Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 30th, 2014

What does a transfer in response to an opening no-trump guarantee in terms of high cards? And how about a Stayman response?

Minnie Mouse, Woodland Hills, Calif.

A transfer shows five cards or more in the implied major, typically six in a minor. (If you don't play minor-suit transfers, ignore this clause!) But it guarantees absolutely NOTHING about high cards! Responder's plan should be to describe his range at the next turn — be it to play, invite to game, or drive to slam. Opener simply obeys the transfer whether he likes it or not, and awaits further information. Some play that Stayman always guarantees an invitation or better; I don't.

I held ♠ J-10-3,  Q-5-3,  A-9-5, ♣ Q-10-3-2, and heard my LHO open one diamond. My partner bid one spade and the next hand bid three diamonds, weak. Should I have raised to three spades, or passed, or doubled?

Lumber Yard, Denver, Colo.

In competition one can be pushed to a single level higher than you intended to bid, but not two levels. Since you would happily have bid two spades over two diamonds, take the push to three spades. For the record, double here shows a good hand, primarily for takeout, perhaps a king better than your actual hand.

What sort of hand should I have expected from my partner when he passed over one diamond on his right, but then doubled when his LHO responded in spades and his RHO raised that suit?

Backed into a Corner, Franklin, Tenn.

Normally, the only hands you pass on initially, then double in a live auction like this (as opposed to an auction where you are balancing after two passes) are those where you are long in the opponents' first-bid suit, short in the suit they have bid and raised. Here a perfect hand would be a 1-4-4-4 shape with 13-plus HCP.

With both sides vulnerable I was dealt ♠ J-10-3,  5,  A-10-8-6-4-3-2, ♣ Q-4, and elected to open a three-level pre-empt. My partner complained that I should have had a better suit. What do you think?

Frisky, Dover, Del.

Nonvulnerable in first or second seat, and in third seat at any vulnerability, bidding three diamonds seems right. Vulnerable in first seat one might open only two diamonds with such a flawed suit, and in second seat the weak-two seems clearly right (in fact passing would not be totally unreasonable there — though I must admit I am rarely that disciplined).

My partner had the following hand: ♠ K-Q-10-9,  A-J-9-4-3,  6-5, ♣ 10-4. After three passes she also passed, giving us a below average in an otherwise really good session. Would you open this hand? Knowing the field was not too good, would it make a difference?

Mill Stone, Hoboken, N.J.

Yes I would open — though I might open one spade I admit, to facilitate the rebid. It is very close, but note that it is more tempting to open vulnerable than at favorable vulnerability. The logic is that partner rates to be the one who might pass the 11 count. When the opponents don't bid and are non-vulnerable, they rarely have even moderately good hands anymore.

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ClarksburgApril 13th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Supplementary question on Mill Stone’s about fourth-seat opening: (first of all, Thanks for providing the great insight!)

Many Intermediate’s rely upon the Rule of Fifteen for this situation. At first look, this hand doesn’t nominally pass that test, i.e.10 HCP + 4 Spades = 14. However it looks about as good as “14” could ever be, i.e. major suits, no HCP in short suits, and good intermediates.
If I understand your answer correctly, you’d open this “close one” in any case; but if the VUL factor applies, it would then be very clear to open it. Is that correct?

Bobby WolffApril 13th, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, it is clear, but only somewhat, not very.

Whatever rule is used, whether the one of fifteen or the next name which fits, bidding with these very close choices is indeed a risk.

Especially in matchpoints where frequency of gain is in vogue instead of amount of gain, better for IMPs. First discuss with your regular partner that after 3rd or 4th suit openings do not be afraid (or possibly a better word, reluctant) to pass partner at the lowest level possible (usually the two level, but even sometimes at the one level) when a small percentage of the time your side can make a game, but instead your partnership passed it out at a much lower level). That’s what that frequency of gain principle is about.

The important fact to never forget is that bridge bidding is not an exercise in precision, in spite of what some wild-eyed optimists try to tell you. Be tough competitively and not lose your concentration, but also accept poor results from time to time.

Truthfully, the hand from Mill Stone is a virtual impossibility to being anywhere close to more than about 55% right. It is more to the point to understand that if that Flannery distribution contained 3-1 in the minors instead of 2-2, the side holding that hand would average IMO about 3/4 of a trick more per hand in their end result. However, please don’t ask me why, simply because I could not suggest an answer anyone could (or should) take to the bank.

Judy strejcApril 13th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

yes, Where are you putting the wonderful bridge column now??
Cannnot find Sunday April 13.

I think bridge should be more important then large print puzzle taking up 2 different pages & sudoko also using 2 pages.


Judy strejcApril 13th, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I did

bobby wolffApril 13th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Hi Judy,

Glad you found it.

Not unlike looking for the beautiful queen of hearts and all of a sudden realizing she was there all the time, waiting to be sweetly finessed.