Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 15th, 2018

I often find I have trouble judging an 11-count facing a minimum balanced opener. I assume you would respond one spade to one club, holding ♠ A-J-3-2,  K-J-4,  Q-6-3, ♣ 10-6-2. When your partner rebids one no-trump, should you invite game? If not, how much more would you need to bid on?

Lucky Luke, Vancouver, British Columbia

Your lack of intermediates argues that you don’t have enough for an invitation at pairs, where going plus is your primary objective. Make the spade two the 10 (or give me a 4-4 pattern), and you may tempt me to invite game. Yes, game might make facing your actual hand: but probably less than half the time.

Has the overall standard of bridge in the U.S. dropped? If not, why do so many foreigners win our major teams events? What is going on in these events?

Home Groan, Provo, Utah

The explanation is simple. Twenty-five years ago, no one but North Americans came to our major events, but as bridge professionalism has grown around the world, more foreign teams are attending. They have raised the standards to make our major competitions the equivalent of world championships. Not surprisingly, it takes a world-class team to win them, and while more U.S. teams than foreigners still win, the ratio has shifted dramatically.

If you play Crawling Stayman, using a two-heart bid by responder after Stayman for a weak hand with both majors, then how should you play the equivalent calls after Stayman over a two no-trump opener?

Blue Leaves, West Palm Beach, Fla.

This is a trap for the unwary: The two auctions are not parallel. The two parallel auctions are Stayman followed by three of a major over one no-trump, and Stayman followed by three of a major over two no-trump. In both cases, responder is showing both majors, with four cards in the bid suit and at least five in the other suit. This is called Smolen, and it allows the strong hand to be declarer if there is a 5-3 fit.

I held ♠ A-J ,  A-K-J-3 ,  K-Q-J-4, ♣ Q-6-4 and heard my RHO open one spade in third seat. I doubled and heard a response of two clubs from my partner, and I was not sure how to advance the auction. What are your ideas?

Lumpfish, Troy, N.Y.

I agree with the double, and I would hope to know more by my second turn. The two-club response doesn’t help me at all. A call of two no-trump would be a very mild underbid, while a call of three no-trump would be a wild gamble. So that leaves only a two-spade cue-bid, but you may be none the wiser after partner’s next call — especially if that call is three clubs.

What is your preferred form of tournament: pairs or teams? In teams, do you prefer knockout matches or Swiss?

Yule Log, Detroit, Mich.

I find this hard to answer. There was a time when I loved pairs because of the idea of every trick counting. These days, the fact that there is such an element of randomness about the game means that I am happy to play teams and be able to relax from time to time without working quite so hard. So Swiss teams and knockout works equally well for me.

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ClarksburgJuly 29th, 2018 at 11:42 am

Good morning Bobby
In answering Yule Log you said, in part: “…such an element of randomness…”
Although I probably already know most of what you mean by this, could you kindly expand a bit on what factors “randomness” in Pairs games covers.

bobbywolffJuly 29th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Thanks for your to the point question which requires a to the point answer.

In team games (KO and Swiss) a winning player’s focus should always be “to make the contract” or for the defense “to set it”. Sure sometimes (often) long matches in KO and shorter in Swiss are decided by single digit IMPs, but while doing so, usually luck (randomness) is present, to which the player has little control, but with the hope of both the better teams and the organizers that the luck will even out and allow the better team to win.

What I mean by luck may be different than what others may deem eg. the opponents bid 1NT P 3NT all pass, and the opening leader, has s. Q98x, h. K10xx, d. QJ9x, c. x.

The evidence is scarce, only that the responder did not check on major suits, so likely he does not have a 4 card or longer major. Therefore, even though diamonds has the most favored interior combination, possibly either major is more likely to hit pay dirt, and deciding between Q9xx or K10xx is well nigh impossible, IMO, to seek out an advantage. IOW, any of the three 4 card suits could be right and only luck will determine which. To go further, if a poll was taken among only very experienced players I would expect it to be evenly divided between the three choices.

Therefore I would select my choice, (whatever it happens to be) and it may be different each time I am faced with such a thing. At IMPs I do not worry about it, but just lead, but at matchpoints, with every trick so important I may seek the relative safety of the queen of diamonds since if declarer is going to make his contract with only overtricks involved, I would be irresponsible if I didn’t choose the safest choice, although it might well be different at IMPs, since the evidence provided above may prevent me from only having a major suit more likely to hit partner with length and therefore enough strength for game setting tricks.

The end result, (therefore the answer) is that matchpoints are basically antithetical to what I think our game was intended to be, eg , make the contract, beat the contract.

Obviously I am trying to walk a very narrow line is my description, but, in order to be responsible to you, I need to be as clear as I can be. Hopefully some light is at least shined on the problem. Not enough to make any decision much clearer, but possibly one to put all listening players better placed to do some thinking about the major difference between the two forms of competition.

If you have the time, (or anyone else) I will be happy to answer any specific question you may have about the above application. IOW, after agreeing to the above concept, how it would apply to different forms of thinking if a problem could be created illustrating it.

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