Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Holding ♠ Q-9-7,  3-2,  A-J-8-7-2, ♣ K-7-4, I heard a call of one diamond on my right. I passed this to my partner, who doubled. I passed again for penalty; now my left-hand opponent redoubled for rescue, and his partner ran to one heart. Would pass by me now be forcing? What would you have done?

Pony Up, Boise, Idaho

Pass should not be forcing — your side might easily not have more than half the deck here. You’d expect your partner to double with four trumps and an opening bid, but if he doesn’t, will he bid a suit? I don’t think so, unless he has extras —though he might rebid one no-trump, assuming that you must have a few values.

What criteria do you use when opening a weak two? If your hand is: ♠ Q-3-2,  Q-5-3,  K-10-6-4-3-2, ♣ 2, what vulnerability and position might make you uncomfortable about opening?

Rusty Nail, Jackson, Miss.

I would never open this hand in fourth seat. In first or second seat vulnerable, I’d be put off by the suitability for either major and the weak diamond spots. I would always open it in third seat; in first seat non-vulnerable, I’d allow my better instincts to be over-ruled and would pre-empt. But I wouldn’t be proud of myself.

Recently, I held ♠ Q-8-7-4,  9-5,  A-9-3-2, ♣ A-3-2, and responded one spade to my partner’s opening bid of one heart. My partner raised to two spades, and now I thought once we had found a fit, my hand had some suitability for game. How much more would I need to bid on?

Trying Hard, Corpus Christi, Texas

Your aces are working overtime, but your weak spot cards persuade me that trying for game is too aggressive — particularly because a raise to two spades on three cards would not be a great surprise. Make one of your small diamonds or clubs into a trump, and now you are full value for the raise. (Indeed, I might take a shot at four!)

When should honors be announced? Someone told me I should declare honors before playing the hand, but this seems to give the opponents too much information. So when is the best moment?

Adding Up, Edmonton , Alberta

Honors do not have to be claimed at the start of play. It is better to claim them when leading the last card in your sequence or when drawing the last trump. If you neglect the claim, you have until the score for the rubber is finalized to claim honors — but the longer you leave it, the harder it may be to convince your opponents.

Holding ♠ K-10-7-4,  Q-3,  7-2, ♣ A-K-10-7-4, I responded one spade to partner’s one heart. Over her two-heart rebid, I simply bid the heart game. But three no-trump would have been easy facing my partner’s diamond holding of K-Q-10, while four hearts went down when a finesse lost. Was I just unlucky? My partner thinks I should have bid two clubs first and not shown my spades.

Order and Method, New Orleans, La.

If you agree that this hand is worth a force to game, it makes sense to respond in your longest suit. Bid clubs, then introduce your spades, the latter delivering a four-card suit most, if not all, of the time. The spade call does not say anything about extras beyond your initial statement of game-forcing values, but lets you support hearts later and help your partner decide on the best game.

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ClarksburgJuly 28th, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Good morning Bobby
Matchpoints, both Vul.

Partner, as Dealer, opens 1D
You hold 9653 J97 763 AQ9. Must one absolutely bid 1S here so as not to “deny a 4-card Major”? Or, is there any merit to a 1NT call as a “helpful description” of the hand?

And, from the other side of the Table:
Over your 1D opening, Partner responds 1NT. You hold AKQ8 A4 KQ1084 74
What call should you make now?


bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2019 at 3:42 am

Hi Clarksburg,

The answer can be explained by the made up song of “that’s the story of, that is the gory of bridge”.

Yes 4 spades is by far the better contract since a heart lead will often result in a down one for declarers who opt for 3NT when 4 spades figures to score up, even with only medium luck.

However, where other so-called authorities sing the praises for disciplined 4 card majors being explored the first round of bidding, others prefer getting across both the balanced distribution and the approximate point count (6-9) ASAP. Many factors are involved, including misleading partner on what to lead, but sometimes bidding such rotten suits keep the opponents from finding the right defense.

Back to square one, leaving me simply to say, that, at least to me it is about 50-50 as tp what the initial response should be.

Yes, if partner opted for 1NT with his 4-3-3-3 he would be in 3NT since the less told those pesky opponents, the better chances for declarer success.

For those more disciplined than I, please remember that rarely does any good deed go unpunished.

“you pays your money, you takes your chances”!

ClarksburgJuly 29th, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Thanks Bobby
Your answer indicates that once having heard responder’s 1NT response, Opener will abandon any ideas about playing in a suit and move to a 3NT contract.
My second question above was based on the possibility that Opener, holding a strong unbalanced hand, might further describe it with a GF JS to 3S, leaving Responder to place the contract. Would you categorically rule that out?
Thanks again.

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

While your alternative, together with the non-jump simple 2 spades, which indicates a strong hand. as well as very good spades, although only 4 (while a jump to 3 spades may show a 6-5 diamond-spade distribution),
may result in a superior 4-3 game contract, but the odds against are indeed very long (perhaps s. Jxx, h, Qxx, d. Axxxx, c. Jx or such).

Therefore, since opening leaders are only human, sometimes they are dealt 4 little or even three and, with no side suit looking attractive with only K10xx in clubs, decide to lead a spade vs. NT in order to hit their partner (that is, unless that suit has been bid).

Categorically ruling that out is not the right expression, but rather just
a final decision (based on the bidding) which guides even the very best
players often.

IOW, a jump to 3 spades is not necessary with the hand you presented, but I think (though close) that 3NT, without bidding the spades, will work
out about equally well result wise, as any other choice.

After all, although 2 spades is more attractive than 3NT, winning at bridge is the objective, not looking beautiful in accomplishing it.

Finally, 2 spades (while not 100% forcing) is a good alternative, but whether best or not, is just a guess.