Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

In a recent Bid with the Aces when an unopposed auction started with one club — one heart — one spade, why did you advocate raising two clubs with a 1-4-4-4 pattern and four small clubs and four decent diamonds, rather than rebidding no-trump?

Suitable Case for Treatment, Boise, Idaho

For me opener's sequence always delivers clubs (at least four) so I'd prefer to play clubs than no-trumps here. We can always play the no-trump game if partner has extras, since he won't pass me out in two clubs. For the record with a 4-3-3-3 pattern as opener I would rebid one no-trump over one heart rather than bid one spade. I might miss a partscore in spades, but I'll be far better placed facing a strong hand.

What is your opinion on playing Fishbein or a defense such as Lower Minor over your opponents' preempts? Do you recommend using a take-out double against every preempt, or is there some other defense that you consider preferable?

Catcher in the Rye, Trenton, N.J.

The advantage of playing take-out doubles over your opponents' preempts is that they are simple, and arise more frequently than the penalty double, no matter what your opponents' style might be. The world plays take-out doubles, so my guess is that this must be because it is best. I would say that one should double an artificial preemptive call initially just to show values, with a second double showing a strong balanced hand. Pass then double for take-out.

Can you tell me what is the meaning of the convention: fourth-suit forcing? Does it apply by both passed and unpassed hands?

Newbie, Winston-Salem, N.C.

After an unopposed auction starts with three different suit bids, responder at his second turn as an unpassed hand can force to game by making his second call in the fourth suit. The implication of the call is that you have an opening bid or better. It asks opener to describe his hand by rebidding one of his suits with as yet unshown length, or to raise opener's suit, or else to bid no-trump with length or strength in the fourth suit. Fourth suit is also forcing for one round by a passed hand, tending to deny support for opener's suits.

Recently the auction began with a call of one diamond to my right. Holding: ♠ 9-6-3,  Q-3-2,  A-K-5-3, ♣ K-J-4, I passed. Now came one spade to my left, two clubs to my right, and two diamonds to my left. It looked like the auction was about to die, but what would a double by my partner have shown now? At the table my partner bid two hearts, and my RHO re-raised to three diamonds. What should I have done?

Gentleman Jim, Dallas, Texas

A double of two diamonds would be takeout for the majors — partner's failure to call at his first turn is surely based on spade length, and he might easily have only three hearts. At the table, over three diamonds, you surely have to bid, with maybe the best hand at the table. I'd double and lead trumps.

Can you suggest a suitable book that combines bridge and humor? My small sample has suggested that these two things frequently do not go hand in hand.

Court Jester, Poughkeepsie, N. Y.

The funniest book I have ever read about bridge is called Uncensored Memoirs of a Tournament Director, by Jerome Machlin, which is long out of print. Eddie Kantar and Jeff Rubens are superb players who have focused in some cases on humorous stories along with excellent bridge hands, the former appealing more to the inexperienced tournament player, the latter to the expert.

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


Iain ClimieDecember 7th, 2014 at 11:14 am

Hi Bobby,

With 4th suit forcing, do you recommend any differences in the specific case of 1C 1D 1H 1S e.g. might this not be Game forcing? I knew one parrtner treated the sequence as natural (albeit forcing for 1 round) but treated 2S as game forcing and not necessarily spades.



Bobby WolffDecember 7th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Hi Iain,

The way that you describe 4th suit forcing is almost the exact way that I prefer and am used to playing with most partners and for many years.

The only variance is that when it goes, 1C P 1D P 1H P 1S is only forcing for one round and is the way to show 4+ (usually, of course only 4) spades wherein a then secondary jump instead to 2 spades by the original responder is GF and denies as many as 4 spades. This caters to the responder holding e.g. s. Qxxx, h. x, d. AKJ10x, c. 10xx and caters to finding a still possible 8 card spade fit without being GF.

I think that this small difference may become important (denial of 4+ spades with the secondary jump) so that the partners can more easily determine strain earlier in the bidding, (usually directly or sometimes inferentially by the opener on his third bid
which often, but not necessarily, NT). There may still be probing after that, but should soon be settled in order to be prepared to stop only in game if neither the values and/nor the fit is indicative of not enough “beef” for slam.

To me, your comment is gratifying, proving that what is thought to be good bridge (at least in most areas) has become basically universal, around the whole glorious bridge playing world.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

I always appreciate your comment.

MirceaDecember 9th, 2014 at 11:17 am

Hi Bobby,

Do you still recommend this treatment if playing that a response in a major at the one level to an opening bid of 1C does not deny longer diamonds if responder’s hand is less than an opening strength? Is skipping longer diamonds with weaker hands sensible?

Bobby WolffDecember 9th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Hi Mircea,

Yes, that procedure is probably right, but not if responder (say North) holds: s. Jxxx, h. xx, d. AK109x, c. xx since, if East is then able to bid 2 hearts, partner may wind up on lead and you are very likely to prefer a diamond lead.

In an unchallenged auction, partner will still either bid spades or leave room for you to bid them, so the initial answer to your question is tempered by showing a disadvantage to it.

In an obstructed auction the bidding of 1 spade has an advantage of having a better chance to get a favorable lead if partner becomes declarer as well as mentioning the major immediately just in case partner has 4 of the same major and his RHO has the hand to preempt hearts with.

Back and forth, forth and back. But knowing the reason is vital instead of just filtering in the rule. No one can become the player he wants to be without learning the theories and most importantly the sometimes chain reactions it causes.

Good luck!