Dear Mr. Wolff: I held ♠ J-10-5-2, ♥Q-6-4-2, ♦8-6, ♣A-K-3. What should I bid after my left-hand opponent opens a weak two diamonds, my partner doubles, and my RHO makes a pre-emptive raise to four diamonds? Should I just pick a major, or settle for doubling to get what I can in the way of a penalty? – Number Cruncher, Little Rock, Ark.
Answer: My guess is that most sophisticated partnerships these days play a double of the raise of a pre-empt as responsive – optional, though with the emphasis on takeout at the three-level. Here I’d expect partner to remove a double of four diamonds with a singleton diamond or a five-card major, and to use his discretion with neither.
Dear Mr. Wolff: When I read the reports of appeals in the ACBL bulletin, they mention authorized and unauthorized information. Would you be able to explain these terms briefly? – Lawman, Miami, Fla.
Answer: When your partner hesitates before bidding, or incorrectly alerts or explains one of your calls, you must do your best to ignore this event. That information cannot be used by you because it is legally available only to the opponents. It is thus unauthorized. (A correct explanation of your bid leaves everyone better off, of course!) Any action by your opponents conveys information to you that you can use. That is authorized information.
Dear Mr. Wolff: Is it ever appropriate to open a 14-count with a strong one-no-trump bid? I feel that I should be allowed to use my judgment here, but my opponents went up the wall when I did it, accusing me of misleading them.
– Lights Out, Worcester, Mass.
Answer: In any regular partnership, if you habitually take this action, you should announce your range for the no-trump as 14 (plus) to 17. But in a scratch partnership, use your best judgment. Wild horses would not stop me from treating a hand such as ♠K-10-3, ♥A-Q-6, ♦K-10-9-6-4, ♣Q-3 as a strong no-trump. The intermediates and five-card suit make it well worth that evaluation.
Dear Mr. Wolff: What does Smolen mean? Does it apply over both one- and two-no-trump opening bids?
– Mike Likes It, Nashville, Tenn.
Answer: Smolen is an optional convention that is used over both one and two no-trump. After you use Stayman and get a response that denies a major, a bid of (or jump to) three hearts or three spades shows five cards in the other major and four in the bid major. It acts as a transfer to your 5-3 fit, if you have one.
Dear Mr. Wolff: Yesterday I picked up ♠J-2, ♥K-J-9-5, ♦Q-10-6, ♣A-Q-5-4. I opened one club, my partner responded one spade, and I rebid one no-trump. (We do not play any artificial bids over this rebid.) What was I supposed to do after a two-diamond continuation? My choice of two no-trump was not met with approbation!
– Over Easy, Houston
Answer: Your partner’s two-diamond call is weak. You should be opting either to pass or to correct to two spades, not to bid on toward game. Standard methods are a little imprecise here; it is very difficult for your partner to find a way to invite. Hence, many people in your partner’s position have at their disposal an artificial call known as New Minor Forcing, which acts like Stayman.
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