Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 25th, 2017

I know that to respond one no-trump to a one-level suit opener should show about 6-10 points. But if I open as dealer and my LHO doubles, or even produces a simple overcall, does the range for my partner’s one no-trump response change here?

Trumpet Voluntary, Galveston, Texas

The changes may be relatively insignificant but yes, the values required for a free action here do alter. The values required for the call should start at a decent seven-count in competition, up to a good 10 HCP. With a hand where you would have been stretching just to keep the auction open, the intervention allows you to pass.

Holding ♠ 9-2,  K-8-6,  A-J-4-3-2, ♣ J-10-2, you recently advised us to give false preference after the unopposed sequence one spade — one no-trump — two hearts. Could you expound on what shape partner has promised, and why raising hearts would be wrong?

Curious George, Casper, Wyo.

On this auction your partner has guaranteed at least five spades and four hearts. Raising hearts should show four and invitational values, since partner could have only four. Retreating to two spades shows two to three spades. Its attraction is that it keeps the auction open and may lead to higher things — though it may get us to a 5-2 fit instead of a 5-3 fit, I agree.

In your opinion, would opening one club and over partner’s bid of one spade rebidding two hearts be a true reverse? I held six clubs and five hearts and bid it that way. 40 years ago I was told that since clubs and hearts were not touching, the bidding could be a touch light. Your opinion please!

Come Alive, Salt Lake City, Utah

With a touching two-suiter 5-6 pattern and minimum values you almost always open the higher suit to avoid the reverse. Equally, with 5-6 in a non-touching two-suiter you often bid the long suit first – which will occasionally lead to your reversing over an inconvenient response. Partner assumes extras, but when you repeat your second suit he will know about your 6-5 pattern and may now realize some of your extras come in the form of shape, rather than high-cards.

Can you explain to me how as third hand you clarify your suit length in the suit partner led, when at trick one you have played an honor to win, or to try to win, the trick.

Seconds Count, Seneca, S.C.

As third hand the spot card you return after winning the first trick with an honor is the same card that you would lead from the cards you have left. So with A-8-4, win the ace and return the eight from your 8-4. With A-8-4-2, win the ace and return the two — what you would have led from 8-4-2. (With A-10-8-4-2 I would return the eight – though opinions vary here.) But say your trick one honor has been captured. If your king loses to the ace, then when partner leads the suit again, from an original K-8-4 follow with the eight next. From an original K-8-4-2 play the two.

A couple of weeks ago you provided an answer to a question – but left the answer open-ended. After a two no-trump opener, how do you set hearts as trumps when Stayman gets a three heart response?

Flighty Flo, Springfield, Mass.

Thank you for holding my feet to the fire. A raise to game is terminal of course, and four no-trump is quantitative, without four hearts, with four of a minor natural and forcing (suggesting four spades). The remaining choices are to jump in a new suit, which is a splinter agreeing partner’s suit, or to bid the other major. Since you can’t have five cards in that suit (you would transfer not bid Stayman) this is an artificial call agreeing partner’s major and promising slam interest. Both sides can now sign off, cuebid or use Blackwood, to taste.

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ClarksburgJuly 9th, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Good morning Bobby.
Matchpoints. Both Vul. South deals.

North 10865 Q8 874 8752
East J4 J10532 1053 KJ10
South K93 K94 K96 AQ94
West AQ72 A76 AQJ2 63

Just thought this Board might be of interest to some of your readers, and that you might offer some comments and suggestions.
From the hand analysis, 1NT by NS can be set two tricks (and 2C can also be set two tricks).
In eleven plays at a local Club game, 1NT by South was passed out five times ! Only one EW Pair had a penalty X of 1NT.
Five EW Pairs declared Hearts, but only part scores for poor results. Defending 1NT was better.

Any comments on recommended methods / agreements? e.g. What to do initially with the West hand? If West makes a business Double, is it virtually mandatory for North to immediately initiate a “run” ? if 1NT is passed around to East, what should East do? Should EW be expected to get to 4H (making by East; off one by West on a Club lead)?

Bobby WolffJuly 9th, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Hi Clarksburg and a return good morning to you,

While defending a strong 1NT opening there are many methods, therefore perhaps allowing me to discuss a couple of old time relatively simple ones, plus touching on a few others, but not digressing into weird (or better euphemistically called innovative or such).

Double, meaning penalty, is usually restricted to two types of hands, the more common a like strength hand to the opener but positioned behind it, therefore on percentage, worth about a trick and a half more in result. However since defense is about a trick more difficult than offense (declarer is looking at all 26 of his assets plus the blind nature of the opening lead)) the margin narrows to not much. However the immediate above is subject to material adjustment if the opening leader is blessed with KQJ or QJ10 holdings and such.

The second type doubling hand is a long strong suit such as AKQxxx and extras or KQJxxx and more extras which, on average, will, if then passed out, usually result very well for the defense.

Therefore, my Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), being very conservative and not liking results which are subject to mostly guesswork tend to fly to avoiding chance by, with the East hand merely bidding two hearts ASAP.

IOW, I think North should begin a runout by bidding 2 clubs, announcing to the table but directly to partner, stay alert since I am trying to find an 8 card fit to play at the two level so help me achieve that goal. It then can get somewhat, but not overly complicated, and please excuse me for not going into detail which may happen next, but, to do so, could be almost never ending, and you and partner (as well as other partnerships now listening) may have your own worked out method which tends to suit both of you.

Cutting to the results chase, my partnership, if I was sitting in all four seats (a somewhat ugly thought) would be a simple contract of 2 hearts played by East. Yes, this one may make 10 tricks, for a below average board, but so it goes in conservative trenches who try to avoid the evil which sometimes lurks with Dame Fortune, rather than down the middle bridge, determine final results.

No doubt, others can make strong cases for going after those overbidding opponents and teaching them lessons, and in this case will very likely succeed, but those songs of dominance are not for me.

And to think, there are at least double digit ways to defend a strong 1NT opening and all I am doing is beginning to cover a fairly standard solution. A pox on me for not writing a complete manuscript on at least a few others, but my guess, you will understand the difficulty in doing so.

Thanks for your question and I will be delighted to answer any specific questions from here, but not to go into detail which will be practically impossible to cover all the what ifs.

ClarksburgJuly 9th, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Thanks. Main point covered. Already aware of the more-common methods for “interfering” and “running” , so no further questions needed.

Main valuable lesson for me here: perfectly-sound conservative bidding will get EW to a Heart part score, a below-average score…. as the cards lie today.

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