Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

I opened one club, holding ♠ A-J-3,  Q-5-2,  Q-9, ♣ A-J-9-3-2. My LHO overcalled one diamond, which my partner doubled (negative). Should I have rebid my clubs, introduced my spades, or tried one no-trump?

Off-Target, Fredericksburg, Va.

A rebid of one no-trump suggests a balanced 12-14 and doesn't guarantee a great diamond stopper. You would prefer to have more in diamonds, but since a two-club call would strongly suggest a six-card suit and bidding a three-card major would be somewhat misleading. If the opponents bid diamonds again, you can balance with two hearts to suggest only three trumps.

I picked up ♠ 10-8-6-3,  A-Q-5,  Q-10-5, ♣ 10-8-3, and heard my partner open one club. With a balanced hand and a feeble suit, I responded one no-trump. My expert partner told me after the game that while it is acceptable to bypass a four-card major if the opponents come in with a double, you should be wary of doing so in an uncontested auction. What do you think?

Skip Tracer, Phoenix, Ariz.

Bypassing a weak four-card major with honors in each of the other suits is reasonable. And facing a passed partner, where the risk of playing a 4-3 major is far higher your call would be quite reasonable. In competition, your choice becomes even clearer, since spades may well be splitting badly, even if you find a 4-4 fit. Also, partner will be more inclined to raise with three, expecting your suit to be sturdier.

As an inexperienced player I seek clarification on the difference between a splinter and a cuebid. If both "conventions" are used in tandem, how is one able to tell the difference? I apologize if this is a clear point that I have missed, but the game gets more complicated the more you know or think you know.

Tangled Up, Bremerton, Wash.

A splinter bid is a jump that shows support for the suit partner has just bid, game values, and a singleton or void in the suit called. Normally, it consists of an unnecessary jump in an auction where a bid of the same suit at a lower level would have been forcing. A cue-bid is rarely a jump bid, and typically shows a control — though this could be based either on shortage or the possession of the ace or king. So there is an overlap.

Recently I was in fourth seat, with six clubs to the K-10, and queen-third of spades, with two small doubletons. After the opponents bid one heart – one no-trump – two diamonds – two hearts, I risked a three-club call, which might well have made. But when my LHO bid three hearts, my partner doubled, and this rolled home. Am I barred from protecting at pairs with a weak hand, in case partner doubles for penalties, or is partner barred from doubling here in case I have a weak hand?

Monkey King, Dallas, Texas

I'd consider bidding unwise, not because the opponents might compete to three hearts, but because I'd expect to go for a penalty myself. The hand on your right surely has no great length in spades, hearts or diamonds, thus has a minimum of four clubs. He may well be delighted that he is out of a misfitting auction (the two-heart bid does not imply a fit) and will have something to sink his teeth into.

Holding six diamonds, five hearts, two singletons, and 11 points, my partner opened one diamond and, after my one-spade response, rebid two hearts. As this would normally show 16 points, is this the best way to bid such a hand? Or would a repeat of the hearts show the 5-6 pattern but cancel the message of extra strength for one of extra shape?

Lord Chesterfield, Newport News, Va.

Even experts disagree here. You can shade a reverse with extra shape, as in the example you give. However 11 points is too weak for this. Your choices are to open and rebid in diamonds, or to bid the hearts first and lie about suit lengths. I'd tend to open the major unless it is honorless and looked more like four. Neither route is perfect, but to conceal a five-card major twice while rebidding a minor is generally worse than misleading partner over your respective suit lengths.

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ClarksburgAugust 10th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff,
Again, a general question about use of transfers. Forgive me, but as you have often conceded, with resignation, the great majority of players have been drinking the “Transfers Cool Aid” so widely available!
Partner and I have adopted the seven-way-transfers approach wherein the jumps 1NT >> “3 level” show 5-4 minors and identify Major suit singletons.
A few local club Pairs are using these 1NT >>3 level jumps to show 5-5 patterns, Major or Minor, and differentiating between INV / GF in steps progression, i.e. from Minors INV to Majors GF. This approach seems to exclude opening 1NT with two doubletons, thus guaranteeing at least three cards in one Major.
Seems to me the “5-4 Minors” hands might occur about three times more frequently than the 5-5’s Majors and Minors combined !
In that case it would seem to make sense to retain the jumps to 3-level for the 5-4 minor hands, and handle all 5-5’s by initial transfer and agreed-to continuations.
Does this make sense? Am I missing something?

bobby wolffAugust 10th, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, I do not think you are missing anything pertaining to your above subjects.

Whether you know it or not, you, because of your analytical mind, are (if you are ready for this) more suited for making the decision of what occurs more frequently and thus a superior reason to playing this rather than that, than I am.

However, in lieu of the above concession, I, with my experience, do not think it matters much which specific method you choose (all IMO are close in effectiveness), but, by all means, choose the one which you like and therefore think the best.

There are other factors which need to be considered:

1. What you and more likely, your partner, are able to remember, where one unforgivable forget will radically change the overall effectiveness, causing some conscientious players to immediately scratch it off the convention card (CC).

2. Cluttering up one’s CC with infrequently used conventions sometimes (especially with a long term partnership) cause memory strains unless everything listed has a relatively easy method for helping the remembering process.

3. Assuming the human mind has limits, unlike memory chips in computers, is it wise to concentrate on first composing a system (with its many nuances) without first priorities as to what first is critical, second, at least tacitly agreed by the partnership, what also fits the combined personalities of those players of how they value the language of bidding and what it takes for the correct light to shine and therefore guide in order (suit fits, controls, specific distributions, and other gimmicks) to have what it takes to be consistently successful?

4. In the heat of intellectual battle, do both partners think well under pressure and, if not, will lessening the amount of details necessary to remember, help that important defect to not happen.

5. Remembering the inviolate ethics of our game, will ugly breaks in tempo (BIT) either detract or worse, make possibly taking advantage of the BIT not to be considered, therefore rendering the system bid much more harmful than helpful?

Much of the above needs to be decided before we step in the ring, otherwise we are not choosing correctly. Sometimes (IMO often) less is better and presto, that simplicity is the surprising lever which enables both partners to perform at their highest level when it means the most.

Good bridge takes everyone (no matter how intelligent) a certain amount of time to grow. Better bridge is the result, but still the experience learned is sometimes slower than we might wish. Finally, great bridge is a possible unique result, but only when both partners have contributed mightily to see that it happens.

If all those forces combine, the thrills and satisfaction developed become no less than cherished.

Good luck and to you and whoever becomes your partner, I think (from what I glean with our correspondence), you have a reasonable chance to succeed

ClarksburgAugust 10th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Many Thanks,
The “general” aspects of this, as per your comments, is clearly far more important than the technical aspects.
I took a look at how often this would come up. Indeed the 5/4 hand shapes do come up about three times as frequently as the 5-5’s.
However, for this to be “on” requires a lot of “conditions” be met : one of us must have a 1NT opener; the partner must have the 5/4 minors hand shape; and the partner must also have inv+ strength. Playing three times a week, we might see this every two or three months!!
Nuff said! Those jumps will go back to something simpler, more frequent and useful; just have to figure out what; Partner will applaud!

AviAugust 11th, 2014 at 9:38 am

Hi Bobby

If you would be so kind as to give your two cents about a general BWTA question.
Holding Jxx, T986, Kxx, Qxx, you open the bidding with a pass, which goes to partner’s 1C opening.
RHO overcalls 1H.
We play direct 1NT as better values (say 8-10) so this is passed to partner, who balances with a double.
What would you suggest to bid here?
would you differentiate between playing at a local (weak) club or if you were playing in a tournament?

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am

Hi Avi,

Yes, I will be happy to answer, but its worth may be only a deflationary 1 cent instead of 2.

All of your earlier choices are agreed and it now becomes necessary to decide what to do on your 3rd chance to bid.

At the end of the day, there are only 2 possible logical choices, namely 2 clubs or 1NT since you do not hold 4 cards in any unbid suit. And please, do not even consider passing for penalties since, at least to me, that is partner baiting at its worst and will usually lead to a sooner rather than later break-up of that relationship, since your present partner will then always be afraid to reopen with a balancing double.

I choose 1NT, not so much because I like it, but rather because I fear a 2 club response will likely leave at most 7 clubs between us and for even a better reason which follows. If we bid 1NT, a final 2 club contract is still available, but vice versa, a 2 club response by us will not allow a final 1NT.

Yes, at a MP tournament (club) as opposed to an IMP one (perhaps dealing with better players) the trick score for taking 7 or 8 tricks will amount to slightly more than possibly taking 7 or 8 tricks in clubs.

It is, of course, impossible to judge what to make of 10986 of hearts, but at least those cards are not held by the heart overcaller, suggesting that the number of lost heart tricks will be manageable. That, together with the secure knowledge by partner of your not volunteering 1NT on your second bid, does limit your hand to approximately what you have, allowing partner to now bid 2 clubs himself if he holds a 4-1-3-5 or 3-1-4-5 but pass when holding 2 hearts, especially if holding a heart honor, which on a good day may provide 2 stoppers.

Nothing sure, nor scientific, only what I think is a practical solution to a frustrating problem.

Good luck and may you not be confronted with this type of problem often in the future.