Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 24th, 2017

In a recent lead problem where you had a six-count, you advised attacking from queen-third in an unbid major against a no-trump contract. Would it be better to lead low or high? I worry about blocking the suit and misleading my partner that I have a four-card suit. As an aside, what about leading from a doubleton queen – would you suggest low or high?

Bow at a Venture, Manhattan, N.Y.

I’d always lead low from three to an honor; it might conceivably block the suit, but here your partner has plenty of high-cards, so this will be only a minor problem. By contrast, leading an unsupported honor might cost a trick in so many different ways — especially in an unbid suit. From a doubleton honor I lead the honor in partner’s bid suit, and try not to lead it at all if it is not.

I do not understand the implied contradiction between your statement in a recent answer that, if missing four cards, a 3-1 break is more likely than a 2-2 break, since you also say: play for the drop when missing four cards to the queen. How can you reconcile the two ideas?

Number Cruncher, Ketchikan, Alaska

In general terms a 3-1 break is more likely than a 2-2 break. But when deciding whether to finesse on the second round with a nine-card holding, you normally reach a position where one defender has followed twice, so you must halve that original 3-1 percentage. I should emphasize how close the original percentages are, though. Any known shortness or length in your opponents’ hands may tip you to the finesse.

Holding ♠ K-9,  Q-4-3,  A-J-4-2, ♣ Q-7-4-3 I heard my partner open one club and I responded one diamond. What would you do when your partner raises to three diamonds? Should you settle for three no-trump, show a major in the hope of reaching three no-trump when it is right, or look for slam?

Flat Earther, San Francisco, Calif.

Your soft values suggest bidding three no-trump, as if partner is short in one major, so that your values there are wasted, you may not make any game. If I did explore, I guess I would bid three spades. I really think it is just a guess, and the three no-trump call is the best of a bad job.

In third seat opening light in a major suit seems protected by the fact that your partner has Drury available. But should a third-seat opening in a minor be very close to opening bid strength? And where there is a choice, would opening a reasonable four-card major be a better choice?

Pushing the Boat Out, Doylestown, Pa.

With hands in the 10-12 range, open a good suit if you have one, planning to pass as soon as is sensible. With a full if minimum opener in the range 12-14, I tend to make my normal opening bid, planning to keep the auction open. A lead directer with a four-card major is relatively unusual though not absurd, of course. Pass balanced 10-counts unless you know what you want partner to lead.

With strong balanced hands is it logical to extend the three-point range approach, so that after opening two clubs a rebid of two no-trump shows 22-24 and a rebid of three no-trump shows 25-27? Also, what should a three no-trump opener show? A balanced powerhouse, or gambling with a long minor?

Tiers, Before Bedtime, Saint John’s, Newfoundland

Use three-point ranges for a one no-trump opening and rebid. You can invite facing those sequences, but you have to put up or shut up facing a two no-trump opening or rebid. Perhaps use an upper limit of 17 with no five-card suit for a one no-trump opener, and a good 11 to a bad 14 for the one no-trump rebid if you want to be daring. Use two point ranges for the higher actions. If you play the Kokish two heart rebid (see you can have your cake and eat it too.

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slarOctober 8th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Is this the correct URL for Kokish?

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, your answer seems to be the right reference for the Kokish Relay (KR)

There may be more than one of them, but the one mentioned in today’s Sunday column seems to be either down or incorrect.

Also I would recommend the KR, as long as the partnership which decides to play it have thoroughly memorized it. No doubt, if either partner has doubts, like many other conventions, it is 100% more dangerous to play than just natural, or at least some treatment that both partners not only remember, but also understand the advantages (and sometimes, although perhaps not in this case, disadvantages).

Thanks for your valuable information and apologies to those who are at least, temporarily stymied by using the column

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hi again Slar,

Many experienced bridge players, now use 2 hearts as a more or less double negative (0-2 hcps and balanced or semi-balanced) as an immediate 2 heart response to a strong, but artificial 2 clubs. That allows 2 diamonds to be GF, but denying the ability to make other, more definitive positive responses.

The 2 hearts double negative (or if an opponent immediately intervenes through the four level, then double by the responder becomes the “double negative, terrible hand”, with pass 100% forcing on the strong hand).

Of course immediate bids by the responder are natural and GF. An example may be if the bidding goes, South, 2 clubs, West, 2 hearts, then North should, while holding, s. Kxxxxx, h. x, d. Jxxxx, c. x bid a simple 2 spades, certainly not a great hand, but IMO necessary to bid now, rather than pass since the next time it comes around it may become very awkward to either bid then or to accept what partner has then ventured.

The above is only, at least IMO, a common sense application, of choosing the best methods to go forward in what can become very trying circumstances.

Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

You often mention the Chinese model of teaching bridge and I recently saw a write up in English Bridge from a member of the English team who lost to them in the Venice Cup Final. She not only praised their skill but also their charm, humour and the sporting spirit in which the final was played. Clearly their players have learned more than bridge, whether by accident or design. Now if only somone could do that for many of the rest of us (including myself); I remember Alan Sontag’s description of one player (no names) in his autobiography who seemed almost to revel in being agressive and unpleasant to partners (although hopefully not opponents).

It reminds me of an old observation. Sports and games do not build character – they reveal it!



bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Your post has much interest to me. However that interest may result in different forms for different folks.

My take, after a lifetime of too many losses and not enough wins (of course bridge competition lends itself to that sadness) is that the key word is respect. However that word has more to do with oneself than any specific competitor, and at least I believe, that it should virtually require one to be thoughtful and admire any player, partnership or team who defeats you, to be treated with the respect they have fairly won.

No doubt the English ladies feel that way about their Chinese competitors and are quite pleased to discuss it. It speaks well for both teams.

That above reason, assuming I am right on with my feelings, is why our mind game is so valuable in learning how to think, enjoying the wonder of intelligent competition, and win or lose, feeling good about the experience.

However, it also will never change my mind about favoring lifetime bans for bridge cheaters, since it is very difficult for me to just casually accept such a tragedy, although I think and hope that the worst is now behind us.

Thanks for bringing up this important behavioural discussion since bridge, perhaps more than any other fierce competition, justifies what the World Bridge Federation’s motto is:
“Bridge For Peace”.

slarOctober 9th, 2017 at 3:43 am

Yes, people have been trying to perfect the 2C mousetrap for decades. Richard Pavlicek has devised his own scheme ( which appears to share some ground with Kokish. I think the idea of using 2H as a two-way bid has a lot of merit and I believe that this is the direction that bidding systems are going.

Classical bidding generally uses the “describe then refine” mindset – try to describe your hand as accurately as possible in a single bid, then use subsequent rounds to augment that information as needed. If an auction is going to take multiple rounds anyway, it is usually more efficient to describe your hand over the course of multiple bids. You’re seeing this more and more and I suspect that there is more change to come.

Bobby WolffOctober 9th, 2017 at 7:37 pm

Hi Slar,

Your description approaches a bulls-eye; however, there is a price to pay.

Methinks the best way to discuss that price is just a general assessment that the more one describes in detail to his or her partner, the better the defense and/or the competitive sacrificing, starting on defense, with the opening lead.

It may resemble, and I have no intention of alienating others by comparing bridge to a cure for cancer, in bridge when hands are bid to a very accurate tune, a world class partnership (of which there are VERY few), will be lionized to a large extent, starting with the opening lead, an advantage heretofore unheard of, but to not recognize it, and intending to conquer the bridge world at the same time, will just result in high-level frustration as its chief benefactor.

IOW, bashing has its significant advantages, mostly poker-related, both in the bidding and in making it tougher for the defense to evaluate.