mercy of dame fortune who, at times has been known to be cruel. I would be kidding (or fooling you) if I said there is a legitimate answer to your question. The best one I can give you is bid naturally hoping for more than a black singleton, possibly arrive in 6 clubs and have the opponents mistakenly (after trumps are drawn) win the 1st heart. Hearts, as trump (and in slam) is easier to defend by decent bridge players, but all this simply will not be known until the dummy comes down.

“Play boldly, but sometimes have to sleep in the street”.

bobby wolffApril 27th, 2014 at 4:15 pm

To Alan and Clarksburg,

I am already late to an appointment, but will be happy to answer both of you when I return, which will be in a little over an hour. Thanks for understanding.


bobby wolffApril 27th, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hi Alan,

To some strict 1NT forcing advocates, even 1NT by a passed hand is intended forcing, while others (I hope most) prefer a more natural style of bidding which allows for a 2NT jump on a passed hand to be natural, other suits stopped and between 10+-12 HCPs. Yes, it is to me OK to possess 4 spades while bidding NT (over a 1 heart opening) and also a forcing 1NT response as an unpassed hand.

Actually Flannery is one of my favorite conventions, playing it now for probably over 40 years with all of my partners and I cannot remember a bad bidding result by using it or, for that matter, seeing advantages in using it, even though it does not come up by the inferences derived from not using it.

However the strict Forcing 1NT responders never jump to 2NT as a passed hand, thus preferring to use that bid as artificial to show different types of combinations (such as 10+ cards in the minors or perhaps some kind of different type raise of partner’s major suit opening) instead of the natural inferences.

I hope my response was of some value, although I probably did not completely clear up what bothers you.

Good luck and if I can further clarify, please feel free to write.

bobby wolffApril 27th, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, your answer to the last question you asked is both yes and yes.

I actually prefer the old-fashioned 2NT response on a passed hand with 11-12 HCPs but many good players (a majority) prefer only 1NT which in many ways is intended forcing (sometimes stronger than intended) and with 3 card support for partner’s presumably 5 card major.

Although the two methods are decidedly different, it is difficult to assess what works better, when one is theoretically superior, if rigidly enforced (forcing 1NT), but often practically inferior, when 1NT is definitely the right final contract.

Very simply, I prefer, with passed hand bidding, to only bid suits worth playing opposite a strong doubleton in order to allow the opening 3rd seat bidder to pass at the lowest level practical in order to have a better chance to go plus while playing a part score contract. Does it always work? Not at all, but it gives more stability to rebidders since his partner knows that he has the option to merely pass instead of finding ways to keep the bidding open. However my way is not necessarily the methods commonly used by top players so individual preferences still play a part in determining partnership choices.