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September 2017

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, September 2017

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, and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.

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answers for December      

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Hand One - South deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQJT98
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQ5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 4
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J8


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

   1NT is standard, not forcing.

Call Award %
Dbl 100 37 23
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 26 27
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 32 18
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 30 5 9
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 11
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 5
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 3
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 2
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 2

Welcome to our third of four forums this year. Due to various difficulties, Australian Bridge has returned to a quarterly schedule in 2017, although next year we will once again be producing an issue every two months. Our 4th and final forum for the year will be in the first week of December, after which we will continue to publish in every even-numbered month. The reduced schedule has given me time to put some processes in place that will make the magazine (and the bidding forum and the Australia-Wide Pairs) much more efficient in 2018.

Our first four problems all attracted at least nine different answers, so this is one of our lowest-scoring sets in 48 years. Problem One had an even three-way split amongst the experts, with a one-vote edge giving this odd choice the top award:

Damo Nair: Dbl. I could I suppose try 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but Double just feels right.

Neil Ewart: Dbl. I'll correct 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)) and cue 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Roger Yandle: Dbl. I'll rebid my spades if partner bids clubs.

Dean Pokorny: Dbl. If partner doesn't pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x, I plan to splinter with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and go for slam. Bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) right away is not elegant and kind of messy (wouldn't partner expect a void?), while bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is too conclusive. Partner sees the vulnerability too.

Martyn Rew: Dbl. Let's see what partner has. I can go to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) against the least favorable response from partner.

David Matthews: Dbl. The choices would appear to be Double, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A jump to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be somewhat unilateral. Double gives us the most flexibility. Over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) I will continue with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Fraser Rew: Dbl. Then pull 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner insists on clubs, he's probably right.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Dbl. the real problem comes on the next round; I am trying for a game but have no idea yet whether 3NT, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the most likely candidate.

Martin Poon: Dbl. Prepare to jump to 4-Major when partner bids 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner bids 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), rebid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to show the semi-solid suit.

Michael Burt: Dbl. The easiest way to find out if partner has four hearts and, if not, diamond cover.

Pravin Nahar: Dbl. If partner has four hearts, let the minor suit lead come to him.

The argument against the top choice is fairly solid:

Sartaj Hans: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Doubling for takeout can bring hearts into play but it risks playing right here for an inadequate penalty. Would tend to double at teams due to possibility of getting to heart slams.

Ron Klinger: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Should be a very strong chance unless trumps are 5-1-1. Partner might easily pass a double for +300 / +500 with 620/650 easy for us.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We are worth a game force and this is not the right hand type to offer partner a chance to defend 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x at this vulnerability.

The readers were also split fairly evenly among the top three choices, with the top vote going to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes):

John R Mayne: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is only a question of strain; I have to force game with this moose. Spades could play better even if partner is 2-4, but sometimes partner will have Kx Jxxx Jxxx Axx and we'll have a jackpot. The takeout double would be a mistake as we are poorly placed if partner bids clubs and probably poorly placed if partner passes.

Ian McCance: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks the safer option but with a similar hand recently found the 1NT had 6 small hearts.

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A forcing bid showing good hearts as well as spades. With game and possibly slam on somewhere need to keep the bidding going.

Alex Kemeny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Game forcing, catering for long hearts and short spades opposite. I will remove 3NT to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Need to introduce the heart suit. Don't really want partner to convert the double to penalties with this hand.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With a likely 9 playing tricks, a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) rebid would be timid. Double is superficially attractive but partner might be reluctant to introduce his mothy heart suit with say Kx-Txxx-ATxxx-xx.

Actually, I think 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is pretty much as good as 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with that hand (unless West has five hearts, but even then you'll probably get a diamond lead).

Peter Robinson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Have to bid out the shape opposite the amorphous 1NT response.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hopefully partner can give me just a little help and we can be in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3NT.

Brian Lawless: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have eight playing tricks - max for a 1-level opening and partner has bid.

Dan Baker: Dbl. Without interference, I'd bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but I'm worried that would sound a little weaker and more distributional after the overcall. Next bid is 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) unless partner bids hearts.

I do like 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as weak/distributional here, although I don't know anyone who plays it that way. It does fit in with the style in my most regular partnerships, where a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) rebid is Gazzilli and jumps are weaker.

If Dan was worried that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was not forcing, he won't be happy with this choice:

Peter Vlas: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Yes I have 6 spades, but I want to introduce my excellent hearts.

Rao Zvorovski: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I prefer to show my other suit, especially if it is this good. Double would not quite emphasise the offensive potential of this hand. If partner (potentially false) preferences to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I will try 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Duncan Roe: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too strong for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes); double will elicit a club bid.

It sounds like Duncan thinks this is forcing, but Rao is happy to give partner an out below game. Bob Jones was the sole 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidder on the panel (hence the non-zero award) and Ron Smith also commented that stopping short of game could be right. Similarly:

Sandra Brinkman: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Want to show partner that I have more than opening value with six spades.

Alan Jones: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I prefer a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening I can see 8.5 tricks in spades! Happy to bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) next time if necessary.

Stephen Bartos: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A bid that is both forcing for one round and shows the length in spades.

Like 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), this is not forcing. Alan's suggestion of opening 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is interesting, although 8.5 playing tricks in a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening is not a common agreement (for example, you could agree 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-3M as non-forcing, but it's far from standard). Obviously we can make game opposite Kxx-xx-xxxx-xxxx, and 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could go all-pass, but diluting your 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening also has some downside.

All of the previous options are better than the Hunter Valley method:

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner should cover one loser with Spades or Hearts as trumps.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Should be game in either major.

Phil Hocking: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Must be in game so partner can pass or correct.

In the Gold Coast Pairs this year a many-time national champion rebid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on a strong 5-5-3-0 hand, playing in a 5-1 spade fit when partner was 1-1-6-5. This is not a manageable way to play bridge; naturally the rest of the field bid 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-1NT-3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-3NT (still not as good as a Gazzilli auction, but at least an average board).

We'll skip over most of the minority answers, except for this one from a guy whose quest to become the #1 Brad took a massive hit in the Bowl final last month:

Brad Johnston: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I like going minus on boards, so I'll start with an auto-splinter. If mate bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) last train I'll kick 5NT and correct 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What do you mean 10 tricks was the limit?

I like that you have a plan for getting to 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (as Sartaj and John Mayne mentioned earlier, 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) needs a lot less than 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)). The odds are not in your favour, but I will upgrade the award.

Finally, missing out on the top score by one vote:

Julian Foster: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't really want to play in hearts if I get forced straight away. So this seems the practical shot - I have 4 losers so hopefully partner can cover at least 1 of them!

Artur Wasiak: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My first thought was double but I'm afraid that partner would pass it too often. Introducing hearts doesn't seem to be necessary.

Bridge Baron: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My spades are so beautiful that I'd bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) even with slightly weaker spades.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner should have one trick for me.

This was (in practice) the winning choice at the table; any other action pinpoints the killing trump lead. The full deal:

spades K5
hearts 83
diamonds J10953
clubs Q1053
spades 762
hearts J10642
diamonds A7
clubs K72
spades 43
hearts 97
diamonds KQ862
clubs A964
spades AQJ1098
hearts AKQ5
diamonds 4
clubs J8

The trump lead doesn't prevent a heart ruff, but it does cut communications. Declarer can't get back to hand to draw trumps after ruffing the heart. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would always be makeable if hearts were 4-3.

Hand Two - North deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K82
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQ86532
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q4


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


Call Award %
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 32 39
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 16 9
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 16 2
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 5 1
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 11 8
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 5 4
4NT 20 5 9
5NT 20 5 0
Pass 10 5 27
Other 0 0 2

While it's not unusual for the readers to come up with nine different options (or 11 in this case) it's virtually impossible for the 19-member expert panel to do so. Obviously, many of the options had only one vote each, and we'll start with those:

Eric Kokish: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (cue). Then 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so partner will not mis-value the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)KQ. I would have strongly preferred 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 2NT, a self-splinter for hearts.

Just one comment from the readers for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes): Women's Butler winner Deana Wilson, intending it as Blackwood. Welcome to our forum Deana, and full points for playing an intelligent system -- even though it's not a part of this column's methods. Similarly:

Patrick Huang: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If you allow me to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as a key-card ask for hearts, that will be my choice.

Ron Landgraff: 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Any doubleton heart honor probably makes slam playable. Even 10x. High cards are all working.

Bob Jones: 4NT (invitational). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would end the auction and 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would overstate the strength of my hearts. I think this is my only sound invitational bid (at least I hope it's sound).

This one had a lot more support from the readers, but, once again, as Blackwood. A couple of exceptions:

Jack Lai: 4NT. Invite.

Ron Landgraff: 4NT. One slam try.

Michael Ware: 5NT. I think this comes down to partnership / individual style. To me North's 3NT shows a heart singleton. That makes 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) unlikely. Partner should be 3136 else would have bids spades or reversed into diamonds. That makes 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seem quite good actually. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) by me here is a cue agreeing hearts so I'll just bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Actually 5NT pick a slam can't be wrong as with six clubs partner will always bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and 5NT caters for partner having two hearts - even though he shouldn't.

There are several people here commenting that North might have a singleton heart. Despite the fact that some of them are world class players, I just don't understand how you can play like that. 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-1NT is one thing, but there are so many other options over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), especially with 18 points.

Our final solo bid was a reader favourite:

Eddie Kantar: Pass. Apparently partner has long, strong, clubs with a likely stiff heart.

Michael Burt: Pass. I've bid my hand - trust partner.

Duncan Roe: Pass. If I could bid my normal 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Gerber here then I would, but it's not in AB standard so I won't. I think we're in the right strain; hearts might be 4-1 or 5-0 against us.

Alan Jones: Pass. It seems that partner has 19-20 hcp and a singleton heart. My suit will prevent a disaster, and the lead will come up to my partner.

Phil Hocking: Pass. Partner has at best two hearts and showing an invitational hand. Opening 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is not showing any particular features unless it is a longer club suit. No interest in adding the need to get 10 tricks over 9.

Ian McCance: Pass. Partner knows I have long hearts but chooses NT. OK with me

Cathy Hocking: Pass. Partner obviously would prefer to play in NT. Hopefully with my long heart suit NT will be the better outcome.

Martyn Rew: Pass. Partner pretty well knows what I have, and 3NT is still his preference.

Martin Poon: Pass. the broken hearts look like a burden rather than a source of tricks. 3NT would be the only safe contract.

David Matthews: Pass. Trust your partner and don't bid your hand twice.

Damo Nair: Pass. What else? I don't see a fit any where.

David Ellis: Pass. you may have slam but it would be hard to find.

Moving up the popularity ladder, the lack of a clear ace-ask led to this choice:

Frank Stewart: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I might have bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 2NT. Surely North would have cuebid over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with Axx-Kx-AJxx-AKxx, but even though his heart support may be shaky, to stop at 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) now would be timid; he can have many hands where six is good. Even if he has AQx-Jx-KJxx-AKJx, the opening lead may not be a diamond.

Sartaj Hans: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Meaning nothing more special than bid six if you like your hand.

Robert Black: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Has partner bid 2NT with a Heart shortage, or have I underbid with our combined 29 plus points? Assuming a no and a yes he should consider going to six with the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K.

Fraser Rew: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I changed my mind a few times on this one. But we want to invite slam, while saying that this hand is about hearts. Any time he has images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Kx we'll be in good shape for a slam, with images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)J10 it shouldn't be worse than a finesse and he should pass on the wrong hands, and with a singleton or small doubleton he should pass.

John R. Mayne: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm out of good ways to bid keycard - 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems like a good way to play 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and 4NT is 100% quantitative. So I'll make the dullard's try. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is just not enough when Axx Kx Axx AKxxx makes a grand excellent.

That would be a pretty uninspired 3NT rebid from partner; on a similar hand in the ANC I opened 2NT and then drove to a grand slam myself (page 8 of the current magazine).

Rao Zvorovski: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Slam is still very much in the picture. The problem is finding a bid that shows slam interest and extra heart length, and 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems to be the least of evils.

Julian Foster: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Sounds like partner is 3-2 in the majors. Feels too good for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could be off two aces so this is intended as a general invite.

Next, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) received three votes each. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was intended as naturalish, with Zia and Mike Lawrence considering 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as a possible contract. Andrew Robson chose 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) in order to give partner room to bid an encouraging 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) below game. The readers (I'm detecting a pattern here) intended it as Blackwood (or Gerber, or Minorwood). Again, a few exceptions:

Nigel Kearney: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not sure of partner's style but he should have chosen 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if balanced with a small doubleton heart so I envisage one of two types: either Axx x KQx AKJxxx or AJx Kx KQx Axxxx. I've given him a highly unsuitable diamond holding and we still want to be in slam in either hearts or clubs. Bidding 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should find out which.

Peter Robinson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Just worth a try. Since partner likely has a small doubleton in hearts, slam needs some specific top cards or great clubs.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner advertises a balanced 18-19 HCP, so you are worth another effort. You hope that partner treats 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as a cue-bid or some kind of last train

Alex Kemeny: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Maybe we can make 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Over 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I will use RKCB.

There it is: for all the people who couldn't decide whether 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 4NT was Blackwood, Alex has just demonstrated the simple approach to ace-asking.

4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) followed by 4NT would be equally effective in that respect (but ruling out 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as a contract). This received three expert votes (Matthew Thomson, Paul Lavings and Larry Cohen), as well as:

Brad Johnston: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I heard bidding 4m is a good way to get points in these bidding forums - maybe that's only in America. It sure sounds like a good 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid, but in my second set of answers I'll probably lambaste anyone going above 3NT.

The 2nd set of answers never came, but no one has a problem with you going past 3NT.

And finally, the "winning" answer: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). As always, I don't like giving the top score to the signoff when two-thirds of the panel chose to look for slam (in eight different ways) but in this case I'm willing to let it slide because the bid does contain some slam connotations. And also because even if slam is better than 50%, I don't expect it to be much better.

Peter Vlas: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I should have a good hand, otherwise I would have bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) looks a bit too much.

Tony Treloar: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is some sort of immediate slam try then I think 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be the limit. Partner rates to have xx in hearts which means slam will rely on card placement.

Neil Ewart: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner should have 2 hearts for 2nt so bidding 3 then 4 must show I had some slam hopes

Brian Lawless: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner should recognise that I have a good hand in this sequence.

Dan Baker: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This (instead of jumping to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) directly after 2NT) should show at least mild slam interest. Hearts will probably play better if partner doesn't have the king, and if he does with good controls elsewhere he won't pass this.

Dean Pokorny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Since I didn't bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 2NT, this sequence already shows a strong slam-try, probably with 7 hearts. Why did partner rebid 3NT? Maybe he jumped to 2NT with 3145. Who knows. Time to be careful, the bidding isn't necessarily over with 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Roger Yandle: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Yuck. Pard could have a hand where slam is near hopeless (AQJ xx AKJ KJxxx) or cold (AQx JT Axx AKxxx) but I'm not sure with AB std how you'd find out from here.

I'd expect 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to get you to the right spot opposite those two hands.

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Is this a real problem? Must be otherwise it would not be here. So partner has a singleton Heart - or may be even a void but 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) must have a better chance than 3NT. This agricultural bidding may mean we exchange a plus for a minus.

Emil, notice that your regular partner Roger's two example hands both contained a doubleton heart.

Artur Wasiak: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not the best bid but avoiding disaster. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is dangerous without clear agreement (although with diamonds we would probably bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) earlier so 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) now shouldn't be natural). What about 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in the previous turn - it would be splinter with clubs or hearts agreed?

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner is promising 18-19 with (very) short hearts and not four spades. AB-standard does not seem to contain checkback-options. As 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately would be weak, 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should be forcing. Would 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) now be an autosplinter for hearts? I'll trust partner that he has (really) short hearts and opt for the probably most playable contract.

4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would surely have been a splinter on the previous round (so not on this round) and Andrew Robson and Eric Kokish say we should have done that. Similarly:

Kees Schaafsma: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). For all I know North could be 4-1-4-4. I should have bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (auto-splinter) on the previous round.

That would be a 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) opening of course, and with any other singleton heart shape partner would simply make a reverse. If partner does have four spades, I think it has to be 4-2-3-4. But Ig is right, I should have provided an agreement (via footnote) to clarify the spade position.

Unfortunately we don't have the full deal, but the question still raises a lot of important issues for partnership discussion.

Hand Three - North deals, NS vul, Butler IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A7
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) T654
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AT954
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 97


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

   1NT is not forcing.
   Partner's double is for takeout.

Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 32 4
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 90 21 11
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 5 0
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 60 37 59
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 20 5 15
Pass 0 0 4
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 2
Other 0 0 4

Our next problem is a two-part decision: which suit is best, and do we want to look for game. The decision about suit turned out to be pretty simple, so we'll start by glossing over the small group who got it wrong:

Dean Pokorny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) instead of 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would kinda endplay partner with 6133 and 14-16. Time to save space and flexibility with a cheap trick. With 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I'm giving partner room to invite with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), planning to accept with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)! Just in case when his hand is something like KJxxxx x KQJx Ax. Reading my hand and finding 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) after that sequence should not be a big problem, since my 2 key-aces are super-visible.

Robert Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 8 tricks may be our limit.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If North has 6 we could be close to game, but North has to take another call.

Rao Zvorovski: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Passing would be crazy and the choice is between 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I prefer to stay a level lower, especially with an Ace in partner's suit.

David Matthews: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Spade support may be just what partner needs to go on.

Martyn Rew: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The risk of passing and having 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x make is way too much for any potential reward. Not strong enough to bring in diamonds at the 3 level.

Ron Klinger: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner can bid again if the spade suit is flimsy.

That's all we have, readers and panellists combined, in favour of spades. The real question is how many diamonds to bid, and I think this comment says it all:

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2NT can hardly be natural here, so Lebensohl applies. Pard may have KQxxx-x-Kxx-AKJx, so forcing to game with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would be too risky.

That is Kees' attempt to demonstrate why we should NOT bid game, using an example hand on which 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) are both excellent contracts. And keep in mind, we are talking about looking for game, not bidding it.

Most people don't see this as a Lebensohl situation (it certainly isn't for me) so we need another way if we want to be constructive. This seems like the obvious choice:

Michael Burt: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My hand has become stronger with the bidding and a likely diamond fit. The two aces look very useful. I need to convey this to partner with a positive bid.

Brian Lawless: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Two bullets and 5-card suit in which partner must have values. Too good for anything else.

Bastiaan Korner: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Should perhaps bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but then partner often overbids.

Eric Kokish, among others, described this hand as too strong for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and Larry Cohen and Phillip Alder also wanted to keep slam in the picture. This leaves us with only one sensible action:

Nigel Kearney: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With a hand this powerful, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is not enough. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) keeps spades and NT in the picture and if partner has a shapely minimum such as KJxxx x Qxx AKxx we will usually be ok in 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Brad Johnston: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At Butler I don't need to rush into a 5-2 spade fit. Two bullets is too big to not take some action here. Let partner rebid and find the diamond fit if 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks wrong.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good hand with no good natural bid.

Fraser Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Then raise 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to game, pass 3NT and correct 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We don't get overboard too often, and we should always get to our best strain this way.

Martin Poon: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With no wastage in hearts, the extra length in diamonds together with two powerful Aces urges for bidding game.

In spite of all the above, the readers voted in a strong majority for signing off in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes):

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). An underbid but 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems an overbid. Diamonds are likely to play much better than spades because of likely heart-forces in the latter strain.

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Don't get this problem. Sure I have a nice hand in the context of what has happened (images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A, no wastage in hearts and five diamonds are all good features). But what else am I meant to do?

Neil Ewart: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I do have two aces but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is enough.

Ian McCance: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I thought 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but worried that 7 trumps not enough

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North's negative double shows tolerance for the minors as well as five spades. Let's see what North can now do as he has not limited his hand yet.

John R. Mayne: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Nope. Decline. Abstain. As to Butler IMPs: Burn it with fire. Just use cross-IMPs. Or dice throws. Butler is known to be a terrible way to score anything, so stop it and go home in shame.

You say abstain, but you still gave an answer; not to worry, I'll assume it was an accident and change your score to zero.

Unfortunately, in this country nearly all Matchpoint Pairs congresses have been replaced with Butler Pairs events, and there is only one serious Matchpoint event left on the National calendar. (There is also a good Matchpoint event in New Zealand, which is why I keep making the trip even though their Teams event has been a comedy of errors for the past two years).

Emil Battista: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If it were IMP scoring, 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Then again not having played any Butler events may not have helped in the decision making process.

Emil is actually the convenor of his club's Butler Pairs congress, so maybe that explains why he didn't play in it.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Ideally partner is 5233 (or better). I have what I promised and with this heart holding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could be makeable. What will I do if 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) comes back to me?

Peter Robinson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Maybe an underbid, but spades are unlikely to play well, and partner's double only requires some shape.

Phil Hocking: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). North must see the balance of power in our favour and a shortage in Hearts. Still a lot of unaccounted points but there must be an expectation of a three level bid by partner and I am not absolute minimum.

Tony Treloar: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempting to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might seem a little more forward going.

Dan Baker: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Two aces opposite extras make this hand good enough to go past 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I can show the doubleton spade next if partner doesn't pass.

Ron Landgraff: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Takeout means takeout! Expecting a big set against 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is like waiting for the Great Pumpkin with Charlie Brown!

I'm not sure that Charlie Brown actually spent much time waiting for the Pumpkin (Linus was the only one who believed in him). Expecting a big set against 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is more like Charlie Brown hoping to kick a football. A few other people mentioned passing but also dismissed it:

Henri de Jong: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Very close to passing.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't have enough heart cover to leave the double in for penalties.

Roger Yandle: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My hearts aren't strong enough to sit the double (rule of 6 & 4).

Bridge Baron: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner wants to know about my minor suit, and here it is. My hearts aren't good enough for a penalty pass, nor for a NT bid. The images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A is a nice card, but not nice enough to insist on a spade contract on a possible 5-2 fit.

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is not a great bid, but it's a lot better than the 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid chosen at the table. The full deal:

spades KJ862
diamonds KJ62
clubs AJ54
spades Q104
hearts AQJ982
diamonds 87
clubs K3
spades 953
hearts K73
diamonds Q3
clubs Q10862
spades A7
hearts 10654
diamonds A10954
clubs 97

Partner has a very beautiful 13-count (although his images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J is worthless, his images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)J is a liability, and his images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)J is nice to have but not essential to making 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on the actual super-friendly layout).

Hand Four - North deals, NS vul, Butler IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQJ3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q32
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 92
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ92


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

   3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is 4th suit; 2NT would have been weak.

Call Award %
4NT 100 37 27
5NT 70 11 2
6NT 60 16 15
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 21 11
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 5 9
3NT 20 11 31
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 2
Other 0 0 3

Our second problem this month featuring a natural 4NT bid, but this one is much more clear cut. With a large number of reader and expert votes for both 3NT and 6NT, it couldn't be more obvious that the right answer is in the middle.

John R. Mayne: 4NT. Even if partner doesn't take this as quantitative, I can blame her for the resulting disaster. It's very close to just bidding 3NT now which is a mild slam invite. If that catches xx-AKJ10-AKQ85-xx, it's total victory for 3NT. But even with the wasted black queens, I think it's a bit too timid.

Peter Vlas: 4NT. Looks like a decent 6NT, but give partner a chance to get out in 4NT.

Robert Black: 4NT. Quantitative, but undiscussed! I would like to bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), Minorwood, as I Have 15 HCP, and partner has reversed, but so far we have found a 6-2 Diamond fit only.

Damo Nair: 4NT. Quantitative, I hope. I think I have some extras.

Artur Wasiak: 4NT. Invitation.

Kees Schaafsma, Pravin Nahar: 4NT. Quantitative.

As with Problem 2, there are generally a few people who play 4NT as "always Blackwood":

Phil Hocking: 4NT. Hopefully RCKB in diamonds as partner is not showing a stopper in clubs but potentially a longer diamond suit with a forcing second bid so expect 16-20 HCP. 3 and maybe 4 of the missing points are in clubs. As a friend of mine often remarks I need more red meat. I am protected against a black suit lead if I bid NT first.

Niek Van Vucht: 4NT. RKCB, going to 6NT.

Bridge Baron: 4NT. Blackwood for diamonds. With partner's reverse in 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), it's unlikely that we're off two top heart tricks, but if we are, that's the rub of the green.

A disappointing answer from the Baron; unlike with human players, he has unlimited scope for explicit agreement. You would think the basic natural 4NT bids would be covered in his system notes.

The reason 4NT is quantitative is, of course:

Nigel Kearney: 4NT. This should be quantitative because I could have bid diamonds (this time or last time) to set trumps. A Blackwood response would not be a disaster and nothing else appeals anyway.

Dean Pokorny: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) helps partner to evaluate his AKQxxx suit as 6 winners, in case we need to find a grand. If partner doesn't have images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AKQ+images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AK+K, we will play 6NT, avoiding an unfortunate ruff.

Fraser Rew: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4NT quantitative would be nice, as I may want the club lead coming up to me in 6NT. Still, this is right on values.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Agree trumps and start slam exploration. I might correct to 6NT, later.

Rao Zvorovski: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Slam is, again, in the picture. Since partner is likely to not have a club stop, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) might just be a "least of evils" bid; however 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would still misdescribe our hand and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) helps bring the slam interest into picture better.

Martin Poon: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). To show the diamond fit, and an interest to go for slam. Expect to cuebid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the next round.

Brad Johnston: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner's odds on to have six diamonds here, without them he'd need a 1453 with 3 low clubs - and then he'd need a great hand to reverse. Now that we're in a force I can just wait and let partner keycard, he's the one who should be asking as he can count tricks.

I don't necessarily agree that partner should be the one asking, as I'm the one who will know if we have four spade tricks (not to mention three tricks in the other suits). But of course partner is the one who knows how many diamond tricks we have. Of the 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders on the expert panel, Sartaj Hans and Phillip Alder said they planned to follow up with RKCB, while Tim Bourke said he expected partner to do it (and Mike Lawrence was happy either way). Anyway, whichever one of us chooses to ask, 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is the simple way to get us into a Blackwood auction. Even this will work:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Cue for diamonds, as partner cannot have support for clubs (having failed to bid 3NT). After his response I will ask for keycards and determine the number of NT we are going to play.

So to summarise, Blackwood is readily available if that's the way we want to go.

As I said earlier, there were plenty of votes for both 3NT and 6NT, with the experts leaning towards slam, and the readers 2-to-1 in favour of 3NT:

Tania Black: 3NT. Despite the HCPs it is too flat to get adventurous.

Brian Lawless: 3NT. My hand must be strong with the black suits well covered. Up to partner now.

Alex Kemeny: 3NT. No fit so slam unlikely. Pard can bid 4NT with 18+. Then I will bid 6NT. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) does not promise 6 diamonds but does deny images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Kx and three spades.

Emil Battista: 3NT. On the basis partner is 6-4 in Diamonds and Hearts rather than 6-5. May even get a club lead!

Cathy Hocking: 3NT. Partner potentially has five diamonds and 4 hearts, 2-2 or 3-1 in spades and clubs, so with no obvious fit 3NT is a safer option.

A couple of people explicitly pointed out that fourth suit followed by 3NT is a slam try (as we could have bid 3NT on the previous round):

Tony Treloar: 3NT. 4th suit and then a bid of 3NT should wake partner up that you have a good hand. Immediate 3NT would be limited.

Neil Ewart: 3NT. I think I've shown about 16 with 4th suit and 3NT.

There are sometimes other reasons for bidding fourth suit before 3NT (doubt about strain), but I agree this particular auction does sound like a mild slam try. Nevertheless, the number of people driving directly to slam indicates that a mild try is not enough:

Ian McCance: 6NT. 3NT after 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a strong sequence, but is it strong enough when partner has reversed? Unwilling to argue that in a post mortem.

Steven Kip: 6NT. But if 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is Minorwood, that's what I'd bid.

David Matthews: 6NT. Difficult to meaningfully explore further so I will bid what I think we can make. This also protects my tenaces.

Julian Foster: 6NT. I can't think of anything scientific.

Dan Baker: 6NT. There's probably a more scientific way to go about this, but I don't see it. 6NT is likely cold on a black-suit lead, definitely cold if partner's red suits are solid, and should be no worse than a finesse even if they aren't.

Bastiaan Korner: 6NT. Can't be far off. What does the computer say?

It's a hard hand for a computer simulation, as North's range is quite wide (and possibly dependent upon his diamond length). But for what it's worth, Bridge Baron was willing to bid slam based purely on ace-count.

The full deal is from the NSW Open Trials:

spades 4
hearts AKJ8
diamonds AK743
clubs 1087
spades K10865
hearts 965
diamonds Q65
clubs J5
spades 972
hearts 1074
diamonds J108
clubs K643
spades AQJ3
hearts Q32
diamonds 92
clubs AQ92

Of the nine pairs in the all-expert field, four played in 6NT (twice making) and five played in 3NT. No one was in 4NT, which suggests that most pairs don't have a way to invite 6NT over 3NT. In fact, to protect the guilty I've deleted a couple of comments (including one from a very experienced player) from 6NT bidders who said their 2nd choice was 3NT.

Hand Five - West deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q932
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQT853
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K

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


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 32 10
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 90 26 30
2NT 70 11 22
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 16 29
3NT 40 11 2
Pass 30 5 8

Our final problem only has six different answers, but they cover a wide range (from passing 1NT to 3NT). The weaker bids were much more popular with the readers than with the experts:

Bob Jones: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is possible, but that gives full value to the king of clubs, which I'm not sure it deserves.

Tim Bourke: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The singleton club may be useful but the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)J is likely to be overvalued. I'll bid 3NT if this is raised. I would not criticise a pass.

Michael Burt: Pass. 3NT looks doubtful. NT will normally score better than a minor at pairs. 1NT should get a reasonable score over those that run to diamonds.

Sam Arber: Pass. At Matchpoints pass, at IMPs bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Roger Yandle: Pass. pard probably has long clubs but even without that 1NT should have good prospects. 3NT is a long stretch even if pard is max so, since it's MPs I'm passing. At IMPs I'd rebid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Brad Johnston: Pass. I hate having to bid catch-up, why couldn't I sort my hand properly and have opened 1NT in the first case. Then you don't need to guess if 3NT is on, and risk playing in 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) instead of 1NT when it's a 70 vs 90, 120 vs 110 sort of decision.

I see the appeal in a 1NT opening, but it's a long way from the panellists' views -- hardly any of them rebid notrumps even after partner bid them first. If I have time later this week, I'll do a simulation to find out how 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) compares with 1NT (I don't expect 70 to be a popular result though).

Martyn Rew: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 1NT does not seem like a flash spot with singleton and a doubleton.

Alan Jones: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Communication between the hands could be difficult in NT.

Emil Battista: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner would have had to misplace a picture card or two for 3NT to be attractive. Opponents have at least 8 hearts and 6 spades between them. Mind you, they are awfully quiet so, 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may prove to be wimpy!

Brian Lawless: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too many of my values are unsupported and may be wasted. I might bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at IMPs.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). will NT be better? Partner will have entry-problems to his clubs. Over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) someone will balance to a major. I can then double for takeout which partner might be able to convert (not probable) or choose the better minor

David Matthews: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This seems obvious. Am I missing something?

The majority chose to make some kind of invitation. The panellists were evenly split between spades and diamonds, but the readers were all about the diamonds:

Martin Poon: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) serves two purposes. Partner can choose to play 3NT with the right hand, or to stay in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) when he is weak. This also prevents EW from joining the auction, as EW are known to have a fit in hearts.

Fraser Rew: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Matchpoints, schmatchpoints. This hand should be played in a suit contract.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I won't bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) because this is a lead-avoiding bluff more often than not, helping opponents with the lead.

The game must be pretty tough over there; I've never seen a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) psyche in this auction in my life. I can't even really see the point; even if the opponents believe the bid, they still might prefer to lead through your hearts rather than into declarer's possible tenace in an unbid suit.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We have enough to invite game. 2NT will allow us to stop in 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if partner is weak with long clubs and may sometimes be a higher scoring partscore. But it will quite often be a silly contract and I don't want a bottom so prefer the normal 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is possible but doesn't have much upside compared to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) given our values are scattered.

Tony Treloar: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner's diamond holding seems crucial to the chances of 3NT. Bidding 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might misdirect partner and might be too descriptive to the defenders.

Rao Zvorovski: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K looks like a liability, but since partner's 1NT implies clubs, it is likely carrying its full weight. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems to be the most productive in getting us to the right contract.

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3NT is pretty much cold opposite images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A which is perfectly possible so this seems the best way forward.

Yes, that comment does make 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) look like a pretty poor choice.

It looks like most of those are avoiding 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) for the right reasons; not simply because partner denied spades, but because it would take focus away from the diamond tricks and the short-suit stoppers. Nevertheless, the top panel vote went to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes):

Andrew Robson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems quite descriptive and will enable me to pass if he now bids 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (or indeed 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)).

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A reverse and perhaps we are not quite strong enough for this, but North is showing 6+ HCP and no 4 card major. So it is likely he has long clubs and perhaps 2 or more diamonds. If North bids 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) we can then repeat our diamonds.

Bridge Baron: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Certainly strong enough to reverse, which we prioritize over a jump rebid of 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Cathy Hocking: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forcing as I have 16 HCP and can rebid diamonds.

Robert Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing shape and values, knowing that partner does not have four spades.

John R. Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's not get too clever - bid where we live and let partner make a move where right. The alternative of 2NT doesn't tell partner the key is a diamond fitter.

That's true, partner will never expect six diamond tricks after a 2NT bid (or a 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, for that matter). A quarter of the readers did go for notrumps:

Eric Kokish: 2NT. With this honour location 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) both send the wrong message, and a hopeful 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) puts too much pressure on North to bid again.

Dan Baker: 2NT. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a distortion with so many points in my short suits. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is probably safer if partner rejects (and would be my choice at IMPs), but 2NT will often end up on the right side of a 120/110 or 150/130 choice at Matchpoints.

Nigel Guthrie: 2NT. 3NT is the most likely game.

Peter Vlas: 2NT. Bit of a gamble. But all other bids seem to overrate the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K.

Alex Kemeny: 2NT. Extra values plus help in the majors. Worth an invitation, even at Matchpoints. (When we go one off in 2NT I will regret this!)

Duncan Roe: 2NT. If partner has 9 or even perhaps 8, 3NT should make. Plenty of entries in my hand to enjoy at least some of the long diamonds.

Ron Landgraff: 2NT. If he is 8 or 9 it might make. If not 2NT can be a good score.

Peter Robinson: 2NT. Partner is likely to hold clubs, and unlikely to hold spades, so the denomination seems fixed. Tempting to just shoot 3NT, but partner should be able to evaluate his diamond values.

Yes, 3NT is a crazy overbid, and I don't know what the two panellists were thinking. Phillip Alder said he chose 3NT in spite of the fact that it is Matchpoints, while Patrick Huang bid it only because this is Matchpoints. On the full deal, even a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid would have got us to 3NT, but it still wasn't a great spot:

spades AJ4
hearts Q54
diamonds K72
clubs 8732
spades 875
hearts 9732
diamonds J96
clubs AQJ
spades K106
hearts K1086
diamonds 4
clubs 109654
spades Q932
hearts AJ
diamonds AQ10853
clubs K

Note partner's ten-count; he would happily raise 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or bid 3NT over anything else. 3NT typically made because the opponents couldn't get all their tricks.

The December questions are online now, here, and the September magazine should have arrived by the time you read this. Thanks for joining us again, and we'll see you back here in the first week of December for the year-end results.

Top scores for September
1Artur Wasiak POL470
2Nigel Kearney NZL460
3Cor Lof NED440
3Mark Laforge440
5Jim Thatcher NSW420
6Kees Schaafsma NED410
7Paul Sontag CAN400
8Dan Baker USA390
8David Woulds GBR390
8Dominic Connolly NSW390
8John R. Mayne USA390
12Bill March GBR370
12Bastiaan Korner NED370
12Fraser Rew NZL370
12Tim Trahair NSW370
12Neil Ewart 370
12Vlad Dragalchuk 370
18Tony Treloar Qld360
18Alexander Shchennikov360
18Robert Black SA360
18Peter Vlas NED360
18Gary Lane NSW360
18Peter Lipp 360
18Bridge Baron USA360
25Fredrik Jarlvik SWE350
25Andrew Macalister GBR350
25Dean Pokorny CRO350
25Derek Pocock WA350
25Peter Nuoristo SWE350
25Nigel Guthrie GBR350
25Peter Robinson Qld350
32Leigh Blizzard Tas340
32Arthur Porter SA340
32Brian Lawless GBR340
35Roger Yandle NSW330
35Steven Kip 330
35Julian Foster NSW330
35Tania Black SA330
39Brad Johnston NZL320
39Pravin Nahar NSW320
39Damo Nair USA320
42Niek Van Vucht ACT310
42Ian McCance Vic310
42John Shield NSW310
45Dennis Raymond NSW300
45Barbara Whitmee Qld300
45Ig Nieuwenhuis NED300
45Martin Poon300
45Henri De Jong Vic300
45Ron Landgraff USA300
45Peter Qvist SWE300

Leading scores for 2017
1John R. Mayne USA1380
2Nigel Kearney NZL1350
3Artur Wasiak POL1340
4Kees Schaafsma NED1330
5Cor Lof NED1310
6Paul Sontag CAN1280
7Bastiaan Korner NED1270
8Tony Treloar Qld1270
9Alexander Shchennikov 1260
10Ian McCance Vic1260
11Gary Lane NSW1250
12Dean Pokorny CRO1250
13Damo Nair USA1230
14Andrew Macalister GBR1230
15Vlad Dragalchuk 1220
16Pravin Nahar NSW1220
17Fredrik Jarlvik SWE1210
18Dan Baker USA1200
19David Woulds GBR1200
20Peter Robinson Qld1180
21Peter Vlas NED1150
22Arthur Porter SA1140
23Henri De Jong Vic1140
24Dominic Connolly NSW1120
25Bridge Baron USA1120
26Jack Lai 1120
27John Shield NSW1120
28Julian Foster NSW1120
29Ig Nieuwenhuis NED1110
30Tom Estenson USA1110
31Alex Kemeny NSW1100
32Roger Yandle NSW1100
33Emil Battista NSW1090
34Leigh Blizzard Tas1090
35Sam Arber Vic1080
36Niek Van Vucht ACT1070
37Peter Nuoristo SWE1070
38Tim Trahair NSW1040
39Tania Black SA1040
40Brian Lawless GBR1030
41Peter Tarlinton NSW1020
42Peter Qvist SWE1010
43Robert Black SA 990
44Michael Burt ACT 970
45Dennis Raymond NSW 960
46Barbara Hunter NSW 960
47Brad Johnston NZL960
48Jim Thatcher NSW960
49David Matthews WA950
50Rainer Herrmann GER 940
51Derek Pocock WA 940
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 issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.