Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Do you prefer to play a two-overone style where responder’s rebid of his suit is not forcing, or do you like the current style of playing two-over-one game-forcing? Am I correct in assuming that one has to play forcing no-trump with either style?

Standard Bearer, Peru, Ind.

My go-as-you-please roots inspire me toward a less constricting approach than two-overone game-forcing. But even when I consent to the strait-jacket, I opt to play one no-trump as non-forcing. Opener can pass with a balanced minimum, since responder should never hold anything more than balanced 12 or 13 count when he bids one no-trump. You might miss an occasional marginal game, but you stay sensibly low more often.

I find bidding in balancing seat very hard. I was in fourth chair with: ♠ K-9-8-6-4, Q-4 K-9, ♣ Q-8-7-4 and heard my LHO open one heart. My RHO responded one no-trump and passed the two diamond rebid. Was it right to re-open with this hand, and if so should I double or bid spades?

Tightrope, Jackson, Miss.

Yes I would balance, and would choose to bid two spades, because of the extra length in that suit. At this point though our target is to find our best fit, not our highest scoring contract, the extra spade is a very convincing reason to bid the suit, in addition to the fact that both opponents appear not to have spade length.

As someone who always seems to fall back on leading fourth highest of dummy’s longest and strongest, I would welcome your thoughts on when to go active and when passive against no-trump.

Benedict Arnold, Chicago, Ill.

Leading passively is far harder to do than it might seem, but it works for me at notrump more often than at suits. If both opponents are known to be stretching and appear to be limited, it may seem sensible, or if the cards are known to lie badly. Also on blind auctions broken four-card suits are often less attractive than sequences in three-card suits, or leading from three or four small.

As opener I frequently guess wrong when deciding whether to make a simple call in a new suit, or to jump in a suit or in notrump. For example, with: ♠ 3-2, K-3, A-Q-10-8-4, ♣ A-K-J-7 having opened one diamond and heard partner respond one spade, where do you stand on a rebid of two clubs, three clubs, or two notrump? How would you feel if partner had responded one heart?

Kangaroo Court, Delray Beach, Fla.

This hand is close to a three club call, but you would need another card to be fully happy to force to game without a real fit. I despise a call of two no-trump, though I admit it might work on a good day. It is even clearer to bid two clubs over a one heart response. Never jump shift without knowing where you are going at your next turn over simple preference.

My LHO opened one diamond. My partner overcalled one spade and my RHO raised to two diamonds. Even though we were vulnerable I competed to two hearts with queen-jack fifth of hearts, a doubleton spade, and an outside ace, to push the opponents up a level. My partner insisted this hand was too weak to act here, even though the opponents duly went to three diamonds. Was I out of line?

Grumpy, Philadelphia, Pa.

A two heart call is nonforcing here so the lower end of the range for the bid is quite low — though maybe not this low! You wouldn’t need much more to act, in my opinion. A sixth heart or a side queen would be quite sufficient if you were prepared to play hearts facing a doubleton. For the record, remember that doubling two diamonds suggests hearts and a good hand.

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


ClarksburgJune 14th, 2015 at 11:15 am

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
Another Sunday…another question.
About the unobstructed sequence 1NT>2C>2D> 3 minor, (playing standard Stayman, i.e. not playing two-way).
Pard and I play this as showing a strong 5-card minor with game / slam potential opposite the 1NT.
A player at our Club has been taught, by a Pro coach, that it should be played to show “weak to play” in the minor, but having checked for a 4-4 major fit along the way. Here’s a recent example Responder hand:
S 109 H A854 D J109742 C9.
What would you do with that hand?
What would you recommend the above sequence be used for?

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, my responsibility and desire for me to just answer your question.

Your handling of the use of that oft asked choice is common and likely the answer lies in whether you are playing matchpoints or instead IMPs (or rubber bridge). Since the former caters to frequency of gain I would suggest playing what you now don’t and allow looking for a 4 card major (since a fit there piles up the matchpoints) but if not, and my guess the major suit fit will appear about 1/4 of the time, then seek the minor suit and basically require your partner to pass. Not playing it that way will, of course, require you not to use your current method.

OTOH, your choice of meaning is excellent for games and slams, being GF and giving you ample opportunity to search out the best final contract, with the tools available to do so. Of course, what you give up is just to have to select the 6 card minor and give up on attempting to go for the higher scoring major suit fit.

However, it is like falling for a number of inferior things in life, because of either political or traditional preferences by others who are not experienced enough to have “seen the light”.

To me, 2 way Stayman is one, if not the only, convention which, at least to me, stands head and shoulders over any other, including normal transfers. And, again like other commercials, who, at least in the medical world, are presently required to give all their dangers, especially terminal ones, but in bridge, termination only means perhaps losing one’s partner, not one’s life.

However, not playing 2 way Stayman, will eventually make that partnership less than it could be and should I need to say, worth changing to and ASAP.

You may be a social outcast by doing it, with Jacoby, like the promotion of US cars instead of the superior foreign ones (at least they used to be), popular and advertised almost exclusively as patriotic. But here, take the road less traveled, 2 way Stayman, and let the stubborn but narrow minded majority, sleep in the streets!

Now please do not shoot the messenger. I am only now doing what our medical laws are now forcing US advertisers to do.

I get very little commission from wise partnerships who have made that important switch, only instead, some pride in suggesting it to happen.

Judy-Kay WolffJune 14th, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Right on, Bobby. I love TWS!

Giving up transfers is no great hardship and I can testify that it has worked to great advantage for us for over a decade. Also, having as part of the system to jump directly to three of a major showing a singleton (a non ace or king in that suit) and denying the other major, will allow you to avoid playing NT and often get to a successful minor suit partial or game. It is one of the best treatments I have learned from you.

End of promotion!

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

I hang my head in shame, having been found guilty in Kangaroo Court. With xx Kx AQ10xx AKJx after 1D P 1S, I might well bid 2NT at pairs, at least opposite some partners, and to protect the HK. I’d hope to bid 2C at teams, where I’d not want to miss out on 5 / 6C, 5 / 6D or 4S which an unsubtle blast to 2N might cause, but I’ve been seduced by the Dark Side of Bridge Scoring (Pairs) yet again.

GETNIF (Get the NoTRumps In First), and the shamefully, greedy desire to play more hands than I deserve, also apply. Sorry!