Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles -- December 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, Bob Jones, Marshall Miles, Frank Stewart, Eddie Kantar and Zia, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - South deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ6542
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KJT2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K


West North East South
      1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass pass 1NT * ?

   * East's 1NT is 11-14.


Call Award %
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 1006336
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 701831
Pass 50149
Dbl 40515
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 007
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 002

Welcome to the final bidding forum for 2008. It's been another year of tough problems, so I've set up a light session to wind down with. No interfering opponents, no complicated auctions, no wild hands -- just some simple notrump openings, notrump rebids, that kind of thing.

Our first exhibit is a little trickier, with a few possible choices:

Terry Dunne: Pass. I'm happy if they play in 1NT, and can rebid spades if they bid a suit.

Fraser Rew: 2diamonds. As always, bidding a 4 card minor before a 6-card major. Doubling and defending would see me endplayed repeatedly.

Leigh Matheson: 2spades. Get your opponents to the 3-level.

Fred Altstock: 3spades. Have to show a good hand. Partner might have two spades and five points then could raise to 4spades and we are sitting over 1NT hand.

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. Too many HCP for any other option.

Zbych Bednarek: Dbl. How else can I show hand with close to game force points?

I haven't picked up many game force hands in my lifetime, but maybe the problem is that my standards are too high. Not everyone sees this as a game force hand:

Alvin P. Bluthman: Pass. I have a bad 18 (probably worth 14 or so opposite a likely 0-5), and I expect that partner does not support my spades, and therefore am uncertain that we can set up the spades against 1NT. Nor do I have any idea whether partner holds diamonds - he would need four or five for that to be a better trump suit than spades if we wind up playing the hand. So, I give up on trying to find a decent place to play, and choose to defend. -90 or -120 will not be a bad score, and may be duplicated at the other table.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Bidding has too little to gain and too much too lose. Also when in doubt I much prefer to play in partner's long suit.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Sitting over the NT bidder will make it hard for him to make anything. My hand is too scatty to bid again.

That is true; HCPs come in all shapes and sizes, and while do have a lot of them, the "scatty" ones are not worth as much as the ... well, whatever the opposite of scatty is.

Eric Leong: Pass. If partner has some sort of spade fit with you to make 2spades, you would expect to go plus defending 1NT. If partner doesn't have a spade fit you expose your side for a significant minus score.

Roger Yandle: Pass. Looks like a partscore battle and I'm happy to defend 1NT unless pard has got something to say.

And of course, the majority are somewhere in between.

Tim Francis-Wright: 2diamonds. We still have a shot at game, but more importantly, showing diamonds lets partner make a decision about the right partscore.

David Hester: 2diamonds. Seems obvious. I must compete but have no hope of game. This leaves three places to play (partner may have six hearts but no points).

Tony Treloar: 2diamonds. Simple preference asking bid.

Frank Campbell: 2diamonds. Partner can't respond so we have 23 HCP at best, they may have as much as 22, so looks like we are competing for a partscore.

Amiram Millet: 2diamonds. Pass or correct for partner. A big temptation to pass...

Ron Lel: 2diamonds. This hand is not as good as it looks and I want partner to be able to compete opposite a possible club contract.

David Davies: 2diamonds. Points about 20-20, poor suits for defence suggest not doubling.

Ken Berry: 2diamonds. Hoping that partner will bid 2spades on two (or three!!) small and not much else. What does double mean here?

What does double mean? Same as usual: takeout, penalty, and values.

Ron Nelken: Dbl. Shows a good hand, asks partner to bid.

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. If partner bids clubs I can rebid spades.

Martyn Rew: Dbl. See where they run to. 2spades is still an option.

Peter Evans: Dbl. The double shows the extra strength. 2diamonds or 2spades could be done on minimal opening hands to compete.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. As usual a difficult problem with most of the points with East and South. North is likely to bid something in response to our double which may tell us where to go next. 2spades has attractions and if possible we would like to be playing this hand sitting over East.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. I like to have an agreement with partner that double of weak notrump is for penalties. But if it's for takeout that's fine too -- I will rebid spades unless he bids diamonds

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. Must take some action here and double gives us maximum potential upside.

Damo Nair: Dbl. There's time to bid spades again, if needed. Lots of possibilities for this hand.

The double was not well-supported by the panel, and the reason for this was the simple fear of being unable to beat 1NT.

Ron Landgraff: 2spades. I think penalty doubles (if any) must wait. Partner can be dead broke but 2spades should still have play. Who knows! We might even get to bid diamonds.

Ivan Nanev: 2spades. Not enough defence to double.

Alan Jones: 2diamonds. Defending 1NT does not appeal since leading away from the tenaces may well give them their 7th trick. Since partner has at most five points, I don't think 2diamonds will encourage him to go overboard. This bid also means that West will need to go to the 3-level to introduce clubs.

Barbara Whitmee: 2spades. Showing an extra spade and extra values. East may make 1NT with club tricks.

David Monahan: 2diamonds. At this vulnerable, the hand is worth competing at the 2-level (I would expect 1NT could make 7 or 8 tricks).

Ulf Nilsson: 2diamonds. Step into the fray with a second suit, 1NT is often making and we are not vulnerable. No double on this hand.

Others saw this as a preemptive hand, fearing that the opponents might have a better spot:

Richard Morse: 2spades. Close between 2spades and 2diamonds. The advantage of 2spades is that it may cut out a heart fit or the opposition that would be easier to find over 2diamonds.

Kevin Davies: 2spades. Bid to stop them reaching their spot.

Bill Bennett: 2spades. North may well have two spades and the spade bid is slightly more preemptive.

Preemption aside, this hand does have a lot of playing strength opposite a fit, and the top score goes to those who took the cheap opportunity to look for that fit:

David Matthews: 2diamonds. Giving partner a choice. If partner is weak with six hearts I am also happy to play there. I don't like to double as that contract could well make if we defend it wrongly. Double could also force partner to bid 2clubs or 2hearts with five of them when 2spades is a better contract.

Manuel Paulo: 2diamonds. To rebid looks mandatory; I propose other suit because partner may have some diamonds. 

Sam Arber: 2diamonds. Five-loser hand; want to play rather than defend. Bid 2diamonds rather than 2spades, more flexible.

Paul Gipson: 2diamonds. Let's give partner a chance to show some life over 2hearts or, if we hit a fit, over 3clubs.

Hoi-Ming Chan: 2diamonds. Pass, double or 2spades could all work out. 2spades is too committal though, and partner may expect a more balanced hand for a double.

Emil Battista: 2diamonds. Sometimes the 1NT overcaller actually has a stopper. Looks like he does have here and it is imps, so 2diamonds.

The full deal:
spades ---
hearts J1062
diamonds Q8754
clubs 7653
spades 10973
hearts 93
diamonds 96
clubs AQJ98
spades AQ8
hearts Q8754 
diamonds A3
clubs 1042
spades KJ6542
hearts AK
diamonds KJ102
clubs K

At the table, one of the readers whose name appears on this page bid a youthful 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and escaped undoubled for -150.

Hand Two - East deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 64
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKT62
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQ2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) QJ8


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

   * 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is natural and forcing.

Call Award %
2NT 1006443
2D 3006

Martyn Rew: 1NT. Effectively tells partner strength and card layout. Let partner decide where to play.

Yep, that's the beauty of notrump bids -- partner gets a perfect idea of our shape and strength, enabling him to accurately place the contract. Bridge would be a tough game if we didn't have well defined limit bids to describe our hands.

Paul Tranmer: 1NT. What else !!

Hoi-Ming Chan: 2NT. Inviting game in NT. What else?

Hang on, what just happened?

Nigel Guthrie: 1NT. 1NT is an underbid but the only conceivable alternative is 2diamonds.

Peter Evans: 2NT. Shows shape, club stop and point range.

Dean Eidler: 1NT. 2NT would be a huge overbid. No tricks, only one club stopper.

Ken Berry: 2NT. Obviously too strong for 1NT. Could bid 2diamonds as fourth suit, maybe partner has three hearts and was wanting me to bid again. (If so then can bid 4hearts now, or something else.. not a dreaded pass).

Leigh Matheson: 1NT. At least this describes my shape well and also keeps the most options open. Hmmm, it's not like me to underbid. Can I change my answer?

As if the debate between 1NT and 2NT isn't bad enough, there's also a third group to contend with:

Bridge Baron: 3NT. No support for partner. No major rebid. No unbid suit worth bidding. But with a stopper in RHO's suit and 16 HCP, Bridge Baron considers this an easy 3NT bid; it would do it even if a little weaker, say 64 AKT62 KQ2 QJ8.

Well, I'd have to assume the notrump ranges are well coded into the Baron's programming, so it seems that 3NT is the correct choice systemically.

Michael Davy: 3NT. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is forcing? To game? 3NT then.

Michael wasn't the only one unfamiliar with the "forcing" 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid. Three members of the magazine's expert panel (Frank Stewart, Ron Smith, and Stephen Burgess) also appeared to have never heard of a system where a new suit by responder is forcing. Also:

Alvin P. Bluthman: 2clubs. Of course, it would help to know how strong partner's "natural and forcing" bid is. I'm taking it as about 10+, much stronger than if I had opened 1hearts. If that is right, then we have a game, though I don't know where, and I am showing it. Even if he supports hearts, my next bid will be in notrump, showing the club stopper.

Still, even those familiar with this treatment were not able to come to an agreement:

Ron Lel: 1NT. What else are you going to bid on this? 1spades does not promise a lot.

Paul Gipson: 2NT. Even though 1spades is forcing it does not promise much, so an invitational 2NT seems about right.

Assuming neither the 1NT or 2NT rebid shows the correct range, there are two possible ways we can avoid this problem. Firstly, it's possible that we should have bid notrumps on the previous round. Supporters:

Roger Yandle: 2NT. I'd have overcalled 1NT.

Frank Campbell: 2NT. Why didn't I bid 1NT to start with? Now I have no accurate bid. 2diamonds might work but we could miss game so overbid and hope for the best.

Terry Dunne: 2NT. I guess if I'd bid 1NT the first time this wouldn't be a problem... now we're slightly overbidding but at least showing the nature of our hand.

Sam Arber: 2NT. Could have overcalled 1NT first time. 2NT seems right, too strong for 1NT now.

Erin Tewes: 2clubs. Should have bid 1NT to start with but 2clubs shows a good hand.

Yes, given that we didn't overcall 1NT initially, there's the 2nd way to avoid the notrump range debate: avoid notrumps completely!

Tony Treloar: 2clubs. 3NT looks a good spot but would like something in clubs from partner. Let's find out.

Tim Trahair: 2clubs. Don't know how North will read this bid other than to realise we have a strong hand. It forces North to do something and keeps open the option of playing in 3NT, which could be on.

Michael Smart: 2clubs. I will need a double club stop to make 3NT.

David Monahan: 2clubs. I would like to bid 1NT but this would undervalue my hand, need to get more information from partner before proceeding.

Damo Nair: 2clubs. Intended to be a general force. If North says 2hearts I'll make a try with 2NT.

Rainer Herrmann: 2clubs. We should be very close to game, if 1spades is forcing. I will bid 2NT if partners bids below 2NT and will raise or bid 3NT over almost anything else. We can still stop at the 3 level if partner signs off over 2NT.

The 2clubs cue is the mainstream "notrump-avoidance" technique, but there were also votes for 2diamonds. I've upgraded this to 30 points in spite of the screams of protest from the magazine's moderator Peter Smith.

Manuel Paulo: 2diamonds. I'd like to bid notrump, but any level is inadequate. On the other hand, without fit, I should not raise spades neither cue-bid clubs; and 2hearts emphasizes this suit in a balanced hand.

Eric Leong: 2diamonds. Planning to follow up with 2NT. If I bid 1NT now, I don't think partner will play me for such a good hand.

Ron Landgraff: 2diamonds. Too early to bid NT with only 1 stop. Many other contracts in the picture. It is highly unlikely that partner will pass if he has a constructive 1spades bid. An initial 1NT could have been right, but its matchpointish.

Duncan Roe: 2diamonds. Control bid denying first round control in clubs -- hope partner will interpret it that way. At least the new suit at 2-level is forcing so we won't get left there.

Aargh. Can't have partner's 1spades response as forcing, but now our 2diamonds rebid is forcing. And after all the people who complained when we had a forcing 2-level rebid in the forum earlier this year!

At the end of the day, the support for the majority choice was overwhelming:

David Matthews: 2NT. Close between 2NT and 3NT as partner figures to have points after my simple overcall. However, I will err on the conservative side. 2clubs is also a possibility but 2NT tells partner that I have a club stop.

Fraser Rew: 2NT. Considering the garbage that I need to overcall this is a great hand. 2clubs is attractive but 1) may be construed as showing spades and 2) won't achieve anything - West couldn't raise, and East couldn't rebid, clubs, so they shouldn't be a huge problem.

Tim Francis-Wright: 2NT. I have extras and a stop and the need to punt the decision to partner.

Amiram Millet: 2NT. Inviting and showing a strong overcall.

Ulf Nilsson: 2NT. Natural invite. Usually bids 2clubs on hands like this to be able to bail out in 2M, but I guess for most people a cue guarantees at least a semi-fit for partner.

Emil Battista: 2NT. Partner should have tolerance for hearts. 2clubs would take up less space, but I like being declarer.

Fred Altstock, Barbara Hunter, Barbara Whitmee: 2NT. Showing that I am not a minimum overcall. Partner may go to game with 9 HCP.

David Davies: 2NT. Tempting to bid 2diamonds to entice partner to bid notrump, but he may not do it with Ax. The club situation and uncertain fits keep me from bidding three.

David Hester: 2NT. This depends to some extent on our overcalling style. I would have overcalled on a lot less than this, so am too good for 1NT.

Richard Morse: 2NT. This is a fair hand for a simple overcall. It feels right to show the shape and club stopper, but 1NT is surely an underbid. 

This problem came from Sartaj Hans' What Do You Bid column on the ABF web site, where readers write in and ask for help with their bidding problems. Sartaj advised a 2NT bid on this hand, which he of course echoed in his bidding forum answer:

Sartaj Hans: 2NT. The fast road to game. Although I think 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is technically correct with the idea of passing partner's 2-major rebid.

The problem was originally submitted by Brian Thorp, who coincidentally scored 500 on this set of problems (as did Sartaj). So let that be a warning to you -- give us your best bidding problems, and you might get an inside track to a high bidding forum score!

Hand Three - South deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 9
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J98742
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 84
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ92


West North East South
pass 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) * pass ?

   * 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is natural, not forcing.


Call Award %
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 5943
Pass 80 2738
2H 50 918
2D 10 01

I had to go back to my old beginners texts again for this problem. I discovered that after you find your fit (clubs in this case), you need to describe your strength in order to look for game. With 6-9 we stay at the 2-level; with 10-12 we go to the 3-level, and with 13+ we bid game.

38% of readers have examined the hand and placed it in the 6-9 range:

Martyn Rew: Pass. 3clubs should say go on if you have heaps but don't expect much from me.

David Monahan: Pass. Do not see a game contract if partner could not force on second round. With nine or more cards in minors, while 2hearts may score better, partner could easily get excited and bid too far.

Michael Davy: Pass. Figure partner has a single heart. Pass thank you.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Good spot to stop. Pard has not forced.

Barbara Whitmee: Pass. Hope the bidding passes out before the opposition finds their spade fit.

Duncan Roe: Pass. I have bid my hand to its full extent. Happy to play in the club fit.

Denis Haynes: Pass. My hand is still minimum range with a fit in clubs, game does not appear to be on.

David Davies: Pass. My main suit is poor, it is probably only a 4-4 fit, so 5clubs is a long way off.

Peter Evans: Pass. The opponents have at least a nine card spade fit but neither have overcalled suggesting that partner has some top spade honours. This makes an opposition 4spades unlikely. I'd keep quiet and compete to 3clubs if they come in.

Ron Landgraff: Pass. What else! Partner has nine cards in the minors and not a great hand. Rebidding hearts is (at Matchpoints) insanely optimistic.

Frank Campbell: Pass. Who has the spades? There is a real possibility North is 4144 and too weak to reverse, so at Matchpoints it's pass for me. If either opponent backs into the auction I will raise to 3clubs.

Dean Eidler: Pass. With lack of spade bidding by opponents I think partner has some spade cards so 2hearts won't fare very well. If 5clubs makes c'est la vie.

Of course, I like to include little twists now and then -- hence the rare appearance of "Matchpoints" in the problem conditions:

Manuel Paulo: 2hearts. At Matchpoints, I insist on the major suit. If partner doesn't show some tolerance for hearts, I hope to return to clubs at the three-level.

Alvin P. Bluthman: 2hearts. Hearts outscores clubs. At MP, I need to take ten tricks in clubs to beat the score for an eight-trick heart contract.

Damo Nair: 2hearts. It's MPs, what can I say? If the opponents balance with 2spades I'll say 3clubs.

Bill Bennett: 2hearts. 3clubs would be too encouraging I do not want to play at the 3-level unless North has a heart fit.

Bridge Baron: 2hearts. Bridge Baron considers this bid to be mandatory with a six-card heart suit in this situation.

Joe Lentz: 2hearts. Expect more bidding if I were to pass. So intend to show six hearts in a weak hand now and compete with 3clubs later after the opponents bid spades.

Fred Altstock: 2hearts. Have to show longish hearts and partner might have three hearts to support me. I am not showing a strong hand.

Fraser Rew: 2hearts. I haven't opened a weak two so partner knows my hand is unsuitable for one. Playing in the weak hand's trump suit.

Ken Berry: 2hearts. I think 2hearts is showing a weak hand with six hearts. If partner really hates this we will still muddle through to 3clubs. I have confidence in my partner

David Matthews: 2hearts. Pass could be right but I don't want to give up on game just yet as partner may have some heart support. A raise to 3clubs is misleading as it would be stronger and encouraging.

Though not everybody agrees that Matchpoints = majors:

Andrew MacAlister: 3clubs. You get more matchpoints for making a partscore in a minor than for going down in a major.

Sam Arber: Pass. Unlikely to make game. Club partial may score better than heart partial.

Ron Nelken: Pass. Matchpoints. Take the plus.

Tony Treloar: Pass. I'm not interested in rebidding the terrible six-card suit when I have such good support for partner -- even at Matchpoints.

Paul Gipson: Pass. A positive score always get some matchpoints and I need more values for 2hearts. Whatever values 2hearts shows, the danger is that partner will not leave us alone there.

Another twist in the hand is the absence of the spade suit. Maybe we should go to the 3-level now before the opponents come in?

David Hester: Pass. How naive, to pass out the contract you want to play! Your sophisticated panelists will bid 3clubs to anticipate west's 2spades. But do they deserve their 100 marks?
(a) 3clubs may be one too many,
(b) Neither vulnerable opponent has overcalled at the 1-level yet,
(c) If west does come in with 2spades, I can call 3clubs without encouraging my middle opponent.

Britta Johansson: 3clubs. A good distribution and some preemptive effect against spades.

Richard Morse: 3clubs. Close between pass and 3clubs, but I think the shape is appealing and there is a real risk that the opponents will come in with 2spades if we pass.

Leigh Matheson: 3clubs. I'm pretty sure 3clubs will usually make +130 to outscore a heart partial. At Matchpoints partner should raise hearts if holding 3-card support. I don't want to pass and let the opponents compete to 3spades.

Pat O'Connor: 3clubs. If I pass, the opponents will find their spades.

Roger Yandle: 3clubs. Let pard know we've got a fit so he can judge what to do if EW bid their spades.

Zbych Bednarek: 3clubs. Opps have at least nine spades, don't let them find their suit.

Tim Francis-Wright: 3clubs. Passing gives West the chance to bid spades; bidding 2diamonds gives whoever has the hearts the pleasant choice of bidding 2spades or passing and tapping partner.

Emil Battista: 3clubs. Should not overly excite partner and it may stop opponents from finding their spade fit over which I would bid 3clubs anyway

Kevin Davies: 3clubs. Somebody (Not us) has the boss suit. Try to make it harder for them to come in.

Michael Smart: 3clubs. They have a nine card spade fit -- if I pass they will find it. Quite happy to lose the PM for making an 'encouraging' bid.

Terry Dunne: 3clubs. They have about half the points and a spade fit, so the preemptive aspect of 3clubs is helpful.

Ron Lel: 3clubs. This looks obvious; I have 4-card support and it does shut out a protective Spade bid.

Amiram Millet: 3clubs. What's going on with the spades? They might have at least 3spades.

Alan Jones: 3clubs. Who has the spades? Passing will encourage opponents to bid. Since I have already passed, partner should not get too excited by my raise.

There is an answer to the question of "who has the spades", but it's not a totally satisfactory one. The truth is, East appears to have been asleep during the first round of bidding. Still, the BF conditions specify that you have an expert partner; we never promised you competent opponents.

The downside of 3clubs is clearly that we are likely to overbid to game. Not everyone saw this as a problem though:

Barbara Hunter: 3clubs. This hand is worth 10 pts in clubs so why not raise partner

Erin Tewes: 3clubs. Game could be on, can't pass.

Paul Tranmer: 3clubs. This hand just keeps getting better, so must strain for game here. Would love to hear 3hearts from pard.

Rainer Herrmann: 3clubs. If partner bids 3NT I'll take out into 4clubs and partner should get the message. 4clubs is unlikely to be doubled and even two down is better than a spade partial.

And there is another powerful argument in favour of 3clubs:

Boris Richter: 3clubs. Since 2spades is invitational in an ideal partnership I'll bid 3clubs as not forcing.

Ulf Nilsson: 3clubs. Very tempted to pass but being a passed hand I could now bid 2spades with maximum hand so this should indicate less. There are indications of short hearts with opps silent and many non-minimum hands with better than 5-4 shape has good play for 5clubs, justifying another bid.

Not a single member of the expert panel mentioned that argument, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Finally, speaking for the minority:

Eric Leong: 2diamonds. Where are the spades? If partner has a couple of hearts where 2hearts is making, the opponents have at least a ten card spade fit probably making 2spades. So I would suspect if 2hearts is allowed to play 2hearts is going minus. However, 2diamonds should be a credible contract with a good shot at going plus if partner is 3154.

The full deal:
spades KQ4
hearts 6
diamonds AKQ76
clubs K873
spades J10862
hearts A103
diamonds 53
clubs 1054
spades A753
hearts KQ5 
diamonds J1092
clubs Q6
spades 9
hearts J98742
diamonds 84
clubs AJ92

South bid 2hearts, North made a game try with 2spades, and South signed off in 3clubs making an overtrick. At the tables where South bid a direct 3clubs, North played in 3NT on a spade lead. To beat 3NT, East has to find a heart switch when he wins the 4th diamond. None of the East players found this defence, so all the 3NT bidders were allowed to make.

At several tables East made a takeout double on the first round, eventually playing in 3spades for a good EW score.

Hand Four - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJT7
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ643


West North East South

   * Our 1NT opening would show 15-17.

Call Award %
1NT 1008641
1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 501459

Over the five years I've been doing this column, some of my most enjoyable moments have come from finding problems involving an opening bid. It's especially fun when that opening bid provokes such extreme yet diverse views:

David Hester: 1clubs. Please give 1NT zero. I am strong enough to reverse over a 1spades response, and everything about this hand screams for suit play.

Ron Lel: 1NT. WTP? I don't understand this problem at all.

Bastiaan Korner: 1NT. Don't see the problem.

Malcolm Ewashkiw: 1NT. I think it's almost automatic to open this distribution 1NT. I have no rebid if I open 1clubs and partner responds 1spades.

Dean Eidler: 1NT. Easiest problem so far. Better than opening 1clubs and reversing into hearts. Don't believe the hand is too good to open 1NT.

Leigh Matheson: 1NT. Textbook non-balanced 1NT opening. Awkward rebid issues if you open 1clubs. I'll let everyone else explain.

Ken Berry: 1clubs. This is done without a 2nd thought. Should I be worried? (Looks like a great advertisement to be playing Moscito to me)

David Davies: 1clubs. My long suits are decent so why would I not bid them?

Erin Tewes: 1NT. Got a 1NT, bid a 1NT.

Martyn Rew: 1NT. As explained in the footnote.

Duncan Roe: 1NT. I have 16 HCP, no five card major, singleton or void - if I don't open 1NT now then when do I open it?

Sam Arber: 1NT. I tend to open 5422 hands 1nt with right point count

Ulf Nilsson: 1NT. It's only in panels people open anything but 1NT on this collection. Not that I'm very fond of 1NT but the alternative turns out worse often enough to justify 1NT.

There's not a lot of mystery to this hand; the 1clubs bidders object to the shape...

Barbara Hunter, Denis Haynes, Bill Bennett: 1clubs. I do not like to bid NT with two doubletons

Britta Johansson: 1clubs. I don't open 1NT with semibalanced hand. No reason to change that with this hand.

Ron Landgraff: 1clubs. I gave up bidding 1NT with 5/4. Too many bad results. Reversing into hearts is not pretty, but often works. Maybe Hamman would start with 1hearts!

Stephen Bartos: 1clubs. Just too unbalanced for 1NT.

... while the 1NT bidders are afraid of having to reverse into 2hearts ...

Tim Francis-Wright: 1NT. I like not to have two doubletons for my 1NT openers. With the hearts and spades reversed, this would be a 1clubs opener. Here, though, opening 1clubs invites a rebid problem (unless partner always bids up the line with 4-4 in spades and diamonds).

Tony Treloar: 1NT. I can see rebid problems on the horizon if I bid 1clubs.

Eric Leong: 1NT. If you open 1clubs and partner responds 1spades you are faced with the problem of making an overbid or an underbid.

Rainer Herrmann: 1NT. 1NT might miss a good heart game or club slam, but avoids rebid problems in almost any other situation.

Manuel Paulo: 1NT. I open 1 NT whenever I have some good excuse for it; here, after 1clubs - 1spades, my proper rebid would have been awkward.

Ron Nelken: 1NT. Solves any rebid problems.

Fraser Rew: 1NT. You got me. I just don't want to have to find a rebid after 1clubs-1spades which, in this world of bidding 4-card majors ahead of 5-card minors, might not be pretty.

Boris Richter: 1NT. Well, if I am missing a vulnerable heart game so be it but this hand has a nasty rebid problem after 1clubs - (P) - 1spades from partner.

Emil Battista: 1NT. Describes strength perfectly, have 4 of one major and I prefer 1NT openings over 1clubs. If partner becomes declarer, put dummy down with the H7 between DQ and D6

Terry Dunne: 1NT. It's much easier to open 1NT than to reverse. We do have honours in our doubletons.

It's not just that 1NT auctions are easier than reverse auctions; many people feel that the hand simply isn't strong enough.

Hoi-Ming Chan: 1NT. A reverse to 2hearts should have a better hand.

Alvin P. Bluthman: 1NT. I don't have enough to reverse. Switch the spades and diamonds, and I might open 1clubs, in order to rebid 2hearts. Not here.

Eddie Kantar: 1NT. Don't like making minimum reverses with so much strength in my short suits.

Bob Jones: 1NT. This hand just doesn't reach for a reverse.

Ted Chadwick: 1NT. The quality of the main suits and the shape of the hand does not justify a reverse into hearts. Zero points for that.

Peter Fordham: 1NT. This hand is not good enough to reverse.

The readers do not have such high standards for their reverses though:

Margaret Reid, Camilla Barlow: 1clubs. Can bid 2hearts on the next round to show my strength.

Paul Gipson: 1clubs. Too good for 1NT, IMPs and vulnerable, and happy to rebid 2NT over 1spades. Would open 1NT at Matchpoints.

Paul Tranmer: 1clubs. I will not undervalue my 16 count vulnerable. Too strong a possibility that game will be missed if opening 1NT.

Frank Campbell: 1clubs. Don't like NT much with the AJ combination in my long suits and the wasted images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q. The hand is weaker than it's HCP indicate. I suppose I will reverse with 2hearts if necessary but don't like it much.

David Monahan: 1clubs. Normal bid of 1clubs allows partner to response simply (& possibly show a heart fit early). While semi-balanced hands can play NT contracts well opposite balanced (or even semi-balanced) hands, better to explore as many possibilities as we can as low as we can.

Richard Morse: 1clubs. Not the ideal shape or point count for 1NT. There is no need to force the issue when first to bid.

The problem actually comes from one of the articles in the current magazine (Larry Cohen's Real Deal, October issue page 21. Several people recognised the hand, but not all were convinced:

Michael Davy: 1clubs. I was going to bid 1clubs. Then I see Larry Cohen has bid 1NT(page 21). I will stick with 1clubs cos I'm a better bidder than Larry.

Alan Jones: 1NT. See page 21! Presumably partner has Q98632 in hearts this time.

As Alan points out, the hand is not exactly the same; I removed the heartsQ in case people thought the original hand, a good 17-count, was too strong for 1NT. Larry had this to say about the original hand:

This is a good 17-count with three aces and two good suits. The only negatives are the poor club spots and the doubleton images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q. Some might call this "more than 17" and others might consider it unbalanced.
Nonetheless, I would open a strong notrump (15-17). I don't like reverse auctions, and I do like strong notrump auctions.

Larry's reasons for opening 1NT are echoed by another top American player:

Bridge Baron: 1NT. It is possible to configure Bridge Baron to open either 1clubs or 1NT on this hand. We've found that Bridge Baron does best when allowed to open 1NT with 5-4-2-2 hands, so that's how we configure it when given the choice.

Hand Five - West deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T52
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 9
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKQJ7542


West North East South
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ?


Call Award %
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 1005537
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 803241
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 50917
3NT 4052
Pass 2004

Ron Nelken: 3clubs. We are outgunned.

Michael Davy: 4clubs. might disturb them a bit.

Paul Tranmer: 4clubs. This should give EW a sufficiently big headache!

Paul Gipson: 5clubs. Now it's their problem.

I know I promised you a quiet forum this month, but I can't resist throwing at least one wild hand into each set. Frank Stewart has taken to calling our recent Problem Fives "The Goofy Problem of the Month". Well, they may be goofy, but they are all real, and more often than not they are submitted by you guys, so thanks for that.

Wild as this hand is, it's still a very simple choice of 3, 4 or 5. We have a guaranteed ceiling of 800 here, so many of you went straight for the max:

Pat O'Connor: 5clubs. If partner has nothing, they have a slam.

Manuel Paulo: 5clubs. I am risking 4 imps (-800 versus -650) in order to trouble the opponents' way to slam, when they can make it.

Barbara Hunter: 5clubs. This may go crashing down but don't think bidding 3clubs or 4clubs is much use.

Leigh Matheson: 5clubs. When partner has: 1 or 2 tricks: good sac, they make game; 0 tricks: very good sac, they make slam; 3 tricks: +750, we make game. It's a win-win-win situation.

Tim Francis-Wright: 5clubs. I can afford to have 5clubs go down two if they are making game; the only time 5clubs goes down 3 and they do not make slam is if the opponents have 2-2 clubs, or if West has one club and partner has Jx or better in spades. I was tempted by 4clubs, but that still gives them room to explore slam.

Fraser Rew: 5clubs. Possibly a save against a slam. -800 is a distinct possibility but this will be 5 imps out at worst and I'm not sure which opponent will be able to double.

Zbych Bednarek: 5clubs. 800 against game or even slam. Let them guess, slam or double.

Alan Jones: 5clubs. If this goes for 800 I expect opponents to be able to make a slam.

800 is a noble goal, but a few of you saw it as the more conservative option:

Boris Richter: 5clubs. Let us hope it is high enough :)

David Hester: 5clubs. Colour me yellowish.

Amiram Millet: 5clubs. Almost maximum jamming and best description of my hand. We might sacrifice higher.

If you do like to go for 800, here's a more imaginative way to do it (although on the actual deal, the slightest misdefence would give you +750):

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. A wild stab! They are likely cold for game or slam. Naturally if they double, I will pull to clubs. Admittedly, 7 or 8 undoubled vulnerable undertricks will be embarrassing, but who knows what it will talk them out of.

Kajsa Larson: 3NT. Now they hopefully do not reach slam...

Emil Battista: 4clubs. Just the hand I have been waiting for to open with 3spades (Gambling 3NT) and I am not dealer!

Chickening out of 3NT just because the opps bid 2/1? Wimp. But well done, Emil, you got 500 points this month (not quite enough to win your annual bet against Roger though).

On the actual deal, the opponents have just six tricks to cash against 3NT, and two of them are quite hard to find. But back to the real world...

David Davies: 5clubs. If they bid 4hearts/images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I will bid 5clubs will I not? By doing it now they are more likely to make a mistake.

Tim Trahair: 5clubs. Probably a sacrifice. 3NT seems too risky with the prospect that North may be void in clubs.

David Matthews: 5clubs. The opponents obviously have game and may well have slam on so I will make it difficult. They may get it wrong. One time in ten it will cost exactly 800 when no slam is on but even then its still only 4 imps.

Ken Berry: 5clubs. This won't end the auction. (Maybe double will.. but it looks like slam is on for them.. maybe partner has a club void?)

Assuming we do wish to save in 5clubs, there are two ways to do it: the slow way and the fast way (some might say the slow way and the right way). Here are a couple of votes for the slow way:

Britta Johansson: Pass. I would wait and see where opponents are headed and how strong they are. It's unlikely that partner has enough controls for us to make 5clubs and opponents have already shared a lot of information. A freak distribution may make life difficult for them and they might end up too high.

Duncan Roe: Pass. Let's see what develops. I can still bid 5clubs over their 4 of a major, if they get there

Roger Yandle: 5clubs. Let opps have last guess.

Damo Nair: 5clubs. Let them work it out at the 5 level. No 4clubs for me, pass is better than 4clubs.

Peter Evans: 5clubs. I suspect they have game their way in spades or diamonds. Put them under pressure straight away. If partner doesn't have a trick, then they could well have slam. If partner does have a trick, you're not going down too far.

Sam Arber: 5clubs. Want to be in 5clubs so bid it right away, others have to guess what to do next now.

Stephen Bartos: 5clubs. Deprive EW of the chance to find an easy game in a major.

Richard Morse: 5clubs. Might as well make life as difficult as possible while minimising the risk of a penalty greater than 500.

Kay O'Connor: 5clubs. Simple minded but I think this might be the best way to keep them out of slam.

Bill Bennett: 5clubs. EW are very likely to hold game, and I have no defence. One trick from partner is enough for this bid to show a profit.

Nigel Guthrie: 5clubs. 5clubs is another stand-out. So I hope I've scored 500 marks -- like everybody else.

A fascinating prediction, in more ways than one. Yes, this set has produced more 500s than any set I have ever compiled -- Brian Thorp, Ming Chan, Emil Battista and Ulf Nilsson. On the other hand, you, Nigel, achieved your lowest score in two years! Not sure what to make of that...

A couple of people / machines dismissed the 5clubs bid on the grounds that it wouldn't achieve anything.

Tony Treloar: 3clubs. Enough for now I think. I want a club lead if partner has one. Little value in pre-empting.

Bridge Baron: 3clubs. If East had dealt and opened at the one-level, Bridge Baron would be leaping to 4clubs. In the given situation, it would take the plunge in 5clubs with another "sure" trick somewhere to ward off -800: A52 9 6 AKQJ7542, or the like, would do. But with both opponents having shown something about their hands, Bridge Baron thinks that the preemptive value of jumping to 4clubs is diminished, and the danger in jumping to 5clubs is too great, so it sticks in a meek 3clubs.

The top score goes to what Peter Smith called the "Goldilocks" bid:

Eric Leong: 4clubs. Taking up just enough bidding room for the opponents to allow them to get to the wrong contract and setting up the club sacrifice for partner to decide if the opponents bid a slam.

Ulf Nilsson: 4clubs. 5clubs will just be followed by a red card and a sizeable minus score which may be the right thing if slam is on for opps. Too committal for me. 4clubs takes away space and puts the most number of horses in the race for us (they end up in the wrong suit or level). 3clubs is just feeble.

Martyn Rew: 4clubs. partner may well have the suit that they end up in or maybe a couple of tricks to try for game so 4clubs is a balance between taking their space and only digging a little hole

Frank Campbell: 4clubs. North might have an offsuit ace but I think 5clubs risks going for 800 so prefer to let them guess at what game to bid.

Denis Haynes: 4clubs. Show partner my strength. I may not be able to bid clubs if I bid 3 spades next.

Terry Dunne: 4clubs. A straight guess between 4clubs and 5clubs. For East and West, this is a 30 HCP pack and they may well have enough of those points to make slam. 4clubs gives us a chance of them stopping in game whereas one of them is bound to bid over 5clubs and that is likely to get them excited.

Kevin Davies, David Monahan: 4clubs. The rule of 2/3 for pre-empts give partner a clear indication of my trick making capability (showing 8 at this vulnerability) and also my high ODR (high to play, low to defend).

Hoi-Ming Chan: 4clubs. Psyching usually doesn't work against good players.

Rainer Herrmann: 4clubs. Anything could be right.

The full deal:
spades A3
hearts 87542
diamonds QJ854
clubs 10
spades KJ9874
hearts AK63
diamonds K
clubs 96
spades Q6
hearts QJ10 
diamonds A109732
clubs 83
spades 1052
hearts 9
diamonds 6
clubs AKQJ7542

We changed the conditions of the problem -- the actual deal took place in a Matchpoint event at nil vul. South bid 5clubs and was doubled for -300 and 13% of the matchpoints. Several East-West pairs played in 4spades; all but one of them were defeated by a heart ruff.

Which brings us to the end of another year. As expected Ulf Nilsson from Sweden has held on to 1st place, having extended his lead to 170 points. Ulf will be a guest on the magazine's expert panel in 2009, and has also agreed to write a couple of articles for us.

Over the next few days I'll stick up some photos of the other players on the leader board -- so if we don't have a photo of you, send one in to and we'll get your smiling face directly underneath this paragraph...

Thanks very much to the readers and the experts for all your interesting comments and for your continued support of this forum, one of the cornerstones of our magazine (which will be arriving in your homes this week by the way). Merry Christmas etc, and I'll hope to see you all again in the happy new year.

Top scores for December
1Ulf Nilsson SWE500
1Brian Thorp ACT500
1Hoi-Ming Chan NSW500
1Emil Battista NSW500
5Boris Richter CRO480
5Amiram Millet ISR480
5Tim Francis-wright USA480
8Ivan Nanev BUL470
8Tony Nunn NSW470
8Kevin Davies NSW470
11Sam Arber Vic460
11John R Mayne USA460
13Terry Dunne USA450
13Toby Weinstein USA450
13Barbara Whitmee Qld450
13Erin Tewes ACT450
17Alan Jones Qld440
18Roger Yandle NSW430
18Rex Fox Vic430
18Michael Wilkinson NSW430
18Niek Van Vucht 430
18Pat O'Connor NSW430
18Fraser Rew NZL430
18Frank Campbell NSW430
18Arthur Porter SA430
26Gary Lane NSW420
26Andrew Edgley VIC420
26Michael Smart ACT420
26Rainer Herrmann GER420
30Ian Smith Vic410
30Andrew Macalister GBR410
30Ivan Demeny NSW410
30Julian Gauld NSW410
30Paul Gipson GBR410
30Leigh Matheson NSW410
30Rick Lu NSW410
30Dean Eidler NZL410
30Ron Lel LAO410
30David Hester SA410
30David Davies GBR410
41David Monahan NSW400
41Peter Talsma ACT400
41Jill Graham NSW400
41John Compton NSW400
41Peter Evans 400
41Pauline Lane ACT400
41David Read NSW400
41Richard Morse GBR400
41Tania Black SA400
41Nick Beaumont Vic400
41Bob Fisher Qld400
41Tony Treloar Qld400
41Robert Black SA400
54Leon Slonim Vic390
55Kajsa Larson SWE390
54Peter Tarlinton NSW390
54Derek Pocock WA390
54Ido Millet USA390
54Tim Trahair NSW390
54Joe Lentz USA390

Final scores for 2008
1Ulf Nilsson SWE2780
2Sam Arber Vic2610
3Terry Dunne USA2600
3Rainer Herrmann GER2600
5Brian Thorp ACT2580
6Paul Gipson GBR2570
6Michael Wilkinson NSW2570
8Amiram Millet ISR2540
9Roger Yandle NSW2480
9Gary Lane NSW2480
11Boris Richter CRO2470
11Tim Francis-Wright USA2470
13Frank Campbell NSW2460
13David Matthews WA2450
15Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN2440
16Pravin Nahar NSW2430
16Arthur Porter SA2430
16Nigel Guthrie GBR2430
19Michael Davy Vic2410
20Joe Lentz USA2380
21Emil Battista NSW2370
22Manuel Paulo POR2360
23Tim Trahair NSW2350
24Ron Lel LAO2340
25Peter Stride Qld2320
26Robert Black SA2310
27Peter Tarlinton NSW2300
27Pat O'Connor NSW2300
29Eric Leong USA2280
30Paul Tranmer GBR2270
31Zbych Bednarek POL2250
31Jeff Brokenshire ACT2250
33Tony Nunn NSW2240
34Derek Pocock WA2230
34Trish Whitton NSW2230
36Ian Smith Vic2220
36David Monahan NSW2220
38Ron Landgraff USA2200
39Rick Lu NSW2180
40David Read NSW2170
40Andrew Macalister GBR2170
42Ian Patterson Qld2160
43Duncan Roe Vic2150
44Toby Weinstein USA2140
45Ivan Demeny NSW2130
46Julian Gauld NSW2120
47Peter Nolan Vic2100
47Tony Treloar Qld2100
49Ian Spight NSW2070
50Tania Black SA2060
50Barbara Whitmee Qld2060
52Kay O'Connor NSW2050
53Barbara Hunter NSW2030
54Ian Erratt NSW2020
55Joe O'Flynn Vic2000
56David Johnson CAN1960
57Rick Giles USA1950
58Margaret Reid NSW1940
59Damo Nair USA1930
59Alan Jones Qld1930
59Bridge Baron USA1930
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 February issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your December issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.