Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Where do you stand on leading from three cards (either from honor-third or from three small cards) in partner’s suit? Does it matter whether you are defending a suit or no-trump?

Board of the Rings, Bellingham, Wash.

In the old days, players would lead an honor from honor-third and top from three small. I hope these days are gone; lead low from both holdings. The first is way too likely to cost a trick when declarer has a stopper such as king-jack third or ace-jack third. The second will confuse partner about the count in the suit — which may be critical to your partner. The honor position will normally be clearer than the count at the end of the first trick. This is why MUD (middle, up, down) is such a bad idea; it confuses both issues.

In a standard two-over-one system, dealer starts with one diamond. Say responder has game-forcing values with a four-card major and five clubs. When is it correct for responder to bid one of the major, and when is it correct for responder to bid two clubs?

Grey Gardens, Orange County, Calif.

You may not get unanimous agreement here, but my personal style as responder with clubs and a major is always to bid the minor unless you want to play the 4-3 major fit. So I might introduce a four-card major with three of the top four honors, but not a suit with one top honor. With something in between, I’d look at my overall strength and club quality. The better the hand, the more likely I’d be to bid clubs.

Do you like using computerized deals, and do you suppose that we receive wilder distributions with them than if we hand-dealt the boards? The suits never seem to split for me when using pre-dealt hands.

Marvelous Marvin, Harrisburg, Pa.

There is an underlying point in what you say, but you have drawn a false conclusion from it. Hand-dealt cards are not as thoroughly shuffled, and thus they tend to produce flatter shapes than they should. Additionally, I suspect that whenever suits don’t split, you remember it and give additional weight to that instance. I like the fact that everyone plays the same hands — often all around the country. We have computers to thank for that.

I am trying to learn the nuances of contract bridge bidding and would be grateful for an explanation of how transfer bids work, and when they apply.

Rubik’s Rube, Bay City, Mich.

Let’s keep it simple to start with. In response to a natural opening or an overcall of one or two no-trump, responder can use Stayman to locate a four-card major in his partner’s hand. Or he can transfer into his own major with five or more cards in that suit. The opener must complete the transfer, then responder will pass, bid a second suit, bid game or invite game. Details can be found at:

What would you advise on the following hand from a pairs tournament? As opener, holding ♠ A-J-7-4-2,  K-6-5-4,  —, ♣ K-Q-9-4, I bid one spade, rebidding two hearts over my partner’s two-diamond response. Now came four clubs, which we play simply as a cue-bid, not necessarily shortage. Would you look for slam, and if so, how?

Hoity-Toity, Atlanta, Ga.

I can’t decide if I like this hand enough to cue-bid. I do have decent controls, but the void in diamonds and the weak hearts are negatives. If I did bid, I hate cue-bidding shortage in partner’s first suit, but anything else takes me past game. If I do make an effort, perhaps five hearts to focus on trumps might be best.

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Bruce karlsonDecember 3rd, 2017 at 12:04 pm

In a club game recently, partner dealt and bid 1H, RHO bid 2C and I, holding Kxxxx,x, AQx, KQ9 passed assuming my partner would make a routine reopening X with 1 or 2Cs. He rebid his H and we ended up with a middle board. I was surprised when several players with multiple thousands of MPs opined that they would not reopen with a double. W cannot take more than 4 tricks and I think I would have left it
in given my stiff heart. Thoughts?

Bruce karlsonDecember 3rd, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Sorry, add one more low club…

Iain ClimieDecember 3rd, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Hi Bruce,

Can you tell us what your partner held, too? I suspect if RHO was going for that big a number, the oppo might have run or partner might even have had (say) CJxx with declarer having the other 6 when he might have assumed that you weren’t stacked in clubs. I missed out on a telephone number in similar vein a few weeks ago.



Bruce karlsonDecember 3rd, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Meant to include…there is hope for me but it is limited. AJ10x, AKQxxx, xx, x. It seems to me the inability to bid his spades (reverse) further inclines toward reopening.

Iain ClimieDecember 3rd, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Hi Bruce,

I’ve got to say I might well double and shift 2D to 2H or even 2S to 3H hopefully suggesting this level of playing strength.


Bobby WolffDecember 3rd, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Hi Bruce,

At least IMO, Iain is right on with his advice to you.

Partner may or may not double back in, even when short in their suit, since a reopening double should accomplish at least two goals:

1. Tell his partner, at least from his view, that both the bidding and his hand suggest further competition.

2. Be prepared for partner to pass the double, which, when holding 4-6-2-1 might be stretching it to defend (in case the overcaller is full value or better) together with his partner (in this case, you), passing while choosing in a close decision (of course not this time), rather than bid.

While holding your partner’s hand, my opinion suggests bidding out (rather than a reopening double), rather than courting a very bad result when the overcaller has very good distribution or also the possibility, which Iain suggested, of his LHO (or his partner) running to a good diamond fit and then outbidding you later, or at the least, making it harder to judge later, and for your side, what to do.

IOW, it is probably not as cut and dried as you suspected about always reopening when passed around back to him. Although I have absolutely no quarrel with your first trap pass, it may have been wise, and might have IMO against a very conservative RHO, if you would just immediately bid 2 spades with the idea of bidding NT next, since, if partner decides to just pass, you will very likely, not defeat this hand more than your very likely game will produce.

In that way the bidding goes along naturally, hardly ever a bad idea, although it is definitely true you may be passing up a good opportunity for an excellent result.

The important thing for you to learn is the experience gleaned from partner not reopening with a double and its implications for the future of your partnership.

No doubt, in order to get there from where ever you are, your knowledge will continue to grow from having these kinds of experience.

Good luck and, most importantly, STAY WITH IT since, deep down you love our game more than you probably care to admit. Believe me, it is worth it!

Bruce karlsonDecember 3rd, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Thnx you so much for your thoughts. I knew a pas by me was a close call…I probably would bid on. My interest was prompted by short answers from supposedly much better players. This hand will never be the ideal for either reopening or converting. I feel more confident having heard from you and Lain. If love of the game were the criterion, I would be a champ.. lol; not so easy when it is a tad more complicated. Thnx again. Bruce

ClarksburgDecember 4th, 2017 at 12:58 am

Supplementary to Board of the Rings’ question and your reply:
Your recommendation to lead low from three small, along with your rationale, provides an easily-remembered basis for Partnership agreement. I shall discontinue “occasional” MUD leads when my three small are all really small.

Some authors suggest different choices from three small, depending upon whether Partner has bid the suit, and, if so, whether you have supported it, thus providing some “count” info.
Do you have any further comment about that?

Bobby WolffDecember 4th, 2017 at 6:17 am

Hi Clarksburg,

No doubt, once supporting partner’s suit one should lead high from 9xx on down, since partner will usually know to expect three, once supported.

Otherwise it is business as usual, so long as MUD (middle, up, down), remains not played. Yes, of course, sometimes if playing, MUD you can fool an unwary opponent to think what you want him to, but more often partner will not be able to tell at trick one what to expect.

Of course, when holding 109x it makes sense to lead the 10, not for counting purposes, but to be more flexible in sometimes holding the lead and/or to let partner know you possess the 9 (if he knows you have some length from the bidding and a look at dummy).

Opening leads when choosing what suit and then what card will always be subjective, making bridge the game it is.

Once learned, bridge logic becomes all very good player’s chief weapon, not really exactly what system is played, but rather instead matching up all the unseen hands by what happens during the play after carefully listening to the bidding.