Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 17th, 2019

I’m considering taking up inverted minors. The textbooks present different approaches; would you recommend they be played as constructive, forcing for one round or forcing to game?

Weird Science, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Inverted minors apply only in non-competitive auctions, but they are in play for either passed or unpassed hands. They are forcing for one round if made by an unpassed hand. I suggest that if either opener or responder limits their hand with a rebid of two no-trump or three of the agreed minor at their next turn, that can be passed; otherwise, the partnership is in a game-forcing auction.

A recent deal included an opponent making a Michaels cue-bid, allowing the opponents to find the right line to make a grand slam. What are your thoughts regarding the proper kind of hand for the cue-bid? I wonder whether a hand with K-J-10 in the red suits is enough to bid two spades over one spade. The opponents have the boss suit, so your hearts and diamonds will probably be outbid in any case.

Junebug, Midland, Mich.

Terence Reese was scathing in his criticism of using two-suited calls on weak hands. (He said it was drawing a roadmap for the declarer.) I do not mind acting when non-vulnerable with skimpy suits, as long as you have offense, not defense. Vulnerable, you need chunky suits, and what you most want to avoid is getting on offense when you should be defending. But I suspect I would have bid here too!

Last week when we went to the wrong table, we started playing a board before the error was corrected. When we began it at a new table, we got a top — but the director said that because the opening bid was different by our opponents, the result would be canceled. Was this legally correct?

Chain of Fools, Richmond, Va.

While the director will try to let a partially played deal be tackled by the proper pairs, here it sounds like your second opponents might not have had a fair crack at the board. That is because you knew extra information from the two opening bids you heard, so it is at the director’s discretion as to whether the result should stand.

I picked up ♠ Q-J-9-4,  K-6,  A-9-3, ♣ Q-J-4-2 and opened one club. Over my left-hand opponent’s overcall of one diamond, my partner doubled to show both majors. Naturally I bid one spade, eventually ending up in two spades. We had 24 high-card points between us, and we made game easily enough. Should I have bid two spades at my second turn, as my partner suggested?

Punk Rocker, Fort Worth, Texas

This is a complex issue. A jump to two spades suggests four spades, in response to the known four-card suit; you might have to bid one heart or one spade with a three-card suit if you don’t have a diamond stopper. In the same way, when you open a minor and hear your partner double one heart, you jump to two spades with four trumps in anything but a dead-minimum balanced hand.

I opened one diamond with ♠ Q-8-2,  A-Q-6,  A-9-4-2, ♣ Q-9-3 and heard my left-hand opponent overcall one heart. Now my partner bid two clubs, and my right-hand opponent bid two spades. It feels like I have some extras and fit, but should I pass, raise or bid no-trump now?

Musical Chair, Jackson, Tenn.

Two no-trump suggests a non-minimum hand and reasonable stoppers in the majors. Unless your left-hand opponent has good spades (in which case partner may be short and might not raise to three no-trump), I like the idea of getting no-trump in now. But change the club queen to the jack, and I might pass.

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Bill CubleyMarch 31st, 2019 at 3:19 pm

I sympathize with the player from Richmond who sat at the wrong table. I STRONGLY feel the Director should award average of the game to both sides. The decision bars any claim there was a poor lead or ANY discussion/appeal. So why waste time unless Poor Richmond gets a bottom? On sloppy claims we still do not have to play irrationally.

If the director allows play, than both sides should be able to get a good score, otherwise adjust.

bobbywolffMarch 31st, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Hi Bill,

While I mostly side with you, IMO the only difference (and perhaps you mean the same) the average percentage score for each pair in that specific game could (should) be awarded instead of exactly two averages. Reason being is that, at least theoretically that untoward board will then have no effect in changing either pair’s total percentage score.

However the real problem, at least as I see it, is that generally bridge club directors do not get enough coaching (therefore their knowledge doesn’t improve) on how to think in this very complicated but sensational mind game we play.

In physical sports it is much easier to teach officials what should be legal and what should not. In no way is perfection achieved, but with video review now present in all our major American sports (football, baseball, basketball and tennis) the then decision maker should get it right.

However with bridge being the complicated mind sport it is, TDs need much more education than they now get. Besides worrying about the people teaching them having enough knowledge (especially with the high-level game) to know what is necessary to make keen, consistent, almost always right, complete with precedents and most of all, well publicized decisions (for all to peruse).

Finally, just getting a bunch of experienced reasonably good players together doesn’t accomplish what we need to do. Granted, there is practically no financial budget to pay those necessary types, but we need to go in that direction otherwise chaos rather than competence (not to mention bias for many reasons) present.

All members of all committees (especially at higher level tournaments) need to specifically voice their official opinions so that everyone interested (especially those competent to understand) can sort out who is competent and who is not, which leads to the almost impossible problem to be solved in which we have been held back for more years in which anyone can count.

Sorry for the rant, but getting it right and on a consistent basis is necessary to rule out those usual political decisions which seem to vanish into thin air with the morning milk man.

Finally bridge clubs throughout America (and likewise where ever tournament bridge is played) all we can do is continue to DEMAND TD’s to stay up with possible changes (hopefully minor) which take place as bridge continues evolving (especially the bidding).

Aren’t you glad you brought it up? I hope so!

jim2March 31st, 2019 at 5:01 pm

The reasoning I have heard on analogous cases has been along the following lines:

1) The innocent pair should never be penalized, even inadvertently, and
2) The party that committed such a mistake is not the innocent party.

That is, innocent mistakes and innocence are not equivalent in such cases.

Thus, the party that did NOT sit at the wrong table should never be put at any disadvantage. Hear, hearing two different opening bids did just that.

I would add that even the same opening bid would be a tremendous advantage in some cases. For example, suppose the notrump opening ranges for Pair #1 were 13 – 15 and for Pair #2 15 – 18?

bobbywolffMarch 31st, 2019 at 6:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

While your post is both constructive with an example and, no doubt, worth acting upon, your thoughtful effort is exactly my above point.

You take into consideration a very necessary and cogent point which should definitely be considered and if no significant altering objection is brought forth, then applied.

However to be in a position to do that, the authorities must have the raw material to work with. Needless to say that feature does not grow on trees, but rather is usually the result of both bridge intelligence, enough experience and I’ll add my opinion, the love of the game.

Why that above necessity is not available is my cause for alarm, since as far back as I can remember appeals, although from time to time, with many capable people in the mix, has not been a product where much (enough) time has been devoted.

At least I’ll make the above excuse for the powers that be, who, in my view, have failed in that regard, at least up to now.

jim2March 31st, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Now, if they had sat in the wrong chairs, they could have claimed Theory of Chair Migration but, with tables, there is no acronym and so no excuse.

ClarksburgMarch 31st, 2019 at 8:07 pm

Good afternoon Bobby.
You wrote above, in part:
“…However the real problem, at least as I see it, is that generally bridge club directors do not get enough coaching (therefore their knowledge doesn’t improve) on how to think in this very complicated but sensational mind game we play…”

A few years ago I initiated and quarterbacked a “Director’s Forum” for Directors from local Clubs. Our objective was to improve our common understanding of the Laws and to achieve more consistent rulings at our Clubs. When on occasion we referred an issue to the TDs at ACBL’s “Ruling the Game”, they really liked what we were doing.
After dealing successfully with seven issues it died. Why? After suggesting that one Club’s “two-minute-rule” (when buzzer goes, Board becomes a player-called “no-play” even with cards in hand!!) should be dropped, there was very strong resistance. In fact I was subjected to vicious, personal attacks by Club Executives, some Directors and some Players.
The Club two-minute rule was in fact eventually dropped, but I and my Director’s Forum were collateral damage!! Some folks don’t want to learn and improve. There has to be a will before there can be a way.

bobbywolffMarch 31st, 2019 at 9:08 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First the unimportant part, I mentioned TDs in general, whether they are working in clubs or for that matter at higher ranked tournaments. Obviously in theory the TDs at higher ranked tournaments should know more, or at the very least, know where to go to catch up on what they lack.

However, in my view, the above is strictly random, based on who has decided to turn his or her attention to tournament directing, not at all by a well-coordinated TD educational system which begins with some kind of aptitude test for someone who is applying (no numeracy, perhaps no job).

Now to business….with your specific subject (two-minute rule) not on the table.

When there is weakness in the leadership, bullies (the term now-a-days is often used together with relationships, boss-worker, adult-child, the me, too problem usualy having to do with sex or in your mentioned case, likely slow player or close friend with influence.

In an above average environment (unusual these days because of political hate), any relatively new (or could be controversial) stricture will surely cause “bullies” to thrive (eg gun laws, immigration, corruption etc) but instead, reasonable people who are, at the very least knowledgeable and experienced (especially with bridge administration) should be called to get together, discuss positives and negatives, determine the likely outcome from installing different rules and then, allow them to make the decision of whether to follow through with installing it.

Those people selected should not have a stake in the result, but rather be in a favored position to do what is best for the game itself. EG, a great (and current) analogy would be just how severe a penalty for basically proven collusive bridge cheating should be, with by far the most important feature being the future of the high level competitive game itself and nary a whisper of how it will effect Tom Dick and Helen.

From there do it (or not) but then keep an intelligent eye on that result with behind the scenes tabulators not voicing views but from time to time have meetings and discuss the reactions and their reasons.

IOW, intelligent handling of problems result not only with better results, but to the upper intelligent half of those involved, good sense will prevail causing the future to be more secure.

Good luck, but after spending a large part of my life in bridge administration it was rare that much of the above handling was even in the ball park, because of the bullying which will always be there, but MUST BE THWARTED and not allowed.

Good luck and I’ll be glad to help, if I can be a factor, which is far from certain or even just probable.