Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Could you clarify for me whether it is compatible with Standard American to use a short minor? If you do play a short minor, does that affect whether you are supposed to keep the auction open with limited values when you hear partner open a minor?

South Park Stan, Midland, Mich.

A short club to me means a two-card or even shorter holding. Standard American plays five card majors and minors that can be three but NOT a short club. The one exception: with specifically 4-4-3-2 pattern you may elect to open one club, if you have decided to play your one diamond opening guarantees four cards. It is not uncommon these days to respond light to a one club — or even one diamond — opening with major-suit length and shortage in partner’s minor. I like that approach – within reason.

Our club has started a monthly team game. The plan is to keep cumulative total scores throughout the year toward a final standings, and a two-tier playoff. (Four teams in each tier, since we have eight teams). Would you suggest BAM (pairs) scoring or teams scoring and would you have any other thoughts on how to keep cumulative scoring from week to week?

Keeping Track, Augusta, Ga.

I suggest one of two simple systems. Either BAM scoring, carrying forward your cumulative total from week to week. Or use teams scoring converting to IMPs, and carry the cumulative IMPs forward. In the latter case, if your players use and are happy with converting IMPs to Victory Points, that would actually work better and be fairer, I believe.

At unfavorable vulnerability as dealer, I held ♠ K-Q-10-6-4-2,  Q-3,  J-3-2, ♣ K-9 I elected to forego opening one spade and opened two spades. My partner held a balanced 11-count and we played two spades, making three. But my partner felt I should have opened one spade. What do you say?

Undercooked, Sioux Falls, S.D.

My rule when looking at 10- or 11-counts is to add two for a six-card suit, and one for a subsidiary four-card suit. If the total doesn’t come to 13 then I open two, but even if the total is 13 or more I will open two if I do not have a trick and a half on defense. This hand is on the cusp, but I would be happy to open at the one-level in any seat except second seat vulnerable.

In one of your recent columns, South, overcalled three spades over three clubs. His partner now bid four clubs even though he had neither the ace nor king of clubs nor short clubs. Could you explain why he made that call?

Making Assumptions, Janesville, Wis.

Facing the three-spade overcall, the four club call simply sets spades as trump and guarantees at least some slam interest. Now overcaller can sign off, use keycard or cuebid himself. This is parallel to the way that after a simple overcall, advancer can raise with a limited hand and use a cuebid, the so-called ‘Unassuming Cuebid’ to show partner you have game interest and fit, without getting too high.

Can you comment on when and why you would consider upgrading and downgrading hands out of a one no-trump opening? Is it all about intermediates, sources of tricks, or a combination of the two?

Crunching the Numbers, Laredo, Texas

A simple rule is that one should not upgrade a 14-count without a five-card suit, and only sparingly then. Occasionally great intermediates, coupled with vulnerable doubleton honors such as queendoubleton and king-doubleton mean you may want to try to right-side no-trump. Few players downgrade 18-counts into one no-trump and 15-counts out of one no-trump. They should do so more often!

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jim2October 22nd, 2017 at 12:31 pm

On the weak-2 or one opening question posed by “Undercooked,” I believe I would always open 2S.

I tend to down-grade hands w/o an ace, with doubleton Qs, and soft un-supported honors in general. Additionally, hands with 2 (or 3) doubletons get a definite down-check from me in evaluations.

This hand has ALL of those negative rating factors.

ClarksburgOctober 22nd, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Good Morning Bobby
A comment on Keeping Tracks’s Starting up a Team Game:
When in exactly the same start-up situation four years ago we also consulted you.
We chose BAM scoring in part because you considered BAM the most demanding form of Teams competition.The Players griped a bit initially, but soon got over it.
The other plus is that BAM scoring is so easy for the Players to do at the Tables.
At another Club, we have a Monthly Swiss Teams game (not a League) with the ACBLSCORE program doing the conversion to VPs and the match-up assignments.

Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

Originally, when I compared my thoughts with yours, they seemed to run somewhat differently, with mine, not so much detail in analysis with some cavalier beliefs, such as if it looks like a duck, quacks life a duck, etc. etc., but later I came to realize that our judgment was essentially identical, since I, with that hand in question, would open 2 spades every time.

What all that means is for someone else to tell me, but perhaps your youth (at least compared to mine), has more teaching inclination (as some diffident may explain) and if so, you, not I, win the humanitarian award.

In any event, Amen, since I read your explanation I now know why I chose that answer.

Yes, I wish I had one of those yellow smiling creatures that you frequently use, to go HERE.

Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

What both you and the person from Georgia are doing is, at least IMO, the very best way to generally improve every player’s game, who has the inspiration and intelligence, to go about it right. Of course, every wannabe included player, is not lucky enough to have the ingredients necessary, to bake that cake.

BAM scoring requires the most accurate card play (since every trick, whether part score, game or slam, is so important, which demands attention to detail, on every hand, instead of
the sometime blessing of not having to worry so much) eg., for reference, the final day of the Reisinger (held at the Fall Nationals every late fall) is by far the toughest day in bridge, rivaling the finals of a World Championship for the most cherished day in bridge, to which so many worldwide aspiring players dream.

However, in truth, IMP scoring, not BAM, is likely the truest form of bridge where amount of gain rules, instead of frequency of gain, making both the declarer’s safest course to making one’s contract, together with their opponent’s valuing the setting of a contract, rather than holding off overtricks, the overall chief goal.

One thing for sure is that just trying to be the best player possible, whatever the scoring, should be enough to love our most challenging and rewarding great game, but if we do not get bridge in our educational school system, we need to, at the very least, albeit slowly, expect its demise, at least in the USA, sooner rather than later.

Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2017 at 2:04 pm

To everyone,

Judy and I are getting ready to play (for the first three days starting Monday) in a bridge sectional in Las Vegas at the downtown Plaza, but with the aid of her computer, I’ll still welcome all of your wonderful questions (and answers), but only the next morning or between sessions, rather than more timely.

Iain ClimieOctober 22nd, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Hi Bobby, Judy,

Just a quick word to say best of luck, and no worries about delayed answers. If there are any particularly interesting (or just downright awkward) decisions which come up, could you post them on the blog if / when you have time and the boot can be on the other foot. I’ve posed enough “what would you bid with this, please” queries over the years; this could be payback!



Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Are you kidding me, or, instead, just pulling my leg.? (Americana for playing me).

Why should I embarrass myself, by asking such a rowdy and unpredictable group for bridge advice?

On second thought, perhaps I will, but, of course, throw in a few hands, where I was the unquestioned star (maybe for undisclosed reasons on one of them, no more, making my partner Judy the heroine).

Better, especially if we don’t fare so well, I’ll need a scapegoat, but we won’t mention that to her just now, if ever.

I’ve now decided to do it, but remember mums the word and I don’t mean mom. And, by special edict, everyone will be allowed to discuss all of those glorious hand in as many bridge venues as the world possesses.

BTW, I am one of the best winners the world has ever seen, never gloating, nor otherwise offending. It’s the losing, which might have happened to me once or twice over the last many decades to which I discard my happy countenance. Not to worry, just pretend that what I write is 100% honest (and you won’t be more than 100% wrong).

I hope to live that long.