Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Mr. Wolff:

How often in a five-card major system will a one-diamond opening be based on a three-card suit? Does it matter if you occasionally open one diamond with 3-3 in the minors for lead-directing purposes?

—  Bloodhound, Pueblo, Colo.


ANSWER: The three-card suit comes up only about one time in 50 for a one-diamond opening bid. However, opening one diamond with 3-3 would affect the calculation considerably. My advice is that, except in third seat, one should never open one diamond with fewer than four, or specifically a 4-4-3-2 pattern. In third seat a lead-directing call is acceptable with three — if you must.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

Holding K-9, 2, A-Q-J-10-3, A-10-4-3-2, I responded two clubs Stayman to my partner’s strong no-trump, then bid three clubs, and next introduced my diamonds. We made six clubs after a tortured auction, but we could have made six no-trump. How could we have gotten there?

—  Road Map, Danville, Ill.


ANSWER: I’d respond three diamonds initially, natural and game-forcing, planning to bid six clubs at my next turn to offer a choice of slams. I’d bid the minors in this order because of the suit disparity. Six no-trump may be too tough to reach unless partner can bid it on his own after this start.


Incidentally, an alternative approach is to use direct calls of three clubs and three diamonds conventionally to show 5-5 in the minors, invitational and game-forcing respectively, while bids in the majors show 5-4 in the minors and show my shortage.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

My bridge partner says that if I open one of anything, then when my LHO passes and she responds three of a suit, that it is not a jump-shift, but a reverse pre-empt. Have you ever heard of this?

—  Brown Study, Topeka, Kan.

  ANSWER: Let’s differentiate between single and double jumps. A bid of three hearts in response to one diamond is normally played as weak — about the values for a minimum three-level pre-empt (say, seven hearts to the K-J, but you might have a queen on the side). The single jump — three hearts over one spade — can be played as weak, strong or invitational and requires agreement. In a two-over-one base it won’t be strong. I’d call it a jump shift, not a reverse pre-empt!


Dear Mr. Wolff:

You posed a recent query with Q-3-2, A-K-7-4, Q-2, Q-J-10-9. After doubling one diamond, your LHO raises to two diamonds and your partner doubles for takeout. When you bid two hearts, partner says two no-trump. You suggested this denied hearts, but is he not showing four hearts and a diamond stop, allowing you to choose strain and level?

—  Lost in Translation, Pottsville, Pa.


ANSWER: Without getting into specifics, the responsive double says “both majors OR spades, and able to correct hearts to no-trump to get my values across.” Here the continuation of two no-trump must deny hearts unequivocally. In my old-fashioned style, I raise hearts as advancer if I have them, or probe with three diamonds if I want to keep no-trump in the picture.


Dear Mr. Wolff:

In first seat I held J-9-5-4, A-Q-7-3-2, K-10, J-4. Do you agree with my decision to open one heart? After my partner responded with a forcing no-trump, what should I do now?

—  Stuck for an Answer, Jackson, Tenn.


ANSWER: It is precisely because I have no rebid over a forcing no-trump (or indeed over a two-diamond response) that I would pass this hand. With 11-counts, the ease of rebid is critical to deciding whether to open. Here, unless you want to break discipline and pass the forcing no-trump (I might!), you have to bid two clubs and hope you emerge relatively unscathed.


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bruce karlsonSeptember 19th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Re: 1 D, p, 3H

If you were my partner and bid 3H, we would be headed for a train wreck as I would take it as a splinter.

What, if anything, would be a splinter following a 1 D opener??

Bobby WolffSeptember 20th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Hi Bruce,

Your question is a topical one and could be captioned, “In bridge when a relative newcomer meets a grizzled old-timer, thoughts will be, to say the least, different”.

The old time definition of one of a suit, pass, 3 of a higher suit, is definitely preemptive in nature, but also descriptive, with the express purpose of making a one time complete picture of one’s hand: e.g. 1 diamond pass:

Kx, QJ109xxx, xxx, x, or x, KQJxxxx, x, xxxx or even x, KJxxxxxx, xx, xx.

2 factors are in favor:

1. If we do not now bid 3 hearts there is an excellent chance over the alternative bid of 1 heart by us that LHO will compete (probably either in a black suit or a take out double or even 1NT) and by the next time it gets around to us we’ll indeed be at least at the 3 spade level, without partner knowing enough about our hand and worse yet, we now will have no way to update him without taking an undue risk.

2. If we now (at our first turn) jump to 3 hearts, we will be annointing partner captain of this hand, knowing we have accomplished our duty and, possibly the level has immediately become high enough to prevent LHO from either competing or, if so, he himself may be taking an undue risk.

Practically thinking, there is not usually a good reason to immediately splinter with a big minor suit fit. First the hand should not contain a 4 card major since, especially in match points we should always be catering to possible major suit 8 card fits. I would also suggest to you that you should play 1 club pass 2 diamonds and 1 diamond pass 3 clubs as artificial confirming a forcing to game raise in partner’s opening minor suit. That caters to reserving a direct jump to 3 of partner’s minor as a limit raise, although some play it as preemptive (too rich for my tastes) but some love to incorporate it in their weaponry.

The only bid given up is the relatively unused immediate minor suit jump shift and, at least to me, well worth it.

Further bidding after the above suggestions follows along normal lines.

As usual, thanks for your question.