Can’t Win Every Hand By The Four Aces

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There is one characteristic common to the game of all the best bridge players we have ever seen. They do not feel that they must outplay their opponents on every hand.

By Ana Roth
On 21 March, 2017 At 16:22

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St. Petersburg Times – Oct 16, 1938 By The Four Aces (The aces: Oswald Jacoby, David Burnstine, Howard E. Schenken, M. D. Maier and B. Jay Becker)

There is one characteristic common to the game of all the best bridge players we have ever seen. They do not feel that they must outplay their opponents on every hand. They realize that no one can get absolutely perfect results, and from time to time when it becomes apparent to them that their opponents may be getting the best of a hand, they refuse to risk a major catastrophe in a desperate effort to steal this advantage back. In other words, these successful players are all willing to be “fixed” on occasion.

The following hands will serve as examples of these situations:

You hold:  A 8 7 6  A 6 4 3  3  A K 9 4

Nobody vulnerable. The opponent on your left opens with one spade. Your partner passes. Third hand bids two hearts. By this time you have studied your hand and of course come to the conclusion that you have the best hand at the table. Furthermore, you realize that if the opponents bid for game, you will have an excellent double.

At the same time, it looks as though if you keep still, they will stop at a fairly low contract. Accordingly, if you pass, you expect to be “fixed.” On the other hand, if you take some positive action, you will be likely to strike your partner with a blank hand, except for a long string of diamonds, and may firm yourself going down a lot. Accordingly, you do pass.

Once more you study your hand. If you pass the declarer will probably, but not necessarily, make his two spade contract. If you take action now, it is not likely that your partner will be strong enough to invite a game contract, and accordingly the best you can do is to get a partial score yourself. Now for the worst—you must still bear in mind the possibility, of your partner’s holding that blank hand with a long diamond suit. Therefore, if you take any action, the opponents may double you and get that large penalty which you were already afraid of.

Accordingly, the successful player in this situation passes and lets his opponents “fix” him a little, rather than bid and gamble on a really bad result. Another frequent “fix” situation occurs after an opening pre-emptive bid by an opponent.

For instance, you are vulnerable, your opponents are not.

You hold:  x  A x x x  A x x x  A J x x.

Dealer bids three spades. Assuming you know that this bid is pre-emptive and shows a weak hand, you wish to take action. After all, if your partner has some such holding as five hearts to the king-queen, the king of diamonds and queen of clubs, you can almost surely make four hearts. Accordingly, your first thought is to double, and if you do, it is quite likely that you will make game, or force the opponents to take a sacrifice at four or five spades.

Now, let us look at the other side of the picture. Your partner might have an absolute blank except for possibly one king, and third hand the balance of power. Now, if you were to double, third hand would redouble. Your partner, with his blank hand, might take you out in a four-card suit or he might pass, leaving it up to you to get out of the mess you had created. In either event, you would be faced with the prospect of either letting the opponents make three spades redoubled, or going down from 1100 or more points, depending upon just how badly the hand would break.

Furthermore, since you hold three aces, it would take very little in your partner’s hand to beat a four-spade contract in the event you pass and third hand raises his partner to game.

Summing up: The two hands shown above clearly illustrate one additional principle, namely that irrespective of how many high cards you may have, it is extremely dangerous to enter the bidding for the first time at a high level. Instead, what you do need is a long solid suit.

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