Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 10th, 2013

I have been playing for three years and I am not sure if I know what I am doing, but I am past the frustration-stress stage now. I think that a bridge guru like you could really help explain to us newbies how to think like a bridge player. As a suggestion, would you please include one beginner-intermediate question-and-answer in your column?

Back to Basics, White Plains, N.Y.

Good idea. I can't guarantee to do as you so nicely ask — but I hear you and will try to remember. So let me start by giving you a piece of general advice. When you are in the range for a one-no-trump opening but have a five-card suit, treat the hand as balanced and do open one no-trump. Equally, don't worry about a small doubleton. If your hand is balanced and that is the only flaw, start with one no-trump.

When I was dealt ♠ K-J-9-3,  A-K-Q-3,  10-8-5-4-2, ♣ –, I opened one diamond and was faced with a rebid problem over my partner’s call of two clubs. Would your decision about what to do differ depending on whether this was a game force or not?

Four Square, Montreal, Canada

If two of a major shows extra strength here (and I believe it should), then two diamonds could be played simply as a catch-all with five plus diamonds, regardless of strength. I don’t have a good answer for you here, though, since the diamond suit is so weak. I might lie by bidding two hearts (planning to raise a bid in the fourth suit of two spades to three to show my length/strength). I’d rebid two no-trump with a 4-4-4-1 pattern, by the way, but not here.

In an earlier column this year you briefly described a conventional response to partner's no-trump opener. Three clubs showed both minors, invitational, while three diamonds was forcing with both minors, and three of a major showed shortage in the other major and 5-4 in the minors. This sounded promising and I would like to read more about it. What is the name of this convention?

Name It and Claim It, Columbia, S.C.

This method is very popular on the East Coast, and for what it is worth, I've heard it referred to as seven-way transfers. This is the term used at the Regency Bridge Club in New York, so if you prefer Regency transfers, so be it! One other wrinkle I've encountered is for players to use the three-club call as Puppet Stayman to check for 5-3 fits.

Please tell me what I should have done after my LHO opened three clubs and my partner doubled. (I held ♠ K-4,  A-Q-3,  A-Q-10-5-4, ♣ 7-3-2.) I tried five diamonds, and without going into details, this was not a success facing a 4-5-2-2 hand.

Lost in Yonkers, The Bronx, N. Y.

This is a nasty kettle of fish. I might well double with a hand like your partner's. And I might well do what you did here! If you cue-bid four clubs, are you supposed to pass a four-heart response? You might well be cold for slam in diamonds. This looks like a result where no one was really to blame.

As a director, I had always thought that in a pairs game, North fills in the score at the end of the played board. East or West then checks and agrees to the score, gives the traveler back to North, who then inserts it into the board. We have a pair who will not initial and who will not return the traveler to North. They just cram it into the board, which makes it very unpleasant.

Bridge in the Menagerie, Wausau, Wis.

Thanks for your letter. My experience is that it is somewhat unusual for pairs to initial scores anymore. They tend simply to look and then agree orally. I would not get too hung up on the etiquette here. Times have changed, and we must change with them.

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David WarheitNovember 24th, 2013 at 10:07 am

On Four Square’s hand: Of course, I play 4-card majors, but even if one doesn’t, the hand should certainly be opened 1H. It’s hard to see how you will get in any serious trouble doing so, whereas his question has no good answer, especially if 1D-2C is not game forcing.

Patrick CheuNovember 24th, 2013 at 11:18 am

Re-Four Square’s hand,if one is playing four card majors,in Acol,1H-2C(not GF),2D by opener, I believe that’s the only time it may not guarantee five hearts.If one plays 5card majors,I dont think pard would appreciate my opening on a 4carder.If pard assumes 1H(5 carder),and put us to 4H,now on 4-3 fit.If dummy has Axx xxx QJ KQJxx 4H may be ok if Hearts break 33(not 4-2)whereas 3N,need the QS to be right n 33 break and hearts 33 and 10D,or if D breaks 33,,we need to find the QS or for hearts to be 33(better chances). If dummy has Axx xxx xx AKJxx(or better),even if they were to take the first four diamond tricks..all is not lost..just rate 3NT to be easier without having to worry about bad heart break..I stand to be corrected:) regards Patrick.

ClarksburgNovember 24th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

About seven-way transfers…
Your answer here describes three, all covering 5/4 in the minors.
Presumably the other four would be four-suit transfers (covering all single-suited hands, and 5-5 Majors.
Is that correct?

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hi David & Patrick,

Let’s have a 3 way, just because it is:

1. An interesting, sometimes frustrating, and often occurs about opening 4 card majors, whether essentially playing a 4 or 5 card major suit opening bid system.

2. As any discussion vitally needs, this one is fraught with both pros and cons, none of which to be overlooked.

3. Not meant to change other’s opinions (especially with very stubborn old-timers like me, in the mix) but rather to better understand some often overlooked (at the least, perceived, advantages and disadvantages).

To set an early important discussing point, the reason, after opening 1 diamond and either demanding or preferring the opener to have additional values to reverse (HCPS and/or togetherness of honors) is an important adjunct, rather than to wallow around in a likely misfit, or so it begins, and minimum values, sometimes requiring miracles to score it up, let’s concede that fact, since to not, is nothing less than bridge dreaming.

I, like David, prefer to open the subject hand 1 heart for the following reasons:

1. Certainly NOT for the fluidity of the rest of the auction, since by the original distortion, the opening bidder, unbeknownst to partner has unilaterally taken upon himself to bid his suits in inverse order to the long ago preferred method of, except in opening short clubs (or diamonds) with balanced hands, bidding his longest suit first.

2. However, since in this case with a very strong suit, bridge (being the mysterious game it sometimes is), more often than expected, allows contracts to be made with relatively short trump, because of the ability to draw trump and then run a side suit (almost always a minor) which on a good day adds up to the number of tricks to which our partnership has committed.

3. Since, upon opening the bidding, we will have no assurance of buying the contract from our opponents, we certainly prefer partner to, in this case, lead a heart rather than a diamond. On really good days, when partner has a terrible hand, then by opening 1 heart it sometimes steals the opponents likelihood of bidding a laydown 3NT for fear of you, in this case having 5 immediate tricks to cash, when, in fact, you only had 4.

4. No doubt, once opening this hand with 1 heart, the onus is strictly on your shoulders to maneuver the auction so that alternate contracts are explored, keeping in mind that you may wind up playing something high with only 7 trumps (and GF maybe fewer).

5. Of course, you intend to rebid diamonds, not spades, but leave it to your partnership to still be able to hopefully find a 4-4 spade fit if one exists, although it obviously would have been easier to start with 1 diamond P 1 spade, bute even then when your hand is put down as dummy, your partner may be disappointed in your outside strength (all of it) is in a suit yet to be bid)

6. (finally) since David and I were weaned on 4 card majors we, more than the modern bridge experts, know the advantage of an auction which begins 1 of a major P 4 of that same majors, which not only preempts the worthy opponents, but, in turn, makes their opening lead more difficult, besides causing them headaches on defense, which will not necessarily occur at the other table(s).

As daffy duck would say. That’s all folks (with, no doubt a stutter).

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, you are right on target with the other transfers, adding up to seven. However, since I am not a transfer advocate, although I play them at the 4 level over NT, I have little experience to discuss while using them.

What I do know is that while playing transfers, it gives wily opponents more of an opportunity to get into the bidding (with a simple double) which too often makes their opening lead more accurate and, for that matter sometimes allows them to take good sacrifices against your game contract (usually when they are NV against V) wherein while playing against the dog which did not bark (by not doubling) also allows them a certain higher percentage both in the bidding, but more often in choosing the opening lead.

Rarely will the author of books advocating artificiality (transfers being one), bring up the above subject.

Tonya BullockNovember 28th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Originally the term “knave” was more common than “jack”; the card had been called a jack as part of the terminology of All-Fours since the 17th century, but the word was considered vulgar. (Note the exclamation by Estella in Charles Dickens ‘s novel Great Expectations : “He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!”) However, because the card abbreviation for knave (“Kn”) was so close to that of the king, it was very easy to confuse them, especially after suits and rankings were moved to the corners of the card in order to enable people to fan them in one hand and still see all the values. (The earliest known deck to place suits and rankings in the corner of the card is from 1693, but these cards did not become common until after 1864 when Hart reintroduced them along with the knave-to-jack change.) However, books of card games published in the third quarter of the 19th century evidently still referred to the “knave”, and the term with this definition is still recognized in the United Kingdom .