Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

Holding ♠ K-J-8-2,  7-6-3-2,  J-9-2, ♣ A-9, I heard my partner open one club. I responded one heart, and my partner bid two no-trump. What is the best way to explore for a major-suit fit by showing my spades without promising five hearts?

Giving Me Fits, Rockford, Ill.

There are many ways, varying from simple to complex. The simplest is to play that all bids force to game, and either three clubs or the other minor as looking for three-card support or the other major. Some play transfers here, in which case you can transfer to hearts, then bid spades to show 5-4. Thus a direct transfer to spades to shows 4-4 in the majors.

I’ve been having problems with Blackwood when we have a minor suit as trump. What are your thoughts on using the Minorwood convention, where four of a known minor agrees that suit and asks for aces?

Anna in the Ark, Naples, Fla.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan (I vote for simple over complex), but I can say this: If you have set a minor as trump, I think it is much better to use one over the trump suit as ace-asking — Redwood, not Minorwood. This allows you to choose between temporizing by bidding the trump suit and taking control with an ace ask, whereas Minorwood forces you to take a positive action as opposed to making a neutral call.

I play rubber bridge with my friends and am sometimes surprised to see you recommend treatments relating to duplicate — pre-emptive raises and so forth. Given that we are playing for real money, would you suggest we learn this approach too? I’m not afraid to use these bids, but I’m not sure they will pay off in the long run.

Easy Street, Kennebunkport, Maine.

Speaking as someone who has taken his fair share of sacrifices at rubber bridge, yes, I would say that bidding as high as you can with a fit is a good idea. While sacrificing at rubber is not as much fun as at pairs, bidding to the maximum with a fit does not always result in minus scores.

Please comment on the quality of a suit required for a direct overcall at the one-level, and contrast that with what is required for a two-level overcall.

Mumblety-Peg, Nashville, Tenn.

With a good hand and a five-card suit, you should not be constrained in acting at the one-level just because your five-card suit is weak. Of course, on some hands that include a weak suit, you might prefer to double when you are relatively short in the opponents’ suit. With a two-level overcall, you guarantee a good suit. If you have only five, you must have extra values or extra sidesuit shape. A minimum opening bid with an average five-card suit emphatically does not qualify for this action.

I am not a fan of Flannery, but I came to understand how useful it can be when I opened one heart with ♠ K-9-7-4,  Q-8-4-3-2,  A-9, ♣ K-4, and heard my partner respond with a forcing no-trump. What is the least lie now?

Stuck Firm, Sioux Falls, S.D.

I prefer to play the no-trump as non-forcing, even when playing two-over-one. In that scenario, I can pass one no-trump happily enough. But if you change the heart queen into the ace, so that there is a risk we might miss game facing a balanced 11-count or so, then I invent a two-club call and hope to survive this round of the bidding.

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ClarksburgSeptember 16th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Good morning Bobby
First of all, what an informative collection of questions and answers here today! You oversee a great classroom.

You hold a rock crusher AKQ73 AQ10 AKQ7 9 opposite Partner’s bust 854 J64 J62 10873.
It’s from a local Club game. For those choosing a strong 2C opening, most Pairs play 2D waiting while some would play 2H bust.
Four Pairs did not get to 4S, including two where the auction was 1S passed out (presumably treating it as a two-suiter, thus the 1S rather than 2C opening).
What’s the preferred plan for bidding the big hand?

jim2September 16th, 2018 at 1:54 pm

I would think that any partnership that plays a second negative bid should get to 4S.

2C – 2D
2S – 3S

Opener can bid 4S, or 4D which responder would convert to 4S.

(I would never open this 1S)

Iain ClimieSeptember 16th, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Many years ago, I’d have bid this 2C – 2D – 2S – 2N (second negative but still Game Forcing) 3D 4S (fast arrival, so dross) and hopefully I’d have given up with the 24 count. I’m not sure there is too much wrong with that even now.



Bob LiptonSeptember 16th, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Even playing cheapest minor negative, it should go to game.

2c-2d-2s-3c-3d. Now, if partner bids 3Spades, open should take a shot, and if responder bids 4 Spades, as he should, opener should pass.


Bobby WolffSeptember 16th, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Hi to the three amigos (Spanish for friends),

Although it is not in stone, I am quite afraid to open anything lower than an artificial 2 club bid while holding 22+ hcps. IOWs 22 always, 21 close but still perhaps a one of a minor opening, e.g. 1 club with: s. AJx, h. J, AQxx, c. AKQxx. Please do not ask, what if a pointed suit x is the 10? Yes 2NT is a possibility, no, a probability after first opening 2 clubs. (2NT good 19-21, 2 clubs 22-24).

The only major reason for the above is that I want my partner to pass (particularly, one of a major suit opening) when he has a balanced 5 count or less, with perhaps while holding an ace, and a doubleton (not in the major), then an exception.

Yes, the above is important with me, since that situation is not uncommon and particularly in rubber bridge or IMPs, a game swing is in the cards. Matchpoints, being what it is, is not nearly as important, not because it doesn’t often create a significant matchpoint swing, but only because, at least to me, a toss-up which logic alone will not solve, at least IMO.

However, yes, after opening 2 clubs and getting the ubiquitous 2 diamond response, GF but widely ranging, I sometimes rebid 2NT on hands I do not want to embarrass myself by then eventually laying down that dummy.

However, as responder, completely drawn to an immediate 2 hearts as a double negative, balanced and no more than either 2 jacks or 1 queen. Over 2 hearts, my rebid is only forcing for 1 round after that, and since I have never had the sequence where I then raise 2 hearts to 3, I have yet to then know whether my partnership plays that bid forcing. However, being optimistic, I expect to live long enough for that sequence to unfortunately be one, not so fine day, to become consummated.

Forcing club (with 4 card majors) anyone? Should be everyone and not so much for pinpoint accuracy, but rather for most difficult to play against!

Bobby WolffSeptember 16th, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Hi Bob,

Just like my previous post catering for bridge logic to keep all of us fiercely competitive, a crossed in the mail positive suggestion by you, for yet another way to skin a poor cat.

In our insular world of not having to face the consequences of being at the table, it becomes much easier to voice up, like I do.

However, and in reality when faced with a blind choice (say 50-50) usually stay aggressive, to leave that attitude as a calling card. IOW I definitely agree with you, but I do suggest changing to an immediate double negative, if only to save bidding space.

Bill CubleySeptember 16th, 2018 at 7:00 pm

As you have mentioned people who have played with me, might you re-re-reconsider a certain slam hand for your Halloween column of 10/31?

I expect the usual answer, but all I can do is ask. I may dare to ask Anne why she never overcalled 1 heart over 1 diamond.

Bob LiptonSeptember 16th, 2018 at 7:20 pm

We all play at our own levels, Bobby, and you can afford to be aggressive at the highest level. In my game I try to be aggressive also. I agree with you about the immediate 2H Very Negative — I can’t stand the wait between when opener bids 2C and finally gets around to mentioning his suit. As a result, I tell all partners never to raise my interference when the opponents open 2C — I might be bidding my void to pick off their suit at favorable vulnerability or showing QJT tripleton to indicate a lead. I’m sure it’s much more dangerous among the big dogs, but at the club Matchpoint, everyone turns Mrs. Guggenheim when they hold half the deck.

My favorite structure over 2C openings is control-showing, with fast arrival showing minima, since it makes it very hard to block the important information. It’s hard, though, to get people to change.


Bobby WolffSeptember 16th, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Hi Bill,

The AOB team stays at least 4 months ahead of current time when columns are originally written.

Even with that lag time, sometimes a minor crises may appear when we do not expect it. All we can then do is try and beard that lion so that what we present will still be worth reading.

Of course, in order for that to happen we need to admit our many mistakes that we make, but then we can all chalk that up to the difficult game we all seem to love.

All the above is merely meant to explain why it becomes troublesome to change already written columns and dress them up to fit what we hope is a somewhat spoiled audience.

Finally, we all are very particular about what types of hands we create or in fact, choose to publish, therein lies the rub of above all making it bridge player friendly, appealing to diverse bridge loving groups.

Bobby WolffSeptember 16th, 2018 at 11:26 pm

Hi Bob,

You seem to have a bunch of bridge experience, gleaned through the years and with likely an eclectic group of partners.

Obviously playing bridge, like other competitions demands different strokes for different folks.

Of course, the strong two, and for many years has had its variety of ways to handle them. All we can assume is that current methods played among the world’s best, is, at least at their level, the most efficient way to handle them and thus try to figure out why and go from there. No doubt your opinion is worthwhile and like me, the Old Man on the Mountain, it, no doubt, is more than just difficult to change course of the habits of many years and especially when no one is breathing down our neck, forcing us to change.

Thanks for taking the time to give our group your opinions for which I, for one, appreciate it.

ClarksburgSeptember 17th, 2018 at 12:05 am

@ Bob Lipton
If you have the clear understanding that Partner should never raise your interference over 2C, and more importantly, why, how do you go about informing the opponents?

Bob LiptonSeptember 17th, 2018 at 1:40 am

Clarksburg, my calls do things like resulting in them doubling me and setting me three, non-vulnerable when they have a cold slam, winding up in 4 Hearts down 1 instead of 5 diamonds, making, and recently putting me in 4Hx making, instead of the cold 6 clubs everyone else was in (although we didn’t get a top there. Someone else was playing 3Hx). Many mediocre players, confronted with someone who dares interfere with their magnificent 2C opener, will go crazy. They don’t have methods to deal with it and the results, particularly at Matchpoints, are surprisingly good. Of course I wouldn’t do anything wild against a regular here, but hand me xx KTxxx QJxxxx – and have righty open 2C, aren’t you going to do something?

Sometimes I get a poor result, but more often it’s a matter of interfering with a good partnership


Bob LiptonSeptember 17th, 2018 at 1:43 am

Ah, informing the opponents. They rarely ask and the club director says it doesn’t require an alert. When they ask, my partner says that it’s nominally a suit, but if we wind up on defense, it’s a lead director.


Bobby WolffSeptember 17th, 2018 at 5:14 am

Hi Bob,

Although I am not the judge in what is strictly your business, it is a requirement in tournament bridge to notify one’s opponents of any unusual understandings that a bidding partnership may have regarding the possible meanings of any action not suspected by the unwary opponents (that means your side).

IOW your partner is legally obligated to alert your overcall made when and if the oipponent’s open the bidding with a very strong opener and you then bid something other than pass.

Those are the rules of our game and all of us need to respect them. However, the object of this request is only just informing you of your
legal duty to keep your opponents up to snuff with what your bidding understandings actually are. Nothing more, nothing less and good luck!

BTW, your club director is misinformed if he told you that your unusual meaning of those bids doesn’t require an alert, since alerting that type of understanding is directed mostly to allowing the opponents equal opportunity to know what is already known to you and partner.

However, notices like the above is not the reason why this site is up and running, but I am just sticking my nose into your business, because others may think if I do not, I will not be doing our beautiful game the justice it deserves.

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