The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 27th, 2012
I'm never sure whether the best strategy is one that yields the best percentage, or one that gives the defenders a chance to err. For example, with Q-10-x in dummy facing A-9-8-x in hand, how should I play the suit?
Tall Order, Richmond, Va.
The percentage line (which gives you a 76 percent chance of success) is to run the queen, then the 10 — or vice versa. But the best practical line is to lead low to the 10, and if it loses to the jack, run the queen. You give your LHO a chance to betray possession of the king, and that turns my line (which in theory has a 7 percent chance) into one with a far greater chance of success.
With no one vulnerable, would you overcall in third seat holding ♠ J-5-4, ♥ K-Q-9-5-4, ♦ 3-2, ♣ J-6-4 after your partner has passed and your RHO has bid one diamond? At the table I passed, and my partner did not find the heart lead that would have defeated three no-trump.
By the Book, Eau Claire, Wis.
I think that the hand you quote is NOT worth an overcall. I'd be more tempted to overcall one spade over a minor or even one heart over one club, but, as it is, the overcall takes up no space from the opponents. While I appreciate that I'm not really answering your question, I would overcall with as little extra as a black queen. Even the heart jack instead of a small heart would really tempt me to act when nonvulnerable.
You've mentioned the concept of a mixed raise from time to time. Please explain the concept. Do mixed raises still apply when overcaller is a passed hand?
The Raiser's Edge, Greenville, S.C.
A mixed raise is a jump cue-bid in the opponents' suit facing an overcall. They apply even when the overcaller or the player making the call is a passed hand. The name comes from the fact that the high cards are those associated with a single raise, but the shape is that of a pre-emptive raise. The range is 6-9 or so, and should not vary too much either by position or vulnerability.
Playing rubber bridge with both sides vulnerable, I dealt myself ♠ K-7-4, ♥ 5-4-2, ♦ A-J-9-4-3, ♣ K-2, and passed. My LHO also passed, and my partner bid four spades. Was I wrong to enter the auction now? I eventually bid Blackwood, and we played five spades when missing two aces. The contract hinged on a club finesse and went down one. (My partner had 8-2-0-3 shape with eight semisolid spades and the heart king.)
Diving into Hot Water, Springfield, Mass.
I think the result you achieved was not surprising. If you aren't good enough to open, then you can't really have enough to look for slam facing a hand that opens with a pre-empt and does not explore for slam. I'd have more sympathy if you had opened and then got too high for that reason.
When looking for a missing queen, should you play for the queen to lie over the jack? For instance, with a suit such as A-J-x facing K-10-8-x-x, how should you play?
Queen-Spotter, Houston, Texas
From a purely percentage perspective, playing the ace and running the jack picks up the singleton queen (as opposed to the first-round finesse) and also allows you to guard against a four-card suit to the Q-9 over the jack, so it is the right play. When in doubt, I finesse into the opponent I like more. That is as logical as any other approach.