Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 10th, 2017

I was in fourth seat with: ♠ K-4-3,  8-2,  10-7-4, ♣ K-Q-6-3-2. I heard a weak two hearts on my left, doubled by my partner. I saw no reason to bid more than three clubs, and played there, missing a decent, and making, game in no-trump when my partner had 16 points with all four aces. What should I have done?

An Unsuitable Boy, Provo, Utah

If two no-trump was available as natural, I might have risked that call. The modern expert solution to this problem is to give up a natural two no-trump call, and to use it as a transfer to three clubs (to show a weak hand in clubs or diamonds) while a direct call of three of a minor promises values – a call you would only just be worth. This is an extension of a popular convention called Lebensohl.

I thought I had a difficult call in a team game holding ♠ J-2,  Q-J-9-4,  A-K, ♣ K-10-6-3-2, after hearing a one diamond opening bid to my right. I could not sensibly overcall in either of my suits, could I? And bidding one no-trump seemed out of range and flawed for many other reasons.

Frozen Solid, Portland, Ore.

I agree that the one no-trump call seems wrong, but I suppose you could persuade me otherwise were the spade jack the queen. Then, if doubled, I would probably run to two clubs. As it is, I will pass and hope to get the chance to double spades for take-out at my second turn. If forced to bid, maybe an overcall of one heart might not be the worst bid in the world.

If using fourth suit forcing, do you recommend any differences in the specific case of fourth-suit forcing at the one level after one club – one diamond – one heart? Might this be treated as other than forcing to game? In that case two spades would be game forcing but not necessarily spades.

Seeking Symbiosis, Texarkana, Texas

This is the way that I have been playing fourth suit forcing for many years. The only suggestion I would offer is that in this sequence the one spade call is only forcing for one round, and when followed by minimum action is invitational; but jumps create a game force. Equally responder’s direct jump to two spades specifically denies as many as four spades.

I am dipping my toe into the waters of playing 2/1 game forcing. Where do you stand on playing responder’s bid of one no-trump facing a major-suit opener: forcing, semiforcing or non-forcing?

Baby Steps, Bristol, Va.

I prefer that responder never bids one no-trump with more than a dead minimum opener — say a balanced 13 HCP and no five-card suit. That allows opener to pass with a balanced and dead minimum hand. With as much as 14 HCP, he should introduce a three-card minor. If you play Flannery (so opener never has the problem of what to do with a minimum hand with 4-5 in the majors) you get the best of almost every world.

You said you would elaborate on showing minors in response to a two no-trump opener. I’m holding your feet to the fire, if I may for your idea of the best methods out there.

The Waiting Game, Worcester, Mass.

One possibility is to play three spades as Minor-suit Stayman (now over three no-trump, denying a minor, opener shows a five-card minor with the majors being shortness and 5-5 pattern). This requires you to use Stayman with a one-suiter in a minor. An alternative is to use three spades as a puppet to three no-trump, after which one-suited minors bid the other minor. Calls of four hearts and four spades show the 5-4 minor hands, four no-trump show five-five minors.

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact