Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Can you clarify what happens if South is in a two heart contract, and East revokes by trumping when he could have followed suit, thus incurring a two-trick penalty? North-South therefore make two hearts with two overtricks. Should the two penalty tricks be added to the game tricks or will they be bonus points above the line?

Ice Berg, Kelowna, British Columbia

Remember the revoke laws have changed so that it is only two tricks (as opposed to one) if the offending side wins two tricks on or after the revoke trick. In addition, they must either win the revoke trick with the revoke or the revoker must win a subsequent trick with a card he could have played on the revoke trick. Such overtricks go above the line. What goes below is always the contract – be it undoubled, doubled or redoubled, but nothing else.

After my LHO opened the bidding one diamond, marking him with most of the outstanding high cards, I declared two spades with two small trumps facing a five-card suit headed by A-Q-J-9. I ruffed once in dummy and now had to make a trump play. Should I lead to the nine, jack or ace?

Bobby Shafto, East Orange, N.J.

Assuming the king is to our left we should compare LHO holding king-doubleton (when low to the nine is right) against his holding king-10 in a two or three-card suit, when the suit should be played from the top. I make it a slight edge to play from the top – but it is close.

Holding ♠ K-10-2,  K,  A-J-8-7-5-3, ♣ A-Q-3 I opened one diamond and jumped to three diamonds over my partner’s one heart response. My partner had six hearts to the acejack, plus three good diamonds to the king-queen. The field played three no-trumps here but six diamonds would have been easy. How should we get to slam here?

Monkey’s Paw, Madison, Wis.

Your hand is certainly full value for a jump in diamonds, though you would try to avoid making the call on such a weak suit. I might consider a rebid of two no-trump (or even inventing a spade suit). That certainly won’t help reaching slam, today, though. Some hands are just too difficult.

Holding ♠ A-Q-3,  K-2,  A-J-2, ♣ K-10-9-8-3, is it right to overcall one diamond with a call of one no-trump, or would you consider the hand too strong for that action? Does the vulnerability or whether we are playing pairs or teams make a difference?

Grape Pip, Newport News, Va.

I’m not a fan of doubling as opposed to overcalling one no-trump if the latter is a practical alternative. Here doubling might lead partner to do too much in the majors. The point about missing game is not the primary concern, since partner tends (not always correctly) to assume we have a good strong no-trump when we make the overcall, so he will be inclined to try for game if he can.

Could you clarify what you mean by an upside-down signal? I didn’t realize you could throw a card upside down – I thought that sort of signal was illegal.

Widdershins, Mitchell, S.D.

When players refer to reverse or ‘upside down’ discards or signals, what they mean is that the meaning of the signal is reversed rather than the card itself. It has been traditional in the US to attach an encouraging meaning to high cards, though occasionally a high card shows an even number. In many other countries low cards are used to convey encouragement. You may give whatever meaning you like to your carding — but you must disclose it on your convention cards, or if asked.

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jim2July 23rd, 2017 at 11:03 am

On the second answer (to Bobby Shafto’s question), I believe West “holding king-10 in a two or three-card suit” is incorrect. Specifically, if West holds K10 doubleton, the king will drop on the second round after the 10 wins the first.

Thus, assuming West does not hold a singleton honor, the trump suit plays seem to differ only when West holds either K10x or Kx.

If I am correct, the math should be re-visited with that change. My suspicion is that the one diamond opening (rather than one club) contains enough inference of a diamond suit (hence fewer cards in others) to tip the scales.

bobby wolffJuly 23rd, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

First of all, Mr. Shafto’s question is somewhat confusing when he states, ” I ruffed once in dummy and NOW had to make a trump play, should I lead TO the nine, jack or ace”? Does he mean from his hand (TO) or from the dummy (NOW).

I vote his language means, from the dummy, and while his LHO opening one diamond rather than one club could very well be the difference maker, being at the table should help with ties broken by selecting playing from the top (ace then queen) since leading low (nine) either the first or second lead and losing to the isolated ten sounds disastrous to losing total control (depending on what else is held in other suits around the table).

IOWs, it is critically necessary to know both the 26 cards held by both partnerships and also the opening lead and specific cards held by declarer and dummy, plus the game, matchpoints or not, and even the vulnerability since minus 200 needs (if possible, to be avoided with the difference between minus 200 and 300 somewhat less important.

In addition the declarer, in mentally reconstructing possible defensive hands, needs to decide what the opponents may be able to make if the subject defensive hand holds only Kx rather than K10x in spades.

Finally, from what we know it looks dim for declarer whatever he does, so perhaps we should decide with us not being vulnerable and then constructing the opponents hands so that they can make some part score contract if the cards are a certain way and then make our decision.

Yes, all of this is complicated, but very few experienced players think bridge, even part score play and defense, is an easy task, especially answering this question without more information.

However I am not here to say that the “real” question did not have more disclosure since editing it down to size is one of our vital responsibilities.

Perhaps this topic will win the award for most confusing of the month with apologies for TOCM which, even just the possibility of, always seems to make a difference.

slarJuly 23rd, 2017 at 6:05 pm

I have a history question which I should know the answer to but don’t. Who’s rule was it to make no mistakes on the last three boards, ever? Was that an Aces thing?

After witnessing District 6’s tragic loss in the GNTs last night, I feel badly for everyone involved. I know Shore and Palmer must have been exhausted and under immense pressure but man, the diamond return and the 6NT bid were just so egregious and undid 58 hands of great bridge by the team.

For those who didn’t follow:

bobby wolffJuly 23rd, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Hi Slar,

No, I had never heard of that gambit before, although it does make at least, some sense. Then, at least over a 15 board segment, all a team would need to worry about is the first twelve.

And yes, that team did suffer a tragic loss since I agree with you that actually both teams played well enough to win, but bridge history will tell us, it is not at all strange to see an otherwise excellent, consistent, experienced, feet on the ground player may lose his or her cool and for no explicable reason, toward the end of a hotly contested match.

My guess as to why it happens, is that high level bridge sometimes causes one to lose focus on the IMP scale and its demands making a compromise the order of the day, while at the same time not absolutely being sure that 7NT is going to be laydown or at the very least, well over 90%.

No doubt, the playing of competitive high-level bridge demands total concentration with no excuses such as stress, ever allowed to be in the ball park.

Peter PengJuly 24th, 2017 at 2:35 am

hi Mr. Wolff and fellow readers

I have been subject to a common situation recently.

Say I am playing 1NT and I have 7 tricks guaranteed. However, I am playing MP and there is a fair play for 8 tricks.

In my head the strongest thought is that if I do not make the overtrick I will get a bottom.

I go for it and end up with 6 tricks.

Is there a bridge name for this situation?


slarJuly 24th, 2017 at 3:09 am

Okay, that “no mistakes on the last three boards” thing was driving me crazy so I had to scour my books until I found it. Mel Colchamiro attributes it to you on p. 209 of “How You Can Play Like an Expert (Without Having To Be One)”. I knew it was familiar.

My personal danger zone is around the 2/3s mark. It’s like a gremlin. I can feel it coming and sometimes it still gets me. But I think I’m getting better at it.

bobby wolffJuly 24th, 2017 at 5:44 am

Hi Peter,

I do not know a specialized name for what you explain, but in bridge it is not possible (nor, to my knowledge ever happened) for any young person, no matter how naturally talented, nor numeracy inclined, to be a child genius in bridge, such as Wolfgang Mozart was, in music.

Methinks the reason is that only experience with many repetitions of all the factors involved, both technical and psychological, are needed before one is ready to barely learn how to win consistently. Then, when that period is over, a player has to acclimate his learning to jell with a partner who has had to go through the same learning process, but still continues to do things his way.

Together it can take years before results match that partnership’s talent level, with often it never happening no matter how potentially strong they are individually.

Like a good marriage, from there it only gets better, but while it is going on, both must cherish the opportunity afforded since it never happens to many, who instead drift from partner to partner and finally settle for much less than what they could achieve.

What happens to you when you go for an overtrick, and instead go set is fairly commonplace, but like I believe Rudyard Kipling once advised, “learn to deal with victory and defeat and treat those two imposters just the same” or something close to that.

My only stern warning is to not ever become emotional enough to suffer losses, but rather to objectively decide later if what you did was justifiable or just a flight of fancy. We all need to crawl before we attempt to walk and in bridge in order to get really good, takes both time and an awful lot of effort.

Most who could, don’t, since they are too busy just living life and doing things others are doing, making playing excellent bridge similar to a very jealous mistress, often requiring too much of someone’s time.

bobby wolffJuly 24th, 2017 at 5:54 am

Hi Slar,

Thanks for updating me, since I did not know that Mel ever wrote that up. However and through the years, yes the last few boards have swung many important matches and tournaments.

Perhaps whether on the right side or wrong the last few boards are usually the ones which are remembered not unlike all the popular sports we all love and follow closely.

Whatever occurs at the table should be cast aside completely when the cards are then taken out of the next board. To do so is much more important for winning than would be ten finesses in a row working when each was necessary to make the contract.

Reason being is that once the above discipline is firmly learned, it will always be practiced and never forgotten. That habit will still be with you long after you have forgotten those ten winning finesses.