Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

A recent problem at pairs had us scratching our heads. I opened one club holding ♠ Q-J-8-2,  3,  A-Q-10, ♣ K-Q-9-4-2. My LHO overcalled one heart, my partner bid one no-trump, my RHO tried two hearts and I had to decide what to do. I know my partner does not have spades, so should I pass, double or bid either two no-trump or three clubs?

Last Strain, Troy, N.Y.

Passing is clearly wrong, when the opponents have a big fit. Meanwhile, double should be balanced extras, so the choice is which suit to bid. I think two spades is best, showing clubs and spades and letting partner go forward as he sees fit. A call of two no-trump might be played as artificial by some (, but if not it would be a source of tricks in clubs and not enough for game – maybe five or six clubs tricks in a minimum balanced hand.

My partner and I did not agree on a double; could you provide a Solomonic ruling please. My LHO opened one club and my partner doubled. I responded one spade holding jack-10 fifth of spades and the doubleton diamond king. Now my LHO came again with two diamonds, and my partner doubled. What does that mean?

Seconds Out, Charleston, S.C.

I cannot say for sure that there IS a standard interpretation. I’d expect this to be extras with three spades, so I might bid two spades now. For such a simple auction there should, I agree, be a standard interpretation, but I think it should just be a good hand with no clear call.

My question is about game tries in an uncontested auction after a major suit is raised to two. Where do you stand on long- and short-suit game tries, and what about bids in no-trump or a re-raise of the trump suit?

Trying Hard, Pittsburgh, Pa.

A simple approach is to use new suits as help tries (three or four cards to one top honor is typical), no-trump calls as natural, and a re-raise as pre-emptive. Another approach is to use step one as promising shortage somewhere — the next three calls as longsuit tries. This approach is called Rosenkranz and is discussed at

After opening two no-trump with a flat 20-21, passed out, declarer may often end up playing a hopeless contract facing a flat near-bust dummy. Is opening such hands at one of a minor worth considering as an alternative opening?

Dark Side, Lorain, Ohio

You can’t go through life with your umbrella open in case it is just about to rain. Equally, while the two no-trump opener isn’t the best part of a standard system, you must use it to describe the balanced 20-21 HCP hands. Opening one of a minor won’t let you describe that hand precisely. So don’t worry, be happy.

In answer to an online enquiry, you responded, in part: “… The reason is that second hand is supposed to pass with a flat minimum opening, which cannot double…” I recall in a previous column answer you indicated that when on the fence it is generally best to err on the side of getting into the auction.” With a balanced hand when do you bid and when do you pass??

Joining Battle, Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Let’s take a 4-3-3-3 pattern after a minor-suit opening bid to your right. With 14 or more you either double or overcall one no-trump. With 11 you’d almost always pass. With 12 or 13 you would tend to double unless partner is a passed hand AND you have significant defense to the suit opened. Ace-third is a perfectly acceptable holding, K-Q-x a far less attractive holding.

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ClarksburgNovember 5th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Supplementary to your answer to Last Strain’s question:
In this auction context is Opener’s 2S bid still a “reverse” ?
If so, is it stretching just a bit to make the most practical call? Or, does the singleton Heart and likely playing strength justify an upgrade anyway?

Bobby WolffNovember 5th, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

If you were asking yourself that specific question, you gave an intelligent answer. “All of the above”.

No, it is really not a reverse, yes, it is stretching a bit to make the most practical call, yes, because of the singleton heart, 2NT is close to ridiculous, when holding only a small singleton in the opponent’s suit unless the club suit is almost a solid 6 carder (AKJxxx might be the minimum, or perhaps AKQxx with at least one ace on the side), yes the playing strength of the overall hand (while playing in a suit) is the true measure of why some bid should be made.

Finally, responder with s. Kx, h. K98x, d. Jxx, c.Jxxx, 3 clubs, with s. xx, h, K10xx, d. Kxxx c. Axx, 2NT, with s. Kxx, h. KJxx, d. Jxxx, c. xx, pass, and with s. xx, h. QJ10x, d. Kxx, c. Axxx, 3NT.

Juat another normal trip down practical lane, knowing that bridge requires winning imagination, every bit as much as good technical knowledge.

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