Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 13th, 2019

How would you handle a hand like ♠ J-4,  K-6-5-4,  K-Q-4-2, ♣ 8-7-2, facing a strong no-trump? Would vulnerability or the form of scoring affect your decision?

Gun for Hire, Orlando, Fla.

It seems clearly right to start with a Stayman two-club call, with the intention of merely inviting game even if you find a heart fit. The honors in the long suits somewhat compensate for your lack of intermediates. With some heart intermediates, you might persuade me to do more. If vulnerable at teams, I might bid to four hearts if we found a fit.

If the opponents intervene over our no-trump, what would you recommend I play to describe my hand? Is Stolen Bid an approved gadget?

Barabbas, Madison, Wis.

Both opener and his partner must be able to bid all the suits efficiently. (The transfer element is less vital.) Each player should be able to double with shortage since that is the hand you are most likely to want to compete on. Responder can play transfers and Stayman over an artificial double or a call of two clubs — with double acting as Stayman. After higher intervention, new suits should be natural at the two-level and forcing at the three-level. The meaning of a two-no-trump call as Lebensohl is discussed at

In second seat, I had ♠ A-Q-7-2,  K-4,  K-Q-J-9-5, ♣ Q-4, and opened one diamond. The next hand overcalled two hearts, my partner doubled, and the next player jumped to four hearts pre-emptive. I had planned to jump to four spades and wasn’t sure if that call would suffice here — or what slam try to make.

Missing Out, Mexico City, Mexico

If your right-hand opponent had let you jump to four spades, you would probably have made that call. As it is, you certainly want to make a slam try; but does a jump to five spades ask for a heart control? Does four no-trump suggest the minors here rather than being key-card? I’ll settle for bidding four spades and hope partner can do more with real extras.

My partner and I have been arguing about whether there is any sort of hand that would pass in first or second chair and then back into the opponent’s auction with a pre-empt. Is such a thing possible?

Better Late Than Never, Springfield, Mass.

There must be hands with the shape for a pre-empt but not the right honor location, where you might pass initially but decide to pre-empt later. Similarly, you may have a hand with too much defense or with a sidesuit. When vulnerable, you might also not have a good enough suit to act on initially. Whenever your partner bids, though, jumps by a passed hand in a new suit will not be a single-suited pre-empt but should show fit for your partner.

Holding ♠ Q-7-3-2,  K-Q,  A-J-4-3, ♣ A-Q-3, please discuss what you might open and why.

No Way Jose, Bellingham, Wash.

Not all 18-counts are created equal. This hand, with its doubleton heart honors not pulling their full weight and no intermediates, looks like a strong no-trump to me. You could persuade me that if your no-trump range includes good 14-counts, then you should go high and not low; I’ll take that under advisement. At pairs, though, I’d reluctantly open one diamond so as to go with the field.

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ClarksburgJanuary 27th, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Hello Bobby
A follow-up for clarification re your response to Barabbas’ question.
When the interference is 2D, 2H or 2S, should Responder’s Double always show or strongly imply shortage in their suit? (some Intermediate-level cookbook teaching would have it show an 8+ defensive hand shape, with a good 4+ holding in their suit).

Bobby WolffJanuary 27th, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Obviously there are different ways to handle this somewhat subtle problem, but the only constructive suggestion I can offer is understanding the method, not necessarily trying to memorize the stated specifics (TBD after the concept is clear).

We are recommending TO doubles, mainly because of increased frequency of their use. Of course, the old fashioned method for doubles over opponent’s overcalls of 1NT were for penalty, but the modern (above) basically becomes the opposite.

Again and when discussing beforehand keep in mind the above, choose one or the other, and then talk about specifics about handling 2 suited overcalls and their ramifications. (don’t forget using cue bids, if and when the opponent’s suit or suits become known)

Nothing is perfect, nor, believe it or not, totally imperfect either. However two inexperienced players may combine their bridge training to have their responses (or to just mention generally) their followups be contradictory to their original intention.

The bad news is mayhem leading to confusion, but the very good news is that if and when both players have at least a decent sense of overall bridge bidding logic, they will come out whole, and more than that, have the confidence between them to extend that over to many other aspects of bidding in competition, especially involving the difference between having fits and bidding offensively against having misfits and therefore tailoring their bidding choices to doubling aggressive opponents rather than bidding on, (a misfit for one partnership becomes a misfit for both).

Yes, it takes some logical bridge thinking, but without which, there is too low a ceiling beyond which that player (or partnership) will doubtfully not ever progress beyond.

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