Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

How should I play the trump suit of four small cards in dummy facing five cards to the A-J-9-4-2 in my hand for one loser? Should my policy change if my RHO follows with the 10 as opposed to the eight on the first round?

Number Cruncher, Hamilton, Ontario

If the eight appears on your right, in abstract low to the ace guards against the singleton honors on your left, while losing to the singleton 10 to your left. So it looks best. But if your RHO follows with the 10 at his first and would ‘never’ play the 10 from honor-ten-eight, play the jack on the first round.

Holding ♠ K-7-5-2,  K-2,  Q-10-7-4-3, ♣ A-K, would you open one no-trump or one diamond? What are the rules for treating 5-4 hands as balanced?

Stumbling Stan, Detroit, Mich.

I feel strongly that you should try to avoid opening one no-trump with 5-4 pattern and a five-card major, if you can. With five of a minor and four spades, and either 15 or 17 points, I normally upvalue or down-value my hand out of a one no-trump opener and open the minor so I would happily open one diamond here. With the other patterns I always try to upgrade 17-counts out of the no-trump opener, but if my values are in the doubletons you might twist my arm into a no-trump opening bid.

Would you overcall, double or pass in third seat with ♠ A-J,  J-9-4-3-2,  Q-7-4, ♣ Q-6-4, after hearing one club to your right? If you would pass, how much more would you need to act?

All Gall, Houston, Texas

This is not a one heart overcall by any sane person’s valuation (that doesn’t mean everyone will pass of course). To overcall, you want to have a decent hand or a suit you want led. Not this hand, though make the diamond queen the heart queen with the same shape and you might yield to temptation.

You recently ran a deal where one of your opponents had shown a long diamond suit and commented that “the chances of finding either major suit breaking 3-3 seemed slim (my emphasis).” Isn’t there more than a 50 percent chance that one or both suits will break for you?

Indian Ink, Durango, Colo.

In abstract this would be so, but for the fact that on the actual hand where I was writing, your LHO had preempted to the three level in clubs and had shown at least two cards in diamonds, and possibly more. Now the chance that he had three cards in either of the two critical suits becomes far lower. But to go back to the original question: in abstract were the long suit not indicated, you would indeed expect a 3-3 break in one of two suits nearly sixty percent of the time.

In first position, with no one vulnerable, my RHO opened one club, and when I passed, the auction ground to a stop. I held ♠ 7-2,  K-Q-10-6,  A-8, ♣ A-10-6-5-4. Should I have overcalled with one heart? My partner had a 3-3-3-4-3 11-count and we could make three no-trump, though defeating one club by three tricks scored well enough for us.

Mona Lisa, Atlanta, Ga.

I would have acted with a one heart overcall, even if this promises five. My length in my opponents’ suit is not entirely a negative here, and if I don’t bid now I may never be able to persuade my partner that I have a decent hand and a good suit. I might overcall one heart over one diamond also, and I suppose I might double one spade – though without too much enthusiasm.

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