Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Assume you are dealt ♠ J-4,  K-5,  A-7-5-4-2, ♣ A-J-4-2, and you open one diamond. When your partner responds one heart and the next hand overcalls one spade, I assume you would bid two clubs. What should you do when your partner probes with two spades?

Choice of Weevils, Baltimore, Md.

The decision is easier if you have already denied three hearts by your failure to make a support double. Then you can bid three hearts to show a decent doubleton. You might be forced to do that even if your partner might read you for three trumps (which he probably should not, since you might then have raised hearts at your second turn).

I picked up ♠ Q-4-2,  K-7,  A-10-8-6-5-3, ♣ J-3, and when my partner passed and my right-hand opponent opened one spade, I passed rather than overcalling two diamonds. Was that reasonable? If my left-hand opponent raises to two spades, should I balance with three diamonds now?

Comeback Charlie, Sacramento, Calif.

Your weak spade length argues for passing at your first turn, especially facing a passed partner. Once your opponents have limited their hands, you can infer spade shortness in your partner’s hand. So, balancing with three diamonds seems perfectly reasonable.

We play fourth suit as game-forcing, but what would you recommend for the meaning of one spade after our side bids unopposed: one club – one diamond – one heart? Should it be a one-round force or game-forcing, and does it promise or deny spade length?

Sally Fourth, Oklahoma City, Okla.

There is no clear best way to play here. But the simplest is to play one spade as natural — consistent with, but not promising four. Your partner will support with four trumps. Responder’s jump to two spades shows diamonds and spades 5-6, strong. Another common agreement is to play that one of those calls shows four spades, and one denies four. And a third option is to play one spade as natural but not a game force.

I picked up ♠ J-6-4,  Q-9-3-2,  K-10-5, ♣ A-8-3, and my partner opened one no-trump. I simply bid three no-trump rather than going through Stayman, reasoning that even if we did find a heart fit, we might take the same tricks in no-trump as in hearts. Naturally, though, my partner had the doubleton spade ace and four hearts, so hearts played far better. Was I taking too strong a position?

Hidden Treasures, Mesa, Ariz.

Your actual route is fine by me so as not to give away information. Some people play Puppet Stayman so that they can show hearts while their partner does not promise or deny a spade suit. In the absence of that, I’d go along with your call.

I was in third seat at unfavorable vulnerability. My partner opened two hearts, and the next hand overcalled three clubs. What would you recommend I bid, holding ♠ A-9,  Q-7,  A-K-J-5-3, ♣ J-8-7-3?

Hi-Lo Country, Anchorage, Alaska

In this situation, my instinct is to raise to the maximum, which means bidding four hearts, assuming my partner will deliver a good six-card heart suit. He is quite likely to have short clubs. I’m not sure, but I suspect that this will make it harder for the opponents to bid four spades, which may be a good save.

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Iain ClimieNovember 11th, 2018 at 9:20 pm

Hi Bobby,

On Hidden Treasures’ query I have some sympathy but add SK and it really makes sense. 3N has points to spare but 4H could have a trump suit of (say) Q9xx opposite J xxx or Kxxx and be off a side Ace with 3N easy.



Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain,

While I do understand and value your well-considered view, it becomes, at least to me, only a question of which choice works out better in the long run.

No doubt the specific conundrum of going through some form of Stayman and if discovering an 8 card fit in a major then opting to play game in that suit instead of just jumping to 3NT while holding adequate hcps and a 4-3-3-3 perfectly balanced hand has been discussed and re-discussed likely thousands+ of times.

My simple and overall solution is to bid 3NT, be done with it, and then deal with it as the right answer, since too much information is passed to those worthy opponents, not only sometimes helping direct their opening lead, but also, during the defense, to help to know what to do, especially early in the hand.

No, I cannot prove the above, but yes, I sincerely believe that withholding that often key information from solid, honest opponents is more valuable than the science of always thoroughly searching out the 8 card major suit fit that almost all pairs have available.

Nothing more, but nothing less.

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