Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 20th, 2016

I held: ♠ Q-8-4-3-2, 9-3, K-10-7-4, ♣ A-5 and heard my partner open one diamond. I responded one spade and when my partner bid two no-trump I raised his diamonds. My partner had a 2-2-5-4 pattern with a strong hand, and passed, thinking I was weak. Which of us goofed?

Cross Purposes, Lakeland, Fla.

You had no reason to look beyond game here but spades or diamonds might easily have been better than no-trump, so your desire to explore with a forcing call of three diamonds made perfect sense. The only way to stop out of game on your actual sequence, unless playing the Wolff Signoff, is to pass two no-trump.

Do you recommend overcalling light, or aggressively, or even playing an artificial defense if the opponents open a strong club? I am familiar with using a double to show the majors with one no-trump promising the minors (Mathe). But is there anything that combines a reasonable level of preemption and relatively low risk for us?

Stepping In, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Mathe is a reasonable method, as is agreeing to preempt and overcall light. A combination of introducing the majors at the one-level when you can and preempting light seems a sensible approach to me. One tends to pass with good hands, then back in where sensible. And if they rebid one no-trump, play your no-trump defense.

Where do you stand on the question of doubling a one heart opener with ♠ A-Q-3-2, Q-5-3, K-10, ♣ J-9-4-2? If you pass, would you back in after a sequence such as one heart — one no-trump — two hearts? Would your view change if opener rebid two diamonds?

First Strike, Winston-Salem, N.C.

First things first. I think doubling here is winning bridge, but I am aware that this is out of line with traditional American (if not Italian) thinking. Change my club jack to the king and I would feel this even more strongly. Having passed, I would not double two hearts at my second turn, but I would double two diamonds, conscious that this is risky, but that I do at least have the unbid suits.

I know how Crawling Stayman works, but with: ♠ J-8-7-6-3, K-J-4-3, 2, ♣ 9-8-4 what would you bid after your partner opened a strong no-trump? As I see it, both a transfer to spades and Stayman are flawed.

Guestimator, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Much hinges on your agreements for Stayman followed by two spades over a two diamond call. I often use that sequence as suggesting five spades in an unbalanced hand, but with invitational values. Should you play that, then here you must make a Jacoby transfer with a call of two hearts, to play two spades. It may not be perfect but it is the best you can do, since if you used Stayman you would have to rebid two hearts after a two diamond response, and might miss the 5-3 spade fit.

At my duplicate club my partner recently opened one diamond. I had two five-card majors, with seven points, both suits headed by the queen. I believe if they were four-card majors, you would bid them up the line. How does it work with five-card majors?

Funny Face, Boca Raton, Fla.

One bids four-card majors up the line, bidding hearts to allow partner to get spades in if he has them. If he doesn’t, you will never need to look for a fit there. With five-card majors you hope to be able to bid both over a convenient rebid by your partner, so respond one spade, planning over a no-trump rebid to bid two hearts. Beware! After a rebid in a minor from your partner you will not be nearly strong enough to introduce hearts – that would promise at least invitational values.

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AviDecember 5th, 2016 at 10:29 am

Hi Bobby
on Cross Purposes hand, what more would you need in order to qualify for a mild slam try using your method (i.e. 1d-1s; 2nt-3c!; 3d! – 3nt!)

bobby wolffDecember 5th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Hi Avi,

My convention is designed to handle just such a bidding sequence, but in an entirely different way than did the correspondent.

If I had wanted to play 3 diamonds only e.g. s. Qxxx, h. x, d. Jxxx, c. QJxx I would have responded 1 spade to my partner’s 1 diamond opening, but when he then jumped to 2NT (usually 17+-19) I would have bid 3 clubs which forces my partner to “puppet to” 3 diamonds and then I would pass, hoping to have found a making contract, but no game nor, of course, slam.

However when my rebid is 3 diamonds instead (the column hand) our partnership will be forced to game and I am now offering diamond support which could lead to much greater endings eg (partner holding Kx, A10x, d. AQxxx c. KQx) where a diamond slam is almost laydown). Continuing the proposed bidding:
3 hearts by partner, 4 clubs by me. 4NT by partner and then 6 diamonds by him after my controls response.

Conventions are often good to great, but only when there is no confusion and instead understanding not only the bids to be made, but also the reasons why. Without such experiences, playing conventions only “sort of” understood are better not played rather than just hopeful correct interpretation.

Lesson learned the hard way, but indeed if so, jump forward or decide not to use any convention until thoroughly discussed, practiced and thus ready to “go”.

Thanks for taking the time to ask your important question.

bobby wolffDecember 5th, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Hi Avi (again),

I possibly omitted your specific question involving 1D, P, 1S, P, 2NT P 3C, P 3D, P 3NT which would show a hand such as s. AQxxx, h. Jx, d. x, c. Kxxxx accenting the club holding, but saying nothing about diamonds. Since I, the responder took the effort to get clubs in the “mix” by not just rebidding spades (which is forcing though maybe only holding five) nor raising to only 3NT, my strong partner should play me for spades and clubs and usually a mild interest (with a super fit) for even slam in one of my two suits (both black).

I hope you agree with me that the above answer does not add confusion to what we play, only specific logical alternatives, while trying to cater to as many different distributions as practical. While a 2NT rebid is strong it is not forcing to game, but any then bid by responder (except 3 clubs while playing Wolff Sign-off) is GF and at least in my judgment, is able to handle almost any combination of meanings which may see fit to occur.

Furthermore the thinking involved is a valuable exercise in bridge thinking, vitally required if expectations are held to become someone special in our very challenging game.