Better Basic Bridge: That was then; this is now, and what will it be next week?

Nancy Evins • Updated Apr 16, 2017 at 2:00 PM

I have played bridge with dozens of different women and been in more than two or three private bridge clubs.

I wonder how many of those women remember what we called “step bidding” or “ladder bidding” by most experts now.

Ladder bidding is when dealer opens two clubs, and the response tells points.

A writer to an ACBL specialist wrote this to Jerry Helms, a top bridge columnist who takes letters from messed-up bridge players.

“Dear Jerry,

Several players in our party bridge club “bid the ladder” in response to a strong two club opening rather than using two diamonds as a waiting bid. Two diamonds = 0-3 points; two hearts = 4-8; two spades = 7-9 and two no-trump = 10 or more. I can see the disadvantage to bidding the ladder is that it possibly exposes the strong hand, while an advantage is that it makes it easier for responder to describe the strength of their hand.

What do you think?”

I can remember several women in the clubs I played in pointing this out way back then. I wasn’t one of them.

The expert minced no words in his response.

“I will start out by saying there is no worse method for responding to an artificial two club opening than “the ladder.”

He goes on to repeat the disadvantages that the writer had already mentioned and adds that not only does it often work out that the responder winds up with the strong hand on the board but that when you compound this artificial, generic, strength-showing action that defines values but gives no reference to shape, significant problems often result.

He suggests that diamonds be a waiting bid or a negative one. Hopefully, everyone in your bridge group agrees on the same one.

But bridge, like life, sometimes reverses itself. People who play “precision” use many artificial bids before getting to the real suits they hold.

All this reminds me of all the things we used to think about life. It was considered good to have a big breakfast. Not so now. 

Coffee was bad. Now it’s good.

We were given salt pills at summer camp.

Movies took awhile deciding whether the words, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” were permissible.

And the summer sun was good because it provides vitamin D and makes your legs look great. Now we are warned about exposure.

If that one ever goes back to the original idea, I’ll let you know…after my 30 weeks of radiation.

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at [email protected]


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