Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Holding: ♠ 7-6-2,  A-6,  A-9-8-5-4-2, ♣ K-9, what is your response after partner, dealer, opens one spade, and your RHO doubles? Do you raise partner, bid your suit, or redouble to show strength — or does the redouble show tolerance for spades? Also, what bid would you recommend without the intervening takeout double?

Double Trouble, Charlottesville, Va.

Without a double the least lie here would be to bid two diamonds — even if you play it as forcing to game. All those aces and kings look like an opening bid, don't they? Over a double, redouble shows 10+ and tends to be made on hands without spade support. Two diamonds should be played as natural and non-forcing, unlike a one-level response after a double, which should be a one-round force by an unpassed hand. Since a spade raise would be a distortion, the redouble wins hands down, to be followed by a spade raise.

Is partner obliged to accept a Jacoby Transfer or can he bid something else and if so must this be alerted?

Quatre Saisons, Montreal

Having methods where some other call than completing the transfer is allowed is a good idea. Any transfer-break must be alerted if it has an agreed meaning. Simplest is to break to three of your major with four trumps and a non-minimum. Bidding a new suit will happen very rarely; but simplest is to play such bids as a doubleton ace or king with a big fit. A more complex answer is to add a break to two no-trumps as three good trumps and a maximum.

Is it ever acceptable to overcall into a four-card suit? Would you pass, overcall, or double, when your RHO opens one diamond and you have: ♠ K-Q-10-7,  K,  A-J-5, ♣ K-10-7-5-3?

Logophile, Janesville, Wis.

Double looks wrong with a singleton major and these values, while passing feels cowardly. That leaves an overcall of one no-trump, two clubs or one spade. I marginally prefer bidding the good four-card major to introducing a weak club suit, although I could live with either action. One no-trump with a bare ace, rather than the king might be possible?

In fourth seat you hold: ♠ A-K-Q-3,  10,  A, ♣ A-K-Q-J-7-3-2. Peacefully minding your own business, you hear a weak two diamonds to your left and a theoretically forcing response of two hearts to your right. I just blasted into six clubs, but alas, our opponents took the save in six hearts, for just 300. At the other table our teammates took the save in seven hearts over the making six spades for -500. How would you bid this hand?

Monster Mash, Houston, Texas

A double of two hearts is one of those areas even well-established partnerships don't agree on, so three diamonds may be a safer cuebid, planning to bid six clubs next, then maybe six spades over six hearts next time. This is a gamble, I admit, but not an unreasonable one. I hate to defend lower than seven hearts with this hand.

Playing strong twos, our general agreement is that we open two clubs with four or fewer losers. But we have had strong disagreement as to whether or not that should be a one-suiter, since my partner insists on doing it with a two-suiter, even if her best suit is my artificial diamond response. Is there a best theoretical approach?

Powerhouse Pat, Grand Forks, N.D.

The problem with opening two clubs when you hold long diamonds is that the action gets too high too fast. I say open one diamond with marginal hands, but another possible fix after the two-club opener is as follows. Use a jump to three of a major over the two diamond negative as four in that major and five or more diamonds, unbalanced. Thus a rebid of three diamonds is one-suited in principle.

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


ClarksburgFebruary 15th, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Good Morning Mr Wolff,
Our 2C opening is forcing to game or 4 of a Minor, except when Opener’s rebid is 2NT, which can be passed. So we hadn’t given explicit attention as to whether a cheapest-minor rebid by Responder is “second negative” showing a bust, and the possibility of getting out short of our forcing-to agreements.
Recently as Responder I held something like:
x xxx Jxx KJ10xxx
Righly or wrongly, I judged it not quite enough for a constructive 3C response and bid 2D. Playing “second negative” there is then no way I can unambiguously show the six-card Club suit.
Is it worth playing the second negative, or should Responder’s rebid be better employed as natural?
Any other recommendation?

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, you have cited a dilemma which has happened before and will continue when a second negative bid is preferred.

I think a better method is to play an immediate 2 diamonds as forcing to game (usually a minimum of 3 or 4 HCPs) with a first response of 2 hearts as the old-fashioned double negative (all in one bid), then forcing for only 1 round, but the ability to pass if partner either bids 2NT first or bids and then rebids his suit at the next level. Note: that 2 heart bid (rather than the former 2 diamonds) does inject some awkwardness to the bidding sequence, but chalk it up to a “lesser of evils” motive.

Going further, the double negative would also apply if the opposing player sitting over the strong hand bids something, then pass by the strong hand’s partner is GF with a double instead, becoming the double negative.

Somewhat convoluted by artificiality, but necessary to achieve your goal. Keep in mind that this solution may cause some judgment, e.g. s. xxxxx, h. void, d. xxxx, c. xxxx and having partner open 2 clubs, and then RHO bids 4 hearts. Although I have zero HCP’s my distribution should warrant, considering the suit bid, a positive pass rather than a double negative action since a less than clairvoyant partner should not have to face a double from you, not having any idea of your positive offensive distribution, of course, being void of your opponent’s suit with some support for all others.

The above treatment has passed the litmus test of practical and effective and, no doubt, awaits your approval.

Patrick CheuFebruary 15th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Hi Bobby,You have recently quoted quite a few hands here from that excellent book-The Art of Declarer Play by Tim Bourke and Justin Corfield..Hand 15,I found was quite an interesting hand,but on page 103,the end position with diamonds being W 6 N AKJ2 E Q1094 S 87(declarer in 6S) was suggested for declarer to play diamond to Ace and exit with JD,or depending on pips..Would running the 8 or 7D work just as well if West does not cover it on the first round?Hope I have not misread..regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Hi Patrick,

I do not think you have misread or are overlooking anything important, except for possibly, very worthy opponents (defenders) knowing enough to cover that relatively low diamond while sitting West.

It may be surprising to aspiring very good players, to realize that excellent and experienced defenders can also realize what is on declarer’s mind and consistently thwart him every chance they get.

To underestimate players while playing the expert game is never the thing to do and often manifests itself to younger players while still getting the feel of what will occur when rapidly climbing the bridge ladder to ultimate success.

Nothing said above suggests for you to not do what you think will work in whichever situation.

Only what to expect as you near the top of the ladder.

ClarksburgFebruary 15th, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Many Thanks,
We will adopt what you have suggested here.

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 15th, 2015 at 4:51 pm


I can tell you from the last twelve years being in the bridge trenches with Bobby, it is a system worthy of adoption. It has made life much easier for me .. with noticeably improved results. My style has received a complete overhaul and though it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, perseverance paid off.

ClarksburgFebruary 15th, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Thanks Judy,
Bobby said in part:
“…Note: that 2 heart bid (rather than the former 2 diamonds) does inject some awkwardness to the bidding sequence, but chalk it up to a “lesser of evils” motive….”

So we’ll have to work that out. My initial instinct is that for our purposes (intermediate club players) natural / common sense should work, i.e. “…Partner’s call has to mean this; what else could it possibly mean?…”

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 15th, 2015 at 8:12 pm


It took a little while for me to fathom and absorb the transition (and remember the nuances), though it is now second nature to me. I am not a “natural” player and was at that stage close to claiming septuagenarian status, but under Bobby’s patient tutelage, it improved our results and I now know it in my sleep. Sure, there are flaws .. but nothing is perfect (not even Bobby).

Mircea1February 16th, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Is pass (GF) and double (showing a bust) of an overcall of a 2C opening alertable?

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, definitely since the alerting rules are, and should be, only common sense based on restoring one’s opponents to the same knowledgeable status as the bidders.

bobby wolffFebruary 16th, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Sorry for my delayed response, although perhaps you didn’t expect one.

By far the most controversial current misunderstanding revolving around common sense application is that of what double means. Most everything else can be interpreted correctly at the table using the “common sense” to which we both refer.

Two situations should be kept in mind:

1. The random use of doubles should be carefully orchestrated and kept consistent such as most (defined) are card showing doubles and not indicating a trump stack, but rather “extra strength is held (high cards) but direction (eventual trump suit including NT) has not yet been determined (often involved with opponents who have first overcalled and then been raised by partner, tacitly denying the likelihood of an opposing trump stack).

2. Once one partnership has clearly shown the lion’s share of the strength e.g. an opening bid and a 2 over 1 change of suit response by partner or a very strong hand when after both showing strength earlier and hearing partner respond positively, then chooses to pass (with partner, of course, still having another bid) that pass becomes forcing on partner, requiring him to either bid something or make a penalty double. but not allowed to pass it out, e.g. S. 1 diamond W. Pass, N. 1 spade E. 2 clubs, S. 2 hearts, W. 3 clubs, N. 3 spades, E. 4 clubs S. Pass (forcing on partner and holding the following example hand): s. K, h. AKJx, d. AKxxxx, c. xx. Then if partner held: s. QJ9xxxx h. xxx, Qx, c. Q bid 4 spades, if instead s. AJ9xxx, h. xx, d. QJx, c. xx bid 4 diamonds, or s. QJ9xxx, h. Q10x, d. Qx, c. xx bid a shaky but lesser of evils 4 hearts, but with AJxxxx, h. xxx, d. xx, c. KQ simply double for penalty.

No doubt, my choice of “random hands” is carefully arranged to arrive at the best game contract, but even if the final choice is far from laydown, the partnership cooperation becomes what is important and totally necessary if that partnership has high-level expectations.

BTW, if North holds, s. AJ9xxx, h. Qxx, d. QJx, c. x he should bid 5 clubs and then may raise partner’s 5 diamond bid to 6, unless South merely leaps to 6 diamonds himself, a distinct possibility with his hand, expecting North to have a suitable dummy which would always include at least 2nd round club control among other positive features.