Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

My partner and I had an expensive misunderstanding when I opened one heart and he responded one no-trump over my LHO's one-spade call. My RHO raised to two spades now, and I doubled, negative, holding ♠ 9,  K-Q-10-8-3,  K-J-4, ♣ K-Q-3-2. This did not work out well when my partner mistook it for a penalty double!

Judge Dread, Mitchell, S.D.

Sometimes when the opponents bid and raise a suit, doubles simply show extras, requesting partner to act. However after you or your partner has bid no-trump over opposition intervention, your subsequent doubles tend to be penalties. Here, I would expect your double to be real high-card extras, or trump length. With your hand, I would simply pass two spades or compete to three clubs.

This hand appeared in our paper, showing South opening one spade. West, who held ♠ —,  A-9-2,  Q-J-9-5-3, ♣ 9-8-6-5-4, passed, allowing his LHO to close out the auction with four spades. The next player passed with a strong hand that included five diamonds to the ace-king. He would have bid five diamonds and made it if West had come in with the unusual no-trump. Is there a recommended strength requirement for the unusual no-trump in various circumstances?

Friendly Fred, Wilmington, N.C.

Thank you for your very challenging question. It feels wrong to bid with a weak hand and bad suits, but move the heart ace into the clubs and one might bid at favorable vulnerability. My suggestion is clearly wrong on the actual hand. That at least proves I don't qualify as a results-merchant. At equal vulnerability I might bid with the actual hand and the club king instead of the nine, maybe.

Some of our opponents play third and lowest (or third-and-fifth leads – are they the same?). How does the rule of 11 work now?

Fingers and Thumbs, Bellevue, Wash.

Third and low means you lead third-highest from a six-card suit, while in third and fifth you might lead fifth-highest. The rule of 11 is changed to the rule of 12 if the card led appears to be third from four, and to the rule of 10 if the card is fifth highest. So when what appears to be a fifth-highest three is led, the other three hands have seven cards higher than the three between them.

Against silent opponents, my partner opened one spade. I held ♠ A-Q-J-9-3,  10-9,  A-K-5-3, ♣ 6-4, and responded two diamonds, game-forcing. My partner now bid three clubs. Should I play my partner for extras and bid three spades, four spades, or even five spades? If I bid three spades and partner bids four spades, what next? (At the table I passed, missing a laydown slam.)

Puzzle Maven, Corpus Christi, Texas

I assume you could not set spades earlier with a Jacoby two-no-trump call. That said, I play that three clubs promises extra shape or high-cards or both. You might try a jump to five spades, but bidding three spades and respecting partner's sign-off is pessimistic but certainly possible. A jump to four spades would be right only if you play that bid to show good trumps and diamonds, no heart control — but some people do.

I saw what was quite clearly a light-hearted reference to the beer card in a bridge magazine recently. Would you explain what this term means?

Pale Ale, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The tradition of rewarding a player who won a deal's last trick with the diamond seven when diamonds were not trump has been around for a couple of decades. I believe it started in Denmark. But whether anyone actually does so or just gives nominal credit, I do not know.

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David WarheitJuly 6th, 2014 at 9:16 am

You hold: KQJ10xxx

Unfavorable vulnerability. Your right hand opponent opens 3D, you bid 3S and left hand opponent bids 6D, all pass. What do you lead? After you answer, I’ll show the rest of the hands.

Iain ClimieJuly 6th, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hi David,

At the table, I’d probably thoughtlessly lead a spade. LHO must be expecting that lead, though, so either holds SA, singleton / void or possibly even 4 small. He / she also has to have a source of tricks outside diamonds, together with decent support, so dummy could be something like None KQJxxx Axx AQxx or Axx Kx KQx AK10xxx, the latter provrided that partner is not prone to pre-empting on J10 to 7 and nothing. This could be very wrong, but I think I should lead a club rather than a heart or a trump. 2nd choice HA, hoping LHO has stong clubs and has gambled on a spade lead with a void.

You’re probably going to tell me it is offf 2 cashing hearts but has 14 top tricks in the minors with a spade void in dummy aren’t you? I have a gruesome track record for thinking hard before coming up with non-standard but cataclysmic leads!



MirceaJuly 6th, 2014 at 12:39 pm

At IMPs my choice would also be JC. At pairs I think I would start with AH.

Bobby WolffJuly 6th, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Hi David,

I would lead the ace of hearts.

At least to me, it is a total guess, but percentages dictate that LHO is expecting a spade lead and a club lead is much more speculative in trying to weave a combination of plays (setting up partner’s club king before declarer sets up dummy’s hearts to throw his losing club trick away).

Trying to guess exact percentages is sometimes even more futile, rendering the doing so sometimes silly but I’ll still attempt:

Ace of hearts=100%
Low heart=60%
King of Spades=30%
Jack of Clubs=15%

I’ve not read other posts yet.

Bobby WolffJuly 6th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hi Iain & Mircea,

I just read your choices.

David got a random sampling from his question with most of the possible bases covered.

To me, it shows the mindsets of various player’s experiences with the actual choices reflecting basically two realities:

1. The opening leader imagining the thoughts of the upcoming dummy, before acting.

2. Not so much concentrating on the right lead or bust, but rather what our mind set can tolerate from oneself if we choose the losing one.

Esoteric, but at least to me, realistic.

BTW Mircea, your comment about the difference in pair scoring is valid, but like at the rifle range when the flag is waiving, just be right, even in pairs, because, if nothing else our ego will be shot dead if we fail.

Also, I bet Iain will strongly consider just who is the 6 diamond bidder, and, because of that, have a better than normal percentage average of being right.

Iain ClimieJuly 6th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

A stray thought to Friendly Fred, returning to the column. If his partner held (say) xxxx Kx AKxxx Ax or similar, there is a strong inference that partner has lots of shape and no spades (or perhaps one at a pinch), so this can be the sort of hand where passing is more risky than bidding 5D, although it still takes some nerve.

In the meantime, we’re all on tenterhooks for the actual hand David is going to quote!



Bobby WolffJuly 6th, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Methinks you make great sense.

What you are surmising could be called back door bridge reasoning which checks out to be the dog who didn’t bark, but with what we have learned (your very likely void spade holding), truly a great holding as long as there are more than a couple of trumps to go with.

However if poor Jim2 was at the table his partner would lay down void, xxxxxx, x, xxxxxx. and yes after doubling those nasty opponents would then lead the queen of diamonds. To make matters worse and in a team game his teammates would come back to the table having bought the hand at 4 spades and said that the opening leader had led a heart through the dummy’s ace, therefore setting us.

The good news is that after this and other disasters, both tables got several excellent boards late to finish next to last, which cheered everyone.

jim2July 6th, 2014 at 8:04 pm

It’s true. (sob) All true!

David WarheitJuly 6th, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Dummy held A

Declarer had xxx

So, any lead but a H & S makes 7. HA, he makes 6. But, as our host gave a pretty high plus rating, a low H probably defeats the contract, if you lead it quickly and quietly. To me, this is probably, indeed almost certainly, the only lead that has a chance of success. Dummy obviously has the SA, HK, great diamonds and clubs headed by the A or even better.

Iain ClimieJuly 7th, 2014 at 7:56 am

Very neat – was it found at the table?