Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 25th, 2018

I held ♠ A-Q-9-6-3,  Q,  Q-7-3, ♣ J-10-8-4 and opened one spade in third seat; I heard an overcall of two hearts to my left. When this came back to me, I had to decide whether to pass or double for take-out. I decided to pass, but we could have set the part-score 800 if I had doubled. Was I a wimp?

Egg On My Face, Saint John, New Brunswick

You got a little unlucky, I think. Reopening would have been clear-cut if your heart queen had been, say, the club king. As it was, you could either argue that pushing the opponent into a silly spot had earned you a good result, or you could put the pedal to the metal and go all out for the penalty. In the end, this comes down to a question of temperament.

What is the best way to respond to partner’s penalty double of one no-trump? Obviously, one tends to pass with values; but with a weak hand, should one play a conventional scheme of response or just play natural?

Needing a Nudge, Palm Springs, Calif.

Running to your longest suit with fewer than 5 points is perfectly playable. Similarly, transfers in response to partner’s penalty double of a weak no-trump allow you to bid out your good hands, rather than sitting for the double and not getting your suits into play. In effect, after a penalty double of a strong no-trump, you pretend your partner has opened one no-trump, with Stayman and transfers.

What supplement, if any, do you use to the Milton Work 4-3-2-1 high-card point count? For instance, should one count each card over four in any suit as worth a point? Or is there only a specific set of sequences where such evaluation is appropriate?

Count von Count, Duluth, Minn.

I do use this scale of valuation when deciding whether to respond to a one no-trump opener. Add on a point for any five-card suit headed by at least one top honor plus decent intermediates. It is also useful when deciding whether to open a weak two. If I have a six-card suit, I add on 2 points; with a four-card side suit, I add on 1 more point for that. If I get to 13, I open at the one-level if I have a trick and a half on defense.

I held ♠ Q-J-7-3,  Q-9-4,  7-6-3, ♣ A-Q-4 and heard one club from my partner, then two diamonds on my right. I doubled — did I have a sensible alternative? When my partner rebid two hearts, I still had no idea what to do. What would you suggest?

Mistletoe, Union City, N.J.

Doubling an overcall, then bidding a new suit tends to show a hand too weak to make that call directly. So you cannot correct two hearts to two spades — that would suggest five or more spades and 8-10 points, perhaps. Your actual hand offers an impossible rebid, so maybe pass two hearts and hope it won’t be too silly. Correcting to three clubs will get you to spades if partner has four, but you might also end up playing a 3-3 fit facing a 3-4-3-3 pattern!

When my right-hand opponent opens, I need some guidance as to when to double and when to overcall with a single-suited hand and upward of 15 high-card points. Does it matter what they opened or where my long suit is?

Picking a Path, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Typically, if they opened one spade, it may be best to overcall and come again, or you risk being pre-empted. Anytime you can start with a two-level overcall, you should consider that action, since you have already shown a good hand and good suit. When the choice is to double or bid at the one-level, 16-17 points is the cusp. Especially when you have spades, you may hope to double and bid the suit more economically than when you have a red suit.

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


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