Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles -- March-May 2012

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, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK9762
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AK3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 87


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

2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is natural and game-forcing.

Call Award %
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 70 58
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 10 16
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 5 10
2NT 70 15 3
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 0 10
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 0 1
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 1
4NT 0 0 1

Welcome to the first forum of 2012. It's been a long time since our last issue -- this is because the magazine is now being published every three months instead of every two months. So from here on there will be only four forums per year, with the final one just before Christmas as usual.

Our first problem appears to be the easiest of the month, being the only one where more than a third of people found the winning answer. I've always thought the hardest problems are the ones where you have to bid a non-suit, but most of you had no trouble with this:

Todd Holes: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). While a white lie, this allows partner to show 2-card support with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) since he already denied three. The 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid also shows stoppers if partner is interested in a notrump game.

Fraser Rew: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Give partner a chance to show a doubleton heart, or a desire to play in spades. A raise would be bad but if that's what happens, at least we've avoided 3NT, and can now work out which major suit game to play.

Don Hinchey: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Good problem with many plausible answers. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) advances the description of this hand while preserving maximum flexibility.

Hans van Vooren: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I'm not yet sure which is our best game, but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) leaves open most options. I'll support whatever partner does next (apart from the diamond raise, of course).

Ian McCance: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is more straightforward but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may help.

Ron Lel: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I hate bidding 3-card suits, but there is little option here. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may well endplay partner -- what is he going to bid with six spades a stiff heart and a club stopper? 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is flexible, allowing 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 3NT. Over 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), which is to play, of course and not a cuebid.

Murray Perrin: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I remember a similar one from one or two years ago, my answer was 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then but it was wrong.

Larissa Cowlishaw, Rainer Herrmann: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3NT may be the right contract.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This may allow us to find 3NT, and hopefully conveys more useful info than 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Graham Wakefield: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Waiting to hear again from partner. I will pass 3NT.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Find out if 3NT is right or wrong. Back in with hearts later if partner doesn’t like 3NT.

Robert Black: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I hope that helps partner to decide which major.

Lindsay Coker, Manuel Paulo: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Inviting no trumps, focusing on club weakness.

Tania Black: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Keeping it open, with options.

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Shows our strength and looking for game somewhere. Leaves the way open for NT if North has clubs well covered.

Guy Herzmark: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Shows stopper looking for 3NT or to convert 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Martyn Rew: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Probably end up in spades but see what partner thinks of his clubs.

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) not only gets us to the best contract, it also right-sides 3NT if that is where we end up:

Roger Yandle: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). It’s MPs so I've got to keep 3NT in play. If that's where we're heading then partner should play it as I've got nothing to protect.

Jacco Hop: 2NT. This could wrongside 3NT but at least it will make sure we get to the right major.

Dean Pokorny: 2NT. Main rule of good slam bidding -- whenever slam is possible, stay low. I don't care much about wrong-siding 3NT because most often we will play game/slam in a major suit, 3NT only if partner rebids 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Dean raises the issue of slam; while getting to the right game on this board was worth 70%, there are a few people looking for bigger things:

Bram Amsel: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If partner has the club ace, 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be makeable.

Larry Brose: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Next bid 4NT looking for slam.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This is a style question. Would partner be showing extras with a direct 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (while bidding a delayed 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with a dead minimum). How about with 6-3? This does have quite a lot of slam potential (AKQxxx-xx-xx-Axx is pretty good for 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and that is a 13 count, albeit a magic 13). I don't raise immediately because partner may still only have five spades and I don't want to potentially endplay partner with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) when I have spade tolerance (what does he do with AKTxx-x-xxx-AJxx?)

Sam Arber: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Would like to bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a cue for spades, but that isn’t in the box. Over 3NT bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4NT.

Michael Burt: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Slam in spades may be on if partner has clubs stopped. A 3NT response and I would investigate further.

Ron Landgraff: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Keeps 3NT open. Partner already knows I have good hearts. If 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) showed six I would support and then control bid in diamonds.

Ron wasn't the only one to mention the possibility that 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might show six:

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North has shown six spades so we have a fit. I'll leave it to North whether to bid the spade game or look for slam.

Bruce Ballard: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a fit so I will show this as soon as possible.

Wilma Domjan: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner did not jump so indicates six spades but a basic hand.

Margaret Reid: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pd has six so show support.

Archie Julien: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have already forced to game, and North shows a minimum with six spades. I think more can be gained by a raise with 2-card support than anything else.

David Monahan: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). As we are in a game force sequence, I would expect a club cuebid and then we can investigate slam -- with no club control, game is the likely limit.

Michael Smart: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Assuming that slow arrival is showing a better hand; will cooperate over a club cue.

Frank Campbell: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Set trumps and see if North has slam interest.

Peter Lipp: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Since partner can't pass, why not show the fit?

John R Mayne: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The only other choice is 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but this hand doesn't scream for notrump.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has a minimum hand -- did not rebid above his barrier. Probably eleven tricks only.

Richard Morse: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Two questions -- do I invite or insist? And do I fish around for 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), or just choose spades? I like the direct approach here, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

At least one of the above people has a long history of rebidding 5-card suits on this forum (you know who you are!) so it's ironic that this is the auction where they insist on six. While I normally rant and rave against rebidding 5-card suits at any time, this auction is an exception, as opener can have many hands where 2NT is misleading and 3-minor just consumes too much space.  

James Coutts: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Need better hearts for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and partner hasn't shown six spades yet.

Conny Wahlgren: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Since 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) only promises five spades I think 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is more flexible than 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Peter Vlas: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Nasty one, but this is probably the most flexible bid. I can't be sure of six spades with partner, so I don’t bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Let’s see if I can get a message from partner: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would mean honour-doubleton in hearts. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would promise a 6th spade. 3NT would confirm the misfit. The only bid I really do not want to see/hear is 4 in either minor, but that's unlikely as partner didn't bid 3m earlier.

Philip Hocking: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner likely 5233 with 12-15 HCP; I would like to know if partner has values in clubs as Matchpoint game in NT best scoring opportunity.

Charles Scholl: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Should be nearly unanimous, lets partner show real spade length, secondary heart support, or bid 3NT if that is the right action. If partner supports diamonds I'll sign off in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be a mark-time bid with say AKxxx-Qx-xxx-Axx, so 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be rather committal.

David Woulds: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Gives pd room to show Hx or xx heart support, which I'd follow with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Will pass 3NT.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has already denied three hearts, so can now show a doubleton. Without that, he'll focus on a decent club stop for 3NT. Over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I will bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

While 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) gives partner ample opportunity to support hearts, we have a significant group who were happy to insist on the hearts unilaterally:

Nigel Kearney: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will often be a five card suit and a 6-2 heart fit could easily be best. 

Dan Baker: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) does not promise six on this auction (especially over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might find a sensible 3NT when partner has clubs stopped, but this may miss a better 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)).

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bridge Baron plays 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as the "rebid of last resort", so there's no guaranteed eight-card major fit; therefore, the rebid showing six hearts stands out.

Damo Nair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is GF what's the hurry? Maybe North can cue clubs.

Emil Battista: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Just so that partner can bid spades again before settling for game.

Jack Lai: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner might be only 5 card spades. I try to show six hearts in order to find the best contract.

Tony Treloar: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems natural to show partner where we live.

Alan Jones: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Since we are in a GF auction, I will continue to describe my hand.

Christer Enkvist: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). When I bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in this auction I want partner to raise with support.

The full deal:

spades K97542
hearts 8
diamonds T5
clubs AKJ6
spades T86
hearts QJ105
diamonds 876
clubs Q103
spades AQ
hearts 43
diamonds QJ942
clubs 9542
spades J3
hearts AK9762
diamonds AK3
clubs 87

At the table South did bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), passing the problem over to North. Forced to make an immediate choice between 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 3NT, North opted for 3NT and missed an easy 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) game. It looks like natural bidding still has some room for development -- send your suggestions to

Hand Two - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJT53
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT53
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT3


West North East South
  1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) *
pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 2NT
pass 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass ?

2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is 4th suit forcing (artificial game force).

Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 50 6
3NT 90 45 84
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 0 1
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40 0 5
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 40 0 2
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 0 2

Our second problem will be a short one, with nearly everyone giving the same answer and many the same comment. While the panellists were split right down the middle, they came down on the side of the reader minority:

Philip Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner showing minimum points and potential 0634 shape and little interest in notrump. Reluctant agreement with hearts leaving partner to choose final contract.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Having a void in spades, partner's opening can be very thin, say: void-KJxxxx-Kxx-KJxx. Therefore, heart game seems to be right. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) allows partner to show some monster hand by cuebidding.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The problem revolves around the meaning of the delayed raise of the 4th suit, after I have shown a stopper there. It cannot be a half stopper or he'd have raised to 3NT. So it must show a few small ones. I give partner 0634 shape with strong rounded suits. If so, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a better place than 3NT. This gives him one more chance to place the contract, or even move toward slam.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Tolerance for hearts and slams.

Unfortunately that's it for the top scorers; the remainder all went for 3NT, some with a strong display of confidence:

James Coutts: 3NT. 26-30 HCP, no fit. What's the problem?

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. What else am I supposed to bid?

Lindsay Coker: 3NT. Always. Partner has one spade, maybe two small, something in the other suits. Hopefully not too much, as I love my tens.

Tania Black: 3NT. Spades stopped despite partner's void. And three other suits for tricks.

Margaret Reid, Guy Herzmark, Tony Treloar, Ig Nieuwenhuis, Barbara Hunter, and Frank Campbell: 3NT. Looks like the most likely game.

Bastiaan Korner: 3NT. Risky to bypass 3NT.

Michael Smart: 3NT. Sounds like 0634, so only one sensible bid.

Jacco Hop: 3NT. Partner doesn’t have extra length somewhere and is describing his hand. Is 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) five if we are GF? That would be normal in the American style but I am not sure about Australia.

Hans van Vooren: 3NT. Nice misfit, and partner's diamonds will be weak since he didn't bid NT himself. I pity West who is going to give me my ninth trick on the lead.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Isn't this where we were always headed with the misfit? If we had a spade fit, we'd know by now.

It may well be a misfit, but given that we are at the fourth round of the auction, and haven't supported hearts yet, it's unlikely partner would misled by a heart bid at this stage. And he has gone out of his way to make it convenient for us to offer that support. Several people instead focused on partner's minimum heart length:

Manuel Paulo: 3NT. Partner's 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) rebid doesn't show six cards; his more probable distribution is 1534 with minimal opening values.

David Woulds: 3NT. Pd seems to be a 1534 shape and minimum opening values.

John Donovan: 3NT. Seems here you have 4-3 fits in the minors and 5-1 fits in the majors so the slam is unlikely to be on. My guess is North is 1534.

Richard Morse: 3NT. Sounds like partner is 1534 (I assume he would have rebid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) rather than 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with five clubs). I’m giving up at this point -- 3NT.

Larissa Cowlishaw: 3NT. Partner can pull to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

A couple of people regret that they even gave partner the chance to look for the heart game:

Peter Vlas: 3NT. 15, no fit, forget it. I'm not even sure why I bid 2NT.

Leigh Matheson: 3NT. “Yes I do have diamonds stopped.” Partner’s 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (instead of 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)) technically denies the (17+) values we need for slam. So we could have just bid 3NT (two rounds) earlier.

As with the previous problem, while the actual deal provides a game swing just for avoiding 3NT, there is also the hypothetical issue of slam to consider. One of the panellists opted for a slam try, but the readers gave it just a passing thought:

Phillip Alder: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I think I should make some move now, partner seeming to be very short in spades and doing a lot of bidding missing all of those aces.

Don Hinchey: 3NT. I guess 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could be on; but 3NT seems normal, if a trifle conservative.

Sam Arber: 3NT. Can't see which slam is making, partner seems void in spades. Settle for 3NT.

Ian McCance: 3NT. Does this show four diamonds? Even so, surely 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is remote.

Dan Baker: 3NT. Hard time making sense of this auction. It feels like partner has to be 0544, but the 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) feels wrong then. I have a feeling 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) goes off on the obvious trump lead (to kill the crossruff), so I'll settle for 3NT unless partner can make a further move.

Fraser Rew: 3NT. If we're making slam partner will raise.

Tim Trahair: 3NT. It looks as if North has one spade at most and slam is unlikely to be on.

Archie Julien: 3NT. Wonderful controls, tens in three suits, but partner seems to be unencouraging. Let him do anything more.

Christer Enkvist: 3NT. With 0544 North could raise 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) so I guess that the diamond quality is poor so I'll stay out of this slam.

Ron Lel: 3NT. 3NT is a bit control rich, but partner has shown a stiff or void in spades, so I can discount my spade cards.

Graham Wakefield: 3NT. I have a good hand but the fit is awkward and I have already game forced. Partner's diamond support is belated so four cards are not guaranteed and the spades are good but probably unhelpful at a higher level.

John R. Mayne: 3NT. Surrendering rather than getting into a morass. Partner sounds 0634 and I don't see a parking place for the spades in a minor-suit slam. If partner has void-KQJ743-K94-KQ94, that's just too bad.

Charles Scholl: 3NT. Looks like partner must have more shape than originally promised, and my aces so let's look for the best slam -- probably clubs, unless partner bids hearts again.

I'm not sure 3NT will help us find a slam, but that's OK because we don't have one. In spite of the common view (among both readers and panellists) that we are "not quite good enough for slam", there are also a few who think we might already be too high:

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. This is not a happy sequence! Time to try to exit before the doubling starts.

Michael Burt: 3NT. This is looking like a misfit type situation with partner having 1534.

Duncan Roe: 3NT. Likely we'll lose AK of spades, but should be able to restrict them to no more than another two tricks.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. Looks like pard is 1534 (maybe 0634) so we haven't got a great fit. Should have enough power for 3NT.

Alan Jones: 3NT. It appears that partner is 1-5-3-4. We have the points. I hope we have 9 tricks!

David Monahan: 3NT. Partner's hand looks like a 0544 with good values in hearts and clubs, hopefully we can get nine tricks before opponents get five.

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. Our hand keeps getting worse, we don't appear to have a fit so let's land somewhere we can make. QJTxx appears wasted opposite a stiff or void, and we don't have any other trick sources for a slam.

A couple of the above comments recognised the possibility of six hearts with partner, but still they would not show their delayed support. Here are some more:

Kay O'Connor: 3NT. I think that partner is trying to say that he is 0634.

Emil Battista: 3NT. Looks like partner is 5440/6430 so I will go quietly.

Nigel Kearney: 3NT. Partner might have 1534 with no diamond stop or 0634 and be showing shape. I hope he bids again with something as good as void-KQJxxx-Kxx-KQxx because I can't really justify anything more encouraging than 3NT at this point.

Robert Black: 3NT. Another 15 pointer! Why did partner not bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) earlier? The diamond fit will help communications.

Partner didn't bid diamonds earlier because he doesn't have diamonds! He actually held 62-KJ9753-J-KQ84, and intended 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a general waiting bid, giving us a chance to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). There is no slam, but we do need to find the heart fit if we want to make game.

The deal is not from real life; the hand and auction are taken from the Bidding Challenge column which used to appear in the magazine some years ago.

Hand Three - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K2
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A542
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A7
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJT7


West North East South
      1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 1 pass 4NT
pass 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2 pass ?

1. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a splinter agreeing hearts.
2. Two keycards (images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K), but denies images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q.

Call Award %
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 40 16
5NT 100 5 10
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 25 4
7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 15 2
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 10 61
6NT 50 5 1
Pass 40 0 4
6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 1
7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 1

Barbara Hunter: 5NT. Should end in 6NT, something weird magazine says already 5NT bid.

Sam Arber: 5NT. That is what bidding forum did in magazine.

Alan Jones: 5NT. The magazine gives the next round of bidding! Over 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) I would sign off in 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Frank Campbell: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My magazine shows two further bids after 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't see why I would bid 5NT as in the magazine. Slam should not require much more than a 3/2 trump split.

Jim Thatcher: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bidding problem in AB magazine showed that South bid 5NT, answered by 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Prefer to bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately as 5NT shows images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q and interest in grand slam.

Ian McCance: Pass. This setting makes more sense than what was printed. I think it's too thin. We may be on 1 of 2 finesses but that at best.

OK, I guess I'd better explain exactly what went wrong here. When the magazine went to print, the auction was listed including an extra round of bidding (5NT from South and 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) from North). Our first two respondents, Eddie Kantar and Tim Bourke, quickly went up in arms over the 5NT bid, saying we are not allowed to make a grand slam try missing the "trump queen".

Fearing an avalanche of complaints, we decided to quickly remove the 5NT bid before any further answers came in. Minutes later, we received our first response to the new problem:

Ron Klinger: 5NT. Hoping to hear 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), no kings, which I intend to pass. If 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), one king, then 6NT.

Ironic, huh? A few of the readers went the same way:

Alex Kemeny: 5NT. I am not really asking for outside kings, since I know he will reply with 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), which I will pass. If I bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) myself, partner will take it as an asking bid in clubs with hearts set as trumps. He has a likely 5413 shape, but 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has too much chance of 2 trump losers. In 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), I can set up spades for a heart pitch. If partner has solid spades and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q we may have missed 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 7NT, but there is no way to find out.

Richard Morse: 5NT. And then choose between 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 6NT depending on the answer.

Don Hinchey: 5NT. Aside from denying the queen of hearts, responder hasn't strictly limited his hand. A grand slam in notrump is possible and 5NT will suggest that.

Emil Battista: 5NT. Just to pretend we are scientific before settling in 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

John Donovan: 5NT. You are committed to the small slam and if you get the 1K response you can try for seven -- else sign off in six (as you will be ruffing the second diamond).

Note that while a couple of the above readers are considering playing in 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) opposite no keycards, Klinger and Kemeny were wisely planning to pass 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and several have not yet ruled out a grand slam.

Obviously it would be totally out of line for me to criticise the two panellists whose books are scattered all through my library, but I think Bourke and Kantar were off base in complaining about 5NT. Yes, 5NT is a grand slam invitation, and yes, we are already missing the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q, but what cards could partner possibly have to accept such an invitation? Two black queens are all that's available, and if he was intuitive enough to bid seven with just those cards, surely he would be smart enough to bid the cold 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), not 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). How much better could his clubs be?

A few panellists didn't even feel the need to look for the black queens:

Frank Stewart: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Since North is missing the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q, I will gamble that he holds at least AJxxx-Kxxx-x-Qxx for his 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) slam try.

Phillip Alder: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner holds AQxxx-Kxxx-x-Qxx!

Andrew Robson: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Rates to play really well in clubs, facing Axxxxx-Kxxx-x-Qx. If partner does not hold images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q and elects not to pass, I trust he'll have the wit to bid 7images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with AQxxxx-Kxxx-x-xx in which case I'll try 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Nigel Guthrie: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner is a cockeyed optimist, this may depend on a finesse. Can partner really be much worse than AQxxx-Kxxx-x-Qxx?

Christer Enkvist: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). North’s distribution is 5413 (5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) denies a diamond void). 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should ask for second round control but partner may erroneously believe that hearts is a nice trump suit and raise to 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Dean Pokorny: 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If I bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), partner can take it as an asking bid for the 3rd round control in clubs and blast 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with, say, AQxxx-KJxx-x-Qxx. To avoid this, I simply bid the slam which should be most profitable in the long run, without putting much pressure on partner (Occam's Razor).

Alex, Christer and Dean have all mentioned that they made their choice on the assumption that 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was artificial, and they don't trust partner to bid 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) instead of 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). That does complicate the problem somewhat, as many people do play 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as an asking bid, a standard part of RKCB. Strangely, the man who literally wrote the book on RKCB did not see it that way:

Eddie Kantar: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Clubs should be a safer trump suit than hearts.

Michael Ware: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Assume this offers choice and is not asking for 3rd round control. Partner seems very likely to accept 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes); if not I will correct to 6NT.

Fraser Rew: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If this is a problem, I'm guessing 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) makes but 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doesn't. The problem is the premature RKCB, as partner's bidding so far is consistent with AQxxxx-Kxxx-x-Qx (bid 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)), AQxxx-KJ10xx-x-xx (bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), or 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if I need a swing) and Axxxx-Kxxx-x-xxx (6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) are both worse than a finesse). Now I have to punt, and if we're playing ancient systems, maybe 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is to play and not an asking bid.

No one else suggested that 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was anything other than natural, and that bid emerged as a clear winner:

Graham Wakefield: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Offering a choice of slams, and therefore emphasing the club suit quality. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may make even without the queen opposite while 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) fails due to trump break/quality.

Manuel Paulo: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner has something like AQxxx-Kxxx-x-xxx, with which we win 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) more often than 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Leigh Matheson: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A better contract than 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (assuming partner corrects to 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with a doubleton club). The club honours are the giveaway.

Michael Burt: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Bidding suggests partner has three clubs. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks safer than 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Missing images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q means there is quite possibly a heart loser and possibly two with a bad break. In clubs the 7images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) can be ruffed in the short hand. In clubs, there is the possibility of getting rid of the losing hearts on the spades.

Michael Smart: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). How strong does responder's 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) need to be opposite a reverse, anyway? Might lose two heart tricks on a bad day, so I'll give partner choice of 6-level contracts (in case he holds a 5413).

Rainer Herrmann: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I hope partner takes it as a suggestion to play if he has the club queen or three cards in clubs.

James Coutts: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Interesting problem. Would prefer to show this hand as strong balanced rather than a two-suiter; A542 looks like a suit for partner to emphasise, not us. Now we (surprise, surprise) have an issue with our trump quality. I'll bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and hope partner is interested in playing there.

David Woulds: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Offering choice of slams as pd's shape seems to be 5413 and clubs may well be better than hearts especially if spades can provide heart discards.

Todd Holes: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner is 5-4 in the majors with a stiff diamond... so, likely has three clubs. No need to key card, we are off the trump queen. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is the safer slam.

Mark LaForge: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Strongly disagree with 4NT. Partner is in a better situation to know what the best contract is. I would have bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Charles Scholl: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Want to be in safest slam and expect partner to pass with Kxxx in hearts and club tolerance (Qx or xxx), but correct to hearts with KJ10x.

The reader majority, by a huge margin, did not consider clubs as an option, leaving them to gamble on the position of the five outstanding hearts:

Dan Baker: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At the risk of looking stupid when I see the other comments, what's the problem? Trying for grand on (at best) a finesse in the trump suit is madness at IMPs, but we can't be missing enough to make the small slam a bad bet.

Roger Yandle: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This seems too obvious so I must be missing something here.

Larry Brose: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Don't need the 5NT king ask, because we're gonna end up at 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) anyway.

Peter Vlas: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Am I going to fish in murky waters like 6NT with a single diamond stop, or speculative 5-2 spade fits? Don't think so!

David Monahan: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Grand looks unlikely (possibly on a finesse).

Murray Perrin: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is IMPs; I prefer 6NT in Matchpoints but with IMPs 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is safer. Partner's hand is hopefully something like, on a good day AQJx-Kxxx-x-Qxxx, on a bad day the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q or images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)J might be missing.

Larissa Cowlishaw: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Missing five trumps may not be pretty.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Missing the queen (should partner offer it if he has five hearts?) this seems the limit. Contract could even fail on 4-1 hearts or three clubs with partner with the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q offside. A throw in with the last heart may avoid that after eliminating the spades and diamonds.

John R. Mayne: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). No. Just no. This can never be a problem; we never bid 4NT not knowing exactly what we're going to do next. As this is a problem, I'm sure I'm supposed to bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), ostensibly giving partner a choice -- but partner's going to leave this in all the time; he'll think I faked the reverse. If I'm in 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opposite two small, this is my fault.

That sounds convincing; but as Graham mentioned earlier, and Ron later, 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is still the best spot even if partner does have two small clubs. On a 4-2 club break or better, it's quite likely that the club queen will be our only loser, while 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may have no play on a 4-1 break.

Guy Herzmark, Jack Lai, Lindsay Coker, Margaret Reid: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not wise to bid seven on probable 4-4 fit with no queen.

Archie Julien: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner's two keycards and splinter could be all he has, in response to our reverse to show our big hand. It seems likely that we must lose one trump, and possibly a club if the finesse is offside. Go for any small slam that depends upon a finesse (but don't do that for a grand).

Nigel Kearney: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Perhaps I lack imagination but partner could have Axxxx-Kxxx-x-xxx or Axxxxx-Kxxx-x-xx and it looks like anything other than 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will risk ending in a silly contract. Also, our reverse could be prepared including 3325 and 2326 shapes so partner should regard spade or clubs bids as a signoff.

Bridge Baron: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Pure simulation. Even if the splinter shows 5-5 or better in the majors, 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) wins over 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), +1377.20 to +1117.85.

Bram Amsel: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The contract should depend on not more than a club finesse.

Ron Landgraff: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too many controls to give up on slam. Trumps not good enough for 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may fail with a heart and club loser but 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may make with a third round ruff in clubs or spades.

Wayne Somerville: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We have a potential slow club loser and trump loser, but I expect more than a 7-count for a splinter here. It could be an interesting play problem opposite AJxxx-KJxx-x-xxx.

Tony Treloar: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We have found out what we need to know. Should make unless the hearts break badly although might still need the club finesse.

In recognition of the confusion in the magazine, as well as the ambiguity of the 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid, I've significantly upgraded the scores for all of the sensible choices, including this next one:

Jacco Hop: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Never ask for aces if you don’t know how to handle the response. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) forces 5NT and now we have to guess if we have more. I think bidding 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) instead of 5NT is fine.

Damo Nair: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Since hearts have been agreed on 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should apparently be looking for a grand. So, if North has extra heart length like king-sixth of hearts then he can bid 7. Which means he has at least six spades and six hearts. Not impossible!

Ron Lel: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This is an excellent problem, not so much because of the nature of the problem itself, but rather because it should provoke some serious system discussion. In reality, your answer should depend on partnership agreements. Firstly, what constitutes a splinter over a reverse? Is it still 10-12, (ostensibly), or can it be weaker given that partner has shown a strong hand? Partner has shown something like Axxxx-Kxxx-x-xxx. Would partner splinter with this or is the splinter stronger, say AQxxx-Kxxx-x-Qxx? Opposite this hand, 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is an excellent contract. Let us dispense with the nonsense bids first; pass is clearly absurd. Secondly a heart contract is nowhere likely to be as good as a club contract, even if partner has six spades and a doubleton club. You state that 5NT would be a king ask, well in most sensible systems it would not as 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would ask for kings, and 5NT should ask for extras. However given the constraints of the problem, I am going to bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In your system, partner should bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q. Over a 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid I am going to shoot 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Over 5NT denying extras, I will bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), which is to play, of course, and may well be a far better contract than 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (just give an opp images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)QJTx for example). My heart suit is poor and I have no way of ascertaining if partner has the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)JT.

We'll finish this problem with two extreme views on our heart contract:

Leliaert Roger: Pass. North shows a possible 5413. It isn't sure partner has the queen of clubs. In that case, bidding a slam is on two finesses (hearts and clubs).

Hans van Vooren: 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). But only if we bid it fast. If West doesn't lead a trump, we'll take the finesse through him.

The full deal is fictional, from the 2004 classic The Principle of Restricted Talent by Danny Kleinman and Nick Straguzzi:

spades AQ764
hearts K1073
diamonds 3
clubs Q98
spades J9
hearts Q986
diamonds K10862
clubs 54
spades 10853
hearts J
diamonds QJ954
clubs 632
spades K2
hearts A542
diamonds A7
clubs AKJ107
1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

South was Chthonic, the demonic computer from the Orttman Foundation for Scientific Advancement. After a gratuitous 5NT king ask, he bid 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) hoping that North would show a sixth spade, and then settled in 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). However, nothing goes smoothly in the world of bridge humour, and the hapless Orttman "corrected" to 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), forcing Chthonic to take refuge in 7NT. West led a club; we'll leave you to find Chthonic's non-simultaneous double squeeze for yourself. Hint: the 13th trick was taken with the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)7.

Hand Four - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 9875432
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 5
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ876


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

Answer using your preferred system
(either 2/1 or Standard).

If you play 2/1 (with a forcing notrump), please choose your answer from the "2/1" section of the drop down box.

If you play Standard (without a forcing notrump), choose your answer from the "Standard" section of the drop down box.

Call Award %
F1NT 100 40 28
1NT 100 30 10
Pass 90 10 52
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 10 7
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 0 1
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 0 1
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) n/a 5 0
Other 0 0 1

Here we have another problem that is more complicated than usual, this time because I offered you a choice of systems. The reason for this: while I felt it was an interesting problem, I knew the North American panellists would all say, "You wouldn't have this problem if you played forcing notrump".

Ron Landgraff: 1NT. The forcing NT was invented for this hand type.

Lindsay Coker: 1NT. 2/1 is a joy.

Manuel Paulo: 1NT. With this clear misfit, I attempt to sign off at the two level in my own suit.

James Coutts: 1NT. Showing a bad hand with long hearts. Looks like what I have.

Given that most of us have never played a forcing notrump, this system split allows the rest of us to discuss the problem from an Aussie perspective, leaving the Americans to discuss what they would do on the next round. Very complicated, I won't be attempting this again!

We'll start with the forcing notrump bidders, all but one of whom planned to rebid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on the next round:

Tony Treloar: 1NT. My failure to bid a GF 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) at my first opportunity followed by my jump to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should warn partner that I have this sort of hand. Some risk but significant upside. Much more difficult playing standard.

Graham Wakefield: 1NT. Will take my chances. I consider Standard players confront a more difficult choice, and hope to gain. Of course partner is not guaranteed to respond 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at the point you bid 1NT, and your opponents (West particularly) are still at the table too regardless, so you may get to judge your hand under different circumstances subsequently.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 1NT. Two approaches possible: pass and bid later or bid and try to end in either clubs or hearts. I believe in bidding. As our agreements are that partner may even bid a good doubleton minor in preference to three lousy I am not ruling out passing 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Wayne Somerville: 1NT. If partner bids 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I'll risk playing 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on 987xxxx opposite void.

Nigel Guthrie: 1NT. If you pass in spite of your void in spades, partner may play there with game or slam available elsewhere.

Jacco Hop: 1NT. Let’s hope partner doesn’t rebid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Dean Pokorny: 1NT. No need to jump without values on misfitting hands. Bidding over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is mandatory since our 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) game could be easily cold.

Bridge Baron: 1NT. Obviously can't make a game-forcing 2/1 bid with this hand, but can't pass with 4 HCP and this much shape, so it's 1NT. Bridge Baron would need a couple more HCP to jump to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) after 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Playing "Standard", with no expectation of a way to get out in 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), Bridge Baron would pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Dan Baker: 1NT. Pass is tempting (when partner bids 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 1NT, I'll certainly wish I had!), but the opportunity to escape from my void into my 7-card suit persuades me (rotten as the suit is). Might get more action from me if partner bids 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (and certainly will over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), should I get that sort of miracle), but 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) makes the hand even worse.

Toby Weinstein: 1NT. Tempting to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

John R. Mayne: 1NT. Usually partner bids the wrong thing in these two-parters, but 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) makes things a lot simpler.

Only one of the forcing-NT players opted to reject the 1NT bid:

Ron Lel: Pass. I know that pass will be extremely unpopular, and if I were giving a bidding forum answer, 1NT would be a standout. However I really believe that it is best to pass these hands and hope to come in later.

Ron has always scored very well in this forum, and has clearly reached the point in his life where he would rather give the answer he believes in than the one that scores well. Integrity is its own reward, but we've upgraded the Pass to 90 points anyway.

Moving on to the standard players, the panellists still returned a healthy majority for 1NT, but this time only a handful of readers agreed:

Nigel Kearney: 1NT. Always. Bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then clubs would be far too much and if just intending to bid hearts, there will always be a chance to do that after 1NT. If I played 2/1 I would play 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-1NT-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as constructive not a signoff.

Guy Herzmark: 1NT. Aiming for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if necessary if partner bids diamonds or spades again.

Michael Smart: 1NT. Will correct to hearts over non-spade or club rebids by opener.

Nearly all of the "standard" readers opted to pass, so they'll be thrilled at the large upgrade that choice received:

Don Hinchey: Pass. A good problem to distinguish the optimists from the pessimists. Color me cautious.

Tania Black: Pass. Nothing good to say.

Peter Vlas: Pass. What else?

David Woulds: Pass. Any action here is a gamble including this one.

Richard Morse: Pass. Dangerous, but not as dangerous as everything else.....

Hans van Vooren: Pass. If 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) gets passed out and we have just missed 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), that's life. There's a dark side to bidding, too.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Same call in any system.

Damo Nair: Pass. Is this going to get passed out? If does, it does. I'll risk it. I don't know how to show both suits at a reasonable level.

David Monahan: Pass. While the shape is tempting, the lack of HCP if partner passes my 1NT bid or bids 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could lead to a very poor result at this vul. If West bids over my pass then I may bid next turn having notified by lack of HCP.

Murray Perrin: Pass. Too weak to bid even with 7/5 as after your 1NT partner could easily bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), it depends on style as some will bid with 7/5.

Many people commented that they hoped for a reopening bid from West. Personally I wouldn't have high hopes for West balancing with four spades and short hearts, but many disagree:

Frank Campbell: Pass. Tempting to bid but I expect West to strive to balance. It is simply a guess whether acting would have an upside or otherwise. 3NT would not be pretty if I did bid.

Duncan Roe: Pass. LHO has yet to bid. If he does, I will bid hearts next time and partner will know I am very weak. Actually I think a pass from LHO is unlikely.

Roger Yandle: Pass. If I bid 1NT and partner rebids 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it gets awkward. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) grossly over values the hand unless there's an unlikely fit. I reckon 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) won't get passed out and I can show my hearts without misleading pard.

Barbara Hunter, Philip Hocking, Margaret Reid, Sam Arber, Bram Amsel:
Pass. Not enough to bid -- may get a chance later.

Alan Jones: Pass. No double, no trouble. If/when I enter the auction later, partner will know that I am weak. Incidentally, I would also pass playing 2/1. The thought of 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-1NT-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is terrifying.

Robert Black: Pass. With luck LHO will bid, and Partner knows that I have 0-5 HCPs.

A few people were influenced by a long term view, happy to sacrifice this hand for the sake of sensible future auctions:

Alex Kemeny: Pass. To bid on this risks partnership trust. West is fairly sure to balance, then I can get into the action.

Michael Burt: Pass. Less than 5 points. Partner has to be able to trust me that I do have some reasonable points if I bid in this situation.

Barbara Whitmee: Pass. We are vul and could get into a lot of trouble bidding here.

In closing, I should give a mention to those who voted (or pleaded) for a weak natural 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) response. We do play 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a splinter, and while I have sympathy for those who scoff at that, the system is the system. And speaking of system, we'll finish with a novel idea:

Rainer Herrmann: 1NT. My preferred system includes an artificial game forcing 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) incorporating heart hands and an immediate 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) response is constructive but not forcing at all, thus denying spade support.

This was another deal from popular literature, a variation of a deal from 1999's Menagerie reworking, The Hog in the 21st Century by Phillip and Robert King:

spades 109542
hearts AQ6
diamonds A42
clubs A4
spades A876
hearts K10
diamonds J10973
clubs J5
spades KQJ3
hearts J
diamonds KQ86
clubs 10932
spades ---
hearts 9875432
diamonds 5
clubs KQ876

North, Colin the Corgi, opened 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Walter the Walrus, a helpless slave to the point count, felt he should pass with his five points, but on this occasion he managed to overcome his instincts and upgraded to a 1NT bid. Even then, his colleagues still scoffed at his failure to reach 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (making all thirteen tricks). The Griffin Club nominated Walter for the award of Worst Player of the Millennium – but today Walter has been vindicated, as our panellists and readers have overwhelmingly voted against a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid.

Hand Five - West deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 92
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K7
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKJ943
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K76

West North East South
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass pass ?


Call Award %
3NT 100 65 21
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 20 47
Pass 70 10 22
Dbl 60 5 9
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 0 1

One of the most enjoyable conventions in bridge is the Eastern cuebid, where you jump to three of the opponents' suit to say "I have a long solid suit, bid 3NT if you have a spade stopper". It's a variation of the better known Irish cuebid, saying "I have a spade stopper, bid 3NT if you have a long solid suit". (Sorry Wayne.)

These conventions develop over time, and here we have the Aussie variation: "I have a mid-length above-average suit, you'd better have a spade stopper". The panel voted 2 to 1 in favour of employing that convention here, but only 1 in 5 readers agreed:

Dean Eidler: 3NT. Generally expect two stoppers from partner at pairs at this vulnerability.

Conny Wahlgren: 3NT. It´s a bidders game.

Jacco Hop: 3NT. NV vs vul they usually don’t have a solid suit.

Damo Nair: 3NT. What, me worry? East didn't raise non-vul, so there must some hope here.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. Tough, but if you are not going to pass then 3NT has more going for it than any other call.

John R. Mayne: 3NT. I can't be the only one doing this. Right?


Tim Trahair: 3NT. This is a way out bid, assuming North has a good cover in spades and hopefully help in diamonds. Hope springs eternal!

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. "Stoppers are for..." With partner's ace and images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Qxx or images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Kx, 3NT is odds on. Spades may block. If not, there is always another board.

Fraser Rew: 3NT. Am I asking too much to expect that partner will have a stopper when opponents can't get to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) despite being favourable? But if the stopper is Kx and LHO leads the queen, I'll think for three minutes and then get it wrong like I always do.

James Coutts: 3NT. Best shot for game. Not content collecting 50s, if there are any on offer.

Dean Pokorny: 3NT. Protecting partner's range, since most often he holds about ten points with a spade stopper. Even if he doesn't, there is always a possibility spades will be blocked or not led.

Christer Enkvist: 3NT. Sorry, had the club kings with the spades ;)

Never apologise Christer. Stand up for your principles!

Sam Arber: 3NT. Bit of a gamble partner has some points if get doubled escape to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Zbych Bednarek, Robert Black, Peter Nuoristo: 3NT. Gambling.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The devil inside me is telling me to bid 3NT, but I'll content myself with a middle of the road 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Lindsay Coker: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). And partner has images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)AK and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q. Been there, bid 3NT. He hasn't had them.

A small group, led by lone panellist Klinger, hoped they could keep 3NT in the picture in a more scientific way:

Ron Klinger: Dbl. And 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if partner bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Cannot forego the opportunity to play in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled or 3NT. They both come way ahead of playing in 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Alan Jones: Dbl. Hoping that partner can bid 3NT.

Tony Treloar: Dbl. Hoping for partner to bid 3NT or make a penalty pass. Quite tempted to bid 3NT myself but might be a partnership killer on the odd occasion it goes very badly.

Alex Kemeny: Dbl. Not ideal, but I have to give partner (a) the opportunity to play for penalties and (b) the 3NT option. If he bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I will have to hope that he has a good suit. We won't play 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled though, because I will pull east's double to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Kay O'Connor: Dbl. If partner bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I will convert that to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. IMO, a protective-double need not promise classical takeout-double shape. If a tolerant partner bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), then that is not necessarily the end of the world (or partnership).

Philip Hocking: Dbl. No bid from East so most of four missing spades may be in North. Allow North to decide between leaving double in if sufficient defence or bidding if majority of the points unaccounted are in North.

Dan Baker: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Double has the advantage of getting you to 3NT when it's right - but it won't be right very often, and when partner bids anything else at all you'll wish you started with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

The reader majority decided to go for the partscore bonus, but not all were happy about it:

Toby Weinstein: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Could be going for a number.

Todd Holes: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I hate this bid... but.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I must balance.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Right, this could be entirely wrong. However on one ace and the right queen plus some distribution I can make ten tricks. Who knows what other positive things can happen (they may bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which I'll double or partner may raise to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)). There is one risk I am not taking: opposite something like Qxx-xxx-Qx-Axxxx or Qxx-xxxxx-Qx-Axx 3NT is right. Too bad.

Graham Wakefield: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Seems too timid to pass. Dbl is attractive but places too much emphasis on hearts. The two unsupported kings should be onside. Opps may make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (but if so then East will often have already raised preemptively to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)). Partner should know 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is not particularly encouraging.

Bridge Baron: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Bridge Baron aggressively balances at the four-level after a three-level preemptive opening with any six-card suit and any nine scattered HCP. This hand more than qualifies. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-pass-pass-5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) isn't in Bridge Baron's bidding system.

Nor anyone else's.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Seems the only bid to me.

Don Hinchey: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Natural. Diamonds. Points. Not enough for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Directs a favorable lead. Hmm... must be wrong 'cause that's too easy.

Margaret Reid, John Donovan: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Good hand, why not bid my diamonds -- not good enough to double without hearts.

Frank Campbell: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not strong enough for more.

Like the 3NT bidders, the 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders are counting on partner's values to justify our balance, although a couple of those people are hoping he will use those values to raise:

Guy Herzmark: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner might raise to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with support.

Murray Perrin: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner will have about 6-8 points on the bidding, so if they have the right hand they could bid game.

Richard Morse: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Borderline, with some risk of pushing them into a making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but partner is marked with some useful cards and will be reasonably well placed to judge what to do if they take the push. 3NT is quite tempting too, and could lead to an amusing result if West tries to find an entry to his partner's hand to lead through my presumed spade honour(s).

Roger Yandle: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The fact that East hasn't upped the ante suggests pard has some values. However, if I double then I'm likely to hear 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which won't be pretty. Hoping we get +130 rather than +100.

David Monahan: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner may have reasonable values and I am sitting over East, worth a try at Matchpoints (3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could easily be the par contract).

David Woulds: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Pd is marked with some values.

Finally we have the 2nd largest reader group, who chose between three awful options by not choosing one:

Hans van Vooren: Pass. 3NT is a possibility but requires partner to have a spade stop, an ace, and something in diamonds. That doubleton spade doesn't bode well and is even worse in a diamond contract.

Duncan Roe: Pass. If 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is making, we likely don't have a making contract. Otherwise we get a positive score.

Peter Vlas: Pass. If shooting for tops, or in some way feeling lucky or aggravated I might bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but not as my normal self.

Mark LaForge: Pass. Preempts work - glad it is Matchpoints.

Emil Battista: Pass. Slowly.

The "slowly" part is important; it doesn't pass unauthorised information, because we are in the passout seat, but it does let partner know that at least we gave the problem some thought.

Michael Burt: Pass. The vulnerability makes it difficult to bid.

Ian McCance: Pass. There must be a case for 3NT, but you would need to be desperate.

Ron Lel: Pass. This is a fairly frequent problem. The wide boys will bid 3NT and congratulate themselves when it works. The diamonds are not good enough to bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and anyway for me that is Non Leaping Michaels. Stay fixed!

Archie Julien: Pass. We've got 14 HCPs that could well be the strongest hand at the table, but there is just too much peril to be jumping in at the four level.

Charles Scholl: Pass. With 6 losers opposite a passed hand, go for the most likely plus.

We'll give the last word to one of the two passers on the expert panel, an unquestionable authority on all things biddable:

Mike Lawrence: Pass. I am in the process of redoing my balancing book and this hand is already in it. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is out for two reasons. Fighting for a partscore is not worth risking a large penalty. Worse, 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is played as showing hearts and diamonds in many parts of the world so that would exclude 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if you use that convention. The only bid that gives you a chance at a substantial plus is 3NT. If I were to bid, that would be my choice. East's silence hints that my partner has a spade stopper so you are not drawing dead if you choose it. All you need is Qxx-Axxx-xxx-xxx to have a chance. I looked over your list of panel members and can see at least four that will bid 3NT. Maybe more. A fun set of hands.

That's it for the first forum of the year, and Tom Moss of Sydney has taken an early lead in a very low scoring set. Apologies to Kay O'Connor (NSW) and Charles Scholl (USA) who were left off the final 2011 Reader's Race list in the last issue. Charles scored 2400 for the year and Kay scored 2410.

See you in three months for the June forum -- submit entries here.


Top scores for March 2012
1Tom Moss NSW500
2Fraser Rew NZL490
2Rainer Herrmann GER490
2James Coutts NZL490
2Geof Brod USA490
6Sam Arber Vic480
6Peter Stride Qld480
8Damo Nair USA470
8Manuel Paulo POR470
8Todd Holes USA470
8Mats Hedström SWE470
8Graham Wakefield 470
8Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN470
8Valter Johansson SWE470
8Zbych Bednarek POL470
8Andrew Macalister GBR470
17John Shield NSW460
17Barbara Hunter NSW460
17David Woulds 460
17Pravin Nahar NSW460
17Ian Spight NSW460
17Don Hinchey 460
17Dan Wälivaara SWE460
17Ron Landgraff USA460
17Charles Scholl USA460
17Conny Wahlgren SWE460
17Robert Bäck SWE460
28Robert Black SA450
28Michael Smart ACT450
28Peter Nuoristo SWE450
28Nigel Kearney NZL450
28Michael Burt ACT450
28Leigh Matheson NSW450
28Kevin Simpson Tas450
28Niklas Andrén 450
28Jacco Hop NED450
28Boris Richter 450
28Dominic Connolly NSW450
28Alex Kemeny NSW450
28Dean Eidler NZL450
41Ron Lel LAO440
41John R. Mayne USA440
41Wayne Somerville IRL440
41David Winter Vic440
41Pat O'connor NSW440
41Dean Pokorny 440
41Joe O'flynn Vic440
41Lindsay Coker Vic440
41Guy Herzmark GBR440
41Alexander Cook NSW440
41Emil Battista NSW440
41Ig Nieuwenhuis NED440
41Gary Lane NSW440
55Alan Jones Qld430
55Murray Perrin Qld430
55Bibek Chatterjee IND430
55Roger Yandle NSW430
55Martyn Rew NZL430
55John Moser 430
55Alpay Ari 430
55Tom Rushford Vic430
55Dan Baker USA430
55Bridge Baron USA430
55Nigel Guthrie GBR430
55Bastiaan Korner NED430
55Tania Black SA430
68Bram Amsel 420
68Niek Van Vucht ACT420
68Philip Hocking 420
68Peder Linder SWE420
68Paul Freeland NZL420
68Richard Morse GBR420
68Larissa Cowlishaw ACT420
68Peter Vlas NED420
68Ian Patterson Qld420
68Tom Kiss NSW420
68Elin Lindstrom Claessen 420
68Stephen Bartos ACT420
68Jim Thatcher NSW420
68Leigh Blizzard Tas420

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
36Charles Scholl USA2400
36Arthur Porter SA2400
38Paul Freeland NZL2380
39Tom Kiss NSW2350
40Bastiaan Korner NED2340
41Dan Baker USA2330
41Sam Arber Vic2330
43Trish Whitton NSW2320
43Toby Weinstein USA2320
43Barbara Hunter NSW2320
46Robert Black SA2300
46Frank Campbell NSW2300
46Fraser Rew NZL2300
49Rick Giles USA2290
49Ian Patterson Qld2290
49Martyn Rew NZL2290
52Tim Runting Qld2280
52John R Mayne USA2280
54Jim Thatcher NSW2270
54Don Hinchey 2270
54Zbych Bednarek POL2270
54Ron Landgraff USA2270
54Pontus Silow SWE2270
59Jack Lai HKG2260
59Pat O'Connor NSW2250
59David Johnson CAN2250
59Dan Wälivaara SWE2250
59Margaret Reid NSW2250
64Rick Lu NSW2230
64Kajsa Fröjd SWE2220
64Manuel Paulo POR2220
64Guy Herzmark GBR2220
64Tim Trahair NSW2220
69Michael Burt ACT2210
69Michael Davy Vic2210
71Alexander Cook NSW2170
72Duncan Roe Vic2150
73Alex Kemeny NSW2140
74Michael Smart ACT2130
75Geof Brod USA2110
76Ivan Demeny NSW2090
77Joe Gold WA2080
77Par Ol-Mars THA2080
77Tania Black SA2080
80Christer Enkvist SWE2050
80David Matthews WA2050
Thank you to all the readers and visitors who entered this month's forum.
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