Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

What is the right way to signal from length when your partner leads a king (presumably from ace-king) and dummy has the guarded queen in that suit?

Rawhide Rick, Salina, Kan.

In a suit contract, if you might hold a doubleton, you echo with two; that way you never lose your ruff. I suggest play lowest from three, and second-lowest from four. This minimizes ambiguity, though nothing will cover every base. If you cannot have as few as two cards, give count, with a high card suggesting an even number, a low card suggesting an odd number. In no-trump, simply give count — your attitude is implicitly defined by the sight of dummy.

What would you do with ♠ K-10-5-2,  A-Q-8-6-2,  10-4, ♣ Q-9 when your partner opens one club and rebids one no-trump over your one-heart response? Would you drive to game, settle for part-score or issue an invitation?

Straitjacket, Vancouver, British Columbia

Your hand does not look strong enough to drive to game, when you have at best an eight-card fit in either major and no more than 24 high-card points between you. I’d start with two diamonds, the new minor, looking for a heart fit, and be prepared to give up if I do not find one. If partner bids two spades, showing 4=3=3=3 precisely, I’ll raise to three.

Can you comment on the meaning of jump rebids by opener after a suit opening, when his partner makes a negative double of an overcall by the left-hand opponent? Are jumps forcing in the original suit or in a new suit — and if not, what about a double jump?

Head for Heights, Grenada, Miss.

Let’s consider a onespade overcall of a minor-suit opening, and a negative double from your partner. Now your two-heart call suggests four and a minimum balanced or semibalanced hand. A jump to three hearts suggests four trumps and 14-15 points, potentially unbalanced. A jump in any other new suit or your first-bid suit shows extras but is not forcing. Use the cue-bid to set up a game force.

In fourth seat, how should I have developed the following hand: ♠ A-Q-3,  Q-7-6-4,  K-9, ♣ K-9-4-2, when my left-hand opponent opened two spades and my partner doubled? This was a pairs event with both sides vulnerable.

Nosy Rosie, Orlando, Fla.

The choice is between bidding game in hearts or three no-trump, and passing for penalties. You rate to set two spades 500 or more — but declarer can surely take four spade tricks and may scramble a couple more out of dummy’s collection. With these spade honors taking tricks on offense, I would try three no-trump. Four hearts could easily run into ruffs or trump troubles.

Is there any real advantage to playing the version of Key-card Blackwood currently recommended by Eddie Kantar, where a five club response shows one or four key-cards (counting the trump king as a key-card) and five diamonds shows none or three? What do you usually play?

20th Century Blues, Selma, Ala.

Any system accident more than outweighs the benefits of playing the best possible methods. “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” they say. If I use Roman Key-card Blackwood, I play 30/41 responses, though I do see a shift toward the methods you outline. When in Rome …

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Bill CubleyNovember 3rd, 2019 at 4:29 pm


I also play 3014 response to RKC. I once kibitzed a multiple world/NABC champion playing in the Spingold with his usual partner. That partner twice passed his RKC queen ask for poor scores.

So I emailed Eddie Kantar and told him if these guys cannot handle Rotten Kantar Call 😉 than I certainly should not used it. The next day I saw the pair smiling so I asked if there had been a refund of the book’s price.

I may not have as good a reason as you have for playing 3014. Eddie Kantar easily can laugh at his very few errors and even write about them.

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Hi Bill,

At least to my knowledge, the only reason for playing one way or the other is to keep the bidding as low as possible, facilitating more room for exploring the final contract.

With that thought in mind, Eddie likely selected the most likely lower call to fit that desire. However, as almost every practical and winning player would agree, that it amounts to such a small advantage (whatever is chosen) that whatever is more likely not to be forgotten becomes the forever choice, end of story.

So–End of story!

Iain ClimieNovember 3rd, 2019 at 6:30 pm

HI Bobby, Bill,

I’ve heard people describe it as 1430 and usr it that way round as it is a slam score and this acts as an aide memoirs. If it works …



Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2019 at 7:17 pm

Hi Iain, Bill

Sounds like sound, and its practice practical.

But I remember it through a maitre D’ denying one table for four because it ONLY seats three. Yes, I know my thinking is not cool for most humans and other animals.

JerryNovember 4th, 2019 at 12:37 am

Hi Bobby,
I was told that the advantage of 1430 comes with queen ask potential. It is more likely that the 4nt bidder would ask for the trump queen if the response shows 1 key card rather than 0 keys.

Bill CubleyNovember 4th, 2019 at 2:26 pm


Thanks for your kind thoughts. It may seem odd that this card pusher really can bid slams well. I may be an autistic savant in this respect.

My best was a cat helped me to bid 7 clubs rather than let partner play the 1430 5 spades. I got a ruff with 1=4=4=4 shape. The cat got us a top board, 1st place by 1/3 a matchpoint, and a card from London signed by Hideous Hog.

Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Hi Bill,

Just learned that the mystery of Eddie Kantar’s preference for number of aces shown was designed for an available queen ask more often his way than the other. Seems sensible to me, that is, if both partner’s remember it the same way.

To each his own, and in real life Eddie was always the one, including now, of finding the right queen for his very own, rather than worrying about the bridge table. And, to accomplish it, perfect memory is not required.

Also congratulations to both you and your cat for both reaching the top spot and attaining HH’s attention. No small event for him to respond and remind us of his late and great creator.