Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Rubber Bridge seems to pose me special problems when it comes to trusting aggressive partners. Recently I held: ♠ J-8-7,  K-J-9-4,  K-Q-3, ♣ A-5-4 and responded one heart to one club. My partner jumped to four hearts, and I had to decide how much to bid now. (My partner actually held four hearts and five clubs and 14 points and I drove to slam, making when they did not cash their spade tricks!)

Doubting Thomas, Tucson, Ariz.

You were certainly right to be suspicious – but you knew your customer, of course, and I suspect nothing you said would stop them doing the same thing again next time. I guess next time go low and if asked why, explain what happened the last time you trusted them! Plus scores at rubber are rarely bad.

Is it considered the norm for all pairs to play transfers in response to a no-trump overcall as well as an opening bid? If so how does one use a transfer into the opponents' suit?

Pom-Pom, Worcester, Mass.

The logic behind transfers, of having the strong hand declarer, applies just as much over the overcall as the opening bid; a transfer into the opponents' suit could be natural, or — if you prefer — three-suited with shortage in their suit. More and more pairs play transfers in response to jump two no-trump rebids, and even in response to a nebulous club. It will take some time before I change, but I'm an old dog, and it is hard to teach me new tricks.

I'm always in doubt when vulnerable at either pairs or teams as to when to overcall at the one-level. For example recently with: ♠ K-9-5-4-2,  Q,  K-2, ♣ 10-7-5-3-2 I passed over a one diamond opening bid and we missed our spade fit. But my suit and hand seemed so feeble I was reluctant to get involved.

Red for Danger, Providence R.I.

This hand constitutes an automatic overcall because of the additional side-suit strength. Yes the call is dangerous, but as I have remarked on many occasions, when a call has high risk and reward associated, too dangerous is never an excuse.

Do you have any comment on the fact that the age limit for senior events at bridge is moving toward 60 from 55? Is 60 the new 50?

Curmudgeon, Willoughby, Ohio

These days as the age of bridge players is tending to increase, and the average age of the membership of the ACBL is rising, 60 is indeed quite young at bridge – and maybe lower than the average member's age. So there is really no choice but to push the minimum age for seniors up to 60.

Can you talk me through an auction I recently had? I opened one diamond and rebid one spade over one heart. My partner now used the fourth suit to set up a game force, ♠ Q-10-3-2,  A-4,  K-J-6-5-4, ♣ K-10 and I was not sure whether to rebid diamonds, raise hearts, or bid no-trump.

Third Rail, Fredericksburg, Va.

Here a simple rebid of two diamonds is both economical and leaves partner room to describe his hand efficiently. Raising with a doubleton honor or bidding no-trump are both logical options with these cards if you didn't have my preferred call available (switch your diamonds and clubs so that the fourth suit call was two diamonds and you would have a real problem, for example).

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ClarksburgJanuary 20th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Regarding Red for Danger’s question:
Suppose the pair were playing a (rare) two-suiter convention that could unambiguously show Spades and Clubs, i.e. 3 Clubs over 1 Diamond. In that case, would you recommend the two-suiter call, or still the 1-level Spade overcall? To generalize: given a choice of an unambiguous two-suiter call and a simple overcall, how might the relative rank and quality of the holdings tip the decision?

bobbywolffJanuary 20th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Unfortunately at bridge, the example hand is the type which actually comes up at the table, but rarely is used in books to illustrate what two suited conventions are about. In books, the author will make sure the suits stand up to scrutiny with something like spades KQ109x, and clubs QJ10xx to go with the red suit holdings suggested. Even with these vastly improved holdings, jumping to 3 clubs to show both black suits is still somewhat dangerous, but still within proper limits to possibly make the risk worth the chance.

The novelty of high-level bridge however, almost requires certain risks, in order to stay competitive, especially when two suits are offered since the odds are greatly in favor of ones partner, having a 4 card or longer fit (sometimes, with a few key high cards, a 3 card fit is adequate) in at least one of those suits.

Add to the above, the sometimes difficulty of the opponents to double for penalties (most original doubles nowadays are for takeout) and the risk becomes less dangerous than in the days of mostly penalty doubles.

The upside is considerable, particularly so with the establishment of “The Law of Total Tricks” in all top players minds and the desire to be aggressive and extremely competitive.

Of course, in the example letter, only a 1 spade bid, being vulnerable, was suggested, not a 3 club possible suicide mission, holding those 2 anemic suits. Possibly an old cliche’ should be amended by adding to: “Feint heart never won fair lady, to nor big time bridge championship”.

No doubt, high-level bridge competition is a bidder’s game and the direction to be such is at its highest ebb.