Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 17th, 2013

I assume you would pass when your RHO opens one diamond and you hold ♠ K-J-2,  K-J-7-2,  J-10-8-2, ♣ Q-9. If you do, your LHO passes and your partner doubles. Should you drive to game now, or invite — and in hearts or no-trump?

Looking for the Path, Bristol, Va.

You are certainly a bit too good for a two-heart call, but I'd be a little uncomfortable bidding one no-trump. Even though you are fine for values, for that call I'd be worried about having to give up too many tempos to set up the long suits. I certainly do not want to force to game here, so two hearts it is. Give me just a little more (maybe the spade queen for the jack), and I'd risk a two-diamond cuebid.

If you play a double of a no-trump (be it weak or strong) as penalties, how do you advocate continuing? And should your approach be consistent whether third hand runs from the double or not?

Boot Straps, Santa Fe, N.M.

A simple and effective way to bid is to assume that after you double one no-trump, you rescue yourself by using Stayman and transfers. Equally, if the opponents run, you can play the same methods as you would if you had opened one no-trump and the opponents had overcalled.

When your partner opens one spade, would you prefer to force to game with a call of two clubs or would you bid one no-trump, holding ♠ 4-2,  Q-J-9-2,  Q-2, ♣ A-Q-5-4-3? Is your choice affected by whether the no-trump call is forcing, semiforcing, or indeed nonforcing?

Flavor of the Month, Houston, Texas

I would respond with one no-trump (and be entirely happy with that choice, though I would prefer it to be forcing). The hand is not worth a game-force, because of the absence of fit, and I think I will get my chance to limit the hand at the next turn. I might miss a game if partner can pass with a balanced 14-count or so, but I'll take my chances on that.

What is a cuebid? I see the word used to cover many different situations — sometimes in slam-going auctions, sometimes in auctions that are not even game-forcing!

Ace Ventura, Duluth, Minn.

You make a good point: These days players use the term in many disparate ways. After partner opens or overcalls, when you bid the opponents' suit at your first turn to speak, it is generally used to mean a value-showing raise of the opponents' suit. Later in the auction, the call tends to ask your partner if he has that suit stopped for no-trump purposes. Finally, a cuebid above three no-trump shows a control in that suit for slam purposes. No wonder you are confused!

What criteria do I follow in deciding whether to open this hand at the one-level or two-level: ♠ 9,  K-J-7-4-3-2,  Q-9-8-4, ♣ A-10? Would you consider passing and backing in later?

Level-Headed, Cartersville, Ga.

There is no moderate hand with a decent six-card suit that should not be opened either at the one- or two-level. (There is no gap between the ranges.) If I'm vulnerable, this looks like a two-heart opening bid; if I'm nonvulnerable, in first seat my diamond spots persuade me to open one heart. I suppose that in second seat I could go either way.

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ClarksburgMarch 3rd, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Mr. Wolff,
About the first question and answer:
Assuming a bid of 3 Hearts may be appropriate on occasion, what would it show, in terms of strength and shape / heart length.

bobby wolffMarch 3rd, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Throughout my rather long career I have played a 3 heart response to my partner’s TO double of 1 diamond as just a slightly better hand than would be 2 hearts (but still possibly holding only 4 hearts) as well as a 3 heart bid as showing length in hearts (at least 5 and likely 6) but, less in high cards, e.g s. Qxx, h. 10xxxxx, d. A, c. Kxx keeping in mind, the length in hearts serves well in having fewer losers outside. The above type of bid might be well described as a weak two bid type with a flaw, (weak hearts) or s. Qxxx, h. Qxxxxx, d. void, c. Kxx weak hearts and a good playing hand for the other major.

I hope that the above, while possibly adequately describing possible choices and why, attempts to describe the bidding in bridge as nothing resembling meticulous art, but rather a polyglot of judged experienced judgment. To think otherwise is off target, especially in game bidding with exactness only necessary in small slam bidding where avoiding 2 fast losers, adequate trump holdings and sources of tricks become totally mandatory.

In any event, I think 2 hearts is more appropriate in today’s column since a jump in response to a TO double should value around a very good 8 HCP’s to a mediocre 11 with only 4 hearts. Somehow a double jump to 3 hearts feels (and sounds) like a 5+ card suit without as many HCPs.

Especially on this hand, since if partner raises my 2 heart bid to 3, I will, of course accept the game try, but stop off at 3NT to give partner a choice of games. He then might pass, but be well aware that I did not open the bidding and might have something like s. Qxxx h. AQx d. K c. AJ10xx and choose my 3NT as our resting place.