Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

I held ♠ K-9-4-3,  10-5-3,  Q-10-4-2, ♣ J-4 and raised my partner’s opening bid of one spade to two. What is the right continuation over a call of three diamonds from my partner?

Phoenix Rising, Grenada, Miss.

My partnership style is to use new suits here as a game try. Typically, the call is based on length, with a holding of three or four cards to an honor, so your hand has two big plusses: one based on your decent long trumps, and the other your useful diamond holding, which rates to cover some of your partner’s losers. So I would bid game. By the way, with the club ace instead of the jack, I would raise to four diamonds or cuebid four clubs, in case partner has a slam try.

My partner suggested to me that we play fit jumps, which I am happy with. He also suggested that new suits in response to pre-empts be based on fit, not a single-suited hand. I’m not sure I buy into that. Do you?

Assister Sledge, Chicago, Ill.

I will say that as a passed hand (which has therefore almost denied a decent onesuiter), a new suit in response to a pre-empt ought to be lead-directing. By an unpassed hand, especially if your RHO has passed, I think a new suit should be natural and forcing.

I held: ♠ K-4,  A-9-8-3-2,  9, ♣ A-Q-7-5-4 and opened one heart, then rebid two clubs over a one-spade response. Now I heard my partner rebid two no-trump, and I was not sure whether to bid or pass. If I did bid, what call would describe my hand best?

Flower Power, Atlanta, Ga.

I wouldn’t pass, but I believe that three clubs should show a minimum hand with 5-5 shape, a non-forcing call. So I would either raise to three no-trump or, if feeling scientific, I might experiment with a call of three diamonds, which I believe should be reserved for a forcing hand with 5-5 shape. A rebid of three hearts here shows a 6-4 pattern, and would also be forcing.

What is the right approach to playing the combination of four small cards facing A-J-9-x-x in dummy, assuming you have plenty of entries back and forth? I can see three sensible ways of playing the suit: starting with the ace, leading to the jack or leading to the nine. Which is the odds-on play?

Math Observation, Little Rock, Ark.

Cashing the ace loses to a void or singleton small card to your left. Low to the jack loses to a void or singleton honor to your left. Low to the nine and finessing a second time loses to the singleton 10 or K-Q doubleton on your left, but not to the 4-0 break, so it is the right play.

Do you prefer to play jump raises of partner’s opening bid or overcall as weak, mixed or invitational? Does it matter whether the opponents have bid (either to your left or right)? And is the vulnerability critical?

Razor Sharp, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

In non-competitive auctions, a raise to three seems best as a limit raise (though playing it as mixed is acceptable). I don’t like a pre-emptive raise with silent opponents. After partner opens and you hear a double or an overcall, I can understand having the raise as pre-emptive — as long as you have a way to show a mixed raise. If partner overcalls, using the raise as pre-emptive makes sense.

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ClarksburgJuly 15th, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Good morning Bobby
You have often commented that Matchpoints is an extremely difficult, almost impossible, game to get right. This hand may be a good example and hopefully of some interest to your readers.
Both VUL, East Deals
North Q97 AJ876 10 J984
East 85432 Q10 542 A73
South K10 5432 AK83 Q102
West AJ6 K9 QJ976 K65
Note NS can make 9 tricks at Hearts and EW should be down one in 2S.
Results in our Club game:
Five plays where NS were “allowed” to play in 2H making 3
One play where NS were in 3H making 3 (probably pushed; not sure)
Two plays in 2S by EW, not Doubled; once down one, and once making 2S (gift from defense)
Would be interested to have your comment on any aspects of this hand, including where it would most likely end up in an expert game.

bobbywolffJuly 15th, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Happy to comment, especially on an everyday variety of a matchpoint part score, possible competitive hand with only short times taken to voice likely mind sets of all the players.

East, the dealer has an easy pass, followed by a minimum opener, 1 diamond using today’s very popular 5 card major system. First problem then arises with West and though I do not slightly hedging (in favor of bidding when given a chance) when we are both short cards and worse, long suit is opened by RHO suggesting that, if anything this hand is more likely to be a misfit for both sides, therefore instead of overbidding with 1NT (the only possible choice other than pass) I think it clearly right to pass.

Then an easy 1 heart response by North and a repeat pass by East. South then raises to 2 hearts (what else?). Next, especially while playing matchpoints (frequency of gain instead of amount is king) I would step out and make a secondary TO Dbl., while only holding 3-3 in the unbid black suits. No bridge book would suggest such a thing, but that is what I would consider a winning action since partner with his likely weak hand is likely to have a 5 card black suit (particularly so if the NS opponents almost always have 4 card support in a major when they raise. (restricting partner to no more than 3 hearts and likely to be relatively short in diamonds as well.

Then pass by North (what else?) followed by an easy 2 spade bid by East. Then, of course 2 passes back to North who most likely, but not always will probably compete to 3 hearts because of his 5 card sound suit and enough distribution to at least hope for a make.

All roads then lead to making 9 tricks for NS, losing 1 spade, 1 heart (on the good break, easily predictable since South passed when given the chance and, of course North continued but only because he needed to. Also NS were fortunate that the opponents clubs broke 3-3 instead of 4-2 when a club ruff would probably have occurred, either on opening lead or while still on lead if a spade is chosen instead of a club.

Somewhat of a boring hand, but still the essence of the competitive nature of matchpoints and a moral victory for EW who set themselves up with pushing NS to the dangerous 3 level wherein with either a 3-1 heart brieak or a 4-2 club break +100 might have been their fate instead of -140.

No wonder your overall 8 results were all within normal expectations, with my hat off to the EW pair who likely pushed their opponents to an unsafety level, but unfortunately for them didn’t have the goods for it to pay off.

Like today’s overall political climate, a pundit may say otherwise, that EW were “out of their minds to enter the fray, since NS might have doubled them for +200 and a top. Sure and some pigs do fly if either North nor South are even close to doing such a thing as evidenced by the two hands which played two spades, one making for a top board and the other going the normal -100 for a next to top.

One swallow does not make a spring, and neither does one hand set a trend. However this so-called mundane hand is representative of what it takes to win at matchpoints. Be aggressive and luck will follow, not without some grief, but overall at least what I think, a winning philosophy.

Thanks for your considerable effort in “culling” this type of hand for discussion.

bobbywolffJuly 15th, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Good morning again Clarksburg,

My post, as usual, needs some proof reading, but since we operate in a strictly informal atmosphere, I neglected to correct a couple of errors, nothing horrible, but preferably, if intended to be part of an exercise, to strive to do better.

All the above means is that if you are only intending to use our back & forth to discuss with your group then it is OK as is, but if our cross discussion goes anywhere near being published, I would like the opportunity to tidy it up.

Thanks again for your always great intentions of giving our superior game much more publicity.

Much warmth,


bobbywolffJuly 15th, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Hi still again Clarksburg,

I neglected another angle. If West decides to risk 1NT over is RHO’s 1 diamond, North should venture 2 hearts (to not do so is a major error, at least IMO) East then should enter with 2 spades for all the same reasons.

Now for a practical point, South should raise to 3 hearts, but in spite of his 4 card support he should not if his diamonds were KJxx and his other 3 or 4 hcps were somewhere else. Reason, of course, is that his AK of diamonds are definite tricks but his KJ of diamonds looks like cannon fodder.

All the above is sound reasoning when playing any form of bridge, particularly the super competitive game we call matchpoints where opponents will double just in case they may set their aggressive opponents and they do not want a fallout to their losing being not being brave enough to fight “fire” with “fire”.

Finally I’m finished! However watch the skies for further participation.

Patrick CheuJuly 15th, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Hi Bobby,Would you overcall 1N with West’s hand here at pairs 15-18 range? Regards-Patrick

bobbywolffJuly 15th, 2018 at 9:10 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your question carries with it perhaps the most (on this hand) significant answer pertaining to it.

Definitely not, since when overcalling 1NT when not having a clue as to the division of strength (left over) between the two yet to bid players, one needs to be as circumspect as possible.

Since West’s only long suit diamonds is the one declarer bid, it doesn’t make sense, at least to me, to subject oneself to getting doubled and having no viable action to still have a chance to salvage this hand. If that suit was clubs, then 1NT (because of the aforementioned advantages of bidding) make at least some sense, (close to at least being in the running to overcall 1NT) but when that suit is the one RHO opened, it becomes too foolhearty (if it works we will call it daring), since all avenues of escape (should we be unlucky) like the morning milk man, have vanished.

To me, in case you haven’t noticed, there are not many shades of gray, only right or wrong, but the incredible cauldron of experience (being burned) tends to be the greatest teacher.

Thanks for allowing me my daily rant.

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