Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 10th, 2016

When your partner makes a double for take-out, are jumps weak, invitational or forcing? I held ♠ A-9-6-4, Q-10-6-3, K-9-2, ♣ A-7 and heard my partner double one diamond. Is a cuebid from me forcing to game or would a jump be forcing?

Lillibulero, Taos, N.M.

Immediate jumps in response to a double show 9-11. With both majors and extra shape, you will surely drive this hand to game and start with a cue-bid. Since cuebidding and then simply raising your partner’s major-suit to the three-level is invitational, you will need to do more than that at the next turn. Arguably, you should simply bid game in whatever suit he picks, but I suppose three no-trump might be a better game, so going slow via a second cuebid might be wiser.

My partner and I have agreed to eliminate our two club opening as a strong bid – and to try keep the bidding open at all costs. My hand was ♠ A-K-7-2, J-8-6, J-7-2, ♣ Q-73 and responded one spade to one club. My partner jumped to three clubs and I raised to four, then passed my partner’s five club call … and found him with a 22-count. We both blame each other for missing slam – can you help in the apportionment?

Macaroni, Doylestown, Pa.

I really don’t like the idea of not using a strong two clubs. By all means limit it to, say, balanced or one-suited hands, if you want, but don’t tie one hand behind your back unnecessarily. And it is truly unplayable to use opener’s jump rebid as forcing. It shows extras but 16-18, not more. So I’m happy to count you relatively – but not entirely – blameless; you did agree to play with him after all.

At duplicate pairs my partner was dealt ♠ K-10-8-4, A-9-8, 5, ♣ A-Q-9-6-4. He doubled one diamond and heard me bid one heart. Opener rebid two diamonds. What would you do now, and what would you do if you passed and partner reopened with a double?

Awkward Silence, Marco Island, Fla.

Passing over two diamonds is clear. The first double was correct but you have no more shape, high cards or trump than partner might expect. Your partner’s double asks you to bid, rather than being based on a trump stack, and he won’t have spades or he would have bid them by now. I will try three clubs, expecting maybe a 3-4-3-3 eight or nine count opposite.

We were playing teams, and I had: ♠ J-7-2, Q-9-7-3, A-10-4, ♣ J-8-2. My LHO opened one heart and my partner doubled, over which my RHO bid one spade. I passed, thinking we would beat them, but they ended up in two clubs and it made. My partner said I had to take some action with an eight-count. What do you think?

Pot Luck, Staten Island, N.Y.

Bid one no-trump at your first turn. When you have your LHO’s suit well stopped you should rely on your partner to produce something in spades – his double promises the other suits, remember? Doubling one spade with nothing in trumps is a very speculative maneuver – but I’m not saying it couldn’t work.

My partner and I play fairly aggressively, with the understanding that most low-level doubles are take-out. But we want to define exceptions to that. Could you give us a few areas to define when doubles become penalty? One particular problem we find is when we respond one no-trump to an opener, and then the opponents butt in.

Mad Axman, Newark, N.J.

In simple terms, play opener’s doubles, whether under or over the trumps, as take-out. Play responder’s doubles as extra values without clear-cut support or a long suit. So, say you respond one no-trump to one heart and the opponents bid two spades. If opener doubles, that shows short spades, and may not be extra values. If responder doubles, it suggests 8-11 HCP, maybe 2-2 or 3-2 in the majors.

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Yasser HaiderJanuary 24th, 2016 at 11:40 am

Hi Bobby
In relation to Awkward Silence’s query, would it be wrong for doubler to bid 2H after opener rebids 2D? After all, opponents seem to have at least an eight card fit and partner may well have a 5-card heart suit and my small hearts will be useful diamond ruffs.

ClarksburgJanuary 24th, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Good morning Bobby,
Your answer to Macaroni’s question about strong 2C Openings, said, in part: “…By all means limit it to, say, balanced or one-suited hands, if you want,…”
This raises the question about how to start and continue with very strong two-suiters. Presumably these would be bid naturally, where Opener’s continuations would feature something like GF jump shift followed by bids showing suit lengths / relative suit lengths etc.
Could you kindly outline your recommended approach to this.

Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Hi Yasser,

The language of bridge bidding has several important principles, likely the most important caveat being a player’s hand is constantly changing in value to no hand remaining either good, bad nor indifferent, but only in relation to the last bid (or pass) made with it.

Here, no doubt, partner was within a normal range to make an original take-out double holding values around an opening bid and support for all three unbid suits. However when partner unfortunately chose the doubler’s least supported suit, the doubler’s hand fell in value to basically the minimum he should have to have to make an original takeout double.

Thus he now has a clear pass in order to warn partner of exactly what he held. Sure if the doubler had a void in diamonds and a 4th heart to take its place, he would certainly be strong enough to raise. However, he should, even then, only raise to 2 hearts since he is still more or less minimum in high cards for his previous action.

And to add to the above, do not get into imagining how partner may play the hand later, trumping diamonds in dummy etc… since there are so many possibilities of weak hands partner may have: perhaps even a 3-3-4-3 hand where he had to bid something and selected the cheapest bid he could make.

Granted the above is too pessimistic to even seriously consider, but perhaps you now understand better what I am trying to suggest.

Do not make bridge a harder game to play than it really is by having your vivid imagination working overtime. Instead just bid your hand as the above suggests, with an A or even K more than suspected, but still 4 trumps for partner, it is definitely OK to raise, but not even close with the hand he actually held.

However, since bridge is a partnership game and if partner has 5 hearts (as you alluded to) and 5-7 HCP’s he should never then let the opponents play 2 diamonds but, in spite of your 2nd round pass, now rebid 2 hearts routinely, and not be overbidding in the slightest way. And BTW, even with only 4 hearts but with a couple of kings and a queen he should also consider bidding 2 hearts even while holding only 4 since, according to the first caveat mentioned he has more than he originally suggested by his minimum response of 1 heart the first time. However if holding that 3-4-3-3 hand, but with 6-9 HCPs he might as the column letter asked, reopen with a double, turning the tables on his partner and then asking him to respond in kind.

The above is probably the most important single learning experience any relatively new player (only several years playing experience) could possibly receive, but only if that bridge logic rings true to him. Until it does, any player, no matter how high his IQ, will naturally fall into the love for our marvelous game he is destined to have if, in fact and instead, it does make complete sense.

Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2016 at 6:19 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Before I answer your to the point question, let me first try and talk you out of doing without a forcing to game bid in your TBD bidding system.

Yes, while playing a Standard American type system, 5 card majors, 2 clubs an artificial force to game (or close) etc. 2 suited very good hands are difficult to bid. However, if because of that consideration as given by Macaroni, solutions such as giving up an original game force is sanctioned, IMO much greater harm will soon surface.

However, there is a compromise and that is a strong, artificial and forcing club system which keeps the bidding lower and leaves much more room for those 2 suited hands referred to. However in order to play a forcing club system effectively one must devote much time to developing such an enterprise in order to compete against other strong partnerships. For example the one diamond opening than becomes totally bastardized which would require considerable work to merely form an acceptable compromise, even when, in the opinion of some that partnership will give up more than it gets.

However, back at the ranch of restricting forcing to game hands to only one suited types (plus of course balanced hands with very high point counts 22+).

The elephant in that room is that if holding. s. x
h. AKJxx, d. AKQ10xx, c. x I would only open that hand a simple 1 diamond but by my only holding 17 hcps chances are someone at the table will keep the bidding open.

No one, especially me, ever even suggested that bridge bidding is anywhere close to perfect. However playing and more to the point bidding requires experience which, in turn, develops savvy in the timing of when to do what and when not to.

Of course, the above is vague, but at least IMO, the above helps make bridge even more interesting since it emphasizes tactics rather than specific technique (and application of sheer intelligence), making it again IMO the most important difference in being able to win at the very top. Simply almost always making the right bid or play at precisely the right time and against opponents who will not be inclined to guess correctly what to do.

In conclusion, please forget your fear of being perfect on the bidding of very strong 2 suited hands, because most times when they occur, the natural bidding which transpires, just takes care of itself.

ClarksburgJanuary 24th, 2016 at 7:53 pm

No need to talk me out of giving up a GF opening. It was Macaroni and Partner (Cheese??) who did that, as per Macaroni’s question. I’ll keep mine! (2C at this time).
Thanks for the suggestion / comments on Forcing Club.
Back to the strong two suiters and Standard bidding. I was looking for just general approach, not any highly-detailed prescribed sequences. My assumption was that they would be bid naturally. I think you confirmed that when you said:
“…the natural bidding which transpires, just takes care of itself…”
About your “elephant in the room” example hand : switch the Diamonds and Hearts..same HCP but now worth a GF opener??

Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

That particular elephant is a very well bridge educated one and with the eleven red cards held, whichever one was the longer suit, although very well worth a GF opener, still would bet his trunk that it would be better strategy not to.

Sometimes, probably more often than most think, it is better for the opponents to think we are taking a sacrifice, rather than bidding to make.

There is much poker thinking in bridge, but not vice versa.