Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 14th, 2017

I noted in a recent column where against no-trump a player led a heart (from five to the king) and dummy with jack-10-third played the jack. Third hand played the eight, and declarer overtook with the queen. You commented that the play of the eight implied an original holding of a singleton or doubleton rather than three small. Why is this?

Bad Attitude, Joplin, Mo.

The reason that East can’t have three cards is that with that holding he would have followed with his lowest card when dummy’s jack was about to win the trick. My rule is that when you can’t hold any card higher than the jack in the suit led, you signal count to your partner. Partner won’t think you like the suit if you play high, since you didn’t beat dummy’s card. Signal attitude if dummy plays the queen or higher, and partner might need to know if you hold the jack.

I wanted your advice on a hand that came up at our club. You hold ♠ 7-4,  J-10-3,  A-K-Q-9-4, ♣ K-7-2 and open one diamond. When your partner bids one heart, what rebid would you recommend?

Green Pastures, Muncie, Ind.

There are three calls under consideration here, all flawed. Few would be happy to rebid two diamonds; that should show six. A one no-trump call might be the plurality choice, but I hate to do that with two small in an unbid suit. (Make the spade seven the jack, and I am less concerned about that call.) The third choice is to raise hearts, which normally shows four but can be three in an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand, as here. It isn’t perfect; but life isn’t perfect.

Holding ♠ Q-10-4-2,  A-J-7-4-2,  A-5, ♣ K-J, I opened one heart and my partner doubled a two-diamond overcall for take-out. When the next hand raised to three diamonds I bid three spades, and played there. We made four when my partner put down the ace-king fourth of spades and the club queen, and I could ruff out hearts easily enough. Should either of us have done more here or was it just luck of the draw?

Missing the Boat, Midland, Mich.

Without the three-club bid you might well have jumped to three spades to show your extras. In competition, your three spade call showed four trump but did not show extras. So here you might stretch to bid four spades at your second turn, while being conscious that it is a slight overbid.

Can you comment on the rule of ‘Eight ever nine never’? Specifically, if I have K-4-2 in dummy facing A-J-8-5-3 in my hand and cash the king, then lead towards the ace, seeing the six to my left, the seven and nine to my right, why isn’t 10-6 as likely as Q-6?

Razor’s Edge, Levittown, Pa.

You are confusing a priori and a posteriori probabilities. Let’s say we need East to have three-cards to make our game at this point – if West has three, we have to lose a trick. If East has three aren’t they more likely to include the queen than not? The size of the spot cards he plays are irrelevant, just focus on the initial percentages.

At a recent duplicate with both sides vulnerable my partner heard me open one spade and the next hand overcall one no-trump. He held: ♠ J-8-5,  J-10-3,  10-7-3, ♣ K-9-5-3 and joined in with a raise to two spades. Things did not go well after that. Where do you stand with this hand about raising spades after partner opens one spade? Would it matter if RHO had bid a red suit as opposed to two clubs, or one no-trump?

Noisy Oyster, Olympia, Wash.

I hate acting with a real minimum over one no-trump (when you have been warned about possible bad breaks) or two clubs, where all you have is defense. I’d live with bidding with a fourth trump, or slightly better spades — say Q-10-x. Vulnerable, I would not bid over a red suit overcall; but non-vulnerable, I’d be tempted, depending on how aggressive my partner was and how likely he would be to hang me.

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