Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 5th, 2017

In a strong no-trump base, when you hold a balanced 10-11 count in response to partner’s opening bid, do you tend to invite game or go low? Specifically, with ♠ K-2,  A-10-8-2,  J-9-3, ♣ Q-7-4-3, what do you do when your partner opens one club and the next hand overcalls one heart? I chose a slightly pessimistic bid of one no-trump, and that ended the auction. But when my partner tabled a 14-count with five clubs, we wrapped up 10 tricks.

Cereal Killer, Augusta, Ga.

I would go low, just as you did. This hand looks like we should be in part-score territory unless partner produces extra shape or high cards. Give me the diamond queen instead of the jack, and I would invite game with a jump to two no-trump, which is invitational, but not forcing.

I enjoy playing Precision, and I was wondering if you would recommend that over the Blue Club base you and Bob Hamman used to play? I’d be interested in learning more about your approach to bidding in terms of the ratio of simple to complex.

Man-o’-War, Bremerton, Wash.

I’m happy to rely on judgment as much as system. So our Blue Club base was largely cobbled together from methods we had in common. Both of us prefer four-card majors to five, and we are prepared to play two-over-one as not game-forcing. These days, those are both minority positions, and they are not methods I’d espouse in this column.

At unfavorable vulnerability, I held ♠ K-10,  A-K-10-7-4-2,  Q-J-7-4, ♣ K. I opened one heart in fourth seat, my LHO overcalled one spade and my partner raised to two hearts. Would you have passed, driven to game or invited with three hearts now? I chose to bid three hearts, and my partner passed with the spade ace and four hearts to the queen-jack. Should my partner have raised me to four hearts, or should I have jumped directly to game?

Star Chamber, Tupelo, Miss.

I would prefer to drive to game here, since the sixth heart means that if you can’t make four hearts, they might make quite a bit. I play three hearts not as a game try here, but as a barrage. So if I wanted to make a game try, I would probably bid three diamonds.

Is there such a thing as the defenders, not declarer, claiming honors in a trump suit? Of course, I am speaking of rubber bridge.

Sheikh of Araby, Grand Forks, N.D.

If I understand you correctly, your question is whether the defenders can claim honors when declarer is playing a trump suit. The answer is yes — rare but painful when it happens! I’ve only seen it once (and I was the victim as dummy).

My partner opened a strong no-trump, which we play as 15-plus to a bad 18. I held a six-card club suit to the jack and scattered values, with a king, queen and jack in the other suits. When I transferred to clubs with a call of two spades, my partner showed a fit with a call of three clubs. Would you consider bidding on in either pairs or teams?

Bob the Builder, Trenton, N.J.

I probably wouldn’t bid game non-vulnerable in teams or in pairs. Change the hand to kingjack sixth of clubs with a king on the side, and now you have an easy continuation to three no-trump.

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ClarksburgNovember 19th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Good morning Bobby
If a Pair has agreed to play a strong 2C opening as forcing to “game” (that meaning to 3NT, 4M but only to 4m) is there really any point to having a way for Responder to show a bust, e.g by initial artificial 2H, 2D then second negative, etc. ?
Seems to waste bidding space, or possibly complicate the auction, when either Partner has a Heart suit or Responder has minor-suit length.
Any difference Matchpoints vs Teams?

bobbywolffNovember 19th, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

It may be close, but at least to me, it is important for the strong hand to know immediately that partner has a bust (0-2 and no big distribution such as 5-5-3-0 or better). It not only helps in not being GF with no hand and no particular fit, it gives better choices immediately starting with the 2nd round, to prevent having to jump.

My guess is that, less than 1% of the time both the double negative and the stopping short of game occur, except for the specific 2NT rebid by partner followed by a pass.

However, your prospective change does not figure to be vital, but I wouldn’t choose to do it.

No different between Matchpoints or Teams.

BTW, most experienced players play that (with a 2NT rebid being an exception), that the only rebid by the strong hand which can be passed becomes a bid in a suit the first round (after 2 clubs) and then a rebid of the same suit the second round.

bobbywolffNovember 19th, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

I forgot to remind you that if the opponents enter the bidding, pass shows the equivalent of positive, but double (as high as it goes) shows the bust hand. That to me, is necessary to play, but remember no points but favorable distribution should count as a positive pass.

Also, the decision to pass or bid out depends on the level of bid by the opponent, with bridge common sense to be exercised.

Jeff MillardNovember 19th, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Hey Bobby… after another fairly long absence, I’m back. I would like to comment on one of your previous hands which my wife sent me: OCT, Fri the 13th (oh oh). I am of the opinion that the hand does indeed rate being opened by N, with his A and a total of four spades, J and 3 hearts, A and 4 diamonds, and doubleton K clubs. After all, if his partner also has greater than the average number of points (10), then a makable part score is probable and shouldn’t be thrown away. Secondly, and much more important to me is this: With the advent of a slue of modern conventions, Bridge has — to me — become much more complicated than it needs to be. My Tue PM bridge club continues to dwindle in numbers as most younger people nowadays believe the game is just too complicated to learn. As an old-timer, I believe in the KISS system of bidding. After N’s opening bid of 1 diamond, S should (in my humble opinion) show his true values immediately by jump-shifting to 2 hearts, showing approx 19 points and a good heart suit. If a vulnerable W then jumps in with a 2 spade bid, N can seriously consider a penalty double (with his A and 3 other spades) — not some obscure (at least to me) “supporting double”. Or, he can bid 3 spades to show his spade A. South then rebids hearts to the 4 level and North asks for Aces. With 4 aces between them, N can then bid to the 6 level, believing that the contract will either be solid, or only off by a finesse. In the hand shown, it is off only by an end play (and a hope that the diamond 10 is on side). OK, it’s a stretch, but I think worth a try. After all, a lot of high boards rely on a finesse and an end play and or force at the end, eh?
And on another hand (Fri, Oct 6th), with S’s weak hand — only 6 high card points and two doubletons, he should rebid only 3 hearts showing his 6 not-very-good-looking hearts. Then N can bid and easily make 3 NT, making it with any lead by E and the J hearts on side (as it needs to be in the pictured 4 heart contract). As an aside, noone in our bridge club would lead the spade J holding K J 10 and/or 9, so I would consider taking the first trick with dummy’s spade A, getting to hand with the diamond A and finessing the Q clubs in order to dump his losing spade if successful. In this case, it wouldn’t be, but at worse it’s a 50 – 50 chance… AND if the heart J is on side, he makes 5! Sorry about being so late on these hands. Jeff

bobbywolffNovember 19th, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Hi Jeff,

Glad to hear from you again.

While I do not keep an active file on specific hands held more than a month ago, I see to remember a hand where the jack of spades was led, but that was from an announced jack denies opening leader, so it would be worse than foolish to finesse the spade at trick one.

Regarding the opening bid with a balanced 12 hcps, it should be a partnership style whether to do so or not (I rate it pretty close, but breaking ties in favor of opening). In any event those fine points should be discussed before playing and then both partners being consistent on what they have agreed.

In many cases, especially during the bidding, there are different styles leading to different results, no one really being right or wrong, only crying out to have what partner usually expects, and allowing your opponents to be all over the place, trying to guess what is going on in partner’s mind.

Welcome back, but try and keep the discussion on a current hand (at least read sometime during the current week).

Thanks for writing and hope to hear from you again soon.