Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

With: ♠ A-Q-2,  K-7,  J-9-6, ♣ K-8-5-4-3 I opened one club, and heard a weak jump to two diamonds on my left. When my partner made a negative double, I was stuck for a call. My instincts were to bid two no-trump without a stopper, but I chickened out and rebid my clubs, which left us in an inferior part-score. Would you contemplate a bid of two spades on the three-card suit?

Tied up in Tinseltown, Los Angeles, Calif.

Introducing the three-card spade suit looks a reasonable shot (after all, you may need to ruff spades in your hand). Your first thought of bidding no-trump here was not a terrible idea, but I’m just too cowardly to want to explain this to partner if I’m wrong! I hate rebidding clubs with such a poor suit.

Would you be kind enough to clarify the meaning of the last call on the following unopposed sequence: when I open one spade and rebid two hearts over my partner’s two club call, he rebids two no-trump. Now at my third turn if I bid three diamonds, what would you expect that to show?

The Sign of the Four, Duluth, Minn.

When partner has already bid no-trump and the auction is below three no-trump, the primary meaning for a call in the fourth suit here is to indicate length not shortage. You suggest a 5-4-3-1 pattern with some interest in playing in a contract other than three no-trump, thus probably extra values. But if your partner had rebid three clubs, three diamonds would be the fourth suit, so initially a probe for no-trump, with maybe a half-stopper.

I just had a friendly (well not so friendly) discussion with the Tournament Director at my local club. As dummy I observed my RHO revoke on the second round of clubs. When he followed to the third club I pointed this out to my partner, and was told in no uncertain terms that this was inappropriate. Can you explain the correct etiquette for dummy?

Punctilious Petra, Saint John’s, Newfoundland

I’ve been caught out here too. There are two contrasting instructions: say nothing as dummy until an irregularity has been confirmed or the end of the hand is reached. BUT if an irregularity has been established and the director is not called, dummy should rectify that omission at once.

I held: ♠ 3,  A-J-9-4,  A-K-10-8-2, ♣ Q-9-4. When I opened one diamond, I heard my partner respond two clubs, game-forcing. Do you agree with my choice of two hearts? Next I heard my partner jump to three no-trump. Can you tell me what my partner showed, and what I should do next?

Bonus Baby, Monterey, Calif.

Yes, your two heart call (suggesting this red-suit pattern) looks right to me. Some might play your partner’s jump to game as Fast Arrival. Not me: I believe it shows extras, with two no-trump suggesting less or more than a strong no-trump. That makes the decision to move on now with a natural slam try of four clubs a straightforward one. You can always stop in four no-trump.

Our two-club opening is forcing to game or four of a minor, except when opener’s rebid is a passable call of two no-trump. Recently as responder I held something like: ♠ 2,  9-6-4,  J-5-3, ♣ K-J-10-7-4-3. Rightly or wrongly, I judged it not quite enough for a constructive three-club response, so bid two diamonds. Playing cheaper minor as a “second negative” is there any way I can unambiguously show the six-card club suit at my next turn?

Minor Minus, Nassau, Bahamas

If you don’t play two diamonds as a positive and a direct two hearts as a second negative, then another possibility is to co-opt a direct two no-trump bid to show this hand. In other words, it describes semi-positive values with long clubs, since that hand is so awkward to describe in any other way. I agree a direct three club call should be a better hand and suit than this.

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David WarheitApril 16th, 2017 at 9:30 am

In tied up’s hand it is extremely important for opener, whatever his bid is, to make it with very little hesitation. A delay followed by 2S would clearly show a 3-card suit, and a delay followed by 3C would clearly show a poor quality suit.

ClarksburgApril 16th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Supplementary questions re Bonus Baby’s:
So many variants of 2/1. Some play that with five Diamonds, Opener would bid 2D, not denying a four-card major or two. Then four-card majors are bid up the line. If Opener does not bid 2D, that denies holding five Diamonds.
Any comment / suggestions?

Bobby WolffApril 16th, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Hi David,

You have scored a direct hit upon the difference between high-level bridge (those with high expectations and perhaps meaning justifiably hopeful) then traveling downward to average club tournament players who hope to progress, but are taking it slowly.

All high aspirations are directly tied, ethics wise, to do exactly as you suggest, choose your bid (my fairly easy choice being 2 spades as the more constructive and not particularly dangerous, especially compared to 2NT (holding only J96, with the weak jump by a club player to include the AKQ of diamonds (or his partner instead providing some help), and the obvious weakness of such a club suit which will have no real protection from partner to, by definition, prefers the unbids (in this case majors and may even hold instead, all the way down to a weak singleton or doubleton club for his bid) and still pass, playing you for at least 6 respectable clubs (KQ10xxx).

I fully realize, (as I am sure, did David) that “Tied Up” had no intent to discuss side issues, and is likely an intended ethical bridge player, but my thinking went the same way as Davids and while being at the table should show absolutely no indication of only a three card suit (albeit a decent one), allowing his partner to magically play him for only three and then act on that unauthorized knowledge.

IOW, bid 2 spades in tempo and let whatever happens from there go smoothly and without rancor which could instead rightfully develop from opponents, if the 2 spade bid was chosen, but after a significant pause.

YES, the above is an unwritten ethical obligation by all bridge players, especially tournament players who aspire to improve as they go and be eventually, if not sooner, accepted into the higher rankings of their group. Without catering to the above mentioned ethical responsibility, they will not (and should not) be accepted as such.

Thanks to all who listen to this discussion and then begin to understand what our great game is about and why these ethical responsibilities pertain to many forms of everyday life (not just bridge) making the learning and agreement to follow those strictures a cornerstone of learning and then advancing in expertise as one improves.

Bobby WolffApril 16th, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

At the risk of being thought about as “stuffy” and unwilling to deal with inexperienced and home grown wisdom, I will nevertheless tell you what I think.

Good bridge (not just great, played at too high a level) requires both partner’s to bid his (or her) hand as he sees it and not to accept a “home brew” out of the blue declaration, that we WILL always show 5 diamonds first, to cater to hands where partner only wants to know whether diamonds are a real suit, to the exclusion of embarking on a more varied path to eventually describe all pertinent features, keeping in mind, that if anything, there is not enough room during the bidding phase, to describe different hand types, making it imperative to head toward the overall best way to describe your hand (“precious 13 cards”) in toto rather than only one of the possible many features.

With “Bonus Baby’s” problem, the 2 heart bid is recommend only because of the club fit to be next described since if the black suit holdings were reversed, then only 2 diamonds would be the standout recommendation for a rebid, certainly not a reverse which shows a much better overall hand (based on the bidding up to that moment).

It is then easier to understand that if (and when) partner now jumps to 3NT, the opener should take time out to show the excellent club fit (together with the implied singleton spade) so that a club slam can be explored (even 5 clubs could easily be a better game contract than would 3NT), usually depending on partner’s specific spade holding.

Sure, from time to time a particular hand (or two) may appear where all partner wanted to know was whether the opener (or sometimes responder) had a real suit or not, but those aberrations are better only taken under advisement until someone more experienced is consulted, who can then better identify the negatives as well as the positives before it is summarily included.

High level successful bidding can only be looked at from a global perspective, (overall whole auction) not from a piecemeal approach since some hands will require a portrait, not just a here and there dab, to determine its success.

Please compare these two hands as the responding hand: 1. s. KQ10, h. Q105, d. QJ, c. KJ1072, or 2. s. AJ9, h. K2, d. Q3, c. KJ10652 and then let me know how else can one get to 6 clubs and the other settle for 4NT, unless that “global” attempt of analysis is chosen rather than just a bow rather than a full blown try, is put to critical use.

ClarksburgApril 16th, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Thanks Bobby
I only asked about the 2D rebid because it’s recommended by Bergen.

Bobby WolffApril 16th, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

In fairness to Marty, he might have concocted a relay type auction, which would require a known bid in advance, such as 2 clubs as a 2 over 1 GF bid now transferring to 2 diamonds so that one player becomes the asker and the other now, at least in the plans, becomes the information gatherer to eventually place the contract.

Although I have played against those type systems (The Ultimate club) for one, but that system used 2 clubs, not to show clubs but rather to announce to their opponents that they were now entering a relay stage. However other than that, 2 diamonds has no appeal to me whatever. since there appears much to show, e.g. a heart suit, club support and a better than minimum opener, particularly when partner’s bid is positive and with clubs. Of course, a rebid in diamonds could also be important, but not to show first, until at least a fit is established, which the opening bidder is now aware of, and soon so will be his partner.

slarApril 17th, 2017 at 12:57 am

Here is a random question. If I deal and open 1D, there are two passes, and my RHO balances with a double, what is the difference between redouble and 1NT? I thought 1NT here showed the 18-19 point balanced hand but somewhere I saw redouble being used for that purpose. In my mind the redouble was idle but if there is a good use for it, I’d love to hear it.

jim2April 17th, 2017 at 1:19 am

I have seen it being used as confirming a true diamond suit.

Bobby WolffApril 17th, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Hi Slar,

Basically confirming Jim2’s answer, but also suggesting that both hands show very good hands, short of a forcing opening bid, but announcing to partner for him to not be afraid to show a little something when the bidding gets competitive as it now begins to happen.

For example, if partner has passed one diamond but holds, s. xxx, h. xx, d. Jxxx, c. Qxxx to chime in with 2 diamonds and/or with s. Kxx, h. Qxxx, d. xxx, c. xxx to bid 1NT over his RHO’s 1 of a major suit response to his partner’s double. In other words, “man your battle stations, full speed ahead”.

But, at least to my thinking, I would not redouble (nor, of course rebid 1NT) while holding: s. xx, h. Qx, d. AKQ10xx, c. AJx but rather still just bid 2 diamonds. Of course a now rebid of 1NT may discourage his opponents from now reaching a laydown major suit game they may now have, but not know it and be intimidated out of.

“Little slimy tricks to be aware of”, but in no way either illegal nor even unethical.