Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Holding:♠ A-J-10-3,  K-J-6-5,  9-4-2, ♣ 9-6; I dealt and passed. My LHO opened one no-trump, passed back to me. I felt like I had to do something so I showed the majors, and my partner was asked what he expected. He said, truthfully, that he expected a 5-4 pattern. When my hand came down as dummy in two spades (making eight tricks), everyone laughed at me. Was I out of line?

Donald Duck, Spokane, Wash.

These days, coming in over one no-trump — especially as a passed hand if the vulnerability is not against you — is the norm, not the exception. I wholeheartedly approve of this, but it helps to clue your partner in so that he won't be expecting the World's Fair.

I was all set to open with ♠ A-Q-4-3,  A-Q-9-7-3,  10-4, ♣ A-K when my RHO pre-empted to three diamonds. I doubled, and heard my partner jump to four spades. What is the best way forward now?

Onward and Upward, Chicago, Ill.

If your target is only to get to small slam you can bid five spades – this focuses on diamond control. Partner will not bid slam without at least second-round control. If you cannot envisage a hand opposite without a top diamond, then use Key-card Blackwood. This might get you to the grand slam if partner has the diamond ace and both major-suit kings.

I know you are a fan of the strong jump shift but can you help me with how to rebid as opener? Holding ♠ A-9-3-2,  J-5-4,  A-9, ♣ K-J-9-6, I opened one club and heard my partner bid two hearts. Should I raise hearts, bid spades, or offer no-trump?

Second Helpings, Sacramento, Calif.

When your partner makes a jump shift, your first duty is to describe the basic nature of your hand. Here you have a balanced hand, so show that first by a call of two no-trump. Raise hearts later — spades can wait, since partner has either a one-suiter or support for clubs, but never spades.

Under what circumstances should a double of an artificial call be lead-directing as opposed to suggesting a sacrifice? Specifically, if the opponents transfer over a no-trump opening, does the meaning of the double alter depending on what the range of the no-trump is, and at what level the transfer takes place?

Pushing Up Daisies, Sunbury, Pa.

Over a weak no-trump, the double of a transfer by an unpassed hand can sensibly be played as high cards, not lead-directing. But setting that issue aside, I'd say the double of a two-level transfer is for the lead, but encourages partner to compete with a suitable hand. At higher levels the double simply asks for a lead.

My partner and I play standard signals, but we occasionally get confused as to when an attitude signal is less relevant than another message. For example, when should third hand send a count or suit-preference message at the first trick?

Soonest Mended, Newport News, Va.

A simple rule is that at trick one, suit preference applies only when continuation of the suit led is clearly not helpful. This is very rare. By contrast, when you cannot beat dummy's card of a jack or lower, your attitude is implicitly defined, so you should signal count. Equally, if partner's lead holds the trick and both members of the partnership know that third hand likes the lead, he does not have to signal that message a second time, so he can signal count.

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