ACES ON BRIDGE
DEAR MR. WOLFF:
In a recent pairs game, my partner held a very powerful hand, but with limited high cards: K-Q-J-10-8,
A-K-Q-10-7-3, 9-7, —-. She opened two clubs, and I drove to slam when we found a heart fit. Slam duly came home, but I wasn’t comfortable with that choice of actions. Do you agree with her choice?
— Dick Deadeye, Winston-Salem, N.C. DEAR READER: I unequivocally agree with you that this hand doesn’t qualify for a two-club opener. I would open one heart and reverse into spades, then rebid spades to show a 6-5 pattern. There is exactly zero chance of a one-heart opener being passed out if you open it, and what is more, it doesn’t lie about your assets, quick tricks and indeed everything else.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: Holding ♠♥7, A-Q-J-7-2,
K-9-8-3-2, ♣J 4, would you be happy opening one heart in first chair rather than passing? If you do bid, you hear a weak jump overcall of two spades on your left, passed back to you. What now?
— Balancing Act,
St. Louis DEAR READER: I would of course open one heart, and, though I admit that a misjudgment here might be very expensive, I think I’d have to put my neck on the block and bid again. A call of three diamonds seems to be too committal, so I might double for takeout. Unless my RHO’s tempo has betrayed that he holds a strong hand, partner figures to have values, and thus is most likely to hold a spade stack. The reason he passed was that a double of two spades would have been negative.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: I was recently watching an expert game online. Declarer opened one spade with a decent hand and a club void, and the responding hand had an opener with four spades and a club suit. How good would responder’s club suit have to be before he could introduce his clubs in advance of raising spades, as opposed to making a Jacoby two-no-trump response? — Wicker Man, Milford, Pa. DEAR READER: Two no-trump is the logical response here with spade support, and you would only bid clubs first if you had a source of tricks that you need to make partner aware of. With a club suit such as A-K-4-3-2, I would bid two clubs first, since I can make slam facing a very minimum balanced hand that fits clubs and lets partner discard his slow red-suit losers.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: I’ve heard the term “restricted choice” used for declarer when his trump suit is missing the queen and jack. If one opponent plays one of the honor cards the first time trumps are led, how should declarer plan the subsequent play in the suit? Do you play for the drop or finesse?
— Razor’s Edge, Cedar Rapids, Iowa DEAR READER: Imagine, for example, that you hold five cards to the ace in hand, and four to the king-10 in dummy. When the ace drops an honor to your right, you can finesse on the next round, or you can play for the drop. While a doubleton Q-J is (in abstract) more likely than a singleton queen, a defender holding Q-J has a choice of cards on his first turn, but no choice if he began with the bare queen. In summary: A defender is almost twice as likely to have begun with a singleton honor than with Q-J. The simpler hypothesis is nearly always right.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: I would like to learn to play contract bridge but know nothing about it, though I have played some card games. Can you suggest a way to get started?
— Newbie, Lexington, Ky. DEAR READER: A simple way is try contacting the American Contract Bridge League at (901) 3325586 and ask if there are any beginner classes in your neighborhood. For clubs in Kentucky, you can also try: lexingtonbridgeclub.com.