Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 18th, 2015

What is your opinion about the suit length delivered by the jump raise of a major, or an overcall, where in each case a five-card suit has been promised by the bidder. Can one jump-raise with three trumps and side-suit shape?

The Giddy Limit, Lakeland, Fla.

Once in while the limit raise of a major-suit opening may be made with three trumps and a side-suit shortage, but I would say that this is the exception, especially if playing the forcing no-trump response. Jump raises of overcalls tend to be shapely and distributional not high cards, so one can use a cue-bid raise with limit values and either three or four trumps.

Is it correct that one tends not to respond to a preemptive bid with less than opening values?

Silent Sleeper, Santa Fe, N.M.

Yes and no. You tend to pass rather than try for game unless you have a fit and values equivalent to a strong no-trump, since game is unlikely to make if you have fewer high cards than that. But the more fit you have, the more you bid; you may be making the opponents' life harder if you can steal their bidding space. A simple raise of a preempt therefore tends to be either high-cards or preemptive, and only the shadow knows which!

Playing pairs, when I held ♠ 10-9-7-3,  J-8-6,  A-9-5, ♣ Q-10-3 I heard my partner open one club, I wondered if it was ever right to suppress a four-card major in response to an opening bid in order to raise partner or bid no-trump? What if the opponents overcall or double – does that change the picture?

Under Wraps, Elkhart, Ind.

In uncontested auctions you may occasionally bypass a weak four-card major to respond one no-trump with 8-10 HCP and 4-3-3-3 pattern. By contrast, if your RHO overcalls (and especially if he doubles) it is often more attractive to respond one no-trump, sometimes bypassing even a moderate four-card major, if the rest of the hand looks appropriate. You might even raise a minor with four good trumps and a bad four-card major, to take up a level of bidding.

Recently I picked up ♠ 10-9-3,  A-Q-10-5-2,  Q-5, ♣ 8-4-3, and heard the auction start one club-one diamond-two clubs, round the table, to me. Should I bid two diamonds or two hearts with this hand? Incidentally over my choice of two diamonds my LHO bid two hearts and my partner bid two spades. What do you recommend now?

Out of the Frying Pan, White Plains, N.Y.

At any form of scoring I'd risk two hearts directly. My spots are so strong, I can't afford to let the suit get away. If I bid two diamonds and partner volunteered two spades over two hearts, he should surely deliver some extras – but my values do not seem well placed. I'd retreat to three diamonds now, I think.

If I open one no trump I always assume that I am fundamentally showing my high-card points and may not have every suit covered. Therefore, shouldn't my partner tend to act whenever they have a weak doubleton or a singleton, not leaving me to play in no-trump with a potentially uncovered suit?

Running Scared, Jackson, Tenn.

The answer here is emphatically no. Your partner can't know what your weak suit is – if any. Don't remove from no-trump to a four-card suit from weakness, though you may of course transfer (or bid) a five-card major. Equally, you should transfer into or bid a six-card minor unless you have values and are balanced in the other suits, when three no-trump may be easier.

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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuFebruary 1st, 2015 at 10:09 am

Hi Bobby,North holding AQJxxx Q Qxxx Ax(All V,pairs),would you bid after W p N 1S(4card major)E 2S(Michaels),S p~W 3H N?If Vul against NV or NV versus V,would you bid differently?At teams?Data shows 4pairs got to 4S,2pairs in 4H,and 2 in hearts partscores.E 10 AK1092 A109xx Jx,S 9xx xxx x KQ109xx,W Kxx Jxxx KJx xxx.4Smakes so does 4H.Should South have bid(I pass)?My fellow bridge players concurred that North should bid 3S…Regards~Patrick.

David WarheitFebruary 1st, 2015 at 11:24 am

Frank Stewart has written a fine book on defense. After discussing the proper defense on a hand, he says that declarer can always make. Try as I will, I can’t figure out how; can you?

s ak10653
h 73
d 6
C K753

s J94 s Q8
h 42 h J98
d J974 d AK102
cQ842 c AJ96

s 72
h AKQ1065
d Q853

S plays 4H. W leads d4 to E’s K. E shifts to a trump.

Michael BeyroutiFebruary 1st, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Dear Host,
on yesterday’s AOB hand South opened one heart and West had an ideal takeout Double. My question is: what if South had opened one club, strong/artificial, is there a way for West to intervene? Are there methods you recommend?

P.S. The beauty of yesterday’s article may have been lost in the shuffle. While it is true that declarer was going down one anyway, the great defense – inserting the queen – insured a two-trick set. At pairs, that’s often the difference between a shared bottom and a shared top.

Michael BeyroutiFebruary 1st, 2015 at 12:39 pm

P.P.S. I would like to carry the comment on good defense even further. On yesterday’s AOB hand many North/South pairs will stop in three hearts and will make it! The corresponding East/West pairs will have a shared bottom. It is a great feeling for the one East/West pair to have been able to set three hearts by one trick. It saves the day! The irony though is that one down is a shared top… shared with all those East/West pairs who defended against four hearts which died of natural causes by one undertrick…

jim2February 1st, 2015 at 1:15 pm

David –

My guess is that he meant declarer could win, ruff a diamond, play the top spades, ruff the third spade, run the trumps bringing it down to a three-card ending. Board has the KX of clubs and another black card. Declarer has QX of diamonds and the 10C.

At that point declarer leads the minor in which East has blanked the ace.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your obviously enthusiastic bridge group seems, like so many others, very willing to pass the blame game, like mashed potatoes, around the table without much, if any, discrimination.

Regarding your specific question of whether or not to chirp 3 spades after the original start, P, 1S, 2S (Michaels), P, 3H, ? Of course, it is close and yes the vulnerability matters, but also, yes my dear Watson, there are four people involved, not three and that being so, there are high-level disciplines which, IMO need to be practiced, otherwise that partnership is operating with too low a ceiling, above which they may not venture.

You mention that your side is playing 4 card majors (a method which has always been my favorite), but sadly this problem becomes much greater because of it, rather than the other way around.

What I am saying, and if playing 5 card majors, holding, s. xxx, h. xxx, d. x, c. KQ10xxx and hearing it go as it did, P, 1S, 2S, I think it necessary practice to bid 3 spades immediately and let the devil take the hindmost.

The REAL game of bridge is about finding trump fits since, when both partnerships do, the number of overall tricks to be taken by both sides often heads to the sky. However, when one player becomes fearful to show a potential fit, he (unknown to him) puts handcuffs on his pair ultimately dragging them down to despair.

In other words, not to bid 3 spades (doubling 2 spades with no honor doesn’t appeal) is much too dangerous to contemplate, the opposite of how some players would describe it.

If the above is just too radical to imagine, picture yourself with your opening bid, getting raised as opposed to not. Yes, high-level bridge demands that type of discipline in order to be competitive. Show possible fits and then let partner take over (or not) as the case may be.

Does that aggressive nature always work? Of course not! However, the downside rarely occurs, even when the fit shown is not enough to overcome the lack of strength. Sure, down 1,2, or even 3 sometimes occurs, but rarely is it doubled, and not to throw one’s hat in the
ring defies the essence of expert bridge.

Should of, could of

ClarksburgFebruary 1st, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I just posted an update to last Sunday’s blog discussion about WNT.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Hi David,

No, I cannot see any way that declarer can come close to making 4 hearts. Obviously if declarer wins the trump shift and finesses the ten of spades, the defense merely needs to lead a spade back or for that matter, two rounds of diamonds.

Perhaps Frank just assumed that the defense would continue leading trump and therefore became careless with his analysis (been there, done that).

No doubt that the ultimate sophistication of our game can lead to impatient and therefore inaccurate explanations.

While the same flaw must flow with chess moves, it merely goes with the territory of otherwise very worthwhile games requiring extremely careful study merely verifies the old adage, of “Better to remain quiet and thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

David WarheitFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Jim2: Thank you so much for your answer. It seems you not only topped me, which isn’t hard, but you also have topped our worthy host! Way to go!!

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Hi Michael,

You make an interesting point, focusing on how sometimes (often) a changing opening bid may materially effect the final contract, by creating totally different bidding sequences that not only change the final contract, but also the opening lead, the defense and therefore the declarer play which together produces the result.

In attempting to accurately answer your question, I am a believer in getting into the bidding and not waiting in the bushes for my worthy opponents to be surprised. If South would open with a strong forcing club, I think it wise as West to make a card showing double. The reason being is that some tactical strong club advocates with only very good distribution (one or two suiter) sometimes use a strong club to intimidate conservative players from entering the bidding so that they can steal the hand from them.

Nothing illegal, just strategy, but requiring their opponents to literally not sit on their hands and enter the fray.

Again sometimes it best to not give away where high cards are to a good declarer, but like so many other choices in bridge, being straightforward might be necessary to save the day from devilish adversaries.

Also, all you say about yesterday’s hand is true, and thanks for your vote of confidence. However, it does not excuse me for overlooking the correct analysis. I, like most all bridge players, make far too many mistakes and have my whole bridge life.

However, I just chalk it up to the great game we all love to play, and will always continue to try and dance through the challenges ahead and beard the beast.

I happen to think that our site has produced a great blend of bridge lovers and good enough players to be able to hold our own in most any bridge game.

To that I will drink a toast to a wide variety of cultures, nationalities, personalities and temperaments which blend together with a common interest in the best possible way. I consider myself very fortunate to be only a part of it. BRIDGE FOR PEACE (the motto of the World Bridge Federation).

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I’ll go look for your update from last Sunday.

Thanks for the heads up.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Hi Jim2 & David,

I’m beginning to feel like the late and great Jimmy Durante must have when he exclaimed, “I’m surrounded by assassins”.

While I no doubt, deserve no better, I now cannot wait for the Super Bowl where I can watch other competitors also make mistakes.

That is, if the footballs are inflated properly (which they will be) and Roger Goodall finally stops doing his typical “save our off-the-charts very profitable game from a harmful scandal, which I am doing my best to avoid” even if I have to let the culprits (we all know who) get away with it”.

Paul GoldfingerFebruary 1st, 2015 at 6:49 pm

I held: ♠ A K J 9 ♥ Q ♦ — ♣ A Q 10 9 8 6 5 2. I opened 1♣, LHO bid 1♦, partner bid 1♥, and RHO raised to 2♦. I didn’t want to lose a possible spade fit, so I bid 2♠. My partner passed with his ♠Q x x, and it was passed out. He also had the stiff ♣K J. After ruffing the opening diamond lead, I drew trump and when spades broke 3-3, I wound up making 6. Two pairs got to 5♣, making 6. What should I have bid over 2♦?

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Hi Paul,

I would also bid 2 spades, but please, promise me, that you will never tell anyone.

With my distribution, it would be hard to predict that we weren’t just getting started with the bidding, instead of what happened, ending it.

Dame Fortune always has a mind of her own, but it will be wise to remember that one hand does not necessarily determine fault, nor one swallow meaning summer to follow. To chance bidding anything else is to run a different kind of risk, one of not finding the best possible trump suit and since spades had to be 3-3 while 6 clubs is as cold as yesterday’s lunch, chalk it up to bad fortune, something all bridge players, great or not, are constantly, if you will excuse the description, dealing with.

“Mama don’t allow any results playing here”.

Patrick CheuFebruary 1st, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Hi Bobby,This game of Bridge sure keeps us going and thanks to you,in no small measure,our enjoyment and understanding has been greatly enhanced.

Paul GoldfingerFebruary 1st, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Dear Bobby:

Thanks for the quick response.

As you often say, if there weren’t any uncertainties, bridge would be a boring game.

jim2February 1st, 2015 at 7:51 pm

David —


To Our Host –

After my goof w/Mircea yesterday, I was delighted to have this opportunity to begin to recover!

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Hi Patrick, Paul, & Jim2

Thanks for your very kind words. All things pro bridge are worth fighting fiercely for.

Poor judgment, wrong leads, and inadequate choices are everyday and everywhere while playing bridge. It’s what then happens which determine final results.

Who can possibly remember what happened last month?