Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 18th, 2018

As declarer, when trying to locate the trump queen, might you expect to find that card in the hand on lead, simply because one sometimes leads a trump from a series of small cards, but very rarely away from the queen?

Finding the Lady, Bellevue, Wash.

This makes sense if there are no other clues available, but the argument doesn’t always apply; you’d never get a trump lead from someone who has an ace-king in a side-suit, for example, regardless of his trump values. Conversely, if he has led away from a vulnerable honor, you could certainly speculate on whether his trump holding might be even less attractive.

I was on lead against four spades, holding ♠ 10-7-3,  J-10-3-2,  8-5-3-2, ♣ A-4. My left-hand opponent had opened and rebid clubs, and my right-hand opponent had bid spades, then diamonds. Would you lead a club and look for ruffs, or would you lead the unbid suit — in which case, would you lead high or low?

Rumble Fish, Texarkana, Texas

The club ace does not appeal to me, though a singleton club ace would be an entirely different matter. Here, if you do lead hearts, you should lead the jack. Against no-trump, you sometimes lead fourth-highest, but the most likely downside of a heart honor lead is that it might set up a slow discard for declarer. Against suits, that is a far less significant concern, from my perspective.

In first seat, playing a teams game, I held ♠ A-K-3,  A-Q-J-10-2,  A-J-7-4, ♣ 3. I opened one heart and jumped to three diamonds over my partner’s one-no-trump response. When she raised to four diamonds, should I have cue-bid four spades or simply reraised to game? It turns out that all partner’s values were in clubs with a doubleton heart, so three no-trump would have made, but five diamonds went down on a bad break.

Pressed Suit, Brooklyn, N.Y.

My first thought is that giving false preference to three hearts with only a doubleton is clearly right here. As opener, you would now bid three spades and pass the three no-trump rebid, wouldn’t you? After your jump shift, you will be aware that when partner has three hearts, they will always revert to the suit game.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I saw a hand in your column where North with 10 points and four hearts heard his partner open one heart and the next hand double. What was the full message intended in his two-no-trump response, as opposed to a raise to three hearts, which would have been my choice?

Lost the Thread, Elmira, N.J.

After the double of a major-suit opening (and also, in some partnerships, after a minor-suit opener) many play a jump raise as pre-emptive. It would be all about shape and trump support and not about high cards. In this style, where a redouble shows values but denies fit, you can subvert a call of two no-trump to be the limit raise or better. This convention is known as Jordan (or Truscott).

I was dealt ♠ J-7-4,  A-K-9-4,  5-3, ♣ A-J-10-4 and heard my right-hand opponent open one diamond. I doubled, and when left-hand opponent raised to three diamonds, my partner doubled. I took that as responsive, suggesting both majors. I bid three hearts, and my partner converted to three spades. What does this sequence show, and was I right to pass?

Smoking Jacket, Doylestown, Pa.

I’m not sure I know precisely, but I’d expect invitational values, perhaps with spades and clubs. With fewer values or a hand oriented solely to spades, surely he would have bid the suit directly. I think the hand will play better in an eight- or nine-card fit in clubs, so I would bid four clubs now.

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clarksburgDecember 2nd, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Good morning Bobby
Matchpoints, Vul against Not Vul.
You RHO opens with 3D pre-emptive, after which opponents silent.
You hold: AK3 AQ1062 void K10982. What initial call do you like?
Partner has: 74 K98 KQ3 AQJ63. What response to your call?
How does the auction go from there?
This hand is from a recent local Club game.

bobbywolffDecember 2nd, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Hi Clarksburg (and good morning),

While playing (through the years with one of my favorite partners), one who IS NOT inclined to pass my double (in what may be called by some as a likely action, but usually not by me, since it can be so final) I would expect the bidding to go either, Me double, him (or her) 3NT (too practical to bid anything else), and then 4 diamonds, 5 clubs, 5 diamonds, 5 hearts,, 7 clubs, or, double, 3NT, 4 diamonds, 6 clubs, 7 clubs.

No guarantees when bidding, but on solid ground with one or two pairs reaching a reasonable contract of 7 hearts (not laydown but probably, in a good field, worth chancing at matchpoints).

Finally, for ones who only choose to overcall 3 hearts (to me, a losing restrictive effort)
partner might bid either 4 diamonds (too strong for just a raise to 4 hearts) or 4 diamonds to which I would bid 6 clubs and partner would have to guess to bid the grand. After all I could have a singleton diamond (not the ace) with approximately the same other cards.

All of us need to understand that it is just as dangerous to be conservative as it is to be aggressive, especially against worthy opponents.

Not bidding enough also is likely worse than bidding too much as more good things happen when you bid em up since sometimes those opponents come to your rescue (even above average ones), either by taking phantom saves or by not always defending correctly.

ClarksburgDecember 2nd, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Thanks Bobby
As a follow-up, how would you rate an initial call of 4D as compared to your first-choice preferred Double?

For those interested, as the cards were, it’s making 7C from either seat and 7H from advancer’s seat (played from Doubler’s seat, a club lead gives pre-empter a ruff to beat 7H).
In our Club game nobody got to 7C or 7H. Three of the twelve pairs got to 6C. Several Pairs declared Hearts (the strongest Pair in the game languished in Four Hearts!).

bobbywolffDecember 3rd, 2018 at 9:50 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Simply put, even though AFAIK not discussed in any bridge book, my guess is that a minor suit cue bid, rather than just a stronger hand, might accent only the majors, possibly, 5-5 or 6-5 (one way or the other, although if given a preference, having the lower ranking major to have the extra length, but not always so tailor made).

However going back perhaps 90+ years (early days of contract bridge bidding) a cue bid used to be only stronger, not necessarily what I suggest above, but in today’s modern game it seems more sensible to play them interchangeable in strength but in fact the cue bid accenting the length in the major suits.

Nothing more, nothing less, and furthermore, not necessarily specifically agreed to either, but only a “feel” by me, especially by those who feel a link to modern thinking.

The bidding round lost by the cue bid will often become crucial and likely should only be made by a player hankering for a major suit contract not including the unbid minor.

However, I wouldn’t bet the farm that others will necessarily agree, at least 100%.