Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 1st, 2018

Please explain to a complete beginner why we are supposed to lead fourth highest from long suits. How does it gain, and what inferences can we draw from the small cards?

Gone to Grass, Union City, Tenn.

The answer comes in two parts, one of which is the rule of 11, which I’ll deal with in response to another letter later this month. You can often infer partner’s precise length in the suit led. For example: If he leads the two, he cannot have five cards (or the two would not be fourth highest). Similarly, if he leads the three and you can see the two, the same logic applies. If you cannot see the two, your partner may have led from three, four or five cards.

I recently led a king from K-Q-7-2 against a suit contract, and dummy had jack-third. My partner took forever to contribute the two, and my king held the trick. Can you tell me my rights and obligations in this situation in regard to continuing the suit?

Truthful James, Sunbury, Pa.

When partner breaks tempo, you must try to ignore it and make the bid or play that you would have done without that unauthorized information. Here that might mean shifting to the logical suit, but at the same time, you are not required to “stop playing bridge.” When your own hand and common sense tell you that it is right to continue the suit (as it might do here, since if declarer had the ace, he would definitely have taken it), you may do so.

When holding ♠ K-9-4-3,  J-8-7,  Q-10-7-4, ♣ A-6, I’ve been taught that if my partner opens one spade and the next hand doubles, it is correct to jump to two no-trump, suggesting a limit raise or better in spades. When I did so, I was greeted by a jump to four hearts by my partner. What should this mean — and what should I do at my next turn?

Tony the Tortoise, Marco Island, Fla.

When a new suit would be forcing, as here, a jump is known as a splinter; it shows shortage and is implicitly a slam try. With no wasted values in hearts, you have just enough for a cue-bid of five clubs. One slam try is clearly enough in this case; you will let your partner take over from here.

How much do you need to double a strong no-trump? Is any hand at the top of the range of the no-trump opener good enough, or do you need a long suit? Recently, I held ♠ K-J-2,  A-Q-2,  K-Q-4, ♣ Q-10-3-2, and doubled a no-trump, but despite partner having the club king, we could not set it.

Dumpster Dan, White Plains, N.Y.

Do not let the result on one deal change a sensible policy. While many these days do not play penalty doubles here, there is nothing wrong with your approach. If you have a respectable lead and a prime 16- or 17-count, do not hesitate to double. If they aren’t making their contract from time to time, you may not be doubling enough.

We play a strong no-trump and transfers. What method would you suggest we use when a Jacoby transfer call is doubled by the next hand?

Trumping Voluntary, Midland, Mich.

Let’s keep it simple, though I imagine more complex meanings can be assigned to the calls. Pass shows two trumps; over this, partner’s redouble is a re-transfer, with the auction continuing as it would have without intervention. Any other action by responder is less than invitational but suggesting extra shape, to help in the competitive auctions. Completing the transfer shows three trumps; other calls show values in the bid suit with a good fit for partner.

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