Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 29th, 2018

My partner tells me that it is consistent with Standard American to use the short club or short diamond opening bid in hopes of finding a fit in a major suit. What should the minimum holding be to make such a bid? And what should my minimum support (and high cards) be to respond, assuming no intervening bid?

Get Shorty, Ketchikan, Alaska

Playing standard, with 3-3 in the minors, I always open one club, regardless of suit quality, unless in third seat with really good diamonds. With 4-4, I open the better minor, more for the lead than for any other reason. As responder, assume partner always has four diamonds and rates to have four clubs for the opening bid. Assume that you can raise with four trumps (whether or not you are in a competitive auction) if nothing else seems appropriate.

I have a lot of trouble understanding and remembering the rule of 11; could you explain it to me — in words of one syllable?

Gobstopper, Danville, Ill.

When your partner leads a fourth-highest card, count up how many higher cards in that suit are unaccounted for. (For example, on the lead of a five, the six through ace represent the nine missing cards.) Since your partner’s hand holds three of them (she led her fourth-highest, so she has three bigger), the remaining (9 – 3 = 6) six higher cards are held by you, dummy and declarer. Subtract dummy’s and your own to know how many declarer has. A shortcut is to subtract the card led from 11: 11 minus five equals six.

Holding ♠ 6,  J-9-7-2,  10-8, ♣ K-Q-10-7-5-4, when would you open three clubs, and when would the vulnerability or scoring persuade you to stay silent? Would you ever make a jump overcall here?

Lumpfish, San Juan, P.R.

I might open three clubs non-vulnerable in first chair, despite the weak four-card major on the side. Beef up that major to include a top honor, and I’d leave well enough alone and pass. In third seat, opening three clubs looks reasonable at any vulnerability, as does a jump overcall; mixing up your partnership pre-empting style is a perfectly reasonable policy. Many do it and don’t admit it.

I was on opening lead against a confidently bid slam, holding ♠ 6,  Q-10-8-4,  K-5-4-3, ♣ J-9-7-2. My RHO had opened and rebid spades; my LHO had bid diamonds then used key-card and driven to six spades after a response showing two key-cards and no trump queen. What are your thoughts on how I should approach the problem?

Catch-22, Woodland Hills, Calif.

There are two schools of thought: Try to set up a heart or club winner and hope partner has a sure winner somewhere so you can cash it. Or lead a diamond in an attempt to set up that suit or put declarer off the finesse (maybe before he knows spades aren’t breaking). For me, it comes down to a red suit, and I slightly favor a heart over a diamond.

When should opener rebid a five-card suit after a one-level response, as opposed to bidding one no-trump? What about over a two-level response?

Bucket List, Miami, Fla.

In my book, the answer to the second question is: Whenever no other attractive option presents itself. Unless the suit is headed by two top honors, I generally will strive not to do it, though. After a one-level response you’d prefer not to rebid a five-card suit but to raise partner with three trumps or rebid one no-trump if possible. But often a shape like 2-4-5-2 or 2-4-2-5 presents problems after you open your minor and hear a one-spade response, I admit.

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jim2May 13th, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Any word?

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 11th, 2012 at 7:10 pm
Because Bobby received so many points of view, he forwarded the following to Jeff Rubens at The Bridge World for the Master Solvers Column:

You hold: Matchpoints, Neither Vulnerable Dealer West:

South West North East
3S X Pass

South holds:

♠ K J
♥ K 9 2
♦ A 10 7 4 3
♣ 8 7 5

Also, different at IMPs?

At my blog site, The Aces on Bridge, this hand has provoked much discussion
between 4 hearts, 3NT and 5 diamonds.

Thank you !

bobbywolffMay 13th, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

Not yet, but perhaps we shouldn’t rush him.

However, although my memory likely doesn’t go back that far, rather perhaps the limit about 6 1/2 minutes, instead of 5 years, 149 days (including 2 leap years).

My ratings just in case I do not hear from Jeff in the next millennium:


The game is matchpoints, where trick score is paramount so my scoring on everything but 3NT is probably a little too high and might be lowered.

No doubt 3NT may be able to make in various ways, of course, depending on the overall layout, while all other bids may not include that advantage. Therefore the same at IMPs!

Thanks for letting that hand brew for a while and would you mind sending me the next 60 days columns succeeding, so I can repeat them without too much fear of plagiarizing myself.

Note: JUST KIDDING since perhaps you or someone else has them.

Iain ClimieMay 13th, 2018 at 6:55 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2,

I’d probably downgrade 3N on the basis that I’d have bid that.


bobbywolffMay 13th, 2018 at 7:04 pm

Hi Iain,

Similar to Groucho Marx having said, “I would never join a fraternity who would agree to invite me”.

bobbywolffMay 13th, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

Judy did send that hand to Jeff Rubens, hopeful that it would be included in the Master Solver’s club sometime in that era.

However, both of us lost track of whether or not it was ever included, and since, knowing you, your eagle eye would have spotted it in whatever form it became, assuming something positive was done.

Therefore I take the blame, since Judy doesn’t always follow that feature, and even objects to the dust it creates to horde past issues.

However, and at least attempting to understand the sensitivity of the subject, might give an opinion that perhaps the answer might be unanimous for 3NT, although many might realize that 4 hearts could be the only game which makes.


bobbywolffMay 13th, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Hi again Jim2,

Strike the such, but perhaps add that it is possible for the doubler to bid 4 hearts over 3NT, but not 3NT over 4 hearts.

Small consolation that, but except for the victims of TOCM TM all bidders are at the mercy of how the cards are dealt, which in reality means, assuming the use of non-transparent ducats, “you pays your money, you takes your choice.

jim2May 13th, 2018 at 9:23 pm

I have not subscribed or otherwise read BW for decades. I reluctantly stopped when I realized that the bidding systems in the quizzes and the accounts of major tournaments made no sense to me, hence not worth it. Even the play problems sometimes were affected by nuances in ultra-artificial bidding.

I felt that the professional game (as covered well by BW) had become disconnected with the game played by most people.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 12:16 am

Hi Jim2,

You, of course, are certainly not alone with your feelings about artificial bidding and how it effects the game and almost as important, its reporting.

No doubt, if left up to the majority, all bids, legal signals, ethical standards, and even general proper behavior at the table would be cordial and never obnoxious. In addition, the bidding would be easily understood by all four players.

However, the road to improvement is thought to be centered around using bids, almost never before used, such as bidding a suit one of the opponents have already announced having 5+ of them.

And to make matters a little more complex, often that 5+ is not by an opponent bidding that suit, but rather by inferential reasoning.

Therefore as we get deeper into improving, we reach places to go which never before had been visited, at least by us.

The result is either sink or swim instead of just deciding to just give up the idea of playing.

One other caveat I think is important. Never in at least my history of living, has a game been played in as close proximity as everyone at the same table, where the skill level difference can be as wide as it often is, in the game we all (or most of us) love.

Presto, magic, problems arise. However my hats are off to the players, young, middle age, or old, who grit their teeth and learn to move up in class, whatever the turmoil or cost, since the game itself is indeed worth it, even at the so many possible levels, in which it is now played.

It is indeed interesting to me that you, Jim2, are so much against artificiality, since you obviously are a highly expert player (top 5% world wide with room to spare) and easily able to apply new treatments mentally, because of your vast experience and overall analytical talent.

However and no doubt, you do represent a very large cross section of players who would love to ban artificiality in order to have the game come to you, instead of you going to the new and sometimes uncharted new methods.

jim2May 14th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Dear Host –

TY for your kind words! I view the situation as another example of having entered the realm of “diminishing returns.”

That is, repurposing same suit bids as cue bids and assigning them meanings, ace-asking conventions (e.g., Blackwood), suit fit exploring conventions (e.g., Stayman), obviously odd single purpose bids (e.g., Splinter), and such pose little burden to the general population of players.

Artificial systems grounded in natural bids (e.g., Precision) pose some problems, and those willing to adopt counter-systems (e.g., CRASH) gain some ground, while not posing a threat to the system bidders who can hardly fault those who play a system to counter their system.

However, a more casual player will not have a counter-system, and so now lose ground both to the Precision bidders and to the others who are prepared with a counter-system.

Increasingly, the game moves into Arms Race territory and, in doing so, increasingly off-puts the base population.

Decades ago, those disaffected left the game but were replaced by college kids, a population less inclined now to join the ranks of players. And so, the game shrinks demographically.

I eventually adopted the War Games solution to the Arms Race.

jim2May 14th, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Anyway, the reason I mentioned not paying attention to BW these last years was simply to indicate I would have no way of knowing if the Q had been answered/tested within its pages.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2018 at 10:49 pm

Hi still again Jim2,

Likely the answer to the query of what happened first, younger players stopped wanting to play bridge because of more exciting things to do, or all card games losing out to the electronic age. No doubt, youthful focus is concentrated on computers, I Pads, and cell phones, allowing easier access to almost all social endeavors for communications, rather than “table up” requiring bodies, not just voices and such, for a bridge game.

Whatever the main reason is, at least to me, a real loss to what could be a great educational tool, which, at least to me, strongly resembles the logic of life ingrained in every bridge competition requiring only enthusiastic, experienced players in all four chairs.

No doubt, bridge learning is now dumbed down enough for everyone to understand everything which is taught, but by doing so, there is not enough incentive to stay with, since the lessons given simply do not begin to resemble the real intellectual game with its immense value that we had learned to love.

Perhaps we have become stalled into demanding instant gratification for our entertainment resulting in a back seat to learning bridge, since our game is so very multi-faceted.

Whatever the reason, it appears to me that sooner rather than later, our sensational game will fade out, at least in the Western Hemisphere, and if so, yes, I think it will be a significant loss.

Finally, I think we agree, rather than not about the direction high-level bridge is now going since, my guess is that we both hate destructive type bidding (designed only to confuse the opposition) rather than old time preemptive bidding which also interfered with the opponents communication, but, at the very least, was intelligible bidding in suit(s) promised, and wasn’t used just to rain on the opponents bridge parade, but to have some real tangible meaning.

Been there, refused that, and thankfully was supported by a clear majority of worldwide intelligent bridge lovers, who protected us from ourselves in keeping our game as clean as we could make it, at least at our current level.

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