Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 8th, 2012

In a recent Sunday letter you said that the Law of Total Tricks (which involves judging the level you compete to by counting the total number of tricks your partnership holds) does not work as well at the five-level as it does at lower levels. Why is this?

Totally Tricked, Smyrna Beach, Fla.

I'm not going to say that the Law doesn't work at high-levels, but its main use is at lower levels where the high-cards are approximately split. As you get higher, too many variables mean you can't rely on the law so much.

My partner held ♠ A-K-7-3,  A-K-9-4-2,  10-5-3, ♣ 4. His LHO opened three spades, passed around to him. As I see it, the choice would be to pass — which seems a little pessimistic — or to reopen. If he bids, should he double, bid three no-trump, or try four hearts? At the table we wended our way to four hearts, mercifully undoubled, down 300.

Ray of Sunshine, Montreal, Quebec

Your partner had a tough hand, but if he wants to bid, the choice is between a call of three no-trump and four hearts, with my money firmly on the latter. Passing seems very pessimistic, but could easily be right. Even if it is, you may not score well at pairs.

If my partner opens two clubs and I respond two diamonds, what auctions will allow us to stop short of game? Or are we forced to game?

Minny the Moocher, Walnut Creek, Calif.

After a negative response of two diamonds, responder can pass opener's rebid of two no-trump, which shows 22-24 or so. If opener bids a suit and responder bids the lower minor as a second negative, then opener's rebid of his suit becomes nonforcing. Everything else must lead to game.

In second seat I held this strong unbalanced hand: ♠ J-3,  A-K-10-9-4-2,  A-J-5-3, ♣ A. I bid two hearts over one spade, and my LHO raised to two spades. When the auction came back to me, should I have bid three hearts, three diamonds, or should I have passed?

Off the Grid, Elmira, N.Y.

You should clearly reopen here, looking for the most flexible action. Best is to double, since you can raise diamonds or correct a club response to either three diamonds or three hearts.

What is the best way to defend against a strong no-trump? Would you rather play a defense that allows you to bid with two suiters or play natural?

Old Artificer, Dodge City, Kansas

I used to be content to play natural, but these days I'm more inclined to consider a defense geared to letting me act with two-suited hands as well as one-suiters. The most active defenses are called DONT and Woolsey. You can find out more here.

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