Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 6th, 2013

I know you are a fan of what some people would consider the old fashioned strong jump shift. Many of the newer players pooh-pooh it, saying it puts the auction one-level higher before enough information has passed. I always considered it was essential to show the values — but can you comment please?

Old Fashioned, Los Angeles, Calif.

The jump shift, as I play it, shows one of three specific hands. It always guarantees a good suit and either real support for partner (if your next call is to support partner or cuebid), or if you rebid no-trump it shows upwards of a strong no-trump. Finally, if you rebid your suit it shows at least six cards and a semi-solid suit or better. None of these hands are easy to show unless you jump at your first turn.

You are South, all vulnerable, at matchpoints with: ♠ K-Q,  K-Q-10-9-4-2,  K-J-4, ♣ A-6, and after opening one heart and hearing a one spade response you jump to four hearts. Now partner bids five no-trumps, the grand slam force. Opener doesn't know whether partner has the bare heart ace, or more than one card in the suit, does he? At the table opener settled for the small slam, worried about the heart jack. Was this overly pessimistic?

Johnny Walker, Muncie, Ind.

Where you have space, the responses to five no-trump should be that reversion to the trump suit is the weakest action. The less you bid the more you have, but all calls higher than six of the trump suit show two top honors. Where opener has promised a VERY good suit and hand — and incidentally has neither — he should nonetheless probably show two trump honors with a six spade call. Even facing a singleton ace his chance of running the hearts is better than 50 percent.

After opening one diamond and hearing a one heart overcall followed by a one no-trump response from your partner, what should you do next holding: ♠ K-4-3,  K,  A-Q-7-5-4, ♣ A-10-6-4? I was torn between bidding two clubs and three clubs — but what do you think?

Bright Spark, Wilmington, N.C.

Jumping to three clubs invites game, and seems about right to me. A two club call would be pessimistic while a two-heart cuebid would drive to game and be overly aggressive. There is, though, surely something to be said for simply inviting with a call of two no-trump, and putting the clubs on the back burner.

What should you respond to a one-level opening bid with invitational values and both a five-card minor and a four-card major of your own? When my partner opened one diamond I chose to respond two clubs holding ♠ K-10-8-5,  Q-5,  K-4, ♣ K-10-7-4-2, and I was told that I should have bid my spades first. But how would I get the clubs into play without overstating my hand?

Lily Pond, Charlottesville, Va.

The general rule in response to minor-suit opening bids is to introduce any four-card major, on a hand up to invitational strength. Here bid spades first, planning to raise clubs if your partner bids them and to ignore the suit if partner bids one no-trump. The tricky question is whether to pass, raise diamonds, or bid two no-trump if you hear a rebid of two diamonds from your partner. I think the diamond raise is safest.

What is your view on the minimum required for a two-level overcall? Playing duplicate I was dealt ♠ Q-4-3,  K-Q-8,  K-5, ♣ A-J-4-3-2, vulnerable, and heard my RHO open one diamond. Am I supposed to overcall in clubs, to double, or pass?

Tact and Discretion, Casper, Wyo.

Few experts would vote for passing this hand; but many would try an overcall of one no-trump, and some would double, since you are playable in all three side-suits. A bid of two clubs it too unilateral, and seems an unnecessary risk to me – I’d like a sixth club or more intermediates in the suit before I make a two-level overcall.

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ClarksburgOctober 20th, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Supplementary questions re the strong jump shift as you play it:
Presumably it’s not just absolute GF with “some” slam potential, it’s always “strong” slam potential…correct?
If opener makes an unambiguous minimum response, you’ll be Captain temporarily; but after your highly-descriptive and fit-finding rebid, opener gets the Captain’s hat and will know what to do. Correct?
About the trade-off of having to give up the popular “modern” approaches (e.g.Bergen raises,, weak JS not-in-completion, invitational minor-suit raises etc.) is the choice somewhat influenced by form of scoring? i.e. “modern” relatively better suited for pairs matchpoints than for IMP’s?

Bobby WolffOctober 21st, 2013 at 4:48 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Some yes, some no, some maybe answers.

Just knowing what I or anyone else say is not enough, since in order to move up the ladder of bridge success you must know why.

Yes, a jump shift is GF and often interested in slam unless partner has reason to be conservative. First, the primary suit is established, either your first suit, perhaps partner’s opening bid suit, or finally a simple game or better in NT.

After both partners become aware of what will be trump then what remains are controls (to make sure we are not off 2 fast losers immediately), a source of tricks wherein we will be able to count to about 12 or more tricks and an adequate trump suit to risk a small or grand slam.

In normal bidding, it sometimes takes a round or two to establish a partnership’s best suit as trump but jump shift’s are worth losing a round of bidding to immediately establish trump so that both partners can emphasize the last above two necessities.

Even if you do not have super confidence in your ability to reason what is important in high-level bidding, you’ll soon get the rhythm and being in close communication with your partner makes it that much easier to see the light.

Yes, captaincy sometimes changes as the bidding progresses. Those conventions you mention above have some value, but none of them or any you have not mentioned is nearly as important as developing a rapport with your partner. Save the fancy stuff for later after you and your partner find some bids are left over to serve as playthings which may or may not improve one’s judgment, but on the way, concentrate on what helps the two of you before you even consider what unnecessary conventions to add to your arsenal.

Good luck and please keep on asking questions.

Bobby WolffOctober 21st, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

A suggested exception, which I have not mentioned (at least in some time) is that both 1C P 2D and 1D P 3C are GF but in the opener’s minor. We give up those two JS’s in order to GF in opener’s minor suit and establish trump (probably for slam or of course, often 3NT for only game) and also play limit raises (not Bergen raises) for an immediate jump in partner’s opening minor suit).

At least to me, the above has more utility than would an immediate JS in the other minor.

ClarksburgOctober 22nd, 2013 at 12:55 am

Mr. Wolff,
Thanks very much for taking the time to add another response.
I hope (many) others are dropping in here on Sundays, to benefit from your answers to my frequent questions. If not, what amounts to one-on-one tutoring seems a bit much!!

Bobby WolffOctober 22nd, 2013 at 4:06 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Only the “Shadow knows” but since this blog site goes all around the world, there is a very good chance that others (possibly thousands) share in our discussion and for that matter, everyone’s chatter.