Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 5th, 2014

We play inverted minor-suit raises, so when I opened one diamond and my partner raised to two, I was looking for a slam, holding ♠ K-Q-7,  A-9-4,  A-K-10-3, ♣ Q-5-4. Since two no-trump would have been nonforcing, what would you recommend? And what would a jump to three no-trump show?

Bonanza, Bellingham, Wash.

A jump to three no-trump would show extra values (typically 18-19) with three diamonds, or a bad four-card suit in a balanced hand. I think I might start with two spades to emphasize where my values lie. Now my partner will either limit his hand with a call of three diamonds or with two no-trump. If he does not, we will go to at least a small slam.

If we are playing Two-Over-One Game-Forcing, what are the suit requirements to open a suit and then jump in it over a two-level response? Does it show extras as well as a good suit?

Hop, Skip, and Jump, Panama City, Fla.

It is normal to play that a jump in a forcing auction shows a semi-solid suit or better (missing at most one of the top two honors) but more than a minimum. So, assuming I held six spades to the king-queen-jack, I would open one spade, then rebid three spades over two clubs with 15HCP or more. With a slightly weaker suit or fewer HCP, two spades would be enough.

Is there a simple mathematical formula for determining how the five remaining cards should split when you have an eight-card trump suit? Can this be extrapolated to give a general rule?

Lex Luther, Atlanta, Ga.

The mathematics for remembering the rule about how the missing cards will split is basically as follows: It is a toss-up with two cards missing, but for any other even number of missing cards, they are somewhat less likely to split evenly than one away from evenly. So a 3-1 break is rather more likely than 2-2; a 4-2 than 3-3. With an odd number of cards missing, they are considerably more likely (use two-thirds as a guideline) to split as evenly as possible.

I often have a problem as responder at my second turn when I have a borderline invitation and no clear fit. For example, in an unopposed auction such as one club – one diamond – one spade, how should I advance as responder with ♠ K-7-4,  9-5-2,  K-Q-7-4, ♣ Q-10-2?

Sundown, Newark, N.J.

A raise to two spades with three trumps and a balanced hand feels wrong to me. (Change the heart two to the diamond two and I would be more sympathetic to that action.) At pairs I'd rebid one no-trump; at teams I'd rebid two clubs if the one-spade call promises at least four clubs, and that the opener would rebid one no-trump with a balanced hand.

In what position or at what vulnerability is it acceptable to open a three-level pre-empt with a six-card suit? How does suit quality or the form of scoring affect that decision?

Booster, Madison, Wis.

You can occasionally open three clubs with six clubs (since there is no other convenient pre-empt). In third seat or at favorable vulnerability, the rules about seven-card suits are often relaxed. This would also apply to a three-diamond opening if you play Flannery. The best suits to bend the rules on are good six-carders without the ace. Having a little side-suit shape (such as a four-card minor) is certainly a plus.

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ClarksburgJanuary 19th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Two somewhat related questions: one about “forcing” agreements, and the other about slow / fast arrival in a GF auction.
Bonanza’s question arose because in the sequence 1 minor > 2 minor > 2NT, the 2NT is not forcing. To avoid ambiguity, my partner and I play that 1 minor > 2 minor is GF; 1 minor > JS to other minor is invitational raise; and 1 minor > 3 minor is weak raise. Is that a sound approach? If not, what would you recommend?

About Hop, Skip and Jump’s question: My partner and I have been playing that the jump rebid shows a self-sufficient suit,( setting the trump suit) but not necessarily extra HC strength. You indicate that the jump-rebid requires a semi-solid suit AND some extra strength. In either approach, one uses up some “go slow” bidding room to convey some detail about Opener’s hand. I assume that your approach provides more-useful info, and/or describes hands that occur more-frequently. Could you explain the underlying rationale?

bobbywolffJanuary 19th, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Your approach to inverted minor suit raises, by playing it GF with other choices filling in the gaps, eliminates some ambiguities, is better than old-time with more accurate minor suit slam bidding, but takes away a sometimes weak raise with only 4, e.g, Ax, xx, Kxxx, xxxxx, is, in fact, somewhat frequent and I think necessary in order for partner to be able to either compete further or not, usually depending 75% on his distribution and perhaps 25% on his overall values. That difference in percentage is emboldened and manifested by the, at least important to me, being able to at times, immediately then jump to 5 of the minor (depending on the vulnerability) taking away the opponents bidding space to exchange information for their benefit.

That last statement is an important cog in any partnership’s arsenal and, with other like preemptive examples available, changes them from ho-hum easy opponents, to fierce, hard to play against adversaries which cause their opponents to guess instead of having the room to being secure.

Kind of like blitzing teams in football who get sacks, recover QB fumbles and create interceptions much more often than other teams who don’t.

Returning to bridge, at least to me, the preemptive raise to the three level is highly overrated, if anything, better allowing a player with as many as 3 (much less 4) of the opponents suit to usually pinpoint a singleton or possible void, in partner’s hand and realize that his own partnership’s trick potential has risen (as long as he is long enough in his own trump suit to make it pay off).

Summing up, your partnership is sound technically, but probably too easy to play against, but that fact will only apply to when your partnership is playing against a well above average partnership and not a minus against average to below average competition who do not hone their judgment (like they should) on their opponent’s bidding.

Going from the above to Hop, Skip, and Jump, I agree with your partnership’s approach to play a jump as showing a solid suit, KQJ10xx as well, of course, as AKQJxx with the overall strength of the hand not much, if any, a factor. My column does cater to the masses, keeping in mind that the average player (way below in ability and bridge logic than the average tournament player) is possibly not able to assimilate too much high-level bridge logic and is primarily interested in the social, rather than the competitive, aspects of the game.

Again summing up, I agree with your partnership’s approach to jumps after 2 over 1 responses. Since the basic advantage of 2 over 1 is going slowly (for possible slam purposes) it is worth it to allow both partners to understand what is going to be trump and therefore a jump (losing one level) is usually worth doing that.

More can be said, but I’ll await your further questions. GOOD LUCK!

Pete SagerJanuary 20th, 2014 at 5:57 am

The Goren quiz of a week ago had the bidding with silent opponents of 1C, 1H. The opener had a strong hand with four hearts and a stiff diamond, so the answer was a 4D splinter. I always thought that a splinter in this case would be 3D since a 2D reverse is forcing. If 4D is the splinter, then what would the 3D bid be? Thank you.

bobbywolffJanuary 20th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Hi Pete.

And welcome to

Good question, with the most logical answer probably a mini-splinter, e.g. Axx, K10xx, x, AQJxx, a bid wherein if partner returns to 3 hearts, it is where he wants to play it, and the equivalent to a raise to only 3 hearts with short diamonds. If so, then a mere jump to 3 hearts would deny a short suit.

That process, though sound and certainly scientific does not appeal to me since, at least to me bridge does not lend itself to such exact science and since the opponents are listening as well as one’s partner, the defense, both on opening lead and later will be better, something every declarer would not like. Also, when artificiality is used the opponents at least have some options to direct a more favorable opening lead or even, in some cases be able to take a profitable sacrifice.

The only other possibility for 3 diamonds might be a special way of showing a 6-5 hand in the minors, GF, enabling partner to know immediately what to expect from partner. After those two I have run out of possibilities.

Thanks for writing.

ClarksburgJanuary 26th, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Your reply above said, in part:”…Summing up, your partnership is sound technically, but probably too easy to play against…”
and you also said, “…More can be said, but I’ll await your further questions…”
Here is a request for clarification, regarding the approach to minor-suit raises:
Considering all that was said in my original question, and in your response, what change in bidding agreements and tactics might we consider to become not-so-easy to play against. We play in typical Club Duplicates where roughly 15% to 20% of the pairs are clearly stronger than are we.

bobby wolffJanuary 26th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, thanks for reminding me to go back a few days so that I do not miss an important question you may have. Sometimes, regarding time and other excuses, I act somewhat irresponsibly in not covering the waterfront.

High-level bridge, or at least improving as one goes along, has different facets, mostly allowing for improvement in others who usually have talent, especially in improving judgment as they, too, develop experience.

I believe that your method of dealing with primarily minor suit bidding. e.g, FG single minor suit raises (inverted minor suits), a jump shift in the other minor, invitational in the original minor and a jump to 3 in the original minor weak should be changed to:

1. A single raise in partner’s minor not GF, but passable if opener bids either 2NT or 3 of the suit. Also playing old fashioned simple weak 2 of a minor raises, also has advantages which seem to be lost with the disappearance of the morning milk man.

2. A jump shift in the other minor GF in the original minor, since a 2 over 1 in clubs over diamonds is already game forcing, leaving only diamonds over clubs to have to improvise (usually, but not always, painlessly).

3. A weak jump in partner’s original minor suit (Bergen) is, IMO, a losing proposition since the opponents are now more likely, rather than less, emboldened into coming in, often depending on their holding in the opened suit (either a singleon or void, or 3 or more) where it becomes obvious that the overcalling side has a fit and very little of their overall values, duplicated in their opponents primary suit.

4. In other words, the weak jump by the opening bidders side lionizes their opponents into almost guaranteeing a fit, since often (or maybe even required) the jump raiser has 5+ in their agreed minor.

5. Other tidbits to consider would be, when bashing to slam (usually with the distribution to so do with not enough HCP’s, but still great hope for partner to have a key card or two (certainly depending on the bidding) and assuming the opponents have also found a fit, taking away bidding room from your side, it is almost always prudent to have no guarantee of making the slam, but then leaving it up to the opponents as to whether or not to take a sacrifice or not. In other words, play poker with them, but do not be stereotyped into always having one’s bid and therefore afraid of landing in a no play slam, because by following the above sometimes you may wind up doubling a phantom save.

Summing up, bridge is highly overrated as anywhere near a perfect game as far as scientific, always accurate slam bidding when many winning matches occur while playing against equals or even better players, by superior tactics which surprise their opponents by not being so right-on in your judgment, but causing them to at least be tempted to do the wrong thing.

Loosen up and give the opponents a chance to sleep in the streets instead of relying on your accuracy which seems beautiful while doing it, but turns out to have lost the match for you, because those dastardly opponents took a great save against.

Most of the subjects many enthusiastic up and comers (with enough numeracy talent) have much more to them (not covered well enough, if at all, in books and articles) but are only gleaned after many years, or intense training, when the learning dawn finally arrives.