Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 8th, 2016

In today’s Lead with the Aces problem, you held: ♠ Q-8-3-2, 10-8-3, 7-3-2, ♣ A-J-7 and heard one spade to your left, double from partner, one no-trump to your right. While you have no suit to bid, what would a double indicate? A flat hand such as you have but with more points?

Ditch Digger, Fredericksburg, Va.

Double is possible — you might persuade me to do that if I had slightly better spades the same hand plus the jack, but my cards seem to be lying well for declarer so I’d want at least an eight-count here. In fact some play the double as take-out, suggesting two places to play, a sensible enough agreement.

You recently ran a deal from a foreign tournament where a passed hand responder to a one spade opener held ♠ —, Q-9-5-4-3, J-9-3, ♣ A-J-7-6-2. As a passed hand, what about responding two hearts? South has already limited his hand by passing, so that call would not appear to me to be misleading.

Deep Waters, Denver, Colo.

I try to avoid this response as a passed hand unless I hold a very chunky five-carder or a six-card suit in an unpassed hand, in each case in a maximum pass. We normally seem to find hearts even after the no-trump response, unless partner passes one no-trump, when we have at least stopped low.

I’m a new player at duplicate, and confused about what happens when a director is called after a hesitation. Could you explain it to me in words of one syllable?

Green Lantern, Danville, Ill.

What often happens is that after one player bids or passes slowly, their partner is confronted with an ethical problem. The slow action has (or might have) given Unauthorized Information (UI) which their partner is not allowed to act on. If I had to give you one piece of advice it would be: do not worry about taking your time if you need to, and let your partner deal with the problem if he thinks you have passed him UI. It is better to do the right thing slowly than the wrong thing fast.

What are your views on which minor to opening a hand of this sort: ♠ A-K-4, —, Q-9-8-7-6, ♣ A-K-Q-7-4? What do you open, and why?

Revolutionary, Kingston, Ontario

I was about to state definitively that with 5-5 shape, always open the higher suit. Then I remembered a partner of mine with a similar hand, who opened one club, to facilitate our reaching the only making slam. I’ll revise my statement: normally open the higher suit. But in responding to one heart, say, a call of two clubs might make sense, to ensure reaching the better slam if partner has equal length in the minors.

On a recent reader’s query about how to continue when a call in the fourth suit is doubled, can you confirm what should redouble show? Let’s say your side has bid: one club – one diamond – one spade – two hearts. If the next hand doubles, what is the least you would need to redouble here?

Blue Card, White Plains, N.Y.

I think I’d redouble on any hand with 4-3-1-5 pattern with a heart honor, or even without one, if I had extra values. Pass is certainly consistent with a balanced minimum and three small hearts, or any 4-2-2-5 pattern.

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David WarheitMay 22nd, 2016 at 10:11 am

Just read Marty Bergen’s Points Schmoints where he describes you and Bob Hamman as “two of the best players in the world”. He then says that “many (consider Hamman) “to be the world’s best player”. Doesn’t he have the names turned around? Of course the context is a hand which he played against the two of you where he, Bergen, opened the bidding 2S on 8 fifth and somehow you and Hamman somehow failed to reach your best contract: 6S!

bobby wolffMay 22nd, 2016 at 11:03 am

Hi David,

Yes, I remember that hand from the finals of the Spingold held in New Orleans (summer of 1983) against Marty’s team.

When one has the experience of attempting to play serious bridge for over 60 years, he likely will have the advantage of viewing so many varied hands, which, while some being pleasant and others not so, will undoubtedly enable a wide enough perspective formed to be better placed to judge future hands as to their prospects.

However, no one will overcome the mastery that Dame Fortune wields with her dealing, cunning and being the temptress which she, no doubt represents.

All we can do is to succumb to her desire of throwing tacks in the road for all players to attempt to overcome.

As to Marty’s comment about Bob and me, it is certainly not my province to argue self worth, but instead, only to listen to others and their views.