ACES ON BRIDGE
Dear Mr. Wolff: What is the best way to respond to partner’s penalty double of one no-trump? Obviously, one tends to pass with values; but with a weak hand, should one play a conventional scheme of response or just play natural?
— Needing a Nudge, Palm Springs, Calif.
ANSWER: Running to your longest suit with fewer than 5 points is perfectly playable. Similarly, transfers in response to partner’s penalty double of a weak no-trump allow you to bid out your good hands. In effect, after a penalty double of a strong no-trump, you pretend your partner has opened one no-trump, with Stayman and transfers.
Dear Mr. Wolff: I held SPADES Q J 7 3, HEARTS Q 9 4, DIAMONDS 7 6 3, CLUBS A Q 4 and heard one club from my partner, then two diamonds on my right. I doubled — did I have a sensible alternative? When my partner rebid two hearts, I still had no idea what to do. What would you suggest?
— Mistletoe, Union City, N.J.
ANSWER: Doubling an overcall, then bidding a new suit tends to show a hand too weak to make that call directly. So you cannot correct two hearts to two spades. Your actual hand offers an impossible rebid, so maybe pass two hearts and hope it won’t be too silly. Correcting to three clubs will get you to spades if partner has four, but you might also end up playing a 3 3 it facing a 3 4 3 3 pattern!
Dear Mr. Wolff: When my right-hand opponent opens, I need some guidance as to when to double and when to overcall with a singlesuited hand and upward of 15 high-card points. Does it matter what they opened or where my long suit is?
— Picking a Path, West Palm Beach, Fla.
ANSWER: If they opened one spade, it may be best to overcall and come again. Anytime you can start with a two-level overcall, you should consider that action. When the choice is to double or bid at the one-level, 16 17 points is the cusp. Especially when you have spades, you may hope to double and bid the suit more economically than when you have a red suit.