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May 2018

Readers' Bidding Forum with Fraser Rew, May 2018

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 - East deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AT3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J9854
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q742
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K

West North East South
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) * pass
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) * 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass ?

  2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a weak two in either major.
  3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) asks East to pass with hearts, else bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).
  4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is natural.

Call Award %
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 58 50
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 32 13
Pass 60 11 29
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 0 3
Other 0 0 5

Well, it's official: Brad's been scraping the bottom of the barrel for guest moderators, so you're stuck with me.

When I saw this problem, I was expecting the expert vote to be for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and the readers' vote to be for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I was right that the experts voted for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes); I was wrong that the readers wouldn't find the same bid. Instead, the big difference was actually that the readers' second choice was Pass instead of 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

First, a complaint about the methods:

David Appleton: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This should be clubs and a major, not natural. Seriously.

For the uninitiated, David is suggesting that we play Non-leaping Michaels. Leaping Michaels is pretty familiar: if the opponents open, e.g., 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), a 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid shows five or more of that suit and five spades. The extension is Non-leaping Michaels: 4m over a 3-level preempt showing the same thing. I do like to play that method, but it's not part of the system, so we have to treat 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as natural.

A bid that kind of makes sense is 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as an artificial waiting bid, because 1) a hand that can't overcall 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) probably won't be too keen about bidding 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes); 2) even though we can tell (almost for certain) that the opponents have spades, partner can't, so we can't bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as a cuebid; and 3) it would be nice to have a forcing bid below 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). However, that agreement isn't part of any system that I'm aware of, so it seems unwise to torture partner with it.

More complaints:

John R Mayne: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). For some reason, the options don't include the most flexible option of doubling.

I wanted to double as well, but the killjoys at the WBF won't let us. One day the world will catch up with us, John.

So on to solving this one with the tools we've got. Let's start by re-constructing the shapes as best we can:

Julian Foster: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't think partner can have a major (would have bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with spades or passed over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with hearts).

Dean Pokorny: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner's most probable shape is 1336 or 1246 and he is fairly strong.

Pat O'Connor: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). West is probably 3-3 in the majors, giving partner a singleton spade.

Indeed, and it shouldn't just be any six-card suit either - I think either six good ones or seven fairly good ones, as a minimum. The singleton spade is indeed likely, partly because East probably has six and West three, and partly because he ought to have some shape to be acting here. 2-2-3-6 seems too balanced.

Reaching a similar conclusion but with a different outcome:

Peter Vlas: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It's highly unlikely that the opponents' suit is hearts. Partner will have three at least following my reasoning, so I bid it.

Even if their suit is spades, West could be 3-4-4-2 and East 6-3-1-3, leaving partner with just a singleton. Of course, as Peter and Dean suggest, and Pat kind of implies, it is more likely that he has three than one, but even then 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be wrong: his three-card suit may be Axx, and West has KQ107. Or maybe the defence can set up an extra trump trick by forcing dummy to ruff twice (one of many such scenarios is that partner has KQx, and West has A10x, and the 10 can be established). In short, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will be bad any time he has fewer than three, and a lot of the time when he has three or more.

Don't get me wrong, it's a bidder's game, and fortune favours the brave, and [insert your preferred cliche here], so I fully understand the arguments in favour of bidding game in our longest suit. However, partner must have a pretty decent hand and club suit: bidding at the four-level vulnerable is pretty dangerous, especially without the compensating reward of a game bonus (yet).

Let's see if the other 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidder who commented can convince me to change my mind:

Neil Silverman: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). After pulling out my Ouija Board I have decided on this. Anything could be right.

He sounds like a man who could be persuaded by a good argument for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

The Minority Report:

James Cole: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cover card for club support

Robert Black: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner knows that spades is their suit; that this therefore is a control bid agreeing clubs. We cannot have (m)any losers in the black suits. Partner can judge the red suits for slam.

However, against that...

David Caprera: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This way we avoid playing in East's major.

Although I suspect that David was more worried about bidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and finding partner with a void, I think his comment also applies to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) contracts. As noted earlier, partner is probably looking at a singleton spade and two or three hearts. If we bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) he may decide that the opponents have a heart fit and we have (for example) a 7141 shape, and we'll be playing game in our 3-1 fit.

Now for the two biggest camps. Some 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders were fatalists...

Brad Johnston: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Spade void with pard makes my hand not look too hot. Still heaps of cards that make things work though. I don't like these hands, hate bidding 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-1, hate being in 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)+2 or 3. I don't think I can realistically bid any more than 5 though.

Julian Foster (cont'd): 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Although I hate this, I can't think of anything better.

Phil Hocking: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If game is on then may as well bid it.

Some were realists...

Rainer Herrmann: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If we belong in a different strain I do not see how to get there.

Dan Baker: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My holding in whichever major East has (likely spades, but could be hearts if he opens good 5-card suits) is ideal opposite partner’s shortness. Have to try for game red at IMPs, and partner going past 3NT to bid a minor strongly suggests that’s where he wants to play.

Derek Pocock: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner denying Spade contract as no double; similar for Diamond as no 4NT would gice choice. Yet surely we have game

Brian Lawless: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner must have 9 tricks and I have 2. Simple arithmetic!

Damo Nair: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The club & 10 HCP ought to be enough right? I think all other bids are ambiguous.

Patrice Fincias: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Two key cards to help my partner who has a huge hand.

And some were optimists...

Tania Black: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too difficult to explore for slam.

Ron Landgraff: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I do not know how to explore without getting too high!

Roger Yandle: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It looks like East has got spades. Partner should have a solid 6+ card suit and all my points are working. Slam might be on but that's too hard for me.

Barbara Whitmee: 4NT. Want to at least be in game.

4NT is safe from a keycards perspective (assuming that partner treats it as 1430 Keycard Blackwood): we can pass 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (showing 1), as we're missing two; and we can bid 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 5M missing just one; and if your partner bids 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) you can assume three at the four-level vulnerable (with no key cards at all, maybe find a new partner for the second session). So I'm not concerned about key cards, but 12 tricks look a long way off. So far off, in fact, that some of our panellists chose to pass - let's finish with them.

As is often the case, there were a few optimists in with the passers:

Tim Trahair: Pass. Sit and wait to see what happens!

Larry Brose: Pass. West is going to bid 4 hearts and I'll double. Hopefully partner will not lead a diamond.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. last chance for a plus? I'd like to defend this one...

Martyn Rew: Pass. Partner would need a very big hand to get a game score. There is hope that West will push the boat out.

Tim, Larry and possibly Ig seem to be expecting more bidding, and my esteemed father is hoping for it, but there's no reason to think there will be any. West presumably could have bid 4M last time if that's where he wanted to be, and from his perspective there's a big downside to bidding, and only a small upside.

And, finally, those who have decided to fight their battles on some later hand:

Alex Kemeny: Pass. Partner has good clubs and a singleton or void spade. I have two tricks, maybe three. Partner has assumed I have two tricks, 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks a bit tight. Suits may break poorly after a preempt.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. Hard to get excited about doing anything else with this hand other than passing.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. We probably have a more rewarding contract but we have little room to find it.

Emil Battista: Pass. Why did partner bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) instead of doubling to smoke out East's suit? Presumably because he knows what he is doing. So, I am wimping out and NOT bidding 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Hand Two - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ8743
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J98
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q86

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


Call Award %
2NT 100 37 26
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 21 18
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 16 18
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 11 7
Pass 70 11 15
3NT 40 5 15

Six different calls got support from the experts, and none got as high as 40% of the vote, both of which will gladden the editor's heart.

A couple of queries about the conditions:

Tania Black: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Why not 1NT last time?

Normally when we pass these sorts of hands, it's because we're eagerly awaiting partner's reopening double, which we're planning to pass. We're expecting at least 300 on defence and might not even be making a partscore, let alone a game.

AB Standard (available here) doesn't mention anything about system after a reverse. Most competitive pairs play something artificial, the most simple and common being Blackout - that is, the lower of 2NT and the 4th suit is artificial, showing a weak hand, and everything else is game forcing. However, even if you do play that, not everyone has discussed what they do after responder passes initially. The one reader to mention it assumed that it would be off in any case ...

Julian Foster: 2NT. Assuming this is natural and not Blackout.

(Agreed; I have methods over reverses in all my partnerships, but none of them would apply in this sequence. - BC)

Again, what's partner showing?

Emil Battista: A bit of deja vu here. Why did partner NOT double to show Hearts? He must be 65 in the reds and probably 0562.

David Caprera: I am expecting a fifth heart given partner's failure to double

Dan Baker: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner should be very distributional for this (if he’s 1-4-6-2 with extras, why not double and rebid diamonds over 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)?); I’m expecting 0-5-6-2 (or possibly 1-5-6-1).

Julian Foster (Part II): [A 5-6 hand] is more likely than usual on this deal - there must be some reason they didn't reopen with a X.

But against that ...

Dean Pokorny: 2NT. This is hardly 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Most often partner will have a 0463 hand in the 14-18 range.

Brad Johnston: What's mate got? An 0463 16 count?

Alex Kemeny: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner probably has freak shape and/or a spade void.

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I want to hear whether partner has 5 hearts.

I agree that 0463 is a possibility, but this bidding seems consistent with 0472 as well - especially given how many players these days would open 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with five hearts and six diamonds.

The readers were pretty closely aligned with the experts, the main difference being that amongst readers bidding NT there was a pretty even split between 2NT and 3NT, but the panel weighed strongly in favour of 2NT. So let's hear next from those who bounce straight to game:

David Matthews: 3NT. 2NT is just a bit too wimpy after partner's reverse.

Peter Vlas: 3NT. We should have some play for this even with partner's expected void

Emil Battista (cont'd): 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is for wimps - or players who have an aversion to plus scores

Brian Lawless: 3NT. Partner has a very good hand. I certainly stop the spades and I have a very useful card in clubs.

True, the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q is a very useful card. Nonetheless, if LHO leads a small club, I would be waiting very nervously to see what partner tables in the suit. Unfortunately, Emil was the only 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidder to comment, so we don't know what everyone else's motivations were. Those bids are both very final (though partner may rip 3NT to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with something really extreme). If we're committing to game, we could also go with the bidding forum favourite: a cuebid. A few experts (including one of the players who made that bid) suggested that 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is natural. They were in the minority, and when partner shows extreme shape, surely it's not right to play in their suit too often. So let's see what the readers have to say:

Andrea Viscovich: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Maybe my partner will think I'm very strong.

John R Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This ought to be a punt with a bad hand, but unless partner bids 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), we'll be in bad-transportation 3N next. Passers and 3N bidders are both overcommitting.

Tania Black (cont'd): 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has reversed, so we have enough for game.

Patrice Fincias: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Try to get more information about partner's shape. To play 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

This makes more sense to me than just punting game. I can't really see a downside, and if we're definitely committing to game, it should give us a more intelligent way of getting there. The opponents shouldn't get too much information.

Now let's hear from those at the other extreme.

Phil Hocking: Pass. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should make. 2NT is a risk in clubs.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. Bidding 2NT has some appeal if you feel like gambling, but really it is again, hard to get excited about doing anything else with this hand other than passing. Bad splits abound here.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. last chance for a plus? Again I'd like better to defend

Brad Johnston (cont'd): Pass. I don't know what's making here, but I don't see anything of value in my hand on this auction worth a shove.

Although, against that ...

Nigel Guthrie: 2NT. Must do something.

Pass seems pretty pessimistic. If we'd had the uncontested auction 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), nobody would think of passing. Yet in this auction, we've shown nothing at all (yet) and partner has still reversed (i.e., if our diamonds are at least as long as our hearts, we'll bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)), so he's happy to commit to the 3-level opposite, potentially, nothing. To go with partner's good cards, we have honour-third support, an ace, a ruffing value (although admittedly not where we'd like it) and the Queen of Clubs. That queen doesn't look much, but it could well save partner from getting forced off.

A few of the experts suggested that partner's failure to double shows a weak hand, but if so, where are the points?

We've heard from those forcing to game, and from those content with a partscore. Let's see how the Goldilocks bids stand up:

David Caprera (cont'd): 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). x, KQxxx, AKxxxx, x has plays for game.

Damo Nair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I can't see the upside of 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if East has 5. It also sounds like a cue bid for hearts. North could easily have 5 hearts. Should be ok with 4 hearts with North.

Neil Silverman: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner can't bid game its probably not a favorite.

Roger Yandle: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'll show heart support but not get too carried away.

Alex Kemeny (cont'd): 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) feels a bit much especially with only 3 trumps.

Ron Landgraff: 2NT. 3NT may be there but partner could be a little light (16-17) or void in Spades or both, making the play awkward at best.

Julian Foster (Part III): 2NT. [This shows] some values which is broadly what I have. Also gives partner the chance to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if they are x56x.

Martyn Rew: 2NT. Even with a strongish hand from partner, he would not look for NT without a clear indication that spades are covered.

Tim Trahair: 2NT. We may have game in NT or Hs.

Robert Black: 2NT. Partner's reverse suggests that we have enough for game, but as yet no fit. He also knows that I have a spade stop!

Derek Pocock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). May be a Moysian fit but ruffs in short suit.Partner can ask for NT but not a potential good contract opposite Spade void.

I'm not sure that I agree with Derek here. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner would sound to me more like a mild slam try in hearts with a spade void - e.g., void-AKQxx-AKQxxx-xx; to me, it sounds like a 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid is setting hearts as trumps.

After bidding 2NT, we can still play 2NT, 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but against that, it's hard to stop in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on an eight-card fit - with five and a minimum, partner will bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) next and we have a decision to make; with only four and a minimum he'll bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and then we're stuck in our Moysian. However, by bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) we can only play 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2NT does seem to be more flexible, if only slightly. For me, that makes it just slightly better than the alternatives.

Hand Three - East deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 95
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQ54
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 9865

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


Call Award %
Pass 100 63 53
Dbl 80 37 23
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 50 0 11
2NT 30 0 7
Other 0 0 6

Although the panel were split between double and pass, a quarter of the readers found a different bid:

Andrea Viscovich: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If he goes 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will stop.

Larry Brose: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm telling partner that I may get two tricks in hearts.

Andrea doesn't say it explicitly, but it sounds like she intends 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a good raise to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), which is probably more in line with expert practice.

Martyn Rew: 2NT. Four to the 9 is kind of a club stop.

but against that ...

Emil Battista: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4 cards to the 10 is not a stopper, so 4 cards to the 9 would hardly please.

I'm with Emil on this one - not least because West probably has better clubs than hearts, so will lead one against 3NT through partner's stopper.

Emil Battista (cont'd): 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Has partner lost his Double card?

More likely, he's 5242 or similar.

David Matthews: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not much more I can do.

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Possibly the least worse bid?

Brad Johnston: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With such bad hearts, East must have a pretty boss/distributional hand to be bidding here. Still, the right hand's on lead if I push them into a club game.

Before I realised that I would have the, er, privilege of moderating this month, I entered my answer as a double. Like a 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, it shows values; unlike a 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, it doesn't show three spades, so it's much more flexible if we want to get to some alternative contract - specifically, 3NT. If partner bids 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), we can correct back to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), which shows this sort of hand (albeit not normally with hearts so much better than clubs). Also, we're more likely to end up defending a heart contract this way. Let's see what the other doublers have to say:

Peter Vlas: Dbl. Going for the kill here. With a trump lead from partner this could well be worth it

James Cole: Dbl. Penalty double of hearts

Neil Silverman: Dbl. Showing a penalty double of 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (a little light but certainly would have passed if partner had doubled).

Derek Pocock: Dbl. Surely we'll get 800 here. Need to discourage partener from our apparent misfit.

Damo Nair: Dbl. The Master Solvers Club in the Bridge World has several problems of this theme. This shows a penalty x of hearts.

Rainer Herrmann: Dbl. We might not beat it, but it could also be a massacre on a trump lead. If someone redoubles I run.

There's obviously some disagreement amongst the readers about what double shows. I intended it as a takeout double, but of the six above, three thought it was penalties of clubs and three, penalties of hearts. The experts were even more divided: four (Bob Jones, David Kalnins, Kate McCallum and Ron Smith) made penalty doubles of clubs, one (Larry Cohen) made a penalty double of hearts and two (Sartaj Hans and Michael Ware) made takeout doubles.

This goes a lot deeper than it looks. For me, an auction like 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-(2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-Pass-(Pass)-Double, or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-(3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes))-Double, is a penalty double of hearts, but partner has already opened, and hasn't added much extra information about his hand, in terms of either shape or values. In the auction that we're discussing, the 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid adds a lot of information, so I'm not sure it's analogous. To put it another way, when partner opens 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and they overcall 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), we'll want to play for penalties fairly frequently, but that's much less common when they've opened 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Also, if double here is penalties, how do we bid a 2-4-4-3 11-count? Or a hand like Kx-xxxxx-AQJx-xx, when there's a good chance that West and North will both pass? If we can't double on those, what can we do?

A majority of both readers and panellists opted to pass, and most of them had a plan. Let's hear from a sample of them:

Roger Yandle: Pass. If pard makes a takout double, I'll leave it in.

Alan Jones: Pass. Hoping that partner will double so that I can pass and lead trumps. In the unlikely event that West prefers hearts, I will be delighted!

Brian Lawless: Pass. Nowhere to go. It is possible that West may bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) which I can double for penalties.

John R Mayne: Pass. How on earth is this not going well? Partner is limited by the failure to double, our heart suit isn't running, and we're leading a trump against 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or a spade against 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Take the plus.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. Surely you have better prospects to take this down than make something else? If they play in Clubs, I like a club lead.

And some are just happy to be defending - for now ...

Phil Hocking: Pass. 2NT or Double shows diamonds. (What would 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) show? - FR). Consider East is in trouble so just wait.

Ron Landgraff: Pass. Did I miss something?

Cathy Hocking: Pass. I am in prime position to sit on opps. Wait to see if partner rebids.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. I don't think bidding 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here is good bridge. Sometimes you have to pass a decent hand when the board is misfitting.

Dan Baker: Pass. I’m happy to let the opponents struggle in a misfit and lead trump.

Tania Black: Pass. No fit (with partner).

Robert Black: Pass. No fit. Sorry partner, RHO keeps bidding my suits! Partner's 1 Spade bid in the pass out seat might be light. If he is stronger I might have to decide what to bid when he doubles 2 Clubs.

Alexander Schennikov: Pass. No needs to penalise partner for a balancing bid.

Christine Chandler: Pass. Partner can double if strong enough.

A few panellists commented that we can't be making a game, given North's failure to double. But I'm with Christine on this one - there are plenty of hands that are just weak enough to overcall rather than double, but on which game stilll makes.

Patrice Fincias: Pass. Defense seems to be the only way to go plus.

David Caprera: Pass. I don't have dive into this misfit. And the auction isn't over. Double by me should be responsive.

Julian Foster: Pass. Unless partner can bid again I don't want to be in an auction where oppo are bidding all my long suits.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. I still want to defend

For those who missed it, that was Ig and Mick's third pass in a row.

The full deal, from the CNBC:

spades AQ7643
hearts 7
diamonds K94
clubs A104
spades J82
hearts 82
diamonds Q1087532
clubs 3
spades K10
hearts J10963
diamonds A
clubs KQJ72
spades 95
hearts AKQ54
diamonds J6
clubs 9865

Hand Four - North deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQJ73
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) T964
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 83
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 9

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


Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 37 37
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 32 3
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 11 26
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 11 12
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 11 7
3NT 50 0 10
Other 0 0 6

Let's start with our complaint about the methods, with someone who made a bid that may be expert standard but, unfortunately, isn't part of AB Standard:

Nik Mitchell: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). (GF with 4+ hearts), if partner accepts the transfer (which he does with four hearts) I cue 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), if he cues 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I key card in hearts and bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if he has three or four. If partner doesn't accept the transfer, I think I try 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and hope he will bid on with Ax heart or Axx and some suit to pitch on. I think 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is safe because I can't imagine too many 18 counts partner can hold where I have three losers. This hand feels really difficult though.

Transfers after a 2NT rebid are being played by an increasing number of pairs, and a few of the experts lamented they're not part of AB Standard. However, they're not, for the time being at least, so we're stuck with natural methods. All that's likely to happen with a 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid is that partner will think our subsequent major suit bids are cues in support of diamonds, and we have to convert 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to 6NT.

The big difference between the panel and the readers this time was the far larger number of panellists who bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Andrew Robson, Matthew Thomson, Michael Ware and the mononymic Zia all did so intending it as a splinter, while Kate McCallum intended it as Gerber. Only one reader who found that bid commented it (although Dan Baker and Artur Wasiak rejected it only because of uncertainty about system) - take a bow...

Brad Johnston: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Do I have a splinter here? I want a splinter here.

Now, at the other end of the scale, a bid with a substantial minority of readers but no panellists. It wasn't the bid I chose, but I considered it for a while and have a lot of admiration for it:

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. Matchpoint GREED! Probably beats everything except 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 6NT which are risky to bid.

John R Mayne: 3NT. Spades is always wrong-sided, and with the long strong spades, notrump seems better than a potentially ragged 4-4. I predict +460.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. This is matchpoints. If you invite slam you are less likely to get a favorable lead.

As identified by these readers, there are a lot of good things that can come from a direct 3NT bid. It could well be an outright top, but equally, it could be a bottom. What scared me off was the thought of partner turning up with Axx or similar in clubs - golden for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but normally terrible in 3NT. I decided that the best way to avoid this was to try the following, which can still get us to 3NT when it's right without imparting too much extra information:

Tania Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). (Despite apparently not being in AB Standard). Plenty of room to explore for slam if partner has four hearts and/or three spades, with the 28 HCPs I can count so far.

Indeed. I checked through the system and couldn't find any sort of checkback over either 1NT or 2NT. But pretty much everyone plays something artificial here, so it makes sense to give us the option.

(Not mentioned in the system page, but 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) was marked as Checkback on the entry page... which is why so many players chose it. - BC)

Robert Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 28 HCPs; two minor suit shortages, and possibly two major suit fits. Prospects for slam look good.

Peter Vlas: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I would consider it more positive then the weakish 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Especially if you have the agreement that partner can bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (I have that agreement). Then I still have to decide if I want to try a slam.

Emil Battista: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I am resisting strong urge to simply bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Do I really want to hear partner has Hearts? Probably not. If 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) gets doubled for a lead (Wishful thinking) it will not harm - maybe.

Emil's answers are about the strongest we've got against a 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid, and yet he makes that bid anyway.

Andrea Viscovich: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Let's see if we can make a slam

Alex Kemeny: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). No reason not to enquire as to whether we have a heart fit. If so Roman Keycard Blackwood will glean even more information.

Dean Pokorny: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Starting with checkback and bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) subsequently hopefully shows a slam-try with a good suit. The potential heart fit is better avoided in case opener's hand is something like xx-Kxxx-AKQx-AKxx. I expect partner to show desire with 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)(332).

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). There's a big difference between an eight-card fit and a nine-card fit when it comes to bidding a slam.

Phil Hocking: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This should suggest more spades than hearts so game in spades is a good chance.

Curiously, a couple of readers expressed the view that 2NT denies four hearts, but for the life of me I don't know why. How should partner bid with, for example, xx AKxx KQJx AJx? Surely nobody would want their partner to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on that? So if partner can have four hearts, it may be right to find out about it. Or not. But we shouldn't be surprised if he does have four.

If 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is checkback, then to my mind 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) shows 5-5 (though Peter Vlas, above, takes a different point of view). Two panellists, Sartaj Hans and Eric Kokish, chose it nonetheless, so what do I know? However, Sartaj was hoping not to get raised, which isn't exactly the strongest endorsement you could make. They were joined by these readers ...

Nigel Guthrie (First Response): 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Although reluctant to bid a bad suit when slam is a (remote) possibility.

Nigel Guthrie (Second Response): 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Dangerously ignoring the good advice not to bad suits in slam auctions?

Well, at least he's consistent.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can I smell a slam in the air? Of course, he will need just the right cards.

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think I must introduce my second suit as there is a possibility of a slam in Hearts.

Roger Yandle: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). if we haven't got a 4-4 heart fit I'm happy to play in 3NT.

For most it was a choice between spades and notrump, but Roger is obviously happy to have the running spades as a side suit. Speaking of spades, we had one who was happy to just play game there:

David Caprera: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Some days the 4-4 heart fit plays better, some days it plays worse. If 3N is the right spot, oh well, that is why I suck at Matchpoints.

However, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be a signoff. As noted by most of the earlier comments, slam is a lively possibility and there's no way we'll get there after this bid. It could still be right at matchpoints, because if 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the right contract, as it often will be, we have avoided helping out the defence. However, sometimes 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't the right contract, and sometimes the extra information doesn't help the defence much. Which is why most spade bidders opted to start a level lower:

Larry Brose: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We could be in trouble in notrumps, if partner doesn't have a spade.

If you don't have a spade, you really don't have a 2NT rebid.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hoping partner cues 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) back, as 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is nearly laydown opposite nothing in clubs. I’ll pass 3NT or bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (I’m really only worth a mild slam try; yes, the spades are six tricks, but nothing I have is going to help partner set up anything else).

Patrice Fincias: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing our strength in the suit, and we may receive a cue bid. 3NT from my partner will close the bidding.

Neil Silverman: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Probably don't want to play hearts even if partner happens to have 4. Will pass 3NT if partner bids it.

These panellists are all planning on passing 3NT, but all the experts who bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (or at least, all those who commented) planned to move over 3NT. The prevailing view was that bidding 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and then pulling 3NT to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should show a stronger hand than a direct 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). For the other 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders:

Julian Foster: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Plenty of slam chances but which suit? The usual argument for playing in hearts is to discard losers on our long spades. But partner needs good hearts for that to be right. It's more likely we might want to pitch our heart losers on partner's diamond suit. We may have already wrongsided spades of course if partner has something like H Kx.

Damo Nair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't feel like bringing up hearts with such a poor suit. Slam has a fair chance with the singleton club.

Christine Chandler: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I will show strong spades and should be 6 at 3 level.

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing our long spades and leaving partner decide where to play. Conceivably slam is on in spades or no trump.

And the last word from someone allowing his artistic side to come out:

Martyn Rew: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I need to confirm the beauty of my spades.

When you put it like that, how could we possibly give you any less than 100?

Hand Five - East deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KT9
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A72
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJT976
West North East South
pass 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass
pass dbl pass ?


Call Award %
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 37 34
Pass 100 37 40
3NT 80 26 23
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 50 0 3

Again, the readers were pretty closely aligned to the panel, though there were two comments from 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders:

Brad Johnston: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Most likely way to get them to (try?) cash the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A trick 1, so I can hopefully pitch a material D from North. May spook them into 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (it is matchpoints, after all), who knows-cares? Passing sounds silly, with maybe 0 trump tricks and I'm the wrong hand on lead for getting S ruffs going.

Julian Foster: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner is probably something like 5143. Pass was my 1st instinct but we need 800 if we are making game and if declarer can play some trumps I think we'll struggle to get that. At the same time 11 tricks in 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) for us look OK (e.g. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ruffs, 3 tricks in S-D). If I knew partner was going to lead images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A and give me all my available S ruffs I'd be happier passing. 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) also has the added benefit that partner might now be able to bid six with a really good hand.

Couldn't partner also have 6-1-4-2 or 5-1-5-2?

If we're not bidding 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), we have a three-way choice: pass, double or 3NT. Pass isn't normally right at the 3-level with only three trumps. However, given our shortage, in partner's suit, defending is a lot more attractive than normal. Also, if no game makes, the magical +200 for one light might get us most or even all of the matchpoints. Of our passers, there were a couple of battle-hardened realists:

Nigel Guthrie (first answer): Pass. MP gamble

John R Mayne: Pass. Our chance of +200 looks good enough to shoot at them. I've been -670 before.

Emil Battista: Pass. I know score for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x making.

Emil, if you see John, could you tell him that it's actually -730?

But most were optimistic:

Roger Yandle: Pass. it looks like we've got a misfit, so maybe neither side can make anything.

Mick McAuliffe: Pass. My 4th pass in this series, that doesn't sound like winning bidding in these competitions, but I think I can smell blood here.

Ron Landgraff, with Peter Vlas and David Caprera similarly: Pass. No game is clear, so go for 200?

Martyn Rew: Pass. Taking them light is the most likely way to get a plus score from this situation

Alex Kemeny: Pass. The lure of +200 at matchpoints is too great. I like my images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)10 and 9 supporting my images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. We don't have game too often here. Let's try to collect +200 after the obvious club lead.

Dan Baker: Pass. With wasted (on offense) values in hearts and no fit for partner’s spades, I don’t expect to make game. So let’s try for +200.

Neil Silverman: Pass. Prepared to tell partner sorry when his hand starts with AQxx of clubs and they make, but at matchpoints it's too tempting to go for the 200 and we have no sure thing to make anything at the 4 level.

Neil makes a good point: our bidding so far is consistent with a 3334.

If we're not going to take our chances on defence, maybe we can try to make game:

Nigel Guthrie (Second answer): 3NT. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make and so might 3N.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. A tough one

Phil Hocking: 3NT. Passing for penalties isn't a good option even though points are in our favour.

Patrice Fincias: 3NT. Expect to make 9 tricks.

David Matthews: 3NT. I dont want to go past the one possibly making game

Cathy Hocking: 3NT. I have heart cover and partner obviously has points with 5 spades.

Our last group of people are lovers, not fighters:

Robert Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A suit fit for sure but how good? Who is East? Passing might be the winner, with plus 500 beating any part score.

Andrea Viscovich: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Anyone brave enough for 3NT?

Larry Brose: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm guessing partner has 5 spades and no hearts. I'm hoping we only lose a club and a diamond.

Tim Trahair: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). North must be short in Hs so 3NT seems unlikely. His X probably shows values in Ds and may also show C support.

Derek Pocock: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The last of a difficult set of problems when one can envisage numerous alternatives. Here 3NT is unlikely, and a penalty could well be ephemeral. Let's just bid our suit and maybe we'll get a raise to 5.

Tania Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We might just have a big fit, and partner now knows where it is.

Finally, one who can't see what all the excitement is about:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It's still a minimum.

Thanks everyone, you've been a great audience. Until next time, happy bridging, and I hope your partners may be less unbalanced than your hands.

The July questions are online now, here, and the May magazine should have arrived by the time you read this. This month's leaderboard will be published later this week.

Thanks for joining us again; our next issue will be in July, shortly after the ANC. – Brad

Top scores for May
1To be advised0

Leading scores for 2018
1To be advised0
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