Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, May 5th, 2019

I know you are fan a of opener raising his partner’s one-level response with three trumps rather than introducing a second suit or making a flawed one-no-trump rebid. How does responder diagnose the 4-3 fit? And why not rebid one no-trump with only three trumps if the hand is almost balanced?

Butterfingers, Cartersville, Ga.

I believe raising partner is the best way to get to game when you do have a fit — and to stay low when you know you don’t. Hands with a small doubleton and three reasonable trumps often offer as much trump support as balanced hands with four trumps. If responder needs to know, one way is to ask with Spiral Scan. This is a relay of two no-trump after the raise. The four step responses show three trumps (minimum), three trumps (maximum), four trumps (minimum) and four trumps (maximum), respectively.

I assume that you would be comfortable in responding one spade to one heart with this hand: ♠ A-Q-9-6-4,  4,  J-7-5-2, ♣ 10-8-6. When partner rebids two diamonds, are you supposed to raise or pass? If you would let sleeping dogs lie here, how much more would you need before you raise?

Jump Street Jimmy, Salinas, Calif.

I would pass, expecting there was a fair chance that if game could make, partner would have done more at his second turn. But change the diamond jack to the queen, and I’d dredge up a raise to three diamonds. Even at teams, going plus is more important than stretching for what would surely be a thin game.

I play rubber bridge every week with the same group of women. One of the players seems to get all the cards. Over the years, would you not expect the cards to average out?

Calendar Girl, Springfield, Ill.

The Dyspeptics Club stories are based on a real player (now dead) who used to say: “It’s not the cards; it is how much I get out of them.” But, of course, he was the luckiest player you ever saw in your life. I don’t know any other player who would admit to having had his fair share of the cards at rubber, but the laws of probability have not been seriously impeached in the last 400 years.

I opened one heart, holding ♠ A-Q-2,  A-J-7-3-2,  Q-10-3-2, ♣ Q, and when my partner bid a game-forcing two clubs, I had a comfortable bid of two diamonds. Now my partner bid three clubs, and since we were in a game-force, I bid three no-trump. My partner said that this action was premature — what do you think?

Sausages, Dover, Del.

With weaker spades or more values, I might probe for three no-trump, since I would not be prepared to end the auction by bidding it myself. I agree that if your partner has seven good clubs plus a couple of working aces and kings, you might make 12 tricks; singleton honors in partner’s suit are always hard to evaluate. Even so, I think a bid of three no-trump is your only practical call here.

You recently answered a letter about splinters, suggesting that immediate splinters might be limited in strength by the failure to use a Jacoby two-no-trump call. What about splinters by opener at his second turn? How much do they promise in the way of extras?

Strawberry Shortcake, Panama City, Fla.

A splinter by opener after a response at the one-level shows 17-20 in high cards, give or take. You do not have to make such a call when facing a passed hand, in that you may jump to game with low slam potential. A splinter facing a game-forcing two-level response should be better than minimum, but it doesn’t guarantee real extras.

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Bill CubleyMay 19th, 2019 at 6:43 pm


When I splinter I might have ONE but not BOTH outside aces. At my level partner has a problem and might well stop at game rather than use what I call Astrology Blackwood. Your future is in the stars. In a higher level event I discuss cue bidding kings as well as aces. But in the majors Jacoby 2NT is a better tool than the splinter as more information is exchanged.

You may again gently correct me.

bobbywolffMay 19th, 2019 at 7:51 pm

Hi Bill,

Why would I even, ever so gently, correct you?

While I have never had this splinter process described the way you have, with illustrated details, it does make sense.

However it wouldn’t instead make dollars to me, until I had a chance to, at the very least, analyze this not doing it with both outside aces, or whatever other restrictions one may add (or subtract), although I do understand the concept.

No doubt the high-level game, in the hands of intelligent and practical experts, no doubt is moving upward, especially in bidding, with a further plus of not disrupting various competitive opponents nor while so doing, cause immediate, to be decided partnership problems, for lesser players to defend.

Nice to hear from you and thanks for the “hot off the presses” intriging particulars.

Since this best of all possible forward bridge happenings is apparently occurring I will have nothing but serious regard for those in the process.

You being one of them, only creates more respect and BTW good luck on your journey.

Bill CubleyMay 20th, 2019 at 2:56 am


Thanks for your very kind words. Opening at the 2 level and splinters take up lots of bidding room. I like to leave some room for partner to intelligently bid further.

Robert Morris laughed at the Astrology Blackwood term when he spoke at a regional. I think I play better with the cataracts removed in January. Actually seeing the cards seems to help bidding and card play.

I did get one good compliment this year. My regular partner Nancy played with a pro from California. The results had her tell me she did better with me. M<aybe Anne will let me play in Las Vegas. My birthday is this week. Seems like a good time to ask.

bobbywolffMay 20th, 2019 at 3:38 am

Hi Bill,

No doubt your instincts deserve rave notices.

Make a Cubley transfer to Las Vegas, and Anne will not be able to turn you down.

And while you are here, cherish every moment you are playing bridge and then, of course, learning to stay away from gambling.

No doubt, causing more love from Anne.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2019 at 8:30 am

HI Bill,

Many happy returns for whichever day it is this week, and for many more birthdays to come.


Bill CubleyMay 20th, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Thank you both for the birthday wishes. It is Thursday 5/23.