Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I recently encountered a deal where my partner opened a weak-two bid and I needed to find a specific control in a side suit to make slam viable. Do you have any opinion about the use of asking bids facing a weak-two?

Looking for Mr. Goodslam, Wilmington. N.C.

As responder to a weak-two bid, I think new suits should be natural and forcing. You can either use jumps in a major either as invitational, or as a solid suit and forcing if you prefer. I do not play asking bids except to four-level openers but a form of modified Keycard Blackwood is appropriate if partner preempts. (Or maybe it is closer to Gerber – see TOPICS/aa_poor_man.pdf)

At a recent regional my hand was ♠ A-7-5-2, K-6-5-3, Q-6, ♣ J-8-2. My partner opened a strong no-trump and when I bid Stayman the next hand overcalled two diamonds. This was passed back around to me. I felt I had game-going values, but hated to commit to no-trump with only a partial stop. Eventually I compromised with a buck-passing call of two no-trump, and we played there, off six diamond winners. Can you comment on what my choices were?

Pistol Pete, Little Rock, Ark.

After intervention at the two-level, opener bids a major if he can do so at the two-level or at the three-level with five or a maximum. He passes with an ordinary hand, and doubles for penalty. Over opener’s pass, responder can do as you did – specifically, double is geared toward penalty, a cuebid suggests short diamonds, two-level calls are natural and invitational with four. Your hand really doesn’t fall well into any of these categories!

I am never sure what calls after passing might be natural and which are artificial. I held ♠ K-J-4, K-J-4, A-5-4, ♣ 9-7-5-2, and heard one club on my right. I passed, and now I heard one heart to my left, one spade from partner. After a pass on my right with what call, should I advance?

Catch-up Cecily, Pottsville, Pa.

You have a nice fit, but no club stop for no-trump. A simple raise to two spades would not suffice despite your square shape, so a cuebid of two hearts feels about right on balance. When the opponents bid two suits you bid where you live, rather than asking about hearts.

At pairs, with both sides vulnerable I held ♠ K, J-3, K-Q-9-6-3-2, ♣ A-Q-J-2, I heard my LHO open one spade, using a strong club system. When this was raised to two spades I came in with three diamonds. Now came three spades to my left, passed back to me. Would you pass, double, or bid four clubs?

Protective Instincts, Texarkana, Texas

I think I would bid, but doubling and hearing partner bid hearts would not thrill me. The choice is four clubs, which is reasonable, or maybe a bid of three no-trump would be both minors with much better clubs. For sure, passing might easily be right, though.

Can you tell me about a convention my partner has been trying to persuade me to take up, namely the Jacoby Two-No-trump response to a major? I like to play this as natural and forcing with no five-card suit and all side-suits guarded; am I out of date?

Diehard, New Orleans, La.

While Transfers, Stayman, and Negative Doubles are surely essential, few other conventions meet that description. The Jacoby raise is certainly useful, but not essential; and the alternative meaning you espouse is certainly a sensible one. I’d encourage you only to add the convention to your armory if you feel it necessary. As an aside, I used to play two no-trump as natural and forcing, with the jump to three clubs as the forcing raise, but I’m not advocating you do that.

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Patrick CheuFebruary 12th, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Hi Bobby,Not many NS pairs got to game on this hand,wonder how you would bid it?North AK93 AJT9 KT763 Void-East QJ72 Q84 QJ97 54-South 654 K32 82 AQT93-West T8 765 A5 KJ8762.Dealer E,NS vul.Playing Acol,our bidding went:E pass S pass W pass N 1D-E pass S 2C(9+) W pass N 2N(15-19)-E pass S 3N W pass N pass. 3N was not a success, most play in 2H-1 or clubs their way dbl a plus for NS.It seems you have to be in a partscore to score well..

Iain ClimieFebruary 12th, 2017 at 1:27 pm

HI Patrick,
Can't South bid 1NT instead of 2C playing Acol? It is a bit cautious, and North may get stuck with bidding 2D or passing, but I don't think you need to bid marginal games at pairs. As one wag once put it, all those who learned their bridge at college or university will remember that a plus score is rarely all bad.
I wouldn't be happy bidding 2N with the North hand, though. Maybe it should event be treated as a 4-4-4-1 hand and bid accordingly, so the auction (4 card majors) might start 1H – 1N or 2C – 2D – 2H, or South might even just raise to 2H directly with something in hand.

Patrick CheuFebruary 12th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Hi Iain,1N by South will simplify North’s next bid..pass and no marginal 24 pt game as you say.Thanks for your thoughts on the alternative bids too. Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Hi Patrick & Iain,

Sadly, my realistic appraisal of this hand starts with E. P, S. P, W. 3 clubs N. dbl. All Pass. down either 3 or 4 (500 or 800 NS plus). With the favorable vulnerability for EW, I do not see any experienced West not opening 3 clubs in 3rd seat making the rest of the bidding routine.

However, if West is brilliant enough to merely pass then North, after three passes should open 1D with South responding 1NT. Let’s assume West passes, although I, like the either daring or stupid West (name decided after the result, with my 3C opening bid earning the latter) might venture 2 clubs (I would if someone forced me to pass originally) followed by 2 spades by N, P by E and 2NT by S. then pass, 3 hearts by N and though ugly, 3NT by S.

Depending on the lead, either a club or perhaps a heart on the bidding suggested, South will have a fair chance of success with 2 spade tricks, 4 hearts 1 diamond and 2 clubs on an endplay (or of course opening lead).

Many different lines of play are available but after either a club or a heart lead West will have to take the ace of diamonds prematurely, even if a low one is led from dummy to keep from getting end played and perhaps even twice.

Patrick, thanks for presenting this hand, even though it represents bridge not at its finest.

This hand is not a good one to delve too deep since it is a huge misfit, but still a good hand for tactics, however horrible for my choice of opening 3 clubs in 3rd seat.

True Patrick, that NS only have 24 hcps between them, but their spot cards are good, and playing less than game (3NT) would, believe it or not, be recommended by me, because to not do so, takes the pressure off the defense (in all three forms of our game, rubber, matchpoints and IMPs) hardly ever a good idea, if winning is the ultimate goal.

Finally my guess in a grade A duplicate would be a steady stream of 3 club doubled contracts (EW) down either 3 or 4, but still realistic. If so, then +600 NS would only result in about an average.

Patrick CheuFebruary 12th, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Hi Bobby,Thanks for your enlightening thoughts which as usual are very much appreciated here.We strive to be better in all aspects of this challenging game for it gives us much joy when things go right.When 3N was played by North,a spade was led by East and after winning the first spade,declarer had to find the right play on trick 2…even then nine tricks seems a long way..Best Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffFebruary 12th, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, under those circumstances with North declarer and getting a low spade lead, scoring up nine tricks will not be an easy task. However it is not hopeless either and might wind up getting West end played in clubs. OTOH (thinking better of just using initials, on the other hand) it may not.

Such is life while at the bridge table.