Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 25th, 2011

When my partner opened one diamond, the next player cuebid two diamonds, and the opponents ended in four hearts. When the cuebidder put her hand down, it contained five hearts and four spades. Is this an acceptable way to use the Michaels Cuebid?

Bending the Rules, Katy, Texas

A Michaels Cuebid usually promises a 5-5 pattern and the exceptions to the rule are rare. Mike Lawrence has commented, as I recall, that a hand with four good spades and five hearts, with near- opening values, might be best handled by a Michaels Cuebid — but the likelihood of having that hand is quite small.

Say you deal yourself ♠ Q-J-9-3,  A-3,  K-Q-3-2, ♣ 10-3-2 and open one diamond. After a one-heart response, you rebid one spade. But what should you do over a fourth-suit two-club bid, which we play as game-forcing?

Nowhere to Run, Miami, Fla.

Since raising hearts is consistent in this auction with a doubleton, I'd happily bid two hearts now. With a small doubleton you might rebid in no-trump in a pinch with any three small cards in clubs. Partner rates to have length in the fourth suit or an easy raise of one of your suits.

In scoring at rubber bridge, if one side wins two consecutive games and the third game is won by the opponents, what should the score be? I say it should be 700 for winning the two consecutive games, but some say 500, because the opponents won the third game.

Keeping Score, Grand Junction, Colo.

Your question is I believe moot. If you win the first two games, you get the 700 bonus but then start a new rubber — so the opponents win the first game of the new rubber, not the third game of the first one.

Sometimes when I open one no-trump and the opponents compete, I'm not sure whether to act again. For example, I held ♠ J-6,  A-K-9-5-3,  K-J-2, ♣ A-J-5. Over my one-no-trump opening, my LHO bid two spades. When this came back to me, was I supposed to bid three hearts?

Second-City Shooter, Chicago, Ill.

I would generally act again here with a doubleton spade unless I had too much in the spade suit to make this action too dangerous. In this case I might double two spades (after all partner may have a five-carder of his own, or even a penalty double where he could not bid, because a double would be takeout).

With reference to a letter earlier this month, where do you stand on the issue of leading the fourth or unbid suit against a trump contract or at no-trump? Do you consider it normal whatever the holding in that suit?

Befuddled, Salinas, Calif.

There are really four questions here. A lot depends on whether fourth suit has actually been used (and thus partner had a chance to double an artificial call) and whether the final contract is in a suit or no-trump. I'm always strongly tempted to lead an unbid suit against a suit contract if no other lead stands out, but at no-trump I let my hand and the auction decide my approach.

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clarksburgJanuary 8th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

One of the questions above started out:
“…Say you deal yourself ♠ Q-J-9-3, ♥ A-3, ♦ K-Q-3-2, ♣ 10-3-2 and open one diamond…”
How close is that hand to an initial pass? Suppose for example the spade and club holdings are reversed, or the one jack becomes a spot card, etc. At what point does it become a pass?

Bobby WolffJanuary 8th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

What you asked is a pertinent specific question, but let me answer with a concept.

At least to me, and especially today with the highly competitive world of learned high-level bridge, bidding early is effective and, make no mistake, clearly the way to go.

I would have opened 1 diamond on the column letter hand and would still open 1 diamond on the exchange of spade and club holdings

If, however you would eliminate the jack (especially since it was together with a queen) the hand, at least according to me, would fall below opening bid requirements, only 11 HCP’s and not enough togetherness of honors, e.g a QJ combination (even from the long ago evaluation by Ely Culbertson, an isolated queen drops to only a plus value instead of together with the jack a half-a-trick, significant in his advice).

Using other words, I look for reasons to open the bidding instead of not, since sometimes (more often than one thinks) the initial thrust does three plus things:

1. It starts a positive dialogue with partner which usually turns out more enabling than not.

2. Because of the current direction of high-level partnerships, it is more difficult for the opponents to inflict penalty doubles on us, particularly at relatively low levels, since double by either opponent almost always now means, some sort of takeout desired.

3. Because of the opponents ability (with no change from the still used 1927 scoring system continued in bridge where down tricks are only 50 and 100) they, holding some type of long suit may make a preemptive bid which will then make it difficult and dangerous for partner to join in the bidding, sometimes not then allowing our side safely into the bidding on too many hands.

Through the years bridge concepts have gone back and forth with the Roth Stone system(developed in the middle of the last century) espousing strong opening bids and other initial actions, but that method has gone out with the morning wash in favor of the parry and thrust in competition with many of the players nowadays selecting early action, the sooner the better.

Of course, there needs to be some limits and your necessary question, at least to me, pinpoints the imaginary line about where it should be in the decision on whether to open the bidding or not.

Thanks for writing.