Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Are most serious events played as pairs scoring, or teams? And are there any rubber bridge events played at a national level?

Backing Group, Greenville, S.C.

In all of the national tournaments (which are played three times a year), the major event is scored using one form or another of teams scoring. That is not to downplay pairs scoring, but I think both at national and world level the winners of the big teams events are rated more highly than the winners of the pairs games. There are really no rubber bridge or individual events left anymore.

I was fourth to speak with ♠ A-5,  Q-9-4-3,  Q-9-5-2, ♣ K-8-2, and heard one spade to my left, passed around to me. I felt obliged to double, and when my LHO bid two spades, my partner doubled, which I assumed was for penalty. The result was nine tricks for declarer. My partner thought I needed more to double one spade, in fourth position. Was it I or he who was out of line — he had a 3-3-4-3 10-count?

High Noon, Great Falls, Mont.

It is normal to play a balancing call in fourth seat as potentially a king lighter than the same action in second seat. So your double looks normal enough. It was once common to use your partner's double of a rebid suit as penalties. I still do.

One could argue that the responsive double gains on frequency grounds, even if the size of the swing might be larger with the penalty double. But I’ll stick with the penalty double interpretation.

What is your opinion about the technical merits of coding the leads of jacks and 10s against no-trump, whereby the opening leads of jacks deny a higher honor, while 10s are from jack-10 or 10-nine, in each case promising a higher honor? My instinct is that this gives away as much as it benefits. What do you think?

Mister Cellophane, Seneca, S.C.

My experience mirrors your gut reaction. At trick one, the 'coded' 10s and jacks are very revealing. However if you really must play those methods, at least keep them for the middle of the hand, not trick one, at which point you should know enough about the hand to be aware when partner, not declarer, needs to know.

I passed in first chair with ♠ Q-10-7-4,  K-J-3,  5-3-2, ♣ K-10-2, and I heard my LHO open one diamond. My partner doubled, and I responded one spade. My partner now raised to two spades. Does this show a good hand or is this just a courtesy raise?

Normal Business, Wichita Falls, Texas

Raising your partner in competition would not guarantee extras (your partner would bid two spades with a few extras or perfect shape even in a minimum hand). But if your LHO passes, as here, a raise by him should be real extras. Your hand would be just too good to pass now. I'd guess to bid three clubs as a game try.

How should one play the following double? I was in second seat with five spades, six points, and a balanced hand. At unfavorable vulnerability, I passed over my RHO's one-club bid. I heard five clubs to my left, and a double from partner. Is this penalty, takeout, or optional?

Piggy in the Middle, Spokane, Wash.

Your partner's double has to cover many hands that are too good to pass and have no other clear-cut action. If he bid a suit, it would have to show a good suit and strong distribution; otherwise, the action would be far too risky. Therefore, double covers all good hands that do not fall into this category. With your actual hand you should assume their contract is not making. Since you should only remove the double to what you believe is a making contract, passing looks right here.

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