Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Recently I opened one club with: ♠ 7-3,  K-Q-10-5,  A-Q, ♣ Q-10-9-3-2. After an overcall of one spade to my left, my partner doubled and my RHO raised to two spades. Am I supposed to bid three hearts now – if so, how would I bid with a better hand should three hearts show this hand?

End Around, Kenosha, Wis.

One does not have to compete to three hearts with all balanced minimums – and the more defensive your hand, the more inclined you should be to pass two spades. Here your extra shape allows you to stretch to bid three hearts. But make the club two the spade two, and I would pass.

Would you advocate playing take-out doubles in response to the opponents’ overcall of your partner’s strong no-trump? How precisely does this apply?

Spitting Cobra, Dallas, Texas

A simple enough style is to play ‘system on’ over a double of one no-trump or a two club overcall. For all other intervention, all first doubles by the partnership are takeout, all subsequent doubles (or first doubles after a suit bid) are penalty. This rule also applies to opener’s actions.

My partner referred to a ‘free bid’ in response to a take-out double, meaning bidding in competition when not forced to do so. For example in fourth seat after hearing the auction start one club to my left, double from my partner, and one no-trump to my right, should I pass or bid with: ♠ 9-3,  Q-8-7-5-3,  K-8-4, ♣ 10-7-4?

Zen Master, Worcester, Mass.

This hand is just worth a bid. I’d be buoyed by the fact that my failure to cuebid, jump, or double one no-trump limits the hand a little. But without the fifth heart I would surely pass, especially if the vulnerability was against me.

Do you believe an opening preempt at the three-level is favorite to deliver seven cards? How do the vulnerability or position influencing whether to preempt and how high?

Flying to the Moon, Elmira, N.Y.

While a three-level preempt would normally deliver seven cards, you may upgrade a six-card suit in clubs, or any other six-carder when non-vulnerable. In first or third chair you may be influenced by hands with good suits (especially those without the ace, but with internal solidity). Equally, when vulnerable or in second seat a seven-card suit may look more like six if headed by only one top honor.

Can you comment on how to evaluate the following hand after partner opens one club, then jumps to four diamonds as a splinter after you respond one heart? You hold: ♠ Q-8-2,  A-J-9-2,  9-5-3, ♣ K-9-4.

Short Shrift, Portland, Ore.

This hand feels too good to sign off, but certainly not good enough to take control or drive to slam. I think I would make one slam try, by bidding five clubs and respecting my partner’s five heart sign-off. If partner bids five diamonds I cannot go to slam on my own, I think.

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BarbaraMay 3rd, 2015 at 7:30 pm

When I first learned to play, I was taught that a double over an opening 1NT was for penalty. Has that changed, and, if so, why? Thanks.

Bobby WolffMay 3rd, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Hi Barbara,

In the absence of an agreement by the overcallers to the contrary, a double by the opening NTer’s LHO is for penalty and usually tends to show about the same (or sometimes slightly better) as the values the 1NTer is supposed to hold. (in simple terms about 15-17 when that is also the range of the opening 1NT bidder).

Bridge logic would suggest that the player over the NT with his honors behind the NT opener would be well placed for his side, so that the partner of the doubler, holding very little but balanced, should also pass and let his partner take responsibility for setting the hand.

However if I, as that weak holding partner had a five card (or certainly six card) suit with few, if any, HCP’s I would bid two of that suit rather than let my partner wage a one person battle to take seven tricks.

Only the practical explanation of what our wonderful game sometimes forces upon us.