Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, February 28th, 2016

I passed in first chair seat with both sides vulnerable, and heard my LHO open two spades, which was then passed back to me. Would it have been right to pass, double or bid a suit, looking at: ♠ 10-2, A-3, J-10-7-3, ♣ A-Q-6-5-4?

Safe Haven, Newport News, Va.

I would not feel like passing, because of my relatively short spades, but a double might result in partner bidding too many hearts. I go for a call of two notrump, surely for the minors, as a passed hand, as opposed to a three-club call… if partner takes my bid as natural, which he shouldn’t, no great harm will have been done.

Can you tell me how signals are supposed to work and what are the messages the defenders are supposed to send?

Zazzy, Union City, Tenn.

Signaling is the play by a defender to tell your partner what you have or to advise him what to play. A simple signaling system incorporates attitude — high spot cards say “like” low ones say “dislike” — and count (high for even, low for an odd number of cards). And finally for the advanced player, you can signal suit preference. When your cards can’t win a trick, or a continuation is impractical, your cards may tell partner which suit you like. Suits rank in order: spades, hearts, diamonds then clubs. Visit the BridgeBase forums for more details.

If you play the forcing no-trump in response to the opening bid of a major, should you extend this treatment to play it by a passed hand?

Keeping it Open, Worcester, Mass.

The logic of the forcing no-trump is to allow responder to make that call with hands up to and including balanced invitations, or forces to game. Once you pass, you do not have to worry about the no-trump call concealing forcing hands or hands with trump support. So opener should treat the response of one no-trump as nonforcing, and pass unless he has extra shape or high cards.

Several times over the years you have recommended opening two clubs with at least 5/4 or 4/5 in the majors rather than opening at the one-level and risk getting passed out. In a recent article you were dealing with this hand ♠ A-Q-J-6-2, Q-9-6-4, A-K, ♣ A-4. Since game might make opposite king-fourth in hearts, shouldn’t I open two clubs here?

Flaming Lips, Houston, Texas

Consider that a hand with an ace in response will almost always keep the bidding open. And all six-counts respond to an opening bid. Since kingfourth of hearts on its own won’t make game that good, I open one spade without any worries. But let me change the hand to make it a two-club bid. How about ♠ K-Q-J-6-2, A-Q-J-4, A-K-4, ♣ 4? Now I might make game facing as little as the diamond queen and four small hearts.

Should one open one no-trump with a five-card major? If so, is there any suit so strong that you would rather opt to bid it and not one no-trump when you have 15-17 points?

Drawing the Line, Naples, Fla.

With a balanced 17 points (5332 shape) and a five-card major, I generally open the suit and treat my hand as 18-19 points. With a bad major (only one top honor) and 15-16 points I normally open one no-trump. However, if all my points are in two suits, I may opt for bidding the major; and 5-4-2-2 pattern with a long major is NOT balanced.

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David WarheitMarch 13th, 2016 at 10:12 am

The following hand comes from Victor Mollo’s book Destiny at Bay:

N SA10654 S SKQ2
H 764 HAK5
D1083 DKQ6
C84 CQJ109

W deals: P P 1H X
P 1S P 2NT

W leads HQ which holds. Next he leads H2. S wins, cashes SK and then leads SQ and W plays SJ, so S overtakes with SA and E shows out Brilliant falsecard by W and S goes down 2. Mollo doesn’t note, however, that even if S did not overtake the SQ with the A, he still would go down, even if the SJ was not a falsecard, since as he runs S, he squeezes himself! Down 1. The mistake that S made was at trick 1. He must not duck the first trick and of course, as the cards lie, he must not overtake the SQ. On the bidding, E must have DA, so S must hope he has no more than one other D. In fact E had DAJ doubleton. Mollo is such a good author, how did he miss this?

W. B. Daniel IIIMarch 13th, 2016 at 4:53 pm

IMO “Safe Haven” should not have passed a 7 loser, 2 1/2 QT hand in the first place. It invites problems like the one that occurred.

Ahh for the good old days of 4 card majors and sensibility. Open 1D and rebid 2C over a response. It would take a really unusual situation to get into bad trouble. With nothing more from partner than a fit in diamonds or clubs you should take 6 tricks. If they double and that happens, they should have game at equal vulnerability or better.

W. B. Daniel IIIMarch 13th, 2016 at 5:01 pm

P. S,

If the opponent bids 2S anyway partner now knows what you have at a minimum and can take whatever action his hand tells him.

Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Hi David,

Let’s consider. Suppose East was dealt the following hand: s. x, h. J109xx. d. AJxx, c. AKx, a hand which would justify the bidding.

And then after not ducking the first heart, probably a play only made by rote, since East does figure to have the three high honor cards in the minors to justify his opening, without which he would be opening a jack high suit, possibly then receiving the wrong opening lead and with only 10 HCPs.

The play then would go king and then queen of spades with West not being brilliant and following low (after all declarer may only have the two high spades without a third). Of course then, declarer with the hand he was dealt, might still decide to overtake, playing East for Jx, therefore virtually insuring the contract. However moving forward he eschewed that play (the one I probably would have made, only not, if being at the table, thought it was too far fetched, by the opponents table action).

Then, after running the five spades East must find 4 discards, with the fourth being the killer-diller. There would be a winning answer for declarer whatever East discarded if he reads the hand correctly.

Therefore the falsecard by West was truly brilliant and deserved all the accolades given.

The only chance the defense had was that except if they were playing against the likes of me who might have overtaken the queen of spades, hoping the jack would drop, but would have been a terrible play for the obvious reasons.

Truly a marvelous hand up to Victor’s brilliance as a bridge writer. In the early 1970’s Victor flew from London to Dallas (he hated to fly) in order to do a specific book on the Dallas Aces which he did, but was never published likely because it was just not exciting enough. He stayed with me during his visit and for what I knew of him he was clever enough on this hand not to delve deeper into what you are suggesting, since he just casually did at trick one what many declarers would do, duck, a play which, because of West’s brilliance and South’s trick one ineptness cancelled that defense of the year.

Yes West may have had the singleton Q, but that is another story for another day. BTW Victor was indeed a brilliant writer, a bridge aficionado and raconteur, and a good friend who was born in Russia and moved to the UK early in life.

Bobby WolffMarch 13th, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Hi W.B,

Indeed, I love your presentation and above all, your self-confidence which, at least to me, almost automatically raises the ceiling in what you can achieve in bridge.

However, I will comment on the proposed bridge challenges. Only my opinion and not felt strong, but I would only open that 2-2-4-5 example if the diamonds and clubs were reversed. Yes, in both cases I would open one diamond (you obviously agree), since to do differently is just too awkward in rebidding, but because of the possible suggestion of a diamond lead, plus the known danger of eventually playing in the wrong minor I sadly would decline to strike the first blow on this hand, but would balance with 2NT since, after passing, it doesn’t make good sense not to play that as a minor suit TO. After all if holding spade values and also not opening the bidding it would hardly ever present itself to have a natural NT bid in front of the weak two bidder.

Also I like the idea of having either equal length in both suggested suits, but if not almost always to be longer in the lower ranked suit (in this case, of course, clubs) since with holding 3-3 partner should always be inclined to bid the lower ranked and let’s not talk about 2-2 since it is just too grisly.

No doubt we both agree to open light and I, too, have always loved 4 card majors and that together with a forcing club will always be my choice of best system, until perhaps the great bridge theorists of today convince me different (but they better hurry up and do it).

And promise me, for you to never lose your bridge confidence since that characteristic alone is worth more than I could ever provide.