Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 10th, 2013

When you are playing pairs, what are your views on coming in over one no-trump with light and shapely hands? How does the position change depending on your vulnerability or status as a passed hand?

Quiet Man, Great Falls, Mont.

Vulnerability and position are very important. I'd almost always bid if nonvulnerable and a passed hand, especially in balancing seat, on hands where I wouldn't consider acting vulnerable in direct seat; 5-4 pattern is always sufficient no matter what the vulnerability — so long as the high cards are not out of line with a bid.

When my partner opened one diamond, I responded one spade with: ♠ A-K-7-2,  J-5-2,  Q-2, ♣ 10-8-6-3. Now my partner bid two diamonds, and I was not sure if I should raise to three diamonds or pass, or even bid two no-trump. What should I consider here?

At the Crossroads, Seneca, S.C.

First, you are too good to pass because of the quick tricks and diamond card. (Consider partner with six diamonds to the ace-king plus the heart ace, and you have nine tricks in no-trump.) The raise to three diamonds will get you to a safer partscore facing a minimum hand, while two no-trump is slightly more likely to get you to game.

Do you prefer to play Ghestem or a specific two-suited overcall to a convention like Michaels, where in some cases you show a two-suiter with a major and a nonspecific minor?

Mickey Blue-Eyes, Doylestown, Pa.

Over the opening of a major suit, the issue is whether to give up a jump to three clubs as a natural pre-empt to distinguish which minor you hold along with spades. I vote for keeping the club jump natural and using the cuebid as spades and a minor. I won't deny the ambiguity can be costly on occasion, because the degree of fit may never be discovered. But losing my ability to pre-empt seems potentially more costly.

When you hear a three diamond pre-empt on your left, and partner doubles, what should you do with ♠ K-9-4,  K-J-7-4,  10-3, ♣ Q-9-5-4? And what do you do if your RHO then raises to four diamonds?

Diamond Jubilee, Madison, Wis.

I can't say I like it, but I would guess to jump to four hearts over the double. If the heart jack were a small card, I'd guess to go low and bid three hearts — and I can't say I would be happy either! If they raise to four diamonds, my problems are solved. I can make a responsive double, asking partner to pass if relatively balanced, or to act with extra shape.

I'm a beginner who learned the basics of the game in London, England. What does the phrase "two over one" mean? Would you recommend that I learn this system or stick with what I know?

Convert, Bellevue, Wash.

The key difference between English and American bids is that the latter tend to be a little sounder, and a response at the two-level is game-forcing, while in the UK you do not even guarantee a second call. Because everyone in the United States (perhaps excluding some rubber bridge players) plays something broadly similar, I think you should learn an approach where a two-level response in a non-competitive auction is a game-force. Visit here for an excellent summary of the basics.

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