Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time.

Terry Pratchett


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

*Short diamonds, agreeing hearts

Q

In his new book, “Tricks of the Trade,” published by The Bridge World, Larry Cohen advises us always to avoid a brilliant low-percentage play when there is a high-percentage line, no matter how ordinary.

In today’s deal, you judge well or luckily not to bid the tempting slam. West leads the diamond queen; you win and cash a high trump, finding hearts 1-1. What is your plan to try for an overtrick?

An endplay is just about possible, though highly unlikely. You could eliminate the diamonds and hope that a defender has a singleton club ace. Or perhaps you could sneak one round of clubs past a player with a doubleton ace, then eliminate the diamonds and throw him in with a club, hoping for a favorable spade position.

But why look to such an unlikely layout? You have a much better chance with a more ordinary maneuver. At trick three, lead a low spade toward dummy, just as you would with ace-tripleton.

At least some of the time, an experienced West will duck (smoothly, he hopes), trying to give you a guess. How can West tell that the play of the spade suit isn’t the key to the deal? Ducking may give him a chance to set the game or hold the overtrick if you hold ace-third of spades and guess the suit incorrectly.

Yes, the elimination play is more spectacular, but you must resist the urge. Win the event on the next board, not this one.



This hand offers a choice of two actions: Do you go high with a negative double, or do you go low by passing? In favor of doubling is your minor-suit pattern, while against it are the singleton heart and dead-minimum values. I’m inclined to pass, expecting partner to reopen with spade shortness — a doubleton or shorter. If he passes, we may be better off defending, given my good lead and trump control.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 9 5
 7
 Q J 9 5 4
♣ 9 7 5 4
South West North East
    1 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, May 6th, 2019

When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.

Pierre Corneille


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

♠5

Today’s deal is an unusual example of a hand where both opponents are potentially the danger hand, so that either may need to be kept off lead. If that sounds paradoxical, the play to trick one will determine which opponent you are going to need to beware of.

In the auction, North might use New Minor at his second turn to look for an eight-card heart fit. Then again, if his partner has three small hearts, locating a 5-3 heart fit might lead him to the only game that goes down.

Be that as it may, all routes lead to three no-trump, and after a low spade lead from West, South must plan the play carefully. Which spade should he play from dummy? He should put up the queen; if it holds, then East is the danger hand — declarer must keep him off play, or a spade through South’s king could be fatal. In that case declarer would play the king of clubs, then the 10, and let it run. That way, he can set up four club tricks in safety.

When East instead wins the spade ace at trick one and continues with the spade jack, South must hold up the spade king and win the third round. Then he leads the club nine and passes it, willing to lose to East, the safe hand. What declarer cannot afford to do is concede a club to West and see him cash two more spade winners.

Of course, if spades are 4-4, declarer may lose three spade tricks, but he will still make his game even if he does lose a club trick.



When in doubt, leading the unbid suit is where you should start in your analysis on opening lead. I would lead the diamond queen, assuming that a club lead would be no more passive, but that we might negotiate a ruff or over-ruff this way.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ K 7 5 4
 9 5 3
 Q 7
♣ J 5 4 2
South West North East
      1 ♠
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 4 ♠ 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, May 5th, 2019

I know you are fan a of opener raising his partner’s one-level response with three trumps rather than introducing a second suit or making a flawed one-no-trump rebid. How does responder diagnose the 4-3 fit? And why not rebid one no-trump with only three trumps if the hand is almost balanced?

Butterfingers, Cartersville, Ga.

I believe raising partner is the best way to get to game when you do have a fit — and to stay low when you know you don’t. Hands with a small doubleton and three reasonable trumps often offer as much trump support as balanced hands with four trumps. If responder needs to know, one way is to ask with Spiral Scan. This is a relay of two no-trump after the raise. The four step responses show three trumps (minimum), three trumps (maximum), four trumps (minimum) and four trumps (maximum), respectively.

I assume that you would be comfortable in responding one spade to one heart with this hand: ♠ A-Q-9-6-4,  4,  J-7-5-2, ♣ 10-8-6. When partner rebids two diamonds, are you supposed to raise or pass? If you would let sleeping dogs lie here, how much more would you need before you raise?

Jump Street Jimmy, Salinas, Calif.

I would pass, expecting there was a fair chance that if game could make, partner would have done more at his second turn. But change the diamond jack to the queen, and I’d dredge up a raise to three diamonds. Even at teams, going plus is more important than stretching for what would surely be a thin game.

I play rubber bridge every week with the same group of women. One of the players seems to get all the cards. Over the years, would you not expect the cards to average out?

Calendar Girl, Springfield, Ill.

The Dyspeptics Club stories are based on a real player (now dead) who used to say: “It’s not the cards; it is how much I get out of them.” But, of course, he was the luckiest player you ever saw in your life. I don’t know any other player who would admit to having had his fair share of the cards at rubber, but the laws of probability have not been seriously impeached in the last 400 years.

I opened one heart, holding ♠ A-Q-2,  A-J-7-3-2,  Q-10-3-2, ♣ Q, and when my partner bid a game-forcing two clubs, I had a comfortable bid of two diamonds. Now my partner bid three clubs, and since we were in a game-force, I bid three no-trump. My partner said that this action was premature — what do you think?

Sausages, Dover, Del.

With weaker spades or more values, I might probe for three no-trump, since I would not be prepared to end the auction by bidding it myself. I agree that if your partner has seven good clubs plus a couple of working aces and kings, you might make 12 tricks; singleton honors in partner’s suit are always hard to evaluate. Even so, I think a bid of three no-trump is your only practical call here.

You recently answered a letter about splinters, suggesting that immediate splinters might be limited in strength by the failure to use a Jacoby two-no-trump call. What about splinters by opener at his second turn? How much do they promise in the way of extras?

Strawberry Shortcake, Panama City, Fla.

A splinter by opener after a response at the one-level shows 17-20 in high cards, give or take. You do not have to make such a call when facing a passed hand, in that you may jump to game with low slam potential. A splinter facing a game-forcing two-level response should be better than minimum, but it doesn’t guarantee real extras.


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, May 4th, 2019

The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork.

James Joyce


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

*Checkback Stayman

♣K

Tim Bourke, one of my Australian bridge-playing friends, has a splendid eye for a good deal. He is also an outstanding player who has only been kept from representing Australia because of ill health. But his wife, Margi, has been a regular on the Australian team over the last few decades.

Bourke played this one recently against a computer, finding the way to overcome an extremely unpleasant break. He declared six hearts on the lead of the club king to the ace. A low heart to dummy brought forth the bad news. But he put up the heart queen and correctly decided he needed East to have started with precisely a 3=5=3=2 or 4=5=3=1 shape. He next led the heart three from dummy to the nine and king. Having forced a high heart spot out of East, he cashed dummy’s top diamonds, pitching clubs, then led the heart eight, covered by the 10 and king.

In the six-card ending, there was only one way home. He crossed to a top spade in dummy to ruff a club to hand, then took the spade queen and went back to the spade king. East had been forced to follow to every trick thus far and was down to the J-5 of hearts, while South had only the trump seven left.

However, for the final two tricks, he could lead a minor from dummy and score his heart seven either at this trick or the next. This play, when you score a trick by leading a plain card and over-ruffing your opponent, is called a coup en passant.



Without the overcall, you would have bid two no-trump, of course. As it is, you cannot bid two no-trump now, but if you play support doubles to show three spades, that would be ideal. Without that gadget, I would jump to three spades, since a cue-bid should be a game force and the hand is not worth that.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K 3
 Q 8 3
 A K Q 8
♣ 10 6 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ 2 ♣
?      

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, May 3rd, 2019

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.

Stephen Hawking


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

*Balanced slam try for spades

Q

Today’s deal shows how a careful declarer can find an unlikely extra chance in a situation where the success or failure of his contract appears to depend on one thing only. Having been given that huge hint, be honest: How would you play six spades on a top heart lead from West?

I’m absolutely confident that a significant percentage of bridge players (hopefully not my readers!) would win the heart and draw trumps, then take an early diamond finesse of the jack. The good news is that the finesse will work; the bad news is that the 4-1 break will leave you helpless.

But what is the hurry to take that finesse? Win the heart lead and draw trumps in three rounds, then cash all the club winners and exit with the second heart. You aren’t giving up anything, but you force the defenders to give you a ruff-sluff or lead diamonds for you. Say West wins the heart and leads a low diamond. You capture East’s card, go to dummy with the diamond king, and have a marked finesse against East’s remaining diamonds. On any other defense, you can discard a diamond from one hand and ruff in the other. Then you can take the diamond finesse against the queen and claim 12 tricks.

This line of play never loses when the contract can be made, and it ensures you can always survive the 4-1 diamond breaks with the queen onside.



Unless playing with an extremely conservative partner, I would advocate passing here. When you doubled two hearts in direct seat, you showed a shape-suitable opening bid at the very least. Partner had ways to invite game and chose not to. With bad breaks on the horizon and the defenders’ high cards in the minors likely to be over your aces, is it really worth another try? I don’t think so.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 9 4 3
 A 7
 A J 8 2
♣ A 6 3
South West North East
      2
Dbl. 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, May 2nd, 2019

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


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

A

It is never a good idea to criticize your opponents’ methods to their faces; behind their backs is another matter. If you make the mistake of commenting unfavorably, then you slip up in the play, they won’t forgive and forget — as today’s deal shows.

South asked about the four-diamond call and feigned disbelief that it was natural rather than a heart raise. But he bid four spades anyway, against which West cashed his singleton diamond ace before switching to a heart.

Declarer won, drew trumps in two rounds, cashed his other top heart and led a low club toward the dummy. The bidding had marked West with the club ace, and declarer had planned to continue the attack on clubs if West followed low. In that case, declarer would have taken the queen and would then have covered East’s jack or ducked the nine on the next round. Then he would have set up the 13th club for the discard he needed.

But West saw the danger and cunningly put in the 10 on the first round of clubs. Now, whatever South tried, East was bound to gain the lead with a club and cash the diamond king for down one. Then West added salt to the wound by pointing out the winning line on the deal. Can you spot it?

Declarer must eliminate hearts and throw West in with his spade queen! (If West unblocks that card, declarer can endplay him with the trump four if he is careful.) Then West must lead clubs or yield a ruff-sluff, and the trick comes back with interest.



You may not have a great hand, but you already denied any real values when you bid only three spades at your first turn. That said, do you trust your partner enough to play him for the slam-try he has already shown? If you do, then I think you must bid more than four spades now. Inventing a four-heart cue-bid or jumping to five spades might be best now.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 10 8 5 3
 Q J
 9 3
♣ Q 7 4 2
South West North East
  3 Dbl. Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 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, May 1st, 2019

I’ll bet my money on the bobtail nag
Somebody bet on the bay.

Stephen Foster


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

*Puppet to three clubs

K

Bridge players love to complain, and picking up a complete Yarborough — a hand with no card higher than a nine — offers the perfect opportunity. In the days of whist, Lord Yarborough offered insurance of 1,000 to 1 against the chance of picking up such a hand. Of course, as is usual in such cases, the bookmaker had rigged the calculation in his favor: The true odds are actually 1,827 to 1.

In today’s deal, South bought his Yarborough in dummy, but he managed to exploit its meager assets in an elegant fashion for the equivalent of a trick. See if you can do the same.

When West cashes the heart king and continues with the ace against four spades, you must plan the play. Suppose you ruff, then draw trumps. Now you will find that you are out of trumps, and the defenders will run hearts on you after you have dislodged the club ace.

You must therefore follow the sound principle of trying to set up your side suit when your trump holding is tenuous. Ruff the second heart, then go after clubs, leading the king in the hope that the defenders win their ace and either don’t have a ruff or fail to take it.

After East wins his ace, he plays back another heart. Now comes the second key move. You must not ruff, but instead pitch a diamond from your hand. At this point, dummy will be out of hearts, so dummy’s singleton spade protects you against further forces in hearts.

No matter what the defenders play, you can win and draw trumps, happy to find that they break 4-3. You can next unblock your high clubs and overtake the eight, eventually discarding your last diamond on the fifth club.



I can see the attraction of heading for six clubs, but with so many holes to fill, this hand seems more about game than slam. Four spades may be considerably easier to make than five clubs, so I would simply bid four spades now. For slam to make, you would need partner to have an ace and either long clubs or the diamond king.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K Q J 6
 7
 A J 10
♣ K Q J 8
South West North East
      3
Dbl. Pass 4 ♣ 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, April 30th, 2019

There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country. … Life is unfair.

John F. Kennedy


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

10

Bridge is often unfair, and while pairs often reveals that more than other modes of the game, today’s deal would have been painful for the defense and delicious for declarer under any form of scoring.

The auction went swimmingly for North-South until North’s final pass. He should have known that his combination of singleton diamond and bad hearts facing likely shortage meant he should bid four spades. Of course, had he done so, South would have gone one down quietly in his game for a below-average score.

As it was, West led the diamond 10 to trick one, and declarer was happy to grab a cheap trick in the form of the diamond queen. It then seemed logical to establish a spade trick without letting East in. So declarer laid down the spade king and advanced the spade 10, covered all around as West pitched a diamond.

The bad trump break wasn’t good news, but at least South could see what the fate of four spades would have been. He cashed three top clubs, pitching a spade from hand, and led a heart to his jack and West’s queen. West exited with the ace and another diamond, South won that, returned a diamond and took the last two heart tricks to make his game. Had West exited with a low heart instead of two rounds of diamonds, declarer would have cashed his heart winners and led a low diamond. Whichever defender won that trick would have had to give declarer a trick in his hand in diamonds or a spade in dummy.



I am torn here between bidding no-trump and raising clubs; if the latter, I wonder what level to raise to. The problem is that if North is short in hearts, we might make game in clubs (and would go down in three no-trump), but my partner will not know his cards are fitting. Still, a raise to three clubs is the value bid, and with no side-suit aces, part-score is likely to be the limit if partner holds a minimum.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 9 4
 10 6 4 3
 Q
♣ A Q 8 4
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: Monday, April 29th, 2019

It is characteristic of mankind to make as little adjustment as possible in customary ways in the face of new conditions.

Robert and Helen Lynd


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

♠2

After identical auctions, both West players in a team game led a fourth-highest spade two against three no-trump rather than a second-highest spot-card.

At the first table, when declarer played low from dummy, East won with his king and counted the outstanding high cards. As he had 10 points, dummy had 7, and he knew of 20 or so to his left, West could have at most 3 points. There was very little future in spades; one more spade trick would not defeat the contract. East decided to play West for three or four clubs and a red-suit king or the club queen. So, he continued with a low club at trick two.

Declarer won the trick in dummy to run the diamond jack. West took this with the king and continued the attack on clubs. East won his club ace and king and cashed his remaining club to defeat the contract.

At the other table, declarer planned the play in some detail at trick one, counting eight likely tricks in the form of the spade ace, four hearts and three diamonds. While a ninth could come from one of the black suits, declarer saw that if East had the spade king, that player might find the unwelcome shift to a club at trick two.

So declarer took the spade ace at once, then ran the diamond nine. West won the trick with the diamond king, and declarer claimed the contract: The defenders could take a spade and two clubs, but that was all. Declarer would set up a ninth trick from one of the black suits sooner or later.



Unless they are extremely subtle and devious, your opponents have conducted an auction that suggests they have a heart weakness. As long as you have no reason to suspect them of being confidence tricksters, lead the heart king and try to hit declarer’s soft underbelly.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ J 10 8 6 4
 K 5
 8 7 5 2
♣ 8 2
South West North East
      1 ♣
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣
Pass 2 Pass 3 ♣
Pass 5 ♣ 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, April 28th, 2019

When a deal is passed out on the first round of a duplicate, are we allowed to re-deal the hand without asking the director for permission?

Thrown for a Loop, Naples, Fla.

While the paying customer has one fewer deal to play because of the throw-in, that would be missing the point. Say I or my partner had passed a hand others might open. Should we not get the good or bad result from that decision? Also, you can be confident that on most pass-outs, someone, somewhere, will find a reason to bid, no matter how flimsy the pretext.

If a defender shows his card, when may he be excused from playing that card, assuming it has not actually been put on the table? I thought I was allowed to change my mind here.

Faulty Towers, Wilmington, N.C.

There are different rules for declarer and the defenders. For declarer, a card has to be played — or the equivalent of played — rather than accidentally dropped. (Declarer doesn’t have a partner who might benefit from unauthorized information.) For the defenders, a card is played if it is actually or potentially in view. Thus, a partly or wholly visible card is normally treated as played.

I picked up ♠ 9-4,  7-4-2,  A-Q-7-5-3, ♣ K-3-2 and heard one club from my partner, then one spade on my right. Is this hand suitable for a negative double? I thought not, so I passed, and now a raise to two spades was passed back to me. What would be appropriate now?

Lurking Warbeck, Dodge City, Kan.

You were right not to double or bid two diamonds, though you might take the latter action as a passed hand. Here, I’d bid two no-trump at my second turn if I trusted my partner to be fully present. A call of two no-trump is logically take-out for the minors, not natural. It denies four clubs, since I would already have raised if I had that hand. Something like this hand would therefore be perfect for the call.

Is there a simple way to learn the rules for the percentages as they apply to calculating how the opponents’ missing cards might divide?

Life’s a Bore(l), Honolulu, Hawaii

In broad terms, two missing cards will probably split, but in all other cases, an even number of missing cards will probably not divide evenly. The odds of them splitting exactly are slightly more than 1 in 3 in most cases, while a one-from-even split is a 50-50 shot. An odd number of cards split as close to evenly as possible, with odds about 2 in 3 for that. Start from those numbers; for other cases, the more normal the split, the more likely it is.

I was second to speak, with ♠ A-8,  A-Q-7-3-2,  J-4-3-2, ♣ A-4, and I opened one heart. The next hand doubled, and my partner jumped to three hearts. I passed, and we missed a game. Afterward, he said there was no way to show less than a limit raise but more than a pre-empt. He mentioned the concept of a mixed raise. Have you heard of this call?

Mixed Nuts, Detroit, Mich.

A mixed raise is a jump cue-bid in competition, facing an overcall, to show a four-card raise with 6-9 points or so. It is mixed, as it has the shape for a pre-emptive raise and the values for a single raise. Since this call has no other useful meaning, it makes good sense to play this convention — as long as your partnership has agreed. One could also use the jump in the unbid major after a major suit is doubled to show precisely this hand; so here, a call of two spades would show this.


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.

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