Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 14th, 2018

As a non-expert who plays a few bells and whistles (one of which is using jumps both in and out of competition as shortage and fit for partner but not game-forcing), I saw a deal in your column recently where this would have reached a slam that was missed around the room. Have you contemplated using that method?

Lipstick Lizard, Houston, Texas

In an uncontested auction, such jumps should be natural — though you can agree any range for the call you like. A jump to three hearts, after partner opens one spade and the next hand bids two diamonds, for example, should be either weak or fit-showing. Minisplinters as you describe them are not my favorite. Will I change my methods? No — that may be the only hand these methods would work for!

I heard my partner open one diamond and the next hand overcall one heart. My hand was ♠ 9-8-3-2,  A-K-J,  J-7-5, ♣ Q-9-3, and I chose to ignore the spades and jump to two no-trump, invitational. My partner now bid three clubs, which I assume is forcing. What should I do now?

Continuing Education, London, Ontario

I do not see any reason not to bid three diamonds. This hand is exactly in range for what partner expects, and now partner may pass (which is fine by me) or bid values in whichever major he has values in. If he bids three hearts, I’d expect the spades to be wide open and go past three no-trump (maybe with a call of four hearts).

I have been taught to play a style where two-over-one is a game force except when responder rebid his suit. I find the only downside to this approach is that with a full opening hand, responder must find a second bid other than his suit at the three-level. What is your opinion of this style?

Old Jerrold, Spokane, Wash.

The main advantage of two-over-one is to establish a fit as early as possible between the partners, so every bid now becomes forcing. This means that your possible games and slams can be properly explored. That isn’t so when responder is denied the ability to make a forcing rebid of his own suit. I’ve reluctantly moved to believing that a rebid at the three-level should be forcing to game. So an immediate jump to the three-level becomes a good suit with only invitational values.

I held ♠ A-Q-2,  K-J-2,  K-10-4, ♣ K-Q-3-2, and heard my RHO open one spade. Would you elect to double or bid one no-trump? I chose to bid one no-trump, and my partner passed with five diamonds to the ace-jack. However, we could make three no-trump easily enough.

Undercooked, North Bay, Ontario

Your hand is a fraction too strong for your chosen call, especially because your hearts are positionally worth a lot more than 4 high-card points. I’d choose to double and rebid in no-trump to show 18-20, feeling I have plenty in hand. If my RHO had opened one spade, I would surely overcall one no-trump, as so many more of my points are tied up in my heart stoppers.

What defense do you recommend against a weak no-trump? As a parallel thought, what meaning would you assign to a passed hand’s double of a strong no-trump?

Horse Before the Cart, Memphis, Tenn.

While an artificial double of a strong no-trump is perfectly playable, I strongly suggest any defense against a weak no-trump should include a penalty double with a call reserved to show the majors (either two clubs or two diamonds). That means playing Landy or Cappelletti. By a passed hand, you could try using a double as clubs.

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ClarksburgJanuary 28th, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Good morning Bobby
Your answer to Undercooked’s question seems to contain a gem of not-widely-taught advice about incisive hand evaluation, upgrade/downgrade, and related bidding judgement.

I intend to share and discuss with Partners. But may there have been an editorial slip (re Hearts or Spades) in the verbatim presentation of your answer?

My understanding is that over a 1H opening you have an economical 4-point double stop (KJ2), whereas over a 1S opening you burn 6 HCP (AQ2) for the equivalent stops, so fewer HCP available elsewhere for trick taking.
Is that the correct understanding?

Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

We appreciate your excellent views about valuation and a possible mix-up about the column explanation.

Since these responses are discussed, written and distributed many months ahead of publication, I do not often remember, including this one, many of the thoughts discussed at that time (some of them I am not privy too, except, of course, my proof reading).

No doubt an AQ combination over a RHO suit denomination will be automatically thought of as two tricks (even if LHO has the king (perhaps 5% or less of the time) since he would possibly either lead it or away from it vs. whatever contract the opponents reached as long as his RHO was declarer (usually the case).

And since, while holding KJx in hearts, there is a greater chance of the partner of the opening bidder holding the queen, of course, depending on who of the other two players has the remaining strength (usually with bidding of this type) less than 10 hcps between them.

Therefore, I think we intended for the discussion to actually be as written with the 18 hcp hand sitting behind a one spade opening, not one heart. Of course, and in truth, there is not a world of difference between the major suit expectations, and to throw a strategic thought into the discussion, if the AQ of hearts are onside, which is not unlikely to be the case, it makes this hand even better since in that case 4 hcps serves as 6 in taking the same two tricks leaving the stronger spade suit to constitute a more formidable side holding than would be a KJ.

All the above is only to stamp a seal of approval to your last paragraph and BTW suggest treating that 18 hcp hand with optimism rather than not when by only overcalling 1NT over 1 heart or 1 spade is serious underbidding (which I have always thought to be the curse of the game).

Finally and in a heartfelt manner, the point count developed and promoted for now almost ninety years, is, in many ways (along with the power of distribution, sometimes not often known until both partners contribute) only borderline valuable.

However there has to be a learning period for players embrace the game, but once being bitten some take off and others sadly discard, based on both because of their individual talents for the game (usually highly visible and almost always immediately) or instead only a shrug and then a vanishing act, even for some who would thrive, but just do not have the time, nor often, the surrounding influences (other friends wanting to take the game seriously) causing them too, to seek other entertainment.

All that you and I can say to them is, especially ones with numerate talent, “they do not know what they are missing.”

Thanks for your always welcome comments.