Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 14th, 2017

I noted in a recent column where against no-trump a player led a heart (from five to the king) and dummy with jack-10-third played the jack. Third hand played the eight, and declarer overtook with the queen. You commented that the play of the eight implied an original holding of a singleton or doubleton rather than three small. Why is this?

Bad Attitude, Joplin, Mo.

The reason that East can’t have three cards is that with that holding he would have followed with his lowest card when dummy’s jack was about to win the trick. My rule is that when you can’t hold any card higher than the jack in the suit led, you signal count to your partner. Partner won’t think you like the suit if you play high, since you didn’t beat dummy’s card. Signal attitude if dummy plays the queen or higher, and partner might need to know if you hold the jack.

I wanted your advice on a hand that came up at our club. You hold ♠ 7-4, J-10-3, A-K-Q-9-4, ♣ K-7-2 and open one diamond. When your partner bids one heart, what rebid would you recommend?

Green Pastures, Muncie, Ind.

There are three calls under consideration here, all flawed. Few would be happy to rebid two diamonds; that should show six. A one no-trump call might be the plurality choice, but I hate to do that with two small in an unbid suit. (Make the spade seven the jack, and I am less concerned about that call.) The third choice is to raise hearts, which normally shows four, but can be three in an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand, as here. It isn’t perfect; but life isn’t perfect.

Holding ♠ Q-10-4-2, A-J-7-4-2, A-5, ♣ K-J, I opened one heart and my partner doubled a two-diamond overcall for take-out. When the next hand raised to three diamonds I bid three spades, and played there. We made four when my partner put down the ace-king fourth of spades and the club queen, and I could ruff out hearts easily enough. Should either of us have done more here or was it just luck of the draw?

Missing the Boat, Midland, Mich.

Without the three-club bid you might well have jumped to three spades to show your extras. In competition, your three spade call showed four trump but did not show extras. So here you might stretch to bid four spades at your second turn, while being conscious that it is a slight overbid.

Can you comment on the rule of ‘Eight ever nine never’? Specifically, if I have K-4-2 in dummy facing A-J-8-5-3 in my hand and cash the king, then lead towards the ace, seeing the six to my left, the seven and nine to my right, why isn’t 10-6 as likely as Q-6?

Razor’s Edge, Levittown, Pa.

You are confusing a priori and a posteriori probabilities. Let’s say we need to make our game at this point – if West has three, we have to lose a trick. If East has three aren’t they more likely to include the queen than not? The size of the spot cards he plays are irrelevant, just focus on the initial percentages.

At a recent duplicate with both sides vulnerable my partner heard me open one spade and the next hand overcall one no-trump. He held: ♠ J-8-5, J-10-3, 10-7-3, ♣ K-9-5-3 and joined in with a raise to two spades. Things did not go well after that. Where do you stand with this hand about raising spades after partner opens one spade? Would it matter if RHO had bid a red suit as opposed to two clubs, or one no-trump?

Noisy Oyster, Olympia, Wash.

I hate acting with a real minimum over one no-trump (when you have been warned about possible bad breaks) or two clubs, where all you have is defense. I’d live with bidding with a fourth trump, or slightly better spades — say Q-10-x. Vulnerable, I would not bid over a red suit overcall; but non-vulnerable, I’d be tempted, depending on how aggressive my partner was and how likely he would be to hang me.

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Patrick CheuMay 28th, 2017 at 11:48 am

Hi Bobby,We play Acol and four card majors opening,our bidding on this hand went the way of many..Dealer E/EW vul: e AQJ92 Q2 A865 74~w K65 A9743 K4 A52. East 1S South 2N(minors) West X(penalty dbl of one of their suits)-North 3C~East 3D(?) South p West 4C North p~East 4S South p West 5S(presumably askg East to bid 6S with good spades) which East did.-1 West was highly critical of East 3D bid and thought it shows extras and the he invite 6S on the basis that East should have had the QJH or the JH for 3D bid.He felt that East should pass 3C as he might have wanted to double that contract on a different hand..East maintains that he had not cue hearts over 4C..was West right? Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuMay 28th, 2017 at 11:53 am

North held T73 KJT865 9 KT6 South 84 void QJT732 QJ983.

Peter PengMay 28th, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I love that old adage
that fits our game so well
“Life isn’t perfect”

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Hi Patrick,

Often fortunately, though some may think the opposite; unfortunately, one ingredient in bridge (similar to cooking) may spoil the broth and with high level bridge this often (too may be added in front of often) occurs, leading to an unnecessary and inedible result.

As West mentioned, East’s unnecessary and premature 3 diamond cue bid stands out as the chief culprit in this overall bidding exercise.

While holding only a minimum hand he should pass 3 clubs to East, since his partner’s double (similar to a redouble over a T/O double) promises another bid, if given a chance. IOW, West should be the next player to speak since East with his minimum, although the ace of diamonds is much more valuable than would be the king, needs to have a better understanding of his role in this partnership (at least on this bidding sequence).

As with so many hands, bidding space becomes precious, and although the ace of diamonds is a beautiful card to hold, the hand is just not good enough (at this moment in the bidding since East has not yet limited his opening bid). By not doing so, East not only would show 1st round diamond control but also at least an intermediate hand which should include the king of hearts and/or perhaps an extra spade.

While directly assessing the blame, it belongs strictly to East. By first not passing 3 clubs, then (assuming West now bids 4 clubs), followed by East’s 4 diamond call with West now rebidding 4 hearts (and East merely signs off in 4 spades), West will (at least should) give up the slam effort and merely pass.

Simply put, and again comparing bridge to culinary arts, East’s mistimed 3 diamond bid essentially served as poison to the end result.

However this picture, if remembered and felt, can help this partnership no end, by addressing that both strength and specific suit holdings need to be taken into consideration before basic impulse arrives prematurely on the scene.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Hi Peter,

Not only is "life not perfect" but the road to improvement in bridge is slow and winding and unlike music (and sometimes art) there are no child proteges, never have been and likely never will be, making the earlier stages in bridge development critical to future success.

Bridge process needs to be learned with much attention to detail. Without which, tempers fray, players rebel and general chaos rules.

However, if strict discipline occurs, the bridge god, wherever and whomever he may be, will smile and know for sure that this partnership at the very least, has a chance to develop into something formidable.

Patrick CheuMay 28th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Hi Bobby,Your thoughts are as usual much appreciated here and we have improved greatly as players and hopefully others would benefit too.Best regards~Patrick.

MaxMay 28th, 2017 at 4:42 pm

You rock Bobby.

ClarksburgMay 28th, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Back to the auction on Patrick’s hand:
At West’s first call, over south’s 2NT, would a cue bid of one of Souths suits, rather than the Double, have some merit?

Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Hi Max,

Much appreciation for your modern assessment.

Since some may think my bridge views old-fashioned, your comment may help to set them straight.

Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Since many very high-level partnerships play a convention called “unusual vs. unusual” where 3 clubs is a forcing bid in the other major, 3 diamonds a relatively strong raise of partner’s suit, 3 of partner’s major a weak raise of partner’s suit, and 3 of the unbid major NF, it then becomes a conflict to use a cue bid as meaning a general good hand.

Since one strong general bid may fit all, a double then only suggests that the hand belongs to this partnership allowing bids made by either partner (including forcing passes) to sally forth having meaning, even if passing sometimes means not any or much extra information to disclose.

Note: The above basic caveat rules high level bridge bidding, especially when the opponents enter the auction, creating different ways to at least attempt to show specific information.

Peter Peng uttered a mouthful when he suggested that neither life nor bridge is perfect and all we can do is try to make it as good and, of course, as accurate, as is practical.

Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

BTW, there are variations of “unusual vs. unusual” IMO, all about the same in effectiveness. The most familiar one is that while 3 hearts and 3 spades are both weak raises, 3 clubs is always hearts and 3 diamonds is always spades in being forcing in the unbid (at that point) other major.

ClarksburgMay 28th, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Thanks Bobby
Always an insightful education, and a peek into the experts’ game, to be had here!
Hoping other keen Intermediate Club Players, although silent, are dropping in here to benefit.