Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Recently I opened one club and my LHO overcalled two spades, which was passed out, going down two or three tricks. My partner said that because we were playing negative doubles, I was forced to bid. Since I had a minimum opener and flat distribution (two spades, three hearts and four cards in each minor), I could envision many hands where forcing partner to bid at the three-level would be disastrous. Any comments?

Sellout, Dodge City, Kan.

You are NOT forced to reopen, but typically will do so even if minimum IF you have shortage in their suit. So with two small spades I might reopen here, but with the doubleton spade king I'd expect partner not to have the penalty double, so might let two spades go. Then again, I might still bid with anything approaching extra values. Color me hyperaggressive.

We had a recent key-card auction with hearts as the agreed suit and could not locate the trump queen accurately. Can you recommend a pattern of responses after the queen ask? Should any bid other than a bid of the agreed suit promise the queen?

Queen for a Day, Atlanta, Ga.

After the response of the first or second step (whichever way you play these) here are the simplest set of responses possible to the step one relay for the queen – though remember that five of the trump suit by the inquirer implies too many keycards are missing. In response, the lowest level of the trump suit says 'No trump queen'. If you have it, but no king, bid six of the trump suit but if you have the trump queen and additional kings, cue-bid the cheapest king you have.

I play rubber bridge with a group and after a strong two spade opening, responder answered four spades with this hand: ♠ J-10-4-2,  9-4-3-2,  A-7-5-4, ♣ 4. I thought her hand was strong hand opposite a strong two-bid and thought she should bid three spades. She contended it was the right bid because it only made 11 tricks.

Monday-Morning Quarterback, Fremont, Calif.

You are right that a jump to four spades DENIES an ace. Even with a minimum hand, such as this one, you had bette do something else. Here, a jump to four clubs would show a singleton club and a spade raise, but perhaps a slightly better hand than this. (For sure, that would be fine with the heart queen in addition.)

When might you play a genuine line as opposed to playing for a defensive error?

Larkspur, Panama City, Fla.

I hate to give up on a genuine line by playing for nothing but a slip on defense. However, if I can see a line of play that I might fall for myself were I in the defender's shoes, I'd give it a whirl. Quite often a pressure line (making someone decide whether to take an honor or duck it) has far better chances than the percentages associated with the play.

My partner held ♠ J-10-9-4,  K-Q-8-3,  Q-4, ♣ Q-J-4 and heard me open two no-trump. He used Stayman and got a three-spade response. Now he found what I thought was quite an intelligent bid when he jumped to five spades. I thought I should bid slam since I had four spades to the ace-king, but the finesse lost and we also had an ace to lose. Was there a better route?

Inspector Gadget, Worcester, Mass.

One sensible agreement to have in this sequence is that a bid of four hearts over three spades shows the values for a slam-try in spades with four trump. Even this action is not an underbid, given the lack of trump honors and controls. However, this will let opener decide whether he is slam-suitable, in which case he can ask for aces and find out the right level to play at, or sign off in four spades.

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Jeff HApril 29th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

When the question came up about checkin for the Q in RKC auctions, I thought of two issues. Since the suit is hearts, 2 keycards + the Q can lead to disaster, as the response takes you beyond 5H. Similarly, the 2 diamond response leaves no room for the Q ask.

It seems a lot of experts play kickback in this situation, but I have had some partners get confused about when it applies.

bobbywolffApril 30th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Hi Jeff H,

RKC does present its own set of problems.

The question on the Sunday letters is only one of many which need to be at least bandaided before IMHO, RKC becomes proven ready to be played, which it already, is by 90+% of the world’s top players.

Problems often arise about which suit is going to be trump, particularly when the opponents have originally opened the bidding or when they are so rude as to preempt over the opening bidder and all the responder to the opening bid would like to know about is how many aces partner has other than the trump?? king.

Add that to the rational observation that the king of trumps is not the same as an ace, when and if the opponents have the trump king it is very likely (let us say 90%) to be finesseable or when (it has happened to me twice in world championsip play), my partner and I had 12 trumps missing the king which probably would suggest that we would guess its position without loss.

However, KCB is in the process of improving with various ace asks (at a lower level) being employed as well as fewer misunderstandings (my team lost a WC on a KC misunderstanding 30+ years ago, and even with a faltering memory (up to now avoided), I recall that with chagrin, although it wasn’t my partnership.

It does seem that within the bridge world and at its highest level, sometimes new ideas are put into use before they probably should be, not like possible life saving medical procedures or cures need to be tested to extreme before they are ratified for general treatment.

So be it, but since winning something big often feels like a case of life or death, perhaps it should be treated in the same conservative manner. As Bob Hamman was once quoted as having said that “Losing is worse than death since after it happens, chances are it will happen to that person again”.