Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 19th, 2012

What is the minimum required to reopen over a bid of one of a minor when you hold relative shortness in the opponent's suit? Recently, with ♠ 9-8-3,  A-Q-7-4,  A-10-9-7, ♣ 10-5, I doubled a one-club call when it came around to me in balancing seat. My partner drove to three no-trump with a balanced 12-count and a double club stopper — down one. He claimed I should have passed one club out as I was too weak to bid.

Rough Justice, Holland, Mich.

Your partner was dead wrong. With short clubs you must reopen with anything approaching these values. Your partner can invite game — which is all he is worth — with a call of two no-trump: problem solved.

As a club tournament director, I am bedeviled by slow players. How can I get them to speed up? I do not want to penalize them, but what choice do I have?

Aunt Bee, Elmira, N. Y.

When the round is called, you should prevent anyone from playing a board that they have not yet started. Let them play it at the end of the event if they have time and both sides want to do so. If not, give both sides an average. Other than that, you have very few ways to speed up laggards other than standing over them and cracking your knuckles — or a whip.

My partner opened one club, and I raised to two with ♠ A-7-4,  Q-9-7,  A-10, ♣ Q-6-4-3-2. This was an inverted raise, a one-round force, but not forcing to game. My partner now bid two diamonds. What is the best way to go forward?

Simple Simon, Portland, Ore.

I think you have enough to go to game, but jumping to three no-trump sounds premature to me. Since two no-trump would be nonforcing, I think a simple call of two hearts would be sufficient, suggesting a heart stopper and leaving partner room to explore. You plan to bid three no-trump at your next turn.

Do you like the idea, on opening lead or in midhand, of leading nines, 10s and jacks from specific sequences (either to promise or deny a higher honor)?

Jack Denies, Bellevue, Wash.

Bob Hamman and I did not play nines and 10s at trick one because, without seeing dummy, we did not want to give declarer information that might be critical. However, in midhand there is an excellent argument to be made for playing them. The point is that you can always false-card if you want — the sight of dummy should tell you.

One partnership at our local club plays Precision, using their two-no-trump opening bid to show both minors. How should we defend against that action?

Minor Injuries, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Double the call to show a strong no-trump or better, and bid three of a minor to show both majors with better hearts or spades respectively. If your partner passes and the next hand bids three clubs, use three diamonds as takeout, double as balanced. On all other sequences, use the first double as takeout, subsequent doubles as defensive.

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Iain ClimieSeptember 2nd, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I regularly TD on a club rota, and I hope the following may help to address slow play at club level (without whips, although I can understand the urge):

1. As a playing TD you and your partner have to play briskly, even at the risk of some impact on your score. It may be necessary to ask partner at the start of the session to do this and accept the odd bad score.

2. Unless there is a timer available (and a large digital display counting down the time is very effective at one club where I play) then during the first round (and then every 2 or 3 rounds afterwards), call out “you should all be on (or starting) your 2nd or 3rd board at this stage”.

3. Make allowances for less experienced players but not for more experienced ones dithering.

4. Claim / concede the rest of the tricks (or, perhaps all bar a high trump) in clear-cut cases, especially against newer players who may be grinding out their winners one at a time.

5. Ensure that dummy gets the coffees rather than pairs wandering into the kitchen close to the end of one round then delaying their table’s restart.

6. Don’t pay too much attention to the travellers or the electronic BridgeMate scoring devices if you are behind – the scores will change anyway, you can look at the end and undue fretting as to how exactly pair 6 got that lucky doesn’t help – talk to them later.

7. As a general rule, post mortems should not occur if you are behind. If you want to look at the hands, do so at the end of the round and only if time permits.

8. If you’ve been (unavoidably) slow on one difficult hand, make sure you crack on for the next few regardless.

9. Don’t assume that more thought will lead to better bidding and play – some of my all-time howlers have followed protracted cogitation. I don’t know what this says about my play!

10. Call briskly for cards from dummy – I know one lady who until recently said (very slowly) “I’ll have the King of Spades, please” or similar for each card and thought over every play. She seems to have speeded up after I pointed out after one hand that her only chance (with all boss trumps, side suit winners and one loser left) for a defensive mistake was to get the cards on the deck and hope for the best – slow play just ensured the defenders had time to get it right!

11. Standing up as TD (having hopefully finished early) and having a quick look round the room can help chivy people along). Smile back at the tables that have finished on time or early and encourage others to try to crack on – the carrot should always precede the stick.

12. If a table has finished (say) 2 out of 3 boards but is still playing one at the move, get dummy to pass the finished boards to the appropriate table. Yes I know it should be North and the pedants may object, but do they want to be there all night too?

I hope these thoughts are of some use – it is a difficult balancing act between ensuring brisk play and hassling people, but cutting out pointless time wasting is an obvious approach.


Iain Climie

ClarksburgSeptember 2nd, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Iain Climie’s point #6 is a biggie. Looking to “see what the other’s did” is a huge and annoying time waster. Better that North nicely but firmly state control over this aspect to incoming pairs, at the beginning of each round. Given time, offer a quick peek, or a hushed comment, and quickly move on.
Also #4. Failure to claim / concede is a missed good opportunity to catch up when behind. Claiming / conceding is also proper etiquette isn’t it?

bobby wolffSeptember 2nd, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hi Iain and Clarksburg,

Iain, your primer has the makings of a complete important full thesis on running a current duplicate, complete with bridgemates and time clocks. Clarksburg has also provided positive annotation of emphasis.

With both of your permissions (I’ll assume it if I do not hear to the contrary), I may copy it and post it on our already very well run club here in Las Vegas (they also use bridgemates and have a very easy to see large, bold time clock which features both time left and which round we are playing).

To comment on Clarksburg’s points #4 and 6, I fully agree to his judgment on both. Along with encouraging claims for time saving, close (by exactly the way the rule book reads) should (could) be rounded off in favor of the claimer, if IYO the claimer was in control of his mind and his faculties and perhaps a very slight glitch in his explanation should be rounded off in his favor, if you think there is little doubt that he would have done what he expected to do, by his claim. Of course, that preference should be written and posted on the bulletin board so that all can feel that the above is the policy of the club and in the interest of finishing on time for all. However, the term SLIGHT glitch means exactly that.

Players do have different emphasis on why they are there and some are more carefree than others and do not feel time constraints as deeply as do others. While that is unlikely to change, adherence to #6 should, without saying, add to the efficiency of the session with the result of almost always finishing on (or very close) to the expected ending time (important for many who have other appointments waiting).

BTW, and upon Judy’s suggestion, our bridgemates do not show past results for both Clarksburg’s concern, but even more so for not allowing all to suffer emotional ups and downs during the game which tends to intrude on keeping a player’s mind on the current board rather than what might have happened on some other. Add to that, the fact that duplicate bridge, unlike most other competitive sports, is not one for encouraging last minute heroics, by at least coming closer to knowing how your partnership is doing. In that way every hand takes on approximately the same significance and fairness in play becomes more evident toward the death of the session.

Again, thanks to both of you, and to Iain, his creativity and presentation, will be felt positively around the bridge playing globe with the only negatives, some uneasy feelings probably present from the slowees who are now in danger of losing their excuses.

Iain ClimieSeptember 2nd, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Thanks for your very kind comments and please use my suggestions as you wish. Thanks also to Clarksburg who may well be a kindred spirit in fighting the frustration of needless slow play.