Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 27th, 2016

My left hand opponent opened one diamond and I held: ♠ K-10-7-4-3, K-10-8-5, J-3, ♣ J-4. When my right hand opponent responded one spade I passed; now came three clubs to my left and my RHO now bid three no-trump, leaving me on lead. I had to guess which major suit would work out better. Any thoughts as to which way to go?

Witch Hazel, Spartanburg, S.C.

My guess would be to lead a spade. The logic is that finding your partner with almost any top card in spades gives you a chance to set up or run the suit on defense. While leading a heart might set up the suit, with a little luck, you might still have no entry to get in again, and would probably still need tricks from another source to come to five winners. Equally, leading a minor seems too passive to me.

As a regular bridge player, I’m starting to play duplicate and other tournaments more seriously, and I’d be grateful for your advice on what steps I should take in the way of preparation to try to play my best game?

Rhett Butler, Fredericksburg, Va.

It almost goes without saying that you should get a good night’s sleep the night before. Make sure to arrive at your event at least half an hour in advance. Do not eat or drink too much before the event, or indeed between sets. If you can, when playing in two sessions on the same day, try to get some kind of break or rest. And don’t talk about the boards in mid-session if you can avoid it, to preserve energy.

Can you discuss briefly a concept my partner raised: “Never invite facing an invitational bid”? When does it apply – and are there exceptions?

Stop and Go, Duluth, Minn.

In essence when one hand raises, or repeats a suit, or jumps in a suit or in no-trump, to create an invitation, you can pass. But if you don’t, pretty much everything is forcing to game. One exception is that if responder invites in no-trump with a rebid of two no-trump, opener can retreat to his own second suit (or a twicebid six-card suit) and have it show 5-5 with a weak hand.

My partner and several members of my club have discussed using ‘Walsh’ responses. Can you explain in simple terms to me how these operate after an opening bid – and does it only relate to responses to one club?

Coal Miner’s Daughter, Louisville, Ky.

Walsh emphasizes responding in a major, if you have one, to one club. With less than invitational values, bid a four-card major in response to one club. You will bypass longer diamonds to find your major-suit fits as soon as you can. If opener hears his partner respond one diamond to one club he should only bid a major with an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand. For he knows there is either no fit in the major, or that his partner will introduce his major over the one no-trump rebid.

I believe I remember reading that that you had made a Grand Slam when missing the ace of trumps. Is that fair – or even legal, since surely a revoke would not deprive the defenders of a trick that was rightfully theirs?

Justice of the Peace, Madison, Wis.

I understand where you are coming from; but the revoke rule is a technical penalty and only peripherally overlaps with the concept of equity. The defenders cannot lose a trick they have already taken, but in the instance I was involved with (in game not in a grand slam) the defenders revoked before winning their only trick, the trump ace. The penalty under the laws is that they lost that trick.

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Patrick CheuDecember 11th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Hi Bobby,Two hands from pairs seems to create doubt,please would you shed some some light on how the bidding should go..South(dealer) EW vul held:T4 82 KJ AQJ8732 W Q8 AJ9 QT9762 T4 N A753 K762 4 K965 E KJ962 QT53 A853 void. S 3C W pass N 5C pass out.-1Most in 4C,one in 6C and one in 5D making their way.Pard thought 3N could make,not so and my LHO thought I should open 1C..? Second hand,Dealer E,EW vul. South AKQ8 74 763 Q632 W 95 KQ9632 98 A94 N 6432 A8 AQ2 KJT7 E JT7 JT5 KJT54 95.E pass S pass W 2H N DBL~ E pass S 3S W pass N 4S pass out.-1 Joint bottom most in spades part score.Is 4S not reasonable? I jump to 3S on South’s hand.Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffDecember 11th, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Hi Patrick,

Realistically nothing terrible was done by anyone, although on the sequence S. 3C, W, P, N. 5C, I think East should throw caution to the wind and double since that club void is silently saying, please bid something that will allow partner to compete. Voids in the opponents suit do not grow on trees and should be cherished, which means double so that partner is at least in a position to do something intelligent. In this case that intelligence should suggest a simple5 diamond bid which with West being declarer will make (establishing spades before South can lead through West in hearts).

Points, shmoints! With the club void IMO it is dead wrong for East to go quietly even though obviously double entails some risk, but I think it is simply more dangerous to pass than to bid.
Finally the choice of 1 club or 3 clubs is close with both being acceptable but in this case with a timid East 3 clubs wins the day.

On the second hand the bidding looks fine up until North’s raise to 4 spades is just a slight overbid and it turns out to be on a losing finesse for the contract. To bid only 3 spades instead of 4 is an underbid, with three cue bid hearts probably the best effort and then raising 3 spades to 4. Both of your hands are close and no one should feel terrible, but doing the right thing is the only sure way to solve that dilemma.

BTW, on the first hand you shorted South the 10 of spades and West the 10 of clubs, but I just assumed that they were where they should be, the missing links to the 52 card hand.

If those two hands are the only problems involved with your bridge game, it is a good sign, since there is little to change to feel good about both hands, except East’s timidity on the first one.

Patrick CheuDecember 11th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Hi Bobby,So you don’t fault my opening 3C on 11 on the first hand opp a non passed hand and should North only bid 4C? On the second hand you think South should bid 4S or 3H then 4S..on reflection I should bid 4S as I was quite max for a passed hand.Bidding has always been a problem,to balance between overbidding or underbidding at pairs is a constant struggle.

Patrick CheuDecember 11th, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Hi Bobby,Missed your above comment on 1C or 3C opening,ok should pard bid 5C or 4C over my 3C?

slarDecember 11th, 2016 at 10:29 pm

If I understand correctly, Walsh also creates some granularity between balanced 6-8 and 8-10 point hands. With the 8-10 point hand, bid 1NT directly which allows opener to go to game with a balanced 18+. With the 6-8 point hand, bid 1NT, allowing opener to bid 1NT since it is usually better to receive the lead anyway. With a game-forcing hand, you can also bid 1D and back into the 4-4 major fit later. There are a lot of wrinkles. I’m not sure I actually like it better but it does have some merits.

Even without Walsh, it is nearly standard to skip a diamond suit when neither the suit or hand are particularly strong.

bobby wolffDecember 11th, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Hi Patrick,

Either 1 club or 3 clubs is OK for an opener, reserving the choice of 3 clubs for opponents who may be slightly intimidated.

The choice of 4 spades or 3 also should be determined by extraneous factors, this one depending on your particular partner. Two aggressive players nor two conservative players usually make the best partnerships, but rather a mixture of the two, when each player is happy in his role.

Finally 5 clubs is what I would bid over a 3 opener. Any hand with shortness and a fit should demand the more aggressive action.

Simply because a partnership has two ways to win by bidding high–1. make what you bid, 2–deprive the opponents from making what they bid as you may shut them out.


bobby wolffDecember 11th, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Hi Slar,

I do not agree completely as I prefer to bid 1NT with 6-10 and take my chances from there with not bidding enough or bidding too much.

Alllowing LHO to enter the bidding at the 1 level is a danger point since the part score battle on many hands may be ferocious (and worse, they will usually have the ranking suit). It is better IMO to be less exact within your own partnership rather than be easy to play against.

Other players prefer to do the opposite but usually only because they regard the purity of the game in higher esteem. My preference is to win as many hands as possible, ugly or not, and let your opponents worry about the purity.

slarDecember 12th, 2016 at 12:01 am

…with the 6-8 point hand, bid _1D_…

bobby wolffDecember 12th, 2016 at 5:03 am

Hi Slar,

Yes, argh—exactly!

Patrick CheuDecember 12th, 2016 at 8:07 am

Hi Bobby,Your affirmative answer will have a positive effect and my sincere thanks for your help,which is greatly appreciated here. Best regards~Patrick.