Dear Mr. Wolff: Are there any rules for bidding that cannot be breached? I ask because recently, second in hand, I opened three diamonds with seven diamonds and a 12-count. I was told by my opponent that, had she bothered to call the director, I would be disqualified for bidding incorrectly. What sort of hand and point-count should you have to open with a three-level pre-empt? — Cowering Away, Trenton, N.J.
Answer: Unfortunately, there will always be people trying to ruin others’ enjoyment by inventing rules. You may bid what you like, on whatever hand you like, whenever you like. A three-level pre-empt normally shows fewer points than this, but so long as your partnership agreement was to have 5-9 points, you can opt to misdescribe your hand from time to time with impunity.
Dear Mr. Wolff: I would like to know the right way to play A-K-J-9-sixth opposite a singleton at no-trump. I needed to take five tricks, so I could afford to lose only one trick in the suit. — Percentage Pointers, Vancouver, British Columbia
Answer: The answer is refreshingly instinctive. The best play for five tricks is to play to the jack first. This play breaks even when the hand over the length has a doubleton (you lose to the doubleton queen but win against the doubleton 10), but it has better chances for six tricks.
Dear Mr. Wolff: When my partner opens a major suit and the next hand doubles, I understand that many people play Jordan, with a jump to two no-trump being a limit-raise of the major. If a jump to three is pre-emptive, what do you do with the awkward hands in the 6-8-point range? — Self-Raising, Worcester, Mass.
Answer: What a good question! My advice is to subvert a rarely used sequence, the jump in the other major (two spades over one heart, and three hearts over one spade) to show precisely this hand. That way, you have three tiers of raises with four trumps: the pre-emptive raise, the mid-range (or mixed) raise and the limit raise.
Dear Mr. Wolff: How do takeout doubles apply? Do they work over any opening bid, no matter what level? — Novel Approach, Erie, Pa.
Answer: Although some partnerships play things slightly differently, most people play doubles of all opening bids of suits up to and including four hearts as primarily for takeout. A double of four spades may be closer to optional, while doubles of no-trump opening bids are for penalties.
Dear Mr. Wolff: As someone who has played strong-club and natural methods, would you care to comment on the following issue? My impression is that Precision seems to be a very suitable system for a beginner to master before moving on to a natural method. What would you say? — Art Official, Bellingham.
Answer: You have a point, because strong-club systems regiment your opening structure more than natural bases. So you eliminate some of the judgment problems that plague beginners, particularly on rebidding with good hands.
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