Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 9th, 2014

How do I learn to keep track of the cards? I find myself forgetting the missing spots, or even mis-remembering the count at the critical moment.

Mind Gamer, Duluth, Minn.

When counting trumps, look at your own hand and dummy's and remember how many are missing. Then don't think about your own trumps anymore; just tick off the opponents' trumps mentally as you go through the hand. You do not have to count all the suits all the time, but on each deal focus on the suit or suits you think of as critical.

Would you consider overcalling one heart over one diamond with: ♠ J-3,  A-J-8-3-2,  J-5-3, ♣ Q-10-4. My partner told me afterwards that while he respected my right not to do so, it was normal if aggressive to act. Please clarify for me how the form of scoring and vulnerability might affect the decision?

Staying Mum, Honolulu, Hawaii

With the heart 10 instead of the two I would overcall at any vulnerability or position. With the actual hand when vulnerable, no matter what the form of scoring, it is reasonable to pass this hand rather than make an overcall that consumes no space. However, I suspect when non-vulnerable it would be the majority expert position to overcall. One should also be a little more prudent when partner is a passed hand.

In a match where I was playing at the other table, one of our teammates picked up a one-count with the spade jack and 10 and 4-3-3-3 shape. He responded two diamonds to two clubs and passed his partner's two spade rebid — making five facing a 29-count. How far forcing is the two-club bid, and what should one do with a bust at one's second turn?

Hero to Zero, Ketchikan, Alaska

Two clubs is a game force except on two well-defined auctions. These are when opener rebids a major and repeats that major over a second negative – I advocate using three clubs to say that, so this is what I would have rebid with the one-count. A two no-trump rebid by opener shows 22-24 points and is also nonforcing.

Note that responder can jump to four spades over two spades with a very weak hand, and a doubleton plus three or four trumps. I wouldn’t do that with this flat a hand.

What is the best plan for a rebid with the following powerhouse? When you open one diamond and your partner responds one heart, how do you describe this hand at your next turn: ♠ J-3,  A-K-6,  A-Q-9-5-3, ♣ A-10-4? Are you supposed to rebid two no-trump with the spades wide open, or raise hearts, or bid clubs — or do something else?

Missing the Mark, Torrance, Calif.

A vote for three hearts, or even for two clubs, might represent a minority position. But I'm guessing most would opt for a semi-practical rebid of two no-trumps, getting the hand strength and nature across, while ignoring the lack of a spade stopper. Nothing's perfect, but this is less intellectual and more down to earth than anything else.

Yesterday we played a bridge hand which caused controversy. Holding: ♠ A-9-4-2,  A-10,  10-8-6-5, ♣ 9-5-3, my partner responded one spade to one club, then had to decide whether to raise his partner's two club rebid to three or whether to pass. Is this a close call? (For the record opener had a minimum hand with 1-5-1-6 pattern and very weak hearts plus very good clubs, so five clubs but not three no-trump was the place to play).

Minority Report, East Brunswick, N.J.

The hand is a toss-up between passing two clubs and raising to three clubs. I'd probably bid because of the aces but also to keep the opponents out. Now the 6-5 hand will surely bid three hearts, but I'm not sure if he will drive to five clubs over the weak hand's sign-off in four clubs.

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Iain ClimieNovember 23rd, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think Hugh Kelsey suggested a useful piece of advice for Mind Gamer. Run through hand and suit patterns (4-4-3-2, 4-4-4-1, 5-4-3-1, 4-3-3-3 at first, and then more exotics like 6-5-1-1) in your head until they become absolutely automatic. OK, you do get the odd funny look if you let your lips move, and I still have strange days when diamonds are 5-4-3-2, but it seems to help.



ClarksburgNovember 23rd, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Good Morning Bobby,
I just now added a question to yesterday’s BWTA discussion.

bobby wolffNovember 23rd, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comment is similar to mine. However, my explanation tends to not concentrate on hand distributions, but rather just numbers ruling one’s life.

Yes, hand distributions are definitely the numbers to think about, but in order for memory to be that important, I did not want to emphasize only hand distributions, since doing only just that, might seem boring.

No doubt, however, without, one nails down a low ceiling in which one can never rise above.

Thanks for your advice, which, I hope, all will take great heed.