Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 21st, 2018

What is the best use of Stayman, followed by three of a minor? Should this be natural and weak, invitational, or some kind of forcing call?

Tim the Trumpeter, Arlington, Texas

Common expert opinion is that Stayman, followed by three of either minor, is game-forcing with at least five cards in that minor and an unbid major of four cards (typically the unbid major if partner shows one at his second turn). To sign off in a minor, transfer to that suit and pass the response. On invitational hands with a minor and a four-card major, use Stayman, then raise the response or bid two no-trump as appropriate. The same basic structure applies over a two-no-trump opener.

Recently, my partner passed in first seat, and I opened one spade. After a double from the next hand, she jumped to three clubs. I thought this would be a maximum pass with clubs, but she was sure she had shown a pre-emptive bid. I had always assumed that a pre-emptive bid must be made at your first turn to speak. Who is right?

Jumping Bean, Spokane, Wash.

I would certainly not expect my partner to have a good hand with just clubs. With such a hand, she should bid two clubs or redouble rather than jump. But I also don’t play this call as pre-emptive. (If you can’t open three clubs, what about your hand lets you pre-empt later, other than an initial sorting error?) I suggest you play all passed-hand jumps facing an opener or overcall as fit jumps. See

We recently had a problem when I picked up a balanced 13-count and opened one heart, my five-card major. My partner had a balanced 17-count with only three hearts and four spades. He bid one spade. After I responded one no-trump, how was my partner supposed to explore for slam, given that there was no “unbid” minor?

Scott Free, Pleasanton, Calif.

I’d recommend you use two clubs in this auction as the equivalent of New Minor. For the uninitiated, the call simply sets up a game forcing auction and says nothing about clubs. Your partner can bid hearts at his next turn, and you will either cooperate toward slam with a suitable hand or sign off if minimum. Two diamonds can be natural and non-forcing here.

When defending against a suit contract, what are your thoughts on underleading aces or leading them out in bid and supported suits?

Bamboozler, Toledo, Ohio

Even if my partner raises a suit I have opened or overcalled in, I hate to lead out an unsupported ace unless everything else is worse. I’m more likely to do it in a suit my partner introduced first. If I’m defending a contract that was doubled by my partner, it is even less attractive to lead an ace, since the auction has suggested we are not stacked in our long suit. Underleading would be limited to cases where my left-hand opponent has shown (or implied) stoppers in that suit.

Say you are in fourth seat, and an opening bid to your left is passed around to you. How much do you need before you can balance over a minor suit? If the answer is less than is needed for direct action, how does your partner know when to pull in a notch?

Protective Coloring, Pierre, S.D.

When in balancing seat, mentally add a king to your high cards and bid appropriately, while responder should take a king off. So if I had 14 points and did balance with a suit call, I would consider moving over a simple raise from my partner (for which the range is approximately 8-10 points, not 5-7 points). If I double, I might raise a simple response from my partner with support and 15-17 points.

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Patrick CheuNovember 4th, 2018 at 11:14 am

Hi Bobby,Good morning..Our auction on this hand(pairs) NS vul ,north 1C east 2H(5-9) south pass west pass,north 3C passed out. north Q87 AK QT AQJ863 east T3 QJ9642 K853 K south J942 T753 76 T72 west AK65 8 AJ942 954.Would you bid with the West hand over 3C?If yes what bid would you make? As 3C goes -1 on a spade lead which I did not find and we can make 3H and 3D it seems. regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Hi Patrick,

Deciding what to do with almost any given hand, is perhaps 101% easier after seeing all four hands.

As you imply, the bidding, at least up to West’s final pass was mostly standard, although no doubt for veterans (note East’s weak 2 heart jump) and likely because of that, not for newbies.

As the above as a backdrop, West has a relatively close decision. He has a classic misfit (singleton heart) but enough to worry about not competing high enough. Yes it’s possible to double and let your partner make the mistake, He does have the strategically placed king of clubs, a trick he figured to make except for dame fortune intervening by not giving the declarer an option.

However, in these situations, although I believe pass would be most good player’s choice, I might take a flyer with 3 diamonds, trading on partner remembering I didn’t bid it to start with so likely now I am just speculating, allowing my partner if short in diamonds to come to the rescue.

Presto, magico. I’ll likely take 10 tricks, unless the defense switches to diamonds, then 11 instead since dummy’s heart suit is easily established.

No doubt bridge in general is a bidder’s game and caters to bidding more and passing less. However when wrong, we all feel guilty for taking partner down with us when that happens. If so, just chalk it up to bad advice from me, and promise not to do it again, that is until you do.

Patrick CheuNovember 4th, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Hi Bobby,Thanks for your advice,pard and I will have more to discuss.So many variables to this game.Onwards and forward to the next hand..Best regards~Patrick.

slarNovember 5th, 2018 at 6:02 pm

With regards to the last question, does the notion of adding or removing a king apply to balancing NT as well? What do you recommend the balancing NT range to be? We normally make 1NT overcalls with 15-18. We have been playing 10 (NV) or 12 (V) -14, but maybe 12-15 would be more appropriate. Last weekend my partner got caught with a 15 count and placing the contract was difficult.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Hi Slar,

The answer to your specific question is, yes, or possibly maybe, both not terribly important.

The gain is to understand why the balancing NT needs to be lessened to perhaps somewhere around what you suggest.

In a bridge study class, like what obviously goes on every school day in China and 11 European countries, learn the why principles and the numbers adjust themselves to what they are. That is, if one wants to ride the elevator up, instead of just social.

Just one most important caveat, DO NOT expect miracles, unless numbers come easier to you than most and numerate logic, not specific ranges, fit the task.

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