Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles -- December 2012 - February 2013

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, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K54
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 9654
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQJT54
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ---


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


Call Award %
Pass 100 68 67
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 60 26 22
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 20 5 3
3NT 10 0 4
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10 0 2
Other 0 0 2

Welcome to our final forum for 2012. This month's problems provide a series of decisions that depend as much on philosophy as evaluation. Do you look for a slam with extra values but no fit? Do you use your 7-card minor as trumps, or suppress it to play in a major? Do you take a slight risk of disaster in an attempt for a matchpoint top? And do you respond to a takeout double with your longest suit, or prefer your four card major? 

First up, we have a choice between bailing quickly on a misfit, or searching for a better partscore (with a mild chance of game). The majority just want to get out quickly, with many also believing we are actually in our best spot:

Richard Semmens: Pass. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should play alright. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is dubious and 3NT will have entry problems.

Gary Hyett: Pass. A bit conservative, but the hand has hardly improved in the bidding.

Ron Lel: Pass. Another "You are kidding me" hand. There is no reason to believe my diamonds are any better than partner's clubs and I don't want to encourage anyone here.

Hans van Vooren: Pass. Let's not start a minor war. Our club fit is probably better than our diamond fit.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. Looks like partner is short in diamonds and not a lot stronger than a normal overcall. Hope he can get some value out of my diamonds.

Peter Nuoristo: Pass. Maybe there are more losers with diamonds as trump?

Martyn Rew: Pass. Partner may have good clubs but they may be hard to use in a diamond contract. My diamonds may help him in clubs.

Michael Burt: Pass. This looks like a misfit. Bail out as soon as possible. My diamonds may be useful to partner (East may well have images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K on the bidding) but partner's clubs are unlikely to be useful to me.

Philip Hocking: Pass. EW potentially has hearts and spades covered with insufficient HCP points in either direction for 3NT. Hope North has at least two entries in diamonds.

A couple of people suggested that we caused this problem with a dubious opening move:

Emil Battista: Pass. At the table holding South's hand I would have passed first turn. Bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) now is asking for trouble, imho.

JC Clement: Pass. A nightmare... Trying to stay at the lowest level, and hoping not to be doubled... I think I would have passed the first time instead of bidding 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Charles Scholl: Pass. Why not pass the first time? Looks like a better hand for defense.

Charles' plan is to wait for West's inevitable 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, and defend against it (presumably undoubled). That sounds like a winner if it's a partscore hand, but at the time of our 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid, 3NT looked like a real possibility:

Wayne Somerville: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Going low and showing my great suit. Maybe partner will find 3NT with Axx-Kx-Kx-QJT9xx.

Maybe there are some people who still think Wayne's example is too strong for an overcall -- victims of poorly worded teaching along the lines of "an overcall shows less than an opening hand". In the real world, Wayne's example is not far above minimum for a vulnerable 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) overcall, so our 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) game try was unavoidable.

Having done that, is partner's 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) rebid now encouraging or discouraging?

Roger Yandle: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). It looks like partner has some hearts (West hasn't bid hearts after East's double) and some spades (East hasn't supported spades). My 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was forcing in AB standard so pard's rebid of clubs doesn't tell me much. I'm not sure where that gets us but my hand looks useless in clubs.

Tony Treloar: Pass. Partner can't have much other than good long clubs so let him go. Not sure about the 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid assuming it is forcing.

I actually had no idea 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was forcing in AB Standard (it's in the last four lines of the system notes). At the table it was passable, so 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was a constructive move. But if 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was forced, simply a choice of partscore, then passing now seems automatic.

David Matthews: Pass. With East holding hearts and diamonds there is little point in bidding again. Partner has 10-12 points and 7+ clubs.

Damo Nair: Pass. Time to exit this mess ASAP, and that's now.

James Coutts: Pass. Misfit. Get out.

Derek Pocock: Pass. We told him we didn't like clubs but he goes on. No hope for hearts with East showing at least four.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Would bid if East had not doubled. Now I expect a penalty double if I bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Ian Foote: Pass. I'm giving up now before we get doubled.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. I prefer 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) undoubled to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) doubled.

John R. Mayne: Pass. Non-problem. Let's take our -200 peacefully before we end up learning our scoring slang ("toll-free, "sticks and wheels," "die, stupid partner, die.")

A few people are anticipating a double of 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and a couple of those are planning to run:

Niklas Andrén: Pass. I will run to diamonds if West doubles.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. If doubled I can try to rescue to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). For now, pass and hope the doubling does not start.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. I’ll wait until we’re doubled before bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Frankly, if we're going with the "trust partner" strategy here, I don't see how we can justify running from 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) doubled. I guess the thinking is that if 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is forcing, partner may have to bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) on a less than adequate suit? Sounds like a poor method, but a lot of people do play it this way.

A couple of people (like me) thought 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was droppable; unlike me, they still thought 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was only an attempt to improve the contract:

Michael Smart: Pass. Assuming 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was NF after the double, partner is freely bidding 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) instead of passing a likely misfit at the 2-level. Trust partner.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. If 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) means "I have diamonds", 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) means "OK, I wanna play 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)".

However constructive (or otherwise) 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be, we now need to decide how strong 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is. I think it's a signoff, but that's not a unanimous view:

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Constructive, not an attempt to improve the contract.

Duncan Roe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I want partner to know my diamonds are good before looking for a fit in another suit.

Dan Baker: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Transportation problems make 3NT way too optimistic, unless partner has more help there than I have a right to expect. Tempted to get out now before the doubling starts, but opposite the right hand 3NT or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might work, so I'm not giving up just yet.

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This looks like a real misfit. North has six good clubs and we have six good diamonds but no entry to North's clubs. Each side probably has about 20 HCP.

Lastly, we have a very small group who have faith in their partner's vulnerable overcalls:

Fraser Rew: 3NT. 2-level overcalls vul against not are pretty serious bids. One minor should be running and I think we can scavenge three tricks outside.

Jim Thatcher: 3NT. Partner seems to want to try for a vulnerable game! Must have an outside entry or will bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Barbara Hunter: 3NT. Sounds as though we have enough tricks if we can get to them.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Everyone wants to bid! Looks like a fairly flat board in HCPs, but could be a 4-4 heart fit with good distribution & cross ruffing potential. Partner should then have a good idea of your hand distribution & your clubs support.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). There's some attraction to an immediate 3NT, but Bridge Baron would like a slightly stronger hand to try that, especially with the club void. It's still possible we have a 4-4 heart fit; otherwise, we may end up in 3NT anyway.

The full deal:

spades J108
hearts KQ8 
diamonds 9
clubs AJ10964
spades AQ973
hearts 3
diamonds K32
clubs Q753
spades 62
hearts AJ1072
diamonds 876
clubs K82
spades K54
hearts 9654
diamonds AQJ1054
clubs ---

South bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), which was the best result possible at this point in the deal (two down undoubled). Passing 3clubs is no tragedy either, but everything else is a disaster.

Hand Two - West deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK765
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 97
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A9862


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

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is natural, game forcing.

Call Award %
3NT 100 53 65
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 32 20
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 5 2
4NT 70 5 0
5NT 20 5 0
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 13
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 1

Our second problem was intended as a question of whether or not to look for slam, but most people saw it as just a choice-of-game problem. There were only a few nibbles in the slam direction, including a big bite from one of Australasia's most consistent winners:

Michael Ware: 5NT. Pick-a-slam. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be a cue agreeing diamonds.

Gareth Birdsall: 4NT. Natural. You can support a suit first if you want to bid Blackwood.

Michael Smart: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Spades might yet be the best strain; there's room for partner to have a spade fragment. Will raise the likely 3NT bid to 4NT.

Niklas Andrén: 3NT. 4nt invite requires a better hand.

Personally, my philosophy is to never look for a slam until I know where the best game is. While most people were happy to pick the nearest game and go with it, there were a decent number of votes for exploring a spade game:

John R. Mayne: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) doesn't show this hand, right? 3NT is pretty sick, showing a different hand-type. Of course, so is 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) makes the eventual catastrophe easier to lay at partner's feet.

Ron Lel: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is the hardest hand of the set by far. I have excellent controls and can cover all of partner's black suit losers. I nearly bid 3NT, but really given my black suit holdings partner must have excellent hearts and diamonds. Slam is not that inconceivable.

Richard Semmens: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Continue to describe my hand.

Derek Pocock: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hope 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows tolerance for partners suit so will show 5 of them. images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A can come up later.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'd prefer 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if that was natural, but I'd probably read that as a cuebid in support of diamonds instead. Too much potential here for a slam to risk partner passing 3NT.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'll listen to what partner says. If he bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), then I will happily bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as a good raise. Otherwise, I'll pass 3NT and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

JC Clement: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Natural, hoping partner can bid 3NT.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The game-forcing auction makes it fine to rebid a 5-card suit, usually a no-no.

Gary Hyett: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Would like a 6th spade. 3NT just feels wrong with these sharp cards.

Murray Perrin: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) denies three spades then put me down for 3NT, it depends on style and what 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows.

Emil Battista: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass seems too timid and 3NT has no appeal. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will may lead to a makeable Moysian fit contract.

The top score went to 3NT, which I'm sure surprised nobody. We won't dwell too much on the comments ("everything is ugly", "horrible misfit", "practical", "likely to be the best spot", "nine tricks the likely maximum"). Here is a brief selection of the other comments:

Mick McAuliffe: 3NT. Difficult. Partner looks like minimum 5-4 or 5-5 in opposite suits, with few entries to either hand. Could be a disaster coming. 3NT is a stop bid, but if partner has something more unusual, he can continue bidding. 

Fraser Rew: 3NT. It's a nice hand, but misfitting something chronic. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is tempting but partner may not have a club stopper (Q-AKQxx-AKxxx-Jx).

Hans van Vooren: 3NT. Not that I like it very much. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might work well if partner has some support, but the club 98 sway me to 3NT.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3NT. Risky, but I want to announce the misfit asap. My controls in the black suits may be worth a lot opposite a strong 6-5(4) or 5-6, but then partner has to have significant values in the red suits and will bid again.

Despite a combined 30+ points, not everyone thought game was even a certainty:

David Matthews: 3NT. This is a misfit so I will just bid game which will likely be difficult anyway.

Bastiaan Korner: 3NT. We have lots op points which we probably need.

Tim Trahair: 3NT. North has reversed and hopefully game is on somewhere. Our 3NT bid tells North we have the black suits covered and no tolerance for the red suits.

Tony Treloar: 3NT. Don't like it but it must have a show on pure grunt and if we ought to be elsewhere partner will be bidding on.

On the other hand, a few people thought 3NT might not keep us out of slam (or a suit game):

Charles Scholl: 3NT. Partner can bid again with extra shape and we'll find a good slam.

Manuel Paulo: 3NT. Despite AK and A, the misfit advises to stay at game; nevertheless, partner can go forward with a solid suit.

Philip Hocking: 3NT. No agreed suit and 30+ HCP. Lets North know South has club cover. Marginal test for slam.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. Presumably pard will bid again if more than a minimum or has great dislike for NT.

Dean Pokorny: 3NT. With 3145 opener: a) could sometimes have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes); b) can still bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 3NT.

We'll finish with some words of wisdom from the expert panel, on why this problem should never exist in the modern world:

Sartaj Hans: 3NT. The days of strong jump shifts are numbered. In another five years, everyone will be playing Gazilli here (2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) = 16+ any or 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) rebid).

Tim Bourke: 3NT. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a natural game force is, without doubt, the poorest possible choice as a meaning for that bid in this auction. Playing 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as forcing and using 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as some system solving item is far, far better.

Christer Enkvist: 3NT. North show 5-5 in red, with other forcing distributions the rebid is 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/2NT. Haven't got those conventions? Tough luck, it's standard in the modern world.

As much as this looks like a set up hand, it is actually a recent deal I played on BBO. Unfortunately I lost the hand record, although I do remember making my 3NT. I miss the old BBO interface, where all the hand logs automatically went into a folder without you having to remember to save them.

Hand Three - East deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q6
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q84
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT98742
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 8


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


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 63 44
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 5 4
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 16 2
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 16 26
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 30 0 13
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 3
Pass 0 0 7
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 1

Support with support, they say; but does that apply when you have a 7-card side suit? Won't this hand play better in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), rather than 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? I think it will. But as it turns out, hardly anybody is planning to stop in either of those contracts.

John R. Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is best if we belong in a partial - and we probably do - but if partner has substantial extras and moves along, this leaves us better placed.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I prefer the 5-2 fit. Besides North could have six or something extra so 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) keeps the bidding open.

Peter Nuoristo: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hope partner can bid something so I get another chance.

Charles Scholl: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Standard; game is still possible.

Ian Foote: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems clear to give false preference here. If partner bids again I'll choose a game.

Roger Yandle: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Will bid heart game if pard shows 5/5 with extra values.

Gary Hyett: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If there is a next round of bidding we are well placed. I suppose we could miss a thin game on AKxxx-AKxx-x-xxx, but 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a bridge too far for me.

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner could have a good hand, e.g. KJTxxx-AKJx-void-xxx.

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Keeps the bidding low and allows for maximum flexibility. After 2 over 1 and change of suit, we are in a game force auction. Over 2NT, I will bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and partner may then have a picture of my shape.

Just as with Problem One, our original 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid has come in for some criticism (unfounded criticism in my opinion). A more reasonable objection is to our pass on the first round:

Wayne Somerville: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Why didn't I open this? Anyway, I call my 7 card suit trumps.

Tania Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Perhaps I was too weak to open 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) vulnerable, and am still a bit weak!

David Matthews: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would have opened 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) giving a clear picture of my hand at the beginning. Can we make game in a Moysian -- possibly, but I will wait for partner to rebid hearts before I raise to game.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'd have preferred a 1NT answer as the hand is not good enough to rebid diamonds. Now I simply give preference to suggest a minimum. Should partner bid again I'll bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Should partner bid 2NT I'll bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Toby Weinstein: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Would not have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), prefer 1NT.

Manuel Paulo: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would not have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Now, I rebid my suit for the sake of coherence.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I’d have started with 1NT. Either way, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is the next call.

Robert Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). There must have been a good reason not to open 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) suggested 10 Points, so "false preference" it is.

I don't think it's common for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to promise a full 10 points by a passed hand (for example see The Language Of Bidding, page 26, which has an example hand worse than this one). As for the opening pass, well, some of us older guys like a bit of suit quality in our vulnerable preempts:

Tim Bourke: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm sure few would replicate South's first option of passing, even though it is technically correct. You need to be stronger for 2nd hand preempts compared to 1st hand.

Ironically, while some chose 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) hoping to encourage more action, others chose the same bid to try to slow things down:

Tony Treloar: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Might be hard to stop this auction now that we have bid 2/1. Start with false preference to try to slow things down.

Jim Thatcher: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Misfit - cheapest bid.

A couple of people did suggest that spades would make a better partscore, but with less conviction than the previous 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders:

James Coutts: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is tempting but that could just mean diamond losers that we don't have in other contracts.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may be a more sensible effort.

Bridge Baron: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 11ish points, six-card suit: what it says on the tin. Not 3NT with the small club singleton. Bridge Baron will raise partner's 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but will pass 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (and obviously will pass 3NT).

Bastiaan Korner: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is forcing I think.

It's certainly forcing opposite an unpassed hand -- it's even in the AB notes! Opposite a passed hand I don't really know, and nor do I care -- passing a possible 4-3 fit partscore when we have two better fits and at least three possible games, is out of the question. There were quite a few passers, so I've upgraded the score for pass to zero (mainly because the computer rejected my original award of -20).

Dan Baker: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I'll support either of partner's majors if he bids them again, but right now it sounds like two seven-card fits and I've got a seven-card fit in my hand on its own.

Emil Battista: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 7-0 fit with 10987 intermediaries should work out fine. If doubled can "run" to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Murray Perrin: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). It has come up twice recently and that has been the right spot.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner likely 5-4. If you support either at this point, could be playing a 7-card fit. Your points plus singleton club makes another bid worthwhile. Diamond suit is too long not to rebid and keep bidding alive.

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tells North we have 6+ diamonds and little support for the majors. He can decide what to do next!

Martyn Rew: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempting to pass, but there are 7 diamonds in my hand.

While the majority were happy to take the low road and "hope" that partner could continue, here are a group of wild young things who have never met a hand they didn't like:  

Mike Lawrence: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hopefully, will get useful information from partner. I might bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here instead, but since hearts or diamonds could be right, I opt for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Richard Semmens: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Best chance of finding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), otherwise we will likely play in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Fraser Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Even this dyed-in-the-wool Acol player would have responded 1NT. However, Heart contracts should play well. Also, they apparently pay a bonus for making 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Niklas Andrén: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Invite. Partner bids hopefully 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with 64.

Duncan Roe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It's a fit, but I don't have enough to say more.

Michael Smart: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner usually has extra shape or strength to bid over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My cards are all working and can ruff black losers.

Hans van Vooren: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With the fitting queens, this hand is improving fast, so I'm not giving up on game yet. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) won't get us there, and whatever partner bids over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will not be of any real use to me. I think the hand will play nicely in hearts even in the 4-3 fit, and on a good day partner has five of them.

Ron Klinger: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The few cards I have are very good.

Ron Lel: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is simple hand evaluation. I have two working queens, a stiff and a bullet. All of that sounds like a Phillip Marlowe novel.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Assume only four hearts in North's hand so maybe game in spades.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This shows a doubleton spade (wouldn't have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with three spades).

Michael Ware: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Should be 4th suit 100% forcing, If not, I guess 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Michael Burt: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). On the bidding, all my points are effective -- the queens are in partner's suits, my diamond is the Ace, and I have a singleton club (partner may be able to ruff losing clubs). Also I have a 7.5 loser hand in hearts. Well worth a game try at IMPs.

Wow, that's a lot of bidding! All of those bids have received an award of some kind, with Klinger's 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) getting the highest minority score. 

The full deal:

spades AKJ105
hearts 10932
diamonds Q5
clubs K7
spades 9843
hearts AK5
diamonds J3
clubs Q963
spades 72
hearts J76
diamonds K6
clubs AJ10542
spades Q6
hearts Q84
diamonds A1098742
clubs 8

Although 2spades can be made in several ways, at the table declarer played for the diamondsJ with East and went two off. The play in 3diamonds would have been more straightforward, with the diamond suit providing an easy source of tricks. 

Hand Four - West deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 32
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) T97
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J65
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJT4


West North East South
1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1 ?

1. Invitational 4-card raise.

Call Award %
Pass 100 68 78
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 32 22

Ron Lel: Pass. Have you posted the wrong hand for South? If you expect me to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) because partner supposedly has short hearts you have got to be kidding. The first unanimous panel ever?

Not even close Ron; in fact 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) received more votes than any other minority bid in this entire set! Even so, this question is not so much a bidding forum problem, as a referendum on Andrew Robson's column in the current issue of AB:

Andrew Robson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'd better do this, as I advocated it in my Pairs Tactics articles. Partner needs to understand that this is a lead-director not a save suggester at this form of the game.

Wayne Somerville: Pass. I know Andrew Robson would bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), but I'm not brave enough.

It's pretty aggressive advice, and while it makes good sense, it was always unlikely to attract a majority vote in a bidding forum. So we thank the 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders for sacrificing their perfect score in order to vote their conscience, and reward you with a 90-point consolation score.

Gary Hyett: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A bottom is a bottom! I want a club lead. Hope pard does not take me too seriously.

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). For lead or save.

Robert Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). For the lead. Partner has 0 or 1 heart, and perhaps a few goodies.

Ian Foote: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I want a club lead against 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm not quite aggressive enough for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

JC Clement: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Is it Matchpoints? Yes! So let's bid for the lead. But the more I think about it, the more I feel it's crazy.

Kajsa Fröjd: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Lead direction against a likely 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Mick McAuliffe: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If opps call 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), partner has a suit lead. If partner has something more, he might raise to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to put the pressure on opps. Too much upside to just pass.

Murray Perrin: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Very risky, but one wants partner to get off to the correct lead (Matchpoints only).

Tom Moss: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Will partner know I am bidding part of his hand?

A couple of the those 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders suggested that they were actually bidding for the save, rather than for the lead. They get the 90 points anyway, but I'm putting a black mark next to their name.

Top score goes to the pass, and here also there were a few people who thought this was a pass vs save decision, not a pass vs lead decision (again, 100 points and a black mark -- and I've deleted those comments to protect the guilty). In fact the fear of partner saving is the main argument against bidding:

Michael Smart: Pass. Do I know they'll bid game? And do I really want partner saving in 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with a singleton heart?

James Coutts: Pass. If 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was just lead-directional it would be tempting, but it's much more likely to be construed as an invitation to sacrifice, even at equal vulnerability.

Michael Burt: Pass. Tempted to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as lead directing but there is the risk that partner could sacrifice in 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with bad results.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) might be a good sacrifice or it might not. But you will play there if you now bid.

Tony Treloar: Pass. The lead directing 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is too likely to lead to a bad save.

Hans van Vooren: Pass. Much as I like lead-directing bids, this is too steep for me. Apart from the immediate risk, partner might very well start saving, and maybe the lead is not even important.

Robson argues that partner should be aware (at this form of scoring) of the possibility of a lead directing bid, and therefore should never save. While I would always bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) here myself, I wouldn't be blaming partner when she hangs me. (That's assuming 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was actually available to me -- in practice, I do play it as conventional):

Dean Pokorny: Pass. "Natural" is not even the best usage of the 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid (Non Leaping Michaels would be much better).

Manuel Paulo: Pass. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks tempting, but I don't risk a big penalty to get a good lead.

Charles Scholl: Pass. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would get partner off to the best lead, if I don't have to declare this mess, doubled. And bidding might push them to a makeable game.

Tim Trahair: Pass. Could bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as lead directing. But then might get doubled and go several off.

Dan Baker: Pass. A lead-directing overcall is certainly tempting at pairs since overtricks are critical. The problem is that partner won't be on lead against 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) doubled, and going for 500 is worse than partner making the wrong lead for 480.

480 is very convenient maths. Isn't 510 also a candidate? But so is 800 of course, so that's not much comfort.

Derek Pocock: Pass. Bit too flat for even a lead indicating bid as if doubled will be 500 or more compared to non vul game.

John R. Mayne: Pass. Do you or don't you? I don't, but I don't blame those who do - it's harder to kill and eat the pigs that do than it should be.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. It is often a good time to bid when the opponents have a fit, but this is the 4-level and the opponents aren't in a game force. Add to this that the hand is balanced, so bidding 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) comes with way too much risk. If instead East had shown a heart fit with a Jacoby 2NT, for example, this hand might be a 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) overcall.

Roger Yandle: Pass. Pard is very short in hearts but didn't overcall so it doesn't look like she's got much. It would be nice to bid a lead directing 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if I could guarantee the opps have got game but since that's not certain I'm keeping quiet.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. Too little to bid, especially as partner has short hearts and could not act over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A shame I have no way to suggest a club-lead, but any action is too risky, even at Matchpoints

As stated previously, this one is not a real deal, it's from Andrew Robson's regular column, Pairs Tactics, in our magazine. If you want to see the full deal, and the column, click here to subscribe!

Hand Five - South deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) T863
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J9643

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

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows 6-9 points.

Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 58 58
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 21 9
Pass 70 21 25
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 4
3NT 0 0 3

This is the most interesting problem of the set for me, as one of my strongest bridge beliefs is that it's best to bid your longest suit first. (Yes, I know most of my life I've played major-oriented canape systems, but that doesn't count -- even in canape systems you still get to show which suit is longer).

We also have a side issue, being whether to take the double out at all:

Manuel Paulo: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I quote Edgar Kaplan "Takeout doubles are meant to be taken out".

Martyn Rew: Pass. 1 down doubled for E-W is better than a part score our way (if there is a part score makeable). 2 down is bonus territory.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. Partner possibly has around 13 points and 5-4-1-3. While we have two possible fits, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is getting high for a jack-high suit and 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with a 4-4 fit could be relying on cross ruffing to make. We might beat this if we can start with two spade tricks and a ruff.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Kiss of death... if our side can make at the 4-level we have 200 or 500 (hope so).

Michael Smart: Pass. No guarantee partner has 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Take the money.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Partner almost certainly has 5-4-1-3 shape. So as long as they can't make 9 tricks, passing will give us the best score.

Duncan Roe: Pass. We have a better chance of beating this than of making anything. Say 2 high spades from partner, 1 ruff and 1 natural trump from me, and another trick from partner in hearts or clubs.

John R. Mayne: Pass. Yeah, it's a risk, but 3NT is surely down our way and 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is going to catch 5-3-1-4 more than makes me happy. Let's put our diamond cards to some use.

There actually were a few votes for 3NT ("diamonds are my best suit", "diamonds are wasted in a suit contract"). That's fine, but the overwhelming lack of values is intimidating, and we do have two stunningly gorgeous suits to choose from.

So, which suit to choose? Here's the very small group in favour of my choice:

Michael Burt: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x has some chance of making and it is probably too risky to leave the double in at IMPs. Clubs should have a guaranteed 5-3 fit while hearts may only be a 4-3 fit and in big trouble.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). And follow with 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) given the chance. This appeals to me because I get to play a trump fit where I can keep a measure of control as 5-3 plays reasonably at this level. Since he has short diamonds, I tend to lean to either 5323 or 5314. I'd rather defend but don't want them to play 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x.

Charles Scholl: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Need more defense to pass, given the risk, and need more offense to bid higher.

Since there weren't many 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) comments from the readers, I'm going to call on three of North America's best players to strengthen my case:

Eric Kokish: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). As North might have doubled 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with 5413, it's slightly more likely that he'll be closer to 5314 ... We might gain by being in the right strain.

Mike Lawrence: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This is probably our best fit. I expect 5-3-1-4 from partner or similar but will pay off if he has 5-4-1-3.

Bob Jones: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). In a 'May Day' situation, just bid your best suit. Everything scores the same when you go down.

Seems obvious, really. Here's the concise argument for the major:

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have four hearts!

Ron Lel: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has doubled for takeout, so I am taking it out.

Emil Battista: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Another Moysian fit contract. Too wimpy to pass and cannot see 3NT being a roaring success.

James Coutts: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't see any other option here. Bidding game is out of the question with the poor KQx of diamonds and (at most) an eight-card fit.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Close between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and pass. I chicken out (again) and pull.

Philip Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). East/West likely to have balance of power. Insufficient information to leave double in. Prefer to play at the three level rather than bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Derek Pocock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Enough as could get 500 from doubling 4 or more diamonds vul by E/W

Ian Foote: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't like my defence enough to pass, though I'm tempted. 4 hearts seems too optimistic.

Murray Perrin: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If double shows 16 plus then I would bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as opps can open light.

Roger Yandle: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If pard is 5431 I'm hoping its 3 clubs not 3 hearts!

Hans van Vooren: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). In bad situations, it's usually best to keep some flexibility and pick the lowest bid possible. Ok, "pass" would be even lower, but that is nuts.

Tania Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not brave enough to bid 3NT.

JC Clement: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not very happy with that bid, but what else ?

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner can't hold more than 16-17 points so its not enough for game. Hopefully we can make 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Jacco Hop: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Pas -470 way too often. My values are places in the wrong place for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)

Gary Hyett: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Pass and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) are both possible, but the diamond honours don't look good to me either in attack or defence.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Passing 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x could be a risky business since partner can have 5404. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) keeps most options open (3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), passing a double on 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)...).

Rainer Herrmann: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Passing and 3NT is too rich for me. If 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) gets doubled I will consider 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems each side has about 20 HCP and North must be short in diamonds. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or NT are too risky and don't like defensive prospects if pass.

Damo Nair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Something says I should pass but I can't do it with such soft values.

Richard Semmens: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is probably what partner wants to hear. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems unlikely with so much of our strength in diamonds.

Fraser Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With the opening bidder sitting over me (and my diamonds), a misfit and poor trumps, it seems best to stay low. Partner should act (fairly) aggressively here, and I'm not going to hang him if he does.

The full deal:

spades KQJ1053
hearts KQ95
diamonds ---
clubs A75
spades A762
hearts A7
diamonds A986
clubs Q108
spades 98
hearts J42
diamonds J107542
clubs K2
spades 4
hearts 10863
diamonds KQ3
clubs J9643

South bid 3hearts, which was one down (again, the best result possible at this point in the deal). 3diamonds doubled would have been unbeatable.

That's brings us to the end of another year. Continuing the trend of recent years, the leaderboard is again dominated by European names, with the top score going to Manuel Paulo of Portugal, with a significant lead over the rest of the field.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for your support again this year. I'll be back in March with the first forum of 2013 -- the questions for that issue are already posted here


Top scores for December
1Tony Treloar Qld500
1Toby Weinstein USA500
1Damo Nair USA500
1Tania Black SA500
1James Coutts NZL500
1Nigel Guthrie GBR500
1Andrew MacAlister GBR500
1Michael Seldon 500
1Trish Whitton NSW500
10Ig Nieuwenhuis NED490
10David Woulds GBR490
10Robert Black SA490
10Ian Foote 490
10Charles Scholl USA490
10Michael Davy Vic490
16Peter Nuoristo SWE480
16Rainer Herrmann GER480
18Gary Hyett 470
18Zbych Bednarek POL470
18Pat O'Connor NSW470
18JC Clement 470
18Mats Hedström SWE470
18Bjarne Andersen 470
24Jacco Hop NED460
24Peter Qvist 460
24Roger Yandle NSW460
27 John R Mayne USA450
27Ron Lel LAO450
27Niek Van Vucht ACT450
27Barbara Whitmee Qld450
27Manuel Paulo POR450
27David Matthews WA450
27Gary Lane NSW450
27Radoslav Radev 450
35Valter Johansson SWE440
35Richard Semmens 440
35Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN440
38Hans Van Vooren NED430
38Nancy Kent 430
40Larry Brose USA420
40Martyn Rew NZL420
40Bastiaan Korner NED420
43Michael Burt ACT410
43Ivan Demeny NSW410
43Nigel Kearney NZL410
43Tim Trahair NSW410
43Jim Greer GBR410
48Niklas Andrén SWE400
48Rick Lu NSW400
48Philip Hocking NSW400
48Stephen Bartos ACT400
48Kees Schaafsma NED400
48Dean Pokorny 400
48Di Mcalister Qld400
48Leigh Matheson NSW400
48Bruce Ballard NZL400
48Bibek Chatterjee IND400
48Alex Kemeny NSW400
48Alexander Cook NSW400

Final scores for 2012
1Manuel Paulo POR1870
2Nigel Guthrie GBR1800
3Rainer Herrmann GER1790
4Valter Johansson SWE1760
5David Woulds GBR1740
6Jacco Hop NED1730
6John R. Mayne USA1730
6Ron Lel LAO1730
9Tom Moss NSW1720
9Fraser Rew NZL1720
9Peter Nuoristo SWE1720
12Damo Nair USA1710
13Charles Scholl USA1700
13Tania Black SA1700
13Niek Van Vucht ACT1700
16Mats Hedström SWE1690
16Toby Weinstein USA1690
18Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN1680
18Alexander Cook NSW1680
18Gary Lane NSW1680
18Hans Van Vooren NED1680
22Tim Trahair NSW1660
23Zbych Bednarek POL1650
23Robert Black SA1650
23Alex Kemeny NSW1650
26Trish Whitton NSW1640
26Philip Hocking NSW1640
28James Coutts NZL1630
28Nigel Kearney NZL1630
28Dean Pokorny 1630
31Barbara Whitmee Qld1610
31Andrew Macalister GBR1610
33Bastiaan Korner NED1600
34Wayne Somerville IRL1590
34Pat O'Connor NSW1590
34Peter Stride Qld1590
37Bruce Ballard NZL1580
37Michael Smart ACT1580
37Martyn Rew NZL1580
40Christer Enkvist SWE1570
40Michael Burt ACT1570
40Barbara Hunter NSW1570
43Peter Tarlinton NSW1560
44Pravin Nahar NSW1550
44Niklas Andrén SWE1550
46Roger Yandle NSW1540
46Kees Schaafsma NED1540
48Murray Perrin Qld1530
48Ig Nieuwenhuis NED1530
50Ivan Demeny NSW1520
50Bridge Baron USA1520
52Michael Davy Vic1510
52Rick Lu NSW1510
54Dan Baker USA1500
54Leigh Matheson NSW1500
56Ian Spight NSW1490
56Tony Treloar Qld1490
58Bibek Chatterjee IND1480
59Duncan Roe Vic1450
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 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.