Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Under what circumstances should a response of four clubs to an opening bid be asking for aces? Otherwise, what does it show?

Back in Lack, Bremerton, Wash.

Most experts will not use a jump to four clubs as an ace-asking bid in any sequences except those where one player has opened or rebid one or two no-trump at his previous turn. In almost every other sequence, the call will be either natural or a cuebid. On the first round of the auction, the call would be a splinter-jump after a suit opening, showing fit for partner and shortage in the suit bid.

When I opened one club with a shapely minimum, I heard one heart to my left and two diamonds from my partner. Holding ♠ Q-9-6-4,  Q-4,  A-8, ♣ K-J-10-9-8, what should I rebid if a call of two spades would be a reverse, showing an excellent hand?

At a Loss, Levittown, Pa.

Simply bidding clubs then spades does not make your bid a strength-showing one. If your partner had bid one diamond and you had bid one spade, that would have shown only your two-suiter without promising extras. This is a parallel auction to that: Two spades is natural — and while it may contain extras, it does not promise them.

What is the best approach to defending against a possibly short club or a precision one-diamond opener? For example, if you have a minimum balanced hand, such as ♠ A-Q-3,  A-10-8-3,  Q-7-3, ♣ J-3-2, would you double a short minor opening?

Hit or Stick, Janesville, Wis.

Don’t wait for the perfect shape, especially of loose opening bids, with opening values and at least three cards in each major. When short in one major, you cannot double, but you may be able to overcall in a solid four-card suit. An alternative, when shortage in a major makes the hand unsuitable for a double, is to pass, then double for takeout at your next turn. In a live auction where neither opponent has limited themselves, this guarantees full values.

You recently had a hand in which the key suit at trick one at no-trump was the doubleton queen in dummy and king-third in hand. I would not have played the queen at trick one as you recommended. Since I have only one trick in spades, I’d duck in both hands. I still win one spade, but it will likely be the third one. Now I can safely play to keep West off lead and make my contract.

Beyond Our Ken, Mountain Home, Ariz.

With the doubleton queen facing king-third, you want to put up the queen. If you duck the first trick, the defenders win it cheaply and duck the second trick. Now whichever defender gets in, they are ready to take a total of four tricks in this suit. Conversely, if the queen holds the first trick, the upside is that you are in great shape as long as you can keep East off lead.

I opened a strong two clubs, and my partner gave the weak response of two diamonds. I had no long suit and 22 high-card points, so I bid two no-trump. At this stage, could my partner use the conventions of Stayman or Jacoby Transfer, just as if I had opened the bidding with a no-trump bid?

Happy Ever After, Twin Falls, Idaho

Yes, indeed; after this start, one plays exactly the same as over a two-no-trump opening bid. And the same applies when you overcall a weak-two bid with a natural two-no-trump call. As soon as one player has made a natural call, though, transfers no longer apply.

I know you have been asked the question before, but please advise me on how to prioritize keeping count in all four suits. In a suit contract, I follow the trump cards and the honors. In no-trump, I have trouble accounting for the intermediates plus more than one or two suits.

Tric-Trac, Berkeley, Calif.

When tracking the trumps, add up the number in your hand and dummy. Subtract that from 13; this is how many trumps the opponents have. Subsequently, just count down from that number. With sidesuits, start by identifying one key suit and follow that. As you get better, you may be able to expand your skills.

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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