Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, September-November 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, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ63
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQT8
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQ7
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 95


West North East South
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?


Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 88 68
Dbl 70 6 8
Pass 30 6 8
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 15
3NT 0 0 2

Welcome to our third readers forum of the year. This month has a focus on competitive problems, with the first one being your typical 3-over-3 decision. To further scare you away from bidding, we've stacked you in the opponents' suit, but nearly everyone realised that was just a distraction:

Ian McCance: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Defending 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) not an option unless I double, and even then we need it down two to beat 140 for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Two off is by no means certain.

John R Mayne: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Doubling is mean to partner; even if we're +100, that may not be a good score. If they try again, I'll hit 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Derek Pocock, Ron Lel: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Doubt we'll get more than 100 from 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled whilst partner should get 140.

Alan Jones: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I am not sure that we can make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may not go down enough. I am prepared to double 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if they are foolish enough to bid it.

Graham Wakefield: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Expect/hope to make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and may well not defeat 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) far too optimistic given opponents have bid strongly missing high trumps.

David Matthews: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If both images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AJ are on my left my hand is not as good for penalty as I might think. Although 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner is non forcing I will compete. If they go to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then I will double.

Hans van Vooren: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I've got some defense against 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but no reason to believe that we can beat it. And I don't like defending anyway when we haven't bid our own fit to the limit. If I won't support partner on KJ63, then when will I?

Damo Nair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). There is no way I'm doubling with 4-card trump support for partner. They could easily have a double fit in hearts and clubs.

Bridge Baron: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Show the major fit. Bridge Baron is not tempted by doubling, perhaps because it has been taught to fear -530.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Two off looks unlikely so I will play for 140 and hope they push on. Give partner images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K and images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Axxxxx and we can even make 10 tricks.

Three-over-three problems are exactly why people write books like "Winning Decisions in Competitive Bidding" and "To Bid Or Not To Bid". So here are the first of several comments this month which refer to the Law:

Manuel Paulo: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Following the Law, with 18 total tricks, to bid is mandatory.

JC Clement: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner is not rich, but with a nine trump fit, I just follow the Law. With a real chance to make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on a heart lead.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Both hearts and spades will probably make eight or nine tricks and the most popular contract is likely to be 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may save par and double may lose an average score.

Margaret Reid, Barbara Whitmee: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a 9-card fit so lets keep bidding.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Likely nine spades between us (might be eight) and partner with less than two hearts -- that's good. All have bid, so points could be fairly even to both sides. If partner has very little, should make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and a non-minimum hand can bid game.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). At least 17 total tricks suggested by the Law, which means one of us is making. Not confident enough of down two to double with opps not vul. 3NT might be worth a shot if you desperately need a swing (heart lead, five spade tricks, and the diamond hook), but that gamble won't pay off often enough.

While several people suggested that double would not produce enough points, three people mentioned the possibility that double may not even be for penalties:

Par Ol-Mars: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Choice is between 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and Pass, and when in doubt it is a good rule to show trump support. Dbl if as I play is invitational, I have to much wasted in hearts, and if for penalty it only gains a lot if two down and is equally likely to make.

Jacco Hop: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Double would be game try here in standard bridge and opposite the likely heart lead our hand will be having enough value in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Doubling with this type of hands often leads to +100 (or -530) where +140 is available. Partner might bid four on Axxxxx-void-xxx-xxxx or similar.

Emil Battista: Dbl. Let's hear from partner again -- in preference to a straight out 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid.

Maybe that's a blind spot in my bridge education, but I've never heard of that. If we had the same hand with the black suits swapped (surely a more common hand), I'd be hoping for a bloodbath from 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled. And where's the value of having an invitational bid anyway, as opposed to a simple 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid? Surely just bidding at all must promise a good hand.

Which is why I'm not really a fan of this choice: 

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hopefully it is not hopeless.

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's free bid at the two level shows good points.

Phil Hocking: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems a lot of points in this pack.

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Whether or not to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? North can't have too many HCP but should have a distributional hand with probably only one heart.

Tony Treloar: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This hand upgrades significantly once we know partner has spades and short hearts, but it's not good enough to blast game especially at Matchpoints.

Many people have commented that it would be wrong to conceal our strong trump support, but a few people considered a more unilateral option. Let's revisit Dan's 3NT suggestion:

Charles Scholl: 3NT. Tough hand since 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and double are attractive and even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be right, especially at IMPs. But at Matchpoints 3NT is right mostly because West has a difficult lead, giving 3NT extra chances.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT might tell partner that I can stop hearts. But then I wouldn't have told him I have such good spades. He does know my HCP range though, so can now decide between 3NT / 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) / slam try.

Sam Arber: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT may be missing too many clubs.

Richard Morse: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be too high if everything is wrong, and 3NT might play better than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) has the merits that (a) it may make when partner would not raise 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (b) it may make when 3NT goes down, when 3NT would not be good for partnership morale and (c) it is less likely to be doubled.

Robert Black: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has not promised enough for 3NT.

Next let's hear from the Kiwis, who appear to be suffering from a nationwide bidding box shortage:

Nigel Kearney: Pass. If we bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) immediately partner will bid game, playing us for a much more suitable hand than this.

Fraser Rew: Pass. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) won't be much fun to play, and I've got no guarantees that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is going off. Even Nil Vul at Matchpoints isn't enough to tempt me.

James Coutts: Pass. More bidding going on than we would expect holding this hand but it seems likely partner has stretched to bid spades with a heart void. I'd like to play a spade contract opposite six cards but not opposite five with this much junk in hearts.

I find that choice a little surprising, but it did get a panel vote, so it gets an award. By the way, congratulations to James and Daniel on your win in the New Zealand Teams this week. The quarter final match must have been especially gratifying; I don't even remember the last time anyone beat the Cornell team in that event.

Another choice with just one panel vote:

Sartaj Hans: Dbl. If they make this, we are due for a poor score anyways. Bidding 3S could be right but there is no way of inviting partner's opinion.

Peter Vlas: Dbl. Maybe they make it, but if I let them get away with it all the time they will never respect me.

Roger Yandle: Dbl. AB standard is silent on whether we're playing Lebensohl after our NT openings so don't know whether 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is more than "just competing". Still I've got too much in their suit to unilaterally go to game. Hopefully pard will know what to do from here!

It's true, the system does not mention Lebensohl. I guess it really is time for a review of the system. We'll get that done as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, discussing Lebensohl here is a bit of a red herring. However you play it, 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is clearly stronger than Pass, and weaker than your invitational options, whatever they may be. (I'm assuming people had ways to make invitational bids before Lebensohl was invented...)

However you got there, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was a landslide winner here.

David Kalnins: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'll take the blame if the auction proceeds (4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and we get a bad score.

Bastiaan Korner: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Could be 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could go down.

Richard Semmens: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I expect to make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I expect 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to go down. If partner wishes to go to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) that is fine with me too.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's a lot of faith, but I trust partner to pass twice -- before and after I double 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Minimum, but looks like our hand. I will double 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Tania Black: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not forcing, nor worried if they bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Michael Smart: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not seduced by my heart length -- this dummy will reverse very well. Happy to hear pass or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner (I'll double 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if bid).

Wayne Somerville: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has very short hearts, I don't think we're taking this two off often enough to justify double. Partner would likely be upgrading a void into an invite or game force when appropriate, so I'm not going to bid higher.

Michael Burt: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner knows more about my hand (apart from the good heart stoppers) than I know about partner's hand. Partner could have bid mainly on distribution (no hearts) rather than points. I don't have anything more than promised so need to let partner know I have four spades and leave the decision to partner as to whether to go to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).  

Hand Two - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A2
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 7643
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 943
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q762


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

3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) = weak jump overcall

Call Award %
Pass 100 63 34
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 90 31 21
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 30 6 44
3NT 0 0 1

Our next problem is from the Gold Coast Teams, reported by Ron Klinger in our June issue. South bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at the table, turning a good plus into a minus. Can you guys do better? Mostly, yes (especially if you read the magazine). 

Ian McCance: Pass. Thanks, Ron.

Roger Yandle: Pass. This is borderline. My hand passes the rule of 6&4 but that doesn't give me any great comfort. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be better but also might be worse.

Roger wasn't the only person to mention Klinger's Rule of 6 & 4. See if you can guess who the other one was...

Ron Klinger: Pass. But I know the deal. Still, the club holding satisfies the Rule of 6 and 4 for partscore penalties.

For the uninitiated, the rule of 6 & 4 goes like this:

If you want to penalise, you must meet the following conditions: (a) your side must have 20+ points, (b) you must have shortage in your partner's suit, (c) your number of trumps + the level of the contract must equal 6 or more, (d) your number of trump winners + the level of the contract must be 4 or more.

JC Clement: Pass. Two sure tricks in hand. A gambling in 3NT, or a game in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seem far fetched. I take my (sure ?) plus.

Peter Vlas: Pass. And hope for the best. Partner's double doesn't promise any extras.

Martyn Rew: Pass. Can't see anything more suitable than a club contract.

Graham Wakefield: Pass. Game is unlikely and two defensive tricks and the awkward fourth trump is a good start.

Todd Holes: Pass. Going to kick myself if we can make game.

Barbara Hunter: Pass. Maybe the best option.

John R Mayne: Pass. Nice problem! If I had the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)9, I'd be comfortable: Spade ace, spade to the king, uppercut. As it is this may be -630 the hard way, but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)/3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may get hit and bloodied and transportation's going to be awful in our contract.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Passing is risky but so is bidding on.

Jacco Hop: Pass. Take the money and run. In honour of Erik Kirchhoff. Sure you sometimes can make 3NT/5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)/4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and sometimes only a partscore. Scoring a nice plus will win you a lot on average. NV/V they usually have very lousy 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) calls.

Wayne Somerville: Pass. This is brutal. I hope for two spades, one club, a spade ruff, and something else in partner's hand. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is just too dangerous and could easily be -800 opposite the wrong dummy.

Jack Lai: Pass. Try to get a plus score, though might be only +300.

Hans van Vooren: Pass. This is a great defensive hand and with the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A I have an easy lead. Pass may be wrong if we have a game, but it won't be too wrong (if at all) because we will surely get a good plus defending. What's more, we do not know for sure if we can make game and if yes, in which denomination. There is no guaranteed heart fit and the suits are likely to break badly.

Hans suggests one very good reason for passing: we don't know which suit to run to. The panel chose diamonds, and the readers chose hearts. Let's start with the panel's choice:

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 6 points isn't too much to bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but considering the expected bad breaks too few to venture game. Pass is like surrender.

Duncan Roe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Can't bring myself to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on four to the 7. Have some support for partner's suit so bid that.

Par Ol-Mars: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Don't think Pass is an alternative in IMPs and judge risk is larger that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) puts us in a seven card fit than that 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) does that.

James Coutts: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I think this is really close since we have such an attractive lead. But I am too chicken at IMPs, if partner doesn't have the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K I can see -470 coming about pretty easily.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Maybe a style question but partner should just assume I have something and bid again on most hands where 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is good.

Peter Nuoristo: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Or pass... hope partner doesn't have 4441.

Alan Boyce: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner probably has a good 5332 shape, say 18 pts so game isn't on unless he is even better, where I'll then expect another bid from him.

Emil Battista: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too wimpy to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) when I could have upgraded my hand to double first time round.

Michael Smart: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With two tricks, pass provides a likely positive but at this vul I prefer to keep a vul game in the picture (partner will make a further try with most 18s).

David Kalnins: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The best spot opposite partner's likely 4351.

Dan Baker: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). No guarantee that partner is 4-4 in majors, and if he doesn't have four hearts 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may well be the last plus available. Defending is too big a gamble at IMPs.

Those last two comments summarize the argument for 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) nicely. Partner will often have only one major, and it figures to be spades.

Let's see if the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders have anything to add:

Manuel Paulo: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To pass is out of question, and if partner wanted to play 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) he would have bid it. Anaemic as they are, I bid hearts.

Michael Burt: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may well make (six club tricks and three from elsewhere) which could be a disaster at IMPs so bid my longest suit.

Richard Morse: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A whole ace better than it might have been.

Derek Pocock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Again the double is unlikely to gain with such poor intermediates in clubs and partner is guaranteeing four hearts.

Charles Scholl: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At Matchpoints I would be tempted to leave in the double but at IMPs there is too much downside. Too many losers for 3NT unless partner shows a 3-suited max by continuing with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Sam Arber: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bid your major.

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hearts are pathetic but North probably has four and presumably quite a strong hand with few clubs. If strong enough he will bat on to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Tania Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have four of them!

Ron Lel: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I would pass at MPs.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm not giving up on game just yet.

Damo Nair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is reasonable to expect 4-card support from North.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My clubs are too weak to leave this in and I cannot give up on the vul game, since I have some values and partner can be huge. Too good for 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), so show partner where I have four major suit cards.

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not brave enough to pass, but tempted.

Richard Semmens: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not good enough to bid four. Partner isn't necessarily going to place us with nothing.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner asked if we had a four-card major. We do. Surely not a situation in which to pass for penalties.

Tony Treloar: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Passing might be right, but the vulnerability makes me bid.

Fraser Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Reopening doubles show shape rather than extra values, by my lights. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may go for a number, but it may also make.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Takeout doubles are meant to be... etc. However, passing is attractive as 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will probably go down. But we may have enough for a game. Since partner probably has extras I'll try. (With trepidation: I'll run to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if necessary).

Phil Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). They are not vul so need to get too many tricks to better 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) making.

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We may well have a Vul game and my clubs are not great. 3NT is still in the equation.

The full deal:

spades A2
hearts 7643
diamonds 943
clubs Q762
spades 87
hearts 5
diamonds 10752
clubs AJ10943
spades KJ1053
hearts KQ982
diamonds KJ
clubs K
spades Q964
hearts AJ10
diamonds AQ86
clubs 85

For full details, see Ron's article on the Gold Coast Teams on page 21 of our June issue.


Hand Three - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J5
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K9864
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 85432


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


Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 63 36
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 19 16
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 6 3
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 6 4
Pass 40 6 23
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 17

Our next problem was the toughest one for the readers, with nearly half of you going for bids that received just one panel vote (or fewer). Let's start with the heart bidders.

Richard Semmens: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Choice is between pass, 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may easily make, and it surely must be worth bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and let partner correct if he chooses. The hand should play well in hearts as a cross ruff in diamonds and clubs.

Derek Pocock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Club suit too weak to expect penalty.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It feels like this hand needs to be played in hearts as spades 4-1 and getting tapped in clubs will make life very awkward in spades. Unlike the last problem, I'm not passing with East showing a stronger hand and the hand looks like it will play reasonably well for them.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner can go back to spades if necessary.

Fraser Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner's bidding is unusual, but consistent with AKxxxx-Axx-Kxxx-void or thereabouts. Declarer takes seven clubs and three diamonds at a club contract; we lose two hearts and a diamond off the top, and have a lot of work to do to hold our other losers to one, at a heart contract.

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Still not quite brave enough to pass.

Ian McCance: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Sure I've got a lot of clubs but just look at them.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Three times before the cock crows, Bridge Baron is asked if it wants to defend a doubled contract, and three times, it denies. Here, there is surely at least an eight-card heart fit.

Some pretty significant names in that bunch, so we need to address why the panel completely ignored that choice. One panellist did choose hearts, but not at the 3-level:

Frank Stewart: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I expect North to hold a hand such as AK10xxx-AJxx-Qxx-void.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). East can make 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes); if North wanted to play in spades he would have bid them. With a fair suit, I take out the double, and game looks a good bet.

Niklas Andrén: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think hearts plays better than spades, partner has 6331/6430/6340.

Frank Stewart's example hand contains four hearts, which will be very useful for keeping control of the hand in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner has only three hearts, however, we may have a big problem:

Peter Fordham: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Those clubs will be a distinct liability if hearts are trumps, whereas the hearts might be useful as a side suit.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If I play in hearts I would probably have to hold off drawing trump to keep East from running all those clubs while I set up spades. Partner has no such difficulty in spades.

None of the other readers explicitly mentioned the problem of club losers, although I suspect most were subconsciously aware of the problem.

A few people wanted to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to give partner the choice, while others considered that route but rejected it:

John R Mayne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A quick and dirty simulation prefers spades if partner is 6-3-3-1, which I think is the way to bet. If 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is definitely a choice between hearts and spades, that's great, but I'm unconvinced it shows this hand.

Par Ol-Mars: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Could bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) also and pull 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) wth 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but not sure 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will be a better contract if we have 5-3 in hearts and 6-2 in spades.

James Coutts: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My hand is very good now. Happy to play 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) unless partner offers 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), which will be even better. I expect 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would show exactly 2-5 in the majors.

Nigel Kearney: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). No idea why I passed last time but am now clearly worth game in whichever major partner prefers.

Paul Yovich: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This is meant to be "pick a strain" as I'm not sure which major will be best.

For the spade bidders, most people appeared to see this problem as a choice between penalising or pulling, usually without considering the possibility of game: 

Leigh Matheson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A known spade fit and no club trick.

David Matthews: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). East likely to have at least seven clubs on this bidding so I will give some delayed support. My singleton diamond should be useful.

Richard Morse: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Id rather play here than defend 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Emil Battista: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)8 was images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)10 I would have passed.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My clubs are too weak to leave this in so I will tell partner that I can stand spades. I do not think this hand will play well so I will keep quiet about my hearts.

Graham Wakefield: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner will not have four hearts, so 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will play best.

Ron Lel: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Playing against a sound East this has to be the right action. I don't think my five clubs to the 8 are going to scare declarer in a doubled club contract. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a possibility, but I would prefer slightly better hearts for this.

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Promises two spades to go with North's six. Tempting to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but North may only have three and prefer to see playing the hand.

David Kalnins: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Spades will play at least as well as hearts, given that partner almost certainly has less than four hearts. A double at my previous call would have been for penalties, so partner is not stretching to cover for a penalty pass. Pass? Crazy even if it works. Our long small clubs tells us that they will make all their club tricks and two or three tricks on the side will see them through.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too weak to pass for penalties or suggest another strain after partner has already indicated a 1-suited hand.

Considering and explicitly rejecting a game bid:

Peter Vlas: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Safety first. Partner originally had a hand unsuitable for defense (2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)) and that hasn't changed. He won't be disappointed, but I don't believe I have enough for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Michael Smart: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hmm, no defensive club tricks. Partner's actions suggest unwillingness to defend (a void club?) and good spades -- but not good enough for a 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) balance over 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), else I'd have bid game.

Tony Treloar: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Can't pass with such weak clubs and with the opponents with a secondary fit. Partner rates to be 6-3-3-1. I don't think partner will get the necessary two diamond ruffs or be able to access my hearts in time to make game.

JC Clement: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm not sure 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is going down. I have thought about 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a moment, but that really needs perfect cards from partner.

For the game bidders, this argument seems persuasive to me:

Alan Boyce: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) shows possibly xxx-xxx-xxxx-xxx and yet I've got two tricks for partner whose hand is worth three bids after I pass twice.

Damo Nair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have good distribution and a potentially useful card in hearts.

Visco: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North should have a 6-3-3-1 or better and 16+ HCP (even better, he talked three times with no support). With as little as AKQxxx-xxx-Axx-x we can make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but prefer 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), some diamond ruffs or establish hearts?

Roger Yandle: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pard must have a strong hand with 6+ spades. I've got a lot more than I might have so 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems a bit timid. I could pass the double but it doesn't look like pard wants to defend else she'd have doubled first time rather than repeating her spades.

Tania Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has a lot and wants me to bid.

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has rebid twice after I passed: he must have six spades so we have a fit. 4 HCP + 3 length points says go for the game.

Michael Burt: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner knows I could have very little but has forced me to bid. The singleton diamond and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K are likely to be good news -- go for game at IMPs.

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner won't have four hearts here so I wont offer him any choices. I would have passed 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) stands out because declarer will for sure have 6 trump tricks (or 7) and some diamonds. Give partner AKQxxx-QTx-KJTx-void which is around par or slightly under par for his bidding and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will have really good chances.

Hans van Vooren: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This hand has become pretty good: fitting honours, a singleton diamond and nothing wasted in clubs. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is an alternative, which by now should show a maximum hand with hearts and a partial spade fit. Pretty much what I've got, but I'm not sure if hearts will play better than spades and partner will still have to interpret the bid the same way.

Charles Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Why didn't I bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)? This hand is a maximum in context. On some reasonable layouts 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will make despite partner's plus hand, while if we're beating 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) two tricks game our way will be cold.

Lastly, the other minority choice was to pass for penalties:

Martyn Rew: Pass. Can't see anything more suitable than a club contract.

Martyn, if you're going to recycle your responses from previous questions, do you really deserve the full award for both answers?

Phil Hocking: Pass. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doesn't look likely.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. Looking better chance to take this down than rise to a bid that may go off itself.

Sam Arber: Pass. Lousy trumps pass may be best option still.

Jack Lai: Pass. Though trumps are weak, hope to play a forcing game.

Superficially pass seems safe, on the grounds that we know declarer doesn't have a decent club fit. The argument against that choice is our double fit in the majors, which means the opponents are guaranteed at least eight diamonds (more likely nine). So, to beat 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), we'll need partner to have a diamond trick, and the ability to cash four more tricks as soon as he gets in.

Hand Four - South deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQ7543
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K4
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J5
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A76


West North East South
      1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 38 35
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 25 19
4NT 70 19 16
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 30 6 23
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 6 3
5NT 50 6 2
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10 0 2
Pass -10 0 1

On our only uncontested problem of this set, partner has made a slam try and we hold every possible card that the bidding could allow for. So the question is, how best to look for slam.

Or, if you view the auction differently, partner's 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is simply asking us to choose the best game:

Richard Semmens: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not sure what 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is supposed to mean here. I have taken it to mean to choose between game in hearts or diamonds. Not sure that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was the best bid. Perhaps 3NT might have been better.

David Kalnins: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Prima facie 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is choice of games with 5-5 in the red suits. Maybe 5-6. If partner has two semi solid red suits with slam interest or is making an "advance" cuebid they will bid again. If they do bid again, then we have a great hand for slam.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doesn't promise six for me, so with partner giving a choice of game, I will choose spades.

Those were the only people who felt that 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was "choice of games"; well, except this guy, who receives this column's first ever negative award:

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron finally gives up on the misfit.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Baron for always giving us his raw answers, warts and all. It's good to see he's not perfect.

Everyone else took 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a control bid agreeing hearts, although a few people still weren't interested:

Ian McCance: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Always a bit tender with doubletons.

JC Clement: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Discouraging. No real heart or diamond fit, and partner is probably singleton in spades.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I've told partner eight of my cards already. Now I can tell him almost my whole distribution (since 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will confirm 6223). Opposite the perfect 1561 this will make six, but opposite some 1552s 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may be the limit.

Hans van Vooren: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My hand is better than partner will expect, but we don't have a positive fit so 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is enough for now.

Roger Yandle: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My hand looks better than it is given pard is all red cards. She needs to make another try before I get excited.

Damo Nair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not sure if I should try 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner very shapely, but not enough for me to stir past 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Christer Enkvist: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The lack of club cue worries.

Bastiaan Korner: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I feel I should do more but don't know what.

If you want to do more but can't think of a sensible choice, the best approach is to look at the drop down bidding box. I put lots of good bids in there, and we received votes for all of them. Let's start at the beginning.

Bjarne Andersen: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). After partner's 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is too lazy. So 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) says I'm better than you could expect. 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) after 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would focus too much on hearts.

Tania Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Agreeing hearts; showing images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A, and assuming 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) showed images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A.

Ron Lel: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Assuming partner understands that this is a cue agreeing hearts, I can hardly have a better hand for the bidding to date. Two aces and the king of trumps! Playing with a weak player 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be too dangerous and I would just bash slam.

Fraser Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Don't know whether 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a cue or just patterning out, but I do have a great hand -- images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q is the only card that might not be working. So I cue (I hope).

James Coutts: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Many of the problems from this forum seem to stem from forgetting to open a strong NT earlier (only partially joking). This is a tough hand, but I presume partner must have a very good hand without a club control. All of my honours are good except for the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q. Still not sure what to bid but 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should confirm control of both black suits and I look forward to showing three keys over 4NT.

Par Ol-Mars: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Have to be positive with my three aces. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should show both spade and club control, and gives partner chance to ask for aces.

Michael Smart: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have shown minimum range with 2-card heart support (I didn't raise 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately), yet partner persists. I have three key cards and a doubleton in his second suit, so must now cooperate.

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think I have a good hand for partner. Maybe partner can ask for keycards.

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not to play, this is showing a control. We already agreed hearts.

Charles Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner is interested in slam so who am I to disagree at this point? I have three great cards and my doubleton diamond should be useful so I cooperate by showing my cheapest control. Partner is better positioned to take over with 4NT if that's right.

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cue bid with hearts, giving the ball to partner.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The auction will work better if partner asks me for keycards instead of the other way around.

Tony Treloar: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have prime cards so our 14 HCP hand is too good to subside in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I assume 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a cue as we had the chance to agree diamonds on the last round so I will cue back.

It seems natural to cue the first ace, although the panel rejected this action. It's not clear to me why they all chose 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) instead of 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but maybe it had something to do with a fear that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be passed out. Peter Smith specifically commented that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would not necessarily show a club control, although I do not agree with that assessment.

For the record, the panel's only 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidder (Phillip Alder) intended his choice as a cue agreeing hearts, and intended it to promise a club control, as did all of the 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders listed above.


Michael Burt: 4NT. I have described my hand and partner has chosen not to stop in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which suggests a strong hand and slam as I have first round control in clubs and spades.

Dan Baker: 4NT. It sounds like partner has a lot of red cards, which makes this about as good a minimum as I could have -- aces in his short suits and filler in his long ones.

Alex Kemeny: 4NT. My black aces and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K are huge cards. If we have all the key cards and the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q, the partner may well be able to jump to 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over my 5NT bid.

Alan Boyce: 4NT. Partners values are constrained in hearts and diamonds after bypassing 3NT so I'm thinking probably nine tricks in the red suits and at worse a finesse for the 12th trick.

Phil Hocking: 4NT. Well we have gone past 3NT. May as well go looking.

That looks like a very sensible choice, with affirmation from Phil Gue, Mike Lawrence and Patrick Huang. Although I do like the comments from the 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders suggesting that RKCB will be more effective if it comes from partner.

Next, the panel's choice:

Manuel Paulo: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). After my weak rebids, I must cuebid now.

Tim Trahair: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A strange hand with North keen to bid on knowing we have six spades and two hearts. He has at least 5-5 in the red suits and is probably thinking of slam. 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) tells him we have the ace which may help him find the right game for us.

John R Mayne: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner wants it, I have it. There's no reason to blast and miss a grand.

Kees Schaafsma: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Just showing the badly needed club control. I expect that pard bids 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on x-AQJxx-AKxxx-xx or 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on x-AQJxx-AKQxx-xx to let me choose the red suit.

Graham Wakefield: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Showing this control seems best.

Nigel Kearney: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too good to just bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), so nothing else fits.

Derek Pocock: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With good 5-5 in partner's hand , it is OK to show images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A.

And finally, the minority votes:

Peter Vlas: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My two aces and the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K mean that I think we could have a slam on our hands if he has decent hearts.

David Matthews: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner must be showing at least 5-5 so I think slam is a distinct possibility. But how good are his trumps?

Jacco Hop: 5NT. If partner has for example x-AQxxx-AKQTx-xx I want to play in 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With better diamond support I could cuebid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It is very interesting what 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be here. Some partners could be five hearts and six diamonds here although I don't like that approach. Slam could be bad facing a hand like x-Qxxxx-AKQxx-xx. Although that hand should bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to show doubt about the final contract.

Richard Morse: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Quite tempted by 5NT if it means pick a slam, but not sure if that is what it means, so I'll take the low road.

Thanks to Sartaj Hans for providing this problem.

For the scoring of this problem, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) gets the top award due to our rule of "largest vote gets largest score". As regular readers will know, I've never been a fan of that rule, but this is the last time I'll be complaining about it: it's time for action. Starting in 2014, the moderator will officially be permitted to use common sense to set the awards, instead of silly rules. There, it's done. I feel much better now. 

Hand Five - East deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QT97543
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QT
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) T76
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 6

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

1. Precision, 16+ any shape.
2. 5-7 any shape.

Call Award %
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 63 65
Pass 80 31 32
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 6 0
Dbl 0 0 3

Our final problem is a bit of a gamble, with the outcome depending on whether EW can make 3NT. If they can, it seems likely we can get out for 500 in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), with a possible windfall if we can hold it to 200.

The panel and the readers were in perfect alignment, with both teams voting 2:1 in favour of the sacrifice.

Damo Nair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The singleton club and QT in North's suit makes bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

David Matthews: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT is definitely making so its an easy sacrifice hoping to go only one or two off. Problem is they may go on with 4NT giving me another decision at the 5-level.

Graham Wakefield: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Confident they will make 3NT. Partner has signalled willingness to compete in two suits I have good holdings. Minus three doubled seems very unlikely and (much) better days very possible.

Alan Jones: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hoping to be no more than two light.

Tania Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not expecting to make 10, nor willing to defend 3NT.

Bjarne Andersen: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hopefully cheaper than letting them win 3NT.

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4 HCP + 3 length points again. If 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) fails, they could likely make 3NT so sacrifice would be worth it.

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Spade support to my 7-cards! nice! 3NT may be home, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be home or cheap.

Assuming everyone has what they showed, then East knew his side's point range was 23-25. The fact that he chose to bid game suggests that he thinks he has a source of tricks:   

Tim Trahair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). East is prepared to go to 3NT with few HCP so my guess is that he has a 7-card suit possibly headed by the AK and knows West has at least two of that suit. If so North may well have something like a 4-5-2-2 distribution. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will probably will prove to be a sacrifice and the question is can we make eight tricks!

Hans van Vooren: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't think this will make, but I just can't stand declarer's smug face while cashing his seven club tricks.

Michael Burt: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The bidding suggests EW can run nine tricks in the minors once in and hence are very likely to make 3NT. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will probably be two off and maybe only one off so go for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is going OK, my greatest fear is taking them out of a not making 3NT into a making 5-minor.

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Quite likely to be up against the best part of nine tricks off the top in the minors.

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hope I do not push them into a making minor suit slam.

Robert Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). They have bid very confidently to 3NT, and East seems to have found a source of tricks, so I sacrifice.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Think they will make NT on minors with one spade stopper. 

Phil Hocking: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If 3NT makes EW then making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or going off doubled two or less is still a better score in IMPS for NS. EW are likely to have lots of clubs.

Peter Vlas: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner has anything we should be able to get away with max two down. 3NT will be based on a long minor.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It looks like 3NT is making in the minors, and our hands look like they fit pretty well. I would only be a little surprised if both 3NT and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) made (give partner Kxx-KJxxxx-x-Axx, opener having AJx of spades and responder six reasonable diamonds).

Derek Pocock: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Looks as if 3NT will be made with the holding in the minor suits, so 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be a good sacrifice. If partner has single diamond and there's a winning finesse in spades, might well make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Problem is action over 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)?

Ian McCance: Pass. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could well be profitable but I have no defence against minors.

A couple of those comments suggested the opponents may have a better spot in East's minor. Here is the opposing view:

Fraser Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). On the one hand, you shouldn't save against 3NT, and you shouldn't act in front of partner when he's the strong hand. Against that, we have a 10-card fit, all my points are working, I have a shortage, I'm pretty sure 3NT is making, and I may push them into a non-making 5-minor.

David Kalnins: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I reckon 3NT will make and we will go for about 500. 800 is unlikely. The auction is not over and hopefully they will find a way for us to go plus!

There were a couple of comments about our previous bidding:

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Probably one off and I have no reason not to believe 3NT. Question why didn't I open something? For example 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)?

Alexander Cook: Pass. I would have bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (weak) the previous round.

Richard Morse: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Rather wishing I'd opened 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Actually, if the bidding had started 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 3NT, our partner would be facing the problem now. He has a massive hand; I think he would either double 3NT (-950), or bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (and if he's feeling cocky, redouble). Maybe that's a problem for next month.

Margaret Reid: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a 10-card fit so lets bid four.

Emil Battista: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 11 trumps so we should make 11 tricks. Does Larry concur? Or should various adjustments be applied?

Well, that's not technically how the Law works... You don't hear much about the Law's approach to 3NT, but for those who are interested, here's a refresher course:

The total number of tricks,
when they play in notrump
and we play in a suit
seven plus the number of our trumps.

Then there are adjustments for their long suit (add one for each card beyond five) and for our shortages (half for a singleton, one for a void).

So the total on this deal is something like 7 + 10 (our spades) + 1 (for their assumed 6th club) + 1/2 (for our shortage) = about 19, meaning one of us should make our contract.

(Note that I am assuming partner has three trumps -- there is no reason why he would have four).

Jack Lai: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has three spades + five hearts leaving at most 5-card minor. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be a good sacrifice.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No defense, might go only two off, three off will be but 5 imps against a making 3NT. Seems like a good investment and who knows: opposite the right 3613, this might even make.

John R Mayne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We're off about five tricks here. -800 isn't the disaster, the disaster is when they've got to guess clubs for 3NT, but not for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), if we push them there. Close call.

Par Ol-Mars: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Can be a good save or even make and 800 against 630 is not a disaster.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I can live with my decision if 3NT and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) are both one off. Otherwise bidding is a big winner.

For the record, both sides one off is actually 7 imps out:

Dan Baker: Pass. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is tempting, but I suspect that it only gains 3-4 IMPs when it's right (-500 vs -600 or 630) but loses at least 7 (-200 vs +100 or more) when it's wrong.

As a few people pointed out, that's even worse than going for -800, which is only 4 or 5 imps out against the presumably cold game.

And even if we do get out for -200 against a making game, that's just 9 imps in. So in reality the upside is not much better than the downside.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. 3NT might be shaky as partner looks to have three spades, which should be plenty to give the lead back to you if have heart control also. A sacrifice to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be worse.

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. 3NT sounds like gambling to me. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may provoke 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from East.

JC Clement: Pass. And hope to beat it. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is probably down two, but can be worse.

Alan Boyce: Pass. My hand is missing too much in the top end so I'm taking the low road and trying to defeat 3NT. Also they may only be in a 23 HCP 3NT game

Ron Lel: Pass. Do you really want me to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) vulnerable? I don't think so.

Roger Yandle: Pass. Ron Klinger says not to sacrifice against 3NT so I'll be interested to see his reply here.

You know your Klinger rules. That's the 2nd time you've duplicated his comment:

Ron Klinger: In the short term, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be right. In the long term, sacrificing against 3NT is a losing proposition. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is taking a sure minus, when there will be enough days when we beat 3NT.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. Sacrificing against 3NT hardly ever works.

Michael Smart: Pass. East may well have a 1444 7 count and is stuck for a bid. We have a fit, so they have a fit. We could be beating 3NT with a minor game/slam cold, so not happy to sacrifice, especially when they know nothing about their suit holdings, only points schmoints.

Larry Brose: Pass. hope to defeat the contract by partner's entries in spades.

Richard Semmens: Pass. Not confident of beating 3NT with such poor spades, and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is likely to cost too much at this vulnerability.

Bridge Baron: Pass. The ten-card spade fit is nice, but where would we find the rest of the tricks in a 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) contract?

James Coutts: Pass. Tough hand. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be costly if partner has three diamonds, and 3NT could be down on a bad club split if partner has three off-side. Also tempting to double if that asks for a heart lead (or to hope they run to 4-minor where the stakes are lower). But I'll just go for the middle of the road action.

Barbara Whitmee: Pass before the doubling starts. They may only make eight tricks in 3NT.

And for the final word, here is the little known footnote to Klinger's sacrifice rule:

Charles Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Don't sacrifice at IMPs unless it's clearly right (such as here). 

Although the votes happened to fall heavily on the side of 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I'm sure this was a close decision for most people (hence the high score for the minority bid).

The full deal, supplied by Michael Wilkinson from the VCC:

spades J62
hearts AJ652
diamonds 2
clubs A1053
spades A8
hearts K4
diamonds AK853
clubs KJ84
spades K
hearts 9873
diamonds QJ94
clubs Q972
spades Q1097543
hearts Q10
diamonds 1076
clubs 6

Our 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be one off, with the opponents making 4NT. They cannot make game in either minor.

For anyone who followed the Law arithmetic above, it's interesting to note that there are actually 19 total tricks available. Don't celebrate too soon though; our assumption that East had a long suit was false, so there should have been only 18 tricks.

There are also 19 tricks available if we assume diamonds as trumps, which is consistent with the trump count.

Thanks for joining me for another forum, and congratulations to Jim Thatcher for this month's only perfect score. We'll be back in December with the final issue of the year. The questions for that issue are here


Top scores for September
1Jim Thatcher NSW500
2Manho Law HKG490
2David Kalnins NSW490
2Paul Sontag 490
2Graham Wakefield NZL490
2Mark LaForge 490
7JC Clement480
8Hans Van Vooren NED470
8Dean Pokorny 470
8David Johnson CAN470
8Trish Whitton 470
12Emil Battista NSW460
12Kees Schaafsma NED460
12John R Mayne USA460
12Geof Brod USA460
16Dror Axelrod ISR450
17Pravin Nahar NSW440
17Murray Perrin Qld440
17Dan Baker USA440
20Rick Lu NSW430
20Rainer Herrmann GER430
20Nick Simms ENG430
20Ig Nieuwenhuis NED430
20Conny Wahlgren SWE430
20Dane Kelly 430
20Peter Vlas NED430
20Jack Lai 430
20Ivan Demeny NSW430
29Alan Jones Qld420
29Jacco Hop NED420
29Tim Trahair NSW420
29Niklas Andrén SWE420
29Roger Yandle NSW420
29Larry Brose USA420
35Peter Tarlinton NSW410
35Mats Hedström SWE410
35Toby Weinstein USA410
35Tom Estenson USA410
39Damo Nair USA400
39Michael Smart ACT400
39Dominic Connolly NSW400
39Ian McCance Vic400
39Bastiaan Korner NED400
39Margaret Dunlop 400
45Par Ol-Mars OO390
45Barbara Hunter NSW390
45Radoslav Radev OO390
45Peter Qvist OO390
45Duncan Roe Vic390
45Robert Bäck SWE390
45David Matthews WA390
45Todd Holes USA390
53Alex Kemeny NSW380
53Nigel Kearney NZL380
53Tom Moss NSW380
53Zbych Bednarek POL380
53Alexander Cook NSW380
53Pat O'Connor NSW380
59Niek Van Vucht ACT370
59Michael Burt ACT370
59Manuel Paulo POR370
62Leigh Matheson NSW360
62Bjarne Andersen DEN360
62Tony Treloar Qld360
62Leigh Blizzard Tas360
62Michael Seldon NSW360
67Andrew MacAlister GBR350
67Wayne Somerville IRL350
67Barbara Whitmee Qld350
67Rick Giles USA350
67David Winter Vic350
67David Woulds GBR350
73Derek Pocock WA340
73Michael Davy Vic340
73Denis Haynes ACT340
73Alan Boyce 340
73Arthur Porter SA340
73Margaret Reid NSW340
73Ron Lel LAO340
73Peter Stride Qld340

Leading scores for 2013
1John R Mayne USA1350
2Andrew MacAlister GBR1320
3David Kalnins NSW1310
4Dean Pokorny 1290
5Rainer Herrmann GER1280
6Alex Kemeny NSW1270
7Mark Laforge 1260
7Tony Treloar Qld1260
9Kees Schaafsma NED1250
9Mats Hedström SWE1250
11Jacco Hop NED1230
11Nigel Kearney NZL1230
11Hans Van Vooren NED1230
11Geof Brod USA1230
15Tom Estenson USA1210
16David Matthews WA1200
16David Johnson CAN1200
16JC Clement 1200
19Dominic Connolly NSW1190
19Manuel Paulo POR1190
19Todd Holes USA1190
19Damo Nair USA1190
23Wayne Somerville IRL1170
24Jim Thatcher NSW1160
24Leigh Blizzard Tas1160
26Conny Wahlgren SWE1150
26Ig Nieuwenhuis NED1150
26Michael Smart ACT1150
29Ian McCance Vic1140
30Tim Trahair NSW1130
30Niek Van Vucht ACT1130
32Peter Tarlinton NSW1120
32Peter Stride Qld1120
32Bjarne Andersen DEN1120
35Ron Lel LAO1110
36Peter Vlas NED1100
36Murray Perrin Qld1100
38Roger Yandle NSW1090
39Kajsa Fröjd SWE1080
39Leigh Matheson NSW1080
39Robert Bäck SWE1080
42Joe Gold WA1070
42Par Ol-Mars 1070
42Jack Lai 1070
42Dan Baker USA1070
46Toby Weinstein USA1060
47Bram Amsel 1050
48Alexander Cook NSW1040
49Fredrik Jarlvik SWE1030
50Tom Kiss NSW1020
50Arthur Porter SA1020
50Ivan Demeny NSW1020
53Tom Moss NSW1010
53Robert Black SA1010
55Barbara Whitmee Qld1000
55Nancy Kent USA1000
57Ian Patterson Qld990
58Richard Morse GBR980
58Pat O'Connor NSW980
60Alan Jones Qld970
60Rick Giles USA970
62Emil Battista NSW950
63Barbara Hunter NSW930
63Tania Black SA930
63Fraser Rew NSW930
66Ian Spight NSW920
66Rick Lu NSW920
68Mick McAuliffe NSW910
68Peter Nuoristo SWE910
70Sam Arber Vic900
70Bastiaan Korner NED900
70Gary Lane NSW900
73John Shield NSW890
73David Winter Vic890
75Niklas Andrén SWE880
76Paul Sontag CAN860
77Zbych Bednarek POL850
77James Coutts NZL850
77Denis Haynes ACT850
77Derek Pocock WA850
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
December issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
September-November issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.