Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 30th, 2013

You recently wrote about this hand: ♠ K-10-8,  A-5,  J-7-4, ♣ Q-J-10-9-3. In response to your partner’s overcall of one heart over one diamond, you bid two clubs, and the issue was what your partner meant when he cue-bid two diamonds. Does this show a raise of clubs or something else — and what should you do next?

Hop to It, Pottsville, Pa.

North’s cue-bid is artificial and simply says “Good hand; tell me more; then I’ll let you know why I set up a one-round force.” Your two-heart bid now reveals secondary support for your partner and lets him decide whether to settle for hearts or do something else – whatever it was that he planned when he cue-bid.

At our club we received a request from a younger pair to be allowed to play a complicated system, which included very light opening bids. I know some of our members are opposed to this, but I want to encourage the younger crowd. What do you think I should do?

Blame Game, Lorain, Ohio

This is tough. You are right to encourage younger players, but mustn't risk losing your regulars. I think maybe one day a week you might experiment with allowing the methods — but only if proper defenses are provided and full explanations given.

Can you tell me what I should take into account in deciding whether to jump-shift as opener at my second turn to speak? Say I open one diamond and hear my partner respond one spade. Do I have enough to bid three clubs, holding ♠ 7-4,  K-Q,  A-J-9-5-4, ♣ A-K-J-2? Would your answer be different if partner had responded one heart?

Gonna Jump Down Spin Around, Jackson, Tenn.

There is certainly something to be said for bidding two no-trump over a one-spade response. After all, you do have a fairly balanced hand and a stopper in the unbid suits. Over a one-heart response you are maximum for a call of two clubs, planning to act again. Your suits are not good enough for a jump to three clubs, but with three hearts, or slightly better intermediates, I would jump to three clubs.

I think I understand when doubles are takeout and when penalties, but when you open the bidding and hear the opponents each bid a suit, what should a double by you at your second turn mean now? After one heart – one spade – pass – two diamonds, what does a double show? Is it just a good hand or the unbid suit?

Sally Forth, Macon, Ga.

When partner has not acted, all low-level doubles are primarily takeout. This sequence sounds like five hearts and four clubs, with a strong hand. With a fifth club, you might simply up and bid the suit to get your strength and shape across unambiguously.

I have heard of the unusual no-trump, but must that always be at the two-level? Can you make an unusual no-trump call at other levels?

Out of the Ordinary, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Direct no-trump overcalls by an unpassed hand of a pre-emptive opening should be natural, not unusual. However, in competition, a four-no-trump call is generally unusual. Anytime in a competitive auction you start either by passing, or by overcalling or responding to a takeout double in a suit, subsequent bids of no-trump facing a partner who has not acted at his previous turn are typically unusual.

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ClarksburgJuly 14th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Taken together, your answer to today’s question from Gonna Jump, and yesterday’s BWTA item, set a high standard for a jump-shift rebid by Opener.
Also, Opener’s new suit (non-jump, non-reverse) is made with well-above minimum values, “planning to act again”. Is the wide-range new-suit bid forcing for one round? Or, are we just assuming responder will strain to bid unless a rock bottom and with no preference for opener’s first suit?

bobby wolffJuly 14th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Hi Clarksburg.

Yes, a very good topic for discussion, and a weak part of what is considered American Standard.

When holding minor suits (as is this opening bid), standards need to be ramped up a notch in order to force to game, since it might require 29 points to make 11 tricks (game in a minor suit), although, of course, 3NT is still in the picture. Therefore on close hands, and this is one of them, only a simple 2 club bid is the choice, hoping partner will be able to keep it open, even though sometimes it might be a false preference to diamonds (by holding only 2 diamonds, but with 3 clubs).

To rather choose a jump to 3 clubs instead of only 2 would indeed, IMO, be a horrible choice and much too much of an overbid to even consider,

Forcing clubs, not a part of an American standard system, take care of these types of hands, by starting off with a one club artificial bid, immediately alerting partner and therefore allowing the bidding to progress slowly with more time and room to eventually reach the right contract. However, Mr, Goren, in his infinite marketing knowledge, knew the public, at that time was not ready to include artificiality into initial bidding and so glossed over the disadvantages of what he suggested and taught.

Sort of sad, but for the normal social bridge player, only interested in having fun and doing as well as the next guy accepted the bad with the good and, to this day, the above is the accepted method except for aspiring players who have no choice but to amend previous old wives tales.

It seems inconsistent, and in a sense it is, but heretofore standard treatments, while still popular, have been amended by serious and aspiring players, but left imperfect for the file and rank.

Good luck and thanks for the probing question.

ClarksburgJuly 14th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Many thanks. Most helpful, as always.
Way back, I asked you whether a strong 2C opening with a hand very likely to end up in a minor, required “more” to be played as a game force than when a Major or NT is likely (because of the extra trick required). As I recall, you agreed.
So….maybe I should have figured this one out on my own!!

bobby wolffJuly 15th, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Thanks for your gracious comment.

Yes, marketing ideas has unfortunately had a pronounced influence on selling everything, from necessities to snake oil.

However, when one digs deeper, as in this case, of you exploring the genesis of higher level bridge theory, the truth, like the morning sun, will shine steady and bright.

Finally, when one needs to know what really makes a difference in jumping several levels toward expert play, counting every hand while in progress, both as declarer and as a defender, is vitally necessary for success.

All I can add to the immediate above, is that once mastered, always remembered, and can the average arithmetical person accomplish it, I would answer, most certainly, and all that is needed is the enthusiasm and discipline to attempt to do it.

One’s mind facility has always been underrated and is more capable and therefore available than any of us expect it to be.