Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

After a strong no-trump opening bid, what would you recommend for an intermediate player to use for responder’s immediate actions at the three-level?

Princess Bride, Monterey, Calif.

Let’s assume the calls of two spades and two no-trump are used as transfers to clubs and diamonds respectively. One sensible option is for a call of three clubs to show both minors, invitational, and three diamonds for both minors game-forcing. Now the major-suit bids would show 5-4 in the minors either way, bidding your shortage. If you prefer three clubs to be Puppet Stayman for five-card majors, that also makes sense.

Could you comment on how one should bid over an overcall of the unusual no-trump. Does something called Unusual versus Unusual apply? And do the same methods apply after a Michaels Cuebid?

Cotton Picker, Casper, Wyo.

If the opponents show a specific pair of suits, the highest cuebid below three of partner’s suit shows a limit raise or better. So after an overcall of two notrump over one diamond, showing clubs and hearts, a cue-bid by you of three clubs would show a good hand with diamonds. Following an overcall of two no-trump over one heart, the relevant cue-bid would be three diamonds. If there is a second cuebid available, it should show at least invitational values with the fourth suit, with a direct bid of the fourth suit as non-forcing.

I am an 80 year old Life Master. I have thought for my entire bridge career that leading the ace from ace-king makes sense. What is the logic behind leading the king?

Elmer Fuddy-Duddy, Trenton, N.J.

This is almost a toss-up. The king works poorly in one specific position (dummy has small cards and you have jackthird/fourth and do not know whether to encourage or not). As against that, it lets you work out when to encourage on ace leads, and when to give count on king leads. So long as you know what your partnership does (and so long as you use king from ace-king in mid-hand so as to get count, ace to get attitude – which applies in bid and supported suits at trick one) that is the most important thing.

I have a question regarding a recent response you gave in the letters page. You stated that a double of an artificial raise by an unpassed hand might sensibly be played as either takeout, or showing the suit doubled. How strong does a raise have to be before the double is lead-directional rather than takeout?

Puppy Dog, Duluth, Minn.

I think any time the opponents promise an opener facing a limit raise, you do not want to get involved in the bidding except to double for a lead. If the artificial call is weak or otherwise limited, you need a take-out double of their agreed suit. I think a double of Drury should be clubs.

What sort of hand should you have for a raise of partner’s weak two to three? Would your answer change if your RHO had doubled the weak two?

Barry Cader, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

A sequence like this could be almost anything – other than strong. It could be based on a balanced 13-count, trying to tempt the opponents into the auction. Equally it could be a balanced Yarborough (taking away the cuebid raise from the opponents in case they have a game or slam on). The call is simply a bar bid – but not indicating one hand-type or another.

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AviJune 5th, 2016 at 10:14 am

Hi Bobby

I have a bidding question from last night.
Playing IMP, you deal yourself (S) 863;(H) 9;(D) AKQJ75;(C) AT6
After your (obvious?) 1D opening, partner bids 1S.
what now?
support partner? rebid diamonds (at what level)? invent a 3c call to spur partner into bidding NT with a H stop?


bobby wolffJune 5th, 2016 at 11:46 am

Hi Avi,

Your last night bidding question has, what is to me, an obvious answer:

Rebid 3 diamonds which leaves room for an eventual spade, diamond and NT contract. If partner rebids 3 hearts, merely prefer 3 spades, in case partner has a possible slam in mind and, of course the necessary good 5 card spade suit he might have: s. AQJ9x, h. AJxx,, d. x, c. Kxx . With this hand over your preference to 3 spades, he should eschew rebidding only 3NT (too much hand) and cue bid 4 clubs, showing a control and implying slam interest. If so, partner, in spite of his relatively low point count, has a great diamond suit, the ace of clubs and a key singleton causing him, at least in my opinion, to Blackwood and then bid 6 diamonds, showing great diamonds (almost solid), but keeping in mind his spades could be better, in this case, perhaps Kx, but only 3 small.

Either 6 diamonds, probably best or 6 spades is a very good contract which will make a large percentage of the time, but takes cooperative partnership bidding to so reach.

If partner instead had: s. AJxxx, h. KQ9x, d. x, c. Kxx he should after rebidding 3 hearts, getting a preference to 3 spades now trot out 3NT since this hand is just not strong enough to go past the NT game, unless partner decides he has underbid (which he certainly has not) and so takes another forward going bid with, s. KQx, h. x, d, AKJ9xx, c. Axx, choosing 4 clubs as a control showing bid (slam in mind with spades as trump, not diamonds). If instead he had solid diamonds without the queen of spades he would then, after cooperation with slam tries, then prefer 6 diamonds, rather than spades.

All somewhat complicated and requiring practice, but I hope you will agree, bridge logical.

Finally, do not jump to 3 clubs, hoping for a heart stop from partner so that he can then bid 3NT, simply because that is not the meaning of 3 clubs, only showing an excellent hand (GF) with diamonds and clubs.

IOW, do not invent bids, hoping partner will understand and then always do the right thing. Perhaps later in heaven, but unfortunately not here on earth, at least not in 2016.

However, if holding s. x, h. QJx, d. AKQxxxx, c. AJ just rebid 3NT after opening 1 diamond and hearing partner respond 1 spade, and hope the ninth trick shows up (and it will, IMO about 90% of the time). Also partner will know that you have a long solid (or almost) diamond suit, short spades, but hoped for stoppers in the unbid suits.

And everyone lived happily ever after (we hope).

ClarksburgJune 5th, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Good Sunday morning Mr Wolff
Further to Princess Bride’s question and your response:
For those who do use 3C as Puppet Stayman, seems an agreement is then required for the meaning of 3D, and it could be different for IMPS and Matchpoints (e.g at IMPS still GF with majors 2-2 ? ; at Matchpoints INV with majors any shape?; other?)
What would you recommend?

bobby wolffJune 5th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Instead of preferring something like a 50-50 ratio between worth and simplicity (not forgetting) my division, especially in steady or regular partnerships is more like 90-10 in favor of simplicity.

Therefore my suggestion is for both IMPs and MPs to play 3D, GF and both minors, at least 9 cards and with only 9, most high card values in the minor suits (with s. AJ, h. Kx, d. Kxxxx, c. Qxxx) I would just raise to 3NT at matchpoints, but try 3 diamonds at IMPs.

However, if playing 2 way Stayman (my strong (preference) I would start out with 2 diamonds and feel confident that the result will be satisfactory.

Good luck!

AviJune 5th, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Thanks for the patient and detailed answer

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