Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Under what circumstances should the primary signal at the first trick be other than attitude? In other words, when would I signal count or suit-preference at the first trick?

Signal Corps, Dover, Del.

One should signal count when both defenders know third hand's attitude to the opening lead from the play to the first trick. (If opening leader's queen holds when dummy has the king, we assume third hand has the ace — he doesn't need to signal it a second time). But if, and only if, dummy has a holding or declarer has shown or is about to show a holding that makes it clear a continuation is unlikely to be right, third hand can signal suit-preference. This play is rarer than most think. Continuation of the opening lead is right more often than one might expect!

You are in second seat at unfavorable vulnerability with ♠ J-7-4-3-2,  4,  K, ♣ A-K-10-8-3-2. What do you do and what's your plan?

Fired Up, Bremerton, Wash.

This is a no-brainer. Passing won't ever allow you to get these values across, so you must open. You plan to open one club, then bid and rebid spades. (Just for the record: with better spades and worse clubs, I could live with a one-spade opening, but I still prefer one club.)

Have you heard of an "impossible spade" bid? My partner was discussing this yesterday and rather than embarrass myself by revealing my ignorance, I made an excuse and left, but I'm relying on you to fill in the blanks for me!

The Impossible Dream, Union City, Tenn.

If you respond one no-trump to one heart, you have denied the ability to bid spades, right? So now, if your partner introduces a minor, you can show a super hand for that suit by bidding two spades, while a direct raise of the minor suggests more shape and fewer high cards.

Recently in a BBO tournament I held ♠ Q-8-7-4,  K-10-9-3,  A-K, ♣ 9-3-2 at unfavorable vulnerability. My game is generally Zisciplined, so I passed rather than open my worst suit. Was my position unreasonably pessimistic? (The results suggested that my action left us better placed than if I had bid.)

Discretion Over Valor, Seneca, S.C.

It would take a lot to make me pass a 12-count with both majors (even facing a partner who opens light). But I do agree that three small clubs is a huge negative here, and if we do end up defending, I'd surely regret opening this hand!

Like many of your devoted readers, I enjoy covering the defensive hands to figure out my plan before reading the text. I have a piece of cardboard already cut and I just slide it over the East and West hands. Unfortunately, I never get to test my defense! This could be solved by adding a line under "Aces on Bridge" saying, "Today you are East" or "Cover the West and South hands." Once I start to read the text, it is too late, as the North-South hands are memorized.

Self-Examination, Danville, Ill.

When I write the column, the text comes first, then the deal; I'm assuming from what you say that when you get the deal, you see it on top of the text — which is curious. Some columns do rearrange the material, but it is MY intention that you start with the text.

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011.
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