Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 14th, 2016

If you hear your partner double a one-level opener in the balancing seat, how much do you need to jump in response? Would you make the call on the same hand that you would have facing a direct double – or does it require more (or even less) than facing the direct double?

Catching Up, Galveston, Texas

Since your partner may have less for a balancing double than one in direct seat, I believe a jump shows only short of an opening bid – say 10-12 with a four- or five-card suit. By contrast the range for the jump response facing a direct double might be less, on a hand with the appropriate shape. Incidentally, jumps by passed hands are often four-card suits, since with a five-carder you might already have bid.

I held ♠ K-3, J-9-5-2, 10, ♣ Q-8-6-5-4-2, and I heard my partner double one diamond and the next hand pass. Is this a case of bidding majors before minors? What would you recommend I do here?

Picking your Moment, Vancouver, Wash.

I would definitely respond two clubs, expecting the auction to be likely to continue to allow me to bid hearts next. This way I get to show a limited hand with significantly longer clubs and hearts, together with some values, and partner gets to decide where to go next.

Can you give us examples of the sort of situation where you would ever consider employing a tactical or psychic bid and the type of hand you would hold for such an action?

Robert the Bruce, Union City, Tenn.

Even though I have psyched perhaps only forty or fifty times in my life, just a few days ago I was playing matchpoints with my wife Judy. She, as dealer, at favorable vulnerability, opened three clubs, followed by a pass from my RHO. I held a 2-3-4-4 nine-count with the ace-king of clubs and tried three no-trump. This went down seven while the opponents could make a heart slam! Bridge sensibly has very strict rules against partnerships colluding to psyche, but the occasional spot of frivolity is hardly unreasonable.

Could you comment on precisely when a double of a no-trump call might be for takeout, not penalty?

Wielding the Axe, Doylestown, Pa.

If in fourth seat you hear your RHO respond one notrump to an opening bid, a double can best be played as takeout of your LHO’s suit. The same philosophy applies when partner has overcalled on this same auction. And as opener if LHO overcalls your opening, and RHO responds one no-trump, double by you should again be takeout of LHO’s suit.

What are the best web sites to follow the news about tournaments wins, and the scandals about cheating?

Little Miss Muffett, Janesville, Wis.

There is no contest here. Bridge Winners broke most of the best stories about the cheating, and has stayed ahead of the curve with fascinating articles by a number of world experts on the subject. It has a lot of other interesting stories and problems, too.

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


slarAugust 28th, 2016 at 11:58 pm

Is a tactical NT bid really a psych? There are plenty of places where NT bids are tactical. I wouldn’t even bat an eye at 3NT over 3C. It is to play and if they double you, you run back to safety. What’s the problem? If you’re overcalling 1NT with a 7 count and a 6-card minor, okay, yes, that’s a psych. It is just that modern bidding has gotten so precise that outright psychs are rare. The last thing you want is for partner to believe you have your bid. There aren’t a lot of opportunities.

ClarksburgAugust 29th, 2016 at 12:14 am

Very quiet here today, so I’ll stick my head up with yet another bidding wreck (unbid slam)
Playing again with the same (new) Partner much more capable and experienced than I.
Playing 2/1, fast arrival with no slam interest, bidding first and second round controls up the line, 1430.
After my 1S opening our auction went:
1S 2C 2H 2S 3S 4D 4H 4NT 5D 5S Pass.
Partner wanted me to carry on to 6S if my 5D showed three key cards not zero (I did have three). I, having made the initial move toward slam (3S slow) and having co-operated further with the 4H control bid, thought Partner was signing off for some unknown reason.
Our opponents had a simpler auction 1S 2NT(Jacoby) 4D (second five-card suit, 4NT, 5D 6S. Here the 5D response to 4NT was interpreted as surely three not zero. BAM points; they won the Board.
Partner said our wreck was 100% my fault for being too cautious.
Do you agree? Or can the responsibility be split a bit? I thought he gave me an unnecessary chance to make a mistake and I did.

Mircea1August 29th, 2016 at 3:10 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Just my 2c worth of an opinion: based on your auction, you are clearly showing a non-minimum. Now, looking at your partner’s hand, can you (he) construct a non-minimum hand for you with all the features you advertised (at least 5-4 in the majors, one control in hearts) that has only one key-card (not 3)? If no, than it’s not your fault. If yes, I’m not sure if you are at fault but he clearly isn’t.

slarAugust 29th, 2016 at 3:35 am

Sorry, Clarksburg, IMHO you are 100% at fault here.
1. I don’t understand your 3S bid. You already have suit agreement. Why not cue-bid immediately? I’m guessing you had shortness in clubs. Maybe bid 3H and see what he does. Maybe he wants to hear about second round controls, maybe he doesn’t.
2. You have to trust partner to not bid 4NT if he doesn’t have some key cards. At this point you still could be bidding on distribution. You could be void in clubs. What if you had QJxxxx/KQJxx/Kx/-? Your partner has to give you a way out of the auction. When you actually have the key-card-heavy hand, you correct to 6.

Bobby WolffAugust 29th, 2016 at 4:20 am

HI Slar,

Yes, with the hand in question, to bid 3NT over 3 clubs is a tactical bid, not intended to bid and make game (it would take a miracle for that to happen, but possible), but rather to do the opponents out of which looks to be a sure game in whichever suit they select.

However, there are a lot of relative novices out there who have never encountered what they would call shenanigans, and thus often fall victim.

However, once fooled, likely not forgotten so mark it up to either do it yourself, or at the least, be aware of being on the alert to not be fooled again. Remember the 3NT bidder was only making a legal bid, with partner just obeying instructions to pass, while expecting his partner to be making a normal bid.

Learn, do not complain if and when it happens and chalk it up to growing up in bridge and thus beginning the journey to discover why our game is in a class by itself to both enjoy and move up the ladder to as high as your mind will take you.

The above does not apply to you since you have been there, done that and are ready to accept more sophisticated challenges.

Bobby WolffAugust 29th, 2016 at 4:42 am

Hi Clarksburg,

As one gets deeper into the game, sometimes what seem like ordinary bidding sequences are only exercises in advanced bidding logic which then has wider use technical tools to explore rather than being confined to 1940 type bidding sequences which lacks the modern style.

No doubt your partner is correct with his signoff, since there is no way he could have bid so positively without any one of the 5 aces used in KCB. Therefore he was just checking you out to make sure you two were on the same wave length, allowing you to make a further bid (assuming you had 3 aces or the king of spades) which would then of course confirmed slam and possibly would lead to a making grand.

No doubt, he was risking what happened, but be glad it did, and try to stay positive in spite of the horror you then experienced. In an effort to show 5 aces (instead of the previous only 4) some drama, in this type of making room for showing that extra interloper has caused the cramped style to which you fell victim.

It awakes my memory back to the 1971 World Champlionship in Taipet, Taiwan when a very strong French team bid seven off all four aces with a BW misunderstanding.

Again the reason for this glitch revolves around the difficulty (rare but it does happen) where the ace response can be one or two, so when you are the asker and your partner shows one or the other, do not go past your safety level (if there is any doubt) and let your partner then with the higher number then bid what he thinks is best, without considering a pass.

Right you are about your partner contributing to that result, but consider it a case of over trusting you then, but now you get the drift and the reason for it, and have learned something which will be of benefit later.

Also and I apologize in advance if you take offense, but don’t EVER be upset with anything bridge if something worth learning is involved.
Moving up the ladder in our game requires a very tough mentality which never has anything to do with who is right or wrong, only whether the partnership is now better off than it was.

Yes, sometimes partner can just assume the BW response is the higher number and go from there, but that is up to the individual hand, and, as I said before, he appeared to make the right return to your suit at the same level.

Bobby WolffAugust 29th, 2016 at 4:48 am

Hi Mircea1 and Slar (again),

Having just moved on to both your posts, between the three of us we have no doubt, gone overboard in criticizing Clarksburg, when in fact it was a brand new experience for him.

Thanks to both of you for responding and I, for one, have every confidence that Clarksburg will take it all in stride and who knows, maybe the thousands also reading this from around the world, will also glean knowledge from some of the nuances which have appeared in the last number of years, with no doubt new ones to come, likely even topping this one.

Thanks all for taking these discussions seriously, but also with the sense of humor they likely demand.

ClarksburgAugust 29th, 2016 at 11:47 am

Thanks to all.
This now seems so elementary and obvious!! duh!
Out of curiosity I just checked a book by a well known teacher and author. In the RKC item, nowhere does it spell out that after one of the ambiguous responses 0 or 3, 1 or 4, the asker should sign off tossing the ball back to Partner. So yes Bobby I hope many other Intermediates around the world have seen and will benefit from this discussion.
BTW I believe my “go slow” 3S was appropriate, and that when Partner skipped Clubs to cue bid Diamond, my Heart bid showed a Club control and a Heart control.

Bobby WolffAugust 29th, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Whether your heart bid also showed a club control (first or second) is dependent upon whether your partnership (if in this case, your partner has denied a 2nd round control in clubs by his bypassing a club cue bid preferring to name 1st round controls first, usually, but not always with the intention of only bidding (or not) a small slam rather than the possibility remaining of an eventual grand.

Note: Sometimes first round controls will enable grand slams to be almost laydown because of a plentiful (at least enough to count to 13) solid suit (perhaps only between the hands) allowing all losers to be discarded.

Yes, bidding, like play, requires artistic and vivid and active imagination to visualize a likely 26 card puzzle on the way to a winning contract.

That above talent likely will occur without warning, once the experience gleaned either at the table with your favorite partner, or by the bidding of simulated hands from a computer generated source enables it.

And, like learning to ride a bicycle, once learned, always remembered, leaving one to not have to memorize, but rather just naturally mentally imagine, conceivably the only logical way an eventually great player will learn to order his thinking.

To instead, needing to memorize, may serve as an hindrance, which could fatally distract that player from a melodic series of continual accurate thoughts to the winning conclusion.

Good luck, and be sure to not run out of patience in your desire to get there from here.