Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 8th, 2018

I understand that opener’s jump shift at his second turn is forcing to game. Is there a way for responder to hit the brakes after this start to a sequence?

Trapper John, Atlantic City, N.J.

Some people use the same basic idea that they employ over a reverse, a call that is forcing for one round but not to game. They play that responder’s only weak action is the cheaper of fourth suit and two no-trump. So after opener opens one club and jumps to two spades over a one-diamond response, responder’s two no-trump call is artificial and weak. Over opener’s jump to two hearts, a call of two spades would similarly be weak.

In a recent article, you described dealing and picking up a hand of ♠ K-J-9-8-3,  A-9,  J-6, ♣ Q-7-4-2. Passing worked well with this hand, but I must admit I would have opened the bidding with one spade. What are the precise criteria for bidding or passing here?

Fishhooks Miami, Fla.

This hand is a marginal opening bid. While opening would not be out of line, the possibly awkward rebid over a response of two diamonds or two hearts argue against bidding. With a side suit of hearts or even possibly diamonds, the rebid problem looks less awkward. Non-vulnerable at pairs, I might open, but I would surely pass if vulnerable.

Please discuss how modern experts use a jump to five no-trump these days. Has the grand slam force gone the way of the landline telephone?

Old-fashioned, Newport News, Va.

The use of Key-card Blackwood among many experts has led many top players to use the call of five no-trump as a maneuver to try to locate the right strain, a “choice-of-slam” request. This helps the partnership identify strong or long suits when there is some ambiguity about the best fit.

Is there a role for asking bids, as opposed to cue-bids, these days?

Filet Mignon, Washington, D.C.

Asking bids fit well into a strong club base, but (with the exception of some Danish experts) top players tend to use a cue-bidding style instead. The closest thing to asking bids in common usage might be fourthsuit calls to look for a stopper, not a control.

When you play two-over-one and a semi-forcing no-trump with ♠ A-K-7-3,  K-J-4-3-2,  Q-6-4, ♣ 9, you would open one heart, I assume. But if you hear a one-no-trump response, do you pass or rebid two diamonds, two hearts or two spades?

Blinky Bill, Selma, Ala.

Clearly, a two-spade rebid is out; that shows at least an ace more than your current hand. Rebidding two hearts with a weak suit is unattractive, so the choice is to pass (which I would do if the diamond four were the club four) or bid two diamonds, which suggests but does not guarantee four. I prefer to bid two diamonds, but on the actual hand I’d be more likely to pass if my partner were a passed hand, since I won’t be facing a limit raise in hearts. And since a response of two clubs would be artificial (Drury), that means he is more likely to have length in clubs than any other suit.

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ClarksburgJuly 22nd, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Good morning Bobby
Blinky Bill’s hand, a “Flannery” hand for those who play it, raises a related question:
What would you recommend a 2D opening should show”. Weak two? Flannery? something else?

bobbywolffJuly 22nd, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Coincidentally, when I re-read today’s Sunday letters that question caught my attention.

After, of course, many years, a bridge veteran may often sort out his likes and dislikes. When doing that, my two favorite conventions are clearly 2 way Stayman over 1NT (instead of everyone’s choice, Jacoby Transfers) and (drum roll) Flannery. 4-5 in the majors (with also 4-6 when the hearts are not very strong A10xxxx or such) and up to 15 hcps.

The best reason for Flannery will be described above with the significant distortions necessary when playing a standard 5 card major system with a semi-forcing (or stronger) 1NT response.

In my long partnership with Bob Hamman we played 2 diamonds as a strong 4-4-4-1 hand (with any singleton) 17+ so chose to discard the weak 2 heart bid and played it as Flannery. Of course, while that particular use of 2 diamonds is very accurate when it comes up, the lack of frequency becomes a good reason not to play it (we also played a strong club, causing in our opinion the strong 2 diamond bid, since 4-4-4-1 (any) is difficult to describe accurately in a strong club format.
So, with a natural system I would keep the 2 heart weak two bid and play 2 diamonds as Flannery.

Iain ClimieJuly 22nd, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Hi Bobby, Clarksburg,

Years go when playing precision, we used to reverse the meanings of the 1S and forcing 1NT responses to an opening bid of 1H showing 11-15 points. Does the idea have any merit, as I haven’t played that system (apart from once) since 1982?



bobbywolffJuly 22nd, 2018 at 10:18 pm

Hi Iain,

A few younger, intended to be serious partnerships, reverse the responses of 1 spade and 1NT to an opening 1 heart bid.

At least to me, there are only miniscule advantages and/or disadvantages to deal with. A small plus would enable the opener, when having the stronger hand, to be the declarer enabling the lead to come up to the stronger hand rather than through it. Another would be since when the response is 1 spade one is able to have an extra bid available to keep it as low as practical and, in significant numbers be able to not be faced with an awkward rebid, when partner instead plays normally and bids a semi-forcing or forcing 1NT.

In actuality the probable largest advantage is the possible confusion it causes novices when having to play against that artificiality which sometimes, being unfamiliar with such changes, merely pass, especially when holding
length in spades but having one’s RHO bid them in front of you.

Obviously the defense should mean that a 2 spade bid over the opponent’s artificial 1 spade bid is natural, the same as it would be over 1 normal 1NT response, with a double of 1 spade representing the same hand including perhaps 4 spades but a balanced hand which in truth is doubling a 1NT response.

Summing up, the advantages and disadvantages will not usually matter, but the artificiality may give the users a heads up on their inexperienced opponents.

Of course the pair using that treatment will never admit that reason for adopting it.