Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I was somewhat confused about a sequence you ran recently where after a two club opening bid and two diamond response, opener bid two no-trump. Why did responder now bid three hearts with five spades – and why did opener bid three spades at his next turn after that?

Head Scratcher, Pottsville, Pa.

I apologize for forgetting to draw attention to the transfer response here. The continuations after a two no-trump opener or two notrump rebid are parallel to Jacoby Transfers. The logic is that you give up playing in three diamonds but in return you get as responder to describe your hand much more fully by transferring then bidding on as appropriate. That lets the unknown hand describe itself far more fully. Just for the record, transfers apply after overcalls of two no-trump as well.

In a recent deal I saw that responder to an opening bid of one diamond with a relatively balanced hand (but a small doubleton spade together with four diamonds) and only eight points, chose to reply one no-trump rather than raising diamonds. Would it not be more suitable to support partner at your first turn?

Raising an Eyebrow, Taos, N.M.

There are two reasons for not raising diamonds. A one notrump call typically indicates 6-10 points, so you are within range for the call. More to the point, a simple raise of diamonds might not be available if your partnership plays inverted minors (where a raise to two shows at least invitational values, while a double raise is preemptive). The flaw in these methods is that in-between hands of this sort sometimes have to slightly misrepresent themselves.

What are your personal preferences for discarding? Do you advocate high for encouraging, or upside down, or Roman discards (odd encouraging, even suit-preference) or some other form of discards linked to suit preference one way or another?

Two-Buck Chuck, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The more straightforward the method, the better. I am happy enough with standard discards, but I believe there is little theoretical advantage in one method over another. I admit, the one flaw in standard is that players frequently discard tricks to tell their partner something they may know already. And I concede that if people do not ask what you play, an unusual methods may pay dividends.

You ran a deal last month where after a one no-trump opening and a transfer to three clubs, responder bid a new suit, which was described as shortness. When opener retreated to three no-trump, it was presumably to play. Now responder continued with four no-trump; should this be Blackwood, or does Gerber apply here?

Counting Crows, Augusta, Ga.

To ask for aces in a minor set the suit via the transfer, then play that raising the minor to the four-level (or bidding one over the minor if you prefer) is ace asking. A direct rebid of four no-trump here would be quantitative without a singleton. As soon as you show shortness, you transfer control to your partner — if you wanted to ask for aces you’d have done so already. Thus four clubs over three no-trump is natural and slammish not asking and four no-trump is non-forcing.

I opened one heart with ♠ J-2, A-Q-7-5-2, J-4, ♣ K-J-3-2, and heard my partner respond two diamonds (which we play as game-forcing). Should I rebid my hearts, introduce two no-trump, or try three clubs?

Triple Trouble, Spartanburg, S.C.

If you did not play this sequence as game-forcing, rebidding two hearts would be clear-cut. It does NOT promise a six-bagger, unlike a situation where you rebid your own suit after a one-level response. But as it is, I think I still go for the rebid in hearts; my hand is too weak in the context of introducing a four-card suit, and my spade stopper is too feeble to be happy with a call of two no-trump. Alter the spade jack to the queen, and I might change my mind.

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ClarksburgJune 19th, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Good morning Mr Wolff
In response to Two-Buck Chuck’s question on carding, you replied, in part:
“…And I concede that if people do not ask what you play, an unusual method may pay dividends…”
I fully understand that experienced Opponents can be expected to ask, to protect themselves, especially in Tournaments or any game with a strong field.
However, in a Club game, where most of the field is known to be playing the same carding, if I were playing something quite different / unusual, I’d be inclined to pre-alert this to be fair.
Would that step of voluntary disclosure be overly generous and unnecessary?

bobby wolffJune 19th, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Stand up and take a bow. You have won, if you will excuse this expression, my heart, with your spade for active ethics with your gift of diamonds at your local club. And no trump (not meant as a political reference), is left unturned. And furthermore, no one should chuck your advice, it’s worth more than two bucks.

Yes, I am not in favor of poison gas tactics and agree with you that, while playing at a local club, even if not asked beforehand, I suggest, especially while playing against newbies, if unusual discarding (anything other than high being encouraging and even in number when showing count) should be alerted beforehand, just in case the opponents are either too shy or just naïve and not ask.

However during the play, it is illegal to then announce, since some may think that the statement being made is merely to remind one’s partner what the other may fear is not remembered.

All the above would send the message which Active Ethics always emphasizes, bridge, by being the greatest of all mind games, is not devised to take advantage of every kind, even if it is somewhat obvious the opponents need help in understanding what different pairs may be playing.

The motto should always be, win legitimately by outplaying and outbidding one’s opponents, not by shady untoward advantages, by strictly playing methods which main advantage (and often only) is intended to go against the game itself, one for ladies and gentlemen who always seek a level playing field, where each hand represents starting from the same position of knowing the code language meanings of each other, both in the bidding and the defense*.

*does not carry over to being required to teach others how to play good bridge, e.g. advanced logical meanings of many inferences in both the bidding and the defense, being part of the game, and not being attached to specific partnership understandings, but only to the sophisticated interpretation of what this or that play or bid is more likely to mean, based only on the game itself, not private undisclosed partnership knowledge. Never is a declarer under any obligation to be responsible to disclose any tricky play he has in mind, but only to keep his opponents aware, in certain bidding explanations his partnership agreements which may pertain to only that partnership and not standard practice.

By way of explanation and to create an example if the bidding went by only one partnership, one of a minor, one of a major by his partner, two of that major raised, and then four of that major by the original responder, if the raise by the opening bidder promised four trumps, then that could be disclosed (although not required) so that the defense would be privy to the original responder having only 4 trumps himself.

The above is only intended to what Active Ethics could mean and not to take a position one way or the other as to what that responder needs to do. (as a matter of fact I have never heard of anyone who does announce such a thing, but, if I did, without being asked by their opponents, we all would then know that this partnership is practicing Active Ethics and on a regular basis.

Before I hear from the “boo birds” about the above, for that to be alerted (without it being required as it is not) one has to be careful not to only alert it when the responder had five or more of that suit and not only when he has exactly four, because then he could be interpreted to seek advantage rather than to restore a level playing field.

Somewhat complicated, but necessary to mention.

However, as a caveat, it is important to understand that legal deception in bridge (partner does not have any privileged, private information which is not made available to their opponents) is alive and well and is in no way either unethical or illegal and thus to be encouraged and applauded, not disdained.

slarJune 20th, 2016 at 5:29 pm

I often get tripped up when I get asked about a bid. It requires practice, just like other parts of the game. Even if I know the convention backwards and forwards, it can be tricky to verbalize something like New Minor Forcing.

I don’t recall the ACBL Bridge Bulletin every paying much attention to this topic but getting it wrong can lead to bad things like score adjustments.

bobbywolffJune 20th, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Hi Slar,

You touch on a subject to which I, at least in the past was very active, especially on appeals committees, had some serious disagreements with others who also were interested in the laws and their application. My bridge career paralleled Edgar Kaplan, but came along about 10 to 15 years later and he and I co-chaired many WBF committes enabling me to at least, think I knew how Edgar viewed whichever relevant bridge subject was involved, and his influence, although perhaps 50% of the time we had at least some differences with application, had much to do with my perspective. Since he wrote, with help,most of the laws still used by both the WBF and the ACBL, mainly from that experience, help form what I thought was best for the future of our game, particularly the high-level brand.

Simply explained, I always believed that at least some subjectivity might be available with the interpretation of bridge laws. IOW, if the committee believed that the defendant was trying to do the right thing, but in doing so, a question arose as to his character or honesty, that the committee itself (and wishfully the TD making that decision first), taking into consideration the beforehand knowledge of that player and the experience necessary to sit on that committee, help determine what actually happened.

Obviously, the committee experience and knowledge becomes critical to such an enterprise, and add to that opinion the qualities which go into the selection of that committee member or, if not so, just recuse himself on that particular decision.

To alll of the above, was I constantly looking to make better and advise to the individual selected (my nose and therefore voice were ever present in that choice) his responsibility to the game itself to not exercise bias if he thought it possible to exist within him (or her).

Obviously there were countless times when that type of control was not possible, but even then, and hopefully in the quiet of closed sessions, trying to keep personal animosity at full length, the discussion, some on point, others basically philosophical, never left the room, but usually resulted in something positive.

With your description about tricky information given, of course, the sophistication of the players involved had much to do with my vision of intent.

My experience has convinced me that bridge committees, more so than almost any other, to my knowledge, types of jurisprudence, need extremely careful selection of members and then add TOTAL accountability to what each committee members opinion, or else, don’t render a vote (not at all popular with many which fact alone convinced me that I was right). So much was left off some of the write ups of the committees I was on and usually chaired, but because of my present circumstances, (mostly retired but old) whatever influence I previously had, good or not (as judged by some) is left for history to determine.

Finally, at least to me, I wish many more precedents were established so that similar fact situations could help future committees, but again I was in the minority concerning the value of precedents, and that too, made me worry about the credibility of those who were in favor of that condition.

Yes, the result of all the above has caused much consternation, but the end result, at least IMO, has shown a big plus for the future of bridge jurisprudence, but, of course that result is only my opinion, which, like everything else, is subject to disagreement.

Today, at least regarding the high-level game, the presence of professionalism in bridge indeed makes bridge committee decisions suspect at best, and corrupt at worst, causing that important phase of our off-the-charts-game extremely needy to be improved and therefore not corrupt.