Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 19th, 2014

I held ♠ Q-J-8-7,  9-4,  Q-7-6-3, ♣ A-Q-4 and passed in first chair. When my partner opened one heart, I was afraid that a one-spade response would lead to our missing game, so I tried two no-trump. That was not a success. Would a call of two spades have been better?

Young Lochinvar, Spartanburg, S.C.

Let's first discuss what a jump by a passed hand should be. I say it can't be natural and weak — you would already have opened. Nor can it show a good hand, for the same reason. The only logical reason for jumping is that you have a real fit for opener. So here a simple call of one spade is enough. Partner will always raise with four, and if he has three and a minimum, what game will you have missed?

At matchpoint pairs you hold ♠ Q-J-9-7-2,  7-4,  9-6-3, ♣ A-K-3. When your partner opens one diamond, you respond one spade, and your partner rebids three diamonds. What is your call? I knew bidding three no-trump with that heart holding was dangerous, but could not see any other way to get to the no-trump game from here.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Texarkana, Texas

My belief is that responder's jump to three diamonds should be forcing to game — unless responder passes right now. So responder can make a forcing rebid of three spades (he doesn't mind being raised with honor doubleton) and opener will bid three no-trump. Responder rates to have clubs rather than hearts controlled, or he could temporize by bidding three hearts over three diamonds at his second turn.

When should one be prepared to bid no-trump with an open suit? I had an unsuccessful experiment yesterday, holding ♠ 4,  K-7,  A-5-3, ♣ A-K-J-6-4-3-2. I opened one club, my partner responded one heart, and my RHO pre-empted to three diamonds. I guessed to rebid three no-trump, and the opponents cashed five spade tricks, while my partner turned purple.

Unprepared, Anchorage, Alaska

I wish all my partners were always brave enough to bid three no-trump on hands like this. I think you made the right call — bidding four clubs figures to take you past your side's most likely game. You were unlucky, that's all. What is the chance that your LHO had five decent spades and didn't bid initially?

We were both vulnerable at Chicago Bridge when my LHO opened three hearts. My partner doubled for takeout, and my RHO bid four hearts. Holding ♠ 4-2,  9-4,  K-J-5-3-2, ♣ K-10-5-4, I passed, and we defended against four hearts down a trick, but we could have made five clubs. Should I have bid, passed, or doubled?

Huntington, W. Va.

If you feel the need to act, it must be right to bid four no-trump over four hearts. This is neither Blackwood nor to play, but shows both minors and asks partner to pick one. It is one of the more common meanings of four no-trump in competitive auctions. However, it is certainly not clear to bid here. Change your major-suit pattern to 3-1 (either way) and bidding would be far more attractive.

I read in a recent column that after an unopposed sequence (two clubs – two diamonds – two spades), responder should bid two no-trump with a 2-4-2-5 pattern instead of three clubs. (His seven-count consisted of four hearts to the king-queen and five clubs to the queen.) Apparently, the latter call would be construed as a second negative. However, instead of wrong-siding the no-trump, why not bid three hearts? This would allow partner to bid the no-trump game from the right side.

Early Warner, Waterbury, Conn.

I think a call of three hearts here should show a five-card suit, not four. You'd be worried if partner raised you, in case you were in a 4-3 (or even a 4-2) fit with no-trump better — and played the wrong way up to boot! But I agree it might work.

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Bill CubleyFebruary 2nd, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

Re responding to 2 clubs.

I bid 5 card majors aggressively rather than wait for the rebid. I guarantee enough points for game or more. I also do not believe in specific honor holdings, Opener has over half the high cards in the deck. The purpose of bidding is communicating, With 2 club openers as opposed to 2NT openers it is not as vital for a up to declarer.

A 2NT response shows game going values and at least 4-4 in the minors.

Your thought are appreciated even if you think I should change my methods.

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Hi Bill,

Your subject of responses to a usual game forcing opening bid of 2 clubs would take a much longer time than either of us have, so let us just discuss the basic caveats.

When partner opens 2 clubs he will almost always have only 2 types of hands:

1. A strong hand of at least 22 HCPs but balanced and fit for either NT or a major suit fit.

2. A forcing to game hand blessed with either 1 or 2 suits, and if 2 both being strong enough.

Because of the above, the responder should only bid his own suit while holding a good enough suit to fit a reasonable catch in your soon-to-be dummy such as a minimum Axx, KQx or at least KJx. Remember that over a waiting bid of 2 diamonds (which most every expert partnership plays who don’t respond controls immediately) the big hand will respond in NT enabling Stayman, Transfers and Minor Suit conventions to come into play.

It also then enables the strong 2 bidder to bid his suit or suits at a lower level with the idea of first picking strain (which suit) and then exchanging information on eventually what level, certainly including slams.

With that as a backdrop it is easy to then understand that if a responder does not bid 2 diamonds, but rather a suit himself it must be at least 5 and a good enough suit to probably, after finding some kind of fit in it, not have a loser within.

From there we could go into many different ways to continue but that is where it will take much time to get our methods straight enough to reach the right contract at least 90% of the time, because, if not, we will never achieve anywhere near the success we both must want to demand.

ClarksburgFebruary 2nd, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Seems to me (average intermediate Club player) that waiting makes a lot of sense (responder can make the constructive suit bid when he has it, or wait for Opener’s further description of his hand. Whereas “immediate controls” seems to cut responder off from describing his hand, and seems to further imply that Opener will be wearing the Captain’s hat.
No doubt top experts have intricate agreements. But could you comment on the general pros and cons of “waiting” versus “immediate showing of controls” for ordinary mortals?

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Hi OM (ordinary mortal),

While control showing responses require planning within the partnership, when, and if, the strong hand either has an independent suit of his own (AKQJxx) or something similarly solid or a two suiter, then controls will probably work best since all the opening bidder now needs to do is either name his suit, or if a 2 suiter find which of the two suits partner fits best and head for the heavens.

However when the big hand is balanced then the waiting response of 2 diamonds will usually be better since the strain may take longer to identify and thus more room is needed.

I’ve played it both ways (Aces Club) where 1 club is forcing and partner immediately names controls and of course, mostly now play it standard with ordinary responses (noted above).

As to which is best, it probably depends on the personalities of the partnership and, of course, the particular cards which Dame Fortune deals.

ClarksburgFebruary 3rd, 2014 at 2:26 am

So…Dame Fortune Rules.
Presumably she’ll hand out 2C openers that are more likely to be balanced than highly-unbalanced, and combined resources that are less likely to belong in slam than just in the “right” game.
So…guess I’ll stick with “waiting’…but dress it up with a name, “WOWOM” (Weak Or Waiting for Ordinary Mortals) or perhaps even “upside-down WOMOM”.
This post is an example what can happen when the football game is a yawner.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Because of the 2 weeks waiting period, January 5th could be one of two, but I will choose this one to further expound.

The waiting 2 diamond response is the more popular choice among up and coming players, simply because it is more widely accepted and thus easier to switch partnerships for those who are not committed to only one.

Also the control showing responses usually begins a captaincy to the recipient of that information and thus it is sometimes difficult for the original responder to have the room to mention a very good suit of his, although there could well be jump bids in response which supersede the control ask, Next, whenever artificial bids are used (although with waiting 2 diamond bids they are also involved) it gives an opponent the advantage of suggesting the right lead whenever Dame Fortune deals his partner the opening lead.

Having discussed the above perhaps the conclusion should be that “waiting” is less confusing more prevalent and wider understood, but perhaps controls is the slightly better way to move quicker up the ladder with fast arriving laydown contracts based on the specific high card structure of the original responder.

I hope I have satisfied your curiosity without boring you, although I have not said very much, especially critical things to remember.