Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Playing duplicate pairs, when I heard an opening bid of one spade on my right I elected to pass with a 3-4-2-4 12-count. I thought double would be too risky, though this decision was later criticized. When my LHO bid one no-trump and my RHO bid two diamonds, could I have doubled now? As it turned out, we can make two hearts and they can make two diamonds.

Judgment of Paris, Park City, Utah

Your initial pass is perfectly fine; if you double (I might) it runs the risk of partner going overboard in diamonds, or of your walking into a large penalty. At your second turn a take-out double was risky but not entirely unreasonable. Your shape was acceptable so if you had ace-queen fourth in both unbid suits you might gamble it – but it is risky.

As a recent bidding problem you posed the following hand for responder, ♠ A-K-4-3, K-Q-2, 8-2, ♣ Q-7-64, on the unopposed sequence: one diamond – one spade – two clubs. You recommend the fourth suit as a game force and then to raise clubs at the three level. But you can only do that if your partner bids two spades or two no-trump. What do you do if partner bids a minor next?

Till Eulenspiegel, Sacramento, Calif.

I think I would rebid three no-trump over three diamonds, but over three clubs I would raise to four. I appreciate that I may miss playing no-trump, and be forcing my partner to the five level, so at pairs the decision would be VERY tough.

At a recent session of rubber bridge there were a few throw-ins, where everybody passed. During the postmortem it was observed that we rarely see or hear about this happening to experts. My question is, how rare is this at duplicate? And are you allowed to re-deal a hand that is thrown in on the first round of a duplicate event?

The Great Shuffler, Richmond, Va.

I wouldn’t say rare, but my experience is that third in hand so often stretches to open on a deal where he has 10/11 points, that the number of pass-outs has dropped dramatically from 40 years ago. And so many 11-counts are opened systemically that I don’t see a pass-out more than once a month. Re-deals are never permitted, by the way.

My partner and I play two-over-one. Recently, she had a good hand (16 or so points) with five spades and five hearts. I had 11 points with two small spades and three hearts, and responded with a forcing no-trump to one spade. When she bid two hearts, I took her for only four hearts and bid two no-trump. When she subsequently re-bid spades, I raised to game in spades. That went down one, while four hearts would have made easily. She told me her heart bid in that sequence meant she had five hearts. Is that right?

Shape Shifter, North Bay, Ontario

After your response of one no-trump your partner’s two heart call is quite consistent with only four. If she rebids her hearts that shows 5-5 in the majors, which would accurately have described her shape, if not her assets, since it suggests a minimum hand and is non-forcing over a two no-trump rebid. To show a good hand with this pattern it might be better to bid a doubleton minor to dredge up three-card support for hearts or spades from you.

I had a hand with two aces and my partner was upset that I opened two hearts. Vulnerable, I had: ♠ 9-4-2, Q-9-6-5-4-3, A-4, ♣ A-J. I did not count the club jack as pulling its weight, so given the vulnerability, I decided to go low. I made my contract, which got me a top, as most pairs ended up in game down one or two.

Heads Up, Cheyenne, Wyo.

You don’t want to open a weak two with tricks on the side and a feeble suit. When deciding whether to open, my rule is to add up my points, then add one for any five-card suit, two for a six-card suit, and one for any side four-card suit. If it comes to 13, I open at the one level, unless I have less than an ace and king on defense. This hand qualifies a sound one-level opener. And as an aside: never pass a hand with a good suit; open one, two or three.

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ClarksburgJanuary 22nd, 2017 at 5:36 pm

A question about restoring equity versus punishment.
Scenario (not from a real situation; just hypothetical):
There was an established revoke. But the Director can see that it was completely innocuous, having had no effect on tricks won by either side, on Declarer’s line of play, nor on the subsequent defensive plays.
The Laws would assess the transfer of one trick. Would a Director ever be justified in restoring the transferred trick? (if only to protect the rest of the field).

bobby wolffJanuary 22nd, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Your type of question, although very subjective in nature, deserves a thoughtful answer and one which will, IMO, provoke great emotion between different sides.

In order to declare what I endorse, I think it necessary and by the numbers, list important and vital considerations.

1. Laws, at least for most of us (especially officers of the court) are meant to be followed as close to the intent of the lawmakers as possible.

2. At least I think that if the judge, jury, committee, or whoever is the judging entity was made up of conscientious, knowledgeable, non-political, experienced, forthright individuals we all would be better off with their overall decision being based strictly, if possible (usually is) by what the rule was intended to accomplish, with, for example, in bridge, would be the status quo returned and if the infraction was done unintentionally (often the case), no punitive punishment either necessary nor desired.

With the above strictly followed, no doubt that extraneous revoke would result in no penalty given.

Obviously the lawyer nature of so many would find ways to object to that decision in whatever ways one can, causing unending dissatisfaction (and IMO, not speaking well for those against this modern change)

To me, the above paragraph represents a serious weakness in both the character and emotional balance of those who want the best for bridge or whatever game is under scrutiny.

Yes life is not perfect and deciding thorny issues is one of the imperfect subjects, but our laws, especially in bridge (since equity is often so obvious) the above, at least to me, would be a significant improvement. BTW, total accountability of the judge as well as every person on the jury or committee would be required (political or biased people should decline to serve) together, if possible, of their thought process in determining. Reason being primarily to determine who should or should not be on the next court, as appointed by the

Ever Onward, Ever Upward, but for such a result to be obtained is only in my dreams!

However, thanks for your question.

Jeff SJanuary 22nd, 2017 at 9:00 pm

On Shape Shifter’s question, would 1S-1NT-3H be an acceptable way to suggest at least 5-5 in the majors with a good hand (as described in the question)? Or would you want more high-card points?


bobby wolffJanuary 22nd, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Hi Jeff S,

A rebid of 3 hearts over a forcing 1NT response forces to game, but could easily have 5-4 in the two suits, not necessarily 5-5. If with a minimum hand but 5-5 after partner prefers to 2 spades, merely on your 3rd effort either bid 3 or 4 hearts telling partner that you are 5-5 but want partner to pass the heart rebid (or raise to 4) if he was dealt only 2 spades, but 3 hearts.

There are artificial partnership bids which distinguish between good and bad hands but still 5-5 and then partner will have a better idea about after accepting hearts then to know partner’s strength as well.

David WarheitJanuary 23rd, 2017 at 12:18 am

On Clarksburg’s question: It seems to me that if someone revokes, he (his partnership) should be penalized. If his opponents are in no way damaged by the revoke, it then seems to me that they should not receive any benefit. This would result in separate numbers for NS and EW, but so what? What do you think?

BobliptonJanuary 23rd, 2017 at 2:50 am

Historically, the revoke penalty was for rubber bridge, played without a director as a purely mechanical solution; its use results in several amusing incidents in which the Rueful Rabbit revokes, enabling him to make an impossible contract with two overtricks, and at least one instance in which Papa revokes, resulting in an extended squeeze against himself. When duplicate was codified, it was retained, but viewed as at least occasionally insufficient. Since there were now directors, the directors could use further penalties to “restore equity”.


bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2017 at 5:21 am

Hi David,

I do like your solution and especially so if some records were kept (maybe like traffic tickets in a home community).

The idea of equity in laws and applied across the board in life would be my idea of Nirvana. Of course the application of such a thing will turn out next to impossible, but if it could be, and for practice, I would vote yes to competent people who could provide it.

bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2017 at 5:33 am

Hi Bob,

When Edgar Kaplan was basically creating the laws for both rubber and tournament bridge, he lived in constant fear of inexperienced TD’s interpreting and then applying the written laws.

No question his fears materialized, only proving that straight laws, even if fundamentally ridiculous in some situations are likely better than random rulings according to officials sadly lacking in understanding.

Perhaps the next stop after living life will clear up some of the mysteries which have always made me wonder. It is sadly true that no traveler returns, but because of that, we will have to settle for less than optimum justice being left on the table. Rueful Rabbit and/or Papa or not, not to mention the Hideous Hog.