Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 21st, 2019

My partner heard me open one diamond and held ♠ K-J-4,  2,  A-J-8-2, ♣ K-Q-7-6-5. He responded two clubs and heard me rebid my diamonds, which we play simply as showing five or more in an unbalanced hand. How should he develop his hand now, given that a raise to three diamonds would be forcing in our style?

Stocking Stuffer, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A raise to three diamonds is one possible start, while a call of two spades may be best to get you to three no-trump. A third option is to jump to three hearts instead. Since two hearts would be natural and forcing, this shows a singleton heart with diamond support and likely slam interest; you hope partner will find a cue-bid of a minor-suit king. If he signs off in three no-trump, you should probably respect his judgment.

My partner unleashed a sequence on me for which I was not prepared. He opened one club, and I responded one spade. The next hand bid two diamonds, and partner jumped to four clubs, holding six clubs and four spades. Is this a convention — and is it in standard use?

Point Counterpoint, Little Rock, Ark.

It is not unusual to agree that in a non-competitive sequence, a double jump to four clubs shows at least six decent clubs and four spades, with the values to drive to game. This helps partner see a source of tricks for his side in a spade slam. But in competition, should four clubs be natural or fit? I guess fit is logical enough, but it is an unusual enough auction that I wouldn’t want to spring it on my partner unawares.

Are there many partnerships that defend against preempts by using a double as anything but takeout? What if opener doubles the preemptive raise of an overcall at his second turn to speak after partner has bid a suit?

Combat Boots, White Plains, N.Y.

Playing takeout doubles of one- or two-suited preempts at your first turn to speak is sensible because that is the hand type that comes up most often. I’d assume most people use a second-round double as indicating extras, unsuitable for repeating one’s own suit, raising partner, bidding a second suit or bidding no-trump. So, balanced or semi-balanced with extras, maybe?

I have always been taught not to open all 12-counts reflexively, but to bid only with a hand good in shape or controls. Am I out of line with modern thinking? And how should I act with a shapely 11-count?

Egg-shells, Charlottesville, Va.

With 4333 pattern and with a suit I do not particularly want partner to lead I might pass. By contrast, on 11-counts with shape, especially those where a rebid is easy, I like to get the hand off my chest at my first turn. Hands with awkward shape, where the four-card suit ranks above the five-carder, might sensibly pass at the first turn rather than having to distort at the second turn.

What is the right way to ask for aces and then for kings using Gerber after my partner opens in a suit?

Florence of Arabia, Columbus, Ohio

Gerber applies only after an opening or rebid of one or two no-trump. The four-club call gets a response of four diamonds for zero or four aces, four hearts for one ace, and so on. Then five clubs (or step one if you play Sliding Gerber) over the response asks for kings with the same scheme of responses. By agreement, one can use Gerber after a one-no-trump opener if Stayman finds a fit. But the best way to play Gerber is by your left- and right-hand opponents, rather than by you.

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Bill CubleyMay 5th, 2019 at 1:25 pm

The best way to play Gerber is by my opponents. Very cute. 😉

Bobby WolffMay 5th, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, while playing Gerber (a jump to 4 clubs asking for aces) can be more economical than jumping to 4NT (Blackwood), it can also and often is, misunderstood since jumping in suits can have other, often more important meanings.

Ace asking and particularly key card (where the king of agreed trump is also counted as a fifth ace) has become more popular and different versions such as redwood and other more modern versions have become more useful to experienced partnerships.

However, in spite of experience and often in competition, confusion sometimes reigns, causing potential disasters, leading to advisers suggesting thorough understandings before use.

Easier said than done!