Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Please tell me what is the right call for me to make at my second turn with the following hand? I opened one diamond and my partner responded one spade. What was I to do next with: ♠ A-Q-4-2, 2, A-K-J-6-3-2, ♣ Q-3?

Power to the People, Mitchell, S.D.

You have enough to drive to game of course – bidding three spades would be cowardly and taking control with Blackwood a wild overbid, while a jump to four spades should be a balanced hand of 18-19 or so. So I’d settle for one of the following: either a splinter jump to four hearts — unambiguous, I think – or my favorite, a jump to four diamonds. This should show 6-4 pattern with good diamonds, worth at least game.

From time to time in the learned textbooks, and occasionally in the bridge columns, I see a squeeze being referred to as ‘without the count’. Could you explain to me what this means – bearing in mind that long words bother me!

Duck Soup, Hartford, Conn.

No squeeze is simple, but the least complicated tend to involve trying to take all the tricks when you have all but one of the tricks in top winners. A squeeze that operates where a trick still has to be lost is known as one without the count. If you need to lose a trick in order to produce the desired position, this is known as rectifying the count.

I have a lot of problems with the rule for third-hand high. When holding two non-touching honors (like the king or queen together with the nine or 10) I can never decide whether to play as high as I can or to finesse against dummy (or partner) at the first trick.

Fair to Middling, Grand Junction, Colo.

Unless dummy has a card in between your two highest cards (typically the jack or queen, while you hold a high card with the 10 or nine) play third hand high. If dummy does have the jack or queen, particularly at a suit contract, you may well consider finessing against dummy. Unless the defense need to cash winners quickly, this play generally breaks even at worst. But each case is different.

I’d appreciate your input on matchpoint strategy. My partner opened a strong no-trump and I had the bare spade ace and acefifth of clubs, with three hearts and four diamonds. I passed and my partner scored well in one no-trump when the opponents mis-discarded. In fact she made 11 tricks, but I wondered if I had been right to pass.

Lemmy Caution, Bay City, Mich.

You were right. Protect the plus score, since looking for game rates to turn a plus into a minus. However, you could certainly argue that with a four-card heart instead of diamond suit, you might have used Stayman. There are more upsides here since finding a fit in a major will pay dividends.

In the Fayetteville Observer a week ago, your column mentioned how to tell your partner when using Blackwood if you had a void. I believe it began; if partner asked for aces and I had one, I would respond as if I had two. May I ask what convention that was and if you could reprint it for me in an email?

Madonna Complex, Fayetteville, La.

I suggest that with no aces, you ignore the void. With one or three, jump in the suit where you have a void, unless if it is higher than the trump suit. In that case you jump in the trump suit. A call of five no-trump shows two aces and a void. Caveat: it must be a useful void, so not in partner’s suit.

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AviNovember 2nd, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Hi Bobby.
In response to Power to the People, doesn’t 4H basically promise a void?
Isn’t 3H a better description?

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2015 at 4:58 am

Hi Avi,

Your comment depends on the individual preferences of that partnership. Some partnerships would play since 3 hearts is necessary to force to game, it is natural leaving 4 hearts to show shortness (either a singleton or a void). A 3 heart bid may look like
S. Ax, h. AKJx, d. AKxxx, c. xx, old fashioned but still effective.

However with 6-4 a jump to 4 of the opened minor shows the HC strength of a raise to 2 but a game type playing hand, even opposite a minimum responder.

AviNovember 3rd, 2015 at 9:19 am

Hi Bobby

So what would 2H be? Doesn’t it show the same reversing values you described?

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Hi Avi,

There has been some updating recently (last 15 to 20 years, my, has time flown by) which tends to make 2 level reverses 100% forcing. Before that, reverses were good intermediate hands but not even a complete force.

Consequently, (and before splinters became very popular) there was a significant difference between a jump reverse (3 H rather than 2), GF as opposed to simple reverses, 2H. During that time period, there was some confusion as to when splinters applied having to do with how obvious it was at the table.

In the old days, even 1S, P, 2C, P, 4H by opener was a 6-6 or 6-5 strong game hand, but splinters came along and while a close to 100% improvement was slow to catch on with old time very good players since the artificiality of bids were not as prevalent as today.

The result is that even between old time very good players, it becomes expedient to insure no costly partnership misunderstanding to clear up that only obvious jumps will be recognized as a splinter.

The above is only a history of the progressions of high-level bridge and not an excuse for remaining in the dark ages of bridge bidding.