Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 27th, 2017

After some overbidding, you reach a contract where you need to play your nine-card fit for no losers. In dummy you have ace-jack-sixth and queen-third in hand. You are missing the nine and 10 but have the eight. What play gives declarer the best chance of playing the suit if there are no entry problems? And how should you play the suit for one loser?

Bob’s Your Uncle,
   East Rutherford, N.J.

You must finesse the jack then cash the ace. Of the potentially winning distributions, you lose only to the bare king offside. Give yourself the nine and you would probably play the same way unless the hand over the ace had suggested shortness in this suit, when you might run the queen then repeat the finesse if the queen was covered. Incidentally, you should run the queen if you can afford one loser – that lets you play the suit for one loser against one of the 4-0 splits.

On an unopposed auction you hear RHO bid one spade, LHO bids two diamonds, then raises two no-trump to three. Holding ♠ J-9,  K-6-5-3,  10-4-2, ♣ Q-5-4-2 which suit is better to lead and why? Is there a preference or a general guideline for leading away from a king or a queen?

First Footer, Edmonton, Alberta

I think there is a slight edge for leading the unbid major no matter which way round your honors are. The logic is that declarer surely won’t hold hearts, and dummy is not favorite to do so. Meanwhile either declarer or dummy could hold four clubs, even if neither hand is especially favorite to do so. In abstract, there is really nothing to choose between the two holdings – the better the intermediates, the more attractive the lead.

If you lowered your opening bid standards to open one diamond with the following hand, what would you rebid over the response of a major suit? ♠ A-10,  J-3,  K-J-73-2, ♣ K-9-5-3, and would it matter whether partner bid hearts or spades as to what you did next?

Rear Gunner, Columbia, S.C.

This hand is a perfectly respectable opening bid, I believe. I hew to Terence Reese’s dictum that 5422 is a hand more appropriate for suit play than no-trump, and rebidding two clubs does not in any way suggest extras. Having said that, bidding 1 NT over a one heart response is not even a misdemeanor, whereas doing so over one spade might be a felony.

Recently in your column you recommended passing on a decent hand with a minimum opening bid, with four spades and four clubs, after hearing one diamond to your left and one heart to your right. You suggested doubling two of either red suit on the second round at your next turn. If the double stands, and the opponents make two hearts, won’t that finish up much worse for you?

Doppelganger, Eau Claire, Wis.

Double would not be for penalty here. When the opponents have agreed a suit at a low level, double should be for take-out. In fact I play almost no penalty doubles facing a passing partner (and especially when the opponents have implicitly or explicitly agreed a suit).

With both sides vulnerable, would you overcall one spade with ♠ 10-9-8-7-2,  Q-2,  K-3, ♣ K-Q-9-4? The hand and suit seem too weak to me; but if you agree, where does the threshold move from unacceptable to marginal?

Taxi Driver, Olympia, Wash.

This does not look like an overcall to me though I would balance with this hand happily enough. If you put a gun to my head, I would overcall one spade if the heart queen were the king. And of course my standards decline a little if non-vulnerable, maybe to a point where I would act with our example hand – even if I didn’t advocate that action for others.

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