Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

I was in third seat with ♠ 9,  4-3,  8-5-4, ♣ A-Q-J-9-7-4-2. My partner dealt and opened one diamond, and my RHO pre-empted to two spades. I judged three clubs to be an overbid, so I passed and my partner reopened with a double, letting me bid three clubs. What should I do when my LHO bids three spades and partner doubles again?

Double, Double, Riverside, Calif.

A double of three spades does not become a penalty double after you made a takeout double one round previously — even if you want it to. (Just because you SAY it does — like Humpty Dumpty — is not enough. The second double suggests extras, short in spades, with no clear call. So with your example hand I'd bid five clubs now — the call I might have made the round before.

I read your column in the San Jose Mercury-News, where you had a letter describing a hand with 7-6 in the majors. That took me back 40 years or so, when I picked up my 13 cards and saw a true Yarborough — with six spades, seven clubs, and not even a 10. My partner had opened two spades, strong. Was there a sensible way to bid this? We ended in six spades down one when the spade king was guarded offside.

Pointless Pete, Willoughby, Ohio

I'm guessing I'd have bid two no-trump to start with, to see what happened next. Having said that, finding a forcing continuation would not be easy! Equally, though, while raising spades might work better, you will surely have to guess what to do. My guess would be to bid slam as you did.

My partner and I have been discussing switching to pre-emptive jump raises of opening bids. But we are not sure of the merits of using jump raises of minors as weak as opposed to shapely hands. Where do you stand on this?

Weak-Ender, Grand Junction, Colo.

The older I get, the more I like to know that partner has values when he boosts me a couple of levels in the auction. How about this for a compromise? After a minor-suit opening bid, play jump raises of the minor both in and out of competition as prepared to play three no-trump facing a hand with extras, balanced, with the same approximate strength for major-suit jumps. But nonvulnerable, play the jumps as pre-emptive rather than mildly constructive.

I've seen reference to the Law of Vacant Spaces when deciding whether to finesse or play for the drop. While my partner has often referred to vacant spaces between my ears, I suspect that the law deals with something else. Would you explain, please?

Open Wide, Pottsville, Pa.

When missing four cards, the odds fractionally favor the drop over the finesse. When the first defender has shown two trumps and the second so far only one, there are 12 empty spaces left in one hand and 11 in the other…so the missing card rates to be with the 12 not the 11. That said, as soon as the bidding or play indicates that second defender is known to have even one more card in a side-suit than his partner, the odds go back to 50-50. So a two-card disparity would move you to taking the finesse.

Partner opens one spade and RHO passes. Your collection is ♠ J-7-5-3,  —,  8-5-4, ♣ K-Q-10-9-4-2. Does the trick-taking potential of the six-card club suit and the heart void make this hand strong enough for anything other than an immediate jump to four spades to play? That is to say, is the club suit worth showing? A very strong player at our club thought that even a jump to four spades was an overbid.

Tall Order, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

When deciding whether to bid two-over-one or make a pre-emptive raise, I'd suggest your two-level calls start with an absolute minimum of a stretched opening bid. So change the club two into the ace and two clubs would be fine. Playing standard methods, the jump to four spades at once seems clear. You have too much offence for a pre-emptive raise, and too much fear of the opponents making something to hang around.

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