Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Recently, you discussed a sequence in which opener bids one spade and the next hand overcalls two clubs. What options are available in the modern game of raising spades, and how would that change for a passed hand?

Pick-up Pete, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Clearly bidding spades at the two-, three- and four-levels means the same whether you are a passed hand or not, with a cuebid suggesting a high-card limit raise or better. But by a passed hand you can play fit jumps in new suits, while as an unpassed hand you may prefer to use those sequences as natural and weak.

Playing two-over-one, my partner opened one club. I held: ♠ J-9-3,  K-5,  A-J-10-6-3-2, ♣ 10-4. I was planning to bid and rebid my diamonds, but my right-hand opopnent overcalled one spade, and now I did not know if a two-diamond response would constitute an overbid.

Roman Candle, Palm Springs, Calif.

In competition, the doctrine of two-over-one as game forcing can be set aside, since you have to be able to bid when you have shape and some values. Playing weak jump responses, this hand is far too strong, but it is well within the constraints for bidding and rebidding diamonds to suggest quasi-invitational values.

When overcalling a strong no-trump to show a single-suited or two-suited hand, what criteria should I use to decide whether to act or pass in direct and balancing seat? And how should I think about this system at pairs as opposed to teams?

Dumbo, Rockford, Ill.

At teams and at pairs when vulnerable and in direct seat, try to wait for the right shape to bid, since the penalties for wandering in inappropriately can be severe. In balancing seat, and especially non-vulnerable or when a passed hand, I strive to act with any excuse. Sometimes my idea of what is reasonable can be distinctly dubious. Playing a method that allows you to bid with both one-suited and two-suited hands is advisable.

What is the best defense against opponents’ three-level pre-emptive bids? I play Michaels Cuebids, but recently my partner mentioned that the principle could be extended to more situations than just a cue-bid. I’m assuming these methods should be combined with take-out doubles and a natural bid in no-trump.

Headliner, Newark, N.J.

Yes, if you play take-out doubles and a natural three no-trump call over a major-suit pre-empt, you can, if you want, give up on playing four of a minor as natural. Instead, play it as that minor and the unbid major, 5-5 pattern. Here, the cue-bid of the major would either be both minors or whatever else you want it to be.

Holding ♠ Q-10-5-4,  6,  8-6, ♣ K-10-6-5-4-2 at favorable vulnerability, I heard my partner bid three spades over a one-heart opening. My right-hand-opponent raised to four hearts. What would you do?

Sleeping Dogs, Columbia, S.C.

I do not normally like to jump raise to the five-level pre-emptively, because the opponents often misjudge and decide to defend a level lower. Here, however, I would guess to cramp the bidding with a five-spade bid, hoping to give my opponents the last guess. Will I save if they bid slam? I’m glad you didn’t ask!

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Iain ClimieSeptember 22nd, 2019 at 10:27 am

Hi Bobby,

ON the “Sleeping Dogs” hand, surely the oppo are likely to make a slam. If partner has something like SAKJxxxx and nothing, then either spades 2-0 or the club finesse will do it and I suspect LHO is likely to have the stronger hand so including the CA. 4S then 5S is unlikely to be effective as LHO may jump at the chance to cue-bid but maybe 5D pretending to be able to ruff could be an idea here on the way to 5S.

Any thoughts?


Iain Climie

bobbywolffSeptember 22nd, 2019 at 11:14 am

Hi Iain,

Between the two of us, with much constructed help from others in the staging, my answer to all your tweaks is definitely yes. I would do any, not to mention every one, of your solutions (bids), depending on 90% who my opponents are, and the other 30 or 40%, on who was stuck as my partner.

Call it, at least IMO, there are right and wrong actions available (including even passing throughout) although the only way to risk that action is to be able to either see through the backs of the opponents cards, in addition to knowing (or just thinking) your knowledge of what was going to eventually occur is already written in the wind.

Yes, with these type decisions occurring, the actual physical playing of our game comes to a halt and psychological bent becomes supreme.

My guess on what the percentages of what is likely to happen is that perhaps 50% of the time the opponents will take 11 tricks with either one spade (perhaps 40+%) and either the king of clubs or more likely a surprise trick from whatever your partner is holding and the other half the time will be split between them taking only ten tricks or rather twelve or all thirteen tricks available to them (either cold or with the same result of partner not leading the right black ace, assuming he has at of them).

IOW, the key factors are not only how you judge your specific opponents, but also how they will judge theirs. And simply described, at least by me, the player who judges these situations with the highest success rate among the world’s best, will likely actually be the overall world’s best.

Making my final advice, for WIIW, just always be on target, and what is more, if so, you will be the MAN my son, at least when bridge is the topic.

ClarksburgSeptember 22nd, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Good morning Bobby
Question 1 As Dealer you hold:
J1042 A654 Q2 AJ3 Is that a clear cut slam dunk opening bid? Or, even with the 4-4 Majors, might it be downgraded because of the dicey DQ2 and skimpy spots?
Question 2
You hold :
AKQ6 87 103 Q10876
After two passes would you open this third-seat hand at 1C or the nice 4-card Spades?

bobbywolffSeptember 23rd, 2019 at 1:03 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, while playing what has come to be known as a common duplicate bridge system, I would open one club, suggesting what I believe is an advantage to open the bidding if possible in order to get the first bid in.


1. Suggests at least a good eleven high card
points, and/or a little less with positive distribution, denying the possibility of a bad hand (on average) avoiding being able to describe your example, instead of waiting three others now bidding, back to you, when, at times, the bidding level will become too high for you then to get into the bidding.

2. In the long run, by so doing, your partner will be better informed as to your opening bid strength and, because of that, will be in a better position to narrow down the wide range of differences a non-opening bid could include.

3. In case of a tie, it also allows the defense, if the opponents wind up playing the hand, for your partner to have a better chance to lead the right suit, instead of a blind choice. Of course, the opponents also are listening, but by bidding, allowing partner to then bid, knowing you have what you deem an opening bid, will allow him more options to compete.

4. By bidding you are giving your partnership a better chance to take valuable bidding space away from your worthy opponents, suggesting that the higher your partnership bids (especially early in the bidding) the less chance your opposition will have, since you have taken key bidding space away from them.

IOW, my experience through many years has proven (at least to me) what works and what doesn’t and especially against good players.

With question 2:

While normally I would open that hand 1 club in 1st seat, but, in order to both get a spade lead and preempt the one level from the opponents entering, I would open 1 spade, although somewhat awkward, since I intend to do no more bidding after that and only answer partner if he demands one.

No doubt and by far the most important feature of improving one’s bridge is to play with and against the best players one can find. By doing so is the only sure way to move up the ladder, and while just playing bridge to enjoy it and to heck with playing it well, that is OK also.

However, bridge being the greatest mind game ever invented, should allow it to be something special, making the game important enough to take it seriously and devote one’s mind to the best way to make that happen.

IOW, I love the game, and fervently wish everyone who has some talent for it, to be able to learn to play it as well as they can, creating time periods when one becomes surrounded by others who feel the same way.

Good luck and thanks for writing.