Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 28th, 2017

If declarer puts a card on the table, then indicates he did not intend to play that card, what is the follow-up? Does it matter if the next hand follows suit before declarer picks it up?

Fallen Angel, Naples, Fla.

The difference between a dropped and played card is significant. Accidentally dropped cards can be retrieved by declarer with no penalty, but a played card cannot be retracted. In essence unless a card falls out of declarer’s hand, it is generally deemed played. If the next hand has followed, I can’t see declarer being allowed to retract his card. Contrast the position for the defenders: if a defenders holds a card so their partner can see it, it should be deemed played.

Recently you ran a deal showing a convention called Smolen with game-forcing values and 5-4 in the majors. Can you also use this convention with 6-4 in the majors?

Staying the Course, Latrobe, Pa.

For the record: with game-going values and 5-4 in the majors you bid Stayman then jump in the four-card major to get your side to a 5-3 fit (if there is one) the right way up. That gadget is called Smolen. Stayman followed by four of a red suit can be used as a transfer with 6-4 pattern in the majors, but that requires a partnership agreement.

What is your general agreement about whether it is wise to preempt with a void on the side? Does it matter which seat you are in? And would you ever preempt with a good suit but a five-card suit on the side?

Trouble with Tribbles, Dodge City, Kan.

So long as you have a good six-card suit, I have no problem with having a 6-4-3-0 shape, or even having a weak five-card suit on the side. The critical issue is that your long suit is sound enough to play facing a small doubleton. The late Paul Trent gave his name to that style, but Zia is also a big fan of it.

Holding ♠ 10-3-2,  A-Q-J-7,  2, ♣ A-J-9-4-2, would you respond two clubs or one heart to a one diamond opener — and what are the factors that control your choice?

Taking the High Road, Albuquerque, N.M.

Most strong hands with a five-card minor and a four-card major start with the minor to set up a game force, since it generally allows you to bid your second suit economically. Where, as here, you are borderline for a force to game you could go either way. And this is especially the case with a very good major, where a 4-3 fit might be right, I can see that it might be right to respond one heart and try two no-trump over a one spade or two diamond rebid from your partner

My partner frequently uses a short club opening bid in hopes of finding a fit in a major suit with as few as two cards in the suit. What would be the accepted minimum holding in a standard five-card major system to make such a bid? And should that influence our responding style?

Little by Little, Columbia, S.C.

Playing standard, with 3-3 in the minors I open one club regardless of suit quality, and with 4-4 I open the better minor. Essentially the one diamond opener always delivers four cards, unless it is precisely a 4=4=3=2 pattern. If you want to open one club with that shape, it really should not alter your constructive bidding. The hand comes up so rarely, you can essentially ignore the possibility partner has it.

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