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February-March 2016

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, February-March 2016

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 - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQJ
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) T943
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJT


West North East South

   2NT opening is 20-21.

Call Award %
2NT 100 50 31
1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 45 46
1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 5 18
2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 3
Other 0 0 2

Welcome to our first forum of the new year. At the end of this column we'll be doing a photo-profile of all the players who finished in our top 12 in 2016, which we unfortunately were not able to put together in time for the December issue.

Our first problem this year, as with most years, is an uncomplicated one: an opening bid. There are two issues: (1) do we open at the one-level or 2NT, and (2) if at the one-level, which suit?

The 2nd decision is the easier one (and we'll start with our 2016 winner, Artur Wasiak from Poland):

Artur Wasiak: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With 4-4 in minors I should open 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) according to AB Standard. However, the suit is poor and I prefer to show this hand as clubs and spades.

David Appleton: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Lots of room for good things to happen. Not 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) because it is a bad suit with a good hand.

Stephen Bartos: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2NT unwise given the singleton images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K. Need to consider not the opening bid but the rebid. Will make a good forcing bid next round to show strength. If however partner has no HCP at all and opponents have 19 between them, my first bid might become the contract, in which case 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) likely to be better than 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

It's true, 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is our systemic choice with 4-4 in the minors, but bidding "bad suits with good hands" is often a bad idea. Nevertheless, 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was the choice of one in five readers, one robot, and one elite expert:

Ron Klinger: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't mind 2NT, but I do not do it.

Bridge Baron: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with 4-4 in the minors, regardless of suit quality. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would guarantee five spades. There is a Bridge Baron option to open 1NT with singleton A or K in an otherwise appropriate hand, but not 2NT.

Duncan Roe: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 21 points, but I promised partner I wouldn't open NT with a singleton. So open "better" minor and hope not to get passed out.

Brad Johnston: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A reverse into 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be forcing, one would hope.

Phil Hocking: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). At this stage undervaluing the hand will probably allow more bidding room to find the best contract being vul and all specially if partner can only fit with a minor. Potential next bid maybe double showing all other options apart from hearts.

David Matthews: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't like off shape No Trump opening bids and if partner can't respond then we are probably not making anything. It's only wrong when partner has Spades and 2 or 3 fitting points in Diamonds.

Tim Trahair: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Plan to reverse if North can manage a bid. Some might open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to give more room for reverse - but this would not conform to system.

Alan Jones: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The suit below the singleton. Happy to support partner's spades or clubs, or to bid NT if he mentions hearts

Cathy Hocking: 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Yes I have 21 points but I am not balanced therefore I am bidding 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I normally play polish club so 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be the bid. 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) inferring a strong 4441 hand.

Moving on to the question of whether to open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 2NT, we need to examine how the auction might proceed after each opening. Factors to consider: Which bid will leave us in a better spot if passed? Which bid is less likely to be passed? Which bid will give us fewer problems on the next round?

First question: Which bid will leave us in a better spot if passed?

Nigel Kearney: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I've never understood the offshape 2NT. After opening 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), there is no rebid problem, all strains are possible and there is space to explore them. If partner passes 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), I will be happier than if he passed 2NT.

Tony Treloar: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner can't move over this then we are likely in a good contract.

Patrice Fincias: 2NT. The one level opening could be the final contract if you open one diamond. Even if opponents take 8 first tricks with hearts and diamond those things happen! Do prefer to take the risk than to play 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)J doubleton, three hearts Q10x and 5 clubs to the 10 in dummy.

Second question: Which bid is less likely to be passed?

Henri de Jong: 2NT. 19 HCP missing and although I'd love to open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), cannot afford to miss a possible game.

Robert Black: 2NT. Opening 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) risks three passes. Playing in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems less of a risk.

Cynthia Belonogoff: 2NT. Don't want to be passed out if game might be on with a few points from partner.

Alex Kemeny: 2NT. Strong semi-balanced hands are difficult to handle. So 2NT has to allow for being a bit off shape. With 21 HCP at teams and vulnerable I think that opening 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a bit risky, because we can miss a game when partner has 4 points and passes. I am glad my singleton is the king; even Jxx with partner hand can form a stopper.

Superficially it does seem like 2NT is the "more forcing" bid, but Frank Stewart from our expert panel points out that this might be an illusion:

Frank Stewart: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't enjoy opening 2NT on any hand because it is a space-consuming action. Edgar Kaplan pointed out that there are few hands on which partner will pass 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) but respond to 2NT.

Julian Foster: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Don't see a need to warp with a 2NT opening. 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is so unlikely to get passed out and it will be easy to show this hand with a takeout double of Hearts later.

Peter Vlas: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Leaving most space for further bidding and slightly fearing three passes. Don't like this type of 2NT

Emil Battista: 2NT. Best chance of reaching our optimum spot. The worst action partner can take is PASS, then 2NT almost certain to fail. Partner transferring to Hearts unlikely to be a success if holding is 5 cards and a weak hand With any more shape and/or points then 2NT should be a success.

Third question: Which bid will give us fewer problems on the next round?

Dean Pokorny: 2NT. Obvious 2NT opening, simplifying the auction.

Dan Baker: 2NT. This simplifies the auction enough to be worth the risks, although 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (with the plan of jumping to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)) isn't unreasonable.

2NT often simplifies the auction when the auction is 2NT-3NT, but it's a notoriously bad way to get to minor-suit contracts:

Rainer Herrmann: 2NT. I just may have buried our minor suit slam, but it is not my style helping opponents to find the best lead against 3NT.

John R. Mayne: 2NT. This is awful. 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) puts us in the wrong minor slam. 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) has no rebid over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is generally terrible on 4-4-4-1 hands. I'm slightly overstrength for 2NT, which is a notorious slam-killer. Mostly, I am just sad.

John only briefly considered a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening, on the (questionable) grounds that the hand is too strong for 2NT. There were actually many reader votes for 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), but I can't justify giving any points to that choice. There is no reason at all to believe this hand is worth 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-2NT, and 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-anything else is far worse.

Roger Yandle: 2NT. I'd happily bid 2NT with AKQJ xx T9x AKQJ and I think this hand is as strong, so that's what I'm bidding here.

David Caprera: 2NT. Here in the United States, the ACBL has now made opening 2NT (or 1NT for that matter) with a singleton king mandatory! It is a quarter of a board penalty if you don't, unless you pre-alert your opponents that your notrump openings never have a singleton.

The great American trend of 2017 is that foreigners can no longer tell when your news articles are real and when they are satire. But ACBL system regulations have always had that problem; some of them are so comical you'd swear they can't be real. Here, David is satirising the tragically real fact that, until recently, 2NT with a singleton was genuinely illegal in the ACBL. (Or maybe he's serious... maybe 2NT is mandatory now and I just missed a bulletin from the asylum.)

(For anyone interested, here is the ACBL document from August 2016 legalising the bid.)

Steve Robinson: 2NT. I don't like my rebids over 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) response.

Tania Black: 2NT. I might slip a diamond in with the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K, but I am likely to be declarer anyway.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2NT. I did this before and I'll do it again as it best describes the character AND strength of the hand. Switch the heart to a small one and I might reconsider.

Adrian Pang: 2NT. Not that bad with a singleton honour in hearts. Oh if we played multi 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

I don't really see how a multi-two would help, unless it had an option for 4441 hands (which the standard multi-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) does not).

An equal number of people were perfectly happy with the way the auction would proceed after 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes):

Ron Lel: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2NT is an easy second choice, but I do have an easy rebid on this hand.

Gail Smith: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Waiting for some indication of partners hand before showing points.

Wayne Somerville: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With this concentration of values, I prefer not to distort my hand to a 2NT bid. I normally bid diamonds with this shape, but I want to tell partner to expect my values to be in clubs and spades.

Hans van Vooren: 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With all the strength in the black suits, I'd rather start with 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and rebid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in the next round. While 2NT is an alternative, I don't like my singleton K to be in a major suit. Also, a notrump contract should be played by partner, in case there is anything to protect in diamonds. My hand will never really profit from the lead coming up to it.

Several of the expert panel commented that we need to play it from South to have the lead come around to the singleton king. That's a doubtful assertion; while there may be some layouts where third hand will mistakenly duck the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, in most cases the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K won't be a factor. If the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A is on lead, a small heart lead will give us our king whether it is in hand or in dummy; if not, third hand will play the ace either way. The real issue is who has the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, and since we can't answer that question, protecting partner's diamonds does seem to be a more practical goal. Concealing his heart holding might also be useful.

The full deal from the World Bridge Teams (round 20):

spades 3
hearts J64
diamonds AQ765
clubs Q862
spades 109742
hearts 109753
diamonds J8
clubs 4
spades 865
hearts AQ82
diamonds K2
clubs 9753
spades AKQJ
hearts K
diamonds 10943
clubs AKJ10

Hand Two - West deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQT865
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A8
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ964


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

   3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) = 6-9 four-card raise.

Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 50 58
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)/4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 45 26
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 5 6
Dbl 0 0 7
Other 0 0 2

Next, we have a basic question of philosophy: is it ok to have a six-card major in a Michaels bid?

Brad Johnston: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think this, and bidding 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or doubling 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (takeout/cards) is a good way to go. I dunno. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) feels wrong with six hearts, and everything else is a bit murky.

Charles Scholl: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Better than 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) since hearts are longer and stronger; there's not much risk of 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) getting passed out.

Tania Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A strong bid for a strong hand with six hearts.

Ian McCance: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bidding where I'm at.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Showing the major now is much better, and the club suit is a little ratty anyway.

There was one other reason cited for not using Michaels: timidity.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Opps showing a nine-card spade fit I have a four-loser hand and given a free bid hopefully partner can see I am strong and if he has something maybe we are in game. As we are vulnerable don't want to bid at the four-level. If they play in spades then partner at least knows what to lead.

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Although I would like to show my 2 Suiter with a 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid it may take us too high. Partner knows I am single or void in Spades and will raise to game if appropriate.

Ron Landgraff: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Could make. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) not impossible. Lead directing.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Give me images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)J8 and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)AK964 and I would bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) showing Hearts and Clubs, as it is the rounded suits are too weak for the four level.

Cynthia Belonogoff: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). One chance to get in a bid. Good for a lead if they win the contract. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) a possibility or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)X if partner knows I have something and he's sitting with 4 spades.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The opponents are in a good position to judge what to do and so we are risking a big penalty bidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I might be able to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) on the next round. Partner may also be able to derive our void and raise when appropriate anyway.

Peter Robinson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This will help partner judge, for example, a future penalty double ... and if he does double some time, I'll have a better idea what he's thinking.

That's quite a few votes that the hand is not strong enough for the four-level; however, most of the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders were simply choosing an opening move in an auction where they were sure they would get to speak again.

Rainer Retzler: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'll bid some clubs at my next opportunity.

Zbych Bednarek: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). over opps 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)/4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will bid clubs.

Louis Dekker: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Planning to bid clubs next. Like 4m here as Leaping Michael's but with 6 Hearts prefer to bid them first.

David Appleton: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). They won't pass, then I can bid clubs. Further, even if I had nonleaping available, this is not the hand for it.

Hans van Vooren: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is not going to be passed out, and if the opponents won't go higher than 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I can introduce clubs on the 4-level.

John R. Mayne: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It won't end here, and I'll bid clubs next time.

Rainer Herrmann: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Keeping clubs in reserve.

Julian Foster: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). And intend to bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

A.K. Simon: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). And if were then to go 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-P-P, I'll chance 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This should give me the chance to get both suits out.

Peter Vlas: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To be followed by 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) after 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) comes I'm not quite sure what to do

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is right on values and I dont have the weapons to introcue both suits (non-leaping Michaels 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) comes to mind). Depending on the ensuing bidding I might even introduce my second suit, while keeping in mind that partner can have up to 4 spades. The more spades he has, the easier I should make it for him to pass. Will compete over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but hesistant over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). maybe X is best then; probably at least suggesting another lead than hearts

Few people mentioned the possibly of non-Leaping Michaels. It's not in the system, but for the purposes of this question I've given the small handful of 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders the same score as 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Henri de Jong: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4 loser hand playable in two suits.

Jim Thatcher: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hope that leaping Michaels is allowed.

Ron Lel: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With my regular partner I would bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) non leaping Michaels, but this is not yet part of AB Standard. So I will make a simple Michaels bid.

Emil Battista: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Whilst 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) hardly describes this powerhouse, West will bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so will get opportunity to introduce Club suit. Starting with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) cue bid should show a strong hand unless partner interprets it as an asking bid and bids 3NT with his Spade holding. Even if this happens South has another bid to keep side in the auction.

One of the advantages of Leaping Michaels (or non-Leaping Michaels) is that the 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) cue can be used to ask for a stopper. Not a high-frequency hand, but it has happened to me a few times. For the purposes of our bidding forum, we are not greatly concerned with specific systemic agreements; your intention is what counts.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't know if partner will read this as Michaels or "bid 3NT if you have a stopper", but I'll pull 3NT to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if it comes up. Since as little as xxxx-Jx-xxxx-Qxx makes game a pretty good bet, I have to do more than just 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Moving on to the Michaels bidders, and there are a couple of comments addressing the fear of the 6th heart:

Nigel Kearney: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Normally I don't bid Michaels with 6-5, but here they are very likely to go to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so my suits are essentially equally ranked. I'd rather bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) now and let partner decide whether to go to the five level, than bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and after 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-P-P be forced into a unilateral 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Good point. Another plan for the hearts:

Dean Pokorny: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Michaels. I will correct 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

For all the people who are worried about the 6th heart, Dean's auction is very attractive. Is there any risk partner will interpret that as hearts and diamonds (stronger than 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes))? I'm not sure, but it's a nice auction if you're both on the same page.

Phil Hocking: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) only allows opps to over bid us. 4 loser hand so partner may have the right cards for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to make while partner may have 4 spades and the desire to double if they bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) knowing the strength of south's hand.

Neil Silverman: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Close between just bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and showing two suits and bidding 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I wouldn't want to save unilaterally if it went 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) p p to me so voted for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Then I could double when 4 spades comes back to me to show this type of hand. Only downside is the 6th heart which you will never really get to show.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Dbl of the artificial club bid would be penalty, but they could easily bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) next. They can't do that now - and I've told partner about my hearts.

Roger Yandle: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Gets my shape over in one bid (though maybe not the extra heart), and I must be strong given the vul. Also, it will hopefully make it more difficult for the opps to work out what to do.

Steve Robinson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Will work well if partner has a good heart fit.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It is important to show the two-suiter, not only hearts.

H. C. Wilton: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Why put everything into the 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) basket?

David Caprera: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My second choice is 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but the opponents then bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will not be able to restrain myself, and that is too much. Besides, 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is the sort of bid that partner might not take seriously. Yes, I could be going for my life here. Too bad.

For the minority, there were a small number of votes for a unilateral jump to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), including one of our all-star panellists:

Mike Lawrence: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) shows a much weaker hand. You would bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with KQJ976 and little else. I'm willing to compete to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and by bidding this way, there's no doubt as to my shape. A 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid is possible but it may (a) lose the club suit, (b) lose my sixth heart.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I need so little from partner that I have to have a shot at game. Just the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)J and images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q will should be enough, so I think 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a pusillanimous effort. Partner may have as much as 8 HCP. If LHO goes to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I will bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with this 4 loser hand.

Ian Patterson: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To double to show the Clubs before bidding Hearts would allow West to pre-empt in Spades. You may not be able to show the Hearts before the 5 level.

The full deal, from the 2016 NSWBA Mixed Teams:

spades J86
hearts 42
diamonds K109
clubs A10752
spades AK7543
hearts KJ973
diamonds 7
clubs Q
spades Q1092
diamonds QJ65432
clubs 83
hearts AQ10865
diamonds A8
clubs KJ964

Both sides had difficult play problems on this deal, and most tables produced a minus score. EW can make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) by setting up diamonds. If the defence tries to prevent this by forcing dummy to ruff, then declarer can change tack and play for ten trump tricks. Ruffing four hearts will promote a trump trick for North, but then declarer will pitch his last heart on a diamond winner as North ruffs in with his natural trump trick.

NS can make 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), although only one pair managed to take 12 tricks. The winning line is to draw one round of trumps, and then play a heart toward the ace. One round of trumps is essential to prevent a diamond ruff; two rounds will leave South with insufficient entries to set up hearts.

Hand Three - West deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q62
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K9432
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J8632
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ---


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


Call Award %
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 67 49
Dbl 60 9 3
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 5 7
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 9 19
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40 5 2
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40 5 1
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 1
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 10 0 13
Pass 10 0 4
4NT 10 0 1
Other 0 0 1

This was the only landslide vote of the set; two-thirds of the panel and half the readers made the obvious bid of game in our 11-card fit. We'll hear from just a small handful of the majority, and then move on to see if the minorities have anything useful to add.

Alex Kemeny: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Bidding one more than the Law of Total Tricks says because of my void in one of their suits. I would not be entirely happy passing their 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so I prefer to give them a decision immediately.

Ian Patterson: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). E-W haven't yet found their fit, but if it's Clubs they'll have to bid 1 more.

Michael Burt: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). EW may well have game on in either spades or clubs as the best we can hope for in defence is one diamond trick. make it hard for the opposition to judge where they should be.

Henri de Jong: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). EW to decide on the final contract

Wayne Somerville: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Forcing the opponents to guess. I trust partner is not one of those players to overcall on complete garbage.

David Matthews: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I like to bid to the likely competitive level as soon as possible. It could be wrong but it puts the pressure on the opponents who have a decision to make.

Hans van Vooren: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). So many ways for them to go wrong after this.

Tania Black: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We will get there some time so why not now? Only one black suit loser at most.

On to the minorities, and quite a few people were distracted by our beautiful heart suit:

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) next. (I hope there is a next!)

H. C. Wilton: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't hurt to get this suit into the bidding. Why jump to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and be on lead against a possible involuntarily bid of 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)?

Julian Foster: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). On the way to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) later.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Yes we have a fit in diamonds but hopefully partner may have three hearts to support me. A major suit would be better if we have a fit.

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Promises five hearts and reasonable values. It looks as if EW have the black suits and we have the red. Plan to show D fit on next bid.

Roger Yandle: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). there will be more bidding I'm sure, so I can support partner's diamonds later if I need to.

Tim Munro: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). You can always run to diamonds, so good to assess if you have a double fit so you can make decisions later on.

Phil Hocking: Dbl. Double showing hearts with a rebid of diamonds still possible.

Prominent bidding theorist Eric Kokish also went for the scientific option:

Eric Kokish: Dbl. May as well show the five-card heart suit via a Snapdragon Double. If nothing else it might help North with the lead against a high spade contract. Guessing how many diamonds to bid is clearly a sensible alternative as 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) in theory is game-forcing and E/W have not yet agreed on a suit. I`d rather try to get North involved in a later decision and bidding clubs (say 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)) feels too presumptuous as E/W have not indicated they have a spade fit.

Ron Klinger: Dbl. Prepared to take the chance to bring the hearts into play. Any jump such as 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is likely to push them into six.

Dismissing the heart bidders:

Leigh Matheson: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This is a competitive hand. Playing in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a mirage.

David Caprera: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I am betting it is more important to take their room away than it is trying to get hearts in play, so I ramp it up.

Nigel Kearney: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I'm ignoring the heart suit because I doubt we can make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and not 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and be allowed to play there. With five trumps, a void and a king we are clearly too good for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and I want to give them as hard a guess as possible.

Dan Baker: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). No need to bother with the hearts when we already have a 10+ card fit. Jam the auction now. My one concern with this is that it pushes them to 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), but we might be beating that, and they're guessing instead of having some room to sort it out if I bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Very tempted to bid hearts but pre-empting above both black suit games I think will give them the hardest job

John R. Mayne: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Finally, a respite. It's not worth trying to find the heart fit - if we've got one, maybe they can make seven.

We do have a heart fit, and yes, they can make 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

There were a couple of mentions of fit-showing jumps (and fit non-jumps) mostly from people who discarded the option:

Brad Johnston: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't think a fit-bid of 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is right, when it would guide them in the auction. Partner may easily have enough along with our images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q and images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K to set them at the 5 level, so I don't think 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a good bid.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). forcing the (probable) club-support from West to the 6-level and leaving the opps with a guess. I considered a fitbid (probably not available in AB) but that gives them more room, which I dont want to do

Kees Schaafsma: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a fitbid? No, either West can support clubs or East can support spades.

Next, the cue bidders:

David Appleton: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Lots of playing strength (tempered by their auction), and this is the right lead against spades.

Patrice Fincias: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Control Cue bid in club in case usefull for partner to decide , i have not sufficient strength to directly bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), wait and see.

Brian Lawless: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). No reason to bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) - that may be the last lead I want against 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner also knows of the big D fit

Peter Vlas: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Three elements. D support, consumption of biddingspace and a possible lead for P in a spade contract (although this might be a bit dubious). Prefer this to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)

Again, this option had a fraction of panel support (in fact, from the man who held the hand in real life):

Paul Lavings: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Anything could be happening and I could have a great hand or a poor one. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks like a shortage so will surely lead us in the right direction.

Since 2015 the majority of problems in this column have been submitted by Paul Lavings, and in his voting he generally stands by the choice he made at the table.

The only remaining votes are for less aggressive diamond raises:

Larry Brose: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Double would be scary if all passed.

Duncan Roe: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner overcalled so may not be all that strong. Just bid 3

Bridge Baron: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too weak for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), even though we can safely retreat to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is safe.

Charles Scholl: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is tempting but too much at equal vul.

Adrian Pang: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Huge fit.

A.K. Simon: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I can't shut out the impending club raise, so I bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes),and over 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) I'll bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). West may then make a slow double and East will have to leave it in. At least that's my dream.

Ron Lel: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I would bid 5 if NV vs Vul.

Ron Landgraff: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Law. Blocks 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) by opponent.

Peter Robinson: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Lots of things are possible. My spades could be a liability, my club void could be spectacular, partner could be poised to double something. Make them guess.

Neil Silverman: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not sure where opponents are headed yet so don't want to jump to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I could double to show hearts but diamonds will probably play better and unlikely to buy 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) anyway.

The 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) raise is one of the least accurate descriptions possible for this hand (but I've given it a token award anyway). The 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) raise is only a little more useful than 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but it did have some panel support:

Tim Bourke: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems a bit over the top and is likely to fail. Give them a guess at the four-level instead.

Eddie Kantar: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). In my younger days 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hate those spades.

If you're as old as Eddie Kantar, I'll award 40 points for the 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid; otherwise zero. Submit your birth certificates to this magazine.

The full deal:

spades 73
hearts QJ10
diamonds AKQ975
clubs 97
spades AJ9854
hearts A86
clubs A532
spades K10
hearts 75
diamonds 104
clubs KQJ10864
spades Q62
hearts K9432
diamonds J8632

8 out of 24 pairs bought the hand in 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x (one off) and six saved in 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). One pair defended 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (making), and the remainder were in 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Hand Four - North deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A9
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q86
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 653
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) JT532


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


Call Award %
Pass 100 55 34
1NT 90 40 53
Dbl 30 5 5
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 0 5
2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 2

Alex Kemeny: 1NT. Would it be stupid to say "What is the problem?"

I would never, ever use the word "stupid" to describe a reader's comment. But yes, yes it would. Don't feel bad though:

Emil Battista: 1NT. What is the problem?

Sartaj Hans: 1NT. Unanimous?

If you're gonna be wrong, be wrong in good company. Sartaj has answered "Unanimous?" four times in the past year, and on two of those occasions he chose the top-scoring bid.

Dean Pokorny: 1NT. Anything but 1NT is masterminding.

Roger Yandle: 1NT. I can't think of any other bid I'd consider so I've obviously missed something here

Kees Schaafsma: 1NT. Let's be polite: I fail to see the point. Though I mean to say that this problem is pointless.

The unusual use of the word "though" suggests that Kees meant to write "I don't mean to say that this problem is pointless" but his Freudian slip took over.

Martyn Rew: 1NT. 7 points with a spade stop. No other option. Too weak for 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Dan Baker: 1NT. Spades stopped, 7 points, no fourth heart for a negative double, not enough for 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), bad three-card support for partner's opened minor. What else is left?

Peter Vlas: 1NT. just limiting the hand, no solid stop promised. And frankly I see no alternative as I don't believe in pass.

1NT received 8 out of 20 expert votes, and half of the reader votes, so it's obviously not a bad choice. But the expert majority does believe in Pass:

Hans van Vooren: Pass. I'm not going to say "what else" in a bidding contest, but I'm stuck and partner will be happy to find me with a maximum hand for my bidding for once.

Julian Foster: Pass. 1NT doesn't feel descriptive. Not enough hearts to double. I prefer to pass and await developments.

Steve Robinson: Pass. 1nt is constructive and I don't have a constructive hand

Ian McCance: Pass. A featureless hand. Not 1NT with a short stopper.

Neil Silverman: Pass. Another HCP or two and I would double even with the three hearts, but here no rush. A close 2nd choice at MP's is 1NT and if opponents were weak would probably risk that.

David Appleton: Pass. Better to limit then push hard, than overbid then want to pull the reins.

Tony Treloar: Pass. Bidding 1NT could be easily see us -200 or -300 when they have nothing on. I can pass and see where this auction goes.

Ron Lel: Pass. Certainly not good enough for 1NT.

Louis Dekker: Pass. Close to 1NT, but that would wrong side it

Bridge Baron: Pass. Give me one more point and I'll bid 1NT over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

David Caprera: Pass. The auction isn't over. If I steal the contract, I am probably going 200. But I suck at matchpoints. I wouldn't dream of bidding at imps.

Cynthia Belonogoff: Pass. Vul vs not vul and weak hand I'm passing first up.

H. C. Wilton: Pass. With 4 cards in hearts I must Double, but why strain to bid with a light, no-fit hand? My next call may well be easy (but perhaps tough).

Let's get back to the minority, and hear from those who offered more than "What else" as a comment for 1NT:

Michael Burt: 1NT. Notrump normally scores well at matchpoints and none of the alternative bids look attractive.

Wayne Somerville: 1NT. Close between 1NT and double. I generally avoid double without 4 hearts unless I felt there was no other alternative.

Dean Eidler: 1NT. At Matchpoints. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) at Teams.

David Matthews: 1NT. Not much else to do other than 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but I think 1NT is better as it is easier for partner to judge what to do next.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 1NT. that's what I have. I'd prefer 1 more spade. Maybe partner will surpise us with 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). That would be ideal as it will probably take the trick more to offset the NT-bonus (a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-rebid may have the same advantage as it will probably be based on an unbalanced hand with a singleton and that increases the chances of 6 diamonds)

Brad Johnston: 1NT. Double too strongly implies four hearts, and I don't want to pass an 8 count. Lo and behold, I can even stop spades (once).

Artur Wasiak: 1NT. In Polish style (1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) usually 5+, 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with all balanced hands, even four diamonds and two clubs) I would think about 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but opposite (3)4+ cards opening it doesn't seem to be a good idea.

Your proposed 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) style is very popular at expert level in Australia too, and in most of my partnerships I would have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Even playing better minor, there were still a few votes for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes):

Brian Lawless: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The most difficult of the set! This is the least-encouraging bid I can make and I think I have to bid something.

Nigel Kearney: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We are worth one bid, and supporting partner's suit is the most useful and descriptive one. Bidding 1NT may not be that great if they pass, and makes it hard for partner to compete if they raise and he has a decent diamond suit.

The other minority choice:

Robert Black: Dbl. Happy to hear 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) from partner.

Ron Landgraff: Dbl. Put diamond in with hearts.

The full deal:

spades 74
hearts KJ92
diamonds AQJ10
clubs AK8
spades K53
hearts 1053
diamonds 9742
clubs 964
spades QJ10862
hearts A74
diamonds K8
clubs Q7
spades A9
hearts Q86
diamonds 653
clubs J10532

Hand Five - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 8532
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQJT75
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3

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


Call Award %
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 59 41
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 36 15
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 30 5 9
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10 0 7
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 21
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 3
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 3
3NT 0 0 1

Like Problems One and Two, there are two decisions to be made here, an easy one and a difficult one. The easy decision: which suit do we play in? Hearts. The (slightly) tougher decision: how high?

Brian Lawless: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A great 7-card suit should be trumps. Gives some chance of staying out of a non-making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Peter Robinson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good problem. Not an uncommon situation, and my scars are reminding me that a long suit of this strength has to be emphasised.

Alan Jones: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I know 4-4 major fits are nice, but nothing beats a solid 7-card trump suit.

A.K. Simon: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). No point in overbidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or splintering. If partner has two Aces or KQ of spades and an Ace he will raise to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or try 3NT.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner's spades should be useful but there is no need to choose spades as the trumps.

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows long strong Hs and encourages North to bid again. If he has reasonable values game could be on in Hs.

Larry Brose: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I hope this is forcing.

No. I understand that different parts of the world have different treatments, but I've never come across 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as forcing before. Very highly encouraging, yes. My mentor Peter Gill taught me to not pass it if I could find any excuse to bid again.

While we're on the topic:

Emil Battista: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if it's forcing - I hope it is. I like 4-4 fits.

It so isn't.

Roger Yandle: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm not concerned about partner passing - the opps haven't bid so partner has a good hand. This bid will give partner the maximum space to look for slam.

Ah, that explains why Roger's partner, Emil, thought 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was forcing. Roger always has a good hand when this auction comes up.

Robert Black: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We might have four quick losers. If not partner has another chance.

David Caprera: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If your bids are spoken, you could bid "Spades?" in a lilting voice so as to inquire as to whether partner's trump are good. Something like AKQx-xx-xxx-Axxx is good for 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but only 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). On the other hand, Axxx-x-xxxx-Axxx may make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but fail by several tricks in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The best bid is probably "3 Sparts", but I couldn't find it in the list of choices. If my hearts were a minor, I could rebid 4m. But I confess I play 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as natural. I am going to take a chance on spades providing that extra trick.

For the record David, if you ever can't find the bid you need in the list of choices, just choose Other and list your bid in the comments, and it gets added. I've added 3images/sparts.gif (112 bytes) to the drop down box for you.

Patrice Fincias: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Lack of aces. No direct bid for double splinter in minor...what a shame.

No imagination Patrice. Just take a leaf out of David Caprera's book and bid 4images/cliamonds.gif (112 bytes).

There were quite a lot of votes for a splinter (the real one, not the one with the king):

H. C. Wilton: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) won't get us to a slam but the splinter might.

Cynthia Belonogoff: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Could be off if partner has wasted values in the minors but difficult to find out.

David Matthews: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Do we raise Spades or rebid our good Heart suit. I prefer the raise of partner's suit. Depending on partner's hand slam is not out of the question.

Phil Hocking: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Given there has been no bid of a minor I suspect partner will have very few hearts. and my two singletons should be a good opportunity to ruff.

Brad Johnston: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If the minors were the other way around this'd be harder. Splintering a stiff king isn't appetising, but if you mate can cue 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) showing the ace or last train 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then you've got a mad hand.

Ron Lel: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Probably not ideal with such weak spades.

Peter Vlas: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). See no better bid although we need to be careful on the spade quality. But I want to play 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) anyhow and don't want to rule out slams

Cathy Hocking: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). spade fit with hand revalued to 16 points and 5 looser, can't count singleton king as extra points. Wait and see what partner has. 4 spades is on and maybe slam.

Michael Burt: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The bidding so far with EW quiet and NS having a spade fit suggests slam could well be on.

Martyn Rew: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). There must be a lot of clubs and diamonds out there, but neither Opponent has enough HCP's to mention them. Partner may be short on entries if hearts is trumps

Leigh Matheson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Would prefer to play in hearts. But spades should be fine and this allows partner's input to bid to the right level.

I usually award consolation points to popular minority choices (or ones I sympathise with), but I've declined to do so here because (a) 95% of panellists chose to play in hearts, and (b) 40% of panellists thought the hand was not strong enough to bid game. Also, I tend to trust this guy when he says he is too weak to splinter:

Bridge Baron: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Simulation between 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (for -280.5 on average) and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (for -462.0 on average.) Too weak to splinter.

This isn't really the simulation we needed, but fortunately I already did my own before posing the problem. I was surprised to discover that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) wasn't actually far behind 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes); you'd be unlucky to be punished for bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Showing the spade support by splintering I think distorts the hand.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seven card side suits do not work, so I will not raise spades or splinter. If partner has a good hand, they can bid again. If partner has solid spades and a minor suit ace then yes, we may miss a slam.

Julian Foster: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Don't want to lock into spades with a splinter when partner's spades will have to be very good to avoid a loser. If partner has the aces we will need to make slam, he may well move over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) anyway.

Dean Pokorny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Choosing the proper trump suit is more important than unilaterally exploring a thin slam. Besides, if we belong to slam, partner will surely continue over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Damo Nair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I need 2 aces & some spade cards for a slam. If North has those he can move over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't need to do any fancy footwork here.

Charles Scholl: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Wouldn't want to bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), in case partner passes with Axxxx xx xxx Qxx. Wouldn't want to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), in case partner looks for slam, expecting more than one keycard from my side. Slam is still possible if partner has good controls.

Alexander Shchennikov: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I hope this hand has the 34% that we need to play vul game. We need only aces and/or good spade combination (or help opponents with first lead), but we have no tools to explore this. Choose hearts because of threat of trumps reduction with killing hearts in spade contract.

The hand absolutely does have the 34% we need to play game. The main reason there were so many expert votes for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was not so much that they were worried about making 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) -- rather, they were worried about partner bidding 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes):

Frank Stewart: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hearts should be trumps. I am afraid to make any stronger bid on the principle that it is wrong to overbid your high cards. If I jumped to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), partner would surely bid six with AQxx-xx-Jxx-AKxx.

This is the same principle that stops us from opening 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with a ten playing trick hand such as images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)AKQxxxxxxx-images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x-images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)x-images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)x: partner will never let you stop in game. However, Peter Smith argued that partner would probably still look for slam over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with Frank's example hand, so it's not worth taking the (small) risk of partner passing 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

George Hashimoto: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Issue 1: I should have a stronger hand, but I want to be in game. Issue 2: Whilst this hand has a source of tricks with spades as trumps, it may actually play better in hearts.

John R. Mayne: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Oh, no - partner is void with AQ64-void-J943-J9542! Hearts still might play better even then. The blast has ways not to work, but partner will usually only move when it's right.

Dan Baker: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Ironically, the fewer hearts partner has, the more important it is to play in them rather than spades - partner may not be able to get here if my hand gets tapped early in spades.

There was another good example of this in the SWPT in January (click here) where you need to play 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) in the long suit opposite a void. On that deal the alternative club fit was perfectly solid, but entries to the heart suit were still a problem -- as it turned out, all contracts made, but a 4-1 club break would still have jeopardised 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Nigel Kearney: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This looks like the right strain and is about right on strength. Partner may over-value the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K and under-value secondary spade honours but you can't have everything. Playing 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on a 4-4 could be awkward.

Jack Lai: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Although there is a 4-4 Spade fit, it's still better to play in 7-x Heart fit to avoid being forced off.

Henri de Jong: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I like my trump suit and in spades may not be able to bring in the hearts. Surely this hand should play in hearts.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A spade raise is tempting, but I think this hand will play better if the opponents can't see it.

Ian McCance: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Rushing it a bit, but nervous of interference

We'll end with a handful of people who were not happy with our opening bid, given that we always intended to play in hearts anyway:

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What I should have bid one round earlier. Now partner might expect a stronger hand. Spades are not in the picture.

Kees Schaafsma: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hearts play better than spades opposite shortness in hearts. Also other table may have opened 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), which in my opinion is better than opening 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

David Appleton: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Inconsistent with 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I know, but other calls are greater distortions.

Postscript on the awards for this hand: I've decided to upgrade 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) so that it scores the same as 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but the scores won't take effect until after the April forum is published. Thanks to Simon Andrew for providing this problem at the 2015 NOT(!) -- sorry it took so long to print it.

Thanks for joining us again this month. Our April issue has been cancelled, as this issue was again quite late, so the next issue will be labelled April-June, published in early June. The April-June questions are already online, here.

Top scores for February
1John R Mayne USA500
1Michel Beauchamp CAN500
1Rainer Herrmann GER500
4Paul Sontag CAN490
4Jack Lai HKG490
4Kajsa Fröjd SWE490
4Damo Nair USA490
4Ian McCance Vic490
4Tony Treloar Qld490
4Todd Holes USA490
11George Hashimoto 480
11Pravin Nahar NSW480
11Wayne Somerville IRL480
11Steve Robinson USA480
11Niklas Andrén 480
11Kees Schaafsma NED480
11Alexander Shchennikov480
18Dean Pokorny CRO470
18Peter Nuoristo SWE470
18Dan Baker USA470
18Tom Estenson USA470
18Henri De Jong Vic470
18Onno Eskes NED470
18Benjamin Kristensen470
25John Adams USA460
25Geof Brod USA460
25Sonny Schultz 460
25Bruce Ballard NZL460
25Alex Kemeny NSW460
30Louis Dekker NED440
30Julian Foster NSW440
30Artur Wasiak POL440
30Bastiaan Korner NED440
34Zbych Bednarek POL430
34Roland Voigt GER430
34Jordan Cohen CAN430
34Jeff Fust Vic430
34Cor Lof NED430
34Mark Laforge 430
34Charles Scholl USA430
41Gail Smith Qld420
41Vlad Dragalchuk 420
41John Shield NSW420
44Par Ol-Mars 410
44Gary Lane NSW410
44David Caprera USA410
47Kevin O'Dea 400
47Gerald Koonce USA400
47Emil Battista NSW400
47Fredrik Jarlvik SWE400
47Peter Robinson Qld400
47Tania Black SA400
47Andrew Macalister GBR400
47Cynthia Belonogoff WA400
47Sam Arber Vic400
56Peder Linder SWE390
56Leigh Matheson NSW390
56Nigel Kearney NZL390
56Larry Brose USA390
56Rainer Retzler CRO390
56Steve Myerson USA390
56Steven Kipperman USA390
56Alan Jones Qld390
56Hans Van Vooren NED390
56Alan Boyce Qld390
56Ig Nieuwenhuis NED390

Leading scores for 2017
1John R Mayne USA500
1Michel Beauchamp CAN500
1Rainer Herrmann GER500
4Paul Sontag CAN490
4Jack Lai HKG490
4Kajsa Fröjd SWE490
4Damo Nair USA490
4Ian McCance Vic490
4Tony Treloar Qld490
4Todd Holes USA490
11George Hashimoto 480
11Pravin Nahar NSW480
11Wayne Somerville IRL480
11Steve Robinson USA480
11Niklas Andrén 480
11Kees Schaafsma NED480
11Alexander Shchennikov480
18Dean Pokorny CRO470
18Peter Nuoristo SWE470
18Dan Baker USA470
18Tom Estenson USA470
18Henri De Jong Vic470
18Onno Eskes NED470
18Benjamin Kristensen470
25John Adams USA460
25Geof Brod USA460
25Sonny Schultz 460
25Bruce Ballard NZL460
25Alex Kemeny NSW460
30Louis Dekker NED440
30Julian Foster NSW440
30Artur Wasiak POL440
30Bastiaan Korner NED440
34Zbych Bednarek POL430
34Roland Voigt GER430
34Jordan Cohen CAN430
34Jeff Fust Vic430
34Cor Lof NED430
34Mark Laforge 430
34Charles Scholl USA430
41Gail Smith Qld420
41Vlad Dragalchuk 420
41John Shield NSW420
44Par Ol-Mars 410
44Gary Lane NSW410
44David Caprera USA410
47Kevin O'Dea 400
47Gerald Koonce USA400
47Emil Battista NSW400
47Fredrik Jarlvik SWE400
47Peter Robinson Qld400
47Tania Black SA400
47Andrew Macalister GBR400
47Cynthia Belonogoff WA400
47Sam Arber Vic400
56Peder Linder SWE390
56Leigh Matheson NSW390
56Nigel Kearney NZL390
56Larry Brose USA390
56Rainer Retzler CRO390
56Steve Myerson USA390
56Steven Kipperman USA390
56Alan Jones Qld390
56Hans Van Vooren NED390
56Alan Boyce Qld390
56Ig Nieuwenhuis NED390
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
April-June issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
February issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.