Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 12th, 2015

I’m not sure what the technical merits of having the ranges of my two no-trump opening call as 20-21 or 20-22 might be. The same applies for the range of the two no-trump rebid after opening two clubs.

Stepping Out, Tupelo, Miss.

I think one cannot get too delicate here. Use the range for the two no-trump opening as 20 to a bad 22 with the two club opening and two no-trump rebid as 22+ to 24. There are too many hands and not enough ways to describe them, and driving to game singlehandedly with fewer than 25HCP feels wrong to me.

I have recently been converted to playing the forcing no-trump in response to major-suit openings. My partner wants to play it in response to an opening in third and fourth seats too. Is that sound?

Carol Singer, Hartford, Conn.

This approach is not one I would recommend. The forcing no-trump is designed to allow you to invite at no-trump or in partner’s major. These are not hand-types one need to show as a passed hand. Drury deals with invitational hands, while with the balanced hand one can bid one no-trump then two no-trump. Playing one no-trump as non-forcing lets you stop right there with two balanced hands facing one another.

I was in fourth chair with: ♠ K-3,  Q-8-6-5,  J-6-5-4-2, ♣ K-J. I heard my partner open one diamond, and my RHO overcall one spade. I thought there was some merit in raising diamonds, whether to the two- or three- level, or doubling, or even bidding one no-trump. What do you say?

Pick and Shuffle, Monterey, Calif.

Normally when you hold four cards in the unbid major you will double first, then support partner if you can. One no-trump looks wrong with only one spade stop, and if you raise diamonds you may never find hearts. Incidentally, a jump raise of diamonds in competition is frequently played these days as preemptive rather than invitational.

What is your opinion on how one should signal at the first trick? I use attitude signals, but cannot ever agree with my partner about when suit preference and count signals should be more relevant.

Laid Back Larry, Mason City, Iowa

Join the club, Larry. Attitude signals are sometimes of relevance even when dummy has a singleton, and you can usefully signal count when you know partner already knows your attitude. But when a shift appears mandatory (or when your holding is already precisely defined) suit preference has its place. But it not only can be overdone, it frequently is.

My unremarkable hand was: ♠ J-8-2,  A-5-3-2,  J-5-3, ♣ K-9-4. The auction proceeded round the table: two hearts to my left, four spades from my partner, five hearts to my right. What would you do now with nobody vulnerable, and why? Would the form of scoring matter?

Under the Gun, Newark, N.J.

With the heart ace surely facing a void, I would double at pairs, and hope to beat them. If my partner has eight solid spades we may not do so, but he is at liberty to pull the double with a real freak, I think. He can trust the opponents to have a lot of hearts, plus something more. At teams, I might well bid on, unprepared to suffer a double-game swing.

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AviApril 26th, 2015 at 10:15 am

Hi Bobby

I would like to get your 2 cents on bidding.
Holding AQJ98x, void, 9x, QT9xx, I opened the bidding with 1S.
If partner responds J2NT, what should I show himfirst? The void (our splinters responses are voids) or the clubs?
for the record, bidding a suit or void implies a non-minimum hand.

Now suppose LHO preempts 3H over the opening bid, and partner bids 4NT (not playing ex. BW).
Do you show just 1/5 aces? If so, what would you do over partners 5S response?

thanks in advance

Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2015 at 11:31 am

Hi Avi,

Perhaps I do not have 2 cents to offer, but I’ll try, even if it turns out to be only worth 1 1/2 cents.

In the old days (probably many years ago), your hand would likely be passed originally with the idea of coming in next round.

After one gets experience, he realizes that, yes this hand is potentially strong enough to easily be worth opening the bidding, but that strength will need a trump fit with partner to measure up, otherwise and since that is not guaranteed, some will choose to be conservative and test the waters later.

Having said the above, and choosing to open 1 spade, then immediately being told by partner that he fits the spades, our offensive potential is now worth exploring.

I, playing Jacoby 2NT (as you verified) would simply bid 3 hearts (shortness) since even if my partnership played a now jump to 4 clubs would show at least 5 clubs, both my overall lack of strength (for an opening bid) and the weak clubs would suggest to me that my heart shortness (especially a void rather than a singleton) is more of an important asset than my club length.

Regarding your question about strength, one must learn that once he decides to open 1 spade he MUST follow through with what that convention requires and bid his hand, although his partner should keep in mind that his high card content (with this hand a prime example) may be shaded.

Jumping to your next question about Ace responses, my partnerships have always played that over the bidding you have suggested, a bid of 5NT in response shows 2 aces and a void TBD, while a jump to 6 of my void, if a lower suit than trumps (which it is) would then show a heart void and, of course, 1 ace. Note: If our trump suit is a lower one than is my void I would jump to 6 of my trump suit which would guarantee 1 ace and a higher ranking suit void.

BTW, although not usually emphasized by key card BW advocates, the extra key card (king of trumps) to be shown often complicates that procedure, sometimes resulting in guesswork.
That fact is not to say that KCBW is wrong, it is only to suggest that not all that glitters is all positive.

Summation of what has been discussed:

1. Opening light has certain advantages, but also like KCBW in worth, should keep a partnership from penalty doubling close hands in competitive auctions or else disaster will sometimes occur when least expected (on your example, that 1 spade opening will often not come close to taking even one defensive trick) if, as the bidding indicates partner has a substantial spade fit (4+).

2. As the partner of an opening bidder, one needs to understand the modern treatment of “bid early and force the opponents to sleep in the street” principle has to compromise his bidding judgment and make different competitive decisions than when playing in a partnership which promises at least some defense (taking tricks) when opening with a one bid. BTW, it is more than just possible to open your example, 2 spades, when vulnerable as a compromise suggestion.

I hope that the above is worth the 1 1/2 cents I advertized it to be.

Jane AApril 26th, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Another question- If a partnership tends to open with a one bid this light (HCP), does this need to be alerted? Recently there was a discussion on another blog concerning HCP. I thought ten HCP was the lower limit unless a pre-alert is made. Then it becomes an issue if some clubs won’t allow it in first or second seat.

I have no problem opening this hand two spades but some don’t like to do this with a void. Holding another five card suit is OK with me as I will bid it next if I get the chance. What say you about preempts with voids? Does it matter which seat you are in? What wouLd you do with this hand in fourth seat passed to you? Opening the bidding for the opps with 13 hearts out there may not be very wise if partner has no fit with you.

Thanks in advance.

Iain ClimieApril 26th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Bobby, Jane, Avi,

I have a similar query on the best opening bid on this black 2-suiter. In 3rd seat, for example, is there even a case for opening it 3S? I can even imagine circumstances (green vs red, 1st or 3rd, needing a swing or a top) where I might just bash 4S and randomize matters. Is it more sensible as a general approach to bid early with such hands (I suspect it is) or to pass first then back in later?

An apocryphal story concerning trap passes is one where a player at high stakes rubber bridge trap passed with 10 solid spades and 3 singletone, 1st in hand. Three passes dutifully followed. The opener plaintively asked his partner if he’d had much and was told “I didn’t fancy opening a 1-4-4-4 hand with just the 3 aces and poor intermediates”, it might let the oppo bid spades”. You can see how trap passes could lose their appeal.



Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Hi JaneA,

First, the top of the morning to you.

Second, opening bids such as the 6-5 in the blacks have been becoming commonplace, so likely the ACBL would not require any advance warning, because if so that hand holder would retort “I have 9 HCPs, 3 for the void and 1 for the doubleton arriving at 13 points and, what is to most, a one level opening bid.”

However I think it ethical practice to write on the CC, we tend to open light, especially good distributional hands. Also, if so, to verbally announce it to opponents would be an ethical practice, but only by the opener’s partner, and not just when he had a great defensive hand.

In other words, no con jobs along with! However by so doing, other shrewd players during that game will get to know this partnership for what they are, and should soon be targeted for discipline.

Yes, both a 2 or 3 spade opening would be close to a standard choice (to which I would choose, the amount determined by the habits to which I thought my opponents belonged.

I wouldn’t worry about the missing 13 hearts since my partner figures to have enough of them to offer at the very least, a bad trump break for them.

In my heart of hearts I do not believe that an opener of a hand like this is trying to fool the opponents, but merely to consider this hand the equivalent offensively of a hand with more HCP’s, and not worry about no defense, but let partner be the one to handle that. True, that will remain as a reasonable possibility the opponents will be cowed out of the auction, particularly if partner is able to raise immediately, but that is only the nature of our game, so luck in that fashion will be earned, at least IMO.

Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Of course, all of your feelings and thus possible actions are, IMO, on course to have a good chance for success with opening this hand any number from 1 to 4 spades and especially in the later original seats.

I could relate a real story occurring at a money bridge club when I was still a teenager with absolutely no positive reputation and holding 10 solid hearts with 3 worthless singletons and opposite a partner who overcalled vulnerable 2 clubs over his opponents 1 diamond opening bid. My RHO then raised to 5 diamonds to which I bid 5 hearts, passed around to righty who persisted with 6 diamonds. I then stubbornly bid 6 hearts and everyone doubled, whereupon partner slung his hand on the table saying, “Son, you left bridge learning school much too early. It is impossible to bid that way and soon you’ll be penniless if you are not already”. He then proceeded to lay down s. Axxxx, h. void, d. xx, c. A109xxx and left the table.

I am not sure when (or if) he returned as I took my profit, left the game and never saw him again, but did dream about him a few times always wearing a red suit and carrying a pitchfork.

Iain ClimieApril 26th, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

Lovely story and a lesson not to judge partner until trick 13! Napoleon’s dictum on generals may still apply to partners now matter how grim things initially appear.