Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 20th, 2019

I know that my one-level overcalls should be on five-card suits or longer, but I have seen you recommend the action of overcalling with only four on occasion. And what about two-level overcalls — would you say five-card suits, as opposed to six-, are the exception, not the rule?

Short Shrift, New Haven, Conn.

Four-card suit overcalls at the one-level are rare. Bidding a strong four-carder with opening values may occur when you can’t double because of a shortage in an unbid major and the hand isn’t suitable for a one-no-trump call. Don’t overcall on a bad suit at the two-level, but sometimes your values require you to bid with only five and a reasonable suit in a strong hand when nothing else will do.

Holding ♠ A-J-2,  K-9-6,  Q-10-7-4, ♣ 10-6-3, I decided to raise my partner’s one-spade opener to two (suggesting 7-10 in our style, as we play forcing no-trump). Do you agree? After my partner tries for game with a call of three clubs, what do you recommend?

King Creole, Selma, Ala.

I like the simple raise. Now you can assume your partner has made a game-try suggesting three or four clubs in a suit where he needs help. Your club suit is as bad as it could be, but you have a maximum hand in high cards and decent spot cards. Maybe you could try three no-trump to suggest these values and let partner decide what to do next.

If you open a minor suit and your partner responds with one no-trump, are you allowed to invite to two no-trump with a good 16-count, or do you have to pass? What is the minimum you need to bid two no-trump, or even three no-trump?

Simple Simon, Vero Beach, Fla.

A jump to three no-trump suggests either a 19-count or a running minor and no shortage (since a jump to three in a new suit would be a self-agreeing splinter here). With an unbalanced 16-17 or a balanced 18, you can raise to two no-trump instead. You may be single-suited or have a 5-4 shape with a second suit you no longer feel like you need to introduce.

I was in third seat with ♠ 9-2,  K-Q-6-4-3,  A-7-4, ♣ 10-3-2, playing teams, and I heard my partner open three diamonds at favorable vulnerability. What is the right tactical approach in situations like this, playing with a relatively aggressive pre-empter?

Movers and Shakers, Riverside, Calif.

To give your opponents the hardest problem, you can jump to five diamonds, fortified by the knowledge that partner could have pre-empted to two diamonds but chose to do more. After a club pre-empt, you would not have quite as much confidence. Make them guess!

I dealt myself ♠ A-J-10-2,  A-K-7,  4, ♣ Q-10-6-3-2, and opened one club. When I heard one diamond from my partner, I bid one spade, of course, and was given preference to two clubs. How much more would I need to bid on, and if I do act, how should I proceed?

Spare Change, Pueblo, Colo.

You have a nice hand, but your second action (one spade instead of one no-trump) suggests an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand, and your partner could have invited to three clubs easily enough. So I would surely pass, but I would not need much more in the club suit (say K-J-10-6-3) to consider bidding on with a call of two hearts, which might suggest a pattern very similar to this one.

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PeteFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Hi Bobby,
Is it standard practice that a jump to the three level over 1 of a minor, one notrump shows a splinter? Would that even be the case with 1D, 1N, 3C? Thank you.

ClarksburgFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Hi Bobby
Two supplementary questions in addition to Pete’s:
1) Does “self-agreeing” mean guaranteed “self-sufficient”?
2) On what hand shape / strength might one elect, even with a singleton, to make a jump rebid of own suit rather than the splinter?

Bobby WolffFebruary 3rd, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Hi Pete & Clarksburg,

The above answer to the question about a 1NT
response to one of a minor and then a jump to the 3 level in a new suit (even 1D and then 3C over that 1NT response) showing a singleton is a relatively new bidding innovation which emphasizes greater care before bidding 3NT if the 1NT response is also either short in that suit or heaven forbid have no stopper either (or perhaps only the ace, a good start for a suit contract, not NT).

Whether that treatment has had enough testing in the cauldron of high-level play I do not know, but it sounds like a step in the right direction (since those very good minor suits, solid or almost) will likely find the best final contract, if more science (singleton showing) is added to guard against a quick set or broadly explained as just leading to the wrong final contract.

Do not try that at home, unless both the convention is mutually understood with partner and, of course, the reason for it carefully explained.

Apologies for not devoting more verbiage to describe how and why, but, as all of us know, newspaper space is too precious to waste.

And special to Clarksburg:

Absolute solid, as always, is preferred (AKQJxx)
but almost (AQJ10xx) can be optimistically substituted if an extra high card is held by the opener.

Finally with: s. Ax, h. x, d. AKJ10xx, c.KJ9x I would prefer a 3 diamond rebid because of the 2-1-6-4 distribution and not 2 clubs since, at least to me, I would like to get the strength of this hand communicated and also in most cases (90%) prefer to play in diamonds although no doubt if partner has 5 clubs and only 2 queen less diamonds I’d rather be in clubs, but the odds are strongly against that (or similar) holdings and, no doubt, bridge in the final analysis is still a percentage game.

Also, like newspaper space, normal bidding has its limitations, making it best to better judge what to do, (making it easier for partner), in as few bids as possible.

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