Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 12th, 2014

At matchpoints I held ♠ K-10-8-7,  —,  A, ♣ A-J-10-9-8-6-4-3. I opened one club, and my LHO overcalled one diamond. Now my partner made a free bid of one spade and I could not think of any call except the Grand Slam Force, getting us to a somewhat fortunate seven spades. Are there any conventions that agree on responder's suit and ask about the holding in opener's suit?

Sharp Shooter, Torrance, Calif.

An immediate jump by you to four diamonds, showing spade support and first-round diamond control, would be one possibility. There is no artificial call to show your hand, but a convention called Exclusion Blackwood (asking for aces while showing a void) might work here. In this case a bid of five hearts would do the trick. However, you would need better clubs than this, I think.

Do all expert partnerships use count and suit-preference as well as, or instead of, encouraging/discouraging signals? And if so, how does one decide when one signal should apply as opposed to the other?

Signal Corps, Kansas City, Mo.

Most experts signal encouragement first, but they may switch to a count signal if the signaler's attitude is already defined by who is going to win the trick. More complex, though, is a situation where a switch appears necessary, or the suit could not logically be continued, even on the second or third round,, many players will then switch to suit-preference. Suit-preference in the trump suit is often more critical than count.

I am seeing more and more duplicate players make use of weak jump overcalls or even responses, but I am not a fan. Are there any positions or vulnerabilities where I can tell my partners that strong jump overcalls make more sense than weak jumps?

Flex Those Pecs, Jackson, Tenn.

In balancing seat one should play jump overcalls as intermediate, not weak, since with a weak hand one would simply pass. It is also clearly best to use strong jump overcalls over your opponents' weak-two bids. More controversially, I would argue that at unfavorable vulnerability all jump overcalls of your opponents' opening bids should be closer to intermediate than weak.

Playing Swiss Teams, vulnerable against not, I held I held ♠ A-8-7-3,  4,  Q-J-10-3, ♣ 10-9-5-4. My partner opened one heart and raised my response of one spade to two. How close would you consider this hand to be to a try for game? I passed and not only found that game was respectable, but that it was bid in the other room. My partner had 15 HCP including four spades, but a singleton diamond king.

Fading in the Stretch, Maplewood, N.J.

You are not close to a game-try, because of your singleton heart and having only four spades. It is rare that any hand will gave you good play for game unless partner has nothing in hearts, or just the ace. By the way, I'd bid three spades with partner's hand — singleton diamond king notwithstanding.

When holding a 10-count and three trumps in response to a one-spade opening bid, should one treat the hand as a limit-raise via a forcing no-trump, or as a constructive raise to two? The hand that caused me concern was ♠ A-10-2,  K-10-6,  K-8-4-3-2, ♣ 9-4.

Ready for Battle, Corpus Christi, Texas

This is an exceptional 10-count, not just because it is all aces and kings, but because of the five-card suit and the potentially useful trump and heart intermediates. I would treat this hand as a limit-raise, but take away the fifth diamond and make it a small club, and I would be happy to raise one spade to two.

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ClarksburgJanuary 26th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Mr. Wolff,
I have added a follow-up question to last week’s Sunday Blog (Jan 19).

bobby wolffJanuary 28th, 2014 at 12:18 am

Hi Clarksburg,

I answered your follow-up question on last week’s, Sunday blog (1/19/14)

Good luck.