Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 17th, 2016

At teams with nobody vulnerable I held A-K-J-9-8 of clubs in a balanced 11-count with four small hearts. I passed in first seat and heard my LHO open one diamond and my RHO respond one spade. I doubled to show a maximum pass, and eventually we defended to three no-trumps, which made when my partner led a heart. Afterwards he said that I should have opened one club with such a good suit.

Hot Foot, Grenada, Miss.

Passing initially is fine, even with such nice clubs, since you were going to have an awkward rebid. However, I might open with five clubs and four spades, knowing I could describe my hand at my next turn. I can see both sides of the argument at your second turn. You want to get partner off to the right lead if you can, and overcalling is the right way to do it, but who is to say you do not belong in hearts?

Do you have some simple advice on how to play when a cue-bid gets doubled? Would it matter if the call was a probe for no-trump as opposed to a clear-cut slam-try?

Mister Coffee, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Yes it does matter. When a cuebid is doubled, use redouble from both sides as firstround control. I suggest the cuebidder’s partner pass with a second-round control, with anything else denying a control. Anything but redouble from the cuebidder denies a first-round control. However, when the cuebid is a probe for no-trump, bid no-trump if you can, redouble with the ace, pass or make a descriptive call with less than a full stop.

At duplicate pairs with ♠ 10-7-4-2, K-10-8-3, 9-4-3, ♣ K-2 LHO opens one diamond, partner overcalls one heart, RHO doubles, and you raise to two hearts. LHO passes and partner bids three clubs. Should you sign off in three hearts or bid game?

Rising Damp, Salt Lake City, Utah

Bid four hearts. Although you have a minimum in high cards, your partner has asked for help in clubs and you have the perfect holding to cover any problems he might have. Your fourth trump is a real bonus too. Indeed some might have done more at the first turn to speak. If you played a jump cue-bid to three diamonds as 6-9 with four trump, this hand would be perfect for that approach.

With both sides vulnerable I had the following interesting collection: ♠ Q-8-6-4, A-Q-10-9-7-6-5, 10, ♣ 2. The bidding started out with my LHO opening three spades, and RHO bid four diamonds. I risked a four heart call and RHO balanced with five clubs, converted to five diamonds by LHO. I chose to lead a trump to cut down the ruffs and this was not a success, but what would you have chosen?

Simple Minded, Rockford, Ill.

Dummy surely won’t fit diamonds or he would have acted at his second turn. I’ll try to cash the heart ace and find out what I should have led when I see dummy. My singleton club argues that a trump lead is likely to be unnecessary.

What do you recommend as the best approach when your partner’s opening bid or overcall of one notrump has been doubled for penalty? What if the double is artificial?

Dud Check, Tucson, Ariz.

Ignore an artificial double altogether and play ‘system on’ but redouble to go head-hunting. This sets up a force through two no-trump. After a penalty double, one simple option is to play redouble as a puppet to two clubs, based on either a club or diamond onesuiter (you will correct two clubs to diamonds with the latter) and keep your regular system in place, so two clubs is still Stayman.

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


AviJanuary 31st, 2016 at 11:31 am

Hi Bobby

I have a rather simple bidding question for you.
I know you have no qualms raising partner on 3 card support.
However, in an unopposed auction, what would you do with x, Q9x, AQx, AQT9xx after opening 1C, and partner responding 1H?
Do you show your 6 card suit or do you support partner because of the ruffing value?

Patrick CheuJanuary 31st, 2016 at 11:32 am

Hi Bobby,I held xxx xxx AK10xx AK,pairs EW vul,RHO opens 1H,I overcalled 2D,LHO 2H,Pard 2S(NF),RHO 3H,I bid 3S passed out.Pard makes +2,+1 was norm,only two pairs got to game.Pard thought I should double over 3H to show extra..and that when he bids 2S he has diamond support..he held KQJ10xx x J9x Jxx.I thought he should bid 4S with heart single..and J9x diamonds.Should we be in game,and how would you bid it? regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Hi Avi,

A good and what I consider a critical question.

I would raise to 2 hearts in a flash. If partner held .s QJx h. KJxxx, d. xxx, c. Kx who wouldn’t then pass a rebid of 2 clubs by partner? And if somehow this responding hand would now rebid himself he would be tempting many minus scores, since eight tricks in clubs could easily be the limit.

When one has a fit he should show it as soon as possible, otherwise partner is always in a quandary about continuing on.

And what if 2 clubs became an easier contract to play than 2 hearts on a 4-3 fit? Then learn how to play 4-3 fits which is not as difficult as many think. Raising above one’s self-imposed ceiling as a player only takes the effort to do so.

Everyone should try it, since It will happen rather than stay among the “High Card Wins” set. Avi, I was not just talking to you, but rather blathering to all who might be listening.

At least I hope to get across the answer you were looking for. with no doubt as to my personal feelings.

bobby wolffJanuary 31st, 2016 at 4:41 pm

HI Patrick,

Although intending no malice aforethought, both of you are each about 50% guilty in not chirping game in spades.

You have a key tripleton in hearts marking partner with no more than two and possibly one. You have solid values and entries. Yes a 3-3 diamond break may be necessary unless partner happens to have the queen but even a diamond loser may not be the setting trick.

Most of all, by bidding game you become a tougher opponent, at least at IMPs or rubber bridge, by making those worthy opponents have the pressure of defending game not a part score, where less is at stake.

Ely Culbertson IMO was closer to right than Charlie Goren when he suggested honor tricks (togetherness of honors) rather than strict point count, and actually the king of clubs with the ace and only a doubleton with three trumps for partner is what most doctors would order for their patients. Sure, sometimes the bell tolls down one, but in the long run make the opponents have to defend perfectly to beat you and more often than most of us think good declarer play will win out.

Again, like my answer to Avi about his question above, you have struck a sensitive subject in whether or not to just haul off and bid game or rather go easy on those hated opponents.

Patrick CheuJanuary 31st, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Hi Bobby,Your thoughts are greatly appreciated and thanks again for showing us the right way to play this game. Best regards~Patrick.