Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 11th, 2021


ClarksburgApril 25th, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Good morning Bobby
Question about hand evaluation and bidding judgement.
Playing the common strong 2C opening, is this hand, in your opinion, worth opening 2C?

JeffSApril 25th, 2021 at 1:47 pm

Interesting hand, I’m looking forward to Bobby’s response. FWIW, it wouldn’t cross my mind to bid 2C with this hand. I’d plunk down 1H and follow with 3H if the opponents bid and partner doesn’t bid – say 1S P 2C. But if you gave me the J10 instead of the 98, I might just open 4H.

That’s my two cents, anyway, although at that price, you might be overpaying.

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, good morning and then, no, a simple 1 heart is enough since your hand needs support from partner in the way of fitting cards with the three suits it possesses.

However, nothing can take away from the immense potential that fitting cards from partner could produce, but, the general procedure from top players is not to open an ultra strong game force (or close) when a fitting card or more is needed from good ole pard.

No doubt, only if partner’s first response is a simple 2 heart raise I would now start thinking in terms of a possible heart slam and give partner plenty of opportunity to show support, but only where it would count. Not a slam dunk, but instead several slam tries, all brought about by bidding slowly, but, and of course, always forcing to a heart ending at game or above.

A good question with the answer, a slow auction, probing for a makable slam, but trying to find out what specific cards or distribution partner may suggest.

However, yes and, of course, good guesswork, plus player’s luck in what is found out, will determine the eventual result

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2021 at 4:21 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Yes, we agree (see above) on not opening with a game force, but after opening with one heart and even with only the opponents bidding, my goal will be to take a chance on a heart game, but to do it in a way to which those pesky opponents may think I am taking a save.

Keep in mind that even a stray jack or two, both in one of the three highest suits, may each be worth a full trick, not to mention the opponents unwittingly helping me declare by first the possible opening lead, or, of course, later in the play, but no doubt Clarksburg’s question about an opening game force is certainly to be considered, but not accepted, because of the lack of solidity in the suits held.

Our beautiful game of bridge has much to recommend it, but the quality of feeling one’s way on certain hands (and this one appears one of those) is a talent which only develops with experience and not from any chart or specific recommendation from any prolific bridge writer or just only a bridge lover.

It may not be thought to be logical or proper to, after opening only a natural one bid, to then, with little to no help from partner, bid a game with valid hopes of scoring it up, but to systemically rule it out is great folly.

There is little to recommend the word always or never when playing bridge. To win, intelligent psychology, is totally necessary, only developed at the table and while playing against good players since batting poor players around is not a recommendation I’ll ever sanction (basically because it may cause too much a relaxation of necessary bridge discipline), though, while playing tournament bridge, it becomes a necessary evil.

IOW, Clarksburg’s question is a good one, worth discussing, if only, at least IMO, that subject comes up much more often than many of us realize.

Finally, and in case my point is lost in translation, to open a strong two bid in hearts is not in itself a bridge error of discipline, but only of strategy. What if partner is dealt only Axxxxx in spades or diamonds and not another high card, but as well as a singleton heart. Then, it will need partner to bid that suit, even though he might pass one heart out at the one level. All that is true, but usually someone will bid and although in retrospect the strong hand may have wished he would have started with a forcing to game bid, but in actual practice, a one bid is not often completely passed out and once extreme weakness is shown, then that player may take the opportunity, if presented, to bid that suit.

All speculation, but no one has ever said that playing winning bridge is easy, but rather instead an exercise in both discipline and the strategy which goes with.

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Please excuse my oversight in failing to mention that an opening 4 heart bid should never be considered, with anything near the strength of today’s example. It could be made with, s. x, h. KQJ10xxxx, d. xxx, c. x of course, NV but make that club a fourth diamond and 4 hearts would even be my choice, when vulnerable.

Reason being is that an opening in a game of all suits is primarily a preemptive bid, (attempting to give the opponents much less bidding room) while telling partner what the trump suit will be (at least 95%of the time).

Sorry for overlooking your comment.

jim2April 25th, 2021 at 6:14 pm

So, what should Clarksburg’s hand bid after a 1N response?

3H? 4C as a self-splinter?

Iain ClimieApril 25th, 2021 at 7:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Isn’t it possible that the 1N bidder (assuming he hasn’t had the chance to bid) has a hand like Jx x xxx KQ10xxxx and was trying to use 1N as a way of getting into 3C or is an immediate 1H – 3C more likely to be used for that purpose? Just for my benefit (it is a LONG time since I played Precision and a forcing 1N over 5 card majors) what are the hand types here by a passed and unpassed hand bidding 1N? If the bidding starts 1H 1N 4C the 1N bidder might even be tempted to pass on such a hand, especially if he had a void heart. Whether his partner would see the funny side, I’m not so sure.

Hi Bobby,

In reply to yesterday’s reply, I’ll add the SJ10x to the 1H bid just to be awkward and now surely that is too strong for a weak 2. Fair point about occasionally opening 1H with 4 good ones though.



bobbywolffApril 25th, 2021 at 10:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

In the days before 1NT over a major suit became forcing (to which I prefer, including 4 card majors), not necessarily safer, but much more difficult for the opponents (even great ones) to play against, it would be close between a simple 4 hearts or the bid I would choose, 3 diamonds, GF and could (as here) be somewhat artificial.

Today, with 1NT forcing (but still limited) I would choose 3 diamonds since the opening bidder hand is potentially dynamite. If partner raised to 4 diamonds, I would merely go back to 4 hearts, which would imply a very good hand (too strong for an immediate 4 heart rebid), heart oriented but taking the time to show an interest in slam, opposite a balanced 11+ and open the door for cue bidding. Of course, and I do not know a solution, it becomes necessary for partner to have at least 2 key cards in the three highest suits.

BTW, I could keep both of us busy complaining about the forcing NT response. Sure it allows 5 card majors to bid reasonably well up through above average players, but in several other areas, and particularly so when some play 1NT as having no upside limit (being forcing) and I think that is worse than horrible.

Especially when playing against good players, at unfavorable vulnerability. However, to get into an accurate discussion about choice of system and its various applications is indeed a difficult subject to come to agreements, mostly
because to do so, needs to discuss the entire subject featuring defensive interference (obviously better to show suits and strengths as early as possible, since and, of course, if bridge was invented recently the numbers for sets (both V & NV) would (should) be significantly (up to double the amount) what they are now.

However, to make such a change would send all talented players back to the drawing board although, by so doing, would make the choice of system much easier to select, since the set increase would discourage interference.

BTW, those who favor fertilizer (bidding all over the place with next to nothing) would vanish as soon as sets moved up the scale to what they should be.

I hope I haven’t bored you and perhaps others, but to not make worthwhile comments (sometimes only in the eyes of the speaker) and like the pandemic, keeps the game from growing.

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2021 at 10:57 pm

Hi Iain,

It possibly makes sense for a jump to the four level over a 1NT response to one of a major to be shortness with slam implications, just because no one else would (or could) be sure of what that bid meant. True for many weird responses, but to play bridge competitively worldwide a partnership needs to spend much time, deciding firmly what all legal bids mean.

Your discussion of a weak hand with a long and decent minor suit (or hearts when partner opens 1 spade), but almost nothing else and shortness in partner’s major to have nothing left but respond 1NT is just one of the problems to solve when discussing popular features of often played systems.

And, of course, then to even intend to seek solutions is very frustrating and believe it or not sometimes turns some otherwise decent people into thinking about cheating. But using the word decent in the same sentence as cheating at bridge could (should) be thought of as a bridge felony.