Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jack ask?

No, I did not make a spelling error.

A thought for today. A recent deal got me to thinking.

Suppose an ideal auction start (2/1 GF, two-level major suit trump agreement). One might plausibly have the trump situation known well, by virtue of a 2NT call or bypass, a cuebid or lack thereof at the three-level, and/or an answer to RKCB. If the existence or the lack thereof is known, should the call normally reserved for a queen-ask be a "Jack Ask?"

The classic scenario where this would occur is when it looks like we have a need to reasonably ensure no more than one trump loser. For example, if you have Axx opposite Qxxxx, this is not so good. Or, KQx opposite xxxxx. Whatever -- you get my point.

You might even want to take out insurance at IMP's. The situation came up yesterday for me. Holding Q109 in trumps, I knew that we held everything we needed on the side to make the slam. I knew that partner had just one heart honor. I also knew that the slam would not be bid at the other table. I elected to go, but partner caught KJ8x behind the Q109 and had to lose two trumps. A big swing against us, and perhaps unlucky. However, after partner's 5D response, it might have made sense for 5H (spades were trumps) to ask about the heart Jack, because the A, K, and Q were already known by prior cues.

Plus, can you imagine the response by the opponents? You are explaining, after the auction, your sequence. This means that, that means this, blah-blah-blah. All very impressive, but the opponents are having aneurysms following this. You get to the 5H call.

"Now, my partner's 5H call -- do you want to know what that is?"
"Of course!"
"That's a Jack Ask bid!" (Ever so slightly hint at the "K.")
"I'd say! And what did your 5S say?"
"I ain't got Jack."

Seriously, though, I'm more and more convinced that I like this. How often do you have a sequence of bids leading up to an ultimate 4NT RKCB, finding out that you are missing one key card, and hoping that it is the side Ace that you are missing or that partner has the trump Jack? Slams with only two of the top three honors can be anti-percentage when the honors are split and one is the Queen.

When the ability is there to check on the number of top honors (Ace, King, and Queen) before 4NT, would it not be wonderful to be able to check back on the Jack when you need it?

One key consideration, however, is that you better not show the trump Jack by bidding 5S when hearts are trumps, unless partner knows that your answer will be at best two keys (from prior bidding).

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