Dear Mr. Wolff: I’ve been reading your columns to try to learn a little about the game of bridge. I am thinking of trying a book that will teach me the basics. I’d like to learn, but I want to read up a little before starting completely cold.
– Novelty Gifts, Holland, Mich.
ANSWER: You could try a big bridge bookseller like Baron Barclay (www.baronbarclay.com/contact.html or by telephone at 1-800-274-2221). They will know just what you need. If you want to try a bridge computer program, the ACBL at www.acbl.org/learn_page/ is a good place to start.Dear Mr. Wolff: When you hear your right-hand opponent open one diamond, what should be your policy about overcalling on a 5-5 hand with one good suit and one bad? I had SPADES J-9-8-4-3, HEARTS A-2, DIAMONDS 10, CLUBS A-Q-6-5-4. The clubs are the suit you want partner to lead, but if you bid them first, you may lose the spades altogether.
– Quality Street, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
ANSWER: These days, it is almost mandatory to play some form of two-suited overcalls, focusing on the majors, while the unusual no-trump allows you to bid club or heart two-suiters. But if you have the wrong two-suiter for a Michaels Cue-bid or Unusual No-trump, just bid the major and let the chips fall where they may. There may be time for clubs later.
Dear Mr. Wolff: In a recent question, one hand heard one club to his left, and one heart from his partner. He bid one no-trump and then heard his partner bid the opponent’s suit. If the first call of one no-trump shows a club stopper, doesn’t your partner’s second call show a genuine club suit rather than being an artificial cue-bid?
– Jake the Fake, Chicago, Ill.
ANSWER: Many bridge players normally make the assumption that you cannot play in the opponents’ suit, unless you have a specific agreement that such a call is natural. That rule applies here: A two-club call simply shows a good hand. It sounds as if your partner is looking for heart support or maybe a four-card spade suit. I’d say if and only if the one-club opener is two or more cards, then you can bid the suit naturally at your first or second turn.
Dear Mr. Wolff: When a partnership has advanced to the four-level and slam may be in the picture, how can you let your partner know you want to stop at four no-trump and are not asking for aces?
– Nervous Breakdown, Vancouver, Wash.
ANSWER: Four no-trump is normally Blackwood. A common exception is when the last call of the four-no-trump bidder was in no-trump, and no major fit exists. Similarly, when no fit has been found, then if the previous call was a cue-bid or fourth suit, a jump to four no-trump should be quantitative and invitational. Furthermore, after Stayman, you can often set the bid major as trump; if so, a jump to four no-trump should be quantitative.
Dear Mr. Wolff: Our excellent bridge club has superb players and pairs who frequently score high, plus a middle group and a bottom third, all in the open game. More often than I would expect, dark horse pairs in the bottom third come in top or close to it. Since bridge is significantly a game of skill, how is it that the less-skilled do well more often than expected?
– I Am Curious Green, Dallas, Texas
ANSWER: I’m not sure how to answer, but you could reasonably think of the results of an event as a normal curve. Luck is never eliminated entirely from bridge (we need our opponents not to be perfect), so my experience at the local club has been that anything can happen. At higher levels, there are far fewer presents for everyone, so your mistakes tend to be really expensive.