Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

I held ♠ J-9-8-2,  A-J,  7-3, ♣ K-J-9-8-3. My LHO opened one diamond, and my partner made a one-heart overcall. Assuming I have enough to respond, which suit (if any) should I bid?

Marking Time, Worcester, Mass.

You might get votes for bids of either black suit, or a cue-bid of two diamonds, or even a stopperless one-no-trump response. Two clubs makes perfect sense to me, but equally, a simple heart raise is also in the picture, since you could argue that two honors is better support than three small trumps.

If you pick up a two-suited hand such as five spades to the three top honors, six semisolid clubs, and a small doubleton heart, are you better off opening two clubs or one of the black suits? If the latter, which suit would you bid?

The Black Hand, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The two-club call might work, but if the opponents intervene, you might well find yourself pre-empted out of getting your suits into play. Having decided to go low, I prefer almost without exception to open my long suit with a hand worth a reverse or more. Quantity generally outranks quality when it comes to picking a trump suit.

With moderate values and five-card support for partner's minor, should you raise the minor before introducing your own four-card major, holding, for example, ♠ Q-10-4-2,  J-4,  K-5, ♣ Q-9-8-4-3 facing a one-club opening? And what if your RHO has doubled the one-club opening?

Hand-Hog, Grand Junction, Colo.

The simple answer in a noncompetitive auction is to bid the major first, since your side is not assured of a real fit for clubs. Occasionally, in a competitive auction, it may time out better to support the minor first, but that is the exception, not the rule. After the double, I like raising when I'm weak, but here, since I think it is our hand, I will bid spades first, then raise clubs.

How should my partner have acted, holding ♠ Q-7,  K-9-4,  A-10-3, ♣ Q-10-6-5-4, when his LHO opened one diamond? I doubled and his jump to three clubs ran into a 4-2 break, going one down, while three no-trump might have come home for us.

Desperately Seeking a Strain, Kenosha, Wis.

I would have guessed to jump to two no-trump with your partner's hand, since I'd expect there to be a risk of heart ruffs or diamond ruffs against me. It is not perfect — if the facing hand is a limited three-suiter with short diamonds, you might well make more in clubs than no-trump. But the most likely game is three no-trump.

Because we do not play the forcing no-trump, we occasionally miss games when we make a simple raise of a major with a balanced 10-count. Facing a one-spade opening, should we upgrade a hand like ♠ A-Q-3,  Q-6-5-4,  J-5-4, ♣ J-10-8 to a raise to three spades, or is it better to just bid two spades?

Up or Down, Salinas, Calif.

The forcing no-trump allows you to distinguish constructive and nonconstructive raises (by putting the weaker options through the forcing no-trump response). But if you do not play that, then with a 10-count I'd advocate only raising to three spades with four trumps, or with significant extras in terms of intermediates or side-suit shape. The hand you quote does not qualify under either heading. The same logic applies to raising a one-level overcall, by the way.

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The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 1st, 2014