Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

I was recently confronted with an auction where I had to check the backs of the cards. I heard one spade to my left, a one-no-trump call from my partner and a double to my right. I held ♠ A-Q-3,  10-5-3-2,  A-Q-7-4, ♣ Q-3. What could be going on, and how does the bidding add up?

Prince of Denmark, Bay City, Mich.

Something certainly smells fishy, does it not? Redouble, assuming that to be strong, and you will discover whether it’s your partner or your left-hand opponent who’s having a little fun. I’d guess that if your side is non-vulnerable, your partner may be experimenting, but if the opponents are non-vulnerable, the opening bidder may crack and remove himself.

As responder, I have received conflicting advice about my second call, or rebid. I had understood that if I initially respond one heart, a rebid by me of my own suit would guarantee six hearts. But my partner says if he has a weak hand, he must rebid his suit, no matter how weak it is, to show five. Any comments?

Seconds Out, Secaucus, N.J.

I always like to be able to confirm my correspondents’ opinions. Since opener will always raise his partner with four trumps, or with three when his hand is not balanced, the failure to raise basically denies a fit. So, responder will almost never repeat a five-card suit unless it looks like six. As responder, support partner, bid no-trump, or pass with five cards in your original suit and a hand that has no game interest.

I passed in first seat at matchpoint pairs, holding ♠ J-7-4-3,  A-J-5-4,  Q-8-3, ♣ K-4 and heard my LHO open one no-trump, which was passed around to me. We play Cappelletti, where a double by a passed hand would be a maximum pass. Would you do that, or balance with two diamonds to show the majors, or just let them play one no-trump?

On the Brink, Portland, Ore.

You left out the critical piece of information, namely the vulnerability. Think of vulnerability as a traffic signal. With neither side vulnerable, the light is green; with both sides vulnerable, it is red; and with equal vulnerability, the light is yellow. I would act at green, pass at red, and bid at yellow with 4-4 only if this hand had the king in spades rather than clubs. With 5-4 shape, I’d probably act at any vulnerability.

I enjoy your column and wondered where you get the quotes that precede the hand? Do you research them yourself or have a secret source?

Whirly Bird, Charleston, S.C.

For the quotes, Bartlett’s, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and are fertile sources. My editor warns me when my choice is inappropriate (fortunately not more than once every three months) or misattributed. When I can find something that makes me think, or smile, I’m happy.

Playing rubber bridge, I held ♠ K-J-10,  9-7-5,  A-K-J, ♣ K-10-4-2. My right-hand opponent opened one spade; I overcalled one no-trump and was doubled to my left. I bought a near-Yarborough in dummy and struggled to escape for three down. My partner said I needed more than 15 points to make this call; was she right?

Caught Out, Monterey, Calif.

Let she who is without sin … Your spade values are worth far more than 4 points here; bid one no-trump at any vulnerability and position, and blame your partner’s luck if she has a bad hand. It’s certainly not your fault.

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiDecember 16th, 2018 at 1:51 pm

The analogy between vulnerability and the traffic light is cute. Twenty years ago, I adopted a policy for my own peace of mind: When wife in car, never cross on yellow.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2018 at 3:51 pm

Hi Michael,

Your gesture should be considered very gallant and you to definitely be her loving suitor, regardless of the final result at the bridge table.

Delving deeper, but less romantically, much may depend, as it often does, of the experience, quality and tendencies of one’s opponents since, on balance, and considering the bidding up to now, one should expect, if those opponents, specifically the 1NT opener, is a reasonably high-class player, and of course, the blind opening lead by your unfortunate partner, that your expected percentage score, on balance, would range IMO around 25-30% so, in fact, instead of a double, showing a maximum pass, I would choose a major suit TO with hopes of finding an 8 card fit (only a guess, but perhaps close to 50%, but even if not, some player luck in the form of finding partner with a suitable hand or, and more likely, the opponents (even worthy ones) not using their best judgment.

While the disadvantage of doing so does not need to be emphasized, but in bridge, and in these situations, particularly while playing matchpoints, perhaps preferring to die with one’s boots on is a preferred strategy rather than to go meekly.

IOW, trying to rain on someone else’s parade becomes the battle cry of a winning player, regardless of who is the opponent.

Finally, winning players generally have more scars than most, but the reasons they win more often than most is not to be kissed away, even when romance is in the air.

However, whatever the above,
please do not change your thoughts about your beloved, at least to her beautiful face, if only to prove to her that she likely made the best choice possible by choosing you, but, in any event, at the table.

clarksburgDecember 16th, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Good morning Bobby
Perhaps a mundane hand for many of your readers, but hopefully of interest to Club players.
Matchpoints, Favourable VUL
You are playing a Four Heart contract.
Dummy holds J KJ6 973 A109843
You hold K983 A8752 A6 J6
If it matters, your RHO (Dealer) opened 1D. Over your 1H overcall, LHO bid Spades.
Could you comment on your initial plan for the line and timing of play.

Patrick CheuDecember 16th, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Hi Bobby,Playing teams,Dealer S,EW vul. West 7 AQJ2 A AKJ9863 and East AKQ854 T94 42 T2. Bidding went: South p West 1C North X East 1S- South p West 2H North p East 2S-South p West 3C North p East 3D*-South p West 3N North p East p-South 4D West 5C pass out.Could you suggest another way that we might have bid this?We were playing Acol. Regards~Patrick.

Ken MooreDecember 16th, 2018 at 6:08 pm


About Caught Out, Monterey, Calif..
When partner is in a hopeless 1NT, I have always heard that the weaker your hand, the more you need to run to a long suit if you have one. That assumes that partner knows what you are doing and does not dig a deeper hole.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Whether the declarer should duck the first diamond or not is close, with not much riding on the result, but perhaps only psychology.

However I think it critical that at trick 2 (or perhaps 3) the declarer should lead his low club with the idea of playing the 8 from dummy (declarer does not want West to put up an honor, (assuming he has one to put up). Next he should likely play to establish the clubs, keeping in mind how he intends to play the hearts for Qx offside or a simple finesse (if forced to state ahead and not being at the table I will suggest a finesse, but it is close and will likely determine the overall result).

Of course, again an assumption, that West’s opening lead was a non-descript low diamond.

Yes, the play of the heart suit may be determined by whether East or West would be more likely to hold it for their bids.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Hi Patrick,

East was inventing his 3 diamond bid in order to get you to bid 3NT. Although 6 clubs is a terrific contract without a spade lead, it is indeed difficult to divy out anywhere near West’s exact hand making 6 clubs the target.

However, over partner’s 3 diamond choice I would just blast 6 clubs and hope for the best since whatever he had thought to continue over 3 clubs it should be enough to, at the very least, be enough to make a club slam reasonable. On a diamond lead I would lead out AKJ of clubs with East now needing to lead a spade back (not so easy) when in to keep his partner from being squeezed.

Against very good opposition I would probably go to dummy and take a 2nd round club finesse, which (especially with East bidding 4 diamonds, likely having a diamond honor to want that lead vs. NT, although he missed an opportunity to double your partner’s 3 diamond call (assuming you were West).

BTW: If EW were playing Acol West certainly had an Acol 2 club opening bid.

Without that defense it is almost a claimer once East, after having won the queen of clubs, did not lead back a spade, but he might have feared that you were void in spades.

Hope the above helped, although since good bidding has so much to do with the particular player’s personalities it is difficult to suggest how to proceed.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Hi Ken,

What you mentioned about what partner should do if, and when, his partner has been doubled in 1NT and he has a near bust.

Yes, of course he should bail out into any 5 card unbid suit and you are right, the weaker he is the more he needs to act rather than to meekly and wrongly pass,

However, the above only shouts out that players need to take bridge playing seriously and try to improve as best they can.

Otherwise, while playing beginner bridge is always excusable it is perhaps not so if the learner just doesn’t try hard enough to understand his responsibility to everyone else at that table.

No free passes to anyone who doesn’t think they owe anything to anyone but themselves.

Yes and eventually, if not sooner to play reasonable bridge is worth it in NT, not just in spades.

Finally, yes the NT overcaller is below value for his bid, but I will not throw the first stone, since I have been there, done that.

Patrick CheuDecember 16th, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Hi Bobby,Many thanks for your invaluable advice which as usual pinpoints where I could have done open 2C with the hand and to bid on with 6C myself.Other point being should East have bid 3S over 2H to show the good suit? North J932 K875 KQ3 Q7 and South T6 63 JT98765 54. All the Best to you and Judy.

Bobby WolffDecember 17th, 2018 at 12:42 am

Hi Patrick,

Probably yes, although 2 spades is forcing since his partner, the one who has reversed, has promised another bid.

However, like everyone else who aspires to improve his or her bridge, one has to take the time to do it (discuss system), not to just talk about it.

Thanks for your well wishes and I’ll always think of you as one of the first to find our site, and in all these years, has never said an unkind word, but instead has always been both positive and on target.

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