Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Could you clarify for me what sort of values you would need to back into the following 'live' auction. Say you pass over a one club opening bid, but then after LHO bids one spade, and RHO raises to two spades, you step in with a double. Does this show a good hand or just balancing values? And is it take-out for the two unbid suits, or a three-suited hand short in spades?

Re-entry Permit, Fredericksburg, Va.

This sort of sequence provokes much discussion. Since your LHO could be about to jump to four spades, I think you need a good hand to come in here. So a three-suiter with full opening values is most likely, since two no-trump might show the unbid suits. In balancing seat, of course, I'd expect this double to be two-suited, and not necessarily a good hand.

Can you discuss the technical merits in a reasonable standard pair game of the third-seat opening of one spade as opposed to one club with: ♠ A-Q-3-2,  Q-5-3,  K-10, ♣ J-9-4-2? How important is vulnerability in the equation?

Planning Ahead, Albuquerque, N.M.

In third seat the logic of opening a lead-directing major suit on hands where you intend to pass the response, whatever it is, does make sense. Here you are not ashamed of opening one club and rebidding one spade or one no-trump, while the spades are not quite good enough to look forward to a lead from shortage – or a raise on three. Change the spades spots to include the 10 and you'd persuade me.

I've read many snooty comments about ace-asking gadgets, specifically about Gerber, though many experts seem to favor cuebidding over Blackwood. Where do you stand?

Bashful Basher, Levittown, Pa.

Two points: cuebidding requires judgment, Blackwood requires the ability to count up to (or down from) four, and even keycard Blackwood only involves five keycards and the trump queen. That said, don't ever use Blackwood or Gerber if you can calculate that you won't know what to do over a normal response. I'm not as concerned as some about asking for aces with two losers in a side-suit; the opponents don't always cash them…

In first chair with ♠ A-9-7-2,  7,  A-Q-10-5-2, ♣ K-Q-4 I opened one diamond, and heard my partner respond one spade. Without intervention this feels like a simple bid of three spades. But in fact I heard my RHO skip to three hearts. Was I right to bid three spades now, or should I have done more?

Competing Forces, Edmonton, Alberta

As you correctly imply, a three spade bid in competition might be distinctly shaded by comparison one in an uncontested auction. That might persuade you to jump to four spades now, since your partner could reasonably assume that you would compete to three spades with a balanced minimum opener with four spades. Clearly you do have a much better hand than that.

I believe you are not the world's biggest fan of playing inverted minors — and if so how forcing should they be, to game, or for one round?

Raising Arizona, Corpus Christi, Texas

I'm not opposed to playing inverted minors although I'm not their greatest fan, and do not play them in competition. I think at teams one should play the raise as forcing to three of the minor, but at pairs if opener or responder rebids two no-trump or three of the agreed minor after the Inverted Minor, I play this can be passed.

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ClarksburgDecember 21st, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Good morning Mr.Wolff,
Your answer to Bashful Basher was most helpful.
To date, Partner and I have let ourselves be bound by the “never with a small doubleton” restriction as per typical intermediate textbooks and teachers. You’ve now provided us a green light!
Seems it would also make sense to see a really bright green light at Teams when Partner will declare, but perhaps an amber light at Pairs when you will declare.
Does that make sense?

bobby wolffDecember 21st, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You seem to be excellent at tempering and therefore expressing controversial bridge back and forth discussions with the use of your coloring book.

In no way am I poking fun nor attempting to discourage the use of proper ways to reach slams, especially in the use of various forms of Blackwood and Gerber ace asking.

Obviously the important caveat in the use of all ace asking bids is to know ahead of time that if no more than one ace (or key card) is missing you, the ace asker, is duty bound to bid a slam once that information is disclosed. Absolutely no exceptions (which I can think of) to that rule (unless extraneous mind games are in the room). Also if no aces nor key cards are missing it is accepted protocol to follow with 5NT which indicates to partner that between the partnership all controls are held.

Yes, it is barely possible at matchpoints that this last caveat may have an exception so that the checking for kings may make a difference in playing 6NT rather than a lesser scoring slam which, in turn, could result in a much better board. However, this flaw, (or whatever you wish to call it) can cause more harm than good if not previously discussed .

However, outstanding slam bidding is a great necessity for any aspiring bridge partnership, without which, one can never consider his partnership even close to good enough.

High-level rules for bidding are evident with all great or about to be, rising bridge partnerships. However the game itself is still the master and sometimes, bridge being what it is, including opponents who often take crucial bidding room away, a lesser of evils decision needs to be, (by keen and versatile bridge minds) substituted in order to keep up with consistently good enough results required as the bottom line.

Your last statement about different colored lights at Teams and Pairs makes sense, but I would slightly change that to the quality of the opposition rather than, or at least at the same time as Teams and Pairs when psychology is involved concerning the opponents possibly considering taking an eventual sacrifice at the 12 or 13 trick level.

For that battle, sometimes the opponents should be fed false reads, as long as the partner of the legitimate slam bidder doesn’t become the victim.

“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” is all part of the very high level game when two really (very rare) “world class partnerships” collide.

Jeff SDecember 21st, 2014 at 4:56 pm

You recommended 4S to Competing Forces. I was all set to cue-bid 4H in support of spades to let partner know where I stood and let him decide between 4S and trying for more. I thought 4S might be interpreted as an attempt with four spades to shut down the bidding before West could speak.

So, is 4H an overbid? Or is 4S a stronger bid than I thought? As always, thank you!

bobby wolffDecember 21st, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Hi Jeff,

Four spades is a stronger bid than you thought, so 4 hearts would then be an overbid.

Competing Forces only wanted to know what the practical rules suggest, when (and if) the opponents enter the bidding.

Of course the answer becomes differentiating the changed scenario by allowing in competition what would be a distinct overbid of 3 spades in a non competitive auction.

As I am sure you can understand, bridge, always an imperfect attempted science, must change with it, otherwise bridge might become an Alice in Wonderland.

The whole concept, although confusing at first, is merely an attempt to make the best of an otherwise confusing enigma.

Finally, we must give up preemptive tactics, such as 4 spades being an attempt to shut down the bidding, since once the opponents describe their hands (by bidding something) that possible advantage is no more.

Thanks for your to the point question.