The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 26th, 2012
I have a question about opening strategy. Recently we won a recent team-of-four league match, and this hand was pivotal. I was dealt ♠ A-8, ♥ K-J-9-8-3-2, ♦ 9-2, ♣ 8-7-3. I chose to bid two hearts (which got us to an easy game, while our teammates stole the board in spades). What do you advise on opening either vulnerable or not?
Get Up and Go, Lorain, Ohio
I would advocate opening this hand at any vulnerability. I like my weak-two suits nonvulnerable to hold two of the top four cards — this suit qualifies because with the spade ace, my playing strength is as expected. I'd consider it a dead minimum at unfavorable vulnerability, but I'd still do it.
Is there anything to be said for balancing over a strong no-trump with a five-card major, even in a relatively flat hand? Would vulnerability (or your status as a passed hand) affect the odds?
Balancing Act, Worcester, Mass.
It is MUCH safer to balance over a strong no-trump than a weak no-trump. Partner won't take you so seriously and look for gold by inviting game. Equally, if nonvulnerable, you do not run the risk of going for 200. I'm most aggressive when both sides are nonvulnerable, far more cautious when both sides are vulnerable. I would not advocate balancing with a five-carder in a balanced hand, but two-suiters or the like should try to balance. This is especially so as a passed hand, where partner won't expect too much.
Where does the modern expert community stand on the double of four of a major – as an opening or an overcall: penalties, optional or takeout?
Red Flag, Dodge City, Kan.
I think most people treat a double of four hearts as primarily closer to takeout than penalties. In response to that double, with four spades one tends to bid the suit, or with extra shape in a two- or three-suited hand, one strains to act. The position is less clear facing a double of four spades. The double might be described as optional, meaning responder acts if he believes they can make what they bid. A balanced weak hand rates to pass and hope.
At rubber bridge I held ♠ A-9, ♥ Q-10-7, ♦ K-J-2, ♣ A-5-4-3-2 and responded two clubs to one spade. Over my partner's two-heart rebid I tried two no-trump, forcing, and now my partner bid three diamonds. What should I have done now?
Lucy Locket, Lakeland, Fla.
Your partner has suggested length (possibly only three cards) in diamonds. In context your side might make slam in a major. I'd start by giving preference to three spades, and if my partner bids three no-trump, I might advance with a four-club bid. I wouldn't be surprised if six hearts was best, though.
I have been "drafted" to teach a course in basic bridge at my senior citizen center, all because I opened my big mouth and mentioned that I used to play duplicate bridge in Manhattan. I was only (and still am) a mediocre player. Could you please recommend a book that would be suitable for my future students?
Student Teacher, Manhattan, N.Y.
"Five Weeks to Winning Bridge" by Sheinwold is a great book to learn from, but the Audrey Grant series of teaching books is far and away the best educational tool. Contact ACBL and they will help with details.