Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 25th, 2015

My partner sometimes leads a singleton trump on opening lead. I thought it was a bridge maxim to avoid such leads. What are your thoughts here?

Guy Fawkes, Pottsville, Pa.

A singleton trump lead is occasionally the least of all evils, but one steers clear of trying to pick up partner's vulnerable queen or jack. So it isn't a lead one would seek out. Still, some auctions suggest a trump lead regardless of one's hand. 1 ♠ -1 NT-2  – Pass would call for a diamond lead, almost no matter what one had in the suit.

Could you please give me your advice on the following hand. My partner opened one spade, and my RHO overcalled two clubs. I made a negative double holding ♠ 7-5,  A-J-10-7-2,  Q-10-4-3, ♣ 8-4. My partner rebid two no-trump with a balanced hand, and went two down. Do you agree with my call?

Ray-Gun, Montreal

I absolutely agree with your call. You are minimum but have the perfect shape for your action; nothing your partner can do could upset you except rebid two no-trump. But the odds surely favor him taking some other call, since even if he only has five spades he may be able to rebid his suit.

My partner and I play keycard Blackwood. But are there situations where a jump to four no-trumps should show the minors, or be ace-asking as opposed to keycard?

Aces and Spaces, Cleveland, Ohio

Some people play the opening four no-trumps as asking for specific aces rather than regular Blackwood. You cue-bid an ace if you have one, and bid five-clubs if you don't. Five no-trumps shows two aces, six clubs shows the club ace. Equally, if you play inverted minors or Jacoby two no-trumps, you can use the direct response of four no-trumps as an ace-ask not keycard, if you want.

Where do you stand on the spectrum of responding to an opening bid with fewer than six HCP? What are the issues about the form of scoring, vulnerability and position to take into account?

Fast and Loose, Laredo, Texas

You may stretch to respond light to a minor-suit opening, either to keep the opponents out or to find a better fit. You'd be less inclined to respond light facing a fourth-in-hand opener, or a major-suit since you at least know that partner has length in the suit bid. Generally, when in doubt, bid, I say.

Can you tell me whether you recommend playing a different defense against strong and weak no-trumps? And what is the cut-off for one as opposed to the other?

Coming through the Rye, Springfield, Mass.

Any defense to a weak no-trump, one promising no more than a minimum of 13 HCP, must start with a penalty double. Landy is as good as most but Hamilton — also known as Cappelletti — works fine too. Against strong no-trump one can consider giving up the penalty double – except against third-seat strong no-trumps. Visit Bridge Guys for more information about the options.

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Bill CubleyFebruary 8th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Some ask why I prefer to play Cappelletti instead of Hamilton. Fred Hamilton and I are both originally from Detroit and there is that connection in favor of Hamilton.

I have been kissed by Shannon Cappelletti and I do not want to be kissed by Fred Hamilton is what it gets down to.

I played in West Palm Beach at a tournament Shannon managed. The desk staff comped me free drinks for mentioning her name and gave me a room near hers. When she saw me she walked over and hugged me with a quick kiss. A successful tournament without playing a hand!

I did play well enough for partner Barnet Shenkin to say he would write up a hand I declared in a tight match. We won by 20 but I declared a couple of overbids to win 23 IMPS while Maggie Shenkin and Marilyn defended well. I love playing well to win a match for the team.

bobby wolffFebruary 8th, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Hi Bill,

Obviously you are a people person and not a master point chaser. And especially admire very worthwhile, do for others, type people like Shannon, who earns her way, every day of her life.

In any group of people there are too few of those. Shannon, although our paths have not crossed except for smiles when we pass each other and since my traveling bridge days are about over, sadly for me, there does not appear many of those precious episodes left.

Add your Shannon kiss to your many continuing bonuses to your bridge career.

Between that highlight, your Barnet offer of writing up a hand, and the overall result of “winning a match for the team”, your fortunes are peaking.

You are, of course, not alone in getting a significant “high” for rising to the occasion and no doubt, look forward to your next contribution.

It is amazing what life has to offer and especially to people like you who, in turn, enlighten others.

It is always nice to hear your tales and loving viewpoints. Competitive bridge would be better off with more of those stories, rather than IMO raising fees, dues and all things greedy, coming at a time when Horn Lake has unnecessarily and dangerously exaggerating our need to raise our net worth to a wholly, IMO, ridiculous level.

Call it what you may, but to me to do so, is to flaunt total greed, (where is all that money to eventually go?) with no special purpose and discourage our high-level game development, instead of going the direction to permanently secure the future of the high-level game, the distinguishing feature of what makes our sensational game both newsworthy and worth an eventual inclusion to, at the very least, a significant place in the “mind sports Olympiad” with even more glamorous achievements in the offing.

Isn’t that more productive than nursing our older membership through their dotage, instead of standing in the way of the Western Hemisphere, primarily Canada and the USA, from being very competitive (with the rest of the world, especially Europe and China) in the immediate years to follow?

Electricity, translated into intensity, is what any competitive sport demands and very high-level bridge is our only viable vehicle to achieve it.

Bill, stay healthy and positive and above all, be a great ambassador of continuing to write about the special social aspects, along with world competition, which our game should also be about and what apparently is now on the table with, very sadly, almost no chance to achieve it, without our parent organization taking the lead with that process.

slarFebruary 9th, 2015 at 2:54 am

One of my great privileges was to be in the same unit as Mike Cappelletti and to hear a lecture on the convention from the man himself. He is quick to point out that if the convention backfires for -800, that’s when it is called Hamilton. (Naturally this is what happened to me the first and only time I ever used it and I’ve never even seen it happen again since.)

My greatest disappointment in bridge was that I never took the opportunity to introduce myself to him personally before he passed away a little over a year ago. Since then I have made a concerted effort to introduce myself to folks like Steve Robinson and Bill Cole who are active in the DC area. I can safely say that I have never had anything but a positive experience with a top-flight player.

bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Hi Slar,

Thanks for your positive comments.

It is also indeed gratifying to hear your take on your relationships with top-flighted players. Tournament bridge, being very competitive, has had some contentious moments in years past, but any mind game where the competitors tee it up against one another, is probably to be expected to not be all peaches and cream.

However if indeed, we can keep those ugly episodes to be restricted to the bridge tables and not overflow to social situations we likely should be satisfied with that half a loaf.

In any event thanks for your kind words about all three players you mention, to which I heartily agree about not only their behavior, but also their long time consistent pro bono contributions to the bridge world.