Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 16th, 2017

In a recent pairs game my partner held a very powerful hand, but with limited high cards: ♠ KQ-J-10-8,  A-K-Q-10-7-3,  9-7, ♣ —. She opened two clubs and I drove to slam when we found a heart fit. Slam duly came home, but I wasn’t comfortable with that choice of actions; do you agree her choice?

Dick Deadeye, Winston-Salem, N.C.

I unequivocally agree with you that this hand doesn’t qualify for a two club opener. I would open one heart and reverse into spades, then rebid spades to show 6-5 pattern. There is exactly zero chance of a one heart opener being passed out if you open it, and what is more, you don’t lie about your assets, quick tricks, and indeed everything else.

Holding ♠ 7,  A-Q-J-7-2,  K-9-8-32, ♣ J 4 would you be happy opening one heart in first chair rather than passing? If you do bid, you hear a weak jump overcall of two spades on your left, passed back to you. What now?

Balancing Act, St. Louis, Mo.

I would of course open one heart, and, though I admit that a misjudgment here might be very expensive, I think you have to put your neck on the block and bid again. A call of three diamonds seems to be too committal, so you might double for take-out. Unless your RHO’s tempo has betrayed that he holds a strong hand, your partner figures to have values — and thus is most likely to hold a spade stack. The reason he passed was that a double of two spades would have been negative.

I was recently watching an expert game on line. Declarer opened one spade with a decent hand and a club void, and the responding hand had an opener with four spades and a club suit of his own. How good would responder’s club suit have to be before he would introduce his clubs in advance of raising spades, as opposed to making a Jacoby two no-trump response?

Wicker Man, Milford, Pa.

Two no-trump is the logical response here with spade support, and you would only bid clubs first if you had a source of tricks that you need to make partner aware of. With a club suit such as A-K-4-3-2 I would bid two clubs first, since I can make slam facing a very minimum balanced hand that fits clubs and lets partner discard his slow red-suit losers.

I’ve heard the term “restricted choice” used for declarer when his trump suit is missing both the queen and jack. If one opponent plays one of the honor cards the first time trumps are led, how should declarer plan the subsequent play in the suit? Do you play for the drop or finesse?

Razor’s Edge, Cedar Rapid, Iowa

Imagine, for example, that you hold five cards to the ace in hand, and four to the king-10 in dummy. When the ace drops an honor to your right, you can finesse on the next round, or you can play for the drop. While a doubleton Q-J is (in abstract) more likely than a singleton queen, a defender holding Q-J has a choice of cards at his first turn, but no choice when he began with the bare queen. In summary, a defender is almost twice as likely to have begun with a singleton honor than with Q-J. The simpler hypothesis is nearly always right.

I would like to learn to play Contract Bridge but know nothing about it, though I have played some card games. Can you suggest a way to get started?

Newbie, Lexington, Ky.

A simple way: try contacting the ACBL and ask if there are any beginner classes in your neighborhood – at 901 332 5586. But for clubs in Kentucky you can try: http://www.lexingtonbridgeclub. com/results_frame_page.htm

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Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2017 at 2:38 pm

HI Bobby,

Even though I’ve got a statistics-based degree, and understand the Rule of Restricted Choice, it seems to work less often than expected for me in practice. Manual dealing after imperfect shuffles could be one cause (although that is now rare) but I’m wondering if TOCM has been stalking more of us than just Jim2…. It could just be paranoia, of course, but then that is the unjustified terror that something / someone is out to get you!



Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, sometimes scientific based facts, especially when combined with the emotionally attached game we all love, tend to create what could either be valid or just simply illusory.

When Terence Reese first came out with his theory of Restricted Choice (believe it or not, I was just a kid) I somewhat doubted its relevance, causing me to be watchful when it occurred.

Since then I have become a loyal believer in it, almost to the point of dedication. However, the above might possibly be the truth, but in reality it might exist to me only because of an illusion of mine, namely, I want to embrace it.

And besides you are all wrong about paranoia, since they are after me, not you.

Love, regards, and from TOCM (the old curmudgeon, me),


PS: Manual dealing should have nothing to do with Restricted Choice, since it is based only on player choice, or more specifically, much more likely, no choice at all.