Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, September 4th, 2016

I have a question about disclosure, specifically about the range for our side’s weak-two bids, and the best way to make sure the opponents know what my partner knows. Our convention card says 5-11, but at favorable vulnerability in first or third seat we will frequently act lighter. Is this a permissible style variation? Should it be alerted or perhaps pre-alerted? How should we mark our card?

Bandersnatch, Cincinnati, Ohio

I appreciate your concern; you are right to think the opponents should be alerted – but not pre-alerted. Many convention cards have a section at the top for very light actions, as well as a space in the area for preempts. Mark those properly and additionally I’d alert the preempt if it is in one of those seats.

You recently ran a deal in which a player heard his LHO open two hearts, over which his partner bid two spades. His RHO raised to three hearts, and this came back to his partner, who doubled. He took this as penalty, and conceded 10 tricks for a zero. You described the second double as cards not penalty – why was this?

Looking Back, Worcester, Mass.

The double of three hearts is for takeout, showing extras. But overcaller doesn’t know, for example, whether advancer has three spades and a weak hand (as was the case here) or short spades with a solid defensive holding in hearts. In other words, the double is for take-out, but doesn’t have to be taken out.

I’m planning to direct my club events with an Arrow-switch or Scrambled Mitchell to get only one winner from the field. In other words, in the last few rounds the North-South pairs will play the East-West cards, and vice versa. Is this a good idea — and if I run one, how many boards need to be switched to achieve a fair result?

Doppelganger, Trenton, N.J.

Arrow-switching just the last round will be quite sufficient to get a single winner. The mathematics of the situation are quite complex but I’m assured that this is the normal requirement – indeed a further arrowswitch might actually be counter-effective.

I wonder if you’d care to give us an update on your plans for bridge over the next few years, and what your targets in bridge, personal or otherwise, might be?

Barbie, Claymont, Del.

I travel rather less than I did – but I still play some national events and trials. I still am keen to contribute to keep the standard of ethics around the world as high as possible, and to make sure we encourage good behavior and discourage lapses. Playing with my wife Judy twice a week at the club is now one of my greatest pleasures.

Holding ♠ 8-6-3, A-Q-4, Q-2, ♣ K-J-10-6-3, I overcalled two clubs over one diamond. My partner subsequently suggested that a take-out double would be better since I had about an opening and support for all of the other three suits. What is current thinking here?

Surfeit of Lampreys, Grand Forks, N.D.

I believe that when you have a five-card major and limited values you would normally bid the suit rather than double. Perhaps with 4-5 in the majors a case could be made for the double. With an uninspiring five-card minor, double if you have three cards in each major, otherwise pass. This hand could go either way, but the club 10 coupled with the three small spades, persuades me to overcall.

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Iain ClimieSeptember 18th, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

On Surfeit of Lampreys’ hand, further arguments against double might be that the DQ could easily be waste paper while a partner with two 4 card majors will take a lot of convincing you don’t have at least one. The reasonable club suit and pre-emptive effect of the 2C overcall may be worth mentioning as well.

Could I also compliment Bandersnatch on ensuring he keeps his (or her) opponents informed of possible departures from stated agreements.



Bobby WolffSeptember 18th, 2016 at 10:14 pm

Hi Iain,

For me, it is a toss-up as long as either 2 clubs or double is selected. I do not buy the timid soul’s argument for pass.

Although I sometimes have trouble either consulting myself in such choices, I do believe that I would tend to double against slow penalty doublers, but overcall two clubs, against fairly normal good players in order to,
as you mentioned to preempt them out of some valuable bidding spade (responding with 4 card majors and having a good chance to find a 4-4 fit, while if my partner has enough to raise clubs the further preemption may do the REAL damage.

And we all agree that Bandersnatch is correct and should alert the opponents, even after a NV weak two bid, that the lower limit certainly can be less than 5 HCP’s such as s. KJ10xxx, h. xxxx, d. xxx, and a club void (assuming they ask for an example).

Yes, I will open a weak two spade bid with that hand in spite of having good support for the other major but a rotten hand.

The above only echoes what I try and consistently try to convey. Bridge is not a perfect science, so spend some time (more than most do) trying to make things difficult for those dreaded opponents and not worry about the times your partner gets the worst of it in his bidding judgment.

Players who complain how well average players seem to bid and play against them, take heed to the above and put your big toe in the water. Most times you won’t get scalded.