Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 5th, 2014

What sort of values would you associate with the advance to one no-trump facing an overcall? Specifically, with: ♠ A-5-3-2,  A-Q-9-8-5,  K-2, ♣ J-4, would you overcall one heart over one club or would you double? And if you overcall and your partner responds one no-trump, what should you do next?

Entry-Level, Pueblo, Colo.

I don't hate doubling one club, but I would overcall and hope to find a way back into spades if appropriate. Your partner's one-no-trump call could be anywhere in the 7-11 range. I would guess to pass now, but if I could bid a second suit economically, I would do that.

Say you hold decent values and three-card support for your partner, the opening bidder, after a double to your right. Should I redouble, or to make some other call? With: ♠ 7-6-2,  A-6,  A-9-8-4-2, ♣ K-9-3, what is your best call after your partner opens one spade, and your RHO doubles? Do you raise partner, bid your suit, or redouble to show strength?

Call Waiting, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Without the double I'd go through the forcing no-trump (if I had it available) to show a limit raise, rather than force to game. My bad trumps mean I should pull in a notch here. Over a double, redouble shows 10 or more, tending to deny spade support. So I would redouble, then raise spades — indirectly suggesting good values but bad trumps.

What is the difference between an Eastern and a Western Cue-bid? Are both methods still in common usage — and are these still the common names for these calls?

Bicoastal, Worcester, Mass.

Before I answer, I remember the days when cue-bids below three no-trump showed a control in the opponent's suit and a slam-going hand! These days, most cheap cue-bids are attempts to reach three no-trump. Western Cue-bids are attempts to get to no-trump by asking partner for a stopper or half-stopper in the opponent's suit. Eastern Cue-bids are less popular in that they actually suggest a stopper.

My partner and I play weak-twos and are wondering whether we should play a convention recommended to us called McCabe, after the opponents double or overcall our bid?

Gas Fitter, Saint John's, Newfoundland

After a double of a weak-two, but not after an overcall — since you now rate to be on lead — one can play a redouble as strong, with raises natural and pre-emptive. New suits are natural and to play at the two-level, but lead-directing at the three-level, guaranteeing at least a partial fit, while jumps show decent suits together with a real fit for partner. To bail out into your own suit, bid two no-trump to puppet three clubs from your partner. Then you can name the final contract or show a high-card raise in your partner's suit.

I would like our partnership to have a simple rule to the effect that all doubles of our opponents' artificial trump raises (such as Drury or Bergen) request the lead of that suit. But is it ever better to play such doubles as takeout of the opponent's known suit?

Whacked Out, Charleston, S.C.

You should double an artificial no-trump response for takeout of the bid suit, but the blanket rule for all other sequences might well be to use value-showing doubles as lead-directing. The only exception might be to use the double of an artificial call that shows a raise with less than limit values as takeout of the agreed suit.

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ClarksburgOctober 19th, 2014 at 11:39 am

Good morning Mr. Wolff.
From a local Club game this week, hand selected for pre-game seminar next week.
Dealer held SJ54 H K6 D KJ10 C AJ854
Partner held S A108 H AQJ94 D Q5 C KQ10
Small slams in H and C making; 6NT not. Of eight plays, 6C and 6H reached only once each; four played in NT game contracts.
Would like your suggestions on how an effective auction might go, including merit of playing immediate jump shifts as strong, and also for finding the Diamond control.
Also, it now seems that any two 5332 hands may be somewhat awkward to bid to a suit contract. Any comment?

bobby wolffOctober 19th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Obviously an interesting hand, but one in which it becomes tedious to discuss right or wrong, but rather to better understand the difficulties in choosing the final contract and having to often deal with the unfair result obtained, since IMHO 6NT will make much more than expected, unless the opening leader was dealt both the KQ of spades and the ace of diamonds (in my calculation, perhaps an 1 in 8 probability (12 1/2%). Leading from an unsupported king or queen against a NT slam, bid with both of the good hands being balanced, would usually not be recommended, although a spade might sometimes be led from a hand with neither honor.

How about: With the partnership playing two way checkback Stayman (highly recommended by me) over a 1NT rebid:

Dealer Partner
1 club 1 heart
1 NT 2 diamonds* *CS
2 NT 3 Clubs
4 clubs (five) 4 spades (cue bid)
4 NT (minimum) 6 clubs

The dealer should love his king of hearts and his Jack of clubs but nothing else about his hand. Since the game is obviously matchpoints East, instead opts for clubs since he feels he is bidding a close slam and thus chooses what he thinks might be a safer slam (and certainly is).

I like immediate jump shifts to be strong, but only with an independent suit and/or a primary fit with partner. Neither does the partner have, so I would never jump shift with that hand. The disadvantage of jump shifiting is the loss of bidding room which sometimes makes the difference between a good and not so auction.

Here, the only help partner got from the dealer is his trusting partner with his going past 3NT on his 4th bid and confirming a decent 5 card suit with his 4 club choice. Partnerships need to develop confidence with one another in actually acting positively evaluating what partner is trying to say.

As soon as any player gets frivolous with the information he supplies, trust flies out the window, and in all likelihood never returns. Therefore respect and accountability reign supreme and are always demanded.

A top bridge partnership is not unlike a requirement of true love, wherein each partner must give maximum time and effort to each other, in order to have a happy ending.

Yes, balanced hands are difficult to bid to final suit contracts, especially at matchpoints where the reward is a bastardized one of playing to the trick awards of the different suits (and, of course, NT) rather than searching out NT for its higher trick score.

That is why I am crying out that 6NT would likely make and I am sorry for that to happen.

Warning: I expect the bidding diagram presentation to slide every which way, but I do not know how to keep it from happening.

David WarheitOctober 20th, 2014 at 1:00 am

W will have all 3 key honors 11% of the time (1/2x 12/25×11/24). However, if W has neither S honor, he might well lead a S against 3NT, and if he had DA & one S honor, he might also lead a S. So even at match points, 6N is not recommended.

bobby wolffOctober 20th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the accurate percentage prompt, which may help my future judgment, where the correct formula directly considers remaining empty spaces.

Old time advice about leading aggressively against a small slam with the thought of developing the setting trick on opening lead to go with the one to which we are entitled, always made good sense to me with spoken words and most importantly, at the table, but that late and great good idea usually pertained to opening lead choices against suit small slams, not NT slams where both opponents had balanced hands.

However this hand, like so often occurs, is set up to be an exception, making our unique mind game very unpredictable at times. This, in turn sometimes allows great upsets to occur which in physical sports (tennis and golf good examples) hardly ever do they occur.