Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

Why is it that the more aggressive players who bid contracts to the limit don't get credit, even for say an extra five points? Is it right that a team that bids three clubs and makes 10 tricks currently gets the same score as the team that bids four clubs and makes 10 tricks? The same logic would apply to a team bidding two spades making three, as compared to one bidding and making three spades.

Extra Credit, Albuquerque, N.M.

This is the precise approach in a game like spades, where there is a bonus for exact bidding. This is a good idea for the occasional tournament such as a Christmas party, but runs counter to the idea in bridge that discretion is the better part of valor. Still, maybe someone will incorporate this theme one day.

I'm confused about the concept of a maximal double. In my club last week I held ♠ 10,  Q-8-7,  K-J-9-4, ♣ K-Q-9-3-2. My partner opened one club and the next hand overcalled one spade. I bid two spades to show a good hand with clubs, and the next player bid three spades, doubled by my partner. Is this something special, such as a club raise with game interest?

Blinded by Science, Chicago, Ill.

After one hand or the other has given partner a simple raise, there are times when a double in competition is a game-try, but this is only after the opponents have competed to take away all bidding space. After a jump or limit raise by either hand has already established that the partnership has nearly the values for game, doubles revert to their normal meaning of penalizing the opponents.

You recently ran a sequence where opener reversed into two diamonds after opening one club and hearing a one-spade response. Can you run through again what continuations by responder should now be forcing and what can be passed?

Da Capo, Casper, Wyo.

Here is a simple set of rules that are easy to remember. All direct actions by responder at the three-level are natural and game-forcing. Fourth suit remains artificial and an inquiry, while responder's rebid of his suit simply shows five cards and is forcing for one round, but not to game. With a weak hand and four cards in your long suit, bid two no-trump. Now all continuations by opener except fourth suit are nonforcing.

How much do I need to move on, facing a jump to game over an opponent's pre-emptive opening? I held ♠ J-7,  A-7,  Q-8-6-3, ♣ K-J-6-5-3 and my partner jumped to four spades over a three-heart pre-empt. How would you decide whether to bid on, and what call would you choose if you did act?

Nosedive, Elmira, N.Y.

This hand looks worth an effort, but I'm not happy with using Blackwood since I really do not know what to do over a response indicating that an ace or keycard is missing. I'd try five hearts to show my heart control and let partner decide whether he has enough to bid further.

I'm only an intermediate bridge player but one of the first things I learned is pull trump first, unless you have a reason not to (such as to crossruff, trump a loser, maintain trump control). I've noticed that experts don't always do this. Why?

Trump Eliminator, Levittown, Pa.

When you want to ruff things, don't draw trump. When you don't want to ruff anything, draw trump as soon as possible. Often it is more important to set up a side suit or take discards, or even to cut the defenders' communications before drawing trump. The only thing you need to know is "never say never."

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ClarksburgMarch 24th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Question unrelated to todays column items:
Partner opens One Club.
Pass on your right.
You hold a flat Q876 Q42 AT6 Q95
Should you show the 4-card Spade suit, or is 1NT the best description here?

bobbywolffMarch 24th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Your question is an excellent one, since most of the top players would vote for either 1 spade or even possibly 1 diamond, allowing partner to rebid 1 spade with the idea of not missing a combined 8 card major suit fit in case partner had an unbalanced hand.

While the above reasoning is sound (and I believe the majority choice), because of the extreme balance of this square 4-3-3-3 (6- 10 HCPs) with an honor in every suit, an immediate 1NT response has, at least to me, much to recommend it, since it gets across much information in one bid, always a worthwhile maneuver.

My complete answer is that, depending on what my partner prefers me to do, I would comply, although my heart probably leans to 1NT. A hidden advantage of responding 1NT is, by doing so, it makes it more difficult for my opponents to stereotype me with never having a 4 card major for such a response.

Yours is an important question since it tends to give a minority view against those who would rebel against such thoughts.

jim2March 24th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

After one bids 1N on this hand, will pard forever have to alert all your subsequent 1N bids as not denying a 4-card major?

bobbywolffMarch 24th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yours is also an intriguing question with more than a one word, or even one sentence, answer.

Again, as it constantly seems to be, depends on just how ethical any one partnership wants to be in carrying out the way bridge should be played.

Technically, the answer is, “of course” since partner may be inclined to bypass 4 card majors in favor of 1NT”. However, if it is very rare and only what this particular hand represents 4-3-3-3 with honors in all suits and NT cards (quacks) to boot, to so alert would result in that partnership gaining undue advantage since their opponents, if faced with a choice, might shy away from preferring a major suit opening lead when defending against a player who has responded 1NT over his partner’s opening minor suit bid or even a 1 heart opening bid.

Carrying on, the time it takes to describe all this can be wasteful (especially for slow players) with almost nothing to be gained, except confusion and some frustration, for the opening leader.

You, and all others, are certainly entitled to know whatever your opponent’s partnership does in addition to their tendencies, if asked, but, at least to me, it serves to result in diminishing returns at the table and to bridge itself.

Furthermore, if the 1NT bidder rarely does it, but feels actively ethical, he may, in the absence of an alert and of course, having passed over a 4 card major, alert it himself, whether his partner has said anything or not, but it would be EXTREMELY unethical if he did such a thing without having a 4 card major in his hand.

In other words, I am for all players, particularly would be stars, leaning over backwards, just to honor the game we all love to play. The truth of the matter is that all these actions in reality will almost never make a difference, except for pointing all players, from world class to novice, toward the right ethical standards which bridge demands.

I agree with those who may think I am naive about human nature, which I fully admit, however, once role models (stars) start doing things like this, the game itself will turn into a meritocracy where all will benefit, instead of where it is today, with, at times, low credibility and pettiness ever present among those who look for every advantage.

To directly answer your question, the answer is no, do not alert, unless that partnership overlooks a 4 card major by responding 1NT often. It is then up to that partnership to decide what is often.

BTW, these types of broad situations appeared frequently during my long career of deciding many WBF appeals and my position, and therefore almost always the result of my committees, was to let all bridge rules be interpreted, if at all possible, to serve bridge equity rather than what some may decide from their strict interpretation of the exact words used in the rules.

It is much easier to decide likely intent, after something untoward has happened, than it is to write rules to be used which are intended to cover unknown aspects of a particular case, before it happens.

Aren’t you glad you asked or would you rather want to plant a haymaker on my schnoz?

jim2March 24th, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I AM glad I asked! As for my “rather”s, I’d “rather” your take on my Comment #12 from Thursday March 7.

bobbywolffMarch 25th, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I can certainly understand you wanting a comment on your further continuing on with possible defensive diamond holdings, discovery plays and general cleaning up of loose ends regarding your Comment #12 from Thursday, March 7.

No doubt, the hand was not over even after the spectacular defensive club plays executed just earlier, and your discovery plays after that certainly would have increased the declarer’s percentage success in case East had either the king or jack ten of diamonds, along of course, with the key 10 of clubs.

By so continuing on with this hand, you have reached a new standard in thorough analysis and for that I applaud. I also apologize for not throwing myself into the added chances (not at all unlikely) your extra gambit suggests. Mia culpa for me not even recognizing what it took for you to delve deeper.

My carelessness only emphasizes just what can be accomplished by, even after brilliance by worthy opponents, there are sometimes (perhaps often) counters by declarer when not overlooked, which can still slay the dragon.

It should be also stated that while the discovery is taking place, there are certain falsecards in diamonds by those same worthy opponents which could tend to send declarer off the rails if the all important 10 of clubs is where it normally would appear to be, with West.

So it goes on and on, among other things, proudly railing out about the extreme beauty of how a challenging bridge hand can try men’s souls.

Again, please excuse me for my requiring you to continue pursuing your very worth while goal of draining all the meaning out of a very challenging exercise.

To your credit, you leave no stones unturned.