Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 31st, 2019

I’m never sure when to raise the ante after my partner pre-empts at the two- or three-level. For example, if your partner opens two hearts, would you raise to three hearts when your right-hand opponent passes? You hold: ♠ Q-J-3,  Q-6-5,  K-J-7, ♣ Q-10-4-2?

Salt and Pepper, Pasadena, Calif.

Don’t be swayed into thinking you should act with a hand like this, with all those soft defensive cards. You have no tricks for your partner, and if he happens to have six hearts to the ace and a soft minor honor, each side might be struggling at the two- or three-level.

You recently ran a deal where declarer had the doubleton AJ of spades facing the queen in dummy. To make his slam, he needed to lead the jack from his hand rather than starting with the ace. Am I correct that his leading the jack would have been a Morton’s Fork Coup? If not, does the coup have a name?

Happy Camper, Orlando, Fla.

A classic Morton’s Fork involves a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” decision. But here, ducking the spade king has no downside for the defenders, so it is not a Morton’s Fork. Make it the doubleton queen facing king-third: If a defender hops up with the ace, it sets up an extra winner for declarer; but if the defender ducks, declarer can take the king, then pitch his second card. That is the classic Morton’s Fork.

In a recent Bid With the Aces, you recommended opening one club, then raising one spade to two, with ♠ Q-J-3,  7-2,  J-6, ♣ A-Q-J-9-5-3. After South does so, what should he bid if North makes what seems like a game-try of a red suit?

Groomsman, Hamilton, Ontario

I guess I’d rebid three spades without much enthusiasm. I’d be trusting that my partner had five spades for the call in a red suit. If all he wanted to do was locate my fourth trump, he could use two no-trump as an artificial relay — called Spiral Scan by some. Responses here are to use steps, showing three trumps minimum, three with a maximum, four with a minimum, and four with a maximum.

What happens when declarer plays two cards at once? Is one of them a penalty card, or are there any other lead penalties that might arise?

Double Your Pleasure, Rockford, Ill.

Declarer is not subject to the penalty card rules — those apply only to the defenders. The logic is that the defenders can pass unauthorized information to each other by reveling that extra card, while declarer has no one to pass information to. If the two cards are truly simultaneous, declarer picks up his mistake without penalty.

I was fourth to speak, with: ♠ Q-10-2,  J,  K-10-5-3, ♣ A-Q-8-3-2. When I heard one spade to my right, I bid two spades. As soon as I did so, I realized I had meant to bid two no-trump for the minors. Am I allowed to correct from hearts when my partner bids three hearts, and this gets doubled?

Sold Short, Trenton, N.J.

The problem here is that if your partner has alerted and explained the bid, you will be ruled against. This is because your story, however honest, will not be accepted; the explanation given by your partner will be treated as the reason you woke up. If nobody alerted or asked, you can do what you like — you are not in possession of unauthorized information. By the way, the Unusual No-trump guarantees a 55 pattern. Don’t do it with a hand like this one! Pass and balance later.

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ClarksburgApril 14th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Good morning Bobby
Two Boards from recent Club game.

Board 2 (E dealer NS Vul)
East J53 A53 A983 K105
West A98 KJ862 Q7 Q87

Board 3 (S dealer, EW Vul)
East AK54 72 J1054 K95
West Q109 AQJ A862 1043

Note both are flattish hands with 24 combined HCP. Do they have enough to go to game (3NT or 4H on Board 2; 3NT on Board 3)?

bobbywolffApril 14th, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Hi Clarkswburg,

And a good morning back to you!

Board 2:

East West
1D 1 H
1NT 2 C (NGF checkback)
2H 3 H

Board 3:

West East
1D 1 S
1NT 2 NT

At matchpoints, do not bid 40%+ games
although while playing against below average pairs, it may be considered, since
just in case it is a lucky declarer hand, might as well go for a top, although +150
where +120 is normal will still be about 75%. However scoring up some tops is
usually very necessary to win the duplicate.


The East hand in Board #2 is a real minimum, but still my choice to be opened, while the West hand on Board 3 is a full
fledged opening bid with the AQJ of hearts a powerful and useful holding representing more than the 7 points usually allotted. However the 4-3-3-3 nature of both hands is a distinct minus and the real reason I do not bid 3NT on Board 3.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with passing as dealer with East on board 1 and then bidding Drury after partner opens a 4th seat one heart. However, in that case, partner should, of course, make the minimum bid in response to Drury and wind up playing only an eight trick two heart final contract.

Neither of these hands are rocket science, but staying as low as possible when game is declined at matchpoints is necessary for winning since, when bad breaks with unlucky lies of the cards occur, it is very positive to still go plus. Naturally when doing so, the declarer should “pull” for bad breaks with finesses just so that his likely plus score will pay lsrger dividends.

Also if the field is weak (below normal average) the likely right strategy is to bid more, especially if one is competing against a couple of other pairs (sitting the same direction) who are pretty good, otherwise their likely aggression, plus the ineptitude of their opponents will produce some tops for them.

Some hands your partnership can keep up, but others will just require the luck of that hand for your side to score timely good results.

However, with both of the above hands, stay away from game, unless and until your partnership is playing against one of the lesser pairs in your section. And even then it is a risk which likely will not be able to stand bad luck at the wrong time.

Not quoting the Raven, but Nothing more!

Bruce karlsonApril 15th, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Salt and Pepper: Assume you are not a fan of pre-emptive raises of two level openers. True? I tend to like them, particularly non vul, as they make life more difficult for the opps…

ClarksburgApril 15th, 2019 at 1:23 pm

@ Bruce
Even without seeing Bobby’s answer above, I wouldn’t consider for a moment to raise with this. Too flat, defensive shape, too much HCP.
To act, I would want a weaker hand, better shape and perhaps a fourth Heart.

Bruce karlsonApril 15th, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Thnx. My native reaction is always to act. Trying hard to contain it but always want to make the opps squirm. Agree it is a rag but, on a second look, not shapely enough.

JudyApril 15th, 2019 at 6:07 pm

Bobby tried to respond but the messages for some reason could not be posted on this site at this time. Should be up shortly.

JudyApril 15th, 2019 at 6:24 pm


Hi Bruce & Clarksburg,

Bruce, you are not alone in enjoying making
life difficult for your worthy opponents by, when able, to continue your partner’s preempt.

However, by doing so, you may lose your ability to glean a plus score since my guess as to the average number of tricks your side will take at a heart contract would be around an exact 8 or, at the best, add a fraction of a trick more.

Adding to that conclusion, if accurate, is the secondary honors to which your hand possesses figures to score at least a couple+ tricks defensively and if correct, their side might be also held to about the same number of tricks as yours, while playing in their longest trump suit.

By passing two hearts your fondest wish (on this bridge hand) may come true and you might buy it at the two level and barely score it up, but for a good result.

However if the opponents have a good trump suit (TBD) there will be little your side can do about it with even a raise to 3 hearts not doing a good enough job.

Be optimistic since your LHO might think you are relatively short in hearts and ready to pounce on him if he reopens the bidding with only a fair offensive hand. Stranger things have happened.