Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

I read a recent letter in your column talking about strong raises available to opener when he has four-card support for responder’s major. Other than the jump raises, what actions might you consider?

Waiting for Godot, Dodge City, Kan.

A jump raise to the three level suggests the equivalent of an unbalanced 15-17 high-card points; a jump to four suggests a balanced 18-19. With an unbalanced strong hand, a double jump in a new suit shows shortage in that suit and four-card support for partner. Occasionally, you can jump-shift, then jump in support of partner to show a really powerful three-suiter, but that would be rare indeed.

How often is it a critical mistake to cash an ace against a slam, as opposed to that being the necessary defense? And when, if ever, do you consider leading an unsupported ace in a suit that hasn’t been bid and supported, or bid by your partner?

Best Foot Forward, Midland, Mich.

I tend not to lead an ace against any contract unless the auction sounds so strong that I imagine my tricks may go away. The stronger my opponent’s sequence, the more likely it is that I will lead an ace (especially if they ask for aces and stop at the five-level). Trying to give partner a ruff in your long bid suit by leading the ace and another is often also a plausible defense.

Say you deal yourself ♠ K-9-3-2,  A-Q-3,  K-7-3-2, ♣ Q-10. If you open one diamond and hear a response of one heart, followed by an overcall to your right of one spade, what options would you consider sensible? If you pass and partner doubles, what do you do?

Ranking Member, Raleigh, N.C.

Some would double one spade to show precisely three-card support for partner’s major — a style I’m still not committed to, though I will play it if necessary. I have no problem with raising to two hearts, but if I pass and hear partner double — card-showing and more take-out than penalty — I would bid two hearts rather than one no-trump. Passing for penalty does not appeal to me.

I’m never sure when to pass out the double of a pre-empt. When you hear a double from your partner of an opening bid of three diamonds, and you are looking at ♠ K-J,  10-7-3-2,  Q-J-3, ♣ Q-J-10-3, would you settle for the part-score or bid game in hearts, or would you defend?

Jugular Jim, Greenville, S.C.

You ask a good question, but strangely (and somewhat amusingly), you’ve proposed three answers to your own question, and my answer would be “none of the above.” I’d opt for a call of three no-trump, looking at all those soft values outside the heart suit, and hoping I did not buy a singleton diamond, with left-hand opponent able to underlead the ace-king and set his suit up. I would not pass out the double without a sure trick (or two) on the side.

As responder to an opening bid of one diamond, is my call of four clubs asking for aces? If not, what does it show?

Gerber Baby, Dallas, Texas

Four clubs should rarely be played as ace-asking, other than in response to a one- or two no-trump opening or rebid. But specifically in response to a preempt, you can play four clubs as some form of ace ask. And after Stayman finds a major-suit, you can optionally use four clubs as ace-asking rather than as a splinter bid showing shortness and setting the major. In almost every other instance, the jump shows shortness and agrees partner’s suit, as in your example.

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Evan MFebruary 21st, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,

I was recently paired with a relatively inexperienced gentleman who I had never played with. On one hand I picked up eight diamonds, and expected to preempt no matter what, but the player on my right opened one diamond. I decided to pass, in no small part because I didn’t want to confuse a partner who I didn’t have a rapport with yet. The opponents made a fairly easy 3NT (RHO had 4-4-3-2) which I feel like I could have stopped. What’s the generally accepted meaning (if any) of a jump cuebid? Would it have been reasonable to bid three or four diamonds?

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