Our first problem this
month is from an Appeals decision at a recent American
national (I believe it was the 2010 Spring NABC). The
decision is whether South should be permitted to bid on
after a slow 3NT from North.
Christer Enkvist: 4. 6 is near and it will be awfully unlucky
if we cannot make 5
opposite an unsuitable hand. Note that North hasn't denied 4-card diamond support,
he merely showed stoppers in both majors.
Barbara Hunter, Sam Arber: 4. Could be slam in the minors?
Tim Trahair: 4. Forcing
with shortage in one of the majors. Game is probably on (and perhaps slam) in one or both of the minors.
Henri de Jong: 4. Pard has
clubs and we would like to get to 6.
Jacco Hop: 4. Partner rates to have clubs if he doesn't have diamond support.
Leigh Matheson: 4. Set trumps. I have to explore a small slam; grand is on opposite AKx, xxx, AKQ, xxxx.
Bastiaan Korner: 4.
Slam should have a chance.
David Graff: 4. Will bid 6 of the minor pard prefers.
Nigel Guthrie: 4. With such poor diamonds, it's hard to explore a slam intelligently, but 5/5 may be still be safer than 3NT.
One of the
difficulties with taking problems from real-life events is
that not everyone (or even anyone) plays the same system as
AB Standard. A few people were happy to point this out for
Ron Lel: Pass. According to your website, Stayman followed by 3-minor is natural and forcing (and promises a major). I wonder what happened to my major? Obviously we don't play anything nice like an initial 3 bid showing a 13(45) hand. Oh well. I pass.
Daniel Skipper: Pass. I have promised a major here --
which one do you think it is?
Wayne Somerville: 4. I would have bid 3 the 1st round
to show this hand (a fairly common agreement).
Dean Pokorny: Pass. No need to go against the field. Partner has good major suit stoppers. I should have bid 3 (or something like that) to show the 13(54) shape.
Rainer Herrmann: Pass. This is more a system problem than anything else. All depends whether we have duplication in spades.
Maurice Buxton: Pass. Why did I bid Stayman when it guarantees a major? And why did I introduce that, uh, incredibly powerful diamond suit when I didn't WANT partner thinking that QJxx was excellent support for possible slam purposes? However, since partner must have some major-suit values and we're now in the expected 3NT anyway, let's stay there.
Good questions -- I'll answer
the one about the diamonds later.
Mark LaForge: Pass. I really do not like this sequence -- either bid 3NT directly or make some kind of shape showing bid. I do not like 5 of a minor at matchpoints
Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. Yes, opposite the magic hand slam is possible. 3NT
rates to score better. I would prefer asking for minors after 2.
Michael Burt: Pass. We have a maximum of 31 points. A slam in the minors looks marginal but could be there if partner has the right cards. 3NT normally scores reasonably. I've already lied with my 2 bid (I am supposed to have a major) and there is a risk of misleading partner if I go on and ending up in the wrong contract.
Dan Baker: Pass. Partner doesn't seem interested in a diamond slam, and 6NT is going to require miracles. Looking for 6 is aiming at a pretty narrow target. Hope I haven't misled him into thinking I have a major by starting with Stayman.
Michael Davy: 4. What a fine mess 2 has got us into.
On the contrary; while
2 wasn't a very professional approach, on this occasion it
happened to work out brilliantly. We found out that North
has 7+ cards in the minors, so we either have a 9-card
diamond fit or a very good 8+ club fit. We also know the
opponents have nine spades. If only all our auctions were
Pontus Silow: 4. Partner's 2 made my hand much better when it comes to high level minor suit contracts. Besides, I don't like my spades
Emil Battista: 4. This is one way to a zero but passing 3NT does not appeal when
opponents hold 9 spades.
Ian Patterson: 4. We have
four spades between us. Five of a minor has to be a better option with 6 a real possibility though even with 17 pts partner could have no aces.
Damo Nair: 4. If North has weak spades with a hole in the diamond suit 3NT goes down.
Don Hinchey: 4. Lots of slam potential here opposite a strong notrump with no four-card major.
Alex Kemeny, Manuel Paulo, Aake Sjoeberg: 4. Given that 3NT could be down, with a minor suit slam making, I have to make one more try for slam.
Paul Freeland: 4. Good problem. Must have a minor suit fit on this auction, partner can hopefully now judge what the correct strain should be, and can try for slam with a maximum or a great fit.
David Ho: 4.
Partner has at least one 4 card minor, so we will have 8
card fit. 5m will be a safe contract. If pd has Axx Kx AKx
would be a very good contract.
Tony Treloar: 4. With an almost guaranteed double fit in the minors and controls in the majors, it must be worth making a move towards slam.
Paul Janicki, Jack Lai, Margaret Reid, Zbych Bednarek: 4. We have a fit in at least one of the minors. Slam is a real
Nigel Kearney: 4. It's risky to leave 3NT behind at
Matchpoints, but there are good chances of slam and quite often 3NT will not do better than five of a minor.
It's actually not so risky, and
Michael Smart: 4. With a 3334 or soft values partner can still bid 4NT - the 'stop' bid. Will bid 6 if partner manages anything else (after all, he
is missing the top 3 club honours).
Jameson Cole: 4. This is a slam try, emphasizing the minors and partner should value his controls. If his honors are misplaced, he should sign off at 4NT.
Agreements about a natural 4NT
are fairly common at expert level, but this was the cause of some debate at the appeal.
North-South pointed out that North's 4NT rebid would be a
signoff; East "expressed doubt" about that fact
(which, let's face it, means he was calling South an amateur
and a liar).
Agreements aside, some
people were concerned that even 4NT may be too high:
Par Ol-Mars: Pass. Yes we could still make 6, but neither 4NT nor 5-minor is certain. So especially in
Matchpoints better to follow the pack and stay in 3NT.
Charles Scholl: Pass. Too many ways for 6 to fail, even 5 could fail on a diamond lead through KJx, and I don't think we have the values for 6N.
Frank Campbell: Pass. We might make 12 but it is not very likely.
Tom Moss: Pass. When you are lost, get out as easily as possible.
Bridge Baron: Pass. Simulation: +611.65 average score in 3NT, +428.90 average score in 6NT. Bridge Baron doesn't yet know how to delicately explore for a minor-suit slam here.
Yes, this simulation is a bit
misleading because the expected value in 6 or 6 will be
much higher than in 6NT. As for delicately exploring a minor
suit slam, AKQx looks like a biddable club suit to me. Or is
the Baron playing Gerber?
There actually were some votes for
5, so I'm guessing there really were some people who were
worried that 4 was Gerber. It reminds me of a recent hand
from our local club: East opened 1, passed round to North
in 4th seat who balanced with 2. East tried 2, pass-pass
to North, 3. East persisted with 3, yet again passed to
North who now jumped to 5! As 5 drifted one off, North
explained, "I had to bid 5, because 4 would have been
Tania Black: Pass. 2nd choice 6!
Ron Landgraff: Pass. It's Matchpoints - slam is not obvious.
Roger Yandle: Pass. It looks like pard has got clubs so a club slam could well be on if she's got the right cards (e.g. AJx KQx Ax Jxxxx) but I'm not sure how you'd find that out from here. Even if you could there's a chance she hasn't got the right cards (e.g. Kxx KQx AKx xxxx) in which case you'd probably end up in 5 - not what you want at MPs.
Lindsay Coker: Pass. McBeth has struck again. Slam or no slam, that is the question. Call me chicken - is that a dagger I see before me?
Ian McCance: Pass. Close to minor slam but will go with 3NT. At MP no point in exploring minors;
we're playing either 3NT or 6.
Joe O'Flynn: Pass. How do I enter a vote for 6 or 5? Apparently not to be considered.
That's correct Joe -- if a bid
does not appear in the drop down box, you do not want to be
choosing it. The box contains all bids made or hinted at by
the panel, and (just because I have a vicious streak) any
red herring that I think might possibly receive a vote. If a bid
isn't even in the box, it's extremely wrong (such as
a unilateral attempt to play in diamonds instead of clubs
opposite AQx, KQx, Ax, Jxxxx).
Having said that, if you do want
to make an "off-book" bid, just choose "Other" and write your
bid in the comment box. We get about ten of those each
month, and this month there were more than usual. I always
delete the names to protect the guilty, but they still get
a zero (only because my scoring program doesn't cater for
Fred Altstock: Pass. Not sure
Peter Vlas: Pass. Not too happy, but following the field probably.
Duncan Roe: Pass. Should come home with 29-31 HCP. Slam might be on, but I think it more likely we'd get too high looking for one that
Murray Perrin: Pass. At Matchpoints it should be best even with the spade problem.
At teams I would bid 4.
There were also a couple of
votes for 4NT RKCB, which scores 70 points courtesy of
Sartaj Hans' solo vote on the expert panel. For the
record, Sartaj intended 4NT as quantitative, not Blackwood.
We'll finish with an answer from
the actual South:
Marshall Miles: 4. I would (and did) bid 4. Partner
must have four or more cards in one of the minors. Maybe
something like AKx-Kxx-AJ-J10xxx. I must have intended to
show both minors. If partner has an unsuitable hand, we
should be safe enough in 4NT (which is natural, whichever
hand bids it). In a North American national, opener took 6-7
seconds to bid 3NT, so the director and protest committee
changed our making slam to 3NT because of a "break in
tempo." I thought that was a miscarriage of justice. There
was much more to think about over 3 than over Stayman. Should he have taken ten
seconds to bid 2 so that if he had a problem next round, he
could take the same length of time to think about it?
The actual deal:
North bid a direct 6 over 4,
making 12 tricks. This was adjusted to 3NT making 11 tricks.
Whatever the actual merit of a 4
bid, the appeals committee totally missed the point here. As
Marshall pointed out, it's obvious that he always intended
to show both minors. Do we really think his endgame was to
get the brilliant diamond suit into the auction? The 3 bid
was simply the first step in a two-step description -- if he
wasn't planning to finish the description, he wouldn't have
The appeals committee ruled on
the basis that they didn't believe most people would bid on
over 3NT. But this hand isn't about what most people
would have done; it's about what most 3 bidders
would have done.