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June-July 2017

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, June-July 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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Hand One - North deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J982
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) JT5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQ7
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) QJ8


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

   2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) = a four-card raise.

Call Award %
Pass 100 61 57
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 11 7
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 6 12
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 60 0 5
2NT 50 17 2
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 40 6 16
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 1

Welcome back to episode two of our 2017 forum, and thanks for your patience with the delays that have plagued us this year.

Our first problem gives us an 11-count opposite an opening bid and an 8-card fit, which on a good day would be an invitation.

Tania Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A double fit.

Damo Nair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have to make an effort to get to game opposite a four-card spade suit.

Brian Lawless: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass at MP Pairs.

Timothy Wright: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is an overbid, but not by much. (Partner did not open 1NT, so if balanced she has no more than 14 HCP.) 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) lets partner upgrade Kxx or even Jxx of diamonds or downgrade shortness there.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is not a good hand, but too strong not to try for a maximum-opening opposite. I'm bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as that is the suit I need help in.

Jack Lai: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Invite due to have 11images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)CP, not bid game directly as hand too flat.

Andrea Viscovich: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Maybe we have 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I'm not sure.

Sam Arber: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tempted to pass but feel should invite

4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks a long way off, but there were plenty of people looking at a lower-level game:

Jon Bessinger: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Angling for 3NT, will pass 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Telling North we have Ds covered and inviting him to bid 3NT with a good H stopper

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Worth some sort of game try (fitting cards in Cs even though the Hs are bad). 2NT feels wrong with no H stop, so I'll bid where my values are. Will pass 3NT if partner suggests that.

Michael Burt: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A 9 loser count suggests passing but the good intermediates suggest 3NT is on if partner has a heart stop. Borderline decision but worth seeing if partner has a heart stop at IMPs.

Ian Patterson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). East is not bidding. Do they have NO Hearts or NO points or just a balanced hand?

Alan Jones: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I would rather play 3NT if partner has a heart honour than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) losing AK and a ruff before we get in!

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Is partner's bid shape showing or not? Surely 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks like a competitive bid, so we need some forward going bid and if partner has a heart stopper, 3NT might be the game to play.

Martyn Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Notrumps may play better here without any ruffing values, but only if partner has a heart stop. Partner likely needs more than he has shown to be in a game contract, so he has the choice of 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with no stop, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with extras or 3NT with a stop.

Derek Pocock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With half a stop in hearts - 3NT or with poor doubleton in hearts, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but three small hearts can stay in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With the flat shape, 3NT may well be an option. We can still bale out in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if partner can't help with a heart stop and doesn't want to go on.

Both those groups combined to make a a minority, with well over half the readers and panellists passing:

Phil Hocking, Alexander Shchennikov: Pass. Nine-loser hand with no shortages.

Nigel Kearney: Pass. Bare minimum values to invite game and dead flat with poor trumps. Being not vulnerable makes it easy.

Robert Black: Pass. No shape, and poor spades.

Roger Yandle: Pass. Flat hand with lots of queens and jacks, and three cards in the opponents’ suit, so it’s not as good as it looks.

Ian McCance, Leigh Matheson: Pass. Too quacky no shape.

Bridge Baron: Pass. Partner bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), showing a minimum, so my 4-3-3-3 hand with 11 HCP is too weak to try for game.

Cathy Hocking: Pass. Nine-loser hand. Partner didn't jump to the three level so assume he/she has 12-14 points and 7 losers. Going any further is fruitless.

Todd Holes: Pass. Flat. Worthless heart honor. Partner is minimum. Trumps will not break well. What else?

Dean Pokorny: Pass. I would invite with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if vulnerable, but being non-vulnerable the odds doesn't seem right to look for a thin game.

In this column we occasionally refer to "Kaplan Points" to help us assess the value of a borderline hand. In case you were wondering, the Kaplan evaluation for this hand is about EIGHT points -- and that's after adding half a point for the questionable images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)J105. With that in mind, we should consider ourselves lucky if we make 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Not tempted. If opener has a weak notrump type hand chances for game are poor. Opener could even mirror our distribution, in which case even 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be in jeopardy.

Dan Baker: Pass. Clear at Matchpoints. Not vulnerable at IMPs, it's a closer decision but I think pass is still right with nine losers and a flat, quacky hand. Even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will go down often enough that I think inviting will lose more than it gains.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. I dislike this nine loser hand. I suspect 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the highest making contract.

Peter Vlas: Pass. Not really attractive to do more. We could be missing out on game, but prefer the plus here.

Ron Lel: Pass. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be in danger. This is an awful hand, even accepting that North holds four spades.

Emil Battista: Pass. Partner has thirteen cards and four spades. I think we found our best spot. A 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) looking for 3NT on this flat 11-count opposite thirteen cards and an equally flat hand hardly an inspiration for greater heights.

Aside from the basic evaluation of our flat hand, a couple of people also drew attention to the opponents' bidding:

Peter Robinson: Pass. Partner would raise to three or more with any 6-loser hand, or just about any hand with a singleton heart. East's silence suggests we have heart losers, and West has outside entries, which would scupper a 3NT contract, even if we magically found 25-26 points. As for a spade contract, I have a 9-loser hand. How do you fancy three hearts off the top followed by a singleton club switch through partner? I'll be happy to make eight tricks.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. don't think game will make as partner cannot have a hand that eats all my losers if West has his bid.

This is a change of opinion from Ig's earlier comment; this is fairly common when the forum is delayed for a couple of months, and people forget they've already answered. About six people sent in duplicate answers, but in most cases their answers didn't change significantly after the two-month delay. Someone suggested that I should have a method in place to warn people they've already answered, but where's the fun in that?

Cynthia Belonogoff: Pass. Too flat. East's pass may well mean a shortage in hearts.

Brad Johnston: Pass. I really dislike my images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)J10x of hearts - we might have game on if partner has a singleton and all my values are working, but East's failure to raise makes that unlikely. If we have fast heart losers then I'm looking at finessing diamonds into the stronger hand to make game. If we miss a game then I only lose 6 imps.

For those who aren't already aware, it's useful to know that 6 imps is the price for a missed non-vul game. No one likes to lose 6 imps, but it's about the same as you'd gain for staying out of a failing game (+140 vs -50). This means that even if you stay out of a 60% game, your long-run expected loss is not exactly debilitating. If your judgement says stay low, just do it.

Hand Two - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ963
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A9
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K874


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

   1NT is natural, not forcing.

Call Award %
2NT 100 44 17
Dbl 100 39 19
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 11 38
3NT 60 6 8
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 0 12
Other 0 0 5

There are multiple unattractive options on this problem, but ultimately they're all about as good as each other. This is reflected in the almost even split between the panellists' votes, and the high awards for all of the minority choices. The top choice, by one vote, was 2NT:

John R Mayne: 2NT. We've already right-sided notrump, maybe, and partner's next move should help us out.

Peter Robinson: 2NT. 2NT gives partner some useful options. He could even have a long heart suit.

Martyn Rew: 2NT. Tells partner most about this hand.

Nigel Guthrie: 2NT. Let partner declare in case he has the knave or queen of diamonds.

Bridge Baron: 2NT. Simulation: +24.75 expected score in 2NT, -13.15 expected score in 3NT.

The panel's second choice:

Roger Yandle: Dbl. Not sure where we're heading yet so hopefully this will elicit some more information from partner.

Nigel Kearney: Dbl. A takeout double is the most flexible. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may well be our best spot, but bidding it immediately would suggest more clubs and fewer values. I'll continue with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even Ax Jxxx xxx QJxx is close to making 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) but not 3NT.

Ian Patterson: Dbl. Partner doesn't need much for a game, but which one? 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x may be the best result if he has length in diamonds.

Andrea Viscovich: Dbl. Better than 3NT even if we will probably play 3NT at the end.

Dean Pokorny: Dbl. Takeout double, hoping partner will find a pass. I plan to bid 2NT/3NT over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and pass over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Panellists Matthew Thomson and Sartaj Hans echoed the hope that partner might pass.

The readers went in two totally different directions from the experts. The largest group went for bidding the second suit, which would have been a big winner at the table:

Ian McCance: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT premature without aces in long suits.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'd like double if it shows the extra values, but it suggests more heart tolerance than I have. Therefore 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), which must show those extra values and a real club suit. I'm not happy though, because it screws up the 'tempo' for a possible 3NT if partner has Qxx among his points. Advantage is that he knows more about my hand that can help him value his lengths / tricks.

Ron Lel: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This should not be 100 percent GF in competition as I may well be under pressure, but should certainly show a good hand. This is a good hand for good/bad 2NT.

I think our system is silent on whether 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is forcing, but in the absence of an explicit agreement about 2NT, it probably should be. One member of our expert panel commented on that issue:

Frank Stewart: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't like anything and don't expect much panel support for this bid. I would treat 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as constructive but not forcing. A 2NT bid would be strictly competitive.

Derek Pocock: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hopefully this is almost forcing! Partner must evaluate red suits for 3NT or if good clubs then 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Brad Johnston: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Have to take a bid here, this looks like the littlest of all evils - even though it's IMPs partner shouldn't drive to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) before investigating 3NT.

Timothy Wright: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner can easily have a long club or heart suit. 3NT might be best, but we can still get there.

Brian Lawless: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). East's overcall must be quite sound, given the vulnerability, so not much future in trying for 3NT

Sam Arber: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). would prefer partner to play 3nt if possible.

Sam, there are several other choices that will ensure partner plays the notrumps. Including 3NT.

As I said earlier, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) appears to have been the winner at the table, although we never saw the full deal. We do know that 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was making, but 3NT and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) were not, so partner must have held something along the lines of images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Ax-images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)xxxx-images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x-images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Qxxxxx.

The readers' other choice was 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), an option that received no votes at all from the panel:

Damo Nair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Have a stopper, North? Over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) & 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) I raise.

Dan Baker: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If partner has a diamond stopper, 3NT is probably best. If not, a 5-2 spade fit or even 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) might be better. If possible, I'll bid 3NT over partner's rebid (cuebidding first should show doubt).

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Surely we need to find out something about partner's hand rather than just bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to describe ours?

Todd Holes: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Expresses my values. Flexible. 3NT is too unilateral with only the diamond ace.

David Matthews: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Forcing to game. Does partner have a half or full stopper?

Leigh Matheson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hopefully partner sees Qxx as a stopper.

Brad Johnston (2nd answer): 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The issue with double is that pard may boot 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) when it's wrong. Bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) works when your mate has a diamond stopper, but if they bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) you're pretty screwed (do you bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) here and hope you have a playable fit?). I'm an optimist, so 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) for me.

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Willing to try 3NT if partner can help with another D stopper. Double was my first instinct but worried where I go after that if partner bids 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (he might then interpret 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a game try for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) not a stopper ask for 3NT) and even worse if he bids more hearts.

I'm also worried where you're going to go after 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but it's not like any of the other options are safer. The only choice that guarantees we don't get too high is Pass, and that's not really a possibility (a few reader votes, no comments).

The final minority:

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. Hard to say what we can make, but we are red at IMPs.

Duncan Roe: 3NT. We have 24-27 HCP, 3NT will make more often than not.

Hand Three - East deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQ5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQJ9874
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ5


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


Call Award %
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 39 12
3NT 90 33 33
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 22 6
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 30 0 1
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 10 6 31
Other 0 0 17

This is the type of problem that comes up regularly in all bidding forums -- I generally try to avoid using them here, but sometimes when I'm busy I let one slip through.

The problem is all about finding a forcing rebid, which this bid is not:

Leigh Matheson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Could be making anywhere from 9 (or less) to 13 tricks.

Tania Black: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). No other suit, and no help yet from partner!

Brian Lawless: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not quite the hand to force to game with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)

Alan Jones: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Seven card suits are rebiddable. Will try 3NT if partner rebids spades.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempting to bid 2NT, but this is the "heart" of the hand. In my own agreements I could have opened a semi-GF one-suiter in diamonds

It feels like most of those comments were unaware that 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is droppable. The next group knew it was, but were prepared to take the risk -- 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is rarely passed, and (as we saw in Problem One) missing a non-vul game is only six imps.

Roger Yandle: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This is difficult. If we're playing 3NT then it would be good if I'm declarer but I don't want to bid it directly as that will give partner the wrong impression of my shape. If he can't move over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) then it could well be the best spot.

Peter Robinson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). An underbid I know, but if you play no intermediate strong opening, you have to wear that. Don't see any advantage in bidding a short side-suit. 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening must have been tempting. Exactly which auction was going to be comfortable after opening 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)?

Robert Black: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). An underbid, but a void in partner's suit is discouraging, with few chances to finesse.

Jon Bessinger: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). There's no good bid.

Andrea Viscovich: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Surely not the right answer, but I don't see a better one.

Brad Johnston: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I hate opening 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with primary diamonds as much as anyone else, but this sequence is entirely predictable and harder to manage than 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). It's IMPs, so partner would only pass here with absolute trash and we wouldn't make game playing out of hand away from these tenaces.

A few comments in there suggested we should have opened 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Like (other) Brad, I tend to avoid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at all costs, but as he points out, our actual auction is hardly an improvement.

Here's another non-forcing choice, although (unlike 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)) this one depends upon system agreements:

Michael Burt: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Any forcing bid will do to get more information about partner's hand. The 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid conveys that I have at least four diamonds.

Henri de Jong: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Need to hear more from partner.

Sam Arber: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too good for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), have to invent a bid.

Many Australian pairs play 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as forcing, so I'll take responsibility for this misunderstanding. I should have specified in the footnotes that it is droppable. I'll upgrade the 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) awards as an apology.

This one is obviously forcing:

John R Mayne: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I need to start getting information. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may lead to playing in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), which isn't good. 3NT deserves to catch T984-K43-K32-K32 off one with a near-frozen grand. I don't like faking reverses, but this is the time. I would not have objected to a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening, but I don't object to 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), either.

Jack Lai: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too strong for a 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) rebid. Using 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to show strength first.

Mike Lawrence: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I can choose from 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), a space saving reverse, or a room-squandering jump shift to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Without much confidence, I go for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner raises, I bid 3NT and hope it works out.

Tim Bourke: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Let's set up a force as cheaply as possible.

While sorting through the responses for me, my lovely assistant Erin commented that 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doesn't really save much space, while it does contain a higher element of risk. It does leave room for partner to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 2NT, but it's not as if either of those would help us at all; in fact, in many partnerships one or both would be conventional, possibly not even showing any shape information. Reverse auctions can be awkward even in the most-practiced partnerships. The top expert vote went to the safer force:

Nigel Kearney: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We need to force with either 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is lower and could work better with good agreements where we can force to game and partner won't get carried away if they have hearts. But with more basic agreements, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is simpler and safer.

Timothy Wright: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would risk partner insisting playing on a 4-3 heart fit when 5-4 or 6-4 in the majors.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT bid would not show my strength. I need to bid some new suit to suggest better hand. Which one (2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes))? I don't know.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Far more flexible than 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Julian Foster: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I would normally bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) forcing but here it's non-forcing so I can't take the risk of having it passed. Therefore need to GF, but don't want to risk 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with only three as partner may then keep correcting diamonds to hearts later.

3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) got the 100 points, but all the other reasonable options have been generously upgraded. Including this one which does systemically show a hand that is too strong for 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (although typically with stronger diamonds):

Alex Kemeny: 3NT. 3NT here is best played as showing a long running or near running suit and around 18 HCP.

Phil Hocking: 3NT. Given the spade bid may protect against a spade lead allowing the diamonds to be established.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. I might have opened 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. If 2NT shows 18-19, then 3NT should be natural with good diamond suit.

Peter Vlas: 3NT. It should be OK in my hand and if partner has extras we'll work it out. Over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), over 4NT (quantitative) I bid 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Dan Baker: 3NT. Long near-solid minor, no tolerance for partner's suit, stoppers in the other two. Sounds like what I have. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a gross underbid, 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) a serious distortion, and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) too committal.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Shows a semi-solid six-card diamond suit, or better, with stoppers in the side suits and near-maximum HCP. Partner won't know about the seventh diamond, but if partner happens to have a doubleton or longer in diamonds and enough general strength, we can still explore a diamond slam.

Emil Battista: 3NT. Somewhat agricultural but 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) opening hardly a thing of beauty surely. This South needs to eat more red meat - or read up hand evaluation literature.

Dean Pokorny: 3NT. There is no need to fake a reverse with a void in partner's suit. 3NT still shows solid values with a good diamond suit.

Tony Treloar: 3NT. Should show a good long diamond suit and 9 likely tricks

Not all the 3NT bidders intended it as showing a long minor; many just bid it as their best practical shot at a making contract:

Todd Holes: 3NT. Too strong for 2NT, plus that would imply a flatter hand. Also, I want the lead coming to me--not through me.

Duncan Roe: 3NT. We have enough HCPs. Does rely on partner actually having a spade stop.

David Matthews: 3NT. Looks like the best spot. Hopefully partner has enough to stop the spades.

Mick McAuliffe: 3NT. Surely we are good for 9 tricks now on any lead so long as the opps cannot run four spade tricks off the top after the lead? Will that shut out a slam? I guess the question is whether partner will bid on with values.

Ron Lel: 3NT. Yes, the wide boys will bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) here, a bid I detest, so I know I am doomed for a poor score. I have a 2NT gadget, but this is not part of the system played.

Bidding forum questions are always easier if you get to use your gadgets. I've played several 2NT conventions myself, but my current method is a Gazzilli-style 1NT rebid (see Michael Cartmell's article in the December issue of our magazine for details). Gazzilli is on my shortlist of conventions that I couldn't imagine being without, and it's relatively easy to adapt it to a 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) opening: open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with all balanced hands, freeing up the 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-1M-1NT sequence to be used artificially. Opening 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with a 3-3-5-2 or similar does come at a price, but it's more than compensated by the modern transfer improvements in 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) responses, and the extra definition it gives your 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) openings (and of course the new auctions stemming from the artificial 1NT rebid).

Hand Four - South deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ65
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ7
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K943
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K9


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

   2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is Stayman.

Call Award %
Pass 100 89 69
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 11 10
Other 0 0 21

In my 14 years selecting hands for this forum, this is the 2nd-largest majority we've ever had for a winning answer. Well, that's the panel at least; the readers came up with five minority bids, attracting 31% of the vote.

We won't spend too much time on the majority choice. Nearly everyone wrote "Partner knows my hand, I don't know his." Here's a quick summary of the other comments:

Roger Yandle: Pass. It looks like partner has got a weak hand with short clubs and my points are working but I'm still not convinced bidding on is the right choice.

John R Mayne: Pass. Yes, I'm just letting them play their 10-card club fit at the 3-level. If partner's broke and things aren't breaking (and partner sounds broke, and things don't sound too breaking) West might decide correctly to kill me and eat me. There's a time for cowardice even with multiple fits, and this is it.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. If partner has two or fewer clubs he can complete with a double. Otherwise, I'm happy to defend 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Nigel Kearney: Pass. Partner also knows we are NV at matchpoints and is better placed to make the right choice than we are.

Jumping straight into the minority choices, 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was the only one to attract a panel vote:

Matthew Thomson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't think East is crazy, bidding like this vul says they think they can make 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Double is penalty although I'd like to be able to double for takeout. Partner should play me for being 4-4 in images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with three hearts likely (partner shouldn't assume I can have 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in a 1NT opening - if partner may think I have five diamonds then I change my choice to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). With a weak hand with 4-5 in majors partner will bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With only two clubs I'm reluctant to pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Patrick Huang: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner is supposed to bid this way with short club and support for all other suits. Hope to find partner with 5-card diamond or he can return to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The opponents may not be able to double us so even -2 might be ok. Will probably pass if we are Vul.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I cannot bid a takeout double because that would invite a pass with 4432 and 5-6 HCP (any takeout double is passable, even when partner is marked with 0-2 clubs). That's why I rather bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), hoping to find partner with 3451 and push them to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) one down.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If we don't have 4-4 spades, partner should have five diamonds (3-4-5-1).

Robert Black: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not giving up yet, and I need a club lead up to the king in a choice between two suits or notrumps.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Correct opposite Kxx-xxxx-xxxxx-x, or any holding with four or more spades.

Todd Holes: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Tempted to pass and allow partner to express an opinion. But he was apparently willing to pass any Stayman response. Since I've shown a four card spade suit, this should show only four diamonds and give him a choice.

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Usually partner is short of clubs if he is bidding Stayman and passing the response (he must have some diamonds to stand a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) response). So I think they have a lot of clubs and 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) could be a good spot for them, hence I will show another suit - partner can always return to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if he has four.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Why has partner passed? Are we playing garbage Stayman? Nonvul vs vul, pass seems a bit wimpy. Let's give partner a choice at least.

The 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) group are basing their bid on the assumption that partner has a weak 4441, (43)51, or 45xx hand, leading to a "total number of tricks" that could be as high as 19. This next group is a bit surprising; they don't seem to be aware of that inference, but choose to compete anyway:

Duncan Roe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Compete: partner knows I can't have four so will convert to spades with less than four of his own.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have shown four spades, we have the balance of points and not vulnerable. Partner can rebid spades knowing I have four spades and three hearts.

That choice might survive opposite the 45xx hand, but it won't be so pretty over a 4351. Partner will correct to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) of course, but it probably won't be our best spot if the suit breaks badly. Even worse, partner could be (and was) 3-4-5-1. Similarly:

Derek Pocock: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too many losers in the red suits presuming that East - vulnerable - is a reasonable player

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). What else. I'm willing to try to gain with -100 against -110. And it might make ...

It was actually tempting to give some points to the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders, because at least it gives us a chance to play in the stronger Moysian. On reflection though, I think spades will always be the least unstable major.

One lone reader attempted a more flexible solution:

Tim Trahair: Dbl. Asking North to bid another suit - he is likely to have 8 + HCP and four hearts so there may be game somewhere, perhaps in hearts.

Tim is the only one who went for a takeout double, with the majority reading it as penalty:

Tania Black: Dbl. For blood! What else?

Michael Burt: Dbl. We don't look to have 3NT. 200 is normally a good score at matchpoints if game is not on but 100 usually isn't. Chance the double.

Brad Johnston: Dbl. Why didn't East bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) the first time? Sounds like us having spades made their hand better, which means they have shortness there and our other cards are now working harder - and we have the ace of spades. Dbl here should be penalties, and all I need is one working card from partner to stop them robbing us.

Brad junior also gave a 2nd answer, in which he also doubled but described it as "optional".

The full deal is from George Cuppaidge, who bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) at the table just three minutes before his partner inexplicably dumped him:

spades Q42
hearts 10953
diamonds AJ1087
clubs 5
spades 987
hearts KQ62
diamonds Q62
clubs J84
spades K103
hearts 84
diamonds 5
clubs AQ107632
spades AJ65
hearts AJ7
diamonds K943
clubs K9

Hand Five - East deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJ4
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K6
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 9852
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KT85

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


Call Award %
Pass 100 50 25
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 39 44
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 11 14
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 4
Other 0 0 13

Our final problem was voted as a two-horse race by most of the panel and readers, although the panel favoured passing while the readers chose 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). There was one reasonable minority option though, and we'll start with that:

Phil Hocking: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Wishing partner had not doubled.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No good answer here. All appear to have problems. Time to be wimpy and slightly underbid my hand? If I had an extra spade or club, would bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but don't fancy a 4-3 fit with the opps partner possibly having a handful of trumps behind my partner at this stage.

Alan Jones: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Prepared for a Moysian fit.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Choice is between clubs at the next level and spades with only 3. With 9 HCP I should really jump, but given the above predicament, choose not to.

That's good general advice. On the really difficult hands, playing in the right suit will often get you a swing so there's no need to get too aggressive (despite the actual table result which you will see later). Whether you have in fact chosen the right suit, is another question.

I can't remember whether it was me or Phil who made the decision to upgrade 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to the same award as 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), but that's what it says in the magazine and it seems fair enough. Some less-reasonable minorities:

Alex Kemeny: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tough. Diamonds too weak to pass. As partner is short in diamonds he is moderately likely to have a fifth spade. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is wimpish at this form of scoring.

Todd Holes: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I hate all my choices!

Brad Johnston: 3NT. "He was third in hand - I'm was paying him as much respect as he deserved" - overheard as someone tried to explain their 14 imp swing out.

We don't really have the values to make any of the contracts mentioned by that group. There were no other comments from the 3NT voters, although a few people did mention it in their comments; for some it was the deciding factor in their choice between 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes):

Peter Fordham: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This is an ugly proposition, but I do not want to bid beyond 3NT in case partner can follow up with that. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) has little going for it.

Sam Arber: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Might make 3NT if partner has a diamond honour.

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A bit scary but better to keep the bidding at the three-level in case we have game in 3NT.

Dan Baker: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT is wrong; if partner had the stopper you'd be gambling on he'd likely have bid 3NT himself, afraid you'd bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over a double. A Moysian ruffing in the long hand doesn't look appealing either. I'm too strong to make a minimum response.

David Matthews: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT can't be right without a stopper and partner might well have a big hand so I bid my suit. If partner now bids a Major I have reasonable support.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Minus 470 or more in IMP-games never does well. 3NT is too risky without at least 10xxx and I dont have majors. If I'm lucky he's strong/long enough to bid again and I can offer up my three-card spade suit.

Brad Johnston: Pass. 3rd hand favourable preempts are often jokes (if I'm playing a rock-solid citizen I'm bidding 3NT instead). I have some nice defensive cards and while 3NT could be a goer I believe the eV from passing is higher than bidding here.

Yes, that was Kiwi Brad discrediting his own 3NT bid in his second set of answers. As much as I enjoy duplicate answers, I'll undertake to have some accident prevention measures in place before the next forum.

The Pass was a popular choice with the panel, with a full 50% of the vote. For the readers there was only 25% support, which is understandable; it's a potentially expensive and embarrassing choice at the table, and a risky choice in a bidding forum.

Julian Foster: Pass. A no-brainer at Matchpoints. Tougher at IMPs but I can't think of anything I prefer.

John R Mayne: Pass. What else? Partner figures to lead a high card, and maybe I get a heart ruff before all the trumps wander off. I admire the heroic 3NT bidders, though that could end with our hero burning bright.

Peter Vlas: Pass. Hard one. It's for takeout but I have no great place to go although having the values for it. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not my style, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a bit vague, 3NT is a bold gamble. None is attractive so I pass, praying for a good result.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Hopefully he hooks straight into partner's stiff images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K.

Nigel Kearney: Pass. In my experience the percentage action is to pass in these situations. The frequency and magnitude of the gains is enough that you can live with the occasional -470.

Ian Patterson: Pass. Is West in 3rd seat weaker or stronger than "usual"? What will partner bid over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? Even 2 off doubled is better than a partscore.

I think third seat just means a wider range. He's allowed to be weaker, and allowed to be stronger.

Martyn Rew: Pass. Looks to be more chance of taking opps light than making anything constructive here.

Derek Pocock: Pass. Hoping fot 300 to our improbable game. This Forum seems to be devoted to the problem with the difficult red suits and which side do they support - the good guys or the shooters.

Emil Battista: Pass. Thinks any other bid will convert a sure plus score to smaller plus score.

Peter Robinson: Pass. This may not work out, but the Law of Total Tricks taught us that on these hands with no big fits, it's better to defend at the three-level when you have some trump length.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. Clear pass, classic LOTT decision. Both 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be wrong with only four clubs.

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. No clear fit, at best 18 total tricks opposite 4-4-0-5, else less than 18 which makes pass the favourite call. I'm happy with any lead.

With all those comments about the law of total tricks, we probably should hear from the poster-child:

Larry Cohen: Pass. In real-life, I'd be afraid to do this, but on paper, what the heck. If nothing else, it will maybe make them think twice about their next preempt.

Andrew Robson: Pass. Finally, an easy question. Bidding would break The Law, for sure.

Getting back to the "takeout doubles are for taking out" group, nearly half of the readers simply bid their best suit. In the long run (assuming you are taking out the double) I do think it's worth going up a level to increase the chance of playing in a fit:

Andrea Viscovich: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I know someone will try 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but I don't like it.

Cathy Hocking: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Can't leave double in as don't have rule of 9. Maybe spades is the correct bid but I only have 3 and would give wrong information.

Timothy Wright: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have a real club suit. If we have game in a major, it is because partner has extras. She can show her suit next.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass at MPs but a horrible guess at IMPs. Clubs might play better than than spades.

Michael Burt: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A 4-3 spade fit could be in big trouble if diamonds are led. The club bid looks safer even if we end up in a 4-3 fit.

Similar to the decision between major-suit Moysians on the previous problem; as Dan mentioned earlier, we prefer the one where the force is being taken in the short hand.

Bridge Baron: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't have a penalty pass with my weak trumps. I don't have a stopper for 3NT. I don't have support in a major.

Damo Nair: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't think I should pass with soft values. Not sure.

Roger Yandle: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It's too hard to tell whether 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is making or not (give pard Axxx-QJxx-void-AQJxx and 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) makes) so at this form of scoring I'm pulling the double as the risk of a bad score are too high

Tania Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner was looking for a major, but I haven't one, and we need five quick tricks if I pass. West's third seat 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may not be that weak.

Brian Lawless: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too many small Diamonds to pass for penalties.

That's an often-overlooked point regarding trump length. Our weak four-card holding simply tells us that West (who has six or seven of the remaining nine trumps) will have the important ones. Our partner might provide as much as a king or a queen, but that still leaves West with four that will beat our images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)9.

Alexander Shchennikov: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Maybe bad contract. But the others can be even worse. And the partner still can rebid his major if he has or bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with both majors.

Robert Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass is a bit scary at IMPs. We probably can make five tricks before West makes nine, but we might not. Partner's double does not promise the earth.

Ian McCance: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Maybe Pass, but takeout doubles should be taken out (Kaplan?)

Ron Lel: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Takeout doubles are for takeout. If partner raises I am not unhappy; if partner bids 4 of a Major, I am not unhappy. Yes we figure to beat them in 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but at this vulnerability I feel I need to try for the extra 500 or even more.

There was in fact "500 or even more" available from pulling the double (or passing it):

spades AK762
hearts A743
diamonds A
clubs AJ9
spades 983
hearts 102
diamonds KQJ1063
clubs 74
spades 105
hearts QJ985
diamonds 74
clubs Q632
spades QJ4
hearts K6
diamonds 9852
clubs K1085

Problems 1, 2, 3 and 5 came from this year's Great Lakes Congress. The first three were supplied by Paul Lavings, who has supplied most of our problems over the past few years. This one, coincidentally from the same event, was from Johnno Newman. Johnno bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), raised to 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) by partner and making 12. They were one of only two pairs, out of 34 tables, to bid a slam, and earned 12 imps. In theory, a few imps were also available by passing 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x, but in practice only two pairs defended diamonds and they both dropped a trick in defence.

The August questions are online now, here, and the June magazine should have arrived by the time you read this. Thanks for joining us again, and we'll do our best to stay on schedule for the rest of the year with the next forum being published in mid-August.

Top scores for June
1Nigel Kearney NZL500
2Robb Gordon USA490
3John R Mayne USA490
4Neil Ewart 480
5Michael Low USA480
5Gary Lane NSW480
6Bridge Baron USA480
7Nigel Guthrie GBR480
8Andrew Macalister GBR480
9Roland Voigt GER480
10Peter Vlas NED470
11Emil Battista NSW470
12Ian McCance Vic460
13Fredrik Jarlvik SWE460
14Ron Lel LAO460
15Ian Patterson Qld460
16Bastiaan Korner NED460
17David Woulds GBR450
18Rainer Herrmann GER440
19Kees Schaafsma NED440
20Cor Lof NED440
21Arthur Porter SA430
22Timothy Wright430
23Artur Wasiak POL430
24Vlad Dragalchuk 430
25Dean Pokorny CRO430
26Phil Hocking NSW430
27Peter Robinson Qld430
28Mark Hangartner 420
29Alexander Shchennikov420
30Niek Van Vucht ACT420
31Damo Nair USA420
32Tony Treloar Qld420
33Pravin Nahar NSW420
34Roger Yandle NSW420
35Ig Nieuwenhuis NED420
36Peter Qvist SWE420
37Jack Lai 420
38Niklas Andren SWE400
39Barbara Hunter NSW400
40Murray Perrin 400
41Sam Arber Vic400
42Steven Kipperman USA400
43Tom Estenson USA400
44Peter Tarlinton NSW400
45Manuel Paulo POR390
46Cynthia Belonogoff WA390
47John Shield NSW390
48David Matthews WA390
49Paul Sontag CAN390

Leading scores for 2017
1John R Mayne990
2Ian McCance Vic950
3Rainer Herrmann GER940
4Kees Schaafsma NED920
5Damo Nair USA910
5Roland Voigt GER910
5Tony Treloar Qld910
5Jack Lai 910
8Alexander Shchennikov 900
8Bastiaan Korner NED900
8Pravin Nahar NSW900
8Dean Pokorny 900
12Nigel Kearney NZL890
12Gary Lane NSW890
13Andrew MacAlister GBR880
13Paul Sontag CAN880
15Cor Lof NED870
15Emil Battista NSW870
15Tom Estenson USA870
15Artur Wasiak POL870
19Fredrik Jarlvik SWE860
20Vlad Dragalchuk 850
21Henri De Jong Vic840
22Peter Robinson Qld830
22Alex Kemeny NSW830
24Ian Patterson Qld820
25Dan Baker USA810
26John Shield NSW810
27Ig Nieuwenhuis NED810
28David Woulds GBR810
29Sam Arber Vic800
30Arthur Porter SA800
31Steven Kipperman USA790
32Cynthia Belonogoff WA790
33Julian Foster NSW790
34Peter Vlas NED790
35Michael Low USA790
36Roger Yandle NSW770
37Ron Lel LAO770
38Todd Holes USA770
39Leigh Matheson NSW770
40Niek Van Vucht ACT760
41Bridge Baron USA760
42Leigh Blizzard Tas750
43Alan Jones Qld750
44Peter Tarlinton NSW740
45Dominic Connolly NSW730
46Barbara Hunter NSW730
47David Matthews WA720
48Peter Nuoristo SWE720
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
August issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
June issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.