Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 21st, 2017

I’m a beginner who has been taught the rule of 11 but I need help understanding the logic. Where does ‘11’ come from in a suit from two to ace?

Number Cruncher, Pottsville, Pa.

Think of a bridge suit as running from two to fourteen. The jack is 11 the queen 12, the king 13, the ace 14. When you lead a fourth highest seven, you must have three cards higher than the seven. The other players therefore have four such cards – since there are seven higher cards in total. So in essence the calculation is ‘14 minus 3, minus seven’ to bring you back to 11 minus seven, or four. I’m sure Rube Goldberg could make the explanation simpler…

Holding ♠ Q-3,  Q-10-7-2,  A-Q, ♣ A-Q-8-6-2, I opened one club and raised my partner’s response of one heart to three. When my partner bid four clubs, should I interpret this as natural or artificial and what should I bid?

Wuthering Heights, Bay City, Mich.

Your partner’s sequence suggests slam interest, or he would simply bid four hearts, but equally, he should have no spade control. If he did, he would have bid three spades rather than start by cuebidding a second-round club control. You cannot therefore cuebid four diamonds, or you would promise a spade control. Instead, sign off in four hearts.

I seem to be universally unsuccessful in leading on blind auctions against no-trump, whether or not the opponents have driven to no-trump without bidding a suit or have used Stayman, my choice always seems to cost a trick. What are your rules at matchpoint pairs on blind leads?

Sad Sack, Memphis, Tenn.

When you have a five-card or longer suit, or a sequence, you tend to go for that. The remaining 80 percent of the time, safety is always an option, and when in doubt I will choose a major over a minor. But also bear in mind that leading a card that will mislead partner (like low from three small) may often achieve a bad result, but will simply transfer the blame from you to him.

It has been a year or two since the cheating scandals broke into the papers. Do you have any titillating news to report on this subject (or any other exciting gossip)?

Newshound, Saint John, New Brunswick

I can reassure my readers that I have not personally generated any news worth repeating. Bridge players appear to have kept their noses fairly clean in the last 24 months; but if you are looking for news on, for example disciplinary matters, you can follow the breaking stories at

Facing a no-trump opener you recently posed a problem with 5-4 in the majors and a seven-count. You mentioned the option of a transfer, or Stayman then two spades to invite. Can you play mini-Smolen, so that responder could bid his 4-card major at the two level, after a two diamond response to Stayman rebid? That way, opener can right-side playing in a 5-3 major fit.

Bob’s your Uncle, Salinas, Calif.

I think I prefer Stayman followed by two hearts as weak with both majors. I think Garbage Stayman keeps you low, which is a plus. Maybe with five hearts and four spades and invitational values you transfer to hearts then bid two spades? And with spades and a second suit, and an unbalanced invitation, you bid Stayman then follow up with two spades over a two diamond response.

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