Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 9th, 2020


Steve ConradFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Last week, one of my students from Florida (I live in NY) said that people at her club had been “pre-balancing.” She defined this as an auction in which an opening bid is raised to the 2-level, and the next player bids now (PRE-balances) to try to get the right lead if the opener now raises (say to game). Your mention of this “pre-balancing” is now the second time I have heard this expression.

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Hi Steve,

No doubt your experience of not being privy to that “quaint” term is normal, although that process has been around for a number of years.

As you described, it merely suggests that the one short in the opponent’s suit, although not necessarily the defensive player with the most high cards (to go along) becomes the one who first enters the bidding, especially in the specific sequence you describe. Of course, then the partner of the doubler who is longer in the opponents suit, but often has his share of hcps has to soft pedal jumps, since his partner will often laydown playable distributions, but a scarcity of values.

When 4 card majors were the thing (Goren, 1930-60s) sometimes the opener and partner were only 4-3 at the two level, but when 5 card majors became preferred then if a single major suit raise, or even more so, a jump, then, if holding only a singleton, but holding 9+ hcps it was thought prudent to make a light TO double, which became much safer since he had more room in his hand to find support, for whatever was his partner’s longest suit(s).

Logical and more importantly, making that partnership difficult to play against, rather than one which went perhaps quietly and too often sacrificed buying the contract (or pushing the opponents higher), especially at the two level since the real balancer (last position) had 3 (or sometimes even 4) of the opponents major suit and felt it too dangerous to balance for fear of winding up in only a seven card fit themselves.

The above is basically a lesson in how bridge playing has advanced through the last large number of years, by simply the experience of good players playing against each other and exchanging winning ideas before implementing them.

Another reason for the game of bridge to be in our primary school educational system such as is being done around the world but not in North America.

Sad, but our so-called political leaders (ACBL BOD) are not represented by many (or any) of the top players such as years ago, when a number of them served terms and contributed but up to now until Europe and Asia set the tone for bridge in the schools, we have done nothing here to get it done.

AviFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 7:44 pm

Hi Bobby
Playing better minor, we make use of a rather unknown convention, the Wolff signoff.
Suppose I decided to answer 1s to a 1c opening, holding Axxx, -, xxxx, xxxxx
Axxx, x, XXX, xxxxx
And partner now bids 2nt.
Is there a way to play clubs now, or only at the 5 level?


Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 8:15 pm

HI Bobby,

Perhaps the best response to Cautious Carl is that he should consider a typical (not precise) hand for his partner. This may depend on vulnerability but something like KQJxxxx and KJ0xxxx (or even AKxxxxx) with little or nothing outside seem reasonable. 4H is then fairly clear cut.



bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Hi Avi,

Bid 3 clubs, forcing 3 diamonds and then bid 4 clubs to play, not as good as stopping at 3 clubs, but better than having to bid 5.

However with either of the hands you illustrated, especially the first one, it wouldn’t surprise me to be almost cold for 5 clubs. That, of course, would involve partner having a legitimate club suit, not a 3 carder.

After the above sequence, partner, not you, would be in a good position to decide whether he had the hand for it, controls and club length.

Thanks for asking and possibly receiving a surprise answer. At least partner will know about what to expect, sometimes not available
with non-conventional bidding.

However that sign-off is far from being a totally necessary convention to incorporate, but having said that, I do enjoy the melody of the thought.

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2020 at 11:04 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt your progressive discussion will do wonders for the reader’s comprehension. There is little better than actually giving real hands, as illustrative for the reader to consider.

Your teaching instincts are right on and I hope that CC tunes back in to your elaboration.

Thanks for the help.

AviFebruary 24th, 2020 at 12:36 pm