Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 28th, 2013

At rubber bridge South plays in two spades, but West has 100 honors in spades. Does West get honors points?

Honor System, Wausau, Wis.

Yes indeed. I've been the victim at the table when my partner played four hearts doubled and vulnerable and his RHO had 100 honors in hearts. I've never been the beneficiary, but I'm still young.

I held ♠ 4,  J-9,  K-Q-10-8-6-5-4-3, ♣ Q-5. Playing pairs, what should I open in first seat at unfavorable vulnerability? At any other vulnerability I might toy with opening four or five diamonds. Should I pull in my horns here and open only three diamonds?

Timid Soul, Menominee, Mich.

A four- or five-level pre-empt would be justified nonvulnerable, but at unfavorable vulnerability I would open four diamonds only in first chair. In second seat, vulnerable, your pre-empts should be more disciplined — there is one fewer opponent to pre-empt, after all – so opening three diamonds would be fine.

How good a hand do you need to make a takeout double and then bid again? Is it better to overcall or double first with ♠ A-Q-6-5-4-3,  K-J-4,  A-9-3, ♣ 7 when your RHO opens one club?

Homing In, Mason City, Iowa

With the popularity of weak jumps, regular overcalls have become much more constructive, so that it would not be out of line to overcall one spade here, intending to act again later to show extras – if there is a next time. Make the diamond nine the queen, and most would double, then bid spades.

When the opponents open a strong no-trump, how much do you need to double? Would ♠ A-Q-4,  A-10-4,  K-10-5-4, ♣ Q-6-3 be enough?

Steam Engine, Ketchikan, Alaska

My advice is not to double one no-trump unless you hold the maximum end of the opponents' no-trump, or unless you hold a good suit and an attractive lead. With this hand I would advocate caution. Who knows, the opponents may give you a second chance!

In a recent home game I was called because one player had managed to lose a card in the play. Everyone started with 13 cards though. I just want to know whether the result should count or be thrown out.

Butterfingers, Vancouver, Wash.

If everyone started with 13 cards, you can't throw the deal in. If one player played two cards to the same trick, I assume you would just carry on and the player with one fewer card is unlucky. If the deal was defective, it shouldn't count.

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ClarksburgAugust 11th, 2013 at 10:24 am

On the general subject of weak-two bids.
Could you advise on the fair and ethical way to deal with downgrades and upgrades of HCP which takes one out of the nominal range on one’s convention card?
For example:
Say the CCard shows a range of 5-11.
At favourable VUL in first or third seat you’d open 2S with Spades QJ10987 (3HCP)
At unfavourable VUL, in second seat you’d downgrade Jx Jx AKQxxx Jxx (12HCP) and open 2D
Is it OK to do such upgrades / downgrades frequently, and if so, how should your opponents be informed? On the CCard? via Alerts?

Bobby WolffAugust 11th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Common sense is the solution. Depending on the quality of players in your game, ranking from a junior duplicate (junior in the sense of inexperience held usually in clubs) to a national event, the description of one’s range of strength and suit quality could and should range from:

1. Suit quality determined by the vulnerability and the opening position of the bidder with HCP’s varying accordingly, anywhere to a minimum weak hand up to close to an opening 1 bid.

2. No special requirements such as promising at least an ace or king in the bid suit in order to get the lead, but rather choosing the bid to get maximum preemption of the opponents.

3. May be anywhere from 5 to 11 HCPs but one which we do not consider an opening 1 bid, especially in 1st or 2nd position.

4. Fairly normal and according to general practice among experienced players with no set in stone positive or negative emphasis.

The above #s 1,2, and 3 should be on the card and also alerted by partner (if other nuances are judged to be important information for opponents to know), but not alerted if #4. Also, if not alerted, it should be expected to be close to #4 and both TDs and committees should treat them as normal and not subject to a special alert, even if the bid turns out to be a more radical departure than expected. If so, both judicial bodies should treat the departure as a more or less tactical bid wherein the partner of the WTB was equally in the dark as are the opponents, but a recorder slip was then placed in the file of that particular player, which also usually included the name of his partner at that time.

Honesty and good intentions are the answer and back when I originated the recorder position in 1985 and was the chief for about 10 years until I turned it over to Bob Rosen, who then became the best recorder any organization could possibly have until the BOD’s fired him for political reasons (since he was only doing his duty by following up on the the soon to be elected President (a few years later) of the ACBL for a bad episode, but probably like evil politics works in many areas the whistle blowers are then eliminated).

I, upon getting a recorder slip (which were accumulated in the main office at the tournament), sometimes regarding what the issuer thought was a significant violation of departing from what the suspect’s CC showed, made a thorough investigation of such activity and then determined what to do, (always talking, by special appointment arranged by the ACBL, to the would be culprit), but anywhere from a severe penalty (possibly overt cheating including many other ramifications) to basically “be more thorough and careful next time”. That position worked extremely well for about 15 years until the inner workings of the ACBL took it over and with (my opinion) an irrational fear of possible law suits (they wouldn’t ever happen if done carefully with attention to legal detail) the practice was reduced to less than it could have accomplished with only later behind the scenes small things accomplished, except for the significant addition of cameras which are now in use and, if nothing else establishing fear in the hearts and minds of would be cheating transgressors and the barring of electronic equipment which could (and have) been used as communication devices with outside accomplices usually regarding duplicated hands across many sections.

The cameras and barring of electronic devices have been a major improvement, but the position, being downgraded, has, IMO, taken away the effectiveness of what the recorder was able to accomplish, sometimes with no effort, but the fact that it was in process caused mental anxiety for those thinking of indulging in it.

Sorry for the additonal rant, but it is time others learned what history there is regarding the bridge police. My guess is that the recorder back then (and I can only speak for Bob Rosen and me) was able to process double digits of bad actors out of our game and could not have accomplished it without a lot of time devoted (I spent about an average of 2 hours a day during every nationals and Bob spent more). BTW, the recorder also had help from a number of knowledgeable, talented, volunteer assistants, all of whom happily contributed their time for the benefit of our game.

Clarksburg, you got more than you bargained for, but I hope you don’t mind. In the last 10+ years, I lost track of what has been going on, especially since I stopped going to the Nationals about 6 years ago and only now occasionally consult with others who ask my opinion.