Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 8th, 2013

You hear two spades to your left, passed around to you, and you are holding ♠ 10-2,  K-Q-7-5-4,  Q-9, ♣ A-Q-5-4. Would you balance, and with what? And would the form of scoring influence your decision?

On the Spot, Grand Junction, Colo.

I don't think you can pass, but whether you balance with a double –catering to the penalty pass from partner — or a three-heart call to get your main feature across, is up to you. I vote for the double; we might find clubs or hearts just as often as diamonds. And yes, I'd bid at any form of scoring or vulnerability — they don't get to push me around!

At a club duplicate game, my partner opened one club and I held ♠ A-J-10-5-4,  J-5-4,  Q, ♣ A-K-7-4. I responded one spade, then over his two-club call I took a chance at three no-trump. We lost the first five tricks in diamonds. How would you have handled the bidding?

Sucker-Punched, Montreal

You have given me a chance to expound on a subtle principle that might get past quite a few good players. Since two diamonds at my second turn would obviously be forcing, showing diamond values if not necessarily length, is a call of three diamonds "more" forcing? Surely not! If a call at one level is forcing and natural, a bid one level higher in the same suit is a splinter-bid, showing shortage and agreeing on partner's suit. So bid three diamonds.

What simple agreement should one have when partner opens a suit, the next hand doubles, and you redouble? Given that this suggests invitational values or better, how far forcing is this, and what do subsequent doubles show? If penalties, would three trumps suffice?

Lightning in a Bottle, Riverside, Calif.

Unless you are facing a third-in-hand opening, which might be shaded, redouble guarantees a second call, with subsequent doubles strongly suggesting defending from either side. Yes, one might make the call with three good trumps if there is no fit for your side and the vulnerability argued for it. Opener, especially, should double when he can with three trumps and defense.

How do you apply the rule of 11 if using third-and-fifth (or third-and-lowest) leads?

Higher Math, Macon, Ga.

If the lead is third highest, subtract the spot-card lead from 12. The result is the number of cards higher than the lead held by the other three players. If a fifth-highest lead — and you will normally be able to work out from the auction which one it is — subtract the card led from 10. So if a fifth-highest two is led, subtract two from 10. The other three players have eight higher cards in that suit.

In second seat, I picked up ♠ A-K-Q-J,  10,  A-K-J-7, ♣ 10-9-8-2. My RHO opens one spade. I chose to pass, and the auction continued with one no-trump on my left and two spades on my right. I now doubled. Was it for penalties? And if my partner runs, what does an escape to two no-trump suggest?

Passing Fancy, Elkhart, Ind.

Your first pass makes sense, as opposed to doubling, since you do not really want to convert two hearts to two no-trump or three of a minor. Double on the second round is best played as heavy penalty or light takeout — Partner should know which! If he escapes, then a bid of two no-trump would be scrambling – suggesting two or more places to play.

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ClarksburgDecember 22nd, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Basic-level question unrelated to today’s column:
It’s about game tries in an unobstructed auction which starts 1Major>>raised to 2.
Partner and I have adopted Bergen’s suggestion whereby Opener’s 2NT requests Responder go to game with a shapely max and Opener’s other-suit bid shows a shortage, thus helping Responder in evaluation.
Would appreciate your comments on the above approach; what approach you would recommend; and how the straightforward 1M>>2M>>3M might fit into the overall picture.
Many thanks.

Bobby WolffDecember 22nd, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Bergen’s suggestions appear AOK with me since both his 2NT rebid by opener, asking partner to jump to 4 with a shapely max (or perhaps semi-max) and also his alternative of, if not rebidding 2NT, but rather shortness allows the responder to devalue kings and queens, in partner’s short suit and upgrade both xxx(x) and Axx(x) especially the 4 card holding.

Also IM-2M-3M should be preemptive, not invitational, in order to make it more difficult for the opponents to balance (come into the bidding) because of the increased level. Examples being: AQJxxx, x, Kx, Jxxx or KQJxx, Qx, KQxxx, x. By rebidding the trump suit at the 3 level before the opponents come in might result in a good result (even if down 1 or even 2 (NV)), especially against opponents who require more than others, about immediately coming into the bidding.

However knowing the tendencies of your particular opponents may allow you to steal the contract at two instead of wasting tactics on them, when it is apparently not necessary.

ClarksburgDecember 22nd, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Many thanks!
In particular about the pre-emptive re-raise to three.
Based largely upon regularly following your Blog, Partner and I are just now smartening up to bid against our real, live, known opponents, rather than a hypothetical phantom in a book.
I already know which opponents are going to receive which treatment from us!!