Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, November 24th, 2019

I’ve often seen writers discuss when to charge a one- or twotrick penalty after a revoke. I’ve seen it asserted that in rubber bridge, if you did not bid game, adding the extra penalty trick(s) would not entitle you to the game bonus. Is the situation different for duplicate bridge or if using Chicago scoring?

Dazed and Confused, Sioux Falls, S.D.

The revoke law never does anything except change the number of tricks actually won. The contract always remains unaltered. So, the penalty tricks from a revoke may produce overor undertricks (or change a making contract into one going down or vice versa), no matter what form of bridge you play. But they do not change the contract.

Some of our opponents at my local club compete aggressively (on occasion frivolously) over our strong no-trump. Would you recommend we play penalty doubles in an attempt to teach them a sharp lesson?

Fetch the Axe, Janesville, Wis.

Try to maximize the frequency of your double as opposed to trying to optimize the results from the call. Use double for take-out at your first turn to act, since you will have that hand more often than a penalty double. This applies both to responder’s and opener’s double — both under and over the trump. Double of a purely artificial call should be values by responder, showing that suit by opener.

Playing a knockout match, I was dealt ♠ A-Q-9-7-3,  8-7-2,  A-J-6, ♣ Q-9. I heard my left-hand opponent pre-empt to three hearts, and then my partner bid four clubs. What should be forcing here — and what would a fourheart bid mean?

Well Placed, Kailua, Hawaii

Four spades and four diamonds sound natural and non-forcing to me. So, four hearts should be an all-purpose good hand with club support without reference to heart control. I’d make that call and accept a signoff in five clubs.

In a recent column, you posed a problem with ♠ A-J-9-2,  J-5,  5-2, ♣ A-J-8-4-3, in which you heard your partner overcall two diamonds over one heart. How much weaker would you have to be to pass here? Since partner only overcalled, are you likely to make game when you don’t have a fit?

Skeptical Sam, Wausau, Wis.

My view of two-level overcalls is that a doubleton and a ruffing value constitute decent enough support. I try not to come in on bad suits here, and I expect the same of my partner! This hand is certainly strong enough to look for game with a two-heart advance. That shows values and asks partner to describe his hand further.

When you have a choice of eight-card fits, is it better to choose a 5-3 fit or a 4-4 fit?

Breaking Badly, Spokane, Wash.

With a 4-4 trump fit, it may be easier to generate discards and extra ruffing tricks with the 5-3 fit on the side. By contrast, if you play the 5-3 suit, it will not allow you to generate discards from the 4-4 side suit. It is hard to identify in advance where discards will not be relevant, so head for the 4-4 fit when you can.

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Iain ClimieDecember 8th, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

On Well-placed’s query, is (3H) 4C (P) 4D really best played as NF? With little but long diamonds, it probably makes sense for the bidder to let partner play in 4C rather than fight over choice of suit so I would have thought 4D was better played as forcing. If RHO has sandbagged over 4C hoping to double something later, it would surely be sensible to pass 4C while if he’d doubled 4C then I agree 4D would be NF and an escape.

Given LHO’s weakness and RHO’s silence, I would assume that we are very likely to have game unless I’ve got real rubbish so 4D seems to be better as a forcing move here. 4S I agree is to play of course but any thoughts?



Bobby WolffDecember 8th, 2019 at 7:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, but my thoughts first go to the complications for our side from the ability of my LHO being able to hinder my partnership’s ability to seek out our best contract, plus, of course sometimes creating a disaster for us, if we either decide or not decide to come into the bidding with either sketchy values or sometimes being over conservative, also resulting in a disaster for us missing an easy game or slam contract.

Bridge, being a mind game, rather than a physical one, is tough enough when left to our own judgment (our opponents not bidding), but when they start out at the three level, it makes it much more difficult to be as accurate as our bidding needs to be.

However, having given my prelude, while I think you present a good case for changes of suit being forcing after partner has entered the bidding after a high preempt, there is also a very good argument that if dealt something like: s. AJx, h. xxx, d. KQ1098x, c. x (normal enough) I would prefer to bid 4 non-forcing diamonds rather than leave partner isolated in 4 clubs, first to perhaps have partner have some support for me, but still not enough to make game or more than nine or ten tricks in diamonds while holding: s. KQx, h. xx, d. Ax, c. KQJxxx.

IOW, what would a combination of good bridge players meeting to decide on whether or not it is better to play a change of suit as forcing or not at that level? My guess is that a change of suit can be thought of to be constructive, but not absolutely forcing, so that, in effect it gives the overcaller some slack to pass, rather than be obligated to bid with a prospective misfit.

No doubt, whichever way a bridge partnership decides they need to be aware of the arguments but then together agree on which way to go. I prefer constructive but NF and thus to sometimes boldly jump to a game contract always keeping in mind that a cue bid is, of course, GF and asking partner to better describe his original overcall, as to his suit or perhaps a 2nd suit and sometimes of course NT.

Good question by you and by me, somewhat of a wishy-washy response.

Iain ClimieDecember 8th, 2019 at 7:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and not at all; as the old joke goes, there are no absolute rules at bridge including this one.