Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Could you clarify for me whether it is compatible with Standard American to use a short minor? If you do play a short minor, does that affect whether you are supposed to keep the auction open with limited values when you hear partner open a minor?

South Park Stan, Midland, Mich.

A short club to me means a two-card or even shorter holding. Standard American plays five card majors and minors that can be three but NOT a short club. The one exception: with specifically 4-4-3-2 pattern you may elect to open one club, if you have decided to play your one diamond opening guarantees four cards. It is not uncommon these days to respond light to a one club — or even one diamond — opening with major-suit length and shortage in partner’s minor. I like that approach – within reason.

Our club has started a monthly teams-of-four game. The plan is to keep cumulative total scores throughout the year toward a final standings, and a two-tier playoff. (Four teams in each tier, since we have eight teams). Would you suggest BAM (pairs) scoring or teams scoring and would you have any other thoughts on how to keep cumulative scoring from week to week?

Keeping Track, Augusta, Ga.

I suggest one of two simple systems. Either BAM scoring, carrying forward your cumulative total from week to week. Or use teams scoring converting to IMPs, and carry the cumulative IMPs forward. In the latter case, if your players use and are happy with converting IMPs to Victory Points, that would actually work better and be fairer, I believe.

At unfavorable vulnerability as dealer, I held ♠ K-Q-10-6-4-2,  Q-3,  J-3-2, ♣ K-9 I elected to forego opening one spade and opened two spades. My partner held a balanced 11-count and we played two spades, making three. But my partner felt I should have opened one spade. What do you say?

Undercooked, Sioux Falls, S.D.

My rule when looking at 10- or 11-counts is to add two for a six-card suit, and one for a subsidiary four-card suit. If the total doesn’t come to 13 then I open two, but even if the total is 13 or more I will open two if I do not have a trick and a half on defense. This hand is on the cusp, but I would be happy to open at the one-level in any seat except second seat vulnerable.

In one of your recent columns, South, overcalled three spades over three clubs. His partner now bid four clubs even though he had neither the ace nor king of clubs nor short clubs. Could you explain why he made that call?

Making Assumptions, Janesville, Wis.

Facing the three-spade overcall, the four club call simply sets spades as trump and guarantees at least some slam interest. Now overcaller can sign off, use keycard or cuebid himself. This is parallel to the way that after a simple overcall, advancer can raise with a limited hand and use a cuebid, the so-called ‘Unassuming Cuebid’ to show partner you have game interest and fit, without getting too high.

Can you comment on when and why you would consider upgrading and downgrading hands out of a one no-trump opening? Is it all about intermediates, sources of tricks, or a combination of the two?

Crunching the Numbers, Laredo, Texas

A simple rule is that one should not upgrade a 14-count without a five-card suit, and only sparingly then. Occasionally great intermediates, coupled with vulnerable doubleton honors such as queen-doubleton and king-doubleton mean you may want to try to right-side no-trump. Few players downgrade 18-counts into one no-trump and 15-counts out of one no-trump. They should do so more often!

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