Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Occasionally I see discussions on whether there is a need for responder to find out more about opener's hand-type, when the latter opens in a minor, then raises responder's major-suit to the two-level. The objective might be both to define range and the number of trumps held in support. I imagine, as someone who advocates the liberal use of three-card raises, that you would concur.

Mister Bluesky, Union City, Tenn.

It is possible to use the first available step by responder after opener's simple raise of a major as a relay. Equally, though, simply playing new suits as forcing, promising game-invitational values or better, with two no-trump as natural and nonforcing, makes equal sense. And it is certainly easier to remember.

How valuable is a five-card suit facing a no-trump opening? When should one add on a point for it, in deciding whether to invite, pass, or drive to game?

Doubting Thomas, Midland, Mich.

You can simply add on a point for any five-card suit headed by a top honor in counting your points facing a no-trump opening. Conversely, mentally devalue honors in short suits; and if you transfer and partner simply completes the transfer, when in doubt, pass rather than inviting. Never do less than invite with nine points, but be careful of inviting with eight till you have found a fit, and maybe not even then.

How should I play the jump to three no-trump facing a major-suit opening bid? If it shows a balanced hand, should it promise or deny three trumps?

Skipped Class, Cartersville, Ga.

I'd advocate playing it as nonforcing, 14-16, with two-card support for partner. If you had three trumps, then you should have a double guard in all of the side-suits. If playing Jacoby two no-trump, then you will need to bid two of a minor with 12-13 points. A sensible alternative, however, is to play it as showing a good pre-emptive raise to four of partner's major. That lets the jump to four of the major be a weak freak with no slam interest.

I was faced with a sequence where I did not know what to do. I held ♠ Q-5,  K-Q-8-5,  9-6-4-2, ♣ J-3-2. My LHO opened one diamond, my partner overcalled one spade, and my RHO doubled, negative. My LHO rebid two clubs, passed back to me. Do I have the values or trump support to bid two spades here? It worked very badly in practice.

Unbalanced, Edmonton, Alberta

You had the right idea with your two-spade call here. This suggests scattered values but uninspiring spade support. With better spades you would have raised directly, and with more points you would have bid one no-trump at your previous turn. The problem is that sometimes one bids this way with three small trumps and less than the values for a direct raise. Partner may have to guess which you have.

When you open one spade with ♠ A-Q-9-5-2,  Q-5,  K-J-9-4, ♣ 9-6, what are you supposed to do when you hear a two-club overcall, passed back to you? The choice seems to be to bid two diamonds, double for takeout, or pass, playing partner to be weak. As a separate issue, what are the ethical implications of acting after partner has paused, or passing after your RHO has taken time over his action?

No Way Out, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

You must not take any advantage of information conveyed to you by your partner's tempo or demeanor. You may at your own risk draw inferences from your opponents' behavior. And they are not permitted to deliberately mislead you. On your actual hand all three actions make sense here, but if my RHO paused, I would definitely pass, and would surely feel ethically constrained to do so if my partner had broken tempo to suggest values.

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angelo romanoOctober 12th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Hi Bobby,
what about playing the jump to three no-trump facing a 1S opening as unspecified mini splinter; while over 1H, 3N is a real splinter in spades, and 3S the mini splinter ?

And holding ♠ Q-5, ♥ K-Q-8-5, ♦ 9-6-4-2, ♣ J-3-2, LHO opening one diamond, partner overcalling one spade, and RHO doubling, negative: what about redoubling ?
Thanks for your dedication to us all

bobby wolffOctober 12th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Hi Angelo,

Thanks for the kind words and the word dedication should apply to all who write on this site in favor of our wonderful game.

First a mini splinter is intended as a NGF and only forcing to 3 of that major, making it necessary to have a jump to the three level, below in rank to the subject major (thereby having to create artificiality to show shortness in spades for a heart contract).

If you and your favorite partner like that particular gadget, by all means adopt it, but for me, I rather just take my chances at game rather than use science, while at the same time, arm the opponents with considerable knowledge, especially in their opening lead and then extra information when the opening bidder either accepts or denies. With the enemy always intercepting our messages, it becomes doubtful (at least to me) of its advantage.

With the hand from the Sunday column, most very experienced, high-level players would play redouble as informing partner that this hand probably belongs to our side rather than to theirs. For that to likely be the case we would need another ace (or so) and not make this hand a good example of such.

However, rather than meekly not compete when 2 clubs is passed around to me, a mild raise to 2 spades merely is intended to use our master suit to force our worthy opponents up one level or else try and defeat us, a choice most tough minded players will now have to make, but against their will, which, in turn, will speak well for our overall strategy.