Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 6th, 2017

You recently commented about the conditions to open one no-trump. This hand below came up in a local game this week. Playing five-card majors and strong no-trump, would you open one no-trump with: ♠ A-J,  A-Q-10-9,  A-4, ♣ 9-6-5-4-3? Would opening a suit and rebidding one no-trump be a significant underbid?

Playing House, Torrance, Calif.

This hand looks like a balanced not an unbalanced hand, because the minor is so weak I don’t want to emphasize it. I am not strong enough to open one club and respond two hearts over one spade, so I would have to rebid one no-trump. I’d opt for the suit opening with ace-fifth of clubs and the doubleton spade jack, I think, but as it is I’ll open one no-trump.

Not vulnerable, my partner opened one diamond in first seat, followed by two passes and a one heart bid by my left hand opponent. My partner passed, as did my right hand opponent. I then bid two clubs; what should my partner expect of me?

Trying it On, Louisville, Ken.

A good question. I’d say I would expect 4-5 points and long clubs, no diamond fit, unsuitable for bidding a major or one no-trump the first time out. Since most of us WOULD bid one no-trump on any six-count or respond in a major if we had one, a single-suiter seems most likely.

I held ♠ J-10-2,  10,  Q-10-9-8-3, ♣ Q-10-9-8. My partner opened two clubs, followed by a rebid of two no-trump over my two diamond call. I chose to bid Stayman, and raised his three spades to four. It turned out he had ace-jack-third of hearts and because the club king was finessable, you could make 12 tricks in either contract. How would you have bid my hand?

Howdy Doody, Northridge, Calif.

When partner has a very strong hand and we only have regular Stayman available, I guess I’d just blast three no-trump. Let me add a suggestion. Even if you play regular Stayman, you can use a response of three no-trump to Stayman as five spades – what do you have to lose, since it has no other meaning in the standard scheme of responses?

We had a pre-game seminar at our club last week and this deal came up. With ♠ A-10-8,  A-Q-J-9-2,  Q-5, ♣ K-Q-10, what would be your plan facing a one club opener? (Partner’s opener is a dead minimum, but his hand includes five decent clubs plus the heart king and diamond ace; so 12 tricks are easy in three strains – though not 13.)

Flummoxed, Cartersville, Ga.

This is a hard hand – but it exemplifies why we play strong jumps shifts. After one club – two hearts – two no-trump – three no-trump responder has shown an 18-count with five hearts. If opener can find one further call (maybe four clubs or four hearts) you should achieve your target.

My partner introduced me to an odd-sounding concept, and I need help. Can you discuss what ‘Unusual against Unusual’ means and how it applies?

Old Sparky, New Canaan, Conn.

When the opponents show a specific two-suiter, (by bidding two no-trump over partner’s one heart, say) use the three club and three diamond cuebid to show two different hand types. One is a limit raise in hearts, one is a spade hand – typically one plays this as better than a direct three spade call, which would show a non-forcing hand. You can link clubs and hearts together, and diamonds to spades. Alternatively, you can make the higher cuebid – if it is below three of partner’s suit – as the limit raise. Whatever you do, make sure you agree it!

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slarAugust 20th, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I’m playing catchup here. There was a 6NT hand a couple of days ago. Can you recommend a partnership agreement for high-level contracts? Is there a point at which you should abandon count signals (or perhaps all signals) because they are more likely to help declarer?

bobby wolffAugust 20th, 2017 at 10:49 pm

Hi Slar,

Definitely yes and much more often than most would realize.

Especially against a slam, where, on defense, the bidding and play up to when a signal may be given, should, by then, have made it obvious, or almost, what declarer’s hand looks like (and almost exactly), making both telltale count and attitude signals able to help declarer, not partner.

Of course, the normal retort to the above advice usually would be, “Yes, maybe for you, but not for me”” only suggesting that besides being an exaggeration, yes the idea for the defense is to understand the above and as quickly as possible, begin to determine how to get better at analyzing what declarer has left in his hand.

The good news is that it makes the defensive pair much better defenders, with the bad news only that the lesser experienced pair loses its excuse for making it too easy for the declarer (no matter how good he is).

The specific news is that to give accurate signals to partner when they can only be necessary to partner and not, as in many hands, provide a map for declarer to play the hand perfectly.

Finally whether lesser experienced pairs know it or not, they have an advantage, even against the best players around, knowing the prowess of their well known opponents, while he, she or they, will only be guessing about his.

The old saying applies, “you’ll recognize those times when they appear” is usually right-on and if not, you will need to overcome that disadvantage on your own, by developing the simple principle, that if a defender does not know what declarer has by a certain fairly early time while the hand is being played, he is doing something wrong, if and when he expects to become a very good player himself, or herself.

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