Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 17th, 2014

About midway through play in our rubber game, in four hearts doubled, East trumped a spade in her hand then later on played a spade from her hand. At the end of the hand, East was down two tricks doubled not vulnerable. Do North-South earn two additional tricks from East's one revoke? And how many more points do North/South score for the two revoke tricks, since the bid was doubled?

Number Cruncher, Troy, N.Y.

If the offenders won no further tricks (including the revoke trick) there is no penalty. If they won only one trick, the penalty is one trick. If the revoker won the revoke trick personally (by trumping in error) AND the revoking side won two or more subsequent tricks, there is a two-trick penalty. Those tricks are added to the nonoffenders' total — be they doubled or undoubled tricks. So here there appears to be a two-trick penalty, and you score as for four down doubled. That is 800.

When my partner opened two no-trump recently I was looking at both doubleton minor aces, jack-third of spades and jack-sixth of hearts. I transferred into hearts, then couldn't decide how to continue. Just for the record, my partner's assets included the top three hearts and five semisolid spades plus a stray queen, so we had 13 cashing tricks.

Richie Rich, North Bay, Ontario

Transferring to hearts. then inviting slam with a jump to four no-trump or a quantitative five hearts, sounds about right. With two aces I think you are just worth the second sequence. but getting to the grand slam is VERY hard. Your partner did well not to open one spade, when even getting to small slam might be beyond many.

Sometimes I feel the game is passing me by. In a recent column of yours, the bidding started with opener bidding one diamond and hearing a double to his left. After responder bid one spade, the fourth hand competed to two hearts, and opener doubled. What bidding convention is involved?

Hot Potato, Rolling Hills Estate, Cal.

This is a support double (where opener's double at his second turn to speak, of a call below two of partner's major, shows three trump; meanwhile, a direct raise shows four). It is now close to standard expert practice, but it is still not common except in duplicate circles. Would I recommend it? I'm not sure; it's a crutch but a reasonably useful one.

I dealt and opened one diamond with: ♠ A,  K-J-5,  Q-J-8-6-5-4, ♣ A-J-10. When I heard my partner respond one heart, was it right for me to jump in hearts or diamonds – or should I have done something else?

Hopping Mad, Pleasanton, Calif.

This is a very challenging problem. You are not worth a force to game of course, and jumping in diamonds on a suit headed by the queen-jack seems wrong. Equally, though, a raise to three hearts with three trumps would be unusual — though not entirely absurd. Perhaps a temporizing call of two clubs would work, so long as partner does not pass. Maybe even then you might find it was your best spot.

Do you have a strong view on the merits or otherwise of Bergen Raises, by which I mean converting responder’s minor-suit jumps facing a major-suit opening to be four trumps with 6-9 and 10-11 points respectively?

More or Less, Savannah, Ga.

My personal preference is still to keep my jump-shifts as strong. I am happy to lose the distinction between three- and four-card raises initially. I’d like to try to perfect my bidding in other areas, and do not wish to lose the important distinction between really good hands and invitational hands in the minors -– which is what Bergen tends to drive you to do It also tends to substitute system for judgment, I find. like Support Doubles. Finally, just for the record, in competition or by a passed hand they are a very bad idea. Fit-jumps work far better.

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ClarksburgAugust 31st, 2014 at 11:02 am

About Hopping Mad’s challenging rebid problem.
Seems nowadays it is acceptable to occasionally open 1NT with a singleton ace (or even a singleton King).
First question: Do you endorse that approach?
Second question: If so, would this 1-3-6-3- hand be a suitable 1NT opening?

ClarksburgAugust 31st, 2014 at 11:23 am

In response to Number Cruncher’s question, you responded, in part:
“…If the revoker won the revoke trick personally (by trumping in error) AND the revoking side won two or more subsequent tricks, there is a two-trick penalty…”
Isn’t it only necessary to win the “revoke” trick plus one subsequent trick to trigger the transfer of two tricks? (i.e. Law 64)? Or is rubber bridge scoring different?

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

It is not only acceptable, but also both legal and ethical to open 1NT while holding a singleton.

Having said that, the only stricture to need to be aware of, is that partner must not allow for such a thing to be likely, without a pre-alert to that effect. If done approximately more than once every 30+ NT openings perhaps even that rare happening fits under the pre-alert umbrella.

Furthermore, if one thinks it is the best bridge bid on any one hand, then, of course, like most all other bids it must be allowed. The key should always be, not just to job the opponents (although that could innocently happen) but to honor the game itself and that always has to do with truth and honesty in application.

However, the hand offered by “Hopping Mad” does not look like a 1NT opening to me, since the 6 card diamond suit is just too weak and off center to gamble. I, especially while playing matchpoints, but also at IMPs or rubber bridge while vulnerable, would not be happy if it went all pass at my table after opening 1NT. Just too much chance of, after the expected spade lead to go down several tricks in 1NT and have making part scores in 3 different strains (clubs, diamonds and hearts available to be made). Consider partner holding: s. Jxx, h. Q10xx, d. 10x, c. K98x and having it go all pass.

My analysis would suggest to me with either hearts or clubs as trump somewhere between 8 or 9 tricks, with diamonds likely 10, but while playing NT only 5 or 6.

However while holding: s. K, h. Q10x, d. KQJ9xx, c. QJx, (15-17) to open 1NT has now risen to a possibility since my NT trick taking potential with playing luck in tow, is higher and defense is lower, meaning the opponents are more likely to have a major suit game available and my opening bid may shut conservative overcallers out of entering the auction, all good reasons to at least consider it to be the best bid available.

Bridge is still a highly competitive mano vs. mano game as long as partner doesn’t know this is the time and consequently bids in a normal manner (such as trying to play 2 spades with what turns out to be a 5-1 fit).

Yes, you are correct that if the revoker won only 1 more trick plus, of course the trick he trumped in, though holding a spade he then would lose both the trick he trumped in and another in order to satisfy what turns out to be a two trick penalty, but perhaps only in essence a one trick equity.

The rules were changed to that effect not too many years ago to try and satisfy equity instead of just punishment. I apologize for what was written and appreciate your comments as the rules for rubber and tournament bridge are essentially the same.

ClarksburgAugust 31st, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Mr. Wolff.
The insights into the relative merits of the two candidate hands, particularly weighing up the offence / defence / shutting out an overcaller etc. were great.
Many thanks!

Bill CubleyAugust 31st, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Many feel as if the Law of Total Tricks is really that, a Law of Bridge. It still requires judgment and you write well telling us it moves us to bid for system instead of judgment.

The late, very great, Grant Baze called it a Guide to Total Trump. Guess I can’t be in bad company if I agree with you and Grant.

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi Bill,

The playing of high-level bridge and the judgment
required is nothing predictable nor anywhere near certain. Yes, there are guides such as the LOTT, but that law is only a rough guess and nothing more.

Grant was one of the very best and to say that he was a fierce competitor is to understate it.