Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 26th, 2019

How do you feel about opening one no-trump with ♠ 4-3,  A-J-9-7-2,  K-Q-6, ♣ A-K-4? If you open one heart, you will hear partner respond one no-trump. What next?

Space Cadet, Casper, Wyo.

This hand is inappropriate to open one no-trump, in that you are too strong, with a five-card major, and you also have a weak doubleton. Having opened one heart, I can see it might be right to rebid two clubs, but I think I’d prefer a simple raise to two no-trump and let partner decide what to do next.

I play (low-level) bridge with other members of a retirement community averaging about 85 years of age. Vision problems there are fairly common. These are mostly mistakes in suit-symbol recognition. Do you have any suggestions to ameliorate these difficulties?

Rocking Robin, Tempe, Ariz.

There are playing cards with four different-colored suits. Before I get into your concern, have you looked at them as a possible solution? Using black and red for the majors, with either orange/yellow or blue/green for the minors seems best to me. I looked online and saw many references: Search for “Copag four-color double deck.”

Recently I held: ♠ A-Q-9-3-2,  Q-9-3,  A-K-3-2, ♣ 4. My partner responded one no-trump to my one spade, and the next hand butted in with two clubs. What should my double be here? Is this extra values, takeout or penalty? Or would you just bid two diamonds?

John the Divine, Bellingham, Wash.

While there is no firm agreement on what a double means here, I like it to be take-out, and this hand would be ideal. With both majors, you might simply bid hearts instead of doubling. But the double keeps hearts in play, as well as the pass for penalties.

Playing duplicate, declarer came down to four cards in dummy: two good spades and two honors, one of which was high and one that wasn’t. When he claimed the rest, depending on the order he played the cards, I could get one or two of those tricks. What should the director rule here?

Richie Rich, Los Altos, Calif.

This is a tricky problem because declarer is put on notice of his error by your disputing the claim. Typically, a disputed trick is awarded to the nonclaiming side if the losing play was inferior but not irrational. Here, declarer seems to have thought all of dummy’s cards were good. It would be inferior but not irrational to play the cards in the wrong order and give you two tricks rather than one. So two tricks it is.

When you open one no-trump and hear your partner transfer to a major then bid a new suit to show a two-suiter with game-forcing values, how should you rebid at your third turn?

Down Under Dave, Greenville, S.C.

Opener raises the major when he can, and by agreement I suggest you use four of the other minor specifically as a fit for both suits, suitable for slam. With no support for either suit, bid no-trump if you can, but bid a new suit at the three-level to look for no-trump with concern about the fourth suit. In that instance, you may also be planning to bid on over three no-trump, which would convert your previous bid to a cue-bid.

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Patrick CheuJune 9th, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Hi Bobby,We did not get to a slam on this hand(Pairs) Dealer S all nv- west AKQT97 KJ975 void Q9-east 53 Q8 AT64 AKT72.Our bidding(Acol) went W 1S E 2C(9+)-W 3H E 3N-W 4H E 4S pass out. Could you please recommend a plausible sequence? Should West bid on or should East bid 4N or 6S after 4H? Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJune 9th, 2019 at 8:36 pm

Hi Patrick,

Although not many very top level partnerships would miss this slam, it probably is not quite as good a percentage as it seems. A 4-1 spade break with the jack being among the four would almost surely sink it as would a 5-1 heart break (unless the ace is singleton) not a large percentage but enough to bring the likelihood of a likely make would only be around the low 60% range.

With that as a backdrop and adjusting myself for a fairly old fashioned system of 2 over 1 not GF would then still quarrel with West’s 3 heart bid, which just took up too much bidding space.

A simple 2 hearts would have to be forcing, allowing South to show extra value by now jumping to 3NT (although, possibly excepting the Acol system and appealing for 2NT to now be forcing over 2 hearts, but realizing that it is not).

Finally, if that style of play is chosen, then areas such as slam bidding need to be changed into taking slightly more risks since increasing the ability to stop on a dime eg, passing short of game, takes away necessary inferences which forcing situations lend themselves. OK, we are now at 3NT from the responder. I would then venture 4 clubs on Qx in order to show a very strong hand, some club support but still needing a key card or two from partner. Then partner should bid 4 diamonds to show a good hand, diamond control and awaiting the opener to go from there.

I would then suggest a 5 heart bid from the opening bidder suggesting 5 and a possible slam. The answer would certainly be affirmative since the responder holds both the AK of clubs, the ace of diamonds, in case partner had 5-5-1-2 that ace would be an incredibly important card. And, as to the heart queen, it should scream to its master that “Please do not forget me”. So then when East hears 5 hearts he should then, instead of preferring spades (as is customary, I believe East should bid 6 diamonds (an impossible final contract but only then infers to partner that clubs isn’t it (I only have 5) but I am uncertain between the majors.

Then it becomes an easy task for West to choose 6 spades with his almost solid suit, particularly when partner would never bid 5 diamonds without at least two small spades for fear of the opener bidding 6 spades.

Please forgive the rambling, but yes, if bridge is to be taken seriously both partners need to be totally committed to think it through. And Acol or close, is perhaps the least scientific system any pair could choose to play.

Please do not get me wrong. I like the concepts which Acol brings. It is just that it is not close to being anywhere near the best system for scientific slam bidding, (mostly to enjoy the ability to stop short of game with normal hands which do not fit well enough).

Little did you know that missing that slam was nowhere near as difficult as listening to the above abuse.

Good luck and keep the questions coming, eg.
if you can learn to stand these challenging responses.

Patrick CheuJune 9th, 2019 at 9:09 pm

Hi Bobby,There is so much to glean from all that you said..I for one can never be tired of challenging responses…just enjoy the thought process of how you arrive at the final contract.Thanks yet again for all that you do. Best Regards~Patrick.

Bob LiptonJune 10th, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Here’s a hand I played this weekend that I thought was right to play in game, though it easily made slam. In first seat I held

Kxxxx KJx – KJxxx. Partner held
AQxx Qxxx xx AQx

With the opponents silent, the bidding went

1S 3S(1)
4C(2) 4H(3)

3 Spades was forcing. 4 Clubs showed a second suit and compulsory; I could have asked for specific Aces by bidding 3NT. I took 4 Hearts as showing the Ace, although partner thought he was supposed to show his second suit. I got a club lead to the Ace, drew Trumps in three rounds and conceded the HA. Partner spent the rest of the session trying to figure out how to get to slam, while I consider this a perfect fit and undiagnosable without some advanced methods we don’t play, including Spiral Scan.


ClarksburgJune 10th, 2019 at 3:06 pm

@Bob Lipton
On this pair of hands, combined 18HCP:
void A10764 KJ98632 5 (Dealer, both VUL)
K97 8 AQ97 J10963
The auction went:
3D X 5D 5S 6D X
We thought we were making a clever sacrifice (4S was making, 5S off 1).
Needless to say 6DX making was 100%
It ain’t always fair!

bobbywolffJune 10th, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Hi Bob,

Perhaps the Jacoby 2NT. showing a GF major suit trump fit (4+ trumps) might have helped:

There are 2 possible sequences, within that convention, which may have done the trick.

(with the opponents passing throughout):

1. 1S, 2NT, 3D (shortness) 4C (1st rd control),
4D (likely void, not singleton since a singleton ace may take away from the overall strength of the whole hand which may be necessary to prevent another losing trick, such as no KJ of hearts on this hand), 4S (not heard enough positive to continue), 5C (2nd round control and slam interest) 5S (no heart control but therefore good spades and void in diamonds being very helpful, witness my continuing past game), 6S (2nd round heart control and overall a good source of tricks (5 card decent club suit opposite at least the ace, but very likely another positive feature, such as, in this case, the queen of clubs)

2. 1S, 2NT, 4C (5-5 with the choice between that and #1 (above) based on the club suit being good enough to choose that rebid instead of showing diamond shortness, 5C (good clubs as a fit and, of course slam interest), 5 diamonds, 5 spades (no heart control, 6 spades, (2nd round heart control, and a partner who didn’t have the diamond ace nor 2nd round heart control, but nevertheless was interested in slam so must have the ace of spades and better than Axxx with either also the queen or, if not a 5th one.

Those above sequences were based on cue bidding (specific controls and a major touch of experienced judgment (each had side values, not specifically shown (jack of hearts for the opener and the queen of clubs for the responder) which becomes vital for success on this hand and allows good judgment by the individual players, particularly so in slam bidding and to pick another area, effective opening leads, based on the overall bidding.

The more we play the better we get, as long as the surroundings are blessed with knowledgeable players who are serious about continuing to get better and are open to other’s viewpoint as long as their contributions are worthwhile and at the same approximate skill level as each other or instead, the attention of a local bridge guru, who is indeed positively involved in promoting the game and is blessed with enough time to do it.

Thank you for contributing this challenging bridge hand to discuss.

bobbywolffJune 10th, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Wow, even though vulnerable, that was quite a formidable 3 diamond opening bid, which, of course, led to that incredible result. On another day, those partners may have had not such a pleasant discussion about missing a high level heart contract and never getting the suit even mentioned.

However those are the type hands to wish for when behind in an IMP match and needing some luck to catch up by being dealt distributional hands to be handled differently than will be the other table.

Lady luck always plays important parts on any one hand, but like the immutable law of averages works in life, that streak of good or bad luck will usually end up around 50% for everyone (except, of course, Jim2), over time.

Bob LiptonJune 10th, 2019 at 5:13 pm

The best sort of sacrifice, Clarksburg!