Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.

Henrik Ibsen


W North
None ♠ A J 5
 7 5
 J 9 7 5 4
♣ K 8 4
West East
♠ 3
 10 9 2
 A K Q 6 2
♣ 9 6 3 2
♠ 8 7 6 2
 K J 6 3
 10
♣ A J 10 5
South
♠ K Q 10 9 4
 A Q 8 4
 8 3
♣ Q 7
South West North East
  1 Pass 1
1 ♠ Dbl.* 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    

*Three hearts

K

This hand came along at the 2017 Vanderbilt Trophy in the North American Spring Nationals; at the wheel was Jan Jansma of the Netherlands.

West opened the bidding light, then compounded his felony with a support double to show three hearts. This didn’t keep North-South from reaching the spade game, though, after North made an unassuming cue-bid. South suggested no-trump initially, then despite his partner’s retreat to three spades, he awarded himself a fourth spade.

It is difficult to consider any lead other than a top diamond from West’s hand, and it was the king that was tabled. West switched to his singleton trump at trick two, but it came too late. Jansma won with dummy’s ace, finessed the heart queen successfully, cashed the heart ace and ruffed a third heart low in dummy.

Then, planning to ruff his last heart in dummy, declarer played a low club toward his queen. Divining declarer’s intentions, East rose with the ace and played another trump. This served to give declarer a 10th trick, but it was not immediately clear how South could make use of it, given the club blockage and the lack of a side-suit entry to dummy. However, South drew the rest of East’s trumps and cashed his own club queen. He then exited with his last heart. East won with the king, but with no diamonds remaining, he was forced to resurrect dummy’s club king for the game-going trick. East had been used as a stepping-stone to reach dummy’s stranded winner.



I would pass here. A two-level overcall usually promises a six-card suit and for good reason. Even though I have excellent diamonds and want them led, I have no desire to win the contract, and my heart holding is very bad for declaring. The real danger may be that partner leads a club, not a diamond, against a spade game; I’ll pay off to that.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 3
 10 9 2
 A K Q 6 2
♣ 9 6 3 2
South West North East
      1
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Truth sits upon the lips of dying men.

Matthew Arnold


S North
Both ♠ A K 9 6 4
 K 8 5 4
 A 9
♣ A 9
West East
♠ 10 3
 9 6 3 2
 K J 10 8 5 3 2
♣ —
♠ Q J 8 7 5
 —
 6 4
♣ J 10 8 6 4 2
South
♠ 2
 A Q J 10 7
 Q 7
♣ K Q 7 5 3
South West North East
1 3 4 Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 5 ♠ * Pass
7 All pass    

*Asking for the trump queen

2

In today’s deal, West’s weak jump overcall only served to help declarer place the cards. Having found out his side had all the keycards, North asked for the trump queen. South knew his partner was interested in a grand slam, so with the queen and a source of tricks, South needed no further encouragement to go for the big prize.

West, unwilling to risk a pointed-suit attack, led a safe trump, ducked in dummy. When East showed out, South could count only 11 tricks. One line might have been to ruff clubs in dummy. However, the combination of West’s overcall plus his known trump length marked him with a minimum of 10 red cards, and therefore no more than three in the black suits.

Still, the corollary to West having these red-suit cards meant that East had an equivalent number of black-suit cards, which might render him ripe for a squeeze. South saw that he could generate one extra trick from a dummy reversal. He won the trump lead with the ace, cashed the heart queen and led a spade to the ace (West following suit, to declarer’s relief), then trumped a spade with the jack. A diamond to the ace was followed by another spade, this time ruffed with the 10. Declarer next led his last trump, the seven, and overtook it with the eight.

The heart king pulled West’s last trump, and East was squeezed. That player could not retain four clubs and two spades. Rather than watch East squirm, South showed him his hand, and East conceded defeat.



I would lead the diamond two. My best shot appears to be to give partner a diamond ruff when I get in with the heart ace. It is unlikely that a club trick will stand up, but if it does, we can probably try it later on. Note that a spade lead is unlikely to do much good. If partner has the spade king over dummy’s ace, he will probably score it sooner or later.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ 7 2
 A 5
 10 8 6 2
♣ K 8 7 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 2 ♣ 2
5 ♣ 6 All pass  

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Does a successful doubled contract produce a game even if game has not been bid, or do the extra scores go above the line? Both interpretations make sense to me, but which is correct?

Bonus Baby, Tucson, Ariz.

When you make a doubled part-score, the score for the contract goes below the line. Thus, three diamonds doubled scores as twice 60 or 120. Since that number exceeds 100, it qualifies for the game bonus. The insult, game bonus, and overtricks go above the line — as usual. Two clubs doubled scores as 80 — thus no game bonus; two diamonds redoubled is 160 and thus generates the game bonus.

I heard my partner open with an artificial two-club bid with ♠ A Q-9-4-2,  —-,  A-Q-10, ♣ A-J-10-9-5. I responded two diamonds, then raised a two-spade call to game with ♠ K-J-8-6-3,  J-9-4,  8-3-2, ♣ 8-4, and we played there. How might we have bid our cards to slam — or should we have been content with game?

Orpheus, Hartford, Conn.

A two-club opening on an unbalanced hand is game-forcing unless responder bids two diamonds, then issues a double negative at his second turn. Your partner should have opened one spade; after you jumped to four spades, he could have shot to slam — which is an excellent spot. Of course, had you raised two spades to three (showing a better hand than a jump to game), you still might have recovered.

Holding ♠ Q-10-5-4,  A,  A-10-8-2, ♣ A-Q-J-4, it felt right to open one diamond and jump to three spades over the one-spade response. My partner felt I could have driven to game or even bid four hearts as a splinter raise. Where do you stand on this issue?

Billy Goat, Augusta, Ga.

Your values are on the cusp between a drive to game and an invitation — the singleton ace doesn’t really pull its full weight. I wouldn’t jump to four hearts with a 4-1-4-4 shape unless I had full value in high cards. This hand is not worth that action, so your choice was a little pessimistic but entirely reasonable.

How important do you think it is to learn the precise percentages at bridge? How much of correct declarer play and defense is about table feel and table presence?

10 Gallon Matt, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

You do not have to learn all the percentages; a few simple ones are enough. (Kelsey and Glauert’s book on practical odds should suffice.) Table presence outranks percentages all the time! But you must learn to hone your card-reading skills, to try to learn when you can trust your instincts and when you cannot.

Holding ♠ A-J-9,  K-Q-J-9-3-2,  10-2, ♣ A-J, my partner opened three diamonds in first chair. Would your decision to bid on or pass be influenced by vulnerability more than by your choice of partner? Would it matter if the pre-empt was in second seat?

Steven’s Son, Detroit, Mich.

I know that four hearts might make when facing heart length, but if I bid three hearts, will partner be able to bid three no-trump if he has no fit in hearts? Probably not. It is much more likely that I can make three no-trump my way up, so I might gamble it out. Facing a pre-empt in first seat at favorable vulnerability, I would pass.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Do not commence your exercises in philosophy in those regions where an error can deliver you over to the executioner.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


N North
None ♠ K 5
 A Q 8 7 5
 A 6 5
♣ 8 6 5
West East
♠ J 10 9 8 4
 10 9 4 2
 8
♣ J 9 2
♠ Q 7 2
 K J
 K 10 9 2
♣ Q 10 7 3
South
♠ A 6 3
 6 3
 Q J 7 4 3
♣ A K 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All pass    

♠J

In olden days, South would bid a forcing two-no-trump call in response to one heart. These days, this call tends to be reserved for forcing heart raises; South should instead introduce his diamonds.

North then has a rebid problem. I wouldn’t want to bid two no-trump with three small clubs, and I prefer to raise diamonds only with four trumps or some extras, though a three-card raise in an unbalanced hand is possible. Here, repeating the hearts looks best.

Against three no-trump, West leads the spade jack, and declarer sees he has just six top winners. His extra tricks will be from a red suit, and diamonds seem like the most promising direction. While the hand is likely to present no special problem, South must still keep his eye on the ball.

South wins the first spade in his hand, but he must not advance the diamond queen. Instead, at trick two, South leads a low diamond toward dummy’s ace, then plays a diamond to his queen. If the suit breaks 3-2, his problems are over. When West shows out, declarer must go back to dummy to make another diamond play. He cannot afford to take the heart finesse; if it lost, a spade back might doom him.

Instead, he leads a low heart from his hand to dummy’s ace and plays a third diamond. East returns the spade queen to dummy’s king, and declarer will cash out his nine tricks. Note that the 4-1 diamond break means declarer will go down if he leads the diamond queen at trick two.



This auction should be played as forcing. If your partner had a limit raise in diamonds, he would invite at his first turn or pass your non-forcing three-club call. If you believe you are being forced to act, bid three spades, showing values and implicitly denying even half a heart stop, in which case you would have bid three hearts.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 6 3
 6 3
 Q J 7 4 3
♣ A K 4
South West North East
1 1 2 ♣ Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 30th, 2019

How can a rational being be ennobled by anything that is not obtained by its own exertions?

Mary Wollstonecraft


W North
Both ♠ 10 8 7 2
 A K 5
 3 2
♣ K J 9 3
West East
♠ 9 3
 10 6 3 2
 10 9 8 5 4
♣ 10 7
♠ K Q J 5
 J 7
 Q
♣ A Q 6 5 4 2
South
♠ A 6 4
 Q 9 8 4
 A K J 7 6
♣ 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass
       

2

This deal from last year’s World Youth Teams in China was originally reported by its victim, Australian junior Matt Smith.

North played the hand in three no-trump successfully at 16 of the 18 tables. After a friendly spade or club lead, the contract came home almost every time. But Maxim Chodacki was declarer as South against Australia on an auction where North’s one-club call had temporarily silenced East, whereupon the jump to two diamonds was natural and game forcing, keeping East out of the auction altogether.

Jamie Thompson led a safe low heart to the jack and queen. Declarer advanced the spade six and let it run to East’s queen. Back came a heart, and declarer won in dummy to lead a diamond to the queen and ace. Declarer now cashed a second top diamond, then crossed to the heart ace and advanced the spade 10. When Matt Smith ducked this, declarer let it run!

Now declarer could cash his winners in the red suits, ending in dummy, to endplay East with the fourth round of spades for the game-going trick. Had East covered the second spade, declarer would simply have taken his diamonds, then set up his spade winner. East could temporarily escape the endplay by exiting with the fourth spade to dummy, but dummy would then advance the club king and eventually collect a club trick in the ending.

Technically, a low spade to the seven at trick two would have been safer, since West could have covered the six and set the game.



You may have only a 14-count, but slam in diamonds is easy to imagine if partner has nothing wasted in clubs. The way to make a slam try and stay safely low if necessary is to bid four clubs, showing shortage in clubs and letting partner decide whether to go high or low. Hearts is likely to play better than diamonds — you should be able to pitch partner’s slow spade losers on your diamonds.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 6 4
 Q 9 8 4
 A K J 7 6
♣ 8
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

A.A. Milne


N North
E-W ♠ A K Q 10 6
 K
 K Q 5 4
♣ A J 3
West East
♠ 9 5 3
 Q J 10 9 3
 8 6
♣ Q 9 7
♠ J 8 7 4
 7 6
 J 3 2
♣ K 8 5 4
South
♠ 2
 A 8 5 4 2
 A 10 9 7
♣ 10 6 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ * Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 7 All pass
       

*12-14 balanced, or (as here) any
  18 or more

Q

When Poland played England in the World Youth Teams last year, we could watch the match on Bridge Base Online, with David Bird providing the spoken commentary, then the written in the bulletin the next day.

After a strong club and positive response, the English had done well to reach six diamonds — the optimal contract. Many pairs had failed the test and played three no-trump. Would the Poles be able to match that feat? Indeed, they did — and more — on the auction shown.

North got to show a strong hand with his repeated spade calls. When the diamond fit came to light, Mateusz Sobczak drove to a grand slam after finding two aces opposite. Since declarer was dead minimum in high cards and shape, the contract required very careful play, but Piotr Marcinowski was up to the task.

He won the top heart lead in dummy and immediately played three top spades, throwing his club losers. When he continued with a fourth spade, it was disappointing that it was East who produced the jack. Declarer followed the odds when he ruffed with the diamond 10, and he was relieved that West could not over-ruff.

Declarer now played the heart ace, diamond ace and club ace, ruffing the club jack with the diamond nine. It remained only to draw trumps and claim the established long spade for his 13th trick. The grand slam may have been against the odds, but the bidding had been spirited, and the play had justified the optimism.



Most doubles facing a passing partner should be take-out, and this is no exception. There is no reason to bid no-trump with a feeble spade stopper and a perfectly good minor suit to bid. Just bid two clubs and see where things go from there.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 8 7 4
 7 6
 J 3 2
♣ K 8 5 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

You can build a throne with bayonets, but it’s difficult to sit on it.

Boris Yeltsin


W North
Both ♠ K 10 8
 7 6
 K Q J 4
♣ A K 7 5
West East
♠ A 3
 Q 8 3
 9 5 3 2
♣ J 10 9 3
♠ J 6
 K J 9 5 2
 A 10 8 7
♣ Q 6
South
♠ Q 9 7 5 4 2
 A 10 4
 6
♣ 8 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT * Pass
2 ♣ * * Pass 2 ♠ Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass
       

*15-17 points

**Starting an invitational sequence

♣J

The Daily Bulletins at the World Youth Teams often rely on input not only from the players, but also from the coaches and captains of the teams. Today’s exhibit, from the France-Finland match, was reported by Kees Tammens and provided to him by Christophe Oursel, the French coach and a strong player in his own right.

The deal features a delightful coup executed by Aleksi Aalto of the Finland team. You would certainly consider it a candidate for the shortlist of Best Play by a Junior.

North was playing a weak no-trump, so his rebid showed a balanced 15-17. South showed invitational values and could hardly refuse his own invitation at his next turn.

When West led the club jack, declarer won with the club ace and continued with the diamond queen, taken by the ace. Next came the club queen to dummy’s king. Declarer disposed of one losing club on the diamond king and carried on with a low spade to the spade queen and ace. When West played the master club 10, North followed suit, and what was East to do? If he had ruffed in, the deal would have been over, since one of declarer’s losing hearts would have disappeared, and the other would have gone on the diamond jack.

But without hesitation, East pitched a heart. Now declarer had a tricky decision in the trump suit. He played a spade to the 10, and East made his trump trick after all, with a heart still to come, for down one.



If playing negative doubles, opener must reopen with shortage when the auction gets back to him at a sensible level, whether he has a minimum or a maximum. You don’t have to double if you would pull a penalty double from your partner (for example, with king-queen-jack-fifth of diamonds and a singleton small club, when a two-diamond call is sensible). But here, double and let the chips fall where they may!

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 6
 K J 9 5 2
 A 10 8 7
♣ Q 6
South West North East
      Pass
1 1 ♠ Pass Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft.

Pericles


E North
None ♠ 8 4
 Q J 10 9 2
 Q 7 6 4
♣ 10 5
West East
♠ Q J 10 9 5
 A 3
 10 9 5 2
♣ 8 6
♠ K 7 6 3
 K 8 5 4
 J 8
♣ J 7 3
South
♠ A 2
 7 6
 A K 3
♣ A K Q 9 4 2
South West North East
      Pass
1 ♣ 1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠
3 NT Pass 4 * Pass
4 All pass    

*Hearts

♠Q

In today’s deal from last year’s World Youth Teams, Ida Gronkvist of Sweden reached four hearts from the short side, rather than the easier three no-trump.

She won the spade lead and played a heart. When West won the ace, the contract turned out to be simple to make. If West played two more rounds of spades, declarer could ruff in the short hand; nothing else would threaten trump control.

Had both defenders ducked the first trump, a second round of trumps would have been fatal. West would win his ace and play two more rounds of spades, with East winning the next heart to lead another spade and wrest trump control from declarer.

Instead of continuing trumps, declarer would have had to play three rounds of clubs, then pitch a spade as West ruffed in. South would ruff a second spade in dummy and again need to refrain from leading a trump. Instead, declarer would take two top diamonds in hand and lead a fourth club to discard dummy’s small diamond. A further spade play by East after ruffing this trick could be ruffed in hand, and the diamond queen discarded.

The contract can only be set on an initial low diamond lead by West. He then ducks the first trump; East wins and returns a diamond. West then wins the next trump and leads the diamond 10, ruffing out dummy’s queen and setting up a diamond for himself. Finally, East shifts to a spade, dislodging declarer’s entry to the clubs after drawing trumps — and declarer is sunk.



Whether you play transfers or not is, in a sense, irrelevant here. The key point is whether you want to show hearts and let partner play three no-trump with a doubleton, or whether you want to insist on hearts. I say insist on hearts. Unless partner has six solid clubs, no-trump rates to be best; if you can transfer there, so much the better.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 8 4
 Q J 10 9 2
 Q 7 6 4
♣ 10 5
South West North East
    2 NT Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 26th, 2019

(The pragmatic method is) the attitude of looking away from first things, principles, ‘categories,’ supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts.

William James


W North
None ♠ A
 A Q 8 6 3 2
 K 10 8 7 5
♣ 9
West East
♠ K Q 10
 J 10 9
 Q 6
♣ A 10 7 5 4
♠ 7 5 4
 7
 A J 9 4 3
♣ K 6 3 2
South
♠ J 9 8 6 3 2
 K 5 4
 2
♣ Q J 8
South West North East
  1 ♣ 2 NT * Pass
3 Pass 4 All pass
       

*At least 5-5 in the red suits

♠K

When the World Youth Bridge Team Championships started exactly a year ago today in China, Phillip Alder pointed out that on the first board of each session, players often aren’t warmed up; while on the last they are in a hurry to dash out and score. But Giovanni Donati of Italy proved that he needed no wake-up call.

Against four hearts, West’s lead of the spade king went to the ace. Donati led the club nine to the jack and ace. When West shifted to the heart jack, South took that with his king and played a diamond to the seven and nine. Back came a spade, ruffed in dummy, and now declarer made the key play, leading dummy’s diamond king. When East covered, Donati ruffed, drew trumps and conceded a diamond to East’s jack to make his game.

Why did Donati find this play? Bridge at this level is played with screens bisecting the table, and on his side of the screen East had paused noticeably over four hearts. Clearly, he was thinking about making a penalty double. Since he did not have a trump stack, the only reason to justify that decision would be good diamonds.

Finally, did you notice that East could still have set the game, even after declarer’s excellent decision? The contract still would have gone down if East had not covered the diamond king with his ace. Then, if declarer had drawn trumps, he would have lost one club and three diamonds. Alternatively, if he tried to ruff another diamond in hand, West would have been able to over-ruff declarer.



This hand seems too good to pass, and I don’t think double describes it well. (I’d assume it was a balanced 9-10 count with at least two hearts.) The best way to get diamonds into play is to bid two no-trump, emphasizing the minors and suggesting more diamonds than clubs (otherwise, you would reraise clubs). Since you didn’t bid one no-trump before, you surely don’t want to play no-trump now.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 7 5 4
 7
 A J 9 4 3
♣ K 6 3 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 ♠
2 ♣ 2 Pass Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 25th, 2019

I assume you would pass in first seat with ♠ J-8-2,  A-5-3-2,  Q-5-3, ♣ K-9-4. If your partner opens one diamond and the next hand overcalls one no-trump, do you double or assume your partner does not have a full opener?

Trusted Traveler, Lorain, Ohio

This is a very slippery slope. You don’t have to double when the auction tells you that your partner has embellished his initial call, because both opponents have bid strongly. But here, I think you do have to double and take your lumps if partner has psyched. If nothing else, it may discourage him from further flights of fancy.

Holding ♠ K-9,  A-Q-7-2,  Q, ♣ A-K-Q-9-6-3, would you open two clubs or one club, and why?

Hi-Lo Country, Bristol, Va.

Minor-suit oriented hands with average controls often handle well by starting low. Opening one club and jumping to two hearts over one diamond or reversing into hearts over a one-spade response tells partner much about your shape and high cards at the two-level. You will seldom be passed out in one club — and if you are, what chance did you have at game?

I have been struggling to learn New Minor after my partner rebids one no-trump, as a way to explore for game and slam. Is it worth the effort to play, and what would you recommend after a jump rebid by opener of two no-trump? Desperately Seeking Something, Tunica,

Miss.

Yes, New Minor (also called Checkback) is well worth the effort — in the same way that Stayman is an essential adjunct to modern bidding. This way you get to find fits in unbid majors, explore for 5-3 fits, and invite game efficiently. Over two no-trump, using the unbid minor as artificial is possible, but the Wolff Signoff (www.acblunit390.org/Simon/wolff.htm) works well, too.

When balancing over the opponents’ opening call, I’m aware that a hand like ♠ Q-6-2,  Q-9-7-5-3,  K-10, ♣ A-J-2 is more than sufficient to bid one heart over one diamond. But would you also balance at any vulnerability when playing pairs over a pre-emptive two diamonds, or even a three-diamond opener?

Lucky Luke, Monterey, Calif.

You are right that this is a simple hand with which to balance over one or two diamonds. But do you have enough to bid over a three-level preempt? I guess I might bid when non-vulnerable, but I wouldn’t be thrilled by the prospect.

Say you have ♠ 9-2,  5-4,  A-Q-7-3, ♣ Q-J-4-3-2. After your left-hand opponent opens one no-trump and right-hand opponent transfers into hearts, then passes, do you pass, double or bid a suit?

Gerry the Gryphon, Bellingham, Wash.

At pairs non-vulnerable, I think this is just strong enough to act. The right way to get both minors into play is to bid two no-trump, suggesting both minors. Switch your spades with one of the minors, and you might double. Partner will bid spades or a five-card minor of his own, or scramble with two no-trump to get you to pick a minor.


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