Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

I was not sure if I did too much here, holding ♠ 10-8-6-4,  A-Q-3-2,  9-4-3, ♣ K-4. My partner overcalled one spade over one club, and my RHO made a negative double. Was I right to bid two or three spades now — or is there a way to show this hand more accurately?

In the Hunt, Doylestown, Pa.

I would guess to bid two clubs, using the cue-bid as a limit raise in spades, planning to compete to the three-level if necessary. The more spades I have, the less tricks we can get out of the suit on defense. Moreover, my heart honors seem reasonably likely to be working well. The odds are that three spades will have some chance – and if not, the opponents should surely have some play for a three-level contract.

What do jumps to game in no-trump mean when in a forcing auction? For example, if you are playing two-over-one game-forcing, imagine your partner opens one spade and rebids two diamonds over your two-club response. What should a jump to three no-trump mean?

Hoppity Bunny, Great Falls, Mont.

I believe a jump to three no-trump is consistent with a strong no-trump equivalent, whereas a bid of two no-trump should typically be 12-14 points. But you can also hold 18-plus for this latter auction, planning to bid on over a sign-off. In general, in a game-forcing auction, even if you play jumps to game in a suit as weaker than going slow, this should not apply in no-trump.

I held ♠ Q-6-5-4,  Q-6-5,  A-Q-7, ♣ A-10-2. How should I bid when my partner opens one diamond and the next hand bids three clubs, weak? We play negative doubles — but should I make that call with only four spades, or should I bid three no-trump?

Bug Catcher, Bay City, Mich.

Your choice seems to be to drive to three no-trump or to consult partner. Since you do not know what is best, double and hope your partner's response will help you decide. You plan to rebid no-trump over an unhelpful response. A negative double here tends to shows precisely four spades, by the way — neither more nor less. With five, you would often be able to bid the suit.

I got confused when my partner came into our opponents' bidding sequence, which started one club – one heart – one no trump – pass. At this point she doubled. What should that sequence show?

Red Haze, San Francisco, Calif.

If either defender passes initially and then doubles a no-trump call, this is traditionally played as a penalty double, based on a trap pass. You would expect a strong hand with a powerful holding in the suit bid on the player's right. (Here you might have 16 or more points and a good five-card heart suit.) Partner would typically not remove the double unless weak and distributional. If you have the other suits and want to make a takeout call, double one heart.

In an unsophisticated rubber game my partner opened two no-trump. I had nothing but seven clubs to the ace. So, I bid three clubs, then four clubs, and that became the final contract. Alas, my RHO ruffed the opening lead and they ultimately got another ruff and two aces to set us. My partner blamed me for bidding at all — what do you think?

Millstone, Tucson, Ariz.

Over two no-trump my preferred methods are to use Stayman, then the bid of a minor as a slam-try; so with your hand I’d simply bid three no-trump and hope partner can set up your suit – you do have an entry. You may not always make three no-trump, but even if partner has a doubleton club, he can duck the first round and bring in the suit if it splits 2-2. If clubs don’t split, you might go down at the four-level anyway.

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ClarksburgOctober 6th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Partner and I fumbled, very badly, on this one at our Club duplicate pairs recently.
Both VUL
Dealer, my RHO, opened 1 Diamond.
I held S-, H J109xxxxx, D AKXX, C x and elected to pass.
My LHO raised to 2D.
Partner held S AKQJxxxx, H Qx,-, Dxx, Cx. She elected to Double, intended as big double, and to show Spades later.
I jumped to 4 Hearts, over which partner bid 4 Spades. If I’d trusted her and passed we’d have had the easy Spade game like everybody else. But after my 5 Heart bid and her 5 Spades, we’re down one.
Your comments on our atrocious auction would be most appreciated.
My initial pass? Partner’s double rather than a more-descriptive 4 Spades? My jump to 4 hearts? My failure to pass Partner’s 4 Spades?
How should it have gone?

Bobby WolffOctober 6th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hi Clarksburg.

With your 0-8-4-1 distribution I would have immediately jumped to 4 hearts over RHO’s opening 1 diamond bid (not a guaranteed good result, but one which must be risked). Of course, no sure good result promised, but barring a very unlikely heart lead, I’ll probably make 11 tricks by ruffing a diamond in the dummy and discarding my other diamond and singleton club loser on partner’s top spades. If after passing (which I do not condone) partner now doubles instead of merely bidding what her hand suggests for approximately the same reason (4 spades) I’d, of course bid 4 hearts, but when partner overrides that by now bidding 4 spades I would pass, only because of partnership discipline, not because of my hand. When she decided to double, she mistakenly suggested to you that your judgment was necessary in deciding what suit should be trump.

Your problem is one of neither party taking over the captaincy of the hand, a necessity when it is demanded, and on this hand, both partners succumbed to an unnecessary action, your pass and her double. When one action stands out for description it pays to bid it ASAP, otherwise 2 bad things happen:

1. It deceives partner.

2. It sometimes allows the opponents to learn more about their partner’s hands and therefore be more accurate in their assessment and therefore bridge judgment, both as to competition in the bidding and sometimes even improves their opening leads.

Be glad this hand came up so that you two both can learn what acts of omission can cause. I assess you both being about 50% guilty of your end result, which, if looking for good omens, would make you both equally guilty so that no one has to take more blame than half.

Good luck in the future since assuming captaincy in the bidding often presents itself, and must be seized when lurking.

ClarksburgOctober 6th, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Once again, thanks very much.