Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Playing in a Regional Tournament, my left-hand opponent opened a weak two diamonds, which was passed around to me in fourth seat. I usually am an aggressive bidder, especially through the two-level, especially with favorable vulnerability. Holding nine or 10 points with five hearts to the queen-jack, I threw in a two-heart call. My partner raised to three, and we went down three tricks — which was one too many. I was told not to overcall unless I had close to opening values. Do you agree?

Nebuchadnezzar, Charlottesville, Va.

A balancing action at the one-level may start at nine, while at the two-level you need a little more. At the three-level I'd expect close to a full opener. The more shape you have, the fewer HCP you need. It sounds as if you were pushing the boat out — but sometimes your ship will come in.

How do you calculate the odds when you have 10 trumps missing the king and two small ones between playing for the drop and finessing?

Harry the Horse, Jackson, Miss.

When you lead toward the ace and an opponent follows small, he either has king-third, king-doubleton or small doubleton — if he has a singleton you are doomed whatever you do. The chance of a 3-0 break (on either side) is about 25 percent. So finessing wins for two of the 2-1 breaks plus the 3-0 split, and loses to one of the 2-1 breaks. That clearly makes the finesse the indicated play.

After your LHO deals and opens one heart and is raised pre-emptively to four, what is the best current practice for fourth hand? Should a double be takeout? Should it guarantee four spades, or is the double optional — or even penalties? How does best practice differ when the major suit opened was spades?

Searching, Midland, Mich.

It is best to play a double for takeout (without reference to the holding in the unbid major here). A balanced hand has to pass and possibly give up on the chance of what may be a lucrative penalty. Responder removes whenever he has a lot of shape or when he expects to make his contract, but passes with weak balanced hands. With a two-suited hand, you can overcall four no-trump; partner will assume you have the minors, but over a raise to four spades, the call might show any two suits.

How would you recommend dealing with intervention to the Jacoby two-no-trump response of one of a major, which shows game-forcing values and a trump fit?

Caught Short, Houston, Texas

Play a double as discouraging here, typically weak length in their suit, while pass is balanced, nothing to say. Suit bids are natural, repeating your own suit is extras (either extra length or HCP without shortage in the opponents' suit), while three no-trump shows a singleton in their suit, and a cue-bid shows first-round control. A jump to game sounds like six trumps and a minimum hand.

I did not like my partner's action on the following hand (and I'm hoping you can make my point for me). With ♠ A-J-7-5-2,  J-4,  Q-10-5, ♣ Q-4-3, he heard me pass, with a one diamond opening to his right. He bid one spade and now walked into a reopening double and penalty pass. When the smoke had cleared, he was down 800, and we had a matchpoint zero. Was he wrong to overcall with such a weak hand and suit?

Unhappy Camper, Monterey, Calif.

Alas, I suspect your zero came because your opponents judged to defend, and did so accurately, rather than because of a mistake by your partner. I might be stretching, but I'd venture no expert in today's game would seriously think about passing here. Conversely, switch the black suits, and the hand would not be worth a two-level overcall.

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