Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 17th, 2018

I am trying to break my partner of what I consider the bad habit of opening three no-trump in fourth seat with a strong, balanced opening hand. He claims the contract is more likely to make if he doesn’t give away information. Can you persuade him against this approach?

Shot in the Dark, Staten Island, N.Y.

I’d never take a random gamble with a strong, balanced hand and a range that I could describe in some other way. An opening bid of three no-trump can be used for 25-26, though one can also show that hand after opening two clubs. The alternative, of using the call to show a long minor in a good hand, is certainly possible. In third or fourth seat, you would typically have guards in at least two of the three side suits.

Can you still claim honors even if you do not make your contract? Recently I went one down in my contract of five diamonds with 100 honors in the suit. The other players said I could not claim the honor points. Who is right?

Robbery with Violins, Charleston, S.C.

You were absolutely right, and your opponents (and partner) were entirely wrong. The points for honors do not depend on the success or failure of the contract, and, incidentally, they can be claimed by the defenders, too!

I held a balanced nine-count when my partner opened one diamond. The next hand bid one spade, so I raised to two diamonds. When my RHO balanced with two spades, I elected to pass, but would it have been an error to raise to three diamonds with ♠ 6-2,  Q-4-3,  A-K-9-2, ♣ 10-9-3-2?

Movin’ on Up, Jackson, Tenn.

This re-raise should be all about trumps or tricks. A raise should be five trumps or unusual offense with four trumps. A hand with something like a 2=2=4=5 pattern might qualify, I suppose, with all the values in the minors, but bear in mind that your partner could easily have a 4=4=3=2 shape.

When you use Stayman and find a fit, how do you explore for slam? Is a call of four no-trump Blackwood?

Black Cap, Bremerton, Wash.

After Stayman, a jump to four no-trump should be quantitative, not Blackwood. A simple scheme here with a slam-try is to play a call of three of the other major (three spades over two hearts, three hearts over two spades) as setting partner’s major with an unspecified shortness. By contrast, a jump to four clubs would be Gerber for the major, while four diamonds is a balanced slam try with four-card trump support. This is sometimes called Baze.

If you open one heart in third seat with ♠ A-2,  Q-9-8-5-4,  K-10-7-3, ♣ Q-2 and hear a one no-trump response, should you pass or bid two diamonds? What is the rational behind the decision?

Digging a Hole, Wausau, Wis.

I tend not to pass one no-trump with an economical four-card suit to bid. If my partner does bid two no-trump or raise diamonds, we might make our contract; but if I pass and we miss a diamond fit, I don’t think we are favored to make our part-score.

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