ACES ON BRIDGE
Dear Mr. Wolff: I understood that following an overcall after your partner opens, as responder you can always start with a takeout double, no matter what was bid on your right. In what cases would double be for penalty? — Red Flag, Cartersville, Ga. ANSWER: If you play negative doubles in response to an opening bid, it means that all initial doubles of suit overcalls of four spades or lower are emphasized toward takeout. Doubles of three spades and higher may tend toward optional, though. Doubles of no-trump bids and of artificial calls that show two-suited hands, however, suggest a desire to defend. (When the opponents find a fit, all doubles by either player at their second turn tend to be takeout.)
Dear Mr. Wolff: Should you wait until you have all suits properly controlled before launching into Blackwood? Or should you cue-bid instead?
Muncie, Ind. ANSWER: Don’t use Blackwood if you are sure you won’t know what to do over the response. In other words, if your hand consists of the firstround controls but not second- and third-round controls, let your partner ask; cue-bid instead to let him do so. When your side has more than enough high-card points for slam, it is not terrible to use Blackwood with one suit that may be unguarded if no sensible alternative exists. Dear Mr. Wolff: What scheme of responses do you recommend to a two-club opener? Do you prefer complex over simple schemes, and what is your opinion of control-showing responses?
— Tripe and Onions,
Troy, N.Y. ANSWER: I recommend a simple scheme of responses. I’m happy to bid two hearts with positive values and a reasonable suit, whereas a two-spade call needs two top honors in a suit of five or more cards, or a six-card suit and one top honor. I can see the logic of using all other calls as natural, but if you prefer something artificial, use two no-trump as clubs with limited values. Bids at the three-level would then be natural with very good suits (or transfers if you want to live a little).