I’m often asked, when I suggest a bid or a line of play, whether or not my suggestion is a bit on the risky side. Oooh yes. It’s all risky, guv… the moment you sit down at the Bridge table you enter a world of risk. Even the most harmless, solid opening bid can lead to disaster. The apparent cast iron lead can gift declarer a contract they should never make. There is nothing you can do about this. The god of cards is out to get you.
The only defence you have against this cruel nemesis is that you must not help him. Sometimes the god will tease you by putting all the outstanding cards exactly where you want them, so that a dodgy 2H contract makes +3 on a favourable 3-2 trump split and all the finesses working. Should you have bid the game? No. Do not make plans based on his teasing ways. Always take the middle ground. Take his gifts firm in the knowledge that next time the trumps will be 5-0 and all the finesses wrong.
What does this mean? Should we avoid all risk? Should we underbid our way to safe contracts and a warm glow of success? I think by now you know my answer. Look that god firmly in the eye and fight back. You will certainly occasionally court disaster but consider: disaster is always round the corner anyway, whatever you do. You do not make the risk. It already exists, waiting to pounce. You must take your moment of advantage and catch the pesky god when he sleeps.
Suppose it’s early in the play of a hand, there was no opposition bidding to guide you and you hold a suit between you and dummy that looks like this:
You need 2 tricks from this suit. The K will be right or wrong. There is no risk. You finesse the Q. You’ll be right exactly 50% of the time. If you play the Ace you will be wrong 100% of the time.
Raises in Competition
As I’ve said before, once you are in a competitive auction the ground has shifted. Opponents are rascals who will do anything – and I mean anything – to knock you out of your comfort zone, to destroy your peaceful exchange of information and stamp on your delicate system.
By the same token, once they interfere, you don’t want to sit idly by and watch them neatly explain their hands either. You want to cramp their space just as much. Partner opens 1S, opponents overcall 2H and you hold either of these hands:
a) Kxxx ........................ b) Kxxx
... xx ................................ x
... Axxxx .......................... Jxxxx
... Kx ............................... Qxx
With a) and without an overcall you would have made the “limit” raise of 3S (4 card support, 10 - 12 HCP). Similarly with hand b), without the overcall, you would have made the “weak” raise of 2S (4 card support, 6 - 9 HCP). But after the overcall, 2S with hand b) does no damage to them. Into the bargain, if they bid to 3H what does partner risk? PASS? 3S?
In this situation you need to get in THEIR way. So… you bid 3S! and risk you messed them up. Take the risk away from partner and transfer it to the opponents.
OK. So what do you do with hand a) that otherwise was going to bid 3S? Luckily, as a result of the overcall you now have have that extra (risk-free) bid you didn’t have before - 3H! A “cue-bid” of the opponents’ suit. This takes the place of the uncontested limit raise of 3S, allowing 3S now to be a pre-emptive and weak raise.
Good hand + good support = cue-bid.
Weak hand with support = weak jump!
When both sides bid, the value of your fit is as important as your HCP. Here you can distinguish between “weak” raises and “limit” raises. The risk does not vanish You now control it.