Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Several years ago I saw a suggestion from you that it may be right to open in first or second seat on a balanced hand with 11 points, consisting of two aces and a king. I have been doing so ever since – admittedly with mixed results. Could you please comment on whether I understood you right, or whether there are other factors to consider.

Stepping Out, Lakeland, Fla.

Opening a balanced 11-count is not mandatory even with great controls, though I might open for the lead with ace-kingfourth in a minor. With any real distributional shape in the hand, I believe 2½ honor tricks constitute a valid opening bid. Non-vulnerable, you want to get your blow in first.

I find the question of whether to advance facing an overcall especially hard. For example, holding ♠ 9-2, Q-7-6-2, J-2, ♣ A-Q-7-4-3 should you keep the action open in the fourth seat after hearing one diamond to your left, and one spade from partner, when your RHO passes? If so, what would you bid?

Lying Low, Kingston, Ontario

I think this hand has just too much to pass here. Responding two clubs may get partner off to the right lead if you end up defending, and you can surely stand a retreat to spades from your partner. I do not like the idea of raising with this particular spade holding, and the diamond stopper is too feeble for a call at no-trump.

What is a weak no-trump, and how can a bridge player tell if a bidder is opening with a weak or a strong no-trump?

Square Basher, Selma, Ala.

One can play weak, or 12-14 no-trump “instead of” a strong notrump not “as well as”. Some people do play weak no-trump when non-vulnerable, and strong when vulnerable, but one cannot play both at the same time. In duplicate it is customary to announce the range of your partner’s no-trump call each time it is opened — so it should not come as a surprise to the opponents.

We can’t believe we disagree on such a simple sequence after playing 2/1 for 14 years, but we need advice regarding a response of two clubs to one diamond. Has responder denied a major? Should opener always show a major at his second turn? And should opener rebid diamonds if he can?

John and Dee, Salinas, Calif.

There is no ‘right’ answer. My personal preference is for opener to rebid no-trump when balanced, with or without a major, to use calls in a major as natural, guaranteeing long diamonds and some extras, and to raise with four (occasionally three) trumps. A rebid in diamonds shows at least five and an unbalanced hand.

When should you try to find partner’s suit, rather than leading your own, against no-trump? Suppose the bidding has gone one notrump, three no-trumps and you have to lead from: ♠ 7, 10-9-7-4-3, Q-8-7, ♣ 9-8-6-2. Since you have little chance to both set up and cash out your anemic heart suit, does it make sense to lead a spade, since partner is likely to have five or more?

Unselfish, Macon, Ga.

Leading short/weak suits with bad hands against notrump is a reasonable policy. But leading a singleton seems wrong, since if this would set the hand, partner might have doubled to get me to lead my short suit. With a 2-4-4-3 Yarborough, a spade is certainly not silly. But on your example hand I’d guess to lead hearts, I think.

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ClarksburgOctober 11th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Good Morning Mr. Wolff
This is related to John and Dee’s question about the 2/1 GF auction starting 1D > 2C:
Assume a Pair plays the starting sequence 1D>2C as GF. Now suppose the minor-suit holdings within each hand are switched. Now the Opening bid will be 1C, Responder will have a holding worth a GF, but apparently with no way to show it directly.
These two combinations of hands should be equally likely to occur, but there’s a GF available over 1D but not over 1C.
This “asymmetry” doesn’t seem to make sense to me. For now, Partner and I have abandoned the weak jump raise as ineffective and often unnecessary. We play 1m > 2m as a standard single raise, 1m > 3m as an invitational raise, and 1m> JS to other minor as GF
Any suggestions on how best to bid weak, invitational and GF hands over either minor-suit opening?

bobby wolffOctober 11th, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You are seriously in trouble. Why? you may ask, well simply because you tend to prefer exactly to what I switched to years ago, and have never even been tempted to switch either back or to the current process du jour.

The anomaly of 2 clubs over 1 diamond as opposed to what happens when those two suits are reversed should just be charged to the way things are rather than the inconsistency of having to treat those two suits differently if reversed. No harm, no foul, probably is the only rational explanation.

Similarities in style often may provoke the thought of what Eddie Murphy previously starred in, “Changing Places”. Of course, some, possibly including you, may decline only because of our differences in ages.

Only speculating and again as in the first paragraph, please do not take offense and only regard it as no harm, no foul.

Getting back to your question only proves that learning to bid at bridge is quite different than giving birth, instead of the baby just jumping out of the same place, bridge bidding has had to adjust to different strokes for different folks or, in this case, bridge blokes.

As alluded to earlier, I agree with all of your mentioned bridge bidding conventions and no doubt your improvisations, keeping in mind that I prefer 2 way checkback Stayman over a 1NT rebid, taking some former natural type rebids by the responder away and therefore
suggesting jumping to 3 of a minor over that 1NT rebid to be played as “hands off” no more bidding please.

In any event those sequences are low frequency, but need to be discussed in order to ward off a potential disaster, or at the very least, an occasional long thought before acting.

The above is for weak hands, with invitational to start with 2 clubs and strong with 2 diamonds over that 1NT rebid after 1 club or 1 diamond openings.