Before starting our first forum for 2009, I'd like to make a
formal welcome to all the 1st-time entrants joining us from
Sweden this month. This column has attracted a lot of interest
up north due to Ulf Nilsson's win last year, and 9
of the Swedish entries have made it on to the leaderboard (450
I closed last year with a
promise that if you send us all your toughest problems, you'll have an inside
track to a high score -- now it's time to see if it actually works.
Roger Yandle: 3. Gee this hand looks familiar! Presumably pard is max with
four spades. It's unlikely she'll have a heart stopper but since I don't know West it might be possible. Not sure what I'll do if (when) pard bids 4.
Emil Battista: 3. Unanimous?
Roger was South on the actual deal, and Emil was West. Sadly,
a little knowledge can be dangerous, and knowing the full deal
they were able to avoid the doomed (but top-scoring) 2NT
contract. Emil's choice of 3 was not a hit with the panel, but
he did have plenty of reader support:
Lindsay Coker: 3. Cannot pass this on our point count.
If partner has heart stoppers he can bid 3NT, otherwise probably pass.
Kajsa Larson: 3. Hopefully partner
can guess that I have a lousy four card heart suit, and that 3 can be a 4-card suit, since I didn't support spades.
David Hester: 3. I am assuming that Stayman promises a major; if it does not, this problem is much harder, and my best shot might be 3 in the hope that partner will read it as an enquiry about his heart stops. (But will he?). If it does, all is well: I am denying spades and showing
four hearts with no stop and moderate strength.
Barbara Whitmee: 3. Partner will realise I have four weak hearts.
Henri de Jong: 3. Source of tricks and gives pard the chance to bid 3NT with a H stopper
Tim Trahair: 3. This tells Partner we have enough points for 3NT, 4 but no stopper and 4 Ds. If he has good Hs, which seems unlikely, he can bid 3NT.
Bastiaan Korner: 3.
Tough but 3 looks like an overbid.
Duncan Roe: 3. With at least 25
HCP between us we should make something, but perhaps not 2 or 2NT.
Michael Davy: 3. which says-do you have a heart stopper?
Dean Pokorny: 2NT. What else? 3 would sound forcing, pass is absurd...
3 is one way to find out if there is a heart stopper, but
there were no less than three alternative stopper asks
Jameson Cole: 3NT. Direct denies. Hope partner is on the same wavelength.
Alvin P. Bluthman: 2NT. I hope partner has a stopper.
OK, that last one isn't a true stopper ask, but we all have to rely on hope
occasionally. Jameson's 3NT, denying a stopper, is part of the Lebensohl
structure; playing Lebensohl, 2NT shows a stopper and 3NT denies one. However,
Lebensohl only applies on the 1st round; 2 followed by 2NT is a simple
Mats Hedstrom: 3. Ask for stopper. If no stopper we will bid 5.
Hoi-Ming Chan, Aake Sjoeberg: 3. Asking for a stopper.
Malcolm Ewashkiw: 3. This may be ambiguous, but how else am I to get partner to bid 3NT with a heart stopper?
Paul Freeland: 3. Please do something sensible partner. If the rebid is 3 then that's where we'll play!!!
Paul Tranmer: 3. Bid 3NT with a
heart stop please, else describe. I'm beginning to wish I had passed 1NT which, with a poor 9 count, I might well have done!
Also having doubts our choice of 2 on the first round:
Alan Jones: 2NT. I'm not sure I want to bid Stayman with
this collection! Even a raise to 2NT is marginal.
Tom Moss: 2NT. I don't think much of the 2 bid.
Martyn Rew: 2NT. Ouch! Serves me right for a stupid initial Stayman response.
Robert Black: 2NT. What I should have bid last time! If game goes down on a lead they should not have found, I have a written apology for my (former?) partner.
Michael Burt: 2NT. Why didn't I bid 2NT to start with?
Strangely, not a single panellist objected to the 2 bid.
It's worth noting that many people play 2NT as a transfer to
diamonds, forcing them to bid 2 with any balanced invitation
(as David Hester suggested in his comment).
The alternative method, playing 2 as a transfer to either
minor, comes with its own set of flaws -- no system is
For whatever reason, our original intention here was
to rebid 2NT (or 3NT), and most people intend to continue with
the original plan.
Pontus Silow: 2NT. The same bid I would have made without West's intervention.
Damo Nair: 2NT. Shows almost exactly what I have?! Doesn't it? The only
alternative worth considering is probably 3NT.
Erin Tewes: 2NT. This is what I was going to bid anyway, wasn't it?
Rainer Herrmann: 2NT. What I would have bid without the intervention. I do not see any alternatives.
Michael Smart: 2NT. Yuk - stuck with my normal rebid (assume 3 would be forcing and imply 4). If partner has max he can bid 3 to be sure or 3NT with stop.
A few people thought the heart suit was
not a threat:
Terry Dunne: 2NT. Partner and I have 6 hearts between us, so maybe they won't run. This has to be better than a 4-2 spade fit...
Christer Enkvist: 3NT. Wouldn't surprise me the least if east has a heart void.
Tony Treloar: 2NT. Tough problem! Describes the hand, invitational with 4 hearts. Partner would be entitled to think you have a stopper though. In my dreams East is void anyway.
Fred Altstock: 3NT. Should have enough for game.
Dean Eidler: 3NT. In a funny way the hand looks better
rather than worse now. Assuming we don't lose the first five hearts of course.
Taking the opposite view:
Leigh Matheson: 2NT. Without the overcall 3NT is mandatory. But West's overcall says he has 5 ok hearts and outside entry(s). This means partner needs a double heart stop in order to make 3NT. An invite will do. Partner can still bid game with a double heart stop.
Sartaj Hans: 2NT. I suppose I
should underbid now that they have bid one of my suits.
For the record, Bridge Baron did his usual simulation on
this deal, returning an expected value of 37 for 2NT, and -90
for 3NT. A clear indicator that our hand has gotten worse, not
Ken Berry: 2NT. The bid to make when you don't really want to bid.
John R. Mayne: 2NT. Rather than going wrong on strength or orientation, I choose to go wrong on both.
Ron Landgraff: 2NT. Can I double partner? Does his spade bid show
five? A maximum? Even if he has a max 3NT may not make, but it is imps and RHO didn't support!
Paul Gipson: 2NT. Looks like a classic double. Oh, can I not double CHO? He may have five spades but will presumably be forced in hearts and threatened with overruffs, so pass does not look great. I'll just transfer the problem to him, invite and let him work it out.
I have a useful bidding technique for hands where you want to double your
partner; more details in Problem Two.
Manuel Paulo: 2NT. After the Stayman failure, and despite West's overcall, I should show my balanced shape and limited strength.
Joe O'Flynn: 2NT. Back to pard. He'll know I have hearts.
Kay O'Connor: 2NT. Partner's spades may be as bad as my hearts and at least 2NT specifies my point range. Fortunately, Partner is an expert and will figure my bid out.
Peter Oakley: 2NT. Partner will now know I have four hearts, but without an honour I'm not happy to see him squirm in an unlikely game contract.
Richard Morse: 2NT. This is right for values and I don't fancy our chances in spades any more than no-trumps, particularly since the spades could be splitting badly on the bidding.
Denis Haynes: 2NT. Cant support spades and maybe the hearts will hold in NTs. The points are light for 2NT but a possible 6 card fit in spades may be worse.
Eric Leong: 2NT. I can't pass. The only available
cheap nonforcing bid is 2NT.
Mats Nilsland: 2NT. I like to give partner a chance to do something intelligent - even if I don't know him/her...
Ron Nelken: 2NT. Inviting game, partner can hopefully cover hearts.
Zbych Bednarek: 2NT. The lesser lie; our side has points for 2½NT.
Next up, we have the longest answer we've ever received to a BF
problem. Ron's answer eclipses the previous record, which was set (and broken 12 times)
by Jill Courtney. I couldn't even imagine where to start editing
it, so we're printing it in full.
Ron Lel: 2NT. Nick, this is not a good problem for a bidding forum because we don't know enough about the agreements in use. What does 2 mean? Would partner always bid 2 with a 4-card suit, or does it show a maximum? If the agreement is that partner passes with a minimum, then I have 2 options here - 3 or 2NT. 3 would show a hand with long
diamonds; I don't have that, however the 2 bid suggests that NT isn't making unless I have 8 or 9 fast tricks. Anyway as this is unchartered territory, I will bid 2NT, the bid
I would have made without interference. However if 2
shows four spades and a maximum, the situation is quite different. Now a 2NT bid from me is redundant unless you like playing 2NT as a forcing transfer to 3NT, as partner will always accept BECAUSE she has a maximum. So 2NT has another meaning
-- scrambling. In other words, the sort of hand we have, invitational, but with reservations and having at least one other place to play. As in both cases
I would bid 2NT, I will do so here, but really feel like I should abstain.
I have two responses to this comment. Firstly, my name is
Brad, not Nick. Nick left the magazine in 2003. Are you just
trying to get back at me for constantly forgetting where Laos
Secondly, I think it is very rare for even a regular
partnership to put that much work into Stayman. This problem
does highlight the need for further discussion about a
convention that I'm sure many of us take for granted. Here are
some more thoughts about how this sequence should be played:
Fraser Rew: 2NT. Whatever it shows. Last time I bid 2 in
this sequence I got told off by my partner and this hand shows
why. 2 may be off with game cold, or may be off the same number
as game. Pard may even have a stopper.
Conny Wahlgren: 2NT. Especially if North promises a heart stopper with 2.
Sam Arber: 3.
Partner should be maximum, possibly may have weak 5 card spade suit with no good rebid, probably has heart stopper so 3NT seems reasonable as likely to have fillers in minor.
Göran Hestner: 2NT. We don't know if the 2 bid promises anything else
besides four spades -- might also promise a maximum. West probably have some values in at least one of the minors, and if he has not he has a good hearts that might give 5 tricks. 2NT also gives opener a chance to bid 3 in minor as a suggestion, or 3 in case 5 card major might have been an exception in the NT-openers hand.
Frank Campbell: 3. I can't pass 2 and AB Standard system notes say we are playing cue raises so 3 is out. Pard will hopefully get the right inferences from 3. With lousy hearts and no spades 2NT in the first place may have been the better response.
We do play cue raises, but this is not a cue-raise situation,
as 3 here would be invitational. Even if there was any doubt
about this, (a) 3 would have no preemptive value at all, and
(b) on this auction South cannot have a hand where a preempt
would be appropriate.
This has been a long and difficult problem; so it's fitting
that we finish with the simplest choice, and the one that Roger
chose at the table:
David Davies: Pass. Game was borderline with my not fantastic 9 points and now the 2 call means the defence will go well even if partner has a heart stop. This is the best call to stay low, I think we are unlikely to go plus whatever we do.
Peter Nuoristo: Pass. I hope pard has five spades. Looks difficult to find a better contract now.
Boris Richter: Pass. Probably best, we don't have a vulnerable game at stake and it doesn't look good in NT.
The full deal:
Note that the
has been swapped with the
-- at the table NS were playing a weak notrump so we have
adjusted the problem to fit AB Standard.
made eight tricks, while 2NT would have lost the first six heart
tricks. There are 11 tricks available in diamonds.