Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Under what circumstances do you believe in playing weak jumps in response to opening bids or to overcalls? Does it matter whether you are in a competitive auction, or whether the player who makes the call is a passed hand?

Power Ranger, Midland, Mich.

Facing either an opening bid or an overcall, I play all new-suit jumps by passed hands as natural — decent suits of five or more cards, promising at least a decent three-card fit for partner's suit. Jumps facing an overcall or a weak-two opening by an unpassed hand are probably best played as fit jumps. I like to play jumps by unpassed hands in response to an opening bid as strong — unless in competition, when they become weak.

My partner opened one spade, and I held ♠ Q-5,  A-Q-4-3,  A-J-7-6-5, ♣ K-4. After I responded two diamonds, my partner bid two spades. What should I have done next?

Half-Baked, Dodge City, Kan.

My instincts are to bid two no-trump now, since I'm not looking for a heart fit and I do have the unbid suits stopped. The alternative is to raise to three spades, but your partner has not promised a sixth spade for his suit-rebid facing a two-level response. So a raise by you should show a third trump here.

A couple of weeks ago you stated that opener's repeating his first suit generally shows six. Does the same principle apply when responder bids and rebids a suit?

One Short, Little Rock, Ark.

Yes, this rebid strongly suggests six. There will be hands when you are absolutely stuck for a call (often with a weak hand and length in the unbid suit, where you cannot afford to bid no-trump). You may have to rebid a really chunky five-carder; but don't expect partner to play you for this.

Someone at our bridge club frequently opens one no-trump with 14 points. This has damaged us more than once. His partner always announces 15-17 points. When we call the director, he says that a person can open one point light of the no-trump range. My question is why do we have to mark our convention cards with our opening no-trump range, and then announce it, when, in fact, we don't have to follow the rule?

Lawful Laura, Cartersville, Ga.

Once a partnership has a history of opening 14-counts, the range becomes 14-17, not 15-17. Your director should tell the player that any time he deviates twice from the system, he has an implied understanding. But — and this is important — there is nothing illegal in opening 14-counts. The bad results you got did not come because you didn't expect a 14-count, but because the player judged luckily or well, or the cards lay well for them. That is unlucky, but not in any way the subject of a score adjustment.

Mr. Wolff, I play with a duplicate group and there is disagreement about how matchpoints are scored when a hand is passed out. Of course, the raw points would be zero for both East-West and North-South pairs, but the question is regarding how the matchpoints are scored.

Contrary Mary, Pleasanton, Calif.

In essence, just consider zero for a passed-out board as better for North-South than any minus score, worse than any plus score. So if all the scores are plusses for North-South, then a pass-out gets the pair in question a zero. If all the scores are plusses for East-West, then the reverse is true.

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Iain ClimieOctober 13th, 2013 at 9:55 am

Hi Bobby,

I’m a little confused by your replies to “Half-Baked” today, although this may reflect my rather old-fashioned treatment of Acol, its passion for limit bids and using a 12-14 1N opening. Unless playing 1S – 2D as game forcing, I would be tempted to regard 1S-2D-2S-2N and 1S-2D-2S-3S as both being non-forcing, showing around 11 points,whereas the hand quoted is clearly enough for game. In addition, the reply to “One Short” does make the point that opener is very likely to have a 6 card suit, so raising spades may stil, be an option.

Despite the risks of tipping off the opponents about shape, I think I’d go for 3H as we should have points to spare for game and an extra probe should ensure we alight in the best spot. It is unlikely that partner has 4H and 6S (although we might wind up in 4H is he has 6 good spades and 4 ropy hearts – not necessarily a good idea) but I was puzzled by the discussion. I recall your comment about bidding 6S-4H hands after partner bids 1N,2C or 2D – I’d sooner show 9 of my cards than 6!

What am I missing, please?



ClarksburgOctober 13th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Here’s a supplementary question re Lawful Laura’s about the 1NT range.
With a 5-card suit we will routinely “upgrade”14 to 15 and open 1NT. With a “quacky” flat 18 we will downgrade 18 to 17 and open 1NT.
To disclose fully, we used to announce this as “14 plus to 18 minus” following Bergen’s recommendation. We explained fully if anyone asked. Many opponents more or less ridiculed this announcement, saying “14+ is 15 and 18- is 17 so why don’t you just announce 15 to 17 like everyone else?”
I asked a very experienced local Club Director about it. In his opinion, our style is covered by the 15 to 17 announcements, and the +/- variations are common in modern bidding.
Question: 1 Is what we are doing perfectly legal?
Question 2: If so, is our 14+ to 18- announcement correct (and in fact required)?

Bobby WolffOctober 13th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Since during my formulative bridge period, I too, was (and still am to an extent, but with reservations), an Acol advocate. However, the system of choice (at least on the tournament bridge front), and on this side of the pond, is 2 over 1 GF with the necessary 1NT response also forcing to 1 of a major and ranging up to 11 HCP’s over a minor and 12 or more to a major.

This change has come on rather swiftly in the last 20+ years to cater to our historically rather shoddy and incomplete slam bidding, which unfortunately was the Western world’s bridge calling card even among our best players in international competition for many years, 1950’s-1970’s. Acol and, for that matter, the former so-called American Standard or any other very natural go as you please system, needs to play more game forces in order to provide enough bidding room for slower exchanges, thus gleaning more information, relative to bidding good slams and staying out of the others.

While I, in no way, can or will, really endorse the overall effectiveness of the above endeavor (I, myself, always preferring 4 card majors) a huge percentage of my local readers enjoy the comfort of what 5 card majors bring to the table and thus the 2 over 1 principle and since American bridge bidding has definitely gone in that direction, I feel I need to cater to it.

Directly answering your question from “Half Baked” playing 2 over 1, the opener should probably rebid 2 spades with 6-4 and since 2NT is GF can then leave the door open for the opener to now rebid 3 hearts, a small advantage in differentiating between the two approaches. In many aspects, just like in so many controversial bridge subjects, it depends on exactly what type of hand comes up before determining which method is best.

Summing up, I, and surely like you, prefer 4 card majors, not for scientific reasons, but for the practical advantage of being harder to play against since once our side has arrived quickly at a higher level during the first round of bidding, e.g. 1 of a major, pass, 4 of the same major by partner, the opponents are now denied bidding room to compete effectively along with bigger guesses in determining the opening lead, a huge advantage not often, if ever, mentioned by the authors and lovers of today’s current methods.

Hopefully, the above will explain my position and the responsibility which goes with.

Bobby WolffOctober 13th, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

With your positive and responsible attitude toward this problem and, for that matter, the game itself, you could be and are definitely qualified to set the standard yourself.

What you are actually doing and therefore suggesting is as perfect as one can imagine. Obviously what you are doing and above all, your attitude in doing it, are, as usual, at least a step more than most others, and almost certainly not legally necessary, but helpful to all your opponents to make them realize what active ethics are intended to be.

The opposite example of partnerships who may have (probably very few indeed) private understandings about opening NT with singletons and bidding with various intonations even with the bidding boxes seem to be not as prevalent as in past years, probably the result of peer pressure, which has turned out to be a good thing.

In any event, keep on your path to loving bridge and showing it with your superior ethics. About the particular query, Shakespeare said it best when he named one of his many great plays, “Much Ado About Nothing”.

Iain ClimieOctober 13th, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Thanks Bobby, very useful and illuminating. Reese and Bird in a book on Acol gave some some examples of sequences where brakes could be applied after 1M – 2m sequences but then noted that nobody had the restraint to apply them!


Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2013 at 11:33 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Reese and Bird in their book on Acol are or were, merely stating the underlying problem with brakes after a 2 over 1 start conflicting, simply because of the wide range of 1 level openings (a good 11 count to an awkward 21+) which bring with it the unsolved duality of, on the one hand deciding between a game and a part score, and in the other, a good enough fit and controls to choose slam rather than game.

Breaking the atom in bridge, so to speak,
is very difficult since the above caveat comes up so often. Enter forcing clubs with their positive nuances (by far the most important, of course, is their better definition of the opening bid), but their vulnerability to be preempted by aggressive (but wise) opponents plus the necessary time devoted to clarify the infinite details (many quite difficult) and all cover-ups to the problem are neatly summed.

To look for another excuse is, if you pardon the expression, not calling a spade, a spade.

Dr.S.VasanthaNovember 18th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Dear Mr.wolff, I and my partner play use Precision system. My P opened 1C (16+) and my hand was Axxx-Qx-KQ10XXX-X. I bid 2D over which P bid 2S. I raised to 3S showing 11+ hand. P cue bid 4C indicating a better than minimum hand. What shd be my next bid? Pl advise. Thanks. regards. Dr.Vasanth