Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 1st, 2012

How do I decide whether to signal attitude, count or suit preference at the first trick?

Primary Colors, Lakeland, Fla.

Let's start with basics. Signal attitude, attitude, attitude. If your attitude is known to partner by what happens on the trick, signal count. Unless a continuation of the suit led makes no sense at all, suit preference only applies on subsequent plays in the suit led. That's an oversimplification of course, but not far from the truth.

What are the minimum requirements for a splinter facing a one-heart opening? With ♠ K-7-4,  K-10-6-2,  7, ♣ K-J-4-3-2, would you jump to four diamonds, or four hearts — or would you treat the hand as a limit raise and bid three hearts?

Feeling Jumpy, Montreal

I don't like the limit raise. Partner will never know when it is right to pass. I guess a splinter is acceptable, but there is a better if somewhat complex solution. Use the "one-over" double jump to show an unspecified limited splinter with 9-12 HCP — here, three spades over one heart, three no-trump over one spade. Partner can ask, or sign off in game. Other, specific, splinters show 12-15.

We have a seven-pair "marathon" club event, playing one round a month. Last month there was a team that did not appear for a match, a default for sure. We need to figure out how to score this win so that it will be fair to all of the players.

AWOL, Houston, Texas

The no-show gets no points, the other innocent team gets the better of 60 percent and the average of its other matches, unless the no-show team has an average of LESS than 40 percent of the available points. In that case you might award the innocents the complements of that number. So if the no-shows average 20 percent, you'd give the innocents 80 percent — which is what everyone else was getting when they played them.

Would you open the bidding with ♠ Q,  K-10-6-2,  A-Q-7-2, ♣ J-4-3-2, and if so, what would your planned rebid be?

Dog's Dinner, Macon, Ga.

I've often said I open almost all 12-counts but this hand is the exception. With no perfect rebid and a spade queen not pulling its full weight, I'd pass and hope to double spades to find my way in. If I did open, I'd bid one diamond and rebid one no-trump, not two clubs — which in a perfect world ought to show at least a 5-4 pattern.

I thought that if the opponents hold five trump cards, they may split 0-5, 5-0, 1-4, 4-1, 2-3, 3-2 — six possibilities in all. So, combining chances, the probability that one hand holds one card in the suit is one-third (4-1 or 1-4). Yet in today's column you state that the chance of a 4-1 split is one-fourth. What am I missing here?

William Wallace, Brandon, Miss.

Not all chances are equally likely, and the percentages can be calculated using the rule of vacant spaces, based on the idea that each player has 13 cards. Each defender has 13 "empty" spaces in his hand. So a 1-1 split happens 13 times in 25 (after the allocation of the first card, the other player has 13 spaces, the first player 12). You build up from there to get the chances of a 2-1 and 3-0 break, and so on. That is where the 25 percent chance of the 4-1 break comes from.

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Jeff HJuly 15th, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I don’t know exactly what you said originally about the 4-1 split odds, so I hope you said approximately one-fourth. The actual odds are 28%, so one-fourth is accurate enough for most bridge decisions.

bobby wolffJuly 16th, 2012 at 1:04 am

Hi Jeff H,

Yes, at least according to the Encyclopedia of Bridge the exact odds of a 4-1 break with 5 missing is 28.26%, but the normal 3-2 break. 67.83%, leaving 5-0 at 3.91%. I also agree with you that approximate odds are almost always adequate for the concerned player to rely on, rather than exact.