Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Can you define what is meant by a responsive double? Do they only apply after opening bids are doubled, or do they apply after overcalls?

Granny Smith, Rockford, Ill.

Since you asked a technical question, I'll define the terms precisely. A responsive double applies only after an opening bid is doubled and that suit is raised. Fourth hand's double suggests both majors if a minor is raised, and it suggests hearts if spades have been raised. But it denies spades if hearts have been raised, since you would bid them if you had them. After the opponents raise a suit around an overcall, double is takeout, just not technically a responsive double. Call it fourth suit or competitive.

What would you bid when you hear one club to your left, passed round to you, and you hold: ♠ A-Q-3-2,  Q-5-3,  K-10, ♣ J-9-4-2?

Keeping Mum, Troy, N.Y.

I would balance with a call of one no-trump, despite the possibility that my LHO is very strong, or that we are rescuing the opponents from an embarrassing spot. More often, either we or they could make a contract here – and sometimes both sides might make their contracts, or you can make game. The range for a balancing one no-trump is 11-14 here.

My partner and I are trying to establish what is the best way to continue after our weak-two gets doubled for take-out. We have heard of a convention called McCabe, but what does a redouble mean, and should new suits be rescues, promise a fit, or be lead-directing?

Having a Fit, Peru, Ind.

After your partner's weak-two is doubled – so that you do not rate to be on lead — redouble is strong, new suits to play at the two level, but are lead-directing at the three-level with at least a partial fit. Raises remain preemptive, while jumps show real suits plus a fit for partner. That lets a call of two no-trumps transfer to three clubs. This lets you get out in your own suit, or invite in partner's suit if followed by supporting partner. Incidentally, I suggest that after your partner opens or overcalls with a preempt, new suits by you should also be fit and lead-directing. Don't rescue yourself till they double for penalty.

You recently ran a hand where you held: ♠ 6-5-2,  7-5-4-2,  A-10, ♣ K-J-7-6. You heard one diamond to your left, doubled by your partner. What I would need, in addition to my eight points and the diamond doubleton, to bid two hearts, rather than one? Does the fact that I am a passed hand have any bearing, or do I still need 10 points or so?

Gail Warning, Saint John, New Brunswick

A two heart response to the double is a real invitation – so using this hand as a template I'd jump with two hearts with the same hand but hearts such as J10xx or better. Use a nine-count with either a five-card suit or chunky intermediates or a second suit as a typical sound minimum.

What guidelines do you suggest for when you should use Stayman in response to a one no-trump or two no-trump opening? What if you have a four-card major and the values for game but a fully balanced hands?

Goal Tender, Palm Springs, Calif.

When you have a balanced hand, especially in a 4-3-3-3 pattern, with surplus values for game and a poor four-card major, consider playing no-trumps not a suit. The tipping point may be if you have soft values (typically the minor honors) in your short suits. The logic for this is that your hand may offer no ruffing values, since your queens and jacks may solidify partner's holding.

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David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 10:11 am


AQ98 J1074
73 64
QJ76 1098
K107 9863


In another bridge column, declarer was playing 4H against the lead of the DQ. S should duck the opening lead, draw trump, finesse the CJ, eliminate D & play CA and throw W in with the CK, endplaying him. He also said that if S wins the opening lead, he can endplay W by running all of his trumps. I don’t think so. If W discards SQx and DJx I believe W can avoid being endplayed. Am I right?

David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 10:26 am

Sorry, I meant S discards SQx & DJ.

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Hi David,

No, but barely.

If declarer then comes down to a 5 card ending with Kx spade and Qxx club in hand he merely leads a low spade out of hand, taking care to cash the diamonds before he leads the 5th trump from hand and West sitting with Ax spade and K10x in clubs is cooked.

For all the bridge purists interested, I guess that would be caused because for the defense to concede their club trick the declarer would require West to be on lead rather than two leads from East which would restore their club trick.

This combination probably began in a long time ago book called “Sure Tricks” which presented what I learned to think of as ridiculous bridge puzzles, although at that tender time , learning bridge combinations like you are very adept in solving, and was the order of the day and for 40 million then bridge players in the USA, rather than only the 8 million left in our country today.

However, since you David not I, are the guru on this kind of stuff, better check it out.

For the record, while bridge puzzles and, for that matter, all forms of puzzles, word and other IQ testers are great challenges, in bridge it is much more important to spend one’s gray matter learning where all the important cards are in both offense and defense, whenever the evidence (it happens much more than most realize) points that way, made much more evident by less than great players by often their telltale tempo during the bidding, before the opening lead, on defense or as declarer. As the play unfolds, a concentrated player can then mentally refer back to the tempo and be enlightened.

JohnFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 5:50 pm

For this hand: ♠ A-Q-3-2, ♥ Q-5-3, ♦ K-10, ♣ J-9-4-2 would you still balance with 1NT with IMP scoring?

I’ve been advised to be very careful about balancing playing IMPs. Playing matchpoints I would balance as you have indicated no problem.

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Hi John,

It is not my desire to be controversial, but there is much more reason to pass this hand in matchpoints, rather than IMPs since clubs may be far from our opponents best contract and those relatively small amounts mean more in matchpoints.

In IMPs since the amount of gain comes into play, it would depend a bit on the vulnerability, meaning if the opponents are vulnerable it may be best to let them play in their possible 3-2 club fit rather than bail them out and let my LHO with his possible many HCPs still go set instead of an easy plus somewhere else.

However, it then becomes possible, especially if our side is vulnerable, to still have a 3NT contract available (and also perhaps 4 spades) but partner’s club length prevented him from bidding the first time.

Also it may be worth noting that when only one defensive hand has strength it is easier to make more tricks as declarer since, in addition to that declarer knowledge, that defender will usually have a harder time getting his defensive tricks in.

David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 7:39 pm

I think you misunderstood my question. If S wins the first D, he can’t clear D without letting E in twice, once in D & once in S. If S ducks the DQ, then, yes, we get to a 5-card ending, but if he wins the opening lead, it’s a 6-card ending.

bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Hi David,

Sorry, I thought the duck of the first diamond was a given so since he didn’t and it became a 6 card ending, I certainly agree with you.

The good news is that the unusual give and take involving some common card combinations, e.g Qxx opposite AJx can be more carefully explained, especially the difference between being on lead with the king in front of the AJx instead of having partner being able to (in effect) take two finesses through the AJ to establish one trick instead of none.

To my knowledge not much has been written about that particular concept taken from different perspectives. Probably too boring for the average reader.

alan wertheimerFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 8:09 pm

I want your advice on a hand not discussed on Sunday. You hold XX JTX AKQXX KXX

You open 1D. Partner bids 1H. What is the best rebid? 1N, 2D, 2H?

bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2015 at 5:24 am

Hi Alan,

Good players are in two camps:

1. 2 diamond’s, then 1NT, finally 2 hearts.

2. Mine is 2 hearts 100%, 2 diamonds 40%, 1NT 30%.

True one may have to play a 7 card heart fit, but if so, never higher than the 2 level. In case of a close decision, supporting partner ranks very high, if for no other reason than when partner’s suit is not chosen, the negative inference is always, he does not have four trumps. Also when partner is weak but has a 5 card major to respond with, it is comforting to know that partner will be inclined to raise with 3 enabling the partnership to sometimes play the hand one level lower than their opponents.

Good luck, but consult with others who you respect.

bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2015 at 5:28 am

Hi Alan,

The negative inference mentioned in the major paragraph should be “he does not have three trumps”, a much greater message to send.

Sorry for the gaffe.