Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I held ♠ A-Q-8-3-2,  7-4,  K-J-10, ♣ K-10-7. How should I advance at unfavorable vulnerability after hearing partner open three clubs in second seat and the next hand bid three diamonds? Is doubling unreasonable, or should I simply raise clubs, and if so, to what level? Or should I bid three spades?

Multiple Choice, Lakeland, Fla.

I'd expect a club contract facing seven decent clubs and maybe a queen on the side to make 10 tricks most of the time. But I'd close my eyes and bid three no-trump, expecting to beat three diamonds by no more than a trick. Double here would be penalties, but very risky, while three spades is nonforcing though encouraging.

My hand was ♠ 9-2,  7-4-3,  K-Q-9-7, ♣ Q-10-6-4. I heard one spade on my left and two spades from my partner (Michaels cue-bid, showing 5-5 in hearts and a minor). My partner said a call of two no-trump was right, but I thought three clubs was better.

Up-or-Down Vote, Ketchikan, Alaska

The answer is more about partnership agreement than right or wrong. I like to play three clubs here as pass or correct, while two no-trump invites game and asks for the minor. So with your hand I'd simply bid three hearts to show weakness. With the same hand and the king of hearts, I'd bid three diamonds, which I play as inviting game in the MAJOR.

I know computers are beginning to dominate chess and backgammon. Why do they lag so far behind at bridge?

Following Hal, Trenton, N.J.

Off the cuff I'd say that the language of bidding is so flexible that you can't become an expert player without human as opposed to robotic qualities. In the play, computers are beginning to learn how to adapt their picture of the deal from additional information they acquire, but there are still too many variables for them to compete at even the level of a decent human player. Give it time, maybe 10-15 years.

Where do you stand on the spectrum of light opening bids, pre-empts and overcalls? And has your position changed as you grew older?

Sixties Swinger, Eau Claire, Wis.

I firmly believe that partnership trust is worth more than the IMPs won or lost on any single deal. So in second seat or when vulnerable, I tend to be very sound. I do open shapely minimum hands as often as the next man, but my two-level overcalls are disciplined. I might step out of line in third seat or when pre-empting nonvulnerable, but what is out of line for me might be seen as fuddy-duddy by the younger generation.

Recently you ran a problem where you had 11 points facing a two-no-trump opening bid. Eleven plus 21 comes to 32, which means you could be off two aces. Your partner's bid usually shows a balanced hand. How are you suggesting a slam without at least another jack?

Fear of Heights, Harrisburg, Pa.

When it comes to 11-counts facing a two-no-trump opening, I don't worry about aces too much. In my life and in that of most people, there has been an occasion or two where 32 points combined missed two aces. I saw Meckstroth and Rodwell do it once in the last decade! It won't happen again, I promise. As for you, don't worry about it. Of course, finding a fit means fewer HCP may be necessary; find the fit first, then check on aces later.

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