Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Recently my partner opened one heart in third seat and rebid two no-trump over my response of one no-trump, with: ♠ A-Q-9-7, ♣ Q-10-4-3-2, ♠ 3-2,  A-7. I argued that he should bid two spades, or invent a minor-suit. What do you say?

Trapper John, Memphis, Tenn.

You've covered quite a lot of suggestions here but no one has hit on my preferred action (or inaction, you might say). Passing is clearly right here; responder has neither hearts nor spades, and has a weak hand – why with a misfit would you want to raise the level of the auction. Pass and keep your fingers crossed, I say.

Could you please answer a beginner's question: how does the forcing no-trump work to distinguish good and bad raises? And is there a simple cut-off point for raising partner's major-suit openings or overcalls to three – what do you do with a 10-count in general?

Hamburger Helper, White Plains, N.Y.

The simple rule is that a direct raise shows 7-10 with three or possibly four trump. Going through the forcing no-trump suggests 6-10 and two trump, or 4-7 and three trump. The direct raise to three and the indirect raise via the forcing no-trump suggest unbalanced and balanced hands respectively in the range 10-12. With a 10-count and four trump upgrade the hand, with three trump only upgrade when you have a side source of tricks or a singleton.

Can you help me with the definitions of a weak jump and what you describe as a mixed raise. For example if you hold: ♠ 9-2,  A-7-4,  Q-9-7, ♣ 10-8-6-4-3 would you consider this to be a preemptive raise of clubs or would you think it was a mixed raise? And when do you use preemptive raises of your partner's opening bid?

Scrambled Eggs, Galveston, Texas

A simple rule is that a mixed raise of a minor asks partner to bid three no-trump with 18-19 balanced, so today's deal is on the cusp; I'd say it qualified as mixed. I use preemptive raises of opening bids in competition when non-vulnerable and mixed raises (6-9 HCP) when vulnerable.

I've recently been encountering some problems with using the blanket rule of 'third hand plays high'. Specifically when dummy has the jack or the queen in a three-card suit working out whether to put in the nine or 10 from a three-card suit headed by a top honor has been giving me fits. Could you give me some guidance here, please?

Saving Grace, Boise, Idaho

I'll try, but circumstances do alter cases. Typically when partner leads a low card and declarer plays low from a dummy that has jack- or queen-third and you have the queen or king accompanied by the nine or 10, the right play is the intermediate card. This looks VERY silly when partner has underled the ace-king against no-trump but how often does that happen? Against suits the same principle applies even more strongly – though it is not always right!

For those of us learning new bidding conventions, it would be helpful if someone had compiled a list showing how often a chance for the convention could be expected to occur. For instance it would be better to learn a convention which might occur once every 50 hands versus one which might occur once every 100 hands. Has anyone compiled such a list?

Rob Roy, Grand Forks, N.D.

The list of 25 conventions in Barbara Seagram's list is a good place to start. Even 25 conventions sounds like a lot for intermediate players. You can explore further here.

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Jeff HOctober 1st, 2012 at 2:09 pm

The hand from Trapper John looks odd. 2 spade suits, and he opened a 2 card heart suit. I suspect, give the order, and not the suit synbols, the club suit is really hearts, the second spade suit diamonds, and the hearrt suit clubs.

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Hi Jeff,

Since, when reading Trapper John’s hand, I didn’t even glance at the symbols, it tells me why I failed as a proof reader. Inexcusable, but realistic, since the symbols should be in the normal order and, of course, when they are not, they must be corrected.

I apologize for the inconvenience to all who unsuccessfully wrestled with this abomination.