Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Recently while declaring four hearts, I reached trick 13 and discovered my left-hand opponent, who was on lead, had no cards left. The missing diamond jack from his hand had been played simultaneously with another card (a club), but no one had noticed. What is supposed to happen now?

Lost in the Shuffle, Worcester, Mass.

Call the director first. I’d expect the diamond jack to be restored to your opponent’s hand and led to the last trick. If the player has revoked in the meantime, the penalty is whatever the revoke laws demand, but if he has managed to follow suit throughout thus far, he can count his lucky stars — there is no penalty.

I’m trying to learn the basics of declarer play. Should declarer count winners or losers when planning the play?

Victor the Viper, Augusta, Ga.

You ask a tough question, akin to asking the length of a piece of string. Do you count losers or winners? I just don’t know how to answer, because sometimes it is one, sometimes the other. Often it is losers, not winners, that are critical at suits, especially when we have tricks to spare. I think I look for winners first, and if I meet the target, then I make sure to control losers. Each hand brings its own rules.

I know fourth-suit forcing sets up a game-forcing auction. But how does opener deal with a fourth-suit forcing call, holding ♠ A-Q-J-4,  J-10-4-2,  5, ♣ K-Q-10-8? If you open one club and partner responds one diamond, do you bid your better major? If you bid hearts and your partner bids one spade, do you raise or bid no-trump?

Subway Rider, Pierre, S.D.

There are different approaches to fourth-suit at the one-level, but whether this truly sets up a game force or not, it is simplest to play continuations by opener as entirely natural. Here, a call of two spades suggests this pattern and 12-14 points, while a jump to three spades is the same shape but 15-17. Raising the fourth suit shows four (assuming you haven’t bypassed the suit, in which case it suggests honor-third).

What is your opinion on opening a pre-empt on one fewer card than might be expected in third seat, non-vulnerable, or indeed at any other position or vulnerability? If you are not entirely opposed, what are the conditions you would require for such an action?

Silver Bells, Dayton, Ohio

I’m opposed to random frivolity, though with a good suit and low defense — say, king-queen-fifth — I can understand feeling the need to act facing a passed partner. I don’t mind bidding one of a major with a five-card suit and limited values in third seat. But an outright psych tends to destroy partnership trust for the next time you pre-empt, so I like to keep my hand roughly in line with what my partner might hope for.

I opened one diamond with ♠ K-Q-10-4,  A-J-10-5,  A-K-Q-7-2, ♣ —-, and heard my partner invite game with a jump to three clubs. I wasn’t sure whether to bid three no-trump or explore for a different strain. We eventually played in three no-trump, scrambling to reach nine tricks when my partner had seven solid clubs and I had no entry to the board — but six clubs would have been ice cold. What are your thoughts?

Missed the Boat, Bristol, Va.

With your partner’s hand, I might have responded two clubs, but I’m not sure that would help us get to six clubs. Hands like these are going to cause even the experts a problem. Mind you, had your partner been the opener and been able to bid three no-trump to show a solid minor, life would have been considerably easier.

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Ken MooreNovember 25th, 2018 at 9:29 pm


On counting winners or losers. My thinking is that in a suit, you count losers and try to find a way to minimize them by ruffing them out or putting them on long suits (or loser on loser).. In NT, you count winners and try to find ways to maximize them.

Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Hi Ken,

I tend to congratulate players on whether they either play and or/describe (teach) in an intelligent and clear way.

Therefore I applaud your comments on when to count losers (minimize them) and when to count winners and how to maximize.

After all, while during suit play the thought is primarily on finding ways to make them few enough to make one’s contract, but when playing a NT contract the goal is almost always finding the best way to land the amount bid.
Therefore hope to add your winners to enough.

Seems simple, but, while at the table, some complications usually constitute making intelligent choices and that is where bridge experience will match bridge expertise in trying to beard that lion.

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