Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Is it wrong to support partner's one-spade opening bid when you hold nothing but four spades to the queen and no other high-card points but a singleton heart? If so, how much more does one need to bid rather than pass?

New Broom, Tucson, Ariz.

This is more about tactics than best practice. I would never pass if nonvulnerable. (I might respond one no-trump if playing forcing no-trump, planning to rebid two spades to show a very weak hand with spades, or a moderate hand with a doubleton spade). If vulnerable, especially if facing a third- or fourth-hand opening, where the danger of the opponents' bidding game was less, passing is more attractive.

At favorable vulnerability I held ♠ A-10-8-5,  A-K-7-4-3,  K-Q, ♣ Q-4, and my partner opened one diamond. I bid one heart, then after a rebid of two clubs I used fourth suit and heard my partner rebid three clubs. Would you force to a slam now?

Forest Gump, Albany, Ga.

I'd bid four no-trump now, natural and quantitative, suggesting approximately this shape and feeling that I was at the top of my range. If I had the club 10, then my two working clubs and diamond honors would make it very close to a call of five no-trump to get my partner to pick a slam.

In a club game, my partner opened one heart and my RHO overcalled two clubs. Holding ♠ 5,  Q-4,  Q-7-6-5-3-2, ♣ K-J-9-4, was I strong enough to bid two diamonds and would that call be forcing?

Quad Wrangler, Vancouver, British Columbia

Two diamonds is forcing and guarantees at least invitational values. Some play you promise a second call; I don't. Even so, your hand is very borderline for this action, with likely wasted values in clubs on offense — but good on defense. I'd bid two diamonds with the diamond ace instead the queen, I think. Here I'd pass, prepared to defend, facing a balanced hand.

Say you are playing pairs. You open one diamond, then hear a pre-emptive jump to three hearts on your left, raised to four hearts. What is best current practice for the player in fourth seat, who might hold a strong balanced or unbalanced hand? Should you vary your approach depending on whether you are playing teams as opposed to pairs?

French Lessons, Riverside, Calif.

You should play a double for takeout, so a balanced hand with trump tricks may have to pass for fear partner will remove with shape. Note: a call of four no-trump would show diamonds with secondary clubs. I can't see a reason to change your basic approach according to the form of scoring, or vulnerability. But after such a double, a balanced weak hand opposite should pass and hope to defeat the game.

My partner threw me a curveball when he opened two spades, and after his LHO bid three hearts, passed back to him, he doubled. What should that call mean? Just for reference, what would a double mean if instead of passing, his RHO had raised to four hearts?

Loopy Lou, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

The first sequence, while unusual, is unambiguous. The double is clearly for takeout, with short hearts and a maximum — maybe six spades to the ace-jack and a side trick, with a singleton or void in hearts, at least three cards in each of the other two suits, prepared to defend if you have trump tricks. The second auction sounds like a Lightner double, with a void in a side-suit; your partner is hoping you can give him a ruff, and that then he can put you in again for a second ruff.

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clarksburgMay 11th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Mr. Wolff,
Do you have any comment or advice on the best use of a two Diamond opening bid. Considering frequency of occurrence and effectiveness, should it be a standard weak two, Flannery, or something else?

Patrick CheuMay 11th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Hi Bobby,re Forest Gump,would you bid 3D(slam try),if A10xx AKxxx KQx x(4531)?regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieMay 11th, 2014 at 1:50 pm

HI Patrick, Bobby,

In the UK there is a fine lady player (Sandra Landy) who is famous for forward bidding in the game zone; 1H – 2H – 4H is jokingly called a Landy Game Try. On the hand Patrick quotes, I’m rolling out what S J Simon (I think) called “The Mechanized Cosh” of Blackwood. A trump lead might cut the ruffs, but the hearts may be establishable opposite 1-2-5-5 or similar. 3D could be right (if 4th suit is game forcing, of course – not so safe if a scratch or weak partner opposite) but I think I’d sooner bid 4D if in doubt than 3.



Bobby WolffMay 11th, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

My marked preference is to use a 2 diamond opening to show Flannery (11-15 with 4 spades, 5 hearts and random for the minors).

1. That distribution is a difficult one to bid using standard 2 over 1 GF methods, its frequency more than expected and without which it presents a significant problem.

2. Flannery, which I have consistently played for 45+ years has served me very well and today is one of my favorite conventions, although a partnership can manage without it.

3. Weak 2 diamond bids, while more frequent than Flannery, are relatively impotent as preemptive factors and while lead directing, it sometimes allow the opposing declarer to play the hand to best advantage, while Flannery usually buys the hand one way or another since it shows a stronger hand.

3. While scientific partnerships use an opening 2 diamonds to show many different distributions, I have not found one more necessary than the distribution evident in Flannery.

Try it and I believe you will find the same attributes to Flannery that I, and my partners have experienced.

Bobby WolffMay 11th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Hi Patrick,

Most definitely would I be thinking and probably insisting on slam, once partner rebids 3 clubs as long as partner had at least 1 ace. The problem would probably be whether a good grand slam in diamonds would be in the cards (assuming 2 aces and the club king, but possibly so even without the club monarch), assuming partner’s minor suit holding allowed for club ruffs in dummy, establishing that suit while being able to draw trump with partner’s remaining good intermediate diamond spots.

Perhaps some risk will need to be taken for a grand slam, but unlikely for what figures to be a more or less laydown small diamond slam.

Bobby WolffMay 11th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I had gotten to know Sandra many years ago and though fate (and time itself) has interrupted, which to me was her friendship and bridge counsel. She was always and, no doubt still is, a winning player with a very positive personality.

Thanks for pointing out the pitfalls of dealing with new partners (or at least not an old one with undisciplined knowledge of forcing situations) causing sometimes thorny gremlins which stand in the way of fluidly arriving at laydown small and grand slams.

However, by partnering different players and at various stages of their mental bridge development, a player cannot over simplify what perhaps other more experienced players take in stride.

The result being having to take an unnecessary risk, but one which must be ventured otherwise it will require too many apologies to teammates who expected (and deserved) more. At least to me, the above sometimes cannot be avoided, proving that sloth in bridge can only cause heartbreak when attempting to move up the ladder toward insuring having a reasonable partnership which together can rise to significant heights.

Thanks for your keen eye and ear which is directed to the practical problems involved such as the real ones you mention.

Patrick CheuMay 11th, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Hi Iain and Bobby,it’s good to see such humorous thoughts(Iain) and forward thinking(Bobby)as regards trying for grand slam.If all bridge players can share such thoughts…:)

Patrick CheuMay 11th, 2014 at 7:20 pm

There is a lot this game can teach us as regards mental agility and friendships(the right ones!),sure Bobby has already amplified this in past blogs..Ha.

jim2May 12th, 2014 at 1:55 am

I love Flandry but my usual partner does not play it. 🙁

And I love the stories that sometimes result from its use!

Bobby WolffMay 12th, 2014 at 5:14 am

Hi Jim2,

Usually convention stories have to do with a total lack of understanding of why the convention, with an example soon after Al Roth came forth with “bidding NT in an usual position will be construed as a take out for the two lowest unbid suits, usually the minors”, when more than a few inexperienced players thought the unusual position had to do with a twisted head or a skewed body.

Flannery itself has very little to misinterpret, but perhaps if there is a will, there will be a way.

jim2May 12th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Aww, it’s more than that!

Once the bidding went:

2D – 3D – 4D – 5D

So cool!

Bobby WolffMay 12th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps that sequence represented:

North (dealer) South (responder)
s. KQJx s. xx
h. xxxxx h. void
d. Kx d. QJ10xxxx
c. Ax c. KQJx

Hooray for Hollywood and contrived hands.

Bobby WolffMay 12th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Hi again Jim2,

Obviously if you and partner were NS, East would hold: s. A10x
h. AK
d. Ax
c. 1098765
and lead and continue clubs after grabbing the ace of diamonds with, of course, the NS opponents at the other table bidding and scoring up 3NT.

TOCM TM working overtime!

jim2May 12th, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Actually, pard invented 4D as “pick a game” and I interpreted it as such.

But the story! With another pard many years earlier, with me second to bid, it had gone:

1C – 2C – 3C – 4C

You. of course, have many more stories than I ever will, but I do enjoy them, esp since I play so rarely these last years. Heck, I think my ACBL # must have lapsed, as I do not get there stuff anymore.