Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 15th, 2017

In first or second seat with 12 points, how much account should you take of unprotected honors when deciding whether to open? Would it be reasonable to pass, holding ♠ J-4-3-2,  K-Q-4,  K, ♣ K-10-6-3-2? If you would always open, would there be any variation on this hand where you might pass?

Mellow Yellow, Vancouver, British Columbia

I would only pass a 12-count with a five-card suit in it if there was both an awkward rebid and a series of unguarded honors. Here I can open one club and rebid one spade easily enough, but switch the spades and diamonds and you might sell me on an initial pass.

I find opening leads the most difficult part of the game – especially against slams. Can you give me some advice as to when to lead aces and when to lead trumps against slams?

Panacea, Tucson, Ariz.

When looking for a passive lead, a trump can sometimes be the most effective – especially from weak length or after a keycard auction where you know the opponents have the trump queen. Against a small slam it pays to be active unless your own hand suggests you have two possible tricks, or you know suits aren’t breaking. The more long suits the opponents have shown, the more attractive an ace lead becomes.

I recently held ♠ K-Q-J-8-6-3-2,  A-5-3,  10, ♣ J-2 and at unfavorable vulnerability bid only three spades over my RHO’s three diamond preempt. Would you do that or bid four spades? Regardless, LHO jumped to six diamonds, and everybody passed. What would you lead?

Hot Spot, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Yes three spades is enough, and as to my opening lead, you could sell me on the heart ace or a low heart (the latter if I want to get my name in the paper, or in the obituaries should it fail). A top spade will surely accomplish nothing.

When you pick up this hand: ♠ A-Q-J-9,  7-2,  Q-4, ♣ K-10-9-7-2, and hear your RHO open one heart, can you comment on the range of sensible options available to you? Would vulnerability or the question of whether partner was a passed hand matter?

Coming Through the Rye, Lynchburg, Va.

The best moment to act is now, before the opponents have described or limited their hands. Double is awkward because a two diamond response leaves you so awkwardly placed. Maybe overcalling one spade is wiser than bidding two clubs with such a poor suit.

Could you comment on your approach with a strong three-suited hand in the range 19-24 with a singleton ace or king? Does it matter if the singleton is in a major as opposed to a minor?

Tightrope Walker, Twin Falls, Idaho

With hands holding in the range 21-22 I might open two no-trump with a singleton high honor. I admit, though, that the advantage of bidding a minor and hearing a response is that the discussion starts two rounds lower. You will be surprised how often you get to slams you would have missed after a two no-trump opener. With a small singleton I might open a minor instead, I suppose.

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