Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Recently, when playing rubber bridge, I had 100 honors but did not want to claim them in the middle of the hand because I thought it might facilitate the defense. At the end of the deal I claimed my honors and my opponents thought it was too late. When is the proper time to announce honors in the trump suit?

Cashing In, Naples, Fla.

You do NOT have to announce honors till the end of the hand or when you play the last one. Otherwise, the opponents may draw positive or negative inferences. Once you play the last honor, you are safe in not giving anything away. In fact, you technically have till the end of the rubber, I believe, but I would not wait till then if I were you. (I might have forgotten my name by then.)

I held ♠ A-4,  7-6-5-2,  Q-5-3, ♣ Q-9-3-2. When my partner opened one-diamond, I acted on the advice of a well-known and highly respected bridge guru (who will remain nameless) and responded one no-trump instead of bidding my pathetic four-card major. Result: misery, when we missed our 4-4 heart fit. Any comments?

Guruesome Result, Spartanburg, Ill.

The logic of concealing a really bad four-card major (both Eddie Kantar and I do suggest this from time to time, especially after RHO doubles) applies a little more to responding to one club — which is perhaps more typically balanced than a one-diamond opener. Ideally you do it with 8-10 rather than 6-7 points, and 4-3-3-3 pattern, but your action did make sense and was just unlucky. It is even more attractive if you are a passed hand. (Partner may pass with three and a minimum balanced hand.)

If your partner opens a minor suit, when do you respond in a four-card major and when in a five-card minor?

Fit to Be Tied, Dallas, Texas

Whenever you have enough points to force to game, bid your long suit first, unless you have a four-card major that looks like five and a minor that looks like a four-carder. By contrast, when you have less than an invitation, bid your major first, or you may never get it in conveniently. With invitational values be guided by the degree of fit for partner and suit-quality issues.

Say your partner opens one club and the next hand overcalls two hearts, weak. If you have ♠ K-7-4-3,  Q-J-9-7,  5-3, ♣ K-3-2, should you bid no-trump, make a negative double, or pass, planning to pass for penalties if your partner reopens with a double?

Triple Threat, Madison, Wis.

I do not have a good answer, but I'd guess that my club length makes the penalty-pass option less attractive. (I might feel different if my partner had opened one diamond.) Since I'm short of the values for a two-no-trump call, that leaves the negative double — but I'm not thrilled about it.

My partner and I disagree about a strategy for opening leads against three no-trump. How do you rate leading fourth best from longest and strongest in an auction where there is no indication of a weak suit? Would you rather lead from a sequence in a three-card holding than from length?

Get the Lead Out, Monterey, Calif.

At pairs, when the opponents have an unrevealing auction and end up in no-trump, I lead from five-card suits unless it is obviously a bad idea, but would rather lead from a safe three-card holding than a broken four-card holding. Any honor sequence always gives the illusion of a safer lead. And at pairs it is especially desirable not to give up a trick on a blind auction.

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