Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Holding ♠ J-2,  9-2,  Q-5-3-2, ♣ A-Q-J-3-2, I assume you would pass in first chair. When you hear a weak two-heart call on your left, passed back to you, would you reopen, and if so, with what call?

F Troop, Great Falls, Mont.

Your spade holding is exceedingly unsuitable for a balancing double even though it’s a maximum for your initial pass. As a passed hand, you could bid three clubs, but I’d prefer a bid of two no-trump to show the minors rather than showing a balanced hand. Note that a balancing call of one no-trump over an opening bid would be 10-11 balanced.

A hand in a recent column confused me, though it did not affect the final outcome. After South opened one diamond and West overcalled one heart, why didn’t North make a negative double to best describe a hand with five spades and scattered values?

Skinny Marie, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The negative double tends to show exactly four spades rather than five or more. This is a useful distinction in competition. After a one-spade overcall, by contrast, a two-heart call shows five cards, but 10 or more HCP. So a negative double suggests five or more hearts and a minimum, or any hand with precisely four hearts and at least 7 HCP.

My understanding is that if declarer leads from the wrong hand and the opponents notice this, declarer must now lead the same suit from the correct hand. Is this so, and what happens if a defender commits the same infraction?

Thane of Cawdor, Houston, Texas

For declarer, the next player can accept that lead. Or declarer can be asked to lead from the correct hand, when he can lead anything he likes. When a defender offends, declarer can accept the lead; if he does not, he can either bar that lead, allowing the offender to retain the lead, or ask for the lead of this suit by the correct hand. Either way, the card originally played is picked up. Or you can make the card a penalty card, in which case the correct defender can lead anything.

When looking for slam and asking for aces, I’ve seen it stated that if no-trump has already been bid, then to avoid confusion one can use the Gerber convention. How exactly should this work, and when, if ever, do you advise playing Gerber?

Blackwoodsman, Olympia, Wash.

I’m happy with the idea that a jump to four clubs over a rebid of one or two no-trump should be played as Gerber, but only if clubs have not been bid. A call of four no-trump would then be quantitative and invitational. In such auctions, though, when clubs have been bid naturally, it is less easy to say whether delayed club jumps are Gerber or natural. Otherwise, you should play four clubs as natural or a cue-bid, not Gerber.

In a competitive auction, when you have opened or overcalled, say your partner cue-bids and the next hand doubles. What is the normal action to show the weakest possible hand? Does a pass show more interest than reverting to the trump suit at the level you have been forced to already?

Fish Fingers, Anchorage, Alaska

I’d emphasize that this is primarily a matter of partnership agreement. The simplest method is that reversion to the trump suit is the weakest possible action, with pass showing some extras, and redouble simply a good hand (maybe setting up a forcing auction). In cue-bidding auctions, redouble and pass can be used to show first- and second-round control, respectively, with other actions denying a control.

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Bill CubleyAugust 26th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Gerber vs the 4NT bids. This is a pet peeve of mine. When Gerber is on your card and it was NOT bid then answering the number of aces raises ethical questions. Not the least of which is, when you did not ask for aces, is taking your partner’s bid as ace showing.

The best reference for my position [which some think is wrong] is the SAYC Yellow card. The 4NT call responding to a 1NT/2NT opener is ONLY used as an invitation to 6NT. Rant over. Please feel free to show my error.

We are very concerned with unethical play at the highest levels but we seem to encourage lesser players to bid not in accordance with their card.

The ACBL, as the promulgating authority, should publish Standard Bidding at various levels of expertise.

Iain ClimieAugust 26th, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Hi Bill,

One thing I remember many years ago was a suggestion that 1N 4N is invitational to 6N BUT there is always the occasional hand (e.g. a good 16 opposite 16) when you are actually off 2 Aces and no other high cards. Hence 1N 4N allowed opened to show Aces if accepting but 5N by responder was to play and said we’re off 2 Aces. It was sufficiently rare that I don’t remember it ever happening and it doesn’t invalidate your concern – any such agreement should be clearly marked on the convention card.

There again, if you’re up against players who are bidding like that because they don’t know any better, they may well have messed up their hand evaluation anyway. I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to claim an ethical foul against players who aren’t sure what they’re doing in the first place. After all, if it goes 1N 4N 5any (say), what else can partner really be doing? Maybe I’m being over tolerant here, so I’d be interested in Bobby’s views.



JudyAugust 26th, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Hi Iain,

I have learned from Bobby so many easy and successful treatments of auctions including quantitative


It is an acceptance of the slam try and we bid our suits up the line to reach a four/four fit if available. It has worked well for us.

Iain ClimieAugust 26th, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for that; it sounds eminently sensible and well worth a shot. I don’t think Bill has that sophisticated treatment in mind, though!


bobbywolffAugust 26th, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Hi Bill.

Yes, the Gerber convention (to which person, John, I have always respected as he was my early mentor in the long ago era) is a generally misused and somewhat misunderstood bid.

It was originally designed (early 1940s) by Johnny to be most 4 club bids (more than a few disasters) with then skipping the known trump fit(assumed to always be understood) by both partners) and then if followed by any bid other than the known trump suit a number of kings ask, hopefully to play at a lower level in case of being off two aces or perhaps too many kings.

From that perilous start it got worse since otherwise 4 clubs as a suit or cue bid, became invisible causing the latter treatment (used to be called modern, but after all these years certainly miss named).

What has happened since is not Gerber’s fault and is now, among the experts, a jump to 4 clubs (only after a NT bid or rebid then is, for all practical purposes, the only time 4 clubs will be interpreted as ace asking.

Now to your problem as to when your not so worthy opponents both individually and/or collectively are on different wavelengths (unfortunately usually the norm rather than the exception),l it is likely to create the type of hazard you voice.

No doubt, by their error, your partnership is directly in jeopardy to be fixed, either by them overbidding to a “lucky slam” or worse, can’t make it normally, but allowed to because of the wrong lead, not made at other tables since their auction saved them from themselves.

Only two remedies come to mind, grin and bear it, or immediate suicide if enabled (concealed carry will help facilitate such a result), but keep in mind that perhaps every ten years the “good guys” will receive a positive result.

Don’t prematurely do anything rash, since “tonight may be the night”!

bobbywolffAugust 26th, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Hi Iain,

While overhearing your conversation with Judy, I will reluctantly add that last time our today’s subject became reality was that after Judy responded 6 diamonds to my 5NT request for suits my RHO doubled enabling her partner to lead a diamond through Judy’s king, defeating our slam contract when ordinarily the opening lead would not have been from Jxx in diamonds through the king against our 6NT which, without that dastardly opening lead, would have scored up our 12 tricks.

Hopefully we will still not move to Argentina where people tend to cry for them, until and unless they ask them not to.

DarwinAugust 27th, 2018 at 3:05 pm


Concerning Declarers led out of turn. ACBL Laws:
“either defender may accept the lead or retraction. If the defenders chose differently, the option expressed by the player next in turn shall prevail.
Enjoy your columns. Hi to Judy.

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Hi Darwin,

Obviously changed from what it used to be for many years. However it seems to now be a greater penalty with both opponents having a say in what often is a catastrophic mistake by the defenders.

However, probably justified.

Thanks for the info, your kind words, and I’ll
be sure to tell Judy.

bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Hi again Darwin,

Obviously I became confused, since your post was an amplification of one of the questions asked by a reader listed above.

Thanks for setting it straight and I apologize for thinking it pertained to the defenders, not the declarer.

And Judy said also, best to Kay.

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