Australian Bridge Bidding Forum
with guest Larry Cohen August 2008

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This is the bidding forum from the August 2008 issue of Australian Bridge magazine, with answers from many of the world's top players. This month's guest moderator is Larry Cohen of Florida. In addition to his years as moderator of a similar feature in Bridge World magazine, Larry established his bidding forum credentials by being the only panelist to score 500 in our June forum -- so this month's panel have a lot to live up to.


Hand One - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJT8
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A43
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJ86


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


Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1003320
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 801013
Dbl 703334
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 601425
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4051
2NT 3052
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2002
Pass 004

Is it really a nice thing to play such a joke on a guest moderator? Surely, the top vote can't be for a penalty double with a singleton trump. If I didn't see the seven names and comments, I wouldn't believe it. Then again, the readers' vote also seems to indicate a liking for that amazing call.

It always ruffles feathers when the top vote doesn't get the top mark. Here, fortunately the rules allow me to award 100 to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), which also received 7 votes. Double has been demoted -- if you want a rationale, note that 13 out of 20 panelists thought double was wrong. If you voted for double (you must enjoy scoring -670), and wish to complain, you can send a letter to my Antarctica office.

So, what spell did that singleton three of hearts cast on seven panelists who couldn't wait to make a blood-curdling penalty double (well, maybe they didn't snap it out onto the table):

Ron Smith: Dbl. Perfect hand. Partner can hopefully judge.

Perfect if double were takeout, but it isn't. With which half of that images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)3 does Ron expect to take any trump tricks?

Andrew Robson: Dbl. I think partner will work out how many hearts I have. My double therefore indicates a high-card-heavy hand for my earlier bidding. I will be happy if partner passes it out too (leading my trump of course).

Why should partner work out that we have committed a penalty double with a singleton? What number of hearts will he hold (two, three) that causes him to pull? If he had four, he'd have doubled.

Patrick Huang: Dbl. Partner's pass over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) indicates he has a balanced hand with no more than three clubs and three spades. My OBAR double here is of course competitive but partner may convert if he has a 3-4-4-2 defensive hand.

Using Bergen-Cohen terms (Opponents Bid And Raise) would normally curry favor with the Moderator, but not here. Repeat after me: "After partner redoubles, all doubles by either player are pure penalty." The fact that the opponents have raised doesn't change the meaning unless you have a specific agreement to the contrary. Let me repeat, "pure penalty." Not cards, not flexible, not competitive, not takeout, not optional. This double will not be pulled unless partner has a void.

Bob Jones: Dbl. My opponents usually don't bid like this with only 15 HCP (max) between them. I don't want to let them off the hook. I'm hoping partner can pass. Maybe if it's some great player sitting West, like Dave Berkowitz, I would show some respect by cuebidding here. Against anyone else, double should work okay.

Mentioning my regular partner also will not get any special treatment. Bob's hope that his partner will pass is hereby granted. When partner passed 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) around to you, he was surely intending to sit if you made a penalty double.

Paul Yovich: Dbl. Since I bid 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in front of partner, this should surely be takeout. I have enough for another effort and have no idea what strain we should play in.

I don't see it. Change the red suits so that you are 3-1 the other way, and this would be an easy penalty double. Because you happened to be dealt 1-3 the wrong way, you want partner to become a mind reader and treat your double as takeout?

Jill Courtney: Dbl. This should be incorrect. The auction has a curious feel to it, hence, I suppose the problem.

This should be incorrect? Correct.

Peter Fordham: Dbl. What shape does partner rate to hold? Less than four spades, three or four hearts (if four then modest quality), three to five diamonds, and two or three clubs. Strength is 10 to a poor 12. Game is by no means certain. Double by me (the player who partner will know can't have heart length) ought to show some extra strength (which I have) and leave partner to continue as is appropriate to their hand.

"Partner will know we can't have heart length?" This reminds me of the auction
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass
pass dbl    

Many pairs choose to use this as an either/or meaning. It is either penalty (KJ109 and two aces), or light takeout (maybe a 4-1-4-4 9-count). Partner is supposed to figure it out from his hand. That's a dangerous treatment, but it is playable. But not on this problem. We can't expect partner to look at his one, two or three hearts and to divine that our double is somehow takeout, based on heart shortness. Partner's redouble sets up penalty doubles. End of discussion.

Ted Chadwick: 2NT. Partner's redouble shows a misfit for clubs and the desire to penalize the enemy wherever they might go. However he seems to have forgotten to double 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and I certainly can't, but pass is not an option because this auction is forcing to 2NT. So that's what I bid; he'll be able to tell that I don't have hearts by looking at his hand.

I can't see 2NT with a stopper of singleton three any more than a penalty double with that same holding. Again, what is the obsession with assuming partner will know we have one heart when we make a bid that sounds like we have real hearts/stoppers?

David Berkowitz: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Impossible problem, due to the nebulous redouble. I have to assume partner is something like 3-3-4-3, since he didn't bid 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), so I will show my extra club.

Welcome, David -- who graciously risked my scorn by making a guest appearance to coincide with my moderating. I'll let him slide easy on this first one, since his is the first answer that isn't ridiculous. On the other hand, I don't see why he should blame the redouble -- what else does partner do with a 10+ count that wants to penalize the opponents?

Dave Beauchamp: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner has established a forcing auction. Seems odd that partner can't support spades, double hearts or bid diamonds.

Yes, it does feel as if partner is 3-3-3-3. The problem with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is that it doesn't show our extras. We would make the same call if a king lighter.

Stephen Burgess: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Both our doubles are penalties so I can't double. I am better than minimum and 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) about describes this hand.

Steve and Barbara Shepard: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Completes the description of our hand and allows partner to intelligently choose a contract.

Those are the two most sensible answers I've read since I signed up for this job.

Justin Hackett: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would sound like 4-0-4-5 and since pard didn't double I won't double to suggest defending. I'll set up a game force and see what happens.

Michael Ware: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is hard to understand partner's bidding. Redouble showed 9-11, penalty interest, and less than four clubs. He now seems to have no penalty interest without four hearts or four spades. Still we have enough to insist on game; hopefully partner can do something sensible now.

Frank Stewart: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). North seems to hold a balanced hand without a heart stopper. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks pretty good if he has Axx-xxx-KQxx-Qxx, so I can't hang below game. (Surely, nobody would treat a double here as "action.")

Surely, you would think. That's what I thought until I saw our gang of seven.

Mike Lawrence: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not sure what North has but he does have ten points. I bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a general purpose force. What I have feels about right since my obvious bid of 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is not forcing. If double is takeout, that would be best. Have takeout doubles reached this sequence yet?

No, Mike, they haven't.

Kate McCallum: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't pass, can't double, and don't have any more suits to bid. What's left?

In America, we always joke that a cue bid is sure to score well in a bidding contest. I've brought that U.S. scoring to Australia by awarding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) the top score. I can't say that I love 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) more than 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but I sure love it more than double.

Eddie Kantar: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I thought bidding over a redouble showed a weak distributional opening bid? In any case I'm jumping to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to try to make up for past sins.

Eddie, even if you jumped to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I'd think it a better call than double. Sorry that I can't give you more points than the doublers. As it is, I'm afraid that my write up of this problem may keep me from ever getting invited back.

Hand Two - West deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQ652
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT832
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A74


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

   2NT shows minors.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) asks for a stopper.
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows diamonds and hearts.

Call Award %
Dbl 1006747
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 602941
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)2058
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)1002

I'm pleased to see that 2NT is not natural (heaven forbid), but I prefer to play it can be any two suits (not necessarily the minors). That treatment allows me to balance (or in this case, pre-balance), with say, xx-KJxxx-x-AJ9xx. I'd hate to guess which suit to bid, and a double is no good either, since partner will chose diamonds, with say, 3-2-5-3 shape, blowing past our fit. I'd want to bid 2NT to tell partner to choose the cheapest suit he can tolerate, hoping to reach an 8- or 9-card fit in clubs or hearts.

Anyway, with a hand this strong, we can make do without 2NT. We have so much playing strength that we can risk the four-level to show our two-suiter:

Sartaj Hans: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Bidding our suits is usually a good start to any auction.

Eddie Kantar: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Finally I would get a chance to use 2NT as I think it should be used -- hearts and a minor, a hand not strong enough to jump to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). But then the *&^% footnote tells me it shows the minors. I will not be a happy camper if partner has long clubs.

I would not be happy if I were dealt 5-5 in the minors and Eddie's system prevented me from bidding 2NT. Since my primary goal in life is to bump the opponents from 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), why not employ 2NT to maximum use for any two-suiter?

Stephen Burgess: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I love the concept of showing ten of my cards whenever possible so 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is perfect.

I think it would be more perfect if our fragment didn't contain three cards. Surely, clubs is a possible strain, and one might say that we can show even more than 10 of our cards by doubling.

Mike Lawrence: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Shows my hand which may be necessary if West bids to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or higher. I can stand a penalty double, in fact I invite one. Only if we have a club spot will this work terribly.

Ted Chadwick: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). So, 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is Leaping Michaels is it? Why then is this a bidding forum problem? I have diamonds and hearts don't I, so I bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), duh.

We won't consider that as a prediction of a unanimous panel, but it does feel like an embarrassing prediction for an action that received only 30% of the vote.

The objections to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) were two-fold. First, was the unwillingness to commit to the four-level:

Michael Ware: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not good enough for leaping Michaels.

But foremost, was the panel's decision to treat this as a three- not a two-suiter.

Andrew Robson (and Dave Beauchamp, similarly): Dbl. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is too much with such bare suits. Plus we may belong in clubs.

David Berkowitz (with Patrick Huang and Ron Smith, similarly): Dbl. Best chance of keeping all strains in play, and if my partner passes I will not be unhappy with all my aces.

Here are both of the objections to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in one answer:

Henri de Jong: Dbl. Bidding 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) gets us uncomfortably high vulnerable. Also we are playable in three suits, so the double appeals.

Steve and Barbara Shepard: Dbl. Double is the best overall description of our hand and has the best chance of leading to our best contract. Its major drawback is that we will often lose 5-3 heart contracts -- no small cost.

Paul Yovich (and Frank Stewart, much the same): Dbl. I think bidding 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with these slightly threadbare spots is too much, and clubs might end up being our best fit. On the other hand, even with a spade void, I don't mind if partner sits this -- I have three aces and pard may have five trumps.

Peter Fordham: Dbl. I'm not fond of this effort. Nonetheless, how many red cards does partner rate to have? Not too many. So I am not too sanguine about our chances at a high level. On a golden day, partner will Pass and lead the trump king. (As they used to say in rubber bridge circles in Sydney, "when Dr. Don (Neill) doubles and leads the king of trumps, best be his partner."

In America, we used to say that about Norman Kay. Since he must be in heaven, that leads into this comment:

Jill Courtney: Dbl. Thanks for the bidding tips but this hand does not qualify for any of the bids on offer. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at this vulnerability in this position makes the prospect of 76 virgins look decidedly unattractive. Terrestrial delights still come to me occasionally.

Kate McCallum: Dbl. Whenever I double with this hand it ends the auction, and it's always wrong. With my usual stubbornness I'll give it one more try… perhaps with Aces and spaces I want to defend for a change. And the vulnerability is right. I still don't like it, but everything else is worse.

Kate (who edited my book on the Law of Total Tricks) knows that one of my favorite expressions is "avoid doubles with voids." This is generally a good idea but here, with three aces, and partner behind the spades, I won't be mortified if he converts for penalties. Furthermore, I am known to "balance light in direct seat," so I have much more defense than usual.

Bob Jones: Dbl. The gadget bids don't seem right. I don't have enough tricks for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and I don't think this hand is strong enough for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (but not far off). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) focuses attention in a good place, our most likely game, but double is so much safer. Vul at IMPs is a good time to be concerned with safety. I hope Larry has something smart to say about the first two problems. They are both very good.

I don't know if I wrote anything smart, but I think the panel did a good job.

Hand Three - West deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AT63
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK62
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 83
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T52


West North East South
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass ?
Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 3839
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 3311
3NT 50 149
Pass 30 1024
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 59
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 05
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 02

This is an annoying problem since every bid is a complete lie. We have too much to pass, yet no five-card suit, no three-card support, and no club stopper. At times like these I wish it were legal to say double in response to partner to show this hand type. Of all the "lies," I find this one least appealing:

Stephen Burgess: Pass. Heavy pass but I also like aggressive second hand action so won't hang partner for doing so.

I prefer the aggressive action to come in balancing seat while the direct overcall shows a decent hand. (Note the difference with problem #2, where the opponents bid and raised; in that case I am in favor of aggressive direct seat action.)

Peter Fordham: Pass. Insufficient fit to get enthusiastic despite the tops in the majors. I can't realistically expect partner to produce running diamonds and a club stop for 3NT. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might get us to a good 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and it might get us to a b^$*&^ awful 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled. Will try for 110.

Stephen and Peter could be right, of course, but I always remember words that Jeff Meckstroth once sarcastically told me: "Larry, they pay a bonus for vulnerable games." (This was the result of me complaining that Jeff bids a game on every deal).

On the other end of the spectrum was the very optimistic choice of the stopperless 3NT:

Ted Chadwick: 3NT. No raise of the clubs from East so it's 3NT from me. Partner has got our stopper in clubs, I hope!

Sartaj Hans: 3NT. Those non-vul preemptors never run their suits. Or so I dream…

Patrick Huang: 3NT. Trust partner will be inclined to double if he has a singleton club. If he has two or more, 3NT is probably right.

They all have a point. Also, even if clubs can run, they might not run. If we bid a confident 3NT, West might eschew a lead from say, ace-queen-jack -- trying instead to reach partner. Even if he does lead a club, the suit might block. Still, the most common choices were the four-card heart suit and the two-card cue raise:

Bob Jones: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I can't bring myself to pass with AK-A. Once I decide to bid, what else but 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? If partner raises with three that is likely to be our best game. I'm hoping to hear 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 3NT.

David Berkowitz: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have all the admiration in the world for 3NT, and indeed it is easier to bid it on paper as opposed to at the table. Nevertheless, I will try to find the right game (hopefully we have one).

Paul Yovich: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Our future is not likely to be in diamonds, and this is the best way to probe for another spot. But why do I feel like I just went past our last plus score?

Dave Beauchamp: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Owe pard a heart. Way too much game potential to say no bid.

Michael Ware: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too wimpy to bid a direct 3NT, but hopefully partner can. Too much to pass. If 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) gets raised to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), it might be best game.

Henri de Jong: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Very tough, but we have a good hand. Sadly 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to find his major gets us past 3NT, so 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is the least of all evils.

So, let's see about that 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid:

Mike Lawrence: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A wonderful problem. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) gives us a small chance of finding a major suit game. If partner rebids diamonds, we have another headache. I am inclined to respect North's vulnerable overcall enough to bid game.

Andrew Robson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). First message of a cuebid in preempt auctions is Choice of Game a la Zia.

Of course, partner might like to choose 3NT. Since 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) eliminates that possibility, I'm pleased to see there were more votes for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which garnered the top score of 100.

Frank Stewart: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hoping to hear North bid four of a major. If he bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I'll bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), which will have a good chance opposite Kx-xxx-AKJxxxx-x.

Eddie Kantar: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). In a perfect world 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would ask for a club stopper, but I'm afraid it doesn't. Maybe partner has a four-card major. Whatever, I have to make some sort of a push to game.

Steve and Barbara Shepard: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We like our hand and are willing to play game somewhere -- just hope our best game isn't 3NT.

Kate McCallum: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Cuebids above the 2-level don't always promise a fit. I have the values to force to game, but there's no need to be a hero with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If we have a 4-4 major-suit fit, we'll get there. (This is not the time for a 4-3.)

I met Jill Courtney during my trip down under in 1994. She made a good impression on me -- I remember her being friendly and laughing. That is why it pains me for the second time this month to have to publish her action and then kill her in print:

Jill Courtney: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If 3NT is right I simply have to bid it and, yes I would, but not on bidding forum. No point trying to "show" a stopper in a major since you could easily pick the wrong one. So with three sharp controls and the right vulnerability I'll try five.

How can this ever be right? I understand bypassing 3NT, but why not at least keep four of either major in play? Surely partner hasn't denied holding a side suit in hearts or spades. So three of a major, or 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), keeping 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) alive, has to be better than skipping directly to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

The full deal:
spades KQ82
hearts Q7
diamonds AJ9765
clubs 3
spades 9
hearts 10843
diamonds 10
clubs AKJ8764
spades J754
hearts J95 
diamonds KQ42
clubs Q9
spades A1063
hearts AK62
diamonds 83
clubs 1052 

At the table South bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and North ended up declaring 4spades redoubled for +1480.

Hand Four - East deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJ9
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QJ97
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT652


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

   2NT is Lebensohl, a puppet to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).
   Bidding 3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) directly shows more values         than going via 2NT.

Call Award %
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 1006240
Pass 502431
3NT 401011
2NT 40517
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 001

Kate McCallum: 3NT. Doesn't feel like the right hand to defend 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doubled. The downside of Lebensohl: we have to overbid sometimes. I'm sure I've never objected to that!

I don't object to Kate's overbidding, but there is no need for it here. Most of the panel feels this is the upside of Lebensohl. We can bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to show that we have real values.

Stephen Burgess: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I hate Lebensohl and refuse to play it but it's certainly good for this hand.

Paul Yovich: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). That will do -- no harm in having a bit to spare for one's bid. This is surely one of the reasons Lebensohl was invented.

Andrew Robson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A bit wet, really. But why should we be defeating 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? And why, facing a protective double, should we have the values for game. So wet, yes; sensible, yes.

I suppose that 'wet' is a British expression, maybe Australian, too. I sense that it has negative connotations, but Andrew's reasoning makes 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) sound like the right call.

Patrick Huang: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Glad we are playing Lebensohl so my 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will show about 7-10 points.

Dave Beauchamp: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Good description of my hand. Pass is too unilateral.

Ron Smith: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'd rather declare than guess what the defense should be.

Mike Lawrence: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The chances of us having a game (or slam) make up for the chances of killing 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Would like to know East's tendencies. I am averse to hanging partner for balancing on a light hand which is part of the reason for my bidding here.

Yes, who is this East character? What if he is a crazy man?

Bob Jones: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If one of Larry's ex-partners, Marty Bergen, were East, I would pass and hope he had a four-card heart suit. Against anyone else, I'm looking after my offensive prospects, which are reasonable. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is about right on values.

Marty once famously did open 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on a four-card suit, and it worked out quite well. He used to tell me that the shorter/ worse his suit, the safer he was. The opponents always had length/strength in his suit, so they couldn't make takeout doubles. Without the takeout double there couldn't be a conversion to a penalty double. I hate to say that this almost makes sense.

Maybe this problem had too many hints in the footnotes:

Ted Chadwick: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Yet again you've given me the answer! 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) shows some values so that's what I bid because that's what I've got.

I like Lebensohl over weak twos, and I agree with Ted that it is the best of all worlds. Why take the extreme (and unnecessary) view to pass or go all the way to 3NT? Can I be convinced?

Jill Courtney: 3NT. I'm going to game and this looks like the right one.

But why hang partner for balancing? He could have a 4-1-4-4 10-count. If we bid 3NT, don't count on him ever balancing again. If he has extras, he can move on over our value-showing 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It is so easy to reach 3NT via 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-pass-3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-pass-3NT.

Steve and Barbara Shepard: 2NT. Intending to rebid 3NT. Pass is tempting and could be the big winner, but we think the odds are with showing our heart stoppers and sufficient values to try 3NT.

I've never thought it important to differentiate a direct (fast) 3NT from a delayed (slow) 3NT on this auction. Both should promise hearts stopped. Since the lone voters for 2NT had the same intent as the 3NT bidders, I've assigned them the same (poor) score.

Frank Stewart: Pass. I do have a good opening lead. I expect to be +300 or more if North has a sound reopening double or more.

But why should it be sound?

David Berkowitz (with Michael Ware, similarly): Pass. Obviously, this might blow up in my face, but the way players preempt these days, we must take risks to punish them. It is not like we have an automatic game, assuming I knew which one to bid.

I like to punish them, too -- but this is a different situation from the one in which I usually preach passing. When we have no other sensible guess, then passing a takeout double has appeal. David and Michael say we have no automatic game -- I agree. But we have an easy, I'd say automatic, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid. That will get us to game if partner has something, and will get us to a safe partial otherwise.

Peter Fordham (and Henri de Jong, similarly): Pass. Might be a bit tight given partner's propensity to reopen friskily, but I probably have 3+ tricks and a decent lead.

I don't see it. We have three tricks and partner for his balance has maybe two or three. Perhaps I am influenced by having a wire. This deal comes from the 2007 Bermuda Bowl, where passing led to a smooth -470.  

Hand Five - North deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQJT83
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ---
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQJ6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ5


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


Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1002428
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 901916
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80199
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70145
Dbl 501421
3NT 201012
Other 009

And I thought that Problem 1 was the joke of the month. Here, it takes several looks just to make sure I know which seat I'm in and who bid what. Let's see, I have a strong two-bid in spades and RHO opened 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I passed (without checking the backs of the cards) and the auction was developing beautifully when partner doubled. I was going to pass and lead the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and extract one of the largest penalties ever against a one-level contract.

But, drat, Jill's 76 virgins will have to wait. East's 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid has ruined my dreams. Is there still a penalty in our future? The following three panelists must be related to the seven that made a penalty double with the singleton in problem 1:

Paul Yovich: Dbl. Penalties (though I won't mind if he thinks it's takeout, obviously). I'll lead the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K. Partner is overruffing spades and this might get ugly for them. I wouldn't be doing it at other vulnerabilities, but two off is a reasonable minimum expectation, and it could be much better.

One thing I am sure of: Partner will not think this is takeout. It does, however show a penalty double of spades as says some Floridian I know:

David Berkowitz: Dbl. I wish I knew. This shows spades, and though we avoid doubling with a void, perhaps all my pictures will help. It is not like this hand will play well for declarer (unless he has psyched, which I don't believe is a possibility at this vulnerability).

At least he quoted me, as does:

Kate McCallum: Dbl. Double is out of the question with a void. It does show a penalty double of 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but it also shows some hearts (at least two, IMO). So, now that I've written my own epitaph, I double. Even with RHO's good shape, and their likely good fit, the vulnerable opponents are in a whole lot of trouble, and I'm not letting them off the hook.

Say it ain't so. David and Kate are supposed to have been two of my brainwashing victims. It saddens me that they are willing to defend against a 9- maybe 10-card fit at the two level.

At least I have some panelists that agree with me as to how bizarre this problem is:

Frank Stewart: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The Goofy Problem of the Month. We can probably make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and at matchpoints with a good game, I'd just bid it. But at IMPs I'll look for 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) since quite possibly we can make that.

Ron Smith: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I've never seen this nightmare before and I hope this is forcing.

Yes, this does feel like one of my bad dreams, where there are 17 cards in a suit. Here, in a twist even too bizarre for me to mention "the LAW," many of the panel are trying to play in spades:

Stephen Burgess (with Dave Beauchamp): 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Anything could be right but 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have a play.

Henri de Jong: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Does East really have spades? North will have hearts so what is East bidding on?

Peter Fordham: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I want to play this hand in spades despite the 5+ spades on my right. Provided partner has some strength in hearts, indicated on the bidding, the hand won't fall apart. I want to make sure partner understands I have lots of chunky spades and a good hand. Pussy footing around at a lower level in the vainglorious hope of finding a better spot is likely to lead to an inglorious end. To hope that partner's hand is good enough for a higher level contract given the probable images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A9xxx on my right with a heart lead coming is too optimistic.

Mike Lawrence: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forcing and natural. I am worried about missing 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but can't find a way to hunt for it directly. If North bids 3NT, I will bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), also forcing. Who dreamed up the questions this month?

Maybe or maybe not is 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) forcing; this surely is not in any book. As to the questions this month, don't blame me; I'm just a guest here.

While 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) sure sound natural, the same can't be said about 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Or can it?

Sartaj Hans: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). "3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is the cuebid, partner" will be my post-mortem opening comment after the bidding is over.

Patrick Huang: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as a cue but if partner plays me for natural it's okay.

Michael Ware: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Very cute. East probably hasn't psyched because really who does these days vul vs not, second chair? If so, well done. Perhaps I catch a diamond fit.

Bob Jones: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Another brutal problem. We're probably cold for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), maybe even 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm keeping it as low as I can. I'm hoping West will now be enamored with his big heart fit combined with his spade shortness and offer a heart raise. Too tough for me. Maybe Larry knows what to bid.

Thankfully, the staff said I don't have to submit my bids. This way, I can bash every panelist's choice without having to support any of them. If you held a gun to my head, I think I would guess to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but not with any conviction.

If 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might not be a cuebid, surely 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is:

Andrew Robson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't penalize any more, with my void in their suit. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is possible, and not natural. But surely the time has come to announce my monster hand, and 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) clearly does that.

Eddie Kantar: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is tempting to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), what I bet most everyone else bid, but 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) followed by 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) must be stronger. Besides, why give up on a 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) without a fight?

Steve and Barbara Shepard: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We have big ambitions and so start off with the cheapest cue bid. All spade bids by us would be natural and would prevent us from reaching minor suit contracts, even small slams.

Justin Hackett: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Wow, what a hand and what a problem! Bad methods here -- we should be playing penalty doubles at the 1-level!!! Maybe I should bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Don't like double even though it may work.

Of course, Justin is joking about the methods. I believe that 80 years ago, it was possible to double 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) for penalties. Eighty years later, the first hand where it would have been a winning treatment has arrived.

I've killed everyone this month who made a penalty double with a singleton or a void in the enemy suit. Just when I thought I'd seen everything, now we have 3NT bids with a void in their suit:

Ted Chadwick: 3NT. Partner must have some hearts for his double of 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so 3NT looks like our best game. I know it looks silly but I can't think of anything sensible to do except check the backs of the cards to ensure that we're all playing with the same deck.

"Silly" is an underbid. Surely, when Ted reads the other panelist's choices, he will see something more sensible than 3NT with a void in their suit, wrongsided, and with a heart lead coming.

Jill Courtney: 3NT. This will score no points but I believe it will work. Partner must have a heart control for their bidding and West has no re-entry to mess with future heart leads. I am confident of nine tricks one way or the other.

I am confident that 3NT from our side is a bad idea. Jill, I regret that I have to assign you more than 0 points, since there were actually two votes for 3NT. But, I might have to fly down to Australia again soon, and have a long chat with you. I'll be monitoring your comments in future issues, keeping one eye on you, and the other eye on Qantas airfares. If your answers don't improve, I'm on my way to straighten you out.

Thanks to Australian Bridge for inviting me to be the guest moderator. I hope I didn't wear out my welcome!