Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Say your partner opens one spade and you hold ♠ —, 4-3, K-Q-J-4-3, ♣ A-Q-J-10-9-4. Do you bid two diamonds or two clubs — and why?

Open Mike, Selma, Ala.

With game-forcing values I won’t say it is ALWAYS right to bid the longer suit — but it is normal. (A common exception occurs when you hold a decent four-card major and a weak five-card minor, where you envisage a 4-3 fit might be right). Here you must construct an auction where you bid clubs then diamonds. This doesn’t guarantee real diamonds but it is the best way to paint the picture. You certainly don’t want partner to give preference to diamonds if he doesn’t really prefer that suit.

I held ♠ 9-8, A-Q-6-4-3, 6-3, ♣ A-K-8-6 and heard my LHO open one spade and my RHO bid one no-trump, forcing. Would you bid two hearts now, and if not would you balance with two hearts when LHO bids two diamonds, passed round to you? Partner had a 4-2-4-3 pattern and defending was right today.

Pistol Pete, Little Rock, Ark.

I would indeed either bid two hearts directly or over two diamonds. I bid first because it is harder for them to double, and because they might lose their minor-fit if I bid directly. (Not that they want to find it today – but they might…)

What is the rule about whether to use the Jacoby two-notrump as a raise of partner’s major? Does it require a balanced hand or are you allowed to have a singleton or even a void?

Geek Squad, Palm Springs, Calif.

The jump to two notrump in no way denies a splinter. The idea should be that immediate splinters should be a precise high-card range – let’s say limited to 10-14 or with enough to drive to slam. That way partner knows you have only limited slam interest. Hence opener only moves with well-fitting extras. With 15-17 and a splinter, one can start with Jacoby, and cue-bid later.

What is the appropriate procedure to follow when using of bidding boxes – specifically the fingering of bids before making a call? I would like to stop my partner and especially my opponents from doing it. What advice would you give me in the face of an infraction?

Peanuts, Cartersville, Ga.

You are correct, in that if you finger more than one bid before coming to a final decision, you are conveying information just as inappropriately as you would do if you change an oral statement. Encourage your partner to make up his mind what he wants to bid before touching any part of the box. And the same applies to playing cards from your hand as well.

Holding: ♠ J, K-J, K-J-7-6-4-3-2, ♣ Q-10-2 would you open with a weak call such as two or three diamonds, or would you consider the hand too strong for this bid? How would you be affected by vulnerability and position?

Hi-Lo Country, Orlando, Fla.

There is no hand too good for a weak-two that I would not open at the one-level; there are plenty of hands that are unsuitable for other reasons though. Here the hand has a good suit; I’d open one diamond non-vulnerable in first seat, but at most other vulnerabilities and positions I would not consider it unduly strong for a weak-two bid. The seventh trump is not a deal-breaker for a weak-two bid when vulnerable, but I rarely do this non-vulnerable, even in second seat.

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ClarksburgDecember 6th, 2015 at 10:01 am

Good morning Mr. Wolff,

This hand is from an Intermediate-calibre Club Pairs game.
West (Dealer): A3 76 AKJ7 KQ1095
North K103 K932 542 J84
East J87 J84 Q1098 A73
South Q9642 AQ105 63 62

We would be very interested in your thoughts / advice on:
Evaluation of the West hand, and the recommended plan for Opening / rebidding.
What contract should be reached?
Supposing West, (rightly or wrongly),opens it 1NT, is the East hand worth a raise to 2NT?

In our club game, one Pair bid it to 3NT, making on the Defender’s fortuitous 4-4 Hearts. One Pair passed out West’s (underbid) 1NT opening. Most Pairs played in Diamond partscores, missing the making 5D.


Iain ClimieDecember 6th, 2015 at 11:07 am

HI Clarksburg, Bobby,

An interesting (although minor) point from the hand sent in based on the club holdings. The safety play for 5 tricks in the suit is the Ace first, coping with 5-0 onside. In theory you can cope with J8xx sitting over KQ109x by playing to the King then runing the 10 back, but only if someone has shown their cards. Of course this is a very rare scenario, yet once in a while careless confusion with Axxx opposite KQ109x costs a trick or even the contract.

It is a good problem, though, as I think 5D is the spot even at pairs, although it does need a couple of 3-2 breaks. How does this compare with the defence not leading a heart or the suit being 4-4 or blocked? Should EW gamble on the hearts or clamber to 5D accepting it will lose to all the 3NT + 1 cases? Science plays bashing, perhaps?



Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2015 at 11:19 am

Clarksburg, good morning,

From a realistic viewpoint using IMO, higher level bridge percentage thinking, 3NT is the contract of choice particularly in an IMP or rubber bridge game, but even in the pair game noted.

True, there is no heart stop, but there are two eight card majors out against it and with the wrong major led (not from the standpoint of the declarer), 3NT +1 becomes a solid favorite to make.

No doubt, while playing 15-17 opening 1NT the West hand is just too good to open with 1NT.

Sure the 2-2-4-5 distribution is not perfect to start with 1NT, but that flaw is tiny compared to the overall strength of the West hand (good 5 card suit, maximum hcp hand, especially a minor which is less a distortion). It is MUCH worse, and much more dangerous IMO, to open too good a hand 1NT than, for example a 14 hcp hand with the same decent 5 card suit.

How about West to open 1 club with the plan of rebidding 2 diamonds over a major suit response, but when partner responds 1NT (as he should 6-10, merely raise to 2NT? With the middle gradation responder should carry on to 3NT since partner is signalling a hand just too good for a 1NT opening (18-19 or 17 with a decent 5 card suit).

Aggressive contracts make in three ways,

1. legitimately (as here)
2. by lucky leads (for declarer)
3. by miss defense

while going set, with unlucky defensive layouts for declarer and/or inadequate declarer play.

Be a tough opponent, especially while playing IMPs and that usually comes about by being aggressive bidders and not allowing those competitive opponents to take hands off by only having to defend insignificant part scores, rather than flag waving games.

Good luck and Bid Em Up!

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2015 at 11:29 am

Hi again Clarksburg,

Please excuse my not also adding, if I held the East hand and heard my partner open 1NT (15-17) I would easily pass since there is a marked advantage, especially at pairs to play only a seven trick contract rather than raise to 2NT, have partner pass and then have to try and score up eight tricks. Also, even if he accepts my invitation, I think he will be less than 50% to make game.

The above is far from a sure thing, but experience, rather than cold percentages, should dictate that strategy.

To complete the discussion, if my LHO reopened with 2 of a major, passed around I would then compete to 2NT, not being especially happy, but feeling compelled to do so in order to give my partnership a better chance to keep from getting fixed.

To just then pass, is not winning bridge.

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2015 at 11:48 am

Hi Iain,

As likely, crossed in cyberspace.

No doubt true that 5 diamonds, not 5 clubs has a good chance to make with the two, three two breaks necessary in the minors or instead 4-1 club break onside.

However divining out that total layout is, at least to me, very difficult (practically impossible) to expect and should be left to napkin players (theorists) to discuss, rather than to realistic players to allow.

Your description of playing that club combination is, of course right on, in order to make 5 club tricks when South (in this case) has all 5 of the defensive clubs. That is, as long as that comfortable diamond entry is present in order to take 4 quick clubs in the case of North, rather than South having all of them.

However, for the young and restless student to learn about card combinations, my suggestion is to think about them rather than to attempt to memorize how to play them.

Otherwise a would be good player would not have the capability to figure out new (to him) positions himself relying too much on his memory, rather than his own original analysis.

ClarksburgDecember 6th, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Many thanks.
Your point that over West’s 1C then East should clearly bid 1NT as the best description is a key point of learning for us. I can’t verify, but suspect that in our game many Wests did open 1C, planning a 2D, or perhaps 3D rebid. But when East responded 1D, not 1NT, the planned strength-showing Diamond rebids, went out the window.

Supplementary question: is West’s 1C opening and planned Diamond rebid clearly superior to an aggressive upgrade of the West hand to open it 2NT in the first place ?

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No doubt the cost of living is going up and with it the values for a 2NT opening are going down.

However, thank heaven that a 2-2-4-5 distribution with only 17 hcps hasn’t reached the status of an opening 2NT, at least not yet.

Also, while confirming the above, that opening hand looks to me a classic 1 club opening with a 2 diamond reverse when partner responds 1 of a major. However when he instead makes a limit bid response of 1NT 6-10 balanced with no 4 card or longer major suit, we should shift gears to play a NT contract with only the level to be determined, accepting whatever happens with NT being the trump suit.

Methinks that at a certain stage, younger players with high-level ambitions, fall into a trap of thinking bridge is more complicated than it even begins, or ever, will be.

They should then relax, concentrate on similar qualities that football aspirants are told to emphasize, blocking and tackling and sit back with the idea of being consistent, understanding bridge discipline, and become the best partner they can be for the long haul of getting the maximum results over the longest period of time. No more, no less.