Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Recently I balanced with two no-trump after one heart to my right and two hearts to my left. I held ♠ A-3,  J-4,  Q-J-7-5, ♣ Q-10-9-3-2. Was that reasonable? Next came three hearts to my right and four hearts to my left! I was once taught that if you push the opponents into game, you should either double or bid one more, on the theory that minus 620 is going to be the same zero as minus 790.

Mollycoddler, Springfield, Mass.

Sometimes the opponents reach a normal game in abnormal fashion — as here — and you were going to get an average had you not doubled. The time to double is when you figure your contract is going to make and thus you need to protect your plusscore. Or you may double when you know the suits are not breaking; here they appear to be breaking about as well as possible.

The following hand occurred last night. My LHO opened two spades; my partner had no spades, the singleton heart king, and six cards in each minor to the A-K-J. What would you bid in his shoes?

Twinset, Anchorage, Alaska

I would have both four no-trump and four spades available to show the minors, with four spades being the stronger action. This hand would qualify for the stronger call, with four no-trump in response asking partner to pick his better minor. As an aside, many play Leaping Michaels here; jumps to four of a minor show that minor and the unbid major.

I’d like to help my friends and children learn bridge. But I learned by reading Goren’s “New Bridge Complete,” and most won’t take the time to go through it; they want to learn while playing. What is your advice on how to help people learn? I think schools are unlikely to do much with bridge unless there are parents, teachers or students who already have an appreciation.

Trainer, Pottsville, Pa.

Teaching children minibridge (where learning about the auction comes after learning how to play the cards) is a good start. With very young children, start with knockout whist and simple trick-taking games. A good source for minibridge is the Wikipedia page, which gives references for many countries.

How would you lead from a holding such as K-10-9 or K-J-10 in the middle of the hand? My partner has been trying to persuade me to lead the lowest card from the sequence.

Alternative Reality, Park City, Utah

When leading toward the queen in dummy, it may be important to be able to distinguish K-10-9 or K-J-10 from 10-9 or J-10. That is the only time I would advocate playing coded 10s or nines, with the jack denying a higher honor. I suppose it may also be critical if leading through declarer. In general, I think that method may give away too much information on opening lead.

What is the best way to decide whether to open a weak twobid? Specifically, holding ♠ 3-2,  J-10-8-7-5-3,  K-10, ♣ J-9-4, I would think my hand too weak for a pre-empt. How much better must it be to qualify as a weak two — or would it depend on the vulnerability?

Ford Prefect, Houston, Texas

Make the heart three the ace or king, and you have a weak two at every vulnerability. If the three were the queen, I would open non-vulnerable, and maybe also in first seat vulnerable, but not second seat. Much depends on partnership style — it is important to agree on expected values for these actions.

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