Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

I held ♠ Q-3,  A-J-9,  K-J-10-2, ♣ J-10-6-2, and opened one diamond. When my partner responded one spade, I rebid one no-trump, and now my partner bid two hearts, natural and non-forcing. What would you do now?

Settling Down, Muncie, Ind.

The choice is between giving preference to two spades and passing two hearts. I think your good hearts and weak spades argue for passing; after all, you might even be in a 5-3 fit, in which case you would certainly be pleased with your decision.

I’m about to start directing at my club, and I would welcome a little help. When a director is called to the table after a break in tempo, what is the standard procedure to follow?

Beri-Beri, Kenosha, Wis.

Ask the player who called you to the table to set out the facts. Then ask the other players to make sure you have the facts right. Decide whether a break in tempo took place (or at least was established to your satisfaction). Let the play proceed, and tell the players to call you back if they aren’t happy. If they do, and you determined that there was indeed a break, then you must decide whether it could demonstrably have suggested the action chosen by the partner of the hesitator. If it did, consider adjusting the score.

In second seat, I opened one no-trump with ♠ K-3,  A-10-7-3-2,  K-Q-3, ♣ A-10-4. I heard an overcall of two clubs on my left, showing clubs and a major. When that was passed around to me, I tried two hearts; was that too aggressive? Anyway, now my partner bid two spades. Should I bid or pass?

Lucy Locket, Galveston, Texas

The two-heart call was a little aggressive, but I suspect I would have done the same. Your partner’s decision to bid two spades might be based on a 4-1-4-4 pattern, but more likely he has five or more spades and fewer than 5 HCP, with at most a doubleton heart. So I would pass. The good news is that while you have only two spades, your cards in the side suits should work reasonably well.

How far should you compete with a fit when the opponents get in your face? I held ♠ A-10-9-7,  K-5-3,  A-J-4-3, ♣ J-9, and opened one diamond; my partner responded one spade. I was planning to raise to two, when the next hand preempted in hearts. Given that I have a minimum hand, it is easy to raise to two spades, but should I compete to three spades over a three-heart call?

Mumbles, Bellingham, Wash.

My general rule is that in competition you can be forced to give support one level higher than you wanted to go, but not two. So bid three spades over a three-heart pre-empt since, as these things go, your hand has decent controls. With the heart queen instead of the king, pass three hearts. With a real invitation to three spades, it follows that you must jump to four spades.

I need help understanding what sort of hand allows you to raise partner’s suit (be it an opening or overcall) and then double at your next turn. Is this penalty, cards or take-out?

Fruit-loops, Indianapolis, Ind.

If the opponents come in with an unsupported suit, then a double by either hand sounds like a defensive holding. Conversely, if the opponents have raised a suit, the double sounds like extras in high cards, typically with the minimum number of trumps for the action thus far.

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Iain ClimieAugust 5th, 2018 at 10:23 am

HI Bobby,

One carried over from yesterday which snuck under my radar. What is the car key rule, please? I hope it doesn’t involve dropping partner’s car keys into a lake somewhere, although we may all have been tempted at times.



Bruce KarlsonAugust 5th, 2018 at 11:50 am

Re Lucy Lockett
I am not inclined to get back in the auction once I have opened 1NT and been overcalled, particularly if Rv.W. My “masterminding” has a spotty history and can cloud partner’s confidence in our general agreement (also will never take another bid, absent a force, lonce I pre-emptied). I seem to do better sticking to these non controversial “rules”. Too hidebound?

Re Settling down: Again I fall back ]]}ion the ‘rules”, specifically that a new suit buy an unpassed partner is a 100% force. Am I missing something?

bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 11:55 am

Hi Iain,

I, too, wondered what he meant by his “card key rule”, also how SWMBO reads out, possibly starting with “since when”, or “some what” unless, of course, it does not.

Since Bill is indeed a “character” who often proves he dances to his own drummer, usually
a positive, with no doubt, always good intentions, we need him and him only, to answer the above.

Sorry for not being at the ready, but I leave solving the rule and short cut letter puzzles to my better half, Judy, and right now, she is sound asleep, but I am opting to make a shrewed safety play, by not awakening her.

“Better to recover from losing an extra trick, than to be floored”, which I one time read from a Chinese fortune cookie while playing bridge in China, with it being written in Chinese, but then roughly translated to me during a long ago bridge visit.

What do you think the chances are to soon hear our answers from the “Great Cubley”?

Iain ClimieAugust 5th, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Soon enough I’m sure while I think your safety play is definitely a worthwhile precaution.


bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Hi Bruce,

Your comment about not bidding again after preempting is one of the more important, possibly most important, disciplines to 100%
follow. That fierce resolve will pay you big dividends (and keep from having to change partners) over a long period of time.

However, call it sliding back in, with a decent 5 card major, after opening 1NT is not necessarily a violation, since stronger hands such as a 1NT opening come in various strengths and distributions, not completely described by only a 1NT opening.

Please understand I am not suggesting you do such things, but it is a different category than a preemptive maneuver, sometimes under the heading of just competitive judgment. And when your partner follows with 2 spades, merely pass and hope for the best (he should know you possess 5 hearts). Just assume he has: s. QJ1092, h. 9, d. J1052, c. 532 but thought himself too weak to chirp an initial 2 spades.

Finally a new suit by an unpassed partner is, of course forcing, once his partner has opened one of another suit, but certainly not forcing or even invitational, after partner opens 1NT.

No, I think you definitely should be hidebound to your defined bridge disciplines, and go from there, wherein greater experience (play more often) will allow your judgment to naturally improve by bounds and leaps.

And don’t forget to never leave home to play bridge without a very necessary companion, your luck in tow.

ClarksburgAugust 5th, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Hello Bobby
Lucy Locket’s question and the resulting comments / discussion are thought provoking.
Up to now I have strictly followed “captaincy” principle and would not bid again (freely) after having opened 1NT. I will now open this point up for discussion with partners, but need a firmer grasp of the underlying logic.
In an auction such as: 1NT 2C P P 2H is the correct interpretation:
1) Partner’s Pass indicates not enough for a penalty double
2) RHO’s pass indicates “OK we can play in Two clubs”
3) Opener’s “sliding back in” simply says: “I don’t want to let them play there”

Now suppose RHO didn’t like Clubs and asked for LHO’s major, so the auction is, say:
1NT 2C P 2D ? Presumably the 1NT Opener should now pass giving Partner (Captain) the opportunity to assess and act.

Is the above about right? If not could you please comment.

Bruce karlsonAugust 5th, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Thank you for your comments. They are always appreciated. Also, I have a thought as to the car key rule. If Partner is driving,be cautious with criticism lest one be left walking home..

bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

At least it used to be, while attempting to ascend the ladder in bridge, at first a rocky climb, until the student realized (and felt secure) that, after hearing from a mentor (or two or such), that from what his improvement had been, particularly in the logic of bidding, would be very close to identical, to what he would decide bids should be.

Now for the examples to your specific questions:

1. After a 1NT opening (let’s assume 15-17) by partner, penalty doubles, immediately sometimes needed, fell victim to the greater frequency of card showing doubles (this should be our hand, not theirs) e.g. s. Q10xx, h. Kx, d. J10xx, c. Qxx which merely suggested to partner, at his next turn or two, to do something intelligent. However, with s. QJ1092, h. 9, d. J1052, c. 532 to pass but then if it comes back with the opponents (or partner) in 2 hearts, then bid a competitive 2 spades, but with the same spade heart and diamond holdings but QJx in clubs instead, bid an immediate 2 spades.

In other words, your partnership has an obligation to each other to, under the circumstances select the bid which best fits the hand for the right bid with the bidding having gone the way it did up to you,

However, I then think it logical if 2 clubs is passed around to partner then he is within partnership discipline to now chance a 2 heart bid, hoping, of course, to catch at least 3 of them, entirely possible and even likely.

Believe it or not (I certainly do), think about being an architect of a bidding system which deals with bridge hands and their consistency, then work out the logical way to determine what often extraneous bids in the past might now mean to give them maximum utility for your use.

The immediate above may seem like a Herculean task to some (and it is) but not to others who are now beginning to understand the bridge logic in the various meanings, with a double, the greatest tool to play off of as to its meaning.

In no ways is it foolproof (dame fortune will prove that, if she hasn’t already) but no partnership can do much more than to bow down to her, but not let her instead, rain on your communications with your partner.

The above rant would (should) or something similar, proceed a bridge school class of getting there from whatever advanced beginning (and middle) stage one has risen to.

You and partner need to be the master, even with wicked witches and poisoned flowers all around, but not let the game itself push you around and thus do the determining.

bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 4:29 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your kind words.

Yes, your meaning of the car keys principle is logical and qualifies you to achieve significant success once you decide to take bridge in a serious manner by overwhelming it instead of letting it do the same to you.

There are legitimate reasons, not enough time, not enough competent bridge players around, and many others, but if they can be overcome, you will likely not regret it, and who knows, the least that will happen, is that you will learn the definition of pure logic which applies to business, life in general as well as our glorious game in spades, making the challenge much fun to undertake.

bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

Please excuse my not directly answering your question about the meaning of the opponent’s 2 club bid passed around to the NTer.

Most all tournament partnerships play conventions over the opponent’s 1NT opening. It usually is artificial, either for the majors (Landy convention) or clubs and a major suit, so that when partner passes 2 clubs, playing Landy he will have very long clubs (at least 6) and no more than a doubleton in either major or either (depending on the specific meaning of 2 clubs) better club support than either major, or at least the one partner is very likely to have.

My guess is sadly, perhaps more than 75% of humans, find it hard to comprehend that type of logic, and if so, they will never be a valid candidate to take up bridge.
IOW, a logical way to respond to partner’s attempt at describing his hand. With that in mind their opponents need to feed off of it and thus provide for hands worth competing, but keeping firmly in control of what their worthy opponents have for their actions.

Call it the game within the game, but get used to it (happens quickly) to the foreign language which evolves

jim2August 5th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

The version of the car key rule I learned was that the easiest/surest way to determine the center of a car was to drop the car keys and have them roll under it.

bobbywolffAugust 5th, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, and its nickname TOKM but no TM…….yet!

Jeff SAugust 5th, 2018 at 8:20 pm

I’m pretty sure SWMBO is She Who Must Be Obeyed. The car key rule – oddly, I thought I had it figured out from context yesterday, but today I have lost it. Something to do with which partner is the captain on a particular hand – has the car keys and is doing the driving where the other partner is the passenger, perhaps. You’ve described your hand and now must let the “driver” pick the contract. Maybe.

bobbywolffAugust 8th, 2018 at 12:23 am

Hi Jeff S.,

Yes, “maybe” is the “key word”, but we may never know, although methinks you are at least close, to being on track with the driver, although the passenger may also have a hidden meaning,
indicating conservatism.

SamualAugust 9th, 2018 at 11:21 am

Some games give the player better odds than others.