Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Can you explain to me how to calculate the odds for a 2-2 split and a 3-1 split when missing four cards in a suit? How does this calculation apply to playing for the drop of a missing queen?

Crunching the Numbers, Hamilton, Ontario

When missing four cards to a queen, after, say, cashing the ace and leading toward the king, the chances of a 2-2 break are in abstract slightly better than 50 percent. One hand has 12 vacant slots for that queen, and one has 11. However, it is worth emphasizing that the slightest clue, such as that one hand has five spades and the other has three, can shift the odds significantly.

Playing Pairs, at favorable vulnerability, if you pick up ♠ —,  6-4-2,  A-K-8-6-5-4-3-2, ♣ 9-7, is your hand worth (or nearly worth) an opening bid, or would you go for a pre-empt? If the latter, at what level?

Wild Thing, Honolulu, Hawaii

I would never consider a one-level opener here. The choice is between a four- and five-level pre-empt, and I could go either way. A three-level pre-empt lets the opponents in cheaply and also doesn’t do justice to these offensive values, even if it does leave three no-trump open for our side.

I held ♠ Q-8-2,  K-10-6-4-2,  Q-3-2,  Q-7. My partner opened one diamond, and the next hand bid two clubs. I thought my choice was to raise diamonds or double, since bidding two hearts seemed too aggressive. What was the best course of action here?

Time after Time, Salinas, Calif.

Passing is far from absurd; your partner will reopen with club shortness. If your partner has club length and a minimum hand, maybe you should stay out. Incidentally, a negative double with just spades might work better than with hearts, since you can correct a minimum response so much more efficiently. I don’t like a raise to two diamonds here; your trump support simply isn’t good enough.

The new ACBL regulations for opening and overcalling one no-trump state that you can make that call with a singleton ace, king or queen. Should we alert if we use this new style? If the answer is yes, then for how long does this apply?

One-Armed Bandit, Tampa Bay, Fla.

No alert is required. This will surely be a rare enough event that responder won’t take it into account in his bidding. And that is the way it should be. One doesn’t have to make the call with a hand with an easy rebid after opening the long suit. I suppose if you play that you must open one no-trump when in range, that might require an alert — but that isn’t what you asked.

What do you think of this collection, with both sides vulnerable, at matchpoints? You hold six small spades, two small hearts, queen-third of diamonds and the doubleton club jack. Your LHO opens one heart, your partner bids one no-trump showing 15-18 HCP, and RHO raises hearts. Would you transfer to spades with this?

Silent Speaker, Danville, Ill.

I would not be able to transfer to spades. I would bid two spades, natural and non-forcing. Yes, this is a tad aggressive, but I want to compete for the partscore, and I can easily imagine both contracts making. I know it might not work, but I cannot stay silent when I could bid at the two-level.

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David WarheitDecember 31st, 2017 at 9:44 am

On a recent Frank Stewart hand, neither side vulnerable, W held: SJ92 HJ9752 DK1074 CA and E held: Svoid HK10864 DAJ85 C8732. S dealt and bid 1S and N raised to 4S, end of auction. This contract should fail, but I noticed that EW could make 5H on the given lie of the NS cards and could even make 6H if N has Q singleton or doubleton of H or singleton HA and if the DQ can be located, yet they never said a peep. Am I missing something, or is this the power of the pre-empt? S held: SAQ874 HAQ3 D92 CK95 and N: K10653 Hvoid DQ63 CQJ1064.

Lurking BeginnerDecember 31st, 2017 at 2:05 pm

@ David
Also interesting to note that if South, with a different style of bidding, had opened 1NT instead of 1S, the auction could have had a quite-different path to a different contact.

bobbywolffDecember 31st, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Hi David & LB,

Yes, both of you, at least IMO, have hit upon the immense differences in results, shall we say, minority actions, can produce logically and fruitfully.

To be sure, 5 hearts can and should be scored up if bid, since when North shows up void in hearts, it seems normal for an EW declarer to play the void for diamond length and thus the queen (also the possibility from Q9xx with North calls out with that length holding almost nil for South).

However, practically what does this discovery mean since West isn’t likely to overcall either a 1 spade opening nor 1NT, if chosen.

1. When playing against one of the best pairs in the room while playing matchpoints it may be wise to, rather than just sit there, overcall 2 hearts with West or bid with East, rather than to just defend against a good declarer and /or an accurately bidding partnership which, in turn, strongly suggests a below average result.

2. Likewise when behind at IMPs, doing something that likely won’t be done at the other table is often wise when behind in a KO match where win or lose (but not victory points) is at stake.

3. Finally and concerning East’s hand, with his void in spades, after North jumps to 4 spades (slam dunk to do, except perhaps to call it a game dunk instead), perhaps the huge overbid of double, certainly to be interpreted as TO by partner might be on the table.

The above should be rated Bridge X and not to be read by some, otherwise bridge as we know it may vanish relegating the future to only wild people with little regard to be solid bridge citizens.

BTW, when West, after leading the ace of clubs, receiving the deuce from partner and then dutifully shifting to the four of diamonds, assuming declarer plays small from dummy East should win with the jack enabling a two trick set, requiring West to lead his highest diamond to deny anything higher if the king is not held.

Finally, as one makes a second life out of playing bridge rather than other recreation and challenge, he or she will soon realize that distribution rather than high cards is the hugely flexible mechanism which makes for very large swings when applied. High cards remain static and much more predictable, but fitting distribution provides the salsa with the big swings which occur more likely than thought, to most.

Even if South opens 1NT a two suited bid or maybe just 2 hearts while NV is a pot stirrer and although no doubt subject to a huge penalty at times, #1 your wary opponents are unlikely to choose that avenue to get it (even if available since their system will not likely cater to defense) so that when one says (drum roll) “bridge, and at all levels, is a bidder’s game”, that is exactly what it is, but being experienced (takes a long while) to get proficient as to when to do it.

On this hand, I have no idea if either West or East should tempt fate, but perhaps others, with better feel, can step forward and teach us.

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