Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 7th, 2017

My partner opened one diamond (guaranteeing four but we open relatively light) and I responded one heart holding ♠ A-7-4-2,  5-4-3-2  A, ♣ A-5-3-2. When my partner raised to two hearts, would you judge this hand worth a drive to game, an invite to three hearts…or something else? Trumps didn’t split and eight tricks were the limit.

Sky Pilot, Cartersville, Ga.

Assuming partner has a normal minimum opener, typically with four trumps, why not make a game try of two spades and see what he does. In theory, two opening bids facing one another make game! Incidentally, I could imagine going one down in three hearts here would score very well — beating all the pairs two down in game.

I recently had an ethical problem when I led a king from king-queen small against a suit contract and dummy hit with jack-third, on which my partner took forever to contribute the two. Can you tell me my rights and obligations in this situation when my king held?

Moriarty, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Don’t try to work out what partner ‘might’ have been thinking about: you would normally make the play you would have done on receiving discouragement. Equally, though, you do not have to stop playing bridge. If logic and your own hand combine to tell you that it is obviously right to continue the suit, you can do so. Here declarer is unlikely to have the critical ace, or he would have won the trick. So partner has the ace and is signaling either count or suit preference depending upon the logical context.

Holding ♠ K-2,  9-8-5-3-2,  10-5-4-2, ♣ A-5, I imagine that if partner opened one spade and the next hand bid two clubs that you would stretch to make a negative double. But what if your RHO bid two diamonds? Would you double, and if so what would you do over a response of three clubs?

Flag Flier, Janesville, Wis.

Though you are light on high-cards, a negative double of two clubs is acceptable because you are playable in all the available suits. But doubling two diamonds would seem too rich for the reason you identify — and also that you could not handle a response of two no-trump. So I’d pass two diamonds, hoping partner would re-open, if short in diamonds.

How much do you need to double a strong no-trump? Is it worthwhile considering playing a defense other than a penalty double against the strong no-trump if your opponents use it tactically at certain positions and vulnerabilities?

Samba Sam, Dallas, Texas

I had always played penalty doubles in all seats, but I could be persuaded that a defense such as Meckwell or Woolsey makes sense. (Details of these are available at Whatever you play, you must keep double of third-in-hand no-trumps as strong, or devious opponents will push you around.

Your column often refers obliquely to a support double. Can you spell out how and when they apply, and if you recommend them?

Raising in the Sun, Lorain, Ohio

Judging competitive auctions sometimes hinges on each side’s total number of trumps held. If as opener you raise in competition with either three or four, you may make your partner’s task harder at his next turn. So opener can use the double of cheap intervention – below two of partner’s suit – as three-card support. Thus the raise promises four trump. I find the double gives away as much as it gains; there again, the axiom about old dogs and new tricks may be in point.

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