Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 20th, 2020


ClarksburgJanuary 3rd, 2021 at 10:04 pm

Hello Bobby
Best to you for 2021.
Could you kindly offer advice on conventions / agreements for confirming controls / key cards when aiming for minor-suit slams.
From previous exchanges here over the years, I know your then-views on the initial-stages-calls (i.e. single raises, limit raises, criss-cross GF etc. I like getting in exploratory control-showing calls when appropriate in context. I am also aware of Minorwood and Redwood although have never played these. (This background is provided so that you can simply jump directly to the answer if that is your choice; I should “get it”.)

bobbywolffJanuary 4th, 2021 at 5:18 am

Hi Clarksburg,

For whatever reason, I have been busier than usual today, so I will ask for a brief postponement, till tomorrow morning, which will give me a night’s sleep to think about forward ways to address your general concerns.

I’m looking forward to it, but do not expect any magic potions or foolproof formulas.

Playing very good bridge requires a combination of no nonsense qualified opponents and a partner who takes it every bit as seriously as you. We’ll discuss the frills.

And, for sure, the same wish to you for 2021.

bobbywolffJanuary 4th, 2021 at 6:07 pm

Hi again Clarksburg,

I’ll attempt to keep it as brief as practical.

My take on general conventions, especially the ones you mention, ways to ascertain controls for slam investigation, no doubt, are among the most necessary for first upgrading your selected partnership and specifically for winning against considerably above average opponents.

There is no way I can intelligently judge the various known ace asking conventions, except for guessing that it all depends on first, what the trump suit happens to be (allowing signoffs
when lower ranking suits need to become trump) as well as at least some experience (from both partners) at what final decision is then made. Second and even more important, concerns itself with the demon named “forgetting”, which IMO even if it happens only one time, it will be more hurtful to that partnership then selecting the convention which never suffers from that. IOW and likely, since there is so little difference between the final choice, depending on intangibles like the specific trump suit and the moment during the auction that it is decided to go to slam if not off two key cards and/or, sometimes he queen or instead of that lady, the number of total trumps between the two hands.

However, I would like to now (again briefly) discuss a relatively unknown control bid, possibly for different reasons, which my guess is what Bob Hamman and I played for 26 years during our continued partnership (1972-98).

Declarative-Interrogative (DI) is what it is called and, was applicable and called into action after a trump fit was established, the bidding up to then was along normal lines, the 4 level had been reached (with a jump to the number of aces or controls, key cards or not, not being yet used, but instead the bid of 4NT then made was first, obviously suggesting slam being in the mix, but now wanting to know from partner a general thought of whether he felt that yes, I am optimistic about the future (and thus adequate strength of this hand, so I will answer positively with a feature (any control or positive (usually a first round control, but perhaps shortness or maybe a specific stray queen, but also could be a combination such as a KJ doubleton) instead of returning to the trump suit, which, of course was always a denial of what that partner thought of his bidding up to then had been.

IOW, the use of that magic word judgment, was
definitely ever present, but in the case of partnership and with first, much experience, and, of course a good aptitude of what the game, especially slam bidding, needs to be successful, while never taking for granted the minus factor which could sway us to be conservative.

All I can say about the immediate above is that DI was the 2d most successful addition we ever added, close with our general approach of 4 card major openings instead of now the perhaps 90+% partnerships who now play five.

Five may be safer, but I will check out of this life, before I will agree with it being as good, when, and if, I ever write or discuss exactly why, since five card najors appeals so much to lesser players (not that a huge percentage of our very best world players do not thoroughly endorse them) I think that the safety factor is significantly overrated with just the ability to open 1 spade or 1 heart and be immediately raised to game in that suit is not a situation to be scorned since to do so is to me, an advantage, hardly if ever considered by the non-believers.

And that above advantage is only a microcosm
of other huge advantages. ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE!

However, if playing against cheating pairs, who so sadly have seemed to have infested our world wide extraordinary competition, 4 card majors, then becomes a relatively small disadvantage.

All the above is just my opinion, but a long ago quote from an advertiser applies, “Ask the man
who owns one”, to which I strongly subscribe.

Good luck and, although a few sincere thoughts were generated, the subject itself needs a greater attempt to at least bring a number of subjects up for a full discussion.