ACES ON BRIDGE
DEAR MR. WOLFF: My partner held 9-8-7-5,
A-Q-10-8-7, K-Q, Q-7, and opened one heart. In response, holding 12 points with three hearts and four very small clubs, I had available one no-trump as semi-forcing, with new suits at the two-level being game-forcing. What is the right way to show my hand, and how should our bidding go?
— Enough Said, Saint John’s, Newfoundland
DEAR READER: If you decide you don’t have a game force, you might respond one no-trump, which your partner may decide to pass. That means you might stay out of game, but facing something like ace-third of spades, kingthird of hearts, and ace-jack third of diamonds with the aforementioned four-small clubs, you do have four top losers in four hearts, even if three no-trump is quite playable. Driving your hand to game with a call of two clubs is certainly reasonable if playing sound openers — few do, though.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: Please explain the difference between the minimum number of cards promised by opener rebidding his suit (be it a major or minor) over a one- or two-level response by responder, and the number of cards promised by responder for rebidding his suit? — Pistol Pete, Kenosha, Wis.
DEAR READER: Responder’s rebid of his own suit shows six, except that occasionally he will rebid a very chunky five-card suit — typically over a one-no-trump response from his partner. Similarly, opener’s suit rebid facing a one-level response promises six — though occasionally the rebid of a minor facing a one-spade response may be forced with five when unsuitable for a reverse or one-no-trump response. By contrast, opener’s rebid facing a two-level response is often a decent five-carder.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: When you open one club, then hear one heart to your left and two diamonds from partner, what should you do with Q-9-6-4, 3, 6-4,
A-K-Q-10-9-8? Would a call of two spades promise extras? Should I therefore rebid three clubs?
— Poor Richard, Charlottesville, Va. DEAR READER: If your partner had been able to respond one heart, your onespade rebid would just show four spades and not promise extras. Similarly, a bid of two spades is natural here — it may contain extras but does not promise them. That said, the absence of a negative double from your partner means you probably don’t have a spade fit, so emphasizing your excellent clubs has a lot going for it.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: As a relatively disciplined player, I’m curious about how the experts pre-empt in second seat these days. Does this action require a decent suit, or will the vulnerability override position?
— Restraint of Trade,
Jackson, Tenn. DEAR READER: In second seat at favorable vulnerability, I’d expect many players to take liberties. (Whether they should is another matter.) Conversely, in second seat when vulnerable, players of my vintage tend to want to have very close to the perfect hand for a pre-empt. By the way, suit quality is paramount; four small cards in a major will not influence me that much.
DEAR MR. WOLFF: I play standard methods of carding, but I would welcome input on when giving suit preference should overlap with count and attitude.
— A Little Learning,
Honolulu DEAR READER: Your first signal on partner’s lead is attitude (unless your attitude should be clear to partner by bridge logic — and both players know that). On declarer’s lead, signal count when necessary, or else nothing at all. When the second round of a suit is led, your choice of cards may carry a suit-preference signal. This often applies when you have a sequence or a choice of irrelevant small cards to play. For example, from 7-3-2, you play the two first to discourage, but the order of the remaining cards will carry a suit-preference message. I’ll leave the discussion of how to signal when dummy has a singleton for another day.