Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, March - May 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, Frank Stewart, Eddie Kantar, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - South deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK9
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) QJ86532


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

2NT is a shortage enquiry, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) showing a club shortage.

Call Award %
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 28 13
4NT 100 22 5
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 11 1
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 6 3
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 28 31
Pass 10 6 12
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 18
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 8
Dbl 0 0 7
3NT 0 0 3

Welcome to the first forum for 2013, and a brand new Reader's Race. This is the start of my 2nd decade moderating this column, and I'm celebrating with our toughest set ever. Dozens of our regular readers scored less than 250 out of 500; in fact none of the experts even scored more than 450, and they are the ones who decide the right answers!

We'll start with the rarest species in the bridge kingdom: the double dummy bidding problem. A remarkably precise auction has given us an overload of information about the full deal --  can we take advantage of this and place the contract accurately?

(Spoiler alert: anyone in the habit of concealing 9- and 10-card fits from partner will not fare well here).

David Kalnins: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would have bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) on the first turn. Not only does it start to clarify my hand, but it tests the opponents as to whether they know their system! East is either disinterested in game opposite short clubs, or foxing. Probably the latter. With images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)AK and some interest in game they may have just bid it the first time expecting a club lead. In any case, I have a great hand for partner they can't really envisage. I bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) prepared to apologize if things go badly.

Tony Treloar: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This should be at least a good save against 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (which should go close to making although pard may have a spade trick) and gives them enough rope to go on to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which I will double.

Gary Hyett: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Is 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) NF and/or invitational? What has happened to the spade suit? Where do flies go in winter? You never know 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might make.

(a) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is not forcing, and invitational. West is expected to bid again if he likes his hand. (b) EW have the spades. (c) I know nothing about flies, that is outside the scope of this column.

Todd Holes: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Just do it!

Margaret Reid: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Let's bid what is possible. May be one off but then again we may make.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My only worry is that we lose three clubs and a diamond. However partner rates to have something like 4162. If he has only images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)KJxxxx this should have play. Opposite that hand 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) won't.

Alex Kemeny: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner will have some spades, but I don't like 3NT with a void.

John R. Mayne: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Where are the spades? East must have a lot of them. Partner hasn't four (or would have made a negative double). Still, they're not going to find spades over my 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) call, and I'm happy if they hit it.

Manuel Paulo: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner is favorite to win this contract.

He certainly is. Almost the entire panel had their eyes on the same destination here, although the majority were keeping an eye out for alternative spots along the way. Equal top score goes to this choice, keeping the club suit alive:

Radoslav Radev: 4NT. Pick a minor, partner.

Nigel Kearney: 4NT. Pick a minor. My hand is limited by my previous pass so partner won't expect more.

Dean Eidler: 4NT. Pick a minor. Not sure I should give him a choice, maybe I should just bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Ron Lel: 4NT. My first question is, "Am I playing with a bridge player?" If the answer is "yes", then I have a 4NT bid asking partner to bid game in a minor. Presumably partner did not double 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) because of a failure to hold 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Well this actually means that East holds 6 or 7 Spades, (6 if she bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on a 4-6 shape). If I am playing with a knuckalavey, then it matters not what I do. Anyway, I bet my answer scores "0" in your poll. This doesn't matter as playing with my expert ex partner this bid would be correct.

Ron's pessimistic score prediction suggests that his ex-partner is the only expert in the game -- it's a shame he's an "ex-partner", but I do know from personal experience what a geographical move can do to bridge partnerships. Fortunately though, there are other experts out there, and the Australian Bridge bidding forum panel has heaps of them.

A less useful way of getting to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is via a slam try. A dubious proposition when just getting to the right game could be a major achievement. If you must make a slam try, the descriptive splinter seems sensible enough:

Ron Klinger: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner should read the splinter as a slam invitation. Hardly need more from partner than something like images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Kxxxxxx for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a distinct possibility opposite images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)KQxxxx and the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K.

Peter Fordham: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner can't reasonably have less than six diamonds in the context, since the 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is wide open. The big question is "how many club losers are there?" Two would easily be the case, three is highly unlikely.

Note that half of the 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders on the magazine's panel are anticipating two club losers. Even if partner does have the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K for 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), as per Klinger's comment, East can flamboyantly table his cards and claim his partner's club ruff.

The other slam try:

Graham Wakefield: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Need to hear again from partner, content with 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) given partner's pass over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Hoi Ming Chan: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could all be right. East stopping in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) suggests he has either wasted points in clubs or also has club shortage. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a bit of an overbid but I'd be happy with 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from partner.

Several readers asked why the opponents bid as they did; Ming's comment provides two feasible explanations, with the first being significantly more consistent with our partner's actions.

Now the slam tries are out of the way -- the top reader vote, by a considerable margin, saw this as a partscore deal:

Richard Morse: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Good problem. Lots of bid have something going for them, but this seems the best approach for now.

Henri de Jong: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hounds of Baskerville. Nobody is barking spades! Where are they? Believe that North has a very weak hand with some spades and long diamonds.

James Coutts: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempting to shoot for game but I'm too worried about being off two clubs and a trump trick, particularly after this informative auction where it is easy for East to lead a club from Axx or similar.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I assume partner isn't trying to be cute with a club fit. It feels right to compete, and don't want to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) since the 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) reply to 2NT seems to have put East off.

Tom Kiss: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would have bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 2NT, now my 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would describe my hand better.

Viscovich Andrea: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North should have five, maybe six diamonds, 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from East let me think he has good clubs, otherwise he would have gone 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My clubs are not so good, but if my p would bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with this cards I won't regret.

Bridge Baron: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not sure everyone will agree that it was right for partner and me both to pass last round. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems like a strong contender for me, and why is partner bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) under the strong hand when the hand wasn't worth 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in a safer situation last round? Anyway, a diamond raise shows both my diamond support and something about my having a real club suit (otherwise, the opening bid would have been 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).)

Barbara Hunter: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Seems better to go with partner's suit.

Bastiaan Korner: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Strange; partner must have spades and diamonds, so why he did not double 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)?

Tim Trahair: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The bidding is a puzzle. Who has the spades. Why North's delayed action? Why didn't South repeat his clubs. I read North as having six diamonds, few HCP and clubs. Perhaps 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is on.

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The bidding is strange. Where are all the spades? Why did I pass over 2NT? I am not sure in which minor we belong. I intend to follow up with 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should I get the chance.

Damo Nair: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Why didn't South bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 2NT. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is just a guess

Not everyone agrees on what to do over the expected 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid:

Derek Pocock: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). And will bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over any 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid.

Tania Black: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Do not want a club lead if they bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Robert Black: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has awoken with long diamonds, and if East is strong he has subsided below game. So 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems defeatable.

Philip Hocking: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is unlikely, this could get +130 if successful. West, having a shortage in clubs, is likely to bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which I will double.

As usual, I've chosen to keep the zero-scoring votes anonymous to protect the guilty. However, on this occasion that applies to nearly half of all readers, so I can't completely overlook them. Here is a summary:

12% of readers chose to pass 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Interestingly, this group contains two genuine experts who recently started playing together -- one passed because he thought 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was going down, while the other passed because he was scared of pushing the opponents into a cold 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Both of these conflicting views received several votes.

7% of readers chose to double 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Looking at our two or three defensive tricks, a passing partner, and a big double-fit for both sides, I'm not sure exactly how this happened. One person suggested double was Lightner-style, asking for a spade lead -- if partner gets that right, there is a good chance we'll get out for only -530. 

The 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders (8%) argued that if partner has short clubs he will know to return to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (because our delayed jump, after initially passing 2NT, must be triggered by diamond support). Also mentioned in passing by:

Michael Smart: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner doesn't need much for game. BTW, having not bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) last time around, 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) here ought to say "choose your minor suit game". Not an action for an untried partnership.

Others suggested partner must have clubs, because East's failure to bid game suggests short clubs (although East having images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)AK or images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)AK10 is much more consistent with the whole auction, as suggested by Charles Scholl and Dan Baker). Dan also echoed David Kalnins' comment that 2NT might be a psyche, although there is plenty of room for everyone to have a legitimate bid here. 

And finally, 18% of readers bid just 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (similar arguments to the 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders). They felt it was important to bid the clubs, as our previous silence may lead partner to think we are 4333. (I say we can correct partner's misapprehension equally well by bidding 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and putting the hand down in dummy).

Gary Lane pointed out that 7-card suits are for playing in, and drew a parallel with Problem 3 from the previous issue, where declarer (and panel) went down in a 5-2 fit instead of playing in an easy 7-2 fit. I agree Gary, I think the panel dropped the ball on that one -- but this time it's a 6-3 fit, not a 5-2 fit. 

We don't have the full deal, but expert panellist Patrick Huang kindly predicted a likely layout for us. The real deal can't have been too different from: 

spades K98
diamonds KJ9876
clubs T97
spades J765
hearts JT87654
diamonds Q
clubs 4
spades AQT432
hearts Q3
diamonds 543
clubs AK
spades ---
hearts AK9
diamonds A102
clubs QJ86532

Hand Two - South deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 73
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQJT6
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K53
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A52


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


Call Award %
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 67 60
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 50 11 3
3NT 50 6 15
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 6 5
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 6 1
Pass 10 6 15

Our second problem is from Ron Klinger, and was intended as the first part of a two-part problem. After seeing the panel's vote, he decided against giving me the 2nd half of the problem. I'm guessing the second part would have had something to do with our pass of 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on the 2nd round...  

Ron Klinger: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I confess that I would have bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Those hearts are as good as a 6-card suit.

Panellist Frank Stewart also commented that South should have bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), while Andrew Robson, Patrick Huang and Sartaj Hans said they would have bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) instead of 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A handful of readers agreed:

Fraser Rew: 3NT. What on earth was 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? I couldn't bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but surely my hearts are good enough to repeat once? As it is, I think we're scrambling, and contracts may play better from my side.

Hoi Ming Chan: 3NT. What else? 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) earlier by me seems a misbid as it should be asking partner for a diamond stopper.

Gary Hyett: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT could still be better, but it sounds like we will need nine tricks off the top. I do have belated spade support. Is 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) the right call on previous round?

There were five minority choices in total, with every legal call from Pass up to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) receiving one lone panel vote. Let's start at the beginning:

Charles Scholl: Pass. If North has heart images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Ax (or even stiff ace) my 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid gave him a chance to show it, so 3NT is dangerous. West's double makes me think his only values are images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Ax or images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Axx opposite East's images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)QJ10xxx. If we were vulnerable I would take a shot at 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but I think we're probably off two diamonds, a heart, and one or even two spades -- stopping now seems best.

Philip Hocking: Pass. North did not go to game when invited and does not have a diamond stopper and West appears happy to see a diamond lead. If West bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) South can always go for the more marginal 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) contract.

Alpaya Ari: Pass. Partner have no diamond stopper and have minimum hand. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doesn't guarantee six spades, so there is a misfit situation.

Michael Burt: Pass. The double suggests the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A is offside which is bad news for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and, quite possibly, 3NT. Stop now.

While several comments suggest that 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) might not be forcing, I can't think of any precedent for passing a new suit by responder at the 3-level. As for the 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, that also looks forcing to me. While we may have doubt about both fit and strength, it's possible that partner has both these concerns well under control:

Ian McCance: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In fear and trembling but 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was a big bid.

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner obviously has good values to introduce a new suit at the 3 level.

David Matthews: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was forcing to game and he must have six or seven spades with a diamond shortage after the double of 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Todd Holes: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) forced us to game.

Robert Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems to be game forcing, and 3NT does not appear to have much prospect.

Next, the 3NT bidders:

Roger Yandle: 3NT. Does 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) show 6-4 pattern or is it just a retreat from NT? Not sure why I didn't bid 2NT last time around, then I wouldn't have this dilemma now.

Par Ol-Mars: 3NT. Difficult when don't know what Pass and Redouble would have shown. But show that I have a stopper.

Dan Baker: 3NT. I hope this sequence shows doubt about my stopper (if it has some other meaning, then making me take over after some maniac cuebid with this balanced, non-fitting minimum is a cruel joke). We'll try the 5-2 spade fit if partner decides NT is a bad place to be.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3NT. Ok, I have the diamond stopper, but it is only one stopper (otherwise I would have bid 3NT over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)). Tell me partner: extra length somewhere? So we can play a possible slam? (Not likely as the opps' points are behind partner's hand).

Duncan Roe: 3NT. Partner sounds to have quite a nice hand but diamonds may be a problem. Happy enough to just bid game.

Several of those comments suggested that our failure to bid NT initially, warns partner of our poor diamond stopper, and there is some sense in that. The 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders were not willing to take that chance:

Tania Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No help in diamonds for 3NT.

JC Clement: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With only one diamond stopper, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks better than 3NT.

Nigel Kearney: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't have the right cards to help run nine tricks in NT. I expect something like AQTxxx-xx-x-KQJx. Partner had space to pass with six poor spades and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Ax letting me bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on Hx.

John R. Mayne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I know we hate partner so much, but aren't we allowed to support his suit every once in a while? 3NT shows the half-stop we have, but it also hints at a more immediate source of tricks. 

Lindsay Coker: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT seems unlikely, partner being all black (must be a newzealander), and he would need to have the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, not probable in view of the double.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My diamond stopper is too tenuous for 3NT.

Dean Eidler: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't think we can make nine tricks on the go. What would redouble by partner be?

None of the panellists commented on a meaning for redouble. There are several possibilities. I've discussed it with my partner -- have you?

A couple of people took North's auction as showing 5-5, rather than 6-4+, so they did not see spades as the best trump suit:

Leigh Matheson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If I had more aces 3NT could work, but with slow tricks it looks unlikely: the auction has broadcasted that West is leading a diamond against 3NT and partner has no stopper (partner didn’t even pass 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)X).

Ron Lel: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner appears to have a 5125 shape. His 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid is a game-force, so I see little alternative to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Jx or better I would have bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Michael Smart: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Having passed 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), this game option shows quality, not quantity. It also protects the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K on the off chance that double by West showed the ace and not the queen. Partner will correct to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a singleton heart.

James Coutts: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Nothing appeals and I should possibly just bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but the quality of the heart suit is definitely a feature of my hand.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has no diamond stopper and I have only one, so prefer hearts to no trumps.

While a few of the earlier comments focused on our failure to rebid hearts sooner, it should be noted that partner has also had chances to bid the suit. He could have shown heart tolerance over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), or at least passed to give us a 3rd chance to rebid them. His choice of 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), rather than pass, is a clear pointer towards the winning answer:

David Kalnins: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner could have passed 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) doubled if he wasn't serious about spades as a strain. I've got spades and only one diamond stopper.

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's last bid is a strong statement where he thinks we should play.

Kees Schaafsma: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) shows six spades (with only five North should pass).

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It seems to be our most likely game. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may play better, but I expect that with xx partner would have bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) unless he has six spades.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's free bid shows a good suit.

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Apparently 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was forcing. I would have bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) instead of 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) here. I have a suit with plays very well opposite xx. Partner now bids 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over the double showing six, so I have no reason not to support him. My hand is not worth a cuebid opposite a black 2 suiter.

Margaret Reid: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Game is on, let's be in it. 3NT does not seem a good idea.

Emil Battista: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Giving partner six spades and 4+ clubs. Less than three hearts obviously, so 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have chances notwithstanding dubious value of images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hopefully this is right spot.

Hans van Vooren: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). One down.

Damo Nair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't see a major problem here.

Richard Morse: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think partner is marked with a fair hand, but too great a danger of conceding five tricks in NT.

Bridge Baron: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just barely strong enough for the raise, even though, in light of the double, my images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K might not be worth much.

Viscovich Andrea: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My p is probably 6-2-1-4, images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K useless playing spades, but we have a game. 3NT too risky, I have to find images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)KQ or images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)AK to go 3NT.

Tim Trahair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North is showing six spades and four or five clubs, and probably few red cards. Our spade support and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A will hopefully get us over the line.

Henri de Jong: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pard most likely is 6-4.

Richard Semmens: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner is likely to be showing extra values and a sixth spade, as otherwise he has the option of pass and redouble. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have good chances.

Mick McAuliffe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). South opened, but North has been doing most of the bidding. While NT could be on, it also could go badly with images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A in the wrong hands. Partner did not support hearts but they should make a great side suit. P probably has 6(21)4, so 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is safer bet.

Tony Treloar: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems the most likely game. 3NT looks dependent on pard having the ace of hearts whereas 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have good play regardless.

Peter Vlas: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A does it for me.

Hand Three - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 6
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J932
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKQT64
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ


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

Partner's 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a cue raise, invitational or better with diamond support.


Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 44 21
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 28 15
2NT 50 11 5
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 6 14
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 6 12
3NT 20 6 11
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 10
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 6
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 2
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 1
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 1
Other 0 0 2

Problem One, with its ten different answers, was scary enough, but this simple-looking auction has generated not only six answers from the panel, but six additional ones from the readers! We'll start with the majority answer: 

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing spade shortage and inviting game if North has as little as images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q.

David Kalnins: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hate taking up so much bidding space, but J9xx is not enough in hearts.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Maybe I should be declaring 3NT but trying to get there would lose the descriptive and helpful splinter on the hands where we belong in diamonds.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has fewer than four spades but a nice hand. This suggests 45+ in majors to my left (probably 46 since otherwise a double is better). Since right hand did not bid spades I suspect he has few points. I'm indicating a good hand, but with short spades and good diamonds. Pass over 3NT and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will get us to the right level. Since I don't offer a club suit partner should be able to read 3+ hearts in my hand with minimal high cards otherwise I would have proposed NT. High cards I have outside diamonds will of course not be in spades :)

David Matthews, Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing where my shortage is so partner can decide if there are slam possibilities.

Alex Kemeny, Par Ol-Mars, Jacco Hop, Jack Lai: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Splinter.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This is a pretty weak heart suit, so I bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to help partner with the decision between 3NT and 5 (or more) diamonds.

With nearly half the panel looking no further than the descriptive splinter, you may well ask "where did all these other bids come from". One panellist summed up the disadvantage of 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) concisely:

Tim Bourke: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). At first sight a splinter bid of 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems the best option. However, that may preclude reaching 3NT when partner has KJx-10x-xxxx-AQxx and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is down off the top.

Hoi Ming Chan and Tony Treloar also commented that 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would push us past 3NT. The implication is that partner cannot bid 3NT without his own heart stopper.
I guess it's important to carefully define your splinters. For example, over a 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) opening I wouldn't bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with say xx-KJxx-x-AQxxxx; I think it's a mistake to focus the auction on the diamond suit when either spades or clubs could be the key to the decision. Similarly, on this problem, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) can be an awkward choice if it doesn't carry any implication about the heart position.

If we must find an alternative to the splinter, there are only a few possibilities remaining, most of them deeply flawed. The main candidates are the space consuming 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), the wildly offshape 2NT, and the fragment-showing 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Bridge Baron: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Book bid. Bridge Baron doesn't know a clever way to communicate the high quality of the diamond fit.

Duncan Roe: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too good to jump to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Jim Thatcher: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Allows partner to choose between 4NT and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Derek Pocock: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). And over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner will bid 3NT.

In a perfect world all auctions would be that easy. I recently heard someone suggest that bridge clubs could save money on bidding boxes by only having one box per table -- that would put a dent in Derek's evil plan.

Richard Morse: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Good suit, progressive in the light of partner's bid.

Henri de Jong: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We could easily lose 5 tricks in 3NT, although I would love to bid it.

Emil Battista: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We could sneak in 9 tricks in 3NT, but today I am wimpy.

Pat O'Connor: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Before they find their spade fit.

Barbara Hunter: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Is this high enough?

Larry Brose: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Losers in hearts could be a problem.

Tania Black: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner's points in the black suits should be enough; he has none in diamonds.

Clearly the big flaw with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is that they both make it almost impossible to reach 3NT. Which brings us to:

Damo Nair: 2NT. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may cause confusion. Whereas 3NT on this one-ace hand & singleton spade is stretching it.

Ian McCance: 2NT. Nobody has bid spades.

Roger Yandle: 2NT. I've got the point count, I've sort of got a heart stopper and I'm nearly balanced so this must be the right bid!

11% of readers voted for 3NT, and I can only assume that this was because they feared being passed in 2NT. Fair enough, but if you really believe 2NT can be passed, an immediate unilateral 3NT is not the solution. As to whether 2NT is forcing, one panellist phrases the issue in a way I haven't heard before:

Eric Kokish: 2NT. It's easier to get out of notrump after suggesting the strain than guessing whether to bid 3NT later when out of bidding room. That alone should convince you that playing 2NT forcing is the right strategy.

Nicely put, as usual. I've been lucky enough to attend Eric's training weeks on two different occasions, and he says a lot of smart stuff like that.

I normally hide the minority answers, but I got a laugh out of this one; another person mistakenly thinking the panel wouldn't be able to find the right answer:

James Coutts: 3NT. If partner is the one with heart shortage 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is quite likely better, but if East is the one with heart shortage we want to play 3NT. If they are 2-2 we mightn't make anything. Not sure how I can find out, and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) although appealing doesn't sound like the way to win a bidding poll.

So, having eliminated the most flawed bids, we are left with just one unlikely-looking candidate:

Fraser Rew: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I can't remember ever bidding a doubleton on the second round before, but everything else seems worse.

Gary Hyett: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A bit off centre, but I need more information. Could blast 3NT, but could easily be the wrong contract. We are off on a voyage of discovery!

JC Clement: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A waiting bid, we are going to play 5, 6, or 7 (!) diamonds...

Barbara Whitmee: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Control bid. Would like to hear partner bid hearts or spades.

John R. Mayne: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Cooperating with partner seems an excellent plan.

Ian Spight: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Cue bid showing first or second round control in clubs.

Michael Smart: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Going to game, but in which strain? New suits suggest shape: I'll bid 3NT over partner's next bid, which ought to be read as implying a short spade i.e. having shown both club and heart stops.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The advantage 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) has over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is that if partner was just invitational and rebids 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) we can now cue bid our other black suit without overshooting 3NT, a useful backup contract if we can’t make 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Dan Baker: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too good to suggest a minimum with 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but I don't want to get past 3NT, don't want to bid it immediately with a stiff spade, and splintering invites partner to bid 3NT without knowing my heart stopper is worthless as dummy. Least of evils, although they're all definitely evil. At least if partner raises I can go back to diamonds at any level.

The two main minority answers on this one were:

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (10%). The comments indicated fear of losing images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AK and a ruff in 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Possible, although as little as images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)9 and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)xx may be enough to avoid that. And rejecting an invitation with all these tricks is surely an anti-partnership move.

3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (6%). Looking for a heart stopper; logical enough on the surface, but if you want to play in 3NT, the spade position is surely a bigger concern. Rather than pointing partner's attention toward hearts, it's much better to just bid your hand and let him make his own decisions.

Hand Four - East deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T873
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K8654
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K732
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ---


West North East South
    pass pass
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) dbl pass 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?


Call Award %
Pass 100 50 35
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 22 10
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 11 30
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 6 7
Dbl 30 11 19

Next we have the perennial 5-over-4 question. I have to admit, I have very little interest in this kind of problem, having seen so many of them in various bidding forums over the years. Still, most of the submissions we receive from readers are along these lines, so I'm happy to slip one in every now and then.

One objection to this kind of problem is that it so often ends up like this:

Eddie Kantar: Pass. I assume this is forcing given the previous bidding.

Ron Klinger: Pass. Happy to leave the decision to partner.

Patrick Huang: Pass. Leave the decision to partner. Whatever he chooses is fine with me. I have both offense and defense.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Good offence and defence so leave decision to partner.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. It is not clearcut to pass or double so I should let partner decide.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Leave it to pard, I have shown I have stuff, lets get a plus.

David Matthews (similarly Henri de Jong, Stephen Bartos): Pass. I have already more than bid my hand so I will let partner decide what to do next.

Fraser Rew: Pass. I've said my piece. If partner can double, great. No reason to think we're beating this, or that 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will be a good save.

Ron Lel: Pass. East appears to have only 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I doubt we can make 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on this. I have done enough with my 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid, which was a mild overbid anyway.

Richard Morse: Pass. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was quite aggressive I thought. I'll leave this one to partner.

In the magazine, moderator Peter Smith took the opposite view: since our aggressive 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid was driven by us having a "good playing hand", the consistent approach is to try to play the hand. But to look at it a different way:

Leigh Matheson: Pass. If I wanted to bid one level higher I would have done it on the previous round of the auction.

Hard to argue with that.

Gary Hyett: Pass. I'm hoping Pard will go on with a spade void. Double could be right. Have we both got ten trumps? Don't think pass is forcing. I hate to save at pairs.

Robert Black: Pass. Partner can double or bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and my pass allows him. But 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) by me may be a phantom sacrifice.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Let partner make the last mistake.

Two-thirds of the readers, and half the panellists, were happy to take the decision on themselves, and nearly all of those chose to bid. Disagreeing:

Jacco Hop: Dbl. I am happy to defend 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. I think 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is in trouble so we must double at Matchpoints.

Damo Nair: Dbl. I'll take a plus, at least try to. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with K empty 5th, four spades and a club void is just too much.

Mick McAuliffe: Dbl. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) looks just as likely to go down as their 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from where I sit. If P has something more to say, he can say it.

Mick McAuliffe (he sent in two answers): 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). You're done now. Sacrifice bid that just might make. North and West have most of the HCP. East probably has less HCPs than you. North is likely about a 1-4-4-4 with 14 HCPs. Just a question of where those HCPs are.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Dbl. Against 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) we will probably get a heart, a club and a club ruff and one or two diamonds for approx 300. But can we make 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? And is 4 imps worth it? 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was my absolute max-bid. Let's tell partner that my hand is through bidding. With significant extras he can pull, but 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) does not suggest them.

Philip Hocking: Dbl. Bidding 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is likely to give East/West a positive match. East/West likely have five hearts so North/South may have two heart winners, one ruff and at least one other suit trick.

Roger Yandle: Dbl. Looks like pard has something like void-Axxx-QJxx-KQxxx. If I can get a club ruff before declarer draws trumps then 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should go off.

Nigel Kearney: Dbl. Pass is not forcing. Even if it were, double is still tempting.

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. Perhaps this will work.

Bridge Baron: Dbl. Simulation: +150 for defending 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled, +34.75 for defending 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) undoubled. Bridge Baron is not allowed to bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) here, having already stretched for a 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid.

For the 40% who chose to bid on unilaterally, there was still the question of how to do it. There were three groups: (a) bidding for the lead, (b) looking for slam, and (c) bid what we want to play. More than half the bidders went for the club lead against 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes):

Tim Bourke: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). When your side has agreed a suit in a competitive auction, bid what you want led at the next turn is the mantra in such auctions.

Manuel Paulo: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This bid suggests the lead against 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), if the opponents bid over 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Charles Scholl: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Competing to the five level is not a sure bet, but it seems like the right action here, and I want a club lead if we're on defense.

Zbych Bednarek: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). For lead against expectable 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Peter Vlas: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm willing to go to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but when they bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) partner will have a lead.

Kees Schaafsma: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Just in case they bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over my 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Derek Pocock: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Must be telling partner something.

Richard Semmens: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Since I am going to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) anyway I may as well ask for a club lead should we be defending 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). (which I will double based on the club lead)

Dean Eidler: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If he cues 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and not look for seven. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was a underbid last time.

I totally agree Dean, I have no idea why people are calling 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) an overbid. We really seem to be in the minority here though.

The next group chose 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a slam try. So 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (void) asks for a lead, while 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (values) asks for a fit. Huh? Andrew Robson argues that the 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid is misguided:

Andrew Robson: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Slam is still possible with an opposing 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid very unlikely, so I don't like a 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid (preparing the defence to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled) as partner will misjudge the bidding. 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is natural, and there are plenty of not brilliant fitting hands for partner where slam will make.

Emil Battista: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Just in case partner has 4+ diamonds.

Par Ol-Mars: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Pure guess work now. All depends on how much points partner has in clubs. Maybe would have been better to start with only 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This might be enough to wake partner up to a club lead should the contract be 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled.

And while the panel played with their toys, the readers decided slam and defence were both equally unlikely, and just cut to the point:

Hoi Ming Chan: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as lead directing is tempting but it's unlikely they will bid to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) given East's initial pass.

Ian McCance: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Always fear the worst for the defence to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), almost always wrong. But consistent.

Barbara Whitmee: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). From the bidding partner is void in spades. I am void in clubs. We have a double fit. Good chance of making 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled.

Michael Smart: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I could pass to deny a spade trick, but my void and the 5th heart is not something partner would ever discern. I'll buy the drinks when partner turns up with good clubs and honourless diamonds.

Dan Baker: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't think the opponents know about the double fit yet, but I do (diamonds and hearts). We may have dueling black voids for a cross-ruff (partner can't have more than one spade). Two-way shot.

Lindsay Coker: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Let's rename bridge the gambler's game.

James Coutts: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My hand has certainly got better. It would be good to know if we play forcing pass here, in which case I will pass and bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over double. Without that knowledge I will just bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with the aim of beating the 300s, and forget about +980.

Viscovich Andrea: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner is probably void in spades, no waste on my xxxx. I think we can make 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), not so sure opps will go down on 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tania Black: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). No defence to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hope partner did not want to double.

Martyn Rew: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has values outside of hearts, and presumably outside of spades, so diamonds should be a valuable double fit suit.

John R. Mayne: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner's 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) shows something tasty; we might make an over (or two!). I would have bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) the first round; this hand is just a super monster against a takeout double. If I had ended up playing in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) opposite 5-AQ92-AQT4-9432, whose fault would that be. (I know the answer!)

So do I.

Alpaya Ari: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has no spade, and 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has more chance than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) minus 1.

JC Clement: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This hand has more offense than defense potential.

Tim Trahair: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We have little in the way of defence, but club void and North's spade shortage are a source of tricks in hearts.

Michael Burt: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We should make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (which I should have bid last time with a 7 loser hand). Getting EW off three is not going to be easy as my partner can't lead trumps. Given some pairs would have gone straight to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and been left there, the best chance is to bid 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and hope that it makes.

Wayne Somerville: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Where's the bid that goes with the explanation? It looks like partner is very short in spades, so 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) looks like a good bet. I already really valued my club void when I bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), so I won't make a further try. 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is an interesting second choice though.

Pass gets the 100 points, and this time I can gratefully say that the Pass votes outnumber the collective bidders (5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)/5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)), so for once Pass genuinely does deserve its top score. For everyone who missed the top score, this problem will turn up again soon enough, so remember to pass next time.

Hand Five - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J98
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A98654
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQ
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ

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


Call Award %
2NT 100 39 14
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 28 24
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 50 6 3
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 17 21
Pass 20 6 17
3NT 20 0 3
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10 6 19

Finishing off a fairly wild set of hands, we have a nice simple 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) auction.

What? Seven different answers? All I can say to that is, it must be really difficult to write a textbook.

Let's start at the top, while I add a new word to my spell checker:

Hoi Ming Chan: 2NT. The hand looks notrumpy, and we have an invitational hand.

Mats Hedström: 2NT. 15-17 with good heart suit.

Nigel Kearney: 2NT. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is too much but I will not help the defence by making a descriptive game try unless it helps partner more, and here it doesn't.

Peter Vlas: 2NT. Balanced invite.

JC Clement: 2NT. Even at favorable, a game proposition seems better than passing.

Damo Nair: 2NT. Just enough for a game try.

Rainer Herrmann: 2NT. Natural game try. I am prepared to play 3NT.

Jacco Hop: 2NT. Partner didn't bid Drury so I have to be a bit more cautious.

That's the panel majority; the reader majority went with another good option:

Tony Treloar: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With something good in spades even a minimum brings game to no worse that a diamond finesse and the hearts behaving.

Michael Smart: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A help bid -- spade cards are needed for game.

Barbara Whitmee: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Help suit ask. Don't want to be in four if partner has no help in spades. Could be best to just pass, but I think my partner must have nine points because west did not make an intervening bid.

Charles Scholl: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Help suit game try. Would pass at matchpoints.

Roger Yandle: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Long suit trial bid. This looks very straightforward so I must have missed something.

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Long suit trial. I have 6½ losers but at IMPs it is worth a game try. Give partner as little as Ax-Kxxx-xxx-xxxx and game is virtually assured.

Ian Patterson, Niek Van Vucht, Wayne Somerville, Manuel Paulo, Mick McAuliffe, Bridge Baron: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Long suit trial.

John R. Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). OK, I know how this goes: If the bidders outnumber the passers, the passers still get 100 for beating any individual bid. That, as we say in the states, "ain't good." Very close decision though; the passers could well be winners.

I totally understand your apprehension, but it's unfounded in this case; the passers (aka Paul Yovich) barely outnumbered the 7NT bidders. A sizeable stack of readers went with it though:

Robert Black: Pass. 16 points, but still the same 6½ or 7 losers.

Margaret Reid: Pass. 7 loser not good enough to raise.

Dean Eidler: Pass. Go off too often in 3 to make it worth inviting on this hand.

James Coutts: Pass. I would have opened 1NT of course, but after this start I will settle for taking a plus.

I have to admit I always open 1NT with this hand. A few weeks ago in the ITS I opened 1NT with a 2632, showed hearts over Stayman, and offered 3NT over partner's game forcing heart raise. Partner corrected to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) of course, but even with our 6-4 fit, 3NT was the only game. Similarly, 3NT is the only game here, another 6-4 heart fit.

Lindsay Coker: Pass. Minimum response and I have 7-8 losers.

Richard Semmens: Pass. My hand has 7 losers. I don't have anything more to say at this stage. I expect the opponents to balance, to which I will continue with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Alpaya Ari: Pass. With 7 losers pass is the best option.

Gary Lane: Pass. With 7 losers I have nothing extra.

It's hard to justify a unilateral pass when we have a 9-card fit with up to 25 points. Especially when there are so many lovely invitational options. Even the lone passer on the panel noted he'd have to "apologise to partner if all pass and we make 11 tricks". Yeah you will!

At the other extreme:

Gary Hyett: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). "I shot an arrow in the air, It fell to earth I know not where". I don't feel I've got a meaningful game try, so just punt game. Harder at pairs.

Derek Pocock: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Giving minimal information to opponents -- all 3 of them.

David Kalnins: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I like to bid game :)

David Matthews: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Making any other bid will give away too much information to the defence.

Graham Wakefield: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Opponents are silent, so should have some play. Anything else allows for an opponent to bid which may not be helpful.

Michael Burt: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The absence of bidding by the opposition suggests partner may be top of the range. images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Kxx and diamondsKxx could be enough for game. Worth a go at IMPs.

Fraser Rew: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). They pay a bonus for bidding and making game, or so I heard.

Ian McCance: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Who knows? Aces are good, maybe hearts drop.

Ron Lel: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is worth a shot at Imps. I would only contemplate two other alternatives - 3NT hoping for nine quick tricks, or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) a general game try. I suspect most players, apart from rdk, would play 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a further pre-empt.

That does seem to be the case -- even rdk didn't mention 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (he chose 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)). On the other hand, many of the readers did choose 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), all intending it as invitational. Emil explains the secret to his consistent success in this forum:

Emil Battista: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The best bid to convert a positive to a negative.

There were also some reader votes for a different game:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3NT. Nine tricks are easier than ten and I have extras. Opposite Qxx-Qxx-xxx(x)-Qxx(x) we have a reasonable shot.

Leigh Matheson: 3NT. Nine tricks are easier than ten. Dummy won’t be able to ruff anything in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (unless the opponents have passed with an 8+ card spade fit).

Kees Schaafsma: 3NT. I need very little from pard; images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K and images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Qx could be enough so inviting game is pointless. One could argue that the slow road through 2NT shows doubt about 3NT, but I prefer to keep opps in the dark, pard may always convert to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

The "bidding forum strategy" referred to by John Mayne certainly has a place, and that place was Problem Four. On this kind of problem, the secret is that there will be passers, and there will be game bidders, so the win always goes to the people in the middle. Top score goes to the notrump invite, followed closely by the long suit game try.

The full deal:

spades 10742
hearts KJ73
diamonds J7
clubs 987
spades AK6
hearts Q2
diamonds 104
clubs 1065432
spades Q53
hearts 10
diamonds K986532
clubs KQ
spades J98
hearts A98654
diamonds AQ
clubs AJ

While 3NT received no votes from the panel, it appears to be the only winning bid on the deal. So the 3NT bidders can claim a moral victory to go with their small award upgrade -- although it could have gone very differently.

Thanks for joining me for another forum; we'll be back in mid-to-late June with the 2nd issue of the year. The questions for that issue are here


Top scores for March
1Alex Kemeny NSW480
2Andrew MacAlister GBR470
3David Kalnins NSW440
4Nigel Kearney NZL430
4John R. Mayne USA430
4Gary Hyett GBR430
7Tony Treloar Qld420
7Paul Sontag CAN420
9Mats Hedström SWE410
9Radoslav Radev 410
11Bjarne Andersen DEN400
12Hoi Ming Chan NSW380
12Dean Pokorny 380
12Michael Smart ACT380
12Wayne Somerville IRL380
16Dominic Connolly NSW370
16Peter Nuoristo SWE370
18Jc Clement 360
18Rainer Herrmann GER360
18Henri De Jong Vic360
18Todd Holes USA360
22Peter Stride Qld350
22David Matthews WA350
22Hans Van Vooren NED350
22Manuel Paulo POR350
26Leigh Blizzard Tas340
26Geof Brod USA340
26Jacco Hop NED340
26Niek Van Vucht ACT340
26Tom Estenson USA340
26Margaret Reid NSW340
32Arthur Porter SA330
32Kees Schaafsma NED330
32Joe Gold WA320
32Fredrik Jarlvik SWE320
32Damo Nair USA320
37Tim Trahair NSW310
37Bram Amsel 310
37Ron Lel LAO310
37Conny Wahlgren SWE310
41Jack Lai 300
41Par Ol-Mars 300
41David Johnson CAN300
41Peter Vlas NED300
41Ig Nieuwenhuis NED300

Leading scores for 2013
1Alex Kemeny NSW480
2Andrew MacAlister GBR470
3David Kalnins NSW440
4Nigel Kearney NZL430
4John R. Mayne USA430
4Gary Hyett GBR430
7Tony Treloar Qld420
7Paul Sontag CAN420
9Mats Hedström SWE410
9Radoslav Radev 410
11Bjarne Andersen DEN400
12Hoi Ming Chan NSW380
12Dean Pokorny 380
12Michael Smart ACT380
12Wayne Somerville IRL380
16Dominic Connolly NSW370
16Peter Nuoristo SWE370
18Jc Clement 360
18Rainer Herrmann GER360
18Henri De Jong Vic360
18Todd Holes USA360
22Peter Stride Qld350
22David Matthews WA350
22Hans Van Vooren NED350
22Manuel Paulo POR350
22Leigh Blizzard Tas340
26Geof Brod USA340
26Jacco Hop NED340
26Niek Van Vucht ACT340
26Tom Estenson USA340
26Margaret Reid NSW340
32Arthur Porter SA330
32Kees Schaafsma NED330
32Joe Gold WA320
32Fredrik Jarlvik SWE320
32Damo Nair USA320
37Tim Trahair NSW310
37Bram Amsel 310
37Ron Lel LAO310
37Conny Wahlgren SWE310
41Jack Lai 300
41Par Ol-Mars 300
41David Johnson CAN300
41Peter Vlas NED300
41Ig Nieuwenhuis NED300
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
June issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
March-May issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.