Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles -- December 2011

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, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - West deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AT3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QT85432
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 94
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 7


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


Call Award %
Pass 100 63 56
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 26 21
1NT 40 5 20
Dbl 40 5 3

Welcome to the final forum of the year, where we reveal which of you is the world's best bidder for 2011. Our first problem features a beautiful 7-card suit, perfect for responding to partner's opening, but our RHO has found the only bid to shut us out of the auction. Can we recover from this interruption?

Alex Kemeny: 1NT. Defending 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is unlikely to lead to many matchpoints. This bid shows where my stuff is and describes my strength.

Tim Trahair: 1NT. Fits what we have, 6 HCP and cover in both of the opponents' suits. It looks as if P's HCP are in the minors and he may well have a 4144 distribution.

Robert Black: 1NT. I have 6 HCPs and the enemy suits stopped, which may be good news for partner.

Alan Jones: 1NT. I’d rather play than defend.

Wayne Somerville: 1NT. It feels really wrong to pass, nothing else fits.

Margaret Reid: 1NT. 6 points might scrape it in. Pd has some spades and I have hearts. Will be interesting.

Tania Black: 1NT. Nothing else appeals.

Richard Morse: 1NT. Nothing is very attractive but I think I have to keep it open. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is tempting, but I think partner may play me for a different/stronger hand than this.

Toby Weinstein: 1NT. Who knows what’s right? Pass could be the right call.

A couple of people say they would not have been shut out in the first place:

Guy Herzmark: 1NT. Could have bid this the previous round.

Doris Anderson: 1NT. I would have bid 1NT as my first bid, and let it stand, unless North bids on.

1NT received only one vote from the expert panel:

Phil Gue: 1NT. Pass could be the winner, but I would have bid this over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (with slightly less hearts). Now partner can happily do the right thing (hopefully pass, or 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with a 6-card suit).

In spite of the opponent's heart overcall, there were actually more votes for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) than for 1NT:

Jacco Hop: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows a weak trap pass with long hearts. That is just what I have. Really depends on how much I can shorten myself. Passing out the one level is usually really bad. If someone finds another bid I am probably well placed. The chances for partner to have the missing heart are about 95% since both North and East passed 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With 3046 he would not have passed I guess.

Manuel Paulo: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Natural. Consider, e.g., the following layout, where West makes 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and South makes 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes):
spades xx
hearts x 
diamonds AQxx
clubs AQ10xxx
spades KQxxxx
hearts ---
diamonds KJxx
clubs xxx
spades Jx
hearts AKJxx
diamonds 10xx
clubs KJx
spades A103
hearts Q1085432
diamonds 94
clubs 7

Carl Brueckner: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not a game for wimps.

David Matthews: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Probably the best contract as we know where the hearts are. Should be able to make enough of them sitting behind East even if North is void.

Fraser Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This should play double dummy, give or take. I expect both 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to make. I’ll go for a skate sometimes, but more often I'll turn a small minus into a small plus, or a small plus into a bigger one, which is what Matchpoints all is about.

Graham Wakefield: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is almost certainly conceding a minus score as East's pass suggests spade support. Partner can surely take care of several non trump losers and East will find 5 card trump length awkward on defence.

Charles Scholl: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). How bad can this be?

Actually, it could be quite bad. If you were a defending against opponents who were in 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), you would be quite happy to double holding AKJ97, which is East's likely holding here. Even if he doesn't double, two vulnerable undertricks are still a possibility. This led the majority to take the conservative route:

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Other choice would be 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but this suit so weak (afraid about "kiss of death").

JC Clement: Pass. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x would be costly; North is probably 3145, we have no fit and no points, so pass...

Dan Baker: Pass. No support at all for either minor, no tricks for NT. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would be natural, but there's no chance I want to play that with at least four trump losers.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. I see no alternative to Pass. In hearts you may lose 4 tricks in trumps alone.

Barbara Hunter: Pass. Looks too dangerous to bid, just hope to be able to make life difficult for the opponents.

Martyn Rew: Pass. even non-vul, you would risk going down by more than their part score if you did anything but pass.

I suspect that there would have been a majority vote for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if we were non-vul (in fact the original problem was non-vul, but we changed the vulnerability in an attempt to make a tougher problem).

A couple of people expressed doubt about East's heart suit, although they were still not tempted to bid:

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron is fooled by the probable psyche, I guess. It doesn't like to bid a suit after the opponents have shown it.

Duncan Roe: Pass. No support for minor suits, so don't like double. East might have overcalled with only four hearts, but that still leaves only 2 between partner and West, so won't bid my QT-headed suit.

Ron Lel: Pass. There are 2 possibilities here, Pass and 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My first instinct was to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). However hearts are likely to break 5-1, even if my RHO is predisposed to overcalling on 4 card suits. The second reason for passing is partner's failure to do anything. He is short in hearts and yet has not doubled or bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or made any sort of move. My guess is that the opps are in a 4-2 fit and I don't think it will play particularly well.

Don Hinchey: Pass. Anyone for penalty doubles of overcalls?

If we ever do adopt penalty doubles of overcalls (I already play some with my regular partner), I'm not sure this hand would qualify. Even if 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is failing, I'd never sit for a penalty double of any suit they run to (even if they run to partner's suit). A couple of people were worried about the opponents finding a better spot:

David Woulds: Pass. In view of pd's silence, he's marked with spades and tempting to double, but that may drive opps into their diamond fit. Hopefully 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is two off.

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. Double - which shows a penalty double of 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) - could easily turn a plus into a minus should either pard or opps choose another spot. A plus in a contract of our own is hardly conceivable.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. They have an excellent fit in diamonds and probably just 4-3 or 4-2 in spades. 

Some people commented that even if we do have a contract, we may end up in a misfit anyway:

Daniel Skipper: Pass. If I bid 1NT partner will be there with 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Murray Perrin: Pass. Prefer to defend rather than have partner bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Damo Nair: Pass. This feels like a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid. But with all of South's HCP in opponent's suits and a singleton for North, I'll take my chances and pass.

Tony Treloar: Pass. Doesn't seem like a good idea to get involved on this misfitting hand.

Roger Yandle: Pass. This looks like a huge misfit so I'm choosing to defend. Hopefully we'll get a plus score.

Michael Davy: Pass. We have nothing to compete with.

Ron Landgraff: Pass. Misfit - stop bidding before they start doubling you! 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will likely not play well. Partner ruffs hearts and I ruff the minors.

And the most common comment, any plus score is a good score:

Michael Smart: Pass. Defending seems the best chance at a plus score. Things aren't breaking and, looking at my heart quality, bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is asking to get doubled. On this auction partner probably has four spades. On any lead, we will get ruffs and probably trump promotions.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Let sleeping dogs lie. Partner's hand is minor-suited -- e.g. Qxx x KJxx AKxxx. If partner has more spades, then well and good. Anyway, his pass probably means he's not strong. If we try to play in hearts, we have at least five trump losers. In theory, double or 1NT could still work but, in practice, it is unlikely that partner will bring himself to pass.

Frank Campbell: Pass. I don't know if partner's pass is a trap. If it is, my pass is likely to be less expensive than double if it isn't. If I could make 1NT or 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is going off.

Pontus Silow: Pass. When partner has what it takes to make 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) it could still be beneficial to defend.

John Donovan: Pass. Minimum hand with stoppers in each of the opps' suits. If p leads club you could make 3 tricks here, if p leads hearts (assuming singleton and East has five) he can overruff declarer on the heart return.

Emil Battista: Pass. Partner likely to be 4045. If he has the right cards (images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A, heart void) we can have some cross-ruffing fun.

Christer Enkvist: Pass. The occasional 110 in 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may easily be a huge minus. Odds on that EW have 4-3 in spades and we have a nice cross-ruff in defence.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. Although 1NT is tempting, where do we get tricks? Best chance for a plus is probably pass.

One person raised the interesting point that even a minus score might be good (as long as it's smaller than 100):

Michael Burt: Pass. This looks like a misfit situation and 1NT may not play well - may struggle to get +90. We may be able to set up some sort of cross ruff situation and get them one off for a good score. Even if they just make, our minus 90 may be a better outcome than going one down in 1NT.

John R. Mayne: Pass. Partner's pass is interesting; I doubt he'd pass with a heart void or lots of minor suit cards. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will be very sticky for declarer. If I had QT87643 of hearts, I would bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

That was an eerie observation, John; in fact that was the exact heart holding when this problem arose! We removed the 7 and the 6 (and upped the vulnerability) because we felt the 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid was too obvious otherwise. The problem is from British Bridge magazine, but unfortunately there was no full deal.

Hand Two - North deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQ32
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q4
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T763


West North East South
  3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?


Call Award %
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 74 63
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 11 21
Dbl 40 16 13
Pass 10 0 3

Our next problem finds us on the receiving end of partner's preemptive effort. Fortunately we are vulnerable, so we can trust partner to be in a narrow and disciplined range... right?

Ron Landgraff: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may make or be down 1 or 2 at the most. 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) should have reasonable play with the vulnerable, first seat, preempt. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I will double.

Emil Battista: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A 3 level pre-empt at unfavourable vulnerability should be based on a bit more than "I have 7 cards in suit therefore I bid 3". If Paul Marston was sitting opposite I would be confident that he would not hold a 4 card side suit. Pass, double or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may all work out better.

Michael Burt: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Assuming partner is reliable, at the vulnerability partner should be within 2 tricks of making. I have 4 tricks plus the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q. Making 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) should be a better than 50% proposition.

Daniel Skipper, Pontus Silow: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Cos it's going to make. 

Alexander Cook: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner should have a good suit for 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Double and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) are highly speculative.

Barbara Whitmee: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner should have seven winners for his vul pre-empt. Prefer to support diamonds than introduce the spades. West could have four or five spades. My partner does not have four, and East would bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with more than one spade loser.

Guy Herzmark: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North should have 7 playing tricks in diamonds, I have four more plus images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q making 11.

Kees Schaafsma: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 10 iron-clad tricks in diamonds are enough to hope for an eleventh and too much to double. Not tempted to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which probably fails if dummy doesn't deliver the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A.

Some even considered a slam:

Michael Smart: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hoping partner doesn’t have the perfect hand (images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AK, tripleton spade, singleton club).

Alex Kemeny: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If we played disciplined preempts, partner would be showing 8 tricks and so would almost certainly have images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A or images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K, in which case I would bid 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). But using AB, I will chicken out with 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Are you calling us undisciplined? Fair enough, I guess this forum has a bit of a history -- but vulnerable we are almost always up to strength.

Several people wanted to bid a natural 4NT, but no one believed it was possible. I think 4NT makes a lot more sense as natural than as Blackwood here, and it's a clear winner on the actual hand. An interesting point for partnership discussion.

Phil Gue: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I might have tried 3NT rather than 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if East had passed, but I think I have enough tricks for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) unless they take 2 club tricks and a trump trick. After all partner has opened vulnerable. I'd love to try 4NT natural but partner is likely to think otherwise!

Jacco Hop: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4NT natural seems to be the bid. Unfortunately that is not what it means. Gambling 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems like a mistake since you need spades to run for 4 tricks which is far from certain. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not wise since if you have to exit with a trump you are likely down. If they start with 3 club tricks that is kind of bad luck.

Rainer Herrmann: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4NT should probably be natural here but I am not prepared to risk it undiscussed.

Peter Vlas: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't like to look silly when they pick up 4+ club tricks in 4NT (if partner understands it is to play). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be an enormous and ridiculous gamble.

Robert Black: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I was planning to bid 3NT, but the Director may rule against me if I try that now.

Ron Lel: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Non vul vul this would be a very easy pass. At this vulnerability, the 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid should be worth something. You have three possibilities, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 4NT and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a bit dangerous as the opps won't rescue you by doubling if it is wrong, 4NT would be great if partner read it as "to play", but it isn't and she won't, so 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) it is. This should have a decent play.

A few people thought the spade suit was worth a look, but contrary to Ron's comment, many of them were indeed hoping the opponents would rescue them:

Don Hinchey: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is tempting; 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is convincing.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I may pull to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if doubled, but I am bargaining on partner not having too many club losers.

David Woulds: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If it gets whacked, I may retreat to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Carl Brueckner: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Running to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if doubled.

Sam Arber: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Should show some tolerance for diamonds.

Tony Treloar: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's hope that partner does the right thing.

JC Clement: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With a good chance to make it!

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Have a feeling 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could make, so choice is Pass or compete. So I compete.

Pass received very little support, but the choice is backed up with hard math:

Bridge Baron: Pass. Pure simulation: minus 136.25 for passing, minus 285.5 for doubling, minus 344.50 for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Fraser Rew: Pass. I must be getting old.

The more common defensive approach was to hope for a penalty (although one of the doublers thought it was for takeout):

Tim Trahair: Dbl. Forcing, and telling P we have values in the black suits. Together we seem likely to have about 24 HCP. Seems unlikely P will have four spades and we may well end up in 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Manuel Paulo: Dbl. I assume that there are 18 or 19 total tricks and that we win nine or more tricks at diamonds. Having chosen to double, because it is wrong if and only if they make 10 tricks at hearts (I should pass) or we make 11 tricks at diamonds (I should bid), I don't envisage to bid spades, as it looks somewhat adventurous.

Margaret Reid: Dbl. Should work -- maybe pd has images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A or images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K I'll lead images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A and look at dummy.

Charles Scholl: Dbl. Surest plus.

Dean Pokorny: Dbl. Taking sure profit. Both 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) are too speculative.

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. Double stands out for a free 100 marks. Partner and RHO have lots of red cards, so spades are unlikely to break. There's no guarantee that 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has ten tricks so double is a fair gamble and 300 may be necessary if we can make a partscore in diamonds.

Nigel gets his 100 free marks, less 60% penalty for conceding a doubled game: total mark 40. The actual top score went to the raise of partner's suit, in a landslide vote for both experts and readers:

Stephen Bartos: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) looks like making on this distribution; if opponents compete at the 5 level, can double then.

Derek Pocock: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hoping for discards when heart lead is taken and spades cashed.

Graham Wakefield: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Likely to be better than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), for which partner will often not have even 3 card support.

Doris Anderson: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North must have at least 6 winners in diamonds. My hand has four winners once trumps are cleared. It's worth risking that North has one more winner, and it is a better bet than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Frank Campbell: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Only logical bid. Where will my club losers go in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)?

David Matthews: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With East holding at least 7 or 8 hearts, the penalty may not be enough. 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) figures to make most of the time.

Many people suggested that although we have 11 tricks, they might get three first. You can't cater for this though, so it didn't affect their choice:

Roger Yandle: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Double, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or even 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might be right. Hopefully partner doesn't have three small clubs.

Tania Black: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Should make unless they can cash three top clubs.

Dan Baker: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Figure partner for six tricks, I've got five more (counting the trump Q). Hope partner doesn't have three little clubs.

Henri de Jong: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hopefully we haven't got three quick club losers. We have far more chance for +600 than +800.

John Donovan: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Ace of opps suit and good hand - worth a shot. P may be able to discard clubs on your spades.

Martyn Rew: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). You're welcome, partner. Heart lead will help.

Barbara Hunter: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Fingers crossed.

Michael Davy: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Our good spade holding might be a myth if we defend. Hopefully partner is short in clubs.

Murray Perrin: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or double is a toss up as 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make as opps have clubs. Depends on lead.

Yes, there's another advantage of 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes); it could be a two-way shot, in case 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) makes:

Nigel Kearney: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We have a fair chance of 11 tricks and they may well go to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Also 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may be making. The problem with 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is that LHO can choose to defend when 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is down and sacrifice otherwise.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). And then double everything that they bid. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make, 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might make. Other contracts: probably not.

Richard Morse: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This slightly depends on the style of opening preempts at unfavourable vulnerability but 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) should not be far away and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is no certainty to go down.

Liston Meintjes: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). You have to try 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Everyone else will! On a heart lead, you may be able to drop club losers on the good spades. Can they make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? You are probably looking at one heart and two spade winners and then? So, of course, you have to go for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) even if you go off two (doubled?).

John R. Mayne: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Law of total whatsis? Maybe they'll bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Maybe they can make and we're down only one. It looks sick, but I think this is better than shooting 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and both double and pass look very unattractive.

The full deal:

spades 765
hearts 6 
diamonds AK98652
clubs Q2
spades J1084
hearts 532
diamonds J103
clubs 985
spades 9
hearts KQ109874
diamonds 7
clubs AKJ4
spades AKQ32
hearts AJ
diamonds Q4
clubs 10763

We can make any of our likely contracts, including 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 4NT. The opponents can make their 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At the table South doubled 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), a spectacular failure.

Hand Three - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J865432
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K764


West North East South
  1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 74 53
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 11 19
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 11 5
Pass 40 5 17
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 3
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 2
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 1

Our next problem attracted answers for four different levels of clubs, from passing 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to jumping to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). An impressive result when you consider that 85% of the experts chose not to show clubs at all! Let's look at the club supporters, starting at the bottom:

Ron Landgraff: Pass. Game appears unlikely with the at least partial misfit. Of course, partner could be 6-4 with great hearts, but with an average hand we could be down a big number if partner drives to game or even 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My glass is half empty.

Duncan Roe: Pass. I already bid my 7 HCP. There might be the odd overtrick, but I can't see us getting to game.

Doris Anderson: Pass. I don't see us in game, so partscore in clubs looks good.

Frank Campbell: Pass. I have 7 points and 7 losers, partner is minimum and I can't see us going places. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may well play ok but at IMPs I don't want to find out. A weak jump shift as my first bid may have been better.

Emil Battista: Pass. Looking like we found our best spot. I will show signs of life when opponents bid diamonds - but only if they bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Liston Meintjes: Pass. North probably has six hearts and five clubs (at least 5-4) - and probably no spades or just one. you cannot go on in spades and your images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K may not be worth 3 points. So pass as this is the best fit. The opponents may enter the bidding (in diamonds) and your partner will get a chance to tell you if he has anything else to say. Will you bid spades over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)?

Pontus Silow: Pass. Well...I'm happy.

Upgrading the hand to a move towards game:

Dan Baker: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Crazy hand to evaluate. Give partner xx-KQJxx-QJx-Axxx and 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is too high; Void Axxxx Axx AJxxx might even make 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (although it's odds-against). We have one fit and a potential crossruff, but there's no chance of setting up the long spades since the only entries are on the crossruff.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hope this is positive enough.

Larry Brose: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm ready to bid spades again.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner accepts the light invite (say, with 3NT), I will offer 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the way to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If we have a game, I'll have to make the one positive sound I can. The spades aren't good enough for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be (a lot) weaker than this.

Michael Smart: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not proud of the raise, but if partner has enough for another bid, the spade game remains in the picture.

Margaret Reid: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Show support.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Support with support. Should pard decide to pass, nothing is wasted.

Robert Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We have a fit. Hoping to hear something more from partner, preferably 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With silent opponents (for now) where are the diamonds? Partner probably has 1-5-3-4 shape (or a void spade). Give up on spades. Give up on game. With 17 total tricks likely we should always compete to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Daniel Skipper: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Worth one push.

None of the 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders chose to give a comment, although there were quite a few of them. And just one comment in support of 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes):

Michael Burt: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have a 7 loser hand in clubs, partner has opened (7 loser hand or better), the opposition hasn't bid and so the hand is worth an invite.

The majority felt that playing in spades would be the best way to get full mileage from the spade suit (although some got a little over-excited): 

Murray Perrin: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forcing; partner will bid either 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 3NT after 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 3NT bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) shape is great. Had a similar hand the other day which made 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Fraser Rew: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Based on zero experience with this sort of hand.

Martyn Rew: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner having four clubs makes this hand look a lot more impressive.

Manuel Paulo: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). To bid game looks foolery, but one spade in partner's good hand may be enough, as in this layout:
spades x
hearts AKxxx 
diamonds Axx
clubs Axxx
spades KQx
hearts Q10xx
diamonds 10xxxx
clubs J
spades A10
hearts Jxx
diamonds QJxx
clubs Q10xx
spades J865432
hearts 5
diamonds K
clubs K764

The top score went to the simple non-forcing 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid.

Graham Wakefield: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner is likely to be very short in spades as neither opponent has mentioned diamonds yet, but probably will if allowed at the two level. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will still have good play given the club side suit fit.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Another free 100 marks. Game is unlikely but spades are a better prospect than clubs.

John Donovan: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Assuming p is showing five hearts and four clubs and slightly better than minimum opener, your partnership could still have just 21 HCP. The spades aren't worth much though and may have 3 losers - but you must show your extra length.

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I wait to hear why rebidding your admittedly weak seven card major suit is wrong here.  

Carl Brueckner: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not enough value for a club raise so I'll play in my 7-1 spade fit and hopefully 7-2.

Don Hinchey: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Old age makes one timid.

Guy Herzmark: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's bid is non-forcing; prefer clubs to hearts; little chance of game; but 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will probably score more than 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) even if partner is void in spades.

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Show the long major rather than latching onto clubs.

Peter Qvist: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The alternative is 3diamonds, splinter, but with nearly half of my points in the splinter suit, naaa.

Bridge Baron: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The seven-bagger doesn't cause Bridge Baron to break system here: five or more spades, less than a game force.

Alexander Cook: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The spades will be useless in a club contract.

Wayne Somerville: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Where are the diamonds? Partner probably has them too, so stay low.

While 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not encouraging at all (in spite of a couple of the comments in the next block), a huge number of people entertained hopes that partner would still find a raise:

Ron Lel: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hoping to hear partner raise. It is unlikely, I know, but this hand is likely to play better in spades than in clubs. Good hand for weak jump shifts.

JC Clement: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Can't pass, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be on...

Toby Weinstein: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hope pard can support spades or rebid clubs.

Jacco Hop: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My hand won't play that well in clubs usually. I have a 7 card suit and that is rebiddable for me. Our most likely game still is 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Charles Scholl: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I owe partner another bid with this holding and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is still possible if partner can continue.

David Matthews: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner has any support then game is a good chance so I must try that option. The likelihood is that I will be struggling opposite a singleton or void.

Christer Enkvist: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). As soon as we get a 2-card support from partner we will be in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Unfortunately, if we raise in clubs partner often bids 3NT and we will have no idea what to do.

Well I'd know what to do: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). But getting the spade suit in now is much better.

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Confirms we have 6+ spades and leaves the bidding open. If P tries 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 4th suit forcing, we will end up in 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). However he may well have a couple of spades.

Peter Vlas: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner starts to bid silly things we at least have an escape in clubs now. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be NF, constructive.

John R. Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A club game is not really in the picture. If 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) gets passed out, it's probably right.

Richard Morse: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Long suit worth one more try despite the quality.

David Woulds: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Passing 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) could easily be the only way to achieve a plus, but at this scoring, I have to show at least six spades in case pd has extras and support.

Tony Treloar: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tells the story of the hand I think. Partner might find another bid with extras otherwise I expect to make this. Don't think I can make game unless partner has another bid.

Roger Yandle: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This is a bit of an underbid but it doesn't stop partner from bidding on with the right hand.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Why not? If North can make more noise we may have game.  

Hand Four - East deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQT65
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A52
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJ6


West North East South
    1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?
Call Award %
Dbl 100 53 68
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 47 32
Other 0 0 1

As we discussed last month, the point range of a simple overcall has been gradually increasing over the years, largely due to the need to prepare for vigorous competition from Bergen-trained opponents. One reader last month even suggested an overcall with 20 points. So here is a simple textbook problem, a modern referendum on the cutoff point between a power double and a direct overcall. With the expert vote split right down the middle, this hand appears to be the actual borderline.

Mike Lawrence: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). In 1960, you could double with this hand and hope to have time to sort it out. Now if you double, you hear the bidding at 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or higher before you get a second chance. This way, I can double later which feels best.

Tim Bourke: Dbl. Double. This is bidding 101. How can this be a problem for this forum?

I think Mike's reasoning is more convincing than Tim's (but then I did hand pick these two comments to support my own view). Most of the panellists stated that it was a close decision, and several of the readers agreed:

Nigel Kearney: Dbl. For me this is right on the boundary between 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and double.

John R Mayne: Dbl. A horse race, huh? I'm certain that over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), you should bid 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with KQT65-5-A52-AKJ6, but I'm less sure here.

Dan Baker: Dbl. Just strong enough for double-then-2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

JC Clement: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Difficult decision between 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and double.

Ron Lel: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Double is certainly a possibility and I would not quibble if partner doubled. The modern tendency seems to be to bid on a 5-card suit these days unless you are so strong that you have to double. This hand does not qualify for that.

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A matter of style. However, over spade raises 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) followed by double leaves you well placed.

Jacco Hop: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bid hearts first, double for takeout later. Double then double is fine as well but my strong heart suit seems biddable to me.

The majority of readers were much more decisive about their choice, although many of the doublers simply echoed Tim Bourke's comment:

David Matthews: Dbl. Is there any other choice? More interesting is the continuation over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Richard Morse: Dbl. What else? (I hope this is the majority choice!)

Alex Kemeny: Dbl. I have a takeout double of 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Michael Burt: Dbl. 12+ points, 3 card support in all unbid suits, this looks to be a textbook takeout double bid. What am I missing?

Emil Battista: Dbl. I must be missing something vital here. But double looks like the right start to describing this hand.

Tony Treloar, Peter Vlas, Barbara Whitmee: Dbl. This is too good for an overcall.

Christer Enkvist: Dbl. Way too strong for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Interestingly, while the readers' votes favoured Double by a margin of 2 to 1, the number of comments received was equal for each choice. Draw your own conclusions from that. Here are the rest of the arguments for Double:

Graham Wakefield: Dbl. Dbl is significantly more descriptive for partner than a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid. Another turn awaits, and we will need to solicit partner's input then if not already provided.

Ron Landgraff: Dbl. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could easily lose game or slam. I'd like another heart and/or heart honour, but I don't have such.

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. A good hand can show the hearts after partner's reply.

Bridge Baron: Dbl. Bridge Baron doubles on most patterns with this strong of a hand, especially with no doubleton (or shorter) and only one tripleton in the unbid suits.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. Not quite the right shape for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and possibly too strong. Where we go next depends on what P bids. Game could well be on.

Kees Schaafsma: Dbl. Over pard's 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) shows hearts and clubs.

Robert Black: Dbl. Partner will expect me to have 6 if I overcall 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but may not if I bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over his 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The real problem will come finding a bid over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Doris Anderson: Dbl. Whatever bid North makes, I can then show my hearts.

One factor skewing the data in favour of Double, is the fact that we have given you a reasonably takeout-suitable shape. If we moved one or two diamonds into the spade suit, I'm sure there would be a spike in favour of 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (even if we increased the hand to 18 or 19 points):

Margaret Reid: Dbl. Good to double if short in opps suit. Will show hearts if necessary later.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. Happy to be dummy in any of the other three suits - will raise hearts.

Guy Herzmark: Dbl. Best to show support for all unbid suits; if partner has a spade stop 3NT may be on, or another game if not.

Michael Smart: Dbl. Covers all possibilities. I'm content to pass 2-minor, and over any other action by partner I can show my strength and the fifth heart.

Larry Brose: Dbl. I'm looking at partial game, so I want to find out what suit is best for partner.

Manuel Paulo: Dbl. This call would be quite correct with the same values and 1444. I don't see that the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)6 converted in the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)6 makes a great difference.

Alexander Cook: Dbl. This hand is too strong for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) for me. The 1534 shape screams double. If opponents raise to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I can double again.

Liston Meintjes: Dbl. What a perfect hand for a takeout double. You will probably get a chance to show your hearts depending on the subsequent bidding.

John Donovan: Dbl. You can support anything your p bids. If you bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) it could be dropped and you miss out on a game contract that you should be looking for here. If p bid 1NT you can safely go 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then.

Looking now to the 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders, who all noticed that it would be inconvenient to show the hearts later after the opponents choose their preferred level of spades:

Dean Pokorny: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Since there is a danger of being preempted in spades, bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and doubling spades is the optimal strategy.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Followed by double. Better than Double then 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This auction could get ugly quickly.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). And a double later to show this maximum overcall.

Frank Campbell: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bid what I've got. Double or 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) are future possibilities depending on what happens next.

Don Hinchey: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Expecting to have an opportunity to further describe my hand.

Charles Scholl: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The hand is strong enough to double first and then bid my suit, but the suit is not great, the bidding is unlikely to stop here, and I can show added strength later.

Pontus Silow: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I prefer to show my five-card major first and then announce extra values. If I double first and West has a preemptive raise to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I am awkwardly placed.

Wayne Somerville: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I will double any number of spades next time around.

Daniel Skipper: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I've got a suit to bid.

David Woulds: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) comes back, we are well placed to double for takeout.

Roger Yandle: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner can't move over this then I doubt we've missed anything. I'll double 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if it comes back to me.

Michael Davy: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If West passes then North may join the party.

Stephen Bartos: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It would be exaggerating the strength of this hand to double then show hearts if partner bid either of the minors.

Toby Weinstein: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not strong enough to double then bid hearts.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Prefer to bid hearts first, then double later (if given another chance) than reverse the order of these actions.

Murray Perrin: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Strong hand, yes, but do you want to introduce hearts at the 3 or 4 level e.g. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) back to you, double on next bid?

Peter Nuoristo: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Then possibly I can double their spade bid.

Fraser Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Unless my suit is bad, I prefer to overcall and then double. I'd prefer to have better hearts, but by my lights this is just enough.

Naturally we have no full deal for this problem, it was just constructed to find out how many people are willing to overcall with 17 points. The answer turns out to be "about half". I'll be back in a couple of years with a 19-count.

Hand Five - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ654
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A87
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ92

West North East South
  1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?


Call Award %
6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 37 39
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 5 3
6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 5 0
Pass 90 32 6
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 5 41
Dbl 50 16 10
Other 0 0 2

Our final problem is a matter of valuation, where the opponents have forced us to make an immediate decision at an uncomfortable level. A handful of readers followed the well known rule, "the five level belongs to the opponents":

John Donovan: Dbl. East is sacrificing over our assumed 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a risky contract - p only bid 3, not 4, over the interference.

Barbara Whitmee: Dbl. Hoping for plus 800. Could bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but West could have images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K.

Leigh Matheson: Dbl. My heart holding is too strong to bid on.

Alex Kemeny: Dbl. Only bid 5 over 5 with extreme shape.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. They have sacrificed and we need to extract the full penalty for that. 5 of a major is a horrible contract -- even with partner promising support.

Nigel Kearney: Dbl. We could have 11 tricks and only collect 300 from 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x but quite often this won't be the case so I am taking the money.

Frank Campbell: Dbl. We should defeat this comfortably.

Fraser Rew: Dbl. It's tempting to bid slam, but partner has shown a minimum-ish hand, and I have a lot of losers to dispose of. I may go +500 vs +650, but I think it will normally be a lot better than that.

So if the five level belongs to the opponents, what about the six level?

Murray Perrin: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Depends on style and what 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) shows. I take it as 15 plus or great shape so same thing.

Emil Battista: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Double should give us a positive. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) likely to give us a bigger positive. 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) the biggest positive if opponents think I have a heart void the heart loser can disappear on a diamond winner after trumps are drawn. Sometimes partner holds the right cards and opponents misdefend!

Stephen Bartos: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). East trying to obstruct us investigating slam is a good indication that slam is on: why not take advantage of that information?

Damo Nair: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hoping for an honour to 4 trumps in the North hand.

Pontus Silow: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I wonder if 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) - or even pass - by East would have been more effective than that jump.

Ron Landgraff: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It could be a 4 or 6 hand. This time I see the glass as half full. If it was a long match, I might double and take the sure plus.

Tim Trahair: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a double fit and by the look of it 30+ HCP if we play in spades. EW are muddying the waters as best they can. P doesn't know how strong we are so to bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may mean we miss slam.

Margaret Reid: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Will make on a good day. Pd won't have too many hearts and we have a diamond fit.

Guy Herzmark: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No space to check controls but partner has reversed so should be 16 or more points. Assuming no points in hearts and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)KQJ and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)KQ gives 11 -- so North has probably got images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)AQ or void heart.

Some of the 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders were not high on confidence, which is to be expected when bidding under such pressure:

Toby Weinstein: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be the limit.

Richard Morse: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Anything might make from 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so I will bid what feels like the percentage shot.

Wayne Somerville: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hate hanging partner for competing, but slam makes on the likely heart lead opposite AQxx-xx-KQxxx-xx and I'd expect a slightly better hand. My main fear about bidding slam is the fact that partner is not that unlikely to have a singleton heart too.

Charles Scholl: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No wasted values in either hand, partner can't bid it over 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) by me, and it should have reasonable play. Downside is that it might not make and might not be bid at the other table.

A couple of people, panellists and readers, had an ulterior motive for bidding the slam:

Andrew Robson: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). (1) I may make (2) They may take the save in which case I don't care whether I make.

Larry Cohen: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No way to intelligently investigate a grand slam, so I won't bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I expect to make this (partner could be shaded, but still has a good hand). Even if I am wrong, it may induce a phantom save.

Derek Pocock: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No way of knowing but may push them to 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which we can cheerfully double maybe for 1400!

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Feels right. Opposite an ace and two kings we're almost home. Partner should have slightly more. And we can always double 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) :)

Graham Wakefield: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even if partner has stretched to bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a spade slam would be unlucky not to have a 50% chance, and could be cold. And EW are still under pressure to consider 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

While the majority of the readers were not willing to go to the six level, a handful of people were considering seven:

David Woulds: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is very optimistic, there aren't many hands for pd to bid only 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and the grand is laydown, but I have to ask the question. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems wimpish, surely pd can't be any worse than AQxx-x-KQxxx-Kxx to bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Peter Qvist: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Invitation to 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Don Hinchey: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We could make five or seven. I'm going to try to split the difference. (Easier to sell to teammates if it goes wrong!)

Kees Schaafsma: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No grand slam tries with freaky distributions around.

Christer Enkvist: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Sometimes the only way to seven is through simple bidding.

A handful of readers (and a third of the panel) felt the best way to find the best level was to start with a forcing pass. We don't actually discuss forcing passes in AB Standard -- it's a very basic system -- but (almost) everyone is in agreement that this auction certainly qualifies, with the opponents holding a passed hand opposite a preempt.

Peter Vlas: Pass. It should be clear to North that we have the majority of points and that this is a forcing pass. Why else would East bid a preemptive 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)?

JC Clement: Pass. Obviously forcing; if partner doubles, we will then bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), showing a hand near the slam.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Pass and Pull should show some encouragement for going on.

Robert Black: Pass. Who knows? I think we were due to make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and think that 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is failing. Doubling may stop partner going on to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to make.

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bit of a hole in Bridge Baron's logic here: it simulates to see that doubling, at +471.5, is marginally better than 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), at +445.6. But it then decides its hearts are too weak to double, and passes instead. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is probably best.

That computer gets more human every month.

Dan Baker: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't think this is a forcing-pass auction (we weren't committed to game by the auction yet, although I was certainly heading there). If it were, I'd pass and pull. As it is, I'm put to a guess, and I'll guess that slam is better than the 50-50 bet it has to be for this to break even.

Ron Lel: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pass is clearly forcing at this vulnerability and playing with a real partner I would pass, then bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over a double as a slam try. However this is an action that the partnership clearly needs to have discussed. I am just going to punt 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here, knowing full well this may be wrong as partner may well be under pressure to bid over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Jacco Hop: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In standard I think pass is NF although it is clear they are saving here. Partner will bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on almost any hand with four spades. I would like to make a slam try here but since pass is NF I have to make a guess myself. I choose to bid only 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) since partner will often have short hearts as well and that is very bad for our chances in slam. Doubling is probably 300 and that is not enough for 650. If it is slam they might save against it and we won't lose that many imps. maybe a poker style 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid is best since they will think you are cold and save. With a real 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid he would have bid 4 now so I will try to score 650.

The largest reader vote was for the conservative 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), with 41% of the vote (and one lone expert):

Michael Ware: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bidding more is tempting, but partner could only manage 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) so I'll go quietly. Occasionally it is right to bid 5 over 5.

Barbara Hunter: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Does the five level belong to the opposition?

John R. Mayne: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Doubling is shooting for +300, and slamming is headed into probable heart duplication and bad breaks in the minors. Today, the five level belongs to us.

David Matthews: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The five level belongs to the opponents unless you are cold for 11 tricks vulnerable. There is a nice double fit but I will leave the slam decision to partner as he may have stretched over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Michael Burt: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x needs to be four down for a good score and may only be two or three down. On the bidding partner may well have one heart and we may also be missing a king and queen - slam looks questionable. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a compromise - good opposition bidding.

Manuel Paulo: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I expect to make 11 or 12 tricks, but proposing slam -- via pass and pull - is too extreme.

Tania Black: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have one more spade than I promised. and I think that East is void in the suit, so 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may be making.

Alan Jones: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It sounds as if partner and I are playing with a 30 point deck.

True, and holding about 27 of those 30 points.

Tony Treloar: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The vulnerability is in favour of 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) -- more afraid of making twelve tricks than ten as it is likely that we have very few values in hearts.

Roger Yandle: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). partner might have the right cards for slam but I'm not sure how to find out without committing us anyway.

Dean Pokorny: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Since 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) shows a decent offensive hand with no heart wastage, partner could raise it to slam with an excellent shapely hand (say: AQxx-xxx-KQJxx-x), trying to aim the "Rule of 26".

Michael Davy: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). tempted to bid the slam but partner may anyway.

Michael Smart: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With a void heart partner may have done more than bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), so I expect to lose images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and minor trick on most days.

We'll give the final word for the year (and another 100 points) to Nigel, who leaves us with a Christmas message:

Nigel Guthrie: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A poker semi-bluff. 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may not be makeable but you intend to risk a double if opponents take out insurance. Happy Christmas and thank you for all the challenging and instructive bidding competitions! November problem 1 may lead optimists astray but the other four are easier and should provide a Christmas gift to everybody of 400 free marks!

Thanks Nigel, and thanks for your insightful comments over the last few years; you've certainly had more than your fair share of perfect scores. Not this month though; the perfect scores went to Gareth, Christer, Pravin, Damo and Bruce.
Gareth Birdsall's 500 score springs him into the top spot for the year. Gareth (pictured) is from Hampshire England. He represented England in the 2003 World Youth Teams, finishing 7th, and placed 25th out of 220 in the 2001 World Junior Pairs. As the Readers' Race winner for the year, Gareth will be joining our magazine's expert panel for 2012. Special thank you to last year's winner Paul Gipson, who has filled the guest spot admirably in 2011.

Thanks to everyone for all your comments; happy holidays, and we hope to see you all again next year. We already have an unusual selection of problems online for our first forum of 2012 -- you can get off to an early start here.



Top scores for December 2011
1Gareth Birdsall ENG500
1Christer Enkvist SWE500
1Pravin Nahar NSW500
1Damo Nair USA500
1Bruce Ballard NZL500
6Dan Wälivaara SWE490
6Don Hinchey 490
6Peter Nuoristo SWE490
6Ron Lel LAO490
10Rainer Herrmann GER480
10Mark Laforge IND480
12Henri De Jong Vic470
12Alexander Cook NSW470
12Kay O'Connor NSW470
12Joe Gold WA470
12 John R Mayne USA470
12Fredrik Jarlvik SWE470
12Tom Estenson USA470
12Graham Wakefield NZL 470
12Niek Van Vucht ACT470
12Bastiaan Korner NED470
12Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN470
12Roger Leliaert BEL470
24Michael Davy Vic460
24Kees Schaafsma NED460
24Gary Lane NSW460
24Peter Vlas NED460
24Tom Moss NSW460
24Valter Johansson SWE460
24Stephen Bartos ACT460
24Roger Yandle NSW460
24Dan Baker USA460
24Ian Patterson Qld460
24Rick Lu NSW460
35Ig Nieuwenhuis NED450
35John Donovan ACT450
35Daniel Skipper NZL450
35Murray Perrin Qld450
35David Woulds GBR450
40JC Clement 440
40Ron Landgraff USA440
40Richard Morse GBR440
40Ivan Demeny NSW440
40Peter Qvist DEN440
40Peter Stride Qld440
40Peter Tarlinton NSW440
40David Matthews WA440
40Guy Herzmark GBR440
40Emil Battista NSW440
50Martyn Rew NZL430
50Jacco Hop NED430
50Carl Brueckner 430
50Nigel Guthrie GBR430
50Tony Treloar Qld430
50Michael Smart ACT430
50Derek Pocock WA430
50Paul Janicki CAN430
50Toby Weinstein USA430
50Vedran Zoriæ 430
50Barbara Hunter NSW430
50Sam Arber Vic430
50Pontus Silow SWE430
63Nigel Kearney NZL420
63A Macalister 420
63Leigh Blizzard Tas420
66Jim Thatcher NSW410
66Trish Whitton NSW410
66Liston Meintjes 410
66Leon Slonim Vic410
70Charles Scholl 400
70Tim Runting Qld400
70Boris Richter CRO400
70Bram Amsel USA400
70Bridge Baron USA400
70David Johnson CAN400
70Pat O'Connor NSW400
70John Sheean NSW400
78Robert Black SA390
78Alex Kemeny NSW390
78Wayne Somerville IRL390
78Barbara Whitmee Qld390

Final scores for 2011
1Gareth Birdsall ENG2790
2Mark Laforge IND2750
3Jacco Hop NED2720
4Nigel Guthrie SCO2680
4Valter Johansson SWE2680
4Dean Pokorny CRO2680
7Ron Lel LAO2660
8Rainer Herrmann GER2640
9Conny Wahlgren SWE2620
9Tom Moss NSW2620
11Fredrik Jarlvik SWE2610
12Ig Nieuwenhuis NED2590
13Tom Estenson USA2580
14Nigel Kearney NZL2570
14Paul Janicki CAN2570
14Wayne Somerville IRL2570
17Peter Stride Qld2560
17Henri De Jong Vic2560
19Damo Nair USA2540
20Roger Yandle NSW2520
20Peter Nuoristo SWE2520
22Peter Vlas NED2510
23Bram Amsel USA2500
24Murray Perrin Qld2490
24Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN2490
26Tony Treloar Qld2480
27Dominic Connolly NSW2470
28Gary Lane NSW2460
29Niek Van Vucht ACT2450
30Peter Tarlinton NSW2430
30Peter Qvist DEN2430
32Leigh Matheson NSW2420
32Leigh Blizzard Tas2420
34Kay O'Connor NSW2410
34Derek Pocock WA2410
36Arthur Porter SA2400
37Paul Freeland NZL2380
38Tom Kiss NSW2350
39Bastiaan Korner NED2340
40Dan Baker USA2330
40Sam Arber Vic2330
42Trish Whitton NSW2320
42Toby Weinstein USA2320
42Barbara Hunter NSW2320
45Robert Black SA2300
45Frank Campbell NSW2300
45Fraser Rew NZL2300
48Rick Giles USA2290
48Ian Patterson Qld2290
48Martyn Rew NZL2290
51Tim Runting Qld2280
51John R. Mayne USA2280
53Jim Thatcher NSW2270
53Don Hinchey 2270
53Zbych Bednarek POL2270
53Ron Landgraff USA2270
53Pontus Silow SWE2270
58Jack Lai HKG2260
58Pat O'Connor NSW2250
58David Johnson CAN2250
58Dan Wälivaara SWE2250
58Margaret Reid NSW2250
63Rick Lu NSW2230
63Kajsa Fröjd SWE2220
63Manuel Paulo POR2220
63Guy Herzmark GBR2220
63Tim Trahair NSW2220
68Michael Burt ACT2210
68Michael Davy Vic2210
70Alexander Cook NSW2170
71Duncan Roe Vic2150
72Alex Kemeny NSW2140
73Michael Smart ACT2130
74Geof Brod USA2110
75Ivan Demeny NSW2090
76Joe Gold WA2080
76Par Ol-Mars THA2080
76Tania Black SA2080
79Christer Enkvist SWE2050
79David Matthews WA2050
81Bridge Baron USA2040
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 March-May issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your December-February issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.