The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 20th, 2013
My partner has been trying to persuade me to play suit-preference signals and discards. Where do you stand on attitude as opposed to suit preference?
Up and Down, Trenton, N.J.
In signaling I like attitude as the primary signal. I use count when I think partner knows my attitude — or he has specifically requested it. I do not use attitude on declarer's leads; I may use suit preference, but only if I think partner does not need to know my count. Suit preference in the trump suit IS a useful signal, since count in that suit is so often already established. And once both players know how a suit is divided, suit preference is very useful from the remaining holding.
I assume you would open this hand one diamond without a qualm: ♠ A-Q-3-2, ♥ J-2, ♦ K-Q-10-9-4, ♣ 10-6. But would you overcall two diamonds over one heart — or do you prefer either a pass or double?
Walter Mitty, Wilmington, N.C.
The overcall of two diamonds risks losing spades but pre-empts the opponents; the double risks finding clubs — and regretting it — but puts spades front and center. Much depends on your style of doubling; if you play fast and loose, as I tend to, the double is fine. Doublers who are more disciplined will overcall. Either is better than passing!
Please comment on the best use of five no-trump after asking for aces or for key cards. Does it always show possession of all the key cards, or can it be used to get to the best small slam?
Seasick, Mason City, Iowa
While I admit one would sometimes like to use the call to help in negotiating to the best small slam, that usage comes up too rarely. Better is to play it as looking for a grand slam and asking responder either to bid kings up the line, or to jump to a grand slam with undisclosed extras or a source of tricks.
Facing a two-club opening bid, would you respond two diamonds or two no-trump with ♠ 9-2, ♥ A-10-7-4, ♦ J-6-4, ♣ K-10-6-3? And what is the factor that makes you go one way or the other?
In the Bushes, Tupelo, Miss.
If you play the two-no-trump response as natural (say 8-10), this hand qualifies. My instincts are that the hand will play better your partner's way up, so I'd bid two diamonds and hope to catch up later.
I was watching bridge online when I saw experts do something strange after Stayman was doubled. What would you recommend Average Joes do here?
Fast Learner, Elkhart, Ind.
Make the normal response to Stayman with a club stopper, redouble to show good clubs, and pass without a stopper, when partner's redouble asks for a major again. Now if you want (and can remember), you may use transfers in response to get the hand declared the other way up. Two diamonds would show hearts, two hearts would show spades, and two no-trump denies a major. If that sounds too obscure, just respond as you usually would after the redouble.