Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dear Mr. Wolff:

How should opener respond to a fourth-suit forcing bid when he has a balanced hand, with either two- or three-card support that he has not shown. In a typical auction, opener bids one diamond and rebids one spade over one heart. Responder now bids two clubs, artificial and game-forcing.

— Suited Up, Charleston, S.C.

ANSWER: On this sequence a call of two hearts by opener sounds like three-card support but might be made on honor-doubleton with three small clubs. With five diamonds I would probably repeat diamonds rather than raise hearts with two, but the quality of the red suits might affect my decision.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held A-10-8-6-3, Q, A-J-3, Q-10-4-2 and opened one spade. Over the game-forcing two-heart response, should I rebid two spades, two no-trump or three clubs?

— Fudging It, Cleveland, Ohio

ANSWER: Unless two hearts is a game-force, you cannot bid three clubs. That said, I like to keep my suit rebid to show six or a better five than this, and the two-no-trump bid as a balanced hand without a singleton in partner’s suit. A call of three clubs should deliver a good suit, or 5-5 shape, or extras in high cards. Since my hand fits none of these categories, I’ll go with two no-trump because a singleton honor is almost as good as two cards.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Please explain the term “par result.” Does it have to do with the best result possible in abstract, or on the actual lie of the cards?

— Parboiled, Charlottesville, Va.

  ANSWER: The answer is based on the 52-card layout. The objective is to determine what is the largest plus-score or smallest minus-score North-South can achieve, assuming perfect bidding and play by their opponents. So one does look at the lie of the opponents’ cards in determining par.
Dear Mr. Wolff:

I held Q-6-3, K-9-7-4, J-7-3, A-10-4 and passed over a one-diamond bid on my right. My LHO responded one heart, my partner bid one spade, and the opener rebid one no-trump. Would you raise spades, cue-bid, or double?

— Looking for Action, Raleigh, N.C.

ANSWER: I do not like my shape and honor location. A simple bid of two spades seems enough, though I might double if my opponents compete to the three-level.

Dear Mr. Wolff:

Is it ever acceptable to open one no-trump with a singleton? The ACBL says that it is acceptable when “sound bidding judgment” dictates it. Some of the other directors state that they do not allow it. What is your opinion?

— Split Decision, Portland, Ore.

ANSWER: Unless I have precisely a 16-count and a singleton spade top honor, or perhaps 3-1-4-5 shape and a 16-count with a singleton heart honor, I do NOT need to open one no-trump. With 15, I’ll downgrade to 12-14; with 17, I’ll upgrade to a jump in no-trump or a reverse.

I opened one no-trump with a singleton only once in 2007 and not at all in 2008!

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bruce karlsonMay 10th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

First- Holding 4/3/3/3 or 3/4/3/3 and 10+ points, I routinely do not bid Stayman and bid 3NT. It avoids giving information to the opps, and I have very doubtful ruffing values in any case. The texture of the 4 card major does not deter me. Would you do the same thing and, if so, should the texture of the 4 card major be a factor?

Second – A “heads up”: Playing 3NT after a 3 diamond opener on my right. Diamonds go around twice all following. In my hand, with 9 assured tricks, at trick 7, I know the spade K is on my left and have the Qx in dummy. Playing MPs, I figure I need the over trick to compete with the field and also “know” that LHO is out of diamonds (7 with RHO, minus 6 played). Ergo, I lead toward the Qx, Lefty takes the K and puts a D on the table for down 3!! Righty then cackles that since they play Flannery, she routinely bids 3 Ds with only 6!! My stoic partner later noted that the ensuing goose egg moved us from 1st to 2nd. In my “analysis”, I forgot that there is more to dummy play than counting. Painful…

Bobby WolffMay 19th, 2009 at 4:21 am

Hi Bruce,

Chalk your subject hand to a learning experience. Yes, I would tend to respond 3NT to 1NT with a 4333 hand and a 4 card major. A long time ago an Aces simulation on computers of that era showed a definite +, for both match points and IMPs. I doubt whether the quality of the 4 card major enters into it, but if it does I have no idea how.

Where I come from, opening 3 level preempts are as least as likely to be only 6 as they are to be 7, since in the so-called high-level game the players have learned that making it tough for the opponents is never to be underrated and safety falls victim to disruption. However, there is probably something you missed at the table which would have clued you in that the preemptor only had 6, whether it was tempo or some other tell by one or the other of your opponents. If some person was to ask me to rate the absolute best player I ever played against the difference in whomever I selected would be his ability to mislead (legally) the opponents as to where the key card was located or in being able to confuse the count. Great technical players tend to downplay the “poker” element in the expert game, while the good poker players are usually at least almost as good as the best in the technical end as well. In other words, a good “nose” will trump a great technician almost every time.

The end of the story has to do with the needling by your opponents, something that, at least to my knowledge, is NEVER done by any great player I have ever known. Plenty of wannabes do, but no one who is already there does. That alone should tell us all something. Showing disrespect to another top player is, at least in my old eyes, something that should never be done, if for no other reason then that the roles may well be reversed in the next encounter.