Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, June - August 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.
Scroll down to see the final scores
Submit answers for the September forum
Subscribe to Australian Bridge magazine
Hand One - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ8732
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J54
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A5


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


Call Award %
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 53 17
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 29 58
2NT 80 12 9
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 6 6
3clubs 40 0 4
3NT 30 0 2
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 2
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 0 1
4clubs 0 0 1

Welcome to the 2nd forum of 2013. When I presented our 1st problem, I originally thought it was a simple choice between 2NT and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), both non forcing. There were two glitches I didn't anticipate: (1) most people actually thought this hand was worth a game force, and (2) many people thought 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was forcing:

Alan Jones: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing six spades and an opening hand.

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tells partner we have six spades and an opening hand. He can decide where we go next, probably 3NT.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has a real club suit and I have good spades. We should get to game in one of them.

Philip Hocking: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Looking for partner support.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing six spades, for 3NT or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Barbara Whitmee: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Shows points, an extra spade, no three card support for clubs, and the unbid suits not stopped for no trumps.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This needs agreements. With regular partner 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be New Minor forcing (needed with weak NT). Partner has to have at most one spade (in a 1345 or 1435) or an excess of clubs (at least six). So I have to describe an invitational+ hand with six spades. In a total misfit 3NT might have chances. That will end up in partner's hand after this bid, but I see no alternative. With a total dog partner will pass and we may be down (a lot?) If he has the long clubs he may venture a 4clubs bid and relay the problem to me: pass or 5clubs?

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Both the hearts and the diamonds would be useful support in NT if partner has decent cards in them himself, otherwise they are trouble. Expecting to pass whatever partner says next.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forcing per Aussie system. As for strength a white lie, but bidding a red suit would be a black lie. Over 3NT I'll pass, over 4clubs which in my mind denies as much as a doubleton spade I'm forced to bid 5clubs.

I'm not sure where Kees' system reference came from. AB Standard is a very bare system -- I usually try to supply problems where system is irrelevant. But as it happens, this auction is in the system notes, and it says not forcing -- the traditional treatment. So 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is also the perfect choice for those who realised the hand is not worth a game force:

David Matthews: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner could be weak. I will invite and be prepared to play in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opposite a singleton or void.

Manuel Paulo: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I should not impose game, but I do suggest it.

Michael Burt: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North is a minimum type hand. South has an 8 loser hand (losing trick count) and thus only worth an invitation.

Martyn Rew: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Game is very possible in spades or NT. Partner can decide.

Lindsay Coker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I play 1clubs/2clubs as weakish, but if partner holds cover in the reds this may run, and if enough points at the three level.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Vul at IMPs is a good time to be aggressive, but Qx Jxx in the unbid suits aren't worth much. We may have 10 tricks once we get in but four top losers.

Roger Yandle: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My hand looks better than it is I think -- too many QJs.

Bridge Baron: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must show six-card spade suit. With better-quality spades or a little more strength anywhere, would jump to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Dean Eidler: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Middle of the road.

Obviously the suit quality is not what you'd expect for a jump like this:

Ron Lel: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I really dislike the 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid I just made, not because the hand is too strong for an invitational bid, but because the Spades are not good enough for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This hand is not worth a game force with the unsupported red suit honours. However given the methods we play, I see little option. 2NT is abysmal; we lack stoppers in both red suits and this bid does nothing to show the 6th Spade. Many pairs have adopted a conventional 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid here, but as we have not, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it is.

Ron is referring to the Bourke Relay, an artificial 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) game force. The panel were all aware that we have no agreement on 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but most of them chose to bid it anyway, figuring it couldn't turn out any worse than the alternatives. One very notable exception:

Tim Bourke: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm a bit "quacky" for any game force and, while the spade suit isn't wonderful, I do have six of them.

Exactly. If Tim isn't bidding 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I don't know what the rest of you think you're doing. Still, let's see what you have to say:

Nigel Kearney: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Should be a convention but I'd do it anyway undiscussed. Saves space, making it easy for partner to give preference on a doubleton if he has one.

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tough one. Since nothing fits the cheapest forcing bid seems as good as any.

John Newman: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A chance to hear 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and discourage a diamond lead against 3NT.

Wayne Somerville: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Is extended new minor forcing in AB standard? At least it's forcing, allowing me to follow up with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and offer partner the choice between 3NT and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Damo Nair: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Just keeping the bidding open, lets see what North has besides 6+ clubs.

Tony Treloar: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Start the game force then show the extra spades. Should be able to find our right game from here.

JC Clement: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3rd suit, forcing one round and artificial ; 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not forcing...

Dean Pokorny: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). To check if 3NT/5clubs may be better than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Jacco Hop: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My spades are too bad for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and my hand is also way to no trump oriented for that

James Coutts: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Annoying that the system card doesn't seem to explicitly state this is forcing, but presumably it must be if 1clubs-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-2clubs-3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't.

James is the 2nd person I have met in my life to suggest that a new suit at the 2-level might possibly be non-forcing. The other person was also from New Zealand, so maybe it's a Kiwi thing. In Australia, there is no doubt on that issue.

Given that 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is not agreed as artificial, there is no strong reason why our fake 2nd suit should be diamonds. Especially with such a beautiful heart fragment: 

Alex Kemeny: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Gives partner more options than cramping us up with a 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid that overstates my spades. Over 2NT or 3clubs, I'll repeat my spades. If he jumps to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I'll let him play the Moysian. My bid may also inhibit a heart lead if we end in NT.

Fraser Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have a lot of sympathy for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but partner may never get the gag. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is non-forcing, and partner should never bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) directly over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) -- if he does, it might be right.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If the hearts and spades were reversed this bid would be routine, as partner would have denied a major and there would be little risk of a raise.

That's most of the votes accounted for, but we still have a few people who were not willing to game force:

Charles Scholl: 2NT. Gives partner a chance to support spades, right-sides a NT contract, and is very unlikely to be passed.

David Kalnins: 2NT. Not enough to force to game, and don't want to over-emphasise the spades. I have to right side my full stoppers in the red suits!

"Not enough to force to game, and don't want to over-emphasise the spades". Honestly, I'm really not sure how the panel missed that.

Michael Smart: 2NT. If partner accepts, he can show secondary spade support en route. Happy to miss a 6-2 spade fit in favour of known club tricks in NT.

John R Mayne: 2NT. Promising stoppers I do not have in two suits and inviting overheavy rather than shooting out 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with the rest of the lemmings. If it gets passed out, it's not wrong yet and this keeps spades in the picture. (If I'm the only one who votes for 2NT, change my name to "Eddie Kantar" in the writeup.)

Can't do that, Eddie's already got an entry in. He's right there with you though:

Eddie Kantar: 2NT. This is a good problem because there are so many alternatives. I have made a last minute decision to try 2NT rather than 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

2NT isn't the weakest bid on offer here, we still have two options left:

Robert Black: 3clubs. Partner may be happy to bid 3NT with points in the red suits

Bjarne Andersen: 3clubs. With N/S vul and IMPS you have to describe the hand carefully. 3clubs and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) are possibilities, but the spades are rather weak. hopefully North will be happy to know about the club support.

And we'll finish a small group of people who know a bad hand when they see one:

Sam Arber: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's an 8 loser hand even though 12 points. May only be worth 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but that bid's not available. 

Peter Vlas: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A bit high perhaps, but I have too much to be tempted to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Ian McCance: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I want to bid a wimpish 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but the box won't let me. I don't like those quacks and the lack of spade texture makes me dislike this 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

I didn't think to put 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in the box, but that wouldn't stop you if you really believed in your choice. You could have selected "Other", like Tania:

Tania Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not optimistic today.

Very brave to go out on your own like that, and you've easily outshone the entire panel. I'm giving you your own private 100 points for that choice, as my own small protest against that ridiculous 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid. As for the 2NT bid, there is a small but impressive list of names attached to that choice, with very solid arguments, so I'm upgrading that one too, as well as 3clubs.

The full deal, from the NSW Interstate Teams selection event:

spades ---
hearts K632
diamonds AK98
clubs Q10873
spades KQ54
hearts Q98
diamonds 1052
clubs K42
spades 1096
hearts A107
diamonds J743
clubs J96
spades AJ8732
hearts J54
diamonds Q6
clubs A5

None of the 34 pairs managed to stop in a partscore, although six of the pairs in 3NT were allowed to make it.

Hand Two - South deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJ32
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKT
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJ97


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


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 29 22
Pass 90 35 21
2NT 80 35 27
3NT 20 0 18
1NT 0 0 4
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 3
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 2
2clubs 0 0 2
3clubs 0 0 1
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 1

Apart from a truckload of minority bids, the panel voted this next problem as an even three-horse race between the penalty pass, the GF cue, and the natural invite. The votes were so close that over the past few days, each of the three bids held the lead at one time or another, ultimately ending in a tie between Pass and 2NT.

In the event of a tie, the moderator casts the deciding vote -- Phil has chosen to give his vote to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), turning it into a three-way tie. So technically he's not breaking any rules by giving the top award to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Technically. I'm sure there will be some complaints; I have Phil's mobile number if anyone wants it.

So, 100 points for:

Robert Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT over a minor suit response; 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

David Kalnins: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). An ugly bid but the strain is not clear and game is on.

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). By a process of elimination. Any lower bid under-states my values and/or shape. Any higher bid (except perhaps 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)) mis-states my shape. But I do not jump raise without 4 card support, so I have discarded 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) tells partner I am strong with heart support. After his next bid, I will be well placed to make a decision.

Dean Pokorny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cuebid, setting GF. 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/6clubs may easily be on.

Philip Hocking: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hopefully game can be found.

Ian McCance: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm wondering how to head for 3NT and this will pass the time...Partner could have five hearts.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No need to guess just yet.

Next, the 2NT bidders. Jacco's comment seems sufficient, but we'll print a selection of the other comments anyway.

Jacco Hop: 2NT. Looks like 18-19 balanced.

Michael Smart: 2NT. Another hand lending itself to 'on the way' description: heart, club and NT contracts all remain in the picture.

Tim Trahair: 2NT. Gives partner a good impression of our hand i.e. a good spade cover and no 4 card suit in diamonds or hearts. If he bids 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) we can try 3NT, or if 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) we can try 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Damo Nair: 2NT. I can't think of another bid that conveys the strength of this hand. North should show up with some diamonds.

Roger Yandle: 2NT. Given the unfav vul I'm assuming it's a sensible overcall and hence it'll be hard to extract enough in penalties at the 1 level. We might have game and only be able to take them 1 off.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2NT. Not ideal but describes the worth of the hand best: 18-19, spade stop, no four hearts. since partner has to have some points and with my holding, he rates to have diamonds. Check-back will reveal a heart fit after which slam is not impossible (not likely though if LHO has his bid).

David Matthews: 2NT. Partner likely to have diamonds on this bidding and could be 5 or 6 points only. If she bids 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) showing 5 (but less than 10 points), I will raise to game.

Nigel Kearney: 2NT. Partner probably has something in diamonds and this is my most descriptive call.

Charles Scholl: 2NT. Partner will raise to 3 with a reasonably balanced hand and the values he's shown and can offer a suit contract if more distributional, say 5-5 in the reds, in which case we will probably end up in hearts.

Tony Treloar: 2NT. Show my values...considering that pard doesn't rate to have much in the other 3 suits he should have a decent diamond stopper. He should bid again if holding more than 4 hearts.

Ron Lel: 2NT. On values alone, 2NT is a light underbid, but given that my Spade honours lie under the overcaller, I will make the more pessimistic call. The other option is 3NT. Lol at those who pass, though in this forum I am sure there will be some who do.

You'll have to LOL at a lot of people; Pass actually shared the top expert vote, along with your own choice. If your partner leaves you in 2NT, I'm sure you will wish you could return to 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled -- this is why Phil has demoted 2NT below Pass in the awards.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I suppose that there are only 14 total tricks (at spades by West and at notrump by South).

Sam Arber: Pass. 200 if one off and can only make part score 500 2 off if we can make game

Derek Pocock: Pass. expecting 500+ against our non vul game

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. I could hardly have a more suitable hand, alternatives are scarce. No matter the outcome, next time I'll pass again.

John Newman: Pass. I'd want specific cards to make a slam, so I'll aim for less specific cards and a decent double.

John R Mayne: Pass. If they have diamonds, we might not have 3N. If they don't have diamonds, we're getting our +500 here. And if partner has 7 QJ743 A43 QT43? -160, +980, whatever. In the end the sun will go supernova and everyone will forget about the time we went minus at the one level when we had a slam.

Dan Baker: Pass. If we have 3NT, partner must have something good in diamonds, which means West has nowhere to get tricks. If he's got five hearts (but too weak to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) direct), 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may be on with 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) down only one. But that's a risk I'm willing to take, especially when no bid accurately describes my hand.

Wayne Somerville: Pass. It never feels right to pass a negative double at the 1 level, but here, we have so much defense that I expect to beat it 2 often enough to compensate for our game.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Looking for tasty 500.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Could be very wrong but I cannot resist.

Richard Semmens: Pass. Very unlikely we are making a better score in a contract.

Before winding up this question, a quick note to the many 1NT bidders who may be wondering why their choice didn't get a mention here. If partner had passed, we would need extra values to bid 1NT, say 18-19. But on this hand, partner has bid freely, so 1NT here would be equivalent to 1clubs-1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-1NT. This action would be consistent with a 12-14 hand. Similarly with the 2clubs and 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders.

At the other extreme, there were many votes for an immediate jump to 3NT. Given that (a) it is not certain that we should be in notrumps, and (b) 2NT is not really an underbid, I can't see any justification for jumping to 3NT and shutting out possible 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 6clubs, or 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) contracts. Still, zero seems a harsh score for any 3NT bid, so a small upgrade seems in order here. 

The full deal is from the Batemans Bay congress, submitted by John Newman of Blaxland. This is John's first entry in our forum, and he scored 490 points on this set of problems (unluckily dropping ten points on this problem). 

spades 85
hearts QJ543
diamonds KJ6
clubs 962
spades A10974
hearts 62
diamonds Q984
clubs Q10
spades K6
hearts 987
diamonds A10732
clubs 754
spades QJ32
hearts AK10
diamonds 5
clubs AKJ83

All the bidders (except those who chose 3NT) will likely end up in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3NT and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) are both reasonable contracts, both of which will require a good guess. At the table, 3NT usually made while 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) made about half the time. No one defended a spade contract, but 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled is likely to be +200.

Hand Three - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T43
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KJ86
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QT43
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K5


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


Call Award %
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 53 60
1NT 90 35 29
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 60 12 7
2clubs 0 0 2
2NT 0 0 2

When I was young, I used to stare in bewilderment as people debated whether
1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) promised 3, 4 or 5 diamonds. Even here in 2013, I recently saw a good pair bid 1clubs-1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-2NT with a 4333 13-count opposite a 3433 10-count (they picked up an imp as it happened, being the only pair forced to try for an 8th trick -- I guess if you can't bid you need to play well).

I am thrilled to see that out of all the comments on this problem, only two people suggested the possibility that opener might have three diamonds (comments deleted, you know who you are). This led to an easy majority for the diamond partscore, although a few people thought the 7-trick contract was still our best bet:

Robert Black: 1NT. May be easier to make 7, with the lead coming up to images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Kx, than to make 8 in diamonds.

Emil Battista: 1NT. Protecting my clubsK.

Mick McAuliffe: 1NT. Not looking like a game is on. Notrump is the better option, plus having West on lead could be worth a trick.

Philip Hocking: 1NT. Partner is likely 4-4 in diamonds and spades and no real support for hearts.

Alan Jones: 1NT. Happy to convert 2clubs to 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if partner is 4441.

Martyn Rew: 1NT. If partner bids again, I will support diamonds.

Alex Kemeny: 1NT. It is too deep for me to find 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 1NT shows a flat 6-9 HCP hand without primary support for partner's major and a stop in the unbid suit. And that is what I have.

Tony Treloar: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Vulnerable at IMPs I'll let partner play in the fit...Would bid 1NT at Matchpoints.

Some commented that 1NT was the more encouraging choice, more likely to get us to game:

Peter Vlas: 1NT. I'm not tempted to bid something else. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a bit too negative sounding for me.

Bjarne Andersen: 1NT. Same situation as in hand one. South must show a little "life". The best way is to bid 1 NT. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is too little, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) too much. And 2clubs is GF.

JC Clement: 1NT. Or 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? The diamond fit is certain, but if partner is rich, he will be happy to know we have a club stopper.

Richard Semmens: 2NT. Let's play in 3NT if partner has some extra values.

Making a different move toward game:

Wayne Somerville: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Close between 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The fact that 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could be a king weaker and 1 less card in support makes me go the high road.

David Kalnins: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Seems routine to me.

Michael Smart: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too good for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 1NT conceals the good fit, and too weak for 2NT - so 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) it is.

Ron Lel: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Very close to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I will choose the slight underbid as I am not sure how much my rounded suit honours are worth. 1NT is a decent alternative and I would not quibble with that bid.

Fraser Rew: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With sharper values, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be better. Either clubs or hearts could easily go wrong in NT (but with soft values I'd take my chances at Matchpoints).

The top vote went decisively to the signoff in our known fit:

Ian McCance: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not worth 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Don't like NT with short stopper. Partner can check if interested.

Manuel Paulo: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With fit and a rather weak hand, I don't envisage any other call.

Michael Burt: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 9 points but flat. At IMPs show partner a fit with a not very exciting hand. (Would look at NT at Matchpoints.)

David Matthews: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I have decided to be conservative. If partner bids again such as 3clubs 4th suit forcing, I will jump to 3NT.

John R Mayne: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I've got a little extra, but if this gets passed out, I'm not ready to call it a tragedy.

Charles Scholl: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If partner cannot bid again we're not missing much.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Looking for the best strain, we seem to have a diamond fit. If partner has enough to continue I can show my maximum. If he doesn't continue this seems a good contract.

Damo Nair: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). More than enough on this aceless hand.

James Coutts: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My major holdings dissuade me from being any more aggressive with this hand. Txx and KJxx are both contextually bad.

Duncan Roe: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Prefer diamonds over spades. Modest hand, so make minimal bid.

Tim Trahair: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Showing suit preference. At this stage we don't know how strong partner is. Possibly game is on somewhere.

Dean Pokorny: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Simple raise, intending to accept an invitational bid.

The common theme running through many of the 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bids was "safety":

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North must have at least four diamonds and if we belong in partial, this should be safer than a notrump partial.

Jack Lai: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). IMP, try to find a safe contract

Sam Arber: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempted to pass. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems safer than 1NT.

Dan Baker: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Show the fit before showing a Kx stopper. If partner's really interested in NT, we can still get there, but diamonds is a safer partscore.

Jacco Hop: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Nothing too fancy. I like to play in a fit rather than in a shaky 1NT. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is way too much in my opinion.

Despite this problem being displayed as IMPs, it actually came from a Matchpoint game at the Grand Slam Bridge Centre. We didn't keep the full deal, but all roads led to 110 or 120 (which will please all the people who said they would have bid 1NT at Matchpoints).

Hand Four - East deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T97
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KJ2
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 864
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJ9


West North East South
    1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ?


Call Award %
Pass 100 76 75
Dbl 90 24 20
2clubs 10 0 6

Next we have what I like to call a referendum problem. It's not so much a bidding problem; it's more a snapshot in time, a brief update on how the bidding world is changing. Ten years ago, this hand would obviously never have raised a question -- has anything changed today?

Before answering that, we need to quickly dispose of the 2clubs menace. For the experts, Mike Lawrence and Ron Klinger both mentioned the possibility of overcalling 2clubs. Lawrence described it as "too swingy", while Klinger thought it was a valid option (though I'm not sure how that fits in with Klinger's Rule of Overcalls). For the readers, 7% chose 2clubs, but only one person offered a comment:

Duncan Roe: 2clubs. I wouldn't have opened this flat 12-pointer if RHO had passed, but now I think it's worth it as a lead director if nothing else.

Emil Battista: Dbl. No wasted values in diamonds! A lead directing 2clubs is tempting -- especially against a good declarer who counts the hands.

Roger Yandle: Pass. I'm tempted to bid 2clubs for the lead but I'm too flat.

Ron Lel: Pass. Bidding 2clubs for the lead on a 4-card suit is not my style, especially as partner is yet to bid. Double is idiotic and does not even deserve a comment.

David Matthews: Pass. Do I want to bid 2clubs for a lead in second seat? I don't think so as it could run into trouble. I will await developments.

John Newman: Pass. Vaguely tempting to direct the lead or aim for a partscore in a major, but I'd rather pass and give partner a pleasant surprise than hear "...thaaaankss..." when dummy comes down.

David Kalnins: Pass. I might double on this at the table hoping to push them competitively but this is misguided. Hey - what can I say sometimes its OK not to be perfect at the table. If I was in Zia's Heat One I would bid 2clubs.

"Zia's Heat One" refers to those times when everything is going well and everything you try works out for you, as described in his book Bridge My Way. Zia himself is handing off the bid to another frequent Heat One resident:

Zia: Pass. Nobody from my part of the world was called Helgemo. He would double, I cringe.

So enough fooling around, let's get to the real question: how many people are willing to double on this hand? Almost everyone I've spoken to in person would double, but most of the players in that sample were aged under 40. As are most of these:

John R Mayne: Dbl. I admit that I don't like it much, but this is standard expert style in the US, and if you're going to do it on this shape, this is surely the hand and conditions.

James Coutts: Dbl. I don't have a strong opinion about whether or not the current expert standard trend of doubling on this hand is right or wrong. So I'll trust it is the current expert standard for a reason.

Wayne Somerville: Dbl. I had almost this exact hand last week, double worked then, I'll try it again. It is not unlikely partner has a 5 card major anyway.

Leigh Matheson: Dbl. I used to pass hands like these, until I noticed the experts weren't.

Dean Pokorny: Dbl. If 2M is our spot, a thin initial double is needed.

Damo Nair: Dbl. Is MPs so I'm stretching a bit. I don't have to guess later whether to balance or not.

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. One chance to bid.

Jacco Hop: Dbl. Opening bid with 3 card support for all unbid suits.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. To bid or not to bid that is the question. My plan is to pass partner's response unless he shows strength.

Fraser Rew: Dbl. With a hand like this we want to bid, but if things go badly we'll be in trouble, so we must get in and get out quickly.

For the panel, the unsurprising list of doublers were Kate McCallum, Mike Lawrence, Sartaj Hans and Peter Fordham. Larry Cohen and Andrew Robson described it as a very close decision, but most of the panel thought the pass was automatic.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I'm not in a hurry to enter the auction.

Derek Pocock: Pass. Awaiting developments

Charles Scholl: Pass. Better for defense unless partner has something to say

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. Conservative, but apart from a point-count minimum this hand is all flaws. A 2nd round 2clubs could show this hand (depending on style and agreements).

Nigel Kearney: Pass. Double with a flat hand is fine, but you need a bit extra or more in the majors. Otherwise partner will bid too much.

Michael Burt: Pass. Flat hand with only 12 points. Double is horrible and nothing else to bid. Leave it alone and see what happens.

Robert Black: Pass. Flat; no 4 card major; and the bidding is not over.

JC Clement: Pass. I bet that "Pass" will be chosen by at least 80% of the panel... I can't imagine another bid.

No, not 80%, but close.

Ian McCance: Pass. I don't shine at MP (if at all).

Tony Treloar: Pass. I like to stretch to bid 2clubs over 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but I fear that coming in here will stretch the partnership faith too much.

Dan Baker: Pass. I need more than an ugly 12-count to make a takeout double with 4-3-3, and there's no way I'm overcalling at the two level on four cards. Switch the clubs with either major and I'd overcall, but then this wouldn't be a problem.

Alan Jones: Pass. If partner cannot enter the auction, I don't want to either.

Martyn Rew: Pass. if partner does not have enough to enter the bidding, this hand is going nowhere.

Bjarne Andersen: Pass. If your clubs were hearts or spades you eventually could bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on this hand but as it is you better keep silent.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. Nine losers, so I do not feel that I have to compete now. If I double, partner will be disappointed with my minimal values and no 4 card major.

Dean Eidler: Pass. Standards have dropped but ....

Bridge Baron: Pass. Ugly square hand of mediocre strength without a four-card major, so no takeout double. Nice four-card club suit, but still only a four-card club suit, so no overcall.

Richard Semmens: Pass. Wait and see how bidding develops. Any bid at this stage misrepresents the hand.

Philip Hocking: Pass. Wait for balancing double.

Lindsay Coker: Pass. Yes, that is a wimpy bid, but partner is not going to pick clubs - is he? If he has points he can go on if west does not bid, and if west does bit (almost a certainty), then there are other options.

The problem is based on a discussion in the Bridge Base Online forum. The original hand in that forum was 1084-KJ8-864-AKQ5 with both sides vulnerable. There was a lot of support for doubling; Justin Lall even wrote that he would double without the clubsQ if the vulnerability were nil all.

And that's how we arrived here, with the weaker club suit and more attractive vulnerability.

For scoring purposes, I've upgraded the minority answer to 90 points. I'm sure most people suspected that Pass was getting the top score, so I wouldn't like to penalise those readers who gave an honest opinion without regard for their score.

Hand Five - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKJT
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 32
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT754

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


Call Award %
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 65 29
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 18 42
4NT 50 12 18
6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 40 6 7
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 3
Pass 0 0 1
Dbl 0 0 1

Our final problem appears to be the toughest of the set, with 44% of the readers planning to stop at the 4-level (compared with just three panellists). For the experts, the 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders were Andrew Robson, Ron Smith, and Tim Bourke, with Bourke quoting Qxxxx-xx-AQx-Kxx for partner. Agreeing:   

Philip Hocking: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 6 loser hand. A rebid of 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should show 16+TP (6 loser) so expect partner can push towards slam if sufficient points.

Jack Lai: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The hand is very near slam, but doubleton diamond is a risk.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). and a forcing pass later if necessary. Interesting to know what the agreement is about 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes): NFB or forcing. Even so: my partner would likely also bid it with extra spades and less points. However: its unlikely that we can make six though a perfect minimum could be: xxxxxx-x-Axxx-Hx.

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Slam needs too much wishful thinking, an easy 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Derek Pocock: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not allowing images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A to go to my head.

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner could well have a quite average hand, so just bid over the oppo's. Will bid 5 if they do, will double their 6.

Charles Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too many losers, but if partner has Aimages/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)KQx he might well figure out to probe for slam.

A few people saw this not as a slam problem, but as a decision whether or not to bid game. I blame their partners, who must be disgraceful over bidders:

Mick McAuliffe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). They might be making 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but our 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) also has a chance, even with a minimum hand from partner.

Lindsay Coker: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Sure, double may pay off, but partner is such a good bidder and player I'll settle for the 620, thanks.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems automatic, especially at IMPs where we need only about a 38% chance of success to bid a vulnerable game. Harder will be what to do when west's 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is passed back to me. Give partner Qxxxxx-x-Axx-QJx and we can make 11 tricks even when the clubsK is offside, and they can make 9 tricks. But if partner has Qxxxx-xx-KQx-xxx, then neither side can make 10 tricks.

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think it likely that the 8 HCP in spades would lose their value in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x. Playing 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a heart lead gives early chance to control the play.

Bridge Baron: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Simulation projects a 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) contract as worth +525.13, a big favorite over defending 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled, at +267.00. Would have opened 1NT, though; what if partner had held only four spades?

Recognising the slam potential, we have a few votes for the simple ace-ask, mostly with little concern about the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AK:

Bjarne Andersen: 4NT. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner is forcing so go for it! A spade slam is on its way.

Emil Battista: 4NT. Going 1 off in 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should not be really bad - especially since partner is declarer.

JC Clement: 4NT. Ok I don't know where my diamond control is... But 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is really too shy, and I can't see a way to ask for that diamond control.

Tim Trahair: 4NT. Partner is showing five spades and reasonable HCP most of which are likely to be in the red suits. Slam may be on.

Michael Burt: 4NT. Slam looks on. With the bidding, there is a good chance that partner has a singleton heart and five spades. With Aimages/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), slam is probably better than 50% and worth going for.

That last comment intends to sign off at the 5-level if the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A is missing, but all the others are planning to drive to slam anyway. So why Blackwood at all? This is why:

James Coutts: 4NT. I expect I will just want to play 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but I may as well show signs of co-operation in case partner has a perfecto such as Qxxxxx-x-AKxx-Kx and can judge to bid grand with all the second round controls after I confirm all the keys.

Michael Smart: 4NT. Wow! Partner forced with 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on queen-empty, so slam must be odds on. Will start with 4NT on the way to 6 (or 7).

Ruling out a grand slam (at least temporarily):

Nigel Kearney: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). They will probably save and I can pass to show a first round control, but without sounding as enthusiastic as I would by cue bidding 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then driving to slam.

David Kalnins: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Unexpected spade strength, lots of controls and no invitational bid available (5s would ask for heart control). 6 is definitely in the picture. Why jump? Well what do you want to find out using Blackwood?

Dan Baker: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has points somewhere, and they're not in spades or hearts. I don't see any sensible scientific auction - is partner really going to go past 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over a 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) cuebid with Qxxxx of trump? Sure, maybe we're off two quick diamond tricks. Maybe East doesn't know that.

If we really are missing the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AK, we probably have 13 top tricks. I wonder if 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be a better way to discourage a diamond lead?

Lastly, we have the more cooperative approach, the 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) general invite. There were also few votes for 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), which is misguided, because partner will pass no matter what he thinks we have:  

Fraser Rew: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) were a general try I'd bid that, but it asks for either heart control (in the real world) or good spades (circa 1954), neither of which will be forthcoming. I'm not driving to slam on my own, and an ace ask won't help, so I make a bid that is both honest and unequivocally a Spade raise.

Niklas Andrén: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Slam invite with heart control. 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would deny heart control.

Manuel Paulo: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think that 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would not be natural; so, 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should show a good fit without the diamond control, and it invites slam.

John R Mayne: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 5clubs is natural, so my choice is to chicken out in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), or make a slam try focusing on not-hearts. Partner will not go without the stuff we need (she sees her trumps) and 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will seldom be too high.

Leigh Matheson: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good enough to be worth some action towards slam, but not good enough for a unilateral blast.

Wayne Somerville: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good problem. Good hand with a heart control. There are a number of problems with this hand, like our lack of a diamond control, the meagre club suit, and a second round heart loser is possible. Still, considering partner's spades are at best Q-empty, I expect him to cover some of those flaws.

Robert Black: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). May have a slam, but need a control in diamonds. Partner has points in the minor suits somewhere.

Tony Treloar: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not exactly sure what this means...I think it should be a little flexible in this sort of auction where our space has been stolen. If partner likes his hand I expect to land in slam.

David Matthews: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner must have her points outside Spades so slam is a distinct possibility if we don't have two diamond losers.

John Newman: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems like a useful invitation that implies concern about diamonds.

Ron Lel: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). So partner bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), (forcing?), without 3 of the top 4 honours? She will have a decent hand for this or perhaps a 6th Spade. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should be a general slam try agreeing Spades, so that is my bid.

Roger Yandle: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The pre-empt has done its job but pard has shown a good hand so I can't sign-off without at least one attempt at slam. Hopefully pard will know what cards are important!

Damo Nair: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This presumably shows a heart control with slam ambitions.

Jacco Hop: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To show good hand with spade support. It is a slight overbid but with 4keycards and very good trump support I think bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will miss you slams and grand slams way too often

Ian McCance: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Worth a big raise since my spades are better than partner's.

The full deal, from an online game:

spades Q987653
hearts 7
diamonds 4
clubs KJ93
spades 4
hearts KQ10952
diamonds K1095
clubs 82
spades 2
hearts 8643
diamonds AQJ876
clubs Q6
spades AKJ10
hearts AJ
diamonds 32
clubs A10754

6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) makes on the club guess, which seems fairly easy to get right.

Thanks for joining me for another forum; we'll be back in late September with the 3rd issue of the year. The questions for that issue are here


Top scores for June
1Andrew MacAlister GBR500
2John Newman NSW490
2Rainer Herrmann GER490
2Mark Laforge 490
5Kajsa Fröjd SWE480
5Tony Treloar Qld480
5Ian McCance Vic480
8Manuel Paulo POR470
8Damo Nair USA470
8Kelsey Chen NSW 470
8Jacco Hop NED470
8Toby Weinstein USA470
8Sam Arber Vic470
14John R Mayne USA460
14Niklas Andrén SWE460
14Tom Estenson USA460
14Ron Lel LAO460
14David Matthews WA460
14Leigh Blizzard Tas460
14Kees Schaafsma NED460
21Roger Yandle NSW450
21Leigh Matheson NSW450
21Tom Kiss NSW450
24Todd Holes USA440
24Murray Perrin Qld440
24Dean Pokorny 440
24Wayne Somerville IRL440
24Paul Sontag CAN440
29David Johnson CAN430
29Mats Hedström SWE430
29Robert Black SA430
29Geof Brod USA430
29Rick Giles USA430
29Bram Amsel 430
29Philip Hocking NSW430
29Gary Lane NSW430
29Peter Stride Qld430
29Tom Moss NSW430
29Nancy Kent USA430
29Peter Tarlinton NSW430
29Fraser Rew NZL430
42Niek Van Vucht ACT420
42Nigel Kearney NZL420
42Charles Scholl USA420
42Jim Thatcher NSW420
42Robert Bäck SWE420
42Joe Gold WA420
42Alexander Cook NSW420
42Dominic Connolly NSW420
42Ian Patterson Qld420
42Ig Nieuwenhuis NED420
52Alex Kemeny NSW410
52Barry Teeger NSW410
52Trish Whitton NSW410
52Hans Van Vooren NED410
52Fredrik Jarlvik SWE410
52Dan Baker USA410
52Conny Wahlgren 410
52Christer Enkvist SWE410
52David Woulds GBR410
61Tim Trahair NSW400
61Dean Eidler NZL400
63Richard Morse GBR390
64David Kalnins NSW380
64Par Ol-Mars 380
66Michael Smart ACT370
66Peter Vlas NED370
66Tania Black SA370

Leading scores for 2013
1Andrew MacAlister GBR970
2Tony Treloar Qld900
3Alex Kemeny NSW890
3John R Mayne USA890
5Paul Sontag CAN860
6Nigel Kearney NZL850
6Rainer Herrmann GER850
8Mats Hedström SWE840
9David Kalnins NSW820
9Manuel Paulo POR820
9Wayne Somerville IRL820
9Dean Pokorny 820
13David Matthews WA810
13Jacco Hop NED810
15Tom Estenson USA800
15Leigh Blizzard Tas800
15Todd Holes USA800
18Dominic Connolly NSW790
18Kees Schaafsma NED790
18Damo Nair USA790
21Peter Stride Qld780
22Geof Brod USA770
22Mark Laforge 770
22Ron Lel LAO770
25Niek Van Vucht ACT760
25Kajsa Fröjd SWE760
25Hans Van Vooren NED760
25Bjarne Andersen DEN760
29Michael Smart ACT750
30Joe Gold WA740
30Bram Amsel 740
30Ian McCance Vic740
33Fredrik Jarlvik SWE730
33David Johnson CAN730
35Ig Nieuwenhuis NED720
35Leigh Matheson NSW720
35Tom Kiss NSW720
35JC Clement 720
35Fraser Rew NZL720
40Peter Tarlinton NSW710
40Tim Trahair NSW710
42Conny Wahlgren SWE700
43Ian Patterson Qld690
43Robert Bäck SWE690
43Robert Black SA690
43Dean Eidler NZL690
47Par Ol-Mars 680
47Arthur Porter SA680
47Trish Whitton NSW680
47Nancy Kent USA680
51Roger Yandle NSW670
51Barry Teeger NSW670
51Peter Vlas NED670
54Murray Perrin Qld660
54Richard Morse GBR660
54Jim Thatcher NSW660
54Alexander Cook NSW660
58Toby Weinstein USA650
58Sam Arber Vic650
58Barbara Whitmee Qld650
61Jack Lai 640
61Gary Lane NSW640
63Tom Moss NSW630
63Dan Baker USA630
65Peter Nuoristo SWE620
65Rick Giles USA620
67Charles Scholl USA610
67Ian Spight NSW610
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
September issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
June-August issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.