Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 20th, 2013

My wife and I belong to three rubber bridge groups and we enjoy reading your bridge column in the Dallas Morning News. In every group most of the people say they don’t focus on the bidding in your articles as opposed to the play because it is from world tournaments where they have many special bidding conventions we don’t use. Have you considered changing the auctions in such instances?

Bob and Carol, Sparta, Wis.

I apologize for aiming over people’s heads some of the time. I hope that isn’t the case on every deal. When the experts bid a hand playing largely natural methods I normally quote their auctions. So when a gadget comes up, I normally leave it in – or explain it, in case it will prove useful one day! But I recognize your point and will try to do better…

What is the logic behind the lead style that is sometimes described as third-and-fifth or as third-and-low? Is it better or just different from fourth-highest leads?

Spotty Muldoon, Durham, N.C.

The rationale behind third and lowest leads (the methods only differ in what one leads from a six-card suit) is that you lead low from an odd number and high from an even number, and thus hope to be able to differentiate holdings that are one card different. Normally the auction will allow you to judge whether a four-card or six-card holding in your partner's hand is more likely. The method has a slight edge over fourth-highest, where you often have difficulty telling a four-card holding apart from either a three- or a five-card holding.

After I opened one club, I made a limit raise of three spades to my partner's response of one spade with ♠ Q-7-4-2,  A-Q-4,  A-J-3, ♣ K-Q-3. My partner told me I should have bid four spades instead. What do you think?

Flat Broke, Staten Island, N.Y.

I strongly agree with your choice. With a balanced 18-19 points one normally bids four of partner's major, but here you took off a point for the balanced shape, and I agree with your action. Imagine that partner has as good a hand as four spades to the ace-king and three cards in each of the other suits. You might go two down in three spades!

Recently I was in fourth chair and held ♠ 10-5,  A-Q-6-2,  A-4-3, ♣ Q-6-4-3 and reopened when my opponents had bid unopposed: one spade – one no-trump – two diamonds – two spades. Was I wrong to balance — and would it have been acceptable to balance with this hand in the pass-out seat?

Lady Day, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Most people balance too little, not too much. On this hand, however, it was dangerous to reopen because the opponents had not announced a real fit and your LHO could still have a very good hand. But it could easily have been right to bid if the opponents had come to a stop in two spades, or if they had definitely located an eight-card spade fit.

I know how negative doubles work, but can you comment on how to cope with an opponent's delayed entry into the auction?-Our side began one club – one spade – one no-trump, and then an opponent overcalled either two clubs or two diamonds. Would a double here be negative or takeout?

Warning: Intruder, Grenada, Miss.

Few partnerships discuss this sequence in advance. I can see both sides of the case, but I'd say if your partner has rebid one no-trump (and thus defined his hand relatively precisely), then a double is penalty. In all other cases your double is cards, leaving it up to partner to decide what to do.

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