Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

I don’t ever seem to have a hand where I want to play a part-score in the minor facing a no-trump opening bid. So, would it make sense to play transfers into a minor suit as at least invitational?

Humble Pie, Willoughby, Ohio

My experience and yours do not mesh. With a weak hand and a long suit, you really should play the minor suit, I believe. As an aside, I can understand using a two-spade response to one no-trump as a balanced range ask or a hand with one minor and invitational values, so that transfers to a minor are either weak or strong (and Stayman now guarantees a major). But that would require detailed discussion.

What should you do when holding ♠ 5-2,  K-10-4-3,  J-9,  A-Q-7-6-2 if you heard your partner open one diamond and the next hand overcall one heart? Is this hand really a two-club call, or would you elect to play for penalty?

Apple Pie Order, Beaverton, Ore.

If you gave me just one guess, I would say it was right to bid one no-trump, but to compete in clubs if the opponents bid spades. The attraction of bidding one no-trump is that you allow your partner to act again if he has either extras in shape or values.

What, if any, are some simple rules that will help me master the general principles of the percentages? Number Crunchers Anonymous, Union City,


An even number of cards are less likely to break than to divide evenly (with the exception of the 1-1 break). The more cards missing, the closer to onethird is the likelihood of an even break. An odd number of cards will usually break as evenly as possible — and the more cards that are out, the closer to twothirds is the likelihood of that break. In those instances, the next-most even break comes in at about a 1 in 5 chance.

My experienced partner threw me a curve, and I dropped the ball. How would you cope with ♠ J-7-4-2,  A-2,  K-6, ♣ K-J-9-5-2 after opening one club and hearing one spade on your left, then three spades from your partner?

Scoring Table, Bremerton, Wash.

A jump cue-bid here should have a very precise meaning. It is a raise in clubs with a singleton spade — in other words, a splinter raise. Your hand is not suitable for no-trump, but it is very suitable for clubs (imagine partner with the heart and diamond controls, plus five clubs to the ace). Cue-bid four diamonds now — don’t even think of bidding three no-trump or closing out the auction at five clubs.

How would you respond to a two-diamond opening if you held ♠ Q-J-7,  K-9-3,  A-7-4-2, ♣ Q-10-4? How would you rate passing, raising or inquiring with two no-trump?

Blunderbuss, Atlanta, Ga.

I don’t think my side can make game here, but I have enough values to expect the opponents not to make game anywhere, either. The choice is to raise to three diamonds at once (maybe that will draw my opponents in) or to pass and bid up to three diamonds if necessary. Either approach makes sense — I think I favor the latter, but it is close.

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Patrick CheuOctober 27th, 2019 at 9:55 am

Hi Bobby,Good morning.At pairs(All Vul),East held-AKT9 J J842 A843..W pass N pass E 1C(1D better,Acol) S 1H-W pass N 2H E Dbl S pass-W 3C pass out -200.Could West have bid 2S(my suggestion met with a lack of..) or 3D?-1 Perhaps East should not re-open with Dbl? Could you please recommend a suitable bidding sequence for EW. Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffOctober 27th, 2019 at 7:57 pm

Hi Patrick,

I see nothing wrong with East’s dbl, either at IMPs or Pairs, since, if his partner had four of either pointed suit, especially spades, we are not going to get above average for defending two hearts,, assuming South didn’t mangle the play, and only just pushing the opponents to the three level, may allow a plus score, since our hand looks good defensively.

Many experienced players think that both the three and, of course, the five levels are for the opponents and here, while playing 3 clubs it worked out for them, but being shy in pairs, especially in competitive bidding, is not a winning tactic.

Also, it seems that you may be in a nest of “result” players, and if so, bridge, with its partnerships, may not be the game for them. At least, not as your partner.

Sorry for the vitriol, but, in reality, especially with bridge bidding and in order to win, it works best to constantly put bidding pressure on those worthy opponents, or if not, figure to normally finish about average, even if you and partner are considerably better than them.

Good luck and as always, thanks for writing.

jim2October 27th, 2019 at 10:47 pm

On the hand by “Scoring Table,” without previous agreement, I would be very unsure of its meaning. Indeed, I doubt I would ever make that bid myself without a set agreement. My first guess is that I am being asked to bid 3N with a spade stopper.

With the hand presented, I would have to decide if J-fourth were a stopper? If I judged so, I would bid 3N. Partner, whatever his/her original intent, should work it out from there.

If I doubted the “stopperness” of my spade holding (and I do, I confess), I would meekly bid 4C. At the least, I would be confirming the possession of an actual club suit with a minimum opener in high cards. If partner’s next bid is 4D, I shall bid 4H with a completely clear conscience.

bobbywolffOctober 28th, 2019 at 1:07 am

Hi Jim2,

Since civility, politics and perhaps everyone’s next door neighbor has, through the years changed, the meanings of a category of bids have also.

Now, instead of just Blackwood and Gerber, we have Redwood, Minorwood, Key Card this or that, Kickback, not to mention my favorite, although it is totally illegal, with its first name, Hesitation.

However, there has been one change, which as the melody goes, cannot be denied, and that is a big jump in a new suit, including an opponent’s bid one shows a giant fit (4+cards or longer) for partner and shortness in the suit bid.

No doubt some deep bridge thinkers have some exceptions, but if left to one’s own devices that 3 spade bid is not among them. However, if an opponent opens 1 of a major and partner now bids 3 of that major, then most very experienced players will play that bid is what you say it is, bid 3NT if you have a stopper and I’ll provide a solid long minor suit to allow you to have a very good chance to score it up.

However, years ago, (yes, I can remember) a relative new player, likely that morning, learned this gimmick, but got it slightly confused, since he or she (I won’t divulge which) jumped to hearts over (clue) her RHO’s 1 heart bid, but got it a little mixed up, since he held Axx in hearts but no other picture cards or values, saying later, that bid means if you have a very long solid suit bid 3NT and I’ll provide the heart stop.

After that I stopped playing with new learners since I vowed not to start carrying concealed weapons, could be dangerous in the wrong hands .. (a now often discussed topic).

However, other partnerships do what they please and I definitely agree with you that it should be discussed.

Thanks for listening, but please do not disappear, until or unless you need to attend your annual tournament in Lower Slobovia.

jim2October 28th, 2019 at 1:39 am

The LS tourneys are semi-annual: The Mud Cup and the Slush Cup.

As for the 3S call meaning, you are the world champion, not I. However, I did not post my comment until I had checked with a couple other long time players who are still active. They agreed with me and said basically what I did in my post. That is, in the absence of partnership agreement, it might be either of those two things and they would try to find a bid that did not commit themselves.

Even if I am wrong, along with my sources, it might suggest that Scoring Table was hardly alone on this. Similarly, it is cautionary to new partnerships to avoid any bid whose meaning is obvious when they can see the cards they used to bid it, but perhaps somewhat murky or inscrutable to the partner who can only see 13 different cards.

bobbywolffOctober 28th, 2019 at 2:17 am

Hi again Jim2,

As 2nd citizen, at least according to the Bard, famously remarked after Mark Antony’s stirring and emotional speech on the occasion of the brutal murder of Julius Caesar, “Methinks there is much reason in what he says”, I totally agree that conventions, no matter how great they might be, and other somewhat unusual, though potential valuable treatments are, without a partner who may be confused as to its meaning,, will be much better off, never being used, rather than to use them, only hoping for no misunderstanding.

Let the record show that I agree 100% of the folly of using unconventional, conventional bids without first being positively convinced that partner will fully know what the sender is trying to communicate.

End of Story!