Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 10th, 2017

I have never seen a discussion of what happens when my LHO overcalls my suit opening with one no-trump. If my partner doubles, when should I remove that double? And when they run after his double, how far are passes forcing?

Cowardly Leon, Jackson, Tenn.

A new suit by your partner is NOT forcing — suggesting 6-9 HCP. Responder will almost always double with 10 or more points, so you will tend to pass the double unless weak and distributional, when you can remove the double — at your own risk. If your RHO runs, passes are forcing through two of your own suit, and double from both sides should be defensive or penalty.

I h e l d ♠ J – 7 ,  A – Q – 7 – 2 ,  A-Q-10-3-2, ♣ K-2 and opened one diamond. Over a one-spade response, I thought I did not have enough to reverse, so I rebid two diamonds to end the auction. We could not make a game, but belonged in a spade part-score. Where did we go wrong?

Second Wind, Phoenix, Ariz.

You can reverse on this hand without feeling you are overbidding too much, but an alternative and more practical approach might be to open a strong no-trump. With 16 HCP, the hand may be best described this way (but with 15 or 17 you might upgrade or downgrade appropriately).

I saw in a column online that the design on playing cards might need to be changed, and wondered what was the perceived need?

Facing the Muzak, Spartanburg, S.C.

After some abortive attempts to design symmetric card faces, the new Laws merely suggest that the backs and faces of the cards should be symmetrical — not that they must. It is up to the local regulating authorities to decide whether they will uphold these guidelines.

I only play on OK Bridge with pickup partners so I’m starting to forget some of the rules of bidding. If I open one heart and my LHO bids two clubs, is my partner’s call of two diamonds (or two spades) forcing if the opponents raise to three clubs? What if my partner bids a new suit at the three-level?

Richie Rich, Elmira, N.Y.

I believe that responder’s new suit does not set up a requirement on himself for a second call. It would be unusual to pass if the opponents raise, but not impossible. If responder bids a new suit at the three-level, it does set up a game force, for better or worse.

In no-trump, I often have the problem of how (or whether) to unblock a suit after I lead an honor and it holds. Having led from Q-J-10 and won the trick, how should I make it clear to my partner that I have that holding rather than Q-J-10-2 (or Q-J-103-2)?

Second Thoughts, Taos, N.M.

If you lead the queen and follow up with the jack, it almost denies holding the 10, so partner will not overtake on the second round. Thus if you lead the queen then follow up with the 10 or a small card, you can unblock the suit successfully. Partner will know to play his honor.

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David WarheitDecember 24th, 2017 at 9:41 am

You hold SK752 H2 D1086 CK10863. Partner opens 1H, you bid 1S and partner bids 2C. Frank Stewart says that you should pass. Seems to me there could be a game here, if so probably 5C, so you should raise to 3C. What do you think?

bobbywolffDecember 24th, 2017 at 11:31 am

Hi David,

No doubt, with just the right cards from partner, including short diamonds and the rounded suit Aces, game could result from almost out of nowhere.

Something like the humorous saying (at least hoped for), “I went to see a prize fight and a hockey game broke out”.

Depending on who my opponents are, if I was sure my partner would pass, I would be delighted to raise him to three.

My guess as to the legitimacy of making a game is only around 20%, but the real danger is that an opponent may balance with either 2 diamonds or 2 spades and while we could make 3 clubs we would never buy it there. Suppose partner had, s x, h. KJ10xx. d. Axx, c. AJ9x, making 3 clubs depending on guessing the club position, with a little handling to boot.

Following through, partner has a right to expect a better hand from you and so venture 3NT with a better hand: s. Q, h. AJ10xx, d. AJx, and c. Axxx with little likelihood of scoring it up, even with clubs breaking 2-2 IOW, even if the responder had an ace more, all I would bid is a simple raise to 3 clubs (since the prospect of having to either take 11 tricks in our best suit or, at least to me, the short route to game with 3NT will vitally need that extra ace, to make that contract worth while.

However and to repeat, the glory of bidding 3 clubs would result in what I deem success when and if, partner passes and we have either done them out of a spade game or possibly only a higher diamond part score.

No doubt, bridge at a certain level, becomes a psychological fierce battle so against known balancers (aggressive players) I would bid 3 clubs, but not so against the general run of the mill player who once our side has bid spades, that suit now becomes off limits to them.

All players should not fall from grace, even if game is in the cards, but not bid. It is just one of the results which can happen, but if so, it becomes significantly unexpected, at least to me. Part score swings, more so at matchpoints, but still important at IMPs, are worth aggressively trying to achieve, with, of course the major glitch, allowing aggressive opponents to come into the fray.

David WarheitDecember 24th, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Good answer: don’t just think about whether there’s a game there, think about whether there are opponents there (there usually are). One final point: seems like the chances of a game are more than 20%. Why? Because the opponents have yet to enter the auction despite holding a decent number of high cards and a certain fit. Seems like everything will probably break very nicely.

bobbywolffDecember 25th, 2017 at 1:23 am

Hi David,

Simply because game in clubs is 11 tricks, not 10, when partner rebids only 2 clubs, at that time opposite my hand my average amount of tricks to take with clubs as trump would be about 9 1/8 making me believe that taking 11 would only occur about 20% of the time.

Of course, I agree that it is close to fantasy to even think that way, and basically I do not, but in answer to your question, that appears to be the better way to present it.

However, there are other important factors. I would bid 3 clubs in a NY minute if I knew partner would pass. IOW, what I fear by passing is that the opponents will now come in and make more tricks than they expected with either spades or diamonds as trump.

Probably more than would be expected my RHO may have hearts stacked and LHO have 5 or more spades. Because of that, perhaps 3 clubs is worth bidding and perhaps going down one with a diamond lead and partner not having the ace of hearts. Consequently I would bid 3 clubs if I was playing against aggressive opponents who are favorites (again IMO) to now bid in the pass out position.

Furthermore, if that occurs they will outbid us since their suits (the pointed ones) outrank our lowly long suit.

Summing up, it all depends on who we will be playing against, against young aggressive ones I’ll bid 3 clubs and hope partner will pass, otherwise either 3NT or 4 clubs figures to go set, but minus 50 or even 100 is not as bad as -170 or even -420 in 4 spades.

In truth I am agreeing with you (sort of) but for a different reason. Also, I can be basically wrong in the above views, which have not been arrived at through any form of mathematics, but rather from just bridge experience though, here is the kicker, from very high-level competition.

Also if my RHO has length and strength in hearts, as well could be the case, he will probably pass the one heart bid on his right, but that fact counters your feeling that, because of their passes, our opponents figure to have balanced hands and thus a 2-2 split in clubs.

Just to emphasize one of my main thoughts is that likely knowing your specific opponents tendencies, has a great deal to do with specific choices when competitive bidding hands are held.

Finally, although this hand has not heard a peep from those opponents (yet), but you can be assured they figure to take at least as many tricks in their longest higher ranking suit, as we can in clubs.