Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I was recently faced with a problem when I had a flat two-count with just the queen of diamonds, and my partner opened two clubs. My RHO overcalled two spades, a suit in which I had just three small cards. Should I pass, double, or try something else? And if I pass, what should I do over a double from my partner?

Jungle George, Tupelo, Miss.

Many play that responder's double here would be weak, with any hand in the 0-4 range, say. Pass would show some values but nothing to say, while new suits are natural though not necessarily full positive values. If opener doubles, the world is divided into those who play it as takeout, and those who believe it should be penalties — either the suit, or strong balanced with a moderate holding in the key suit. Put my vote in the takeout camp.

I was delighted to read in a recent letter that you plan to write more for the broader audience of us who are social bridge players and bridge students and are open to suggestions. That is very encouraging. So would you please explain how to transfer into a minor over one no-trump.

House of Windsor, Fremont, Calif.

A simple scheme (not necessarily best, but simplest) is to use two spades to show clubs and three clubs to show diamonds, with two no-trump remaining natural. After a transfer into a minor, new suits should be shortage, not length. With a minor and a four-card major, plus the values to go to game, start with Stayman. Then bid the minor, if partner does not come through with a fit for you.

How should I decide whether to play in a 5-3 fit or in no-trump? My partner and I had the Jacoby Transfer sequence: 1 NT – 2  – 2  – 2 NT, and I had to decide what to do next. I held ♠ A-J-5,  Q-6-4,  A-J-10-3-2, ♣ K-10. I elected to pass, thinking I had a minimum, and that turned out to be the wrong thing to do!

Linked In, Raleigh, N.C.

You may have only a minimum in high cards, but your quick tricks and excellent five-card suit suggest you are closer to jumping to four hearts, than signing off in three. I would always play in a 5-3 fit unless my trumps were uninspiring, and I had a real source of tricks in a side-suit. (In the given hand, switch the heart queen and diamond three, for example.)

I held ♠ A-K-9-8,  A-Q-6-2,  K-Q-9-7-3, ♣ —. I opened one diamond and my partner responded one spade. Now what should I have done? At the table I felt I was too strong to splinter, and my high cards seemed prime. So I reversed to two hearts, planning to support spades next, probably with a jump. Subsequently I read about the difference between a jump to three hearts and a jump to four — but I'm not sure what is standard practice here.

Feeling Jumpy, Elmira. N.Y.

With two hearts natural and forcing, jumps in hearts would both show shortage — perhaps the former a singleton, the latter a void. But where the shortage is clubs, a jump to three clubs would be natural, so a call of four clubs is either a singleton or void. With your actual hand I would be a little worried about just bidding four clubs and giving up over a sign-off in four spades. But on balance that must be right.

When partner opens with one club, which could be short, and an opponent bids one diamond, am I required to bid with no high-card points but with a five-card suit?

Shorty, Danville, Ind.

A possibly short club is rarely, if ever, played as forcing. So with zero points you can always pass. There are quite a few hands in the range of 3-5 high-card points where I would respond to one club to try to improve the contract despite my overall weakness, but where I won't bid if the opponents overcall.

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MirceaSeptember 30th, 2014 at 8:14 am

Hi Bobby,

What is the best treatment for low level doubles in competition where no side has identified a fit? For instance: (1D) – 1H – (2C) – Dbl or (1H) – 2C – (2D) – Dbl or (1C) – 1H – (1NT) – Dbl?


bobby wolffSeptember 30th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Hi Mircea,

I will suggest the following:

#1 and #2 both fit under the convention called, Snapdragon (Why the name, who knows?, I don’t).

In both cases a double when three suits have been mentioned around the table, shows that the 4th seat has 5+ cards in the fourth suit (#1, spades), (#2, also spades) + a doubleton, usually an honor and one (at least the Q or higher), in partner’s suit or perhaps 3 small, #1 being hearts, #2, clubs. With only 2 small, disregard snapdragon and rather just bid the suit held, always the fourth one. The advantage is that when only the fourth suit is bid, partner will not be tempted to rebid his suit without the proper length and strength and also will be better placed for an opening lead should he be faced with that task.

Your 3rd example, the double of an opponent’s NT follows the general principle of any double of 1NT, in the absence of a previous discussion, should be for penalties. Years ago, when rubber bridge clubs were very much in evidence around the USA and other countries, simple principles such as the above were known and remembered by rubber bridge players so that when no special discussion took place most everyone knew what was expected.

While today, rubber bridge clubs have generally switched to tournament (duplicate) bridge, but for old timers, a new partnership would then adopt the same rules for those experienced ones who just drop in a club without a partner, but ready to play with someone else who also is dropping by.

Of course, the above advice may now be obsolete, causing new thinking, but somehow, since I happen to think (and prefer) that doubling NT is almost always for business (in the absence of a previous discussion), I would, no doubt, expect a new partner to think the same.

Good luck, but better to discuss with partner, than to take the above advice.