Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 12th, 2015

I frequently find it hard to judge how far to compete with a little extra shape (or high cards). For example, holding: ♠ 9-4, J-10-8-7-2, Q-10-6-4, ♣ K-3 you hear partner open one diamond. You respond heart and when LHO doubles, partner raises to two hearts and RHO bids two spades. Would you bid three hearts at any or all vulnerabilities?

Jumping Jack, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

At all forms of scoring and vulnerability I would surely bid three hearts – the secondary fit means I can’t be seriously damaged in my contract. I think even if my minors were switched I would raise to three hearts, expecting to have nine trumps between us (or to be facing three decent hearts with some side shape). This sort of hand emphasizes that there is some merit to support doubles so that partner’s raise guarantees four trumps.

What convention(s) do you suggest for competing over enemy strong 1 NT opening bids? I’m trying to find the optimum combination of preempting the opponents and not going beyond our own safety level.

The Dark Knight, Augusta, Ga.

Of the simple defenses, Landy works fine by me, but in the last decade Meckwell and Woolsey have gained a lot of traction. Both methods let you bid on a lot of hands, which is the real aim of any convention while giving up the penalty double. A good discussion can be found here, along with how to counter the opponents’ intervention.

What rules would you impose on the appropriate shapes for opening a strong no-trump when within the high-card constraints? For example with: ♠ K-9-6-4, A-Q, A-J, ♣ Q-7-4-3-2 would you open one no-trump to protect the redsuit holdings, or would you bid one club?

Gub-Gub, Grand Forks, N.D.

I avoid opening one no-trump with a 5-4 pattern and a four- or five-card spade suit, since either way I have an easy rebid. I admit today’s hand is very close to the exception that proves the rule. With 5-4 shape I open my long suit unless I have a minimum for the call with five of a minor, plus a four-card red suit. With any 17count I prefer to reverse, or open a five-card major if I have one.

In your Sunday column with ♠ A-7-3-2, A-5-3, Q-9-5, ♣ A-4-2 after opening one club and hearing partner respond one heart, you wrote that you prefer a rebid of one no-trump. I have been taught that you should not pass up a four-card major at the one level because your partner will assume you do not have it and you will miss a 4-4 major fit. Have I been told wrong?

Gil by Association, Panama City, Fla.

I think that with this precise pattern you have discretion as to whether to bid spades or rebid one no-trump (a heart raise with this shape would be rare). With 4-3-2-4 or 4-2-3-4 shape I would normally rebid one spade, I agree. Here, though, the quality of my spades and my minors will influence whether I want to risk losing the spades or not.

Holding: ♠ 8-6-2, A-Q-J, A-K-9-7-4, ♣ Q-10 I heard my RHO open one club. Could you weigh up the choices for me — I assume pass is not one of them between a double, or a call of either one diamond, or one no-trump.

R2-D2, Saint John, New Brunswick

You must bid, and there are merits to all the three actions you describe. One diamond gets your long suit in but it makes it harder to show your extras. Double gets most of the values across but I’d rather have at least one four-card major. One no-trump is not so risky and you can always run to two diamonds I suppose, if doubled. Additionally, it does show your range nicely, so it gets my vote. They often don’t lead clubs when they should, on this auction.

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ClarksburgJuly 26th, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Mr Wolff,
Further to Dark Knight’s question, and your answer, about competing against the enemy’s 1NT:
I checked out the linked article and saw Mel’s (Colchamiro) Rule of Eight i.e. don’t act unless the combined length of your two longest suits less your losing tricks (According to Losing Trick Count) comes to 2 or more.
To date I have been sizing it up just in a general way without any “rule” e.g. to compete with a two-suiter call I want decent and roughly equal playing strength in both suits.
Can you comment on the merit and need for a more quantitative and structured “rule” ?

Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

While I think I have proven myself not shy in explaining what I think and why, when it comes time to comment on subjects like quantitative and structured “rules” I am inclined to literally pass.

My reason is that this specific exercise, at least to me, involves inherent experience which in turn determines viability and therefore action or not. When Qxx in a side suit is described as only 2 losers, that to me is folly, but QJ10, yes, but even so that eventual trick may be ruffed away but what a difference the jack makes when matching up with whatever partner may add and, of course, no threat of TOCM TM in the air (sorry Jim2).

However at the death of this discussion is a huge bellow (by me) of how in the heck do I know, translated (when I am or have been at the table) into against some opponents will likely be aggressive and against others more passive. Also it depends on who my partner is and how well he or she defends.

No doubt most if not all the presenters are very good at educating what they think are worthwhile gauges of what to do. Since I tend to swing and sway I do not think I am qualified to give a conscientious answer to your well addressed question.

Personally I bid a lot and will continue to do so, but in good spirit do not think it wise to suggest taking a chance of being thought of as outrageously aggressive and worst of all pass on that possible description to others who will not be able to prevent the “boo birds” from strutting their stuff and worst of all, being out there in mass.

Anyway good luck on your quest, but words like quantitative and structured “rule” or “rules” is not of major interest to me. Just Win Baby!

jim2July 26th, 2015 at 1:52 pm


Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

shouldn’t that be or not at the mention of your bete noire?

Hi Bobby,

On the bidding topic, though, there does seem to be a willingness to bid more on less over 1NT. Time to make doubles more penalty oriented here, I wonder.



Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2015 at 2:43 pm

OK, the scowling and devilish smiley faces didn’t show! 🙁

Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your smiley is no doubt to call attention to the year 2166, exactly 1100 years after the battle of Hastings in England, not yet the UK when the bridge bidding went 1NT on the main actors right, 2 spades by Jed III with s. AKQJ10876, h. xx, d. xx, c. x Dbl by LHO, described as TO P, P, P. The defense took the first 5 defensive tricks with three side aces and two red kings and then from the right came another random card (whatever it happened to be but it wasn’t a spade). Jed paused and immediately knew he was a dead man (“Poor Jed is dead”, a colonies song from one of their low income states, Oklahoma). Whatever he trumped it with wouldn’t work, if it was only the 8 it would be overtrumped with likely the singleton 9, but if with the 10, then all five of the remaining trumps would be with the NT bidder. Down 1 -200 and another loss using the old Butler method developed years ago in Europe losing IMPs, B-A-M and matchpoints.

Such a disgrace with the only bright spot conceivable then happening when a kibitzer spoke up and said Jim2’s disease lives on with no cure and for all these years, remotely in sight.

I would normally now relate what the opponents hands actually were, but as we all know that would only depend on what the declarer did at trick six. One fact to remain constant is that the opponents could not make anything, missing all the other queens and jacks plus of course, bad breaks.

Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt true to bid, especially when two suited hands are held (5-5 or greater) since with only one suit fairly long all bad things can happen and often do, but the odds change radically when two suits are instead in one hand, making it odds on when one hand announces a balanced hand with a 1NT opening that opposite a 5-5 that there will be at least 3 card support or longer for one or the other. And don’t forget, having combined trump length in one suit will more likely, by the possession of another long suit, be able to set that suit up for added tricks with relatively no high card values to fall back on.

That percentage, no doubt swings the pendulum greatly in favor of bidding which, no doubt, is good news of the highest degree for some of us with suicidal bridge tendencies.

But sadly, unlike as it was for the long ago guy named Jim2, nothing will be named after only us.

slarJuly 26th, 2015 at 4:34 pm

My “Rule” – when unbalanced, look for an excuse to bid. When balanced (including semi-balanced), look for an excuse to pass.

I dislike LTC because of the different ways you need to bastardize it to make it work. Aces vs. queens? Adjustment. 5-4-2-2? Adjustment. Just count how many tricks you think you will take in your own hand and guess whether you think it is worth the risk given the opponents and the vulnerability.

Bobby WolffJuly 26th, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Hi Slar,

I agree with everything you do not like about LTC rules and also with your tendencies toward balanced and unbalanced.

However it frightens me to even think about anywhere near the number of tricks I intend to take. Let the bidding, with the help of Dame Fortune determine that, informing me later when the dummy comes down the Mission Impossible or perhaps only Improbable to which I have contracted.

Even though my description must appear at least somewhat surreal to some, believe it or not, it is very true, since I can’t remember the last time, during the bidding, I even thought about what some have zeroed in on.

However, obviously when slams are being considered, I am hyper involved in trying to avoid a quick set, but other than that, trying to single out losers and therefore predict games or worse part scores, is to me, an insurmountable task and, like making an oral agreement, not worth the paper it is printed on.

Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Hi Slar,

Most of my partners would suggest that my bidding ties up with your unbalanced suggestion – but would then add a question. Is it the player or the hand shape that you meant when you talk about unbalanced? There again, I did once coin the term “Front row lemming” as well as being prepared to redouble at pairs as a total bluff, so I suspect I’m guilty as charged.


ClarksburgJuly 27th, 2015 at 2:01 am

Relieved to see that this thread actually went somewhere useful!!
It all flowed from the embedded link in the reply to The Dark Knight’s question. That link led to an item on “Rule of Eight” which referred to Losing Trick Count.
The vague and wishy-washy terms like quantitative, structured rules can’t be pinned on any author / teacher. They were just my attempt to frame the question.

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2015 at 4:33 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Perhaps I can add a tiny bit more bridge logic to what I feel, but haven’t found a proper way to present it. Suppose a player has, as a potential overcaller two five card suits, both majors with K109xx in spades but only K5432 in hearts.

Of course, depending on other factors such as the position of this potential overcaller, let’s assume after a strong NT (15-17) has been opened by RHO and a major suit TO is made by this hand. If partner has a magic Axxxx in one suit and Ax in the other he would be wise after jumping to game in his long suit to have his length opposite the K5432 rather than the K109xx if only to not need as much to establish that heaven sent side suit in order to score up one’s few high cards into a making game.

In other words, dame fortune rather than skill or genius will be the deciding factor in determining the winning from the almost winning.

And following that statement it is my contention that this type of playing luck continues to follow our game, making it, in addition to a bidder’s game, a competition which cries out for reasons to bid rather than to meekly pass.

As a final guess I will say that when two very good bridge teams compete the bidding, play and defense is of relatively high standards, but for kibitzers to watch they will see down the middle actions with relatively few card play errors.

However when two world class teams collide, the above will also happen, but in addition the overall contest will be filled with bold creativity, aggressive actions and exquisite card reading based on everything possible, including tempo of the opponents, luring their worthy opponents into traps and gambits not often seen, nor for that matter commonplace.

In other words it is difficult to explain, but while participating or even breathlessly watching all worthy kibitzers will know it when they see it.

No special rules, no outer space lucky nor unlucky happenings, but only a steady stream of high level technical bids and plays based on bridge logic designed at that moment to succeed.