Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles -- February-March 2008
The following comments were received from the readers of Australia's national bridge magazine, Australian Bridge, and other bridge enthusiasts. The same problems are also discussed in the magazine, by an international panel of Andrew Robson, Larry Cohen, Mike Lawrence, Phillip Alder, Bob Jones, Marshall Miles, Frank Stewart, Eddie Kantar, Eric Kokish and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.
Scroll down to see the final scores
Submit answers for the April forum
Hand One - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) JT76
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQT9763
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ---


West North East South
  1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?

   Double of 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would show "general values".


Call Award %
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1007667
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60146
Pass 1006
Other 002

Welcome to our first forum for 2008. As usual, we plan to keep the first set of problems simple; we don't want to scare anybody away so early in the year. Lots of long solid suits, big spade fits, etc. So grab a coffee and settle down for a nice quiet evening.

To get us started, here's an almost semi-solid suit, a ten count, and an opening bid from partner. I dare you not to bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Peter Oakley: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Much to be said for doubling 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but can't deny holding SEVEN hearts!

Zbych Bednarek: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Never leave a 7-card suit as dummy.

Danny Roth: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems the only reasonable description of the hand.

Ron Landgraff: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too many hands where 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) makes and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is down only 2 or 3.

David Hester: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). There is no safety here, so I bid what I am looking at. I will be OK if I can make it or if they think I can.

Fred Altstock: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has some points obviously, probably a void or singleton spade, and probably has 2-3 hearts. We should be able to make game.

Tim Francis-Wright: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The problem with double here is that partner will never believe that I have this good a heart suit.

Chris Turner: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Vul game is a good chance to make with pard's shortage in spades and probable assistance in hearts and diamonds.

Peter Klarie: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). NS holds balance of points and club shortage, with potential spade void in North and the opportunity to discard South's diamond loser. Shape and distribution point to a makeable 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) contract, possibly slam if North has images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and other support in diamonds. Be brave.

Boris Richter: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bidding 6 is brave and I've never been brave.

Introducing the brave:

Manuel Paulo: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A pressure bid, forcing the opponents to make the last guess.

Paul Gipson: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems the practical option in a situation where there is no guarantee of finding a good spot. Will not be unhappy if partner raises with the ace of hearts and spade void.

Barbara Hunter: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With a 5 loser hard to bid normally over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Have to hope partner has the right cards.

Many of the 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders were interested in slam, but most felt that it was not necessary to bid it unilaterally:

Paul Delaney, Frederic Wrang, Ron Nelken, Sid Kanter: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If Partner has images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and spade shortage he will bid six.

Amiram Millet: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner might bid more and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled isn't good enough on this vulnerability.

David Matthews, Sam Arber: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too high to explore. Hopefully partner will be able to bid slam with the right cards.

Sydney Frish, Barbara Whitmee: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't think of a safe way to find out if slam is on. Must trust partner to increase with suitable holding.

Frank Campbell: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hopefully North can take care of the spade lead. I only have 5 losers and with any support I expect partner to bid the slam.

Piotr Madry: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We might even make a grand slam. Give partner void-Axx-KQJxxx-Jxxx.

At the table, 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was going for no less than 1400 (naturally, otherwise why would this have ever been posed as a problem!!). 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) still gets the 100 points of course, but at the table this was the winner (or at least less of a loser):

Denis Haynes, David Monahan: Dbl. Allows partner to bid and then I can make a decision depending on their choice.

John Furedy: Dbl. Certain to get a plus score, while 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is quite risky as no reason to think partner has support.

Bridge Baron: Dbl. Bridge Baron thinks this is a double-or-pass situation. A quick simulation of 20 possible deals shows an average of +475 for doubling and +137.5 for passing, so Bridge Baron doubles.

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. Cannot pass here, and double seems the lesser of all the available evils. North isn't forced to pass and I hope to be better placed on the next round of bidding, if there is one!

Marion Carney: Dbl. East has minimal hand - probably sacrifice. Not enough points to go looking for fit.

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. Hope this doesn't over-encourage partner.

Richard Morse: Dbl. I can cope with almost anything from partner after this - my heart suit is lost but bidding hearts seems a wild gamble.

Fraser Rew: Dbl. Not pushing unilaterally to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with this suit but much too much to be passing.

Eric Leong: Pass. Bidding 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a total guess which may buy a 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid from partner going down. Passing 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will go plus if partner can't reopen with a double. However, if partner can reopen with a double to show a good hand, I would bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Leigh Matheson: Dbl. With more than half the points in the deck, you should take a positive score when the opponents give it to you. Bidding 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will only disappoint your teammates.

Leigh bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) at the table, but changed his mind for the bidding forum. Where's the integrity?

On the actual deal, the real question is what will all the passers and doublers do when partner rebids 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)? Are you willing to simply give preference to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), or will you feel compelled to bid the hearts now?

Duncan Roe: Dbl. Happy to defend with this hand. Will "correct" any bid from partner to hearts.

That's one hell of a line graph: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (+100); double (+300); pulled to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (+600); "corrected" to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (-1400). Oops. The full deal:
spades 3
hearts ---
diamonds QJ8652
clubs AQJ1064
spades 4
hearts AJ842
diamonds K109
clubs 8732
spades AKQ9852
hearts 5
diamonds 74
clubs K95
spades J1076
hearts KQ109763
diamonds A3
clubs ---

This problem was contributed by Leigh Matheson, from the 2007 Youth Triathlon. North is bidding clubs at his next turn no matter what happens; at the table he rescued 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x to 6clubs, and the eventual 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x was just one off. Either a pass or a double from South could theoretically have led to a making 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) contract by North-South.

Hand Two - East deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K7
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K632
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q764
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ5


West North East South
    1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass
1NT pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass
pass dbl pass ?


Call Award %
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 1005234

Roger Yandle: Pass. I know pard is balancing and may have next to nothing but if he's got SA then we can probably defeat 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) - 2 spades, spade ruff, heart and 1/2 clubs. At MPs I'm prepared to gamble. At IMPs I'd bid the safer 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)

I suspect this problem would have been quite easy if the conditions were IMPs, as the risk of -670 is much more serious at that form of scoring. Let's see if the conditions tempted anyone to take a shot:

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I hope for the magic score (+200).

Paul Tranmer: Pass. And lead the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K. I'm hoping for -1 or -2 which will beat any partscore our way. Our only possible game contract, I suspect, would be 3NT and that looks a long way away to me.

David Hester: Pass. I find this very hard, as my middle opponent cannot have a hand on which I would have protected. I do not fancy my chances in any contract, but at least this will give me a top if it works.

Peter Oakley: Pass. Partner promises some spades, so I have a great start with the king. Even 200 will be a triumph.

Sid Ismail: Pass. Duck and two eggs?

Eric Leong: Pass. I am going for +200. Partner must realize passing the double is a strong possibility if I have no where to go. Consequently, I would expect a couple of useful cards from partner like aces which are useful for both offense and defense.

Paul Delaney: Pass. Lead images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and pray.

Not all the passers were going for the magic 200; some of them genuinely believed that 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was in trouble:

Duncan Roe: Pass. If partner had wanted to make a take out double he would have done it on the first round. So this is penalties and I'm happy with that.

Alexander Cook: Pass. You should be able to defeat the contract on high card point strength.

Sid Kanter: Pass. It is unlikely that we have a game. I'm going to lead the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and take 300.

Note that dummy has denied four spades, and partner has denied five; it seems clear that declarer must hold a four card spade suit sitting over our partner. images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K is likely to be just the card to solve declarer's problems. If you must defend, this has to be a better approach:

John Furedy: Pass. Again very confident of plus score; would lead 4th highest diamond.

If we do choose to take out the double, where should we go?

Boris Richter: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I guess that 2NT has a special meaning here.

Ron Lel: 2NT. Don't tell me this isn't "scrambling". I'm never going to pass this hand, by the way. That's an awful call.

Historically, 2NT has usually been interpreted as minors in this kind of auction, or "scrambling" as Ron calls it. However, Jill Courtney, the sole 2NT bidder on the expert panel, intended her choice to be natural:

Jill Courtney: 2NT is enough unless partner has a surprise in hand. As for passing, crazy, crazy, crazy...

The natural 2NT is not a common interpretation, although it drew some support from the readers:

Bridge Baron: 2NT. Bridge Baron shows its stopper for NT in preference to bidding diamonds. With a spade doubleton, it's reluctant to cue-bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With just four hearts, a penalty pass is not part of Bridge Baron's thinking.

Fred Altstock: 2NT. Enough points to invite game depending on partner.

Richard Morse: 2NT. Rather a tough choice, but this conveys the quality of the hand and denies the spades. There is obviously a risk that partner doesn't realise that we have enough for game, but 3NT is pushing it with a single heart stop.

Barbara Hunter: 2NT. If partner has a suit worth bidding, he has a reasonable picture of my hand.

Denis Haynes: 2NT. Why didn't South double on the first round?

A double by South on the first round would be for takeout -- not even close to an accurate description of this hand. On this deal (and most other deals), partner would take out the double into 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), an impossible situation to recover from.

The other 2NT bidders intended it as a minor suit takeout.

Piotr Madry: 2NT. Ask partner to bid his better (longer) minor suit. In my opinion too weak hearts to penalty the double. It, of course, depends on situation in the tournament. If I NEED to win I would pass and lead images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K.

Peter Klarie: 2NT. Denying spade strength and promising support in the minors. N obviously does not have 5 spades so a minor fit is on at the 3 level. 2 hearts should make. But n/s should make 3 of minor as N should have a singleton heart.

And having a bet each way:

Marion Carney: 2NT. Take-out of hearts but with a heart stopper. North probably has spades so hopefully 3NT is on.

A lot of support for 2NT there, in all its forms. So why does the bid score so poorly?

Ulf Nilsson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Only alternative is 2NT as pick a minor to cater for 4-1-3-5 or 5-0-3-5 (or similar) but that risks missing 4-4 diamonds whenever partner is x-x-4-4.

That's the major flaw with 2NT. If our clubs and diamonds were the other way around, 2NT would be a better choice, as we would then find a 4-4 fit over any of North's likely shapes. So the top score goes to:

Danny Roth: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has obviously stretched to balance. This hand is nothing to get excited about.

Sydney Frish: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). And apologise to Partner if Pass was a winning bid.

Nigel Guthrie, Amiram Millet: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Don't want to hang partner for enterprise.

Leigh Matheson, Barbara Whitmee: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Important not to get carried away here. Partner is just looking to push them to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Ron Nelken, Frank Campbell: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My heart spots are just not good enough. Why punish partner for balancing? He did not double over 1NT, so he is not that strong.

Chris Turner: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not quite strong enough to convert to penalties, and notrumps is too scary.

Paul Gipson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Only thought is of finding a safe spot.

Sam Arber: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner is fairly weak, 2NT or pass may not work.

Tim Francis-Wright: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has already figured out that I have this sort of hand, so we are unlikely to have 6 ready tricks on defense. I could be missing a better 4-3 fit if partner is 3-4 in the minors with better clubs than my diamonds.

David Matthews: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has balanced with a 7-9 count and a 4441 which means East is 6-4 in the majors. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could easily make.

Fraser Rew: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). What else? 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) probably makes and if we had enough to make game partner would have doubled last time.

We'll end this problem with a player who will never play with himself again after reading his answer(s):

Ron Landgraff: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Else lose a partner!

Ron Landgraff 2: Pass. Despite my 14 pts no 3 level contract is safe. Best chance is to lead a trump and try to beat 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). They have minimum points and a bad split, maybe they'll go down.

I keep telling you, think very carefully before choosing "Other" from the drop down box. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is certainly our best contract, but insufficient bids never score well in this forum. There were also a couple of votes for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), also under the category "other". Frankly, given the choice between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I'd bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).


Hand Three - South deals, both vul, Board-a-match.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQT65
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K4
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J9752


West North East South
      1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) * ?

   * 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a good raise of spades.


Call Award %
Pass 100 10074
Dbl 30 012
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 07
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 06
Other 0 01

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron feels as if it's bid its hand.

Ulf Nilsson: Pass. No points for anything but pass.

I was hoping to save some time and skip over this hand. Ulf has accurately predicted the awards, and the Baron's comment covers all the major bridge issues (as well as demonstrating a grasp of punctuation and pronoun usage well beyond that of a human bridge player). So what else is there to say?

Sydney Frish: Dbl. To alert partner that this was my bid. For a game would need better than minimum with North - and it would help him to decide whether to sacrifice if necessary.

David Monahan: Dbl. Very interested in partner's bid (if any) over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)).

David Hester: Dbl. I expect to defend against 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and was tempted to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to help my partner decide. But I do not want a club lead if he doubles or pass.

OK, that's fair enough. I can't see a double leading to any serious disaster, and you deserve some points for rejecting 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We'll upgrade that one to 30 points. What else have you got?

John Furedy: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Law of total tricks.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). the risk of stating my values twice (I know, I probably should pass). Sadly, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would ask for a club lead.

Roger Yandle: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Doesn't look like we've got any defence to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so let's see if they're prepared to bid on to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). At IMPs I think I might pass unless I push them into a making game.

Fraser Rew: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Don't want to give them room to explore their slam. Does have potential downside but on balance seems best.

Richard Morse: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What are we trying to achieve? Minimise their opportunity to show controls. Getting them to stop in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be a good result.

Hmmm, OK, that's a bit aggressive, but I suppose if the Law says it's right we have to consider it. 20 points. Next?

Sam Arber: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Don't want to penalty double bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may give partner a better chance to sacrifice.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If we have a double fit partner can decide whether to bid over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Well, if there was any chance of the opponents making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), a club lead away from North's king should be just enough to seal the deal. Still, everybody else is getting points, so have a token 10 points.

Sid Kanter: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The enemy is always going to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) for 620+. So let them guess.

OK, I think we're getting a bit out of control now. There's one thing you can be pretty sure of: your 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid will NOT be duplicated at the other table. So you have to be pretty confident that you're right before trying something like that.

Let's hear from a few of the passers and then move on:

Tim Francis-Wright: Pass. Doing anything else would discourage a heart lead.

Paul Gipson, Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Don't want to force them to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and a club bid will only get a lead I do not want.

Frank Campbell: Pass. Can't stop them going 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or see us making 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The "sacrifice" could well go for 200 or more so I pass.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. I'm going quietly here. Any action by me now will almost certainly drive them into 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), a contract I wouldn't be confident of getting even close to beating.

Denis Haynes: Pass. I can't bid anymore -- my partner has already killed me for opening on 10 points!

Well, that's going a bit too far in the other direction. If partner complains about you opening the bidding with this hand, then it's probably time to look for another partner anyway. But we get the message; it's a lousy hand, let's stop bidding.

All that remains is to reveal the full deal and prove the panel wrong. (Once again, if pass was the winning bid here, we would never have heard of this deal...)
spades 874
hearts K84
diamonds A63
clubs Q1043
spades KJ102
hearts J7
diamonds J10952
clubs AK
spades AQ963
hearts 932
diamonds Q87
clubs 86
spades 5
hearts AQ1065
diamonds K4
clubs J9752

The deal is from a Board-a-Match event at the recent NABC Nationals in San Francisco. The unanimous pass leads to +100 or -140, depending on whether we find our diamond ruff. Bidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is worth 620 (or the value of an East-West sacrifice).

Hand Four - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q9742
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KT532
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J7
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J


West North East South
  1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) * pass
pass dbl pass ?

   * 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a weak jump overcall.


Call Award %
Pass 1005233
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 902917
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 801444
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3054
Other 002

Another fairly straightforward problem. Partner has shown spade values, we have magnificent support, we just have to decide how high to raise.

Frederic Wrang: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Close call between pass and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If hearts were a little bit stronger I could consider pass. We probably have 9 trumps which will make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a very good contract.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seven losers, going for the vul game. Think I would have gone 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) showing five of them on my first bid.

Seems reasonable, although I'd be worried about where all our heart losers are going. Slightly more conservative:

Manuel Paulo: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). After knowing of the spade fit, game is likely, and the penalty doesn't look compensating.

Chris Turner: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Could convert to penalties but a vul game is a good chance and likely to score better.

Amiram Millet: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even if partner is AJxx-x-AKxx-Kxxx we have 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)X isn't good enough.

Tim Francis-Wright: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even opposite KJxx-x-Axxx-Axxx, game looks very good, so I want to invite.

Frank Campbell: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have 7 losers but no aces or quick tricks so I will invite game.

Joe Lentz: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bidding 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would allow West to interject a troublesome 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid locating their 8- or 9-card club fit and making it more difficult for N-S to reach a vulnerable game. Passing for penalties would just make it easy for West to run to clubs.

Richard Morse: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must show the five card suit and extra values.

The majority reader vote went to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), the bid that will absolutely positively guarantee a plus score. Who could argue with that?

Denis Haynes: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I would have shown the spades on the first round.

Peter Oakley: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tempting to pass - but not at IMPs.

Duncan Roe: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tempting to pass for penalties, but partner is unlimited and has made a takeout double so I take it out.

Sydney Frish: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). And gladly accept if partner should invite game.

Fraser Rew: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Great problem. Partner will reopen on almost any hand with shortage and West could be lurking. I don't think that we're getting more than 200 and -670 really dampens your day.

Paul Delaney: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Its IMPs so bid to limit of our fit before looking for penalties.

Sid Kanter: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Minus 670 is not attractive.

David Hester: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). On the face of it a better penalty pass than 2, but here there is a safe alternative, which will leave me well placed if the bidding continues.

Exactly; that's the big difference between this hand and Problem Two. On the earlier problem we had nowhere to run to. Why risk a disaster when we have guaranteed plus score?

Sam Arber: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner needs four defensive tricks unless you can shorten declarer in spades, tempted to pass but too much to lose.

Barbara Hunter: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner can't have any thing in hearts so don't think leaving the double in with my weak hand is much good.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Passing might turn out be best, but often partner is just reopening on shape and limited points. I can't be sure 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)X is going down (just two days ago I made 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)X on almost this exact auction!).

Here's something a little unusual: Nigel sent in two sets of answers with (as usual) two different bids -- but exactly the same comment!

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Maybe I should have bid before.

Nigel Guthrie 2: Pass. Maybe I should have bid before.

Bridge Baron: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing the presumed eight-card fit. Holding Q974-KT532-J72-J, Bridge Baron would make a penalty pass.

Like Problem One, this is the type of deal where I'd tend to trust the Baron. He has a lot more information than we do, with all that simulation stuff he does. Still, top score today goes to the -670 brigade:

John Furedy: Pass. before negative doubles, I’d have doubled, so on this one pass as 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a shot in the dark.

Eric Leong: Pass. Defending 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x should usually be in plus 200-500 territory more often than 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x making especially when game prospects are uncertain or unlikely.

Ulf Nilsson: Pass. Difficult one. Partner's double covers a wild range of hands and I go for a likely plus score. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is an underbid and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is an overbid. The alternative is 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but that may get us overboard against a minimum hand with only 3 spades and reasonable clubs (3-1-5-4).

David Matthews: Pass. I am going to take the money.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. I find that weak jump overcalls don't get punished as often as they should. Assuming North has a better than minimum opener I reckon 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x will go at least 2 off. The question is can we make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? I don't believe that N is 100% certain to hold a 4 card S suit and as suits are breaking badly I think we'll be more likely to be on the winning side if we defend.

That's a good argument for passing; revenge against all the other 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bids that went unpunished over the years!

Sid Ismail: Pass. No guarantee partner has four spades. Pass and lead a spade. You have time to switch to a club if necessary...

Danny Roth: Pass. On the law, this seems best practical bid; on the reasonable assumption that we have nine spades and they have seven hearts, if 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) makes, they are going for 500 - a small loss at worst. Partner does not even have to have four spades - he would protect on 3154.

Roger Yandle: Pass. We didn't bid last round so we must have been waiting for a re-opening double. Now we've got it can we do anything but pass?

I think the actual reason for the pass on the previous round was that we didn't think we were strong enough to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A few people have disagreed with that assessment though, so possibly 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the previous round would have been wiser.

David Monahan: Pass. Rules of 4 and of 6 are well satisfied and, after partner's double indicates we have the majority of HCP, leaving the double in for penalties should give a good positive.

Paul Gipson: Pass. They should struggle on a spade lead, even if partner is minimum.

Piotr Madry: Pass. We have no guarantee to win the game, but looking for our hand I would say that we have guarantee that they will fall down on 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) contract.

Ron Nelken: Pass. We should beat this at least one trick almost all the time. Not sure 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) can make. Take the plus score.

This problem was adapted from an old deal in the English magazine Bridge. So we don't have any full deal to prove who's right and who's wrong. If we did have a full deal though, I reckon the readers would have been right and the panel wrong.

Hand Five - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQT42
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ---
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKQJ62


West North East South
      1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?

   Double of 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be for takeout.


Call Award %
3NT 1003829
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 902412
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 5052
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)3009
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)2053
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)2002
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)2001

How do you mark a problem that has 13 different answers? I'm at a bit of a loss working out how to even collate the comments, let alone allocating the awards. Fortunately the readers and the experts both agreed on the top choice:

Manuel Paulo: 3NT. With a little help from partner or any opponent, nine tricks look easy.

David Hester: 3NT. 9 tricks on the indicated lead. Of course there may be a slam, but looking for it involves fending off my partner's red suits.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Bridge Baron is sad that you didn't let it open 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). In this situation, with no fit, Bridge Baron bids a contract that it thinks it will usually make.

I hate it when the machine gets sad. I feel guilty now.

Barbara Whitmee: 3NT. Easier to get nine tricks. West may lead a spade. Either partner has images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K or someone may lead a heart and I can reach some winners in dummy. A close second choice is 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. I know 6 or 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) can make! But, where are the spades going? 3NT is practical.

Sydney Frish: 3NT. With a spade lead there are 9 tricks on top. But with 20+ HCP and 2 losers why not use a forcing opening bid?

Duncan Roe: 3NT. Not sure what 1NT or 2NT mean here, but 3NT means we're in game.

I think 1NT and 2NT are just the usual kind of thing: balanced with the appropriate point count and a spade stopper. Well, we've got the spade stopper at least...

Marion Carney: 2NT. Jump shift forcing. Hopefully 3NT is on.

Boris Richter: 2NT. This hand has the strength of the strong 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening, are we playing Moscito? :-)

We tried to convert this forum to Moscito a few years ago, but it didn't go down well. This is just one of the old textbook "12-20 point" openings.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. Looks like 3NT should make OK so we need to take 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)X off 3 to compensate - doesn't seem likely. Hopefully pard won't pull 3NT with 6 card heart suit!

Amiram Millet: 3NT. Not a shut out bid. Still, a slam can be found.

Eric Leong: 3NT. Well if I can't make a penalty double in Australia, I would bid 3NT. Bidding 3NT tells partner I have at least nearly nine tricks plus a solid club suit which is what I have.

Grrr, everybody's always having a go at us poor Aussies and our weird bidding. I'll have you know we love our penalty doubles down here (it's the only country in the world where you can expect to get 2300 points from an opponent's weak two opening). But I really don't see this sequence as being a high-frequency spot for a penalty double.

Let's hear from the takeout doublers:

Ron Nelken: Dbl. The most flexible call.

Sid Ismail: Dbl. Double and bid spades. Psyche? If partner has something like x-Qxxxx-Kxx-10xxx we belong in 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner has x-KJxxx-Qxxx-xxx 3NT is best.

Peter Klarie: Dbl. Game should be on here so proceed slowly to find the fit. Notrumps is too risky unless partner has some diamond support, rather let him describe his hand further and perhaps 3NT or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is on.

Pat O'Connor: Dbl. I need more info from partner.

Frank Campbell: Dbl. I will probably get a spade lead and I really want to know if partner has the DK and club support. I doubt I can find out about the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K but if he can bid clubs I am going 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) otherwise will consider my options depending on the response. Strongly prefer clubs to NT.

Frank bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) at the table; just like Leigh on problem 1, he would have scored better if he had stuck with his real-life choice! It pays to be consistent.

Sam Arber: Dbl. If you bid 3NT you may miss 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner might bid clubs now, leading to an easy slam auction.

Frederic Wrang: Dbl. Looks stupid but with this monster I can afford to slow-bid until we find our best contract.

Denis Haynes: Dbl. Allows partner to describe their hand.

Danny Roth: Dbl. Let partner describe his hand and then cue-bid S before bid 3NT, the danger of bidding 3NT at once is that partner may bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on a six-card suit. This hand is not good unless partner has a club fit.

That's a great strategy. If we let partner have his say now, then later in the auction he might shut up and let us do the talking, which is what we really want. An even better way of letting partner describe his hand:

Derek Pocock: Pass. Forcing.

Paul Delaney: Pass. Happy to defend 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) can bid 3NT later

John Furedy: Pass. if partner doubles, I pass; any other bid, I bid 3NT.

David Monahan: Pass. If partner cannot bid again, this may be our best chance for a positive result.

Alexander Cook: Pass. Let's hope that partner can reopen with a double.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Not the end of the world if it goes all pass.

Ron Lel: Pass. One of the few times I pass for a 1 level penalty. Maybe I should pass REALLY slowly.

This next choice has the merit of being completely forcing, if not totally descriptive:

Sid Kanter: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). How come West is not my partner?

Fraser Rew: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Excellent problem, every answer has about three ways it can go disastrously wrong. Pard may pass out with his 3-count; will bid red suits until the cows come home if I double; and will pull 3NT to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) probably shows hearts and 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) are non forcing.

Tim Francis-Wright: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would love for some number of spades to be natural here, so I have to settle for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

It isn't completely clear what a spade bid would mean on this auction. But a few people were willing to try to find out:

Piotr Madry: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Game forcing, that is what we have. Trapping pass is out of rule with this hand.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Someone will have to put this one together and drive for slam, and it's not going to be partner. If partner doesn't play along I can still bash 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) later if I have to.

Ian Patterson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Will bid 3NT over either 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

David Matthews: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I would always open this 2 loser hand with a Game Force. You would look extremely stupid if 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was passed out with a grand slam on. Partner only needs images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K. Now I am stuck so I will bid what I would have bid if East hadn't intervened. At least partner will know that I am strong and we can explore further. I doubt that the contract will be less than 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Paul Tranmer: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I've made a rod for my own back here with that curious 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening bid. Surely I had a better alternative - like 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) perhaps? As I play it, the 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) cuebid doesn't promise heart support, it just shows a powerful hand with no obvious natural bid to make. Over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from N I'll try 3NT and over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I'll progress with 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

That's a total of five complaints about the opening bid. I always feel that if the total number of complaints is five or less, then the problem is a success! To be honest, a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening bid never even occurred to me. How would you have felt after a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening with one of these more likely scenarios:
      2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 3NT pass ?
      2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?
      2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?

Here we are at the one-level, and we've already described our best suit. Yet some people feel we would be better off if we had consumed a few levels of bidding with artificial bids!

Speaking of consuming space:

Zbych Bednarek: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My hand is worth five and a half clubs. With something useful partner should bid six.

Fred Altstock: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Go straight for the Juggler as we are sitting over East's spades and should probably get a spade lead!

6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was the closest anyone came to a "winning" bid; it certainly outscores the 3NT bidders. The deal was supplied by Frank Campbell, from the Armidale Teams Congress. He bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), making 13 tricks on a spade lead. 3NT also would have made.
spades 8
hearts J7543
diamonds KQJ
clubs 9854
spades J9
hearts AQ106
diamonds 86432
clubs 103
spades K7653
hearts K982
diamonds 975
clubs 7
spades AQ1042
hearts ---
diamonds A10
clubs AKQJ62

This problem was very tough to score; all complaints can be sent to If you can put up a good argument for your choice I'm sure we'd be happy to add a few points here and there.

Top scores for February
1Gary Lane (NSW)500
1Ulf Nilsson500
3Amiram Millet (ISR)490
4Brian Thorp (ACT)490
5David Matthews (WA)490
6Peter Tarlinton (NSW)480
7Michael Davy (Vic)480
8Emil Battista (NSW)470
9Joe Lentz (USA)470
10Peter Nolan (Vic)470
11Ron Landgraff (USA)470
12Andrew Macalister (GBR)460
13Michael Wilkinson (NSW)460
14Paul Gipson (GBR)460
15Piotr Madry (POL)440
16Manuel Paulo (POR)440
17Alexander Cook (NSW)440
18Paul Delaney (IRL)440
19Barbara Whitmee (ACT)440
20Rainer Herrmann (Qld)430
21Terry Dunne (GER)430
22Julian Gauld (USA)430
23Kay O'Connor (NSW)430
24Rex Fox (NSW)420
25Danny Roth (Vic)420
26Chris Turner (GBR)420
27Ron Lel (Vic)420
28Ron Nelken420
29Derek Pocock (USA)420
30Paul Tranmer (WA)420
31Roger Yandle (GBR)420
32Rick Lu (NSW)410
33Sydney Frish (NSW)410
34Tim Trahair (NSW)410
35Frank Campbell (NSW)410
36Sid Ismail (NSW)410
37Tim Francis-Wright (RSA)410
38Glenn Sirén (USA)410
39Duncan Roe410
40Zbych Bednarek (Vic)410
41Boris Richter (POL)400
42Pat O'Connor400
43Pravin Nahar (NSW)400
44David Hester (NSW)400
45Eric Leong (SA)400
46Peter Oakley (USA)400
47Ian Patterson (NZL)390
48Nigel Guthrie (Qld)390
49David Read (GBR)390
50Bridge Baron (USA)380

Leading scores for 2008
1Gary Lane (NSW)500
1Ulf Nilsson500
3Amiram Millet (ISR)490
4Brian Thorp (ACT)490
5David Matthews (WA)490
6Peter Tarlinton (NSW)480
7Michael Davy (Vic)480
8Emil Battista (NSW)470
9Joe Lentz (USA)470
10Peter Nolan (Vic)470
11Ron Landgraff (USA)470
12Andrew Macalister (GBR)460
13Michael Wilkinson (NSW)460
14Paul Gipson (GBR)460
15Piotr Madry (POL)440
16Manuel Paulo (POR)440
17Alexander Cook (NSW)440
18Paul Delaney (IRL)440
19Barbara Whitmee (ACT)440
20Rainer Herrmann (Qld)430
21Terry Dunne (GER)430
22Julian Gauld (USA)430
23Kay O'Connor (NSW)430
24Rex Fox (NSW)420
25Danny Roth (Vic)420
26Chris Turner (GBR)420
27Ron Lel (Vic)420
28Ron Nelken420
29Derek Pocock (USA)420
30Paul Tranmer (WA)420
31Roger Yandle (GBR)420
32Rick Lu (NSW)410
33Sydney Frish (NSW)410
34Tim Trahair (NSW)410
35Frank Campbell (NSW)410
36Sid Ismail (NSW)410
37Tim Francis-Wright (RSA)410
38Glenn Sirén (USA)410
39Duncan Roe410
40Zbych Bednarek (Vic)410
41Boris Richter (POL)400
42Pat O'Connor400
43Pravin Nahar (NSW)400
44David Hester (NSW)400
45Eric Leong (SA)400
46Peter Oakley (USA)400
47Ian Patterson (NZL)390
48Nigel Guthrie (Qld)390
49David Read (GBR)390
50Bridge Baron (USA)380


Thank you to all the readers and visitors who entered this month's forum. Click here to try your luck at the next set of problems, to be answered in the April issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your February issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.