Our final problem was voted as a two-horse race by most of the panel and readers, although the panel favoured passing while the readers chose 4. There was one reasonable minority option though, and we'll start with that:
Phil Hocking: 3. Wishing partner had not doubled.
Mick McAuliffe: 3. No good answer here. All appear to have problems. Time to be wimpy and slightly underbid my hand? If I had an extra spade or club, would bid 4 or 4 but don't fancy a 4-3 fit with the opps partner possibly having a handful of trumps behind my partner at this stage.
Alan Jones: 3. Prepared for a Moysian fit.
Duncan Roe: 3. Choice is between clubs at the next level and spades with only 3. With 9 HCP I should really jump, but given the above predicament, choose not to.
That's good general advice. On the really difficult hands, playing in the right suit will often get you a swing so there's no need to get too aggressive (despite the actual table result which you will see later). Whether you have in fact chosen the right suit, is another question.
I can't remember whether it was me or Phil who made the decision to upgrade 3 to the same award as 4, but that's what it says in the magazine and it seems fair enough. Some less-reasonable minorities:
Alex Kemeny: 4. Tough. Diamonds too weak to pass. As partner is short in diamonds he is moderately likely to have a fifth spade. 3 is wimpish at this form of scoring.
Todd Holes: 5. I hate all my choices!
Brad Johnston: 3NT. "He was third in hand - I'm was paying him as much respect as he deserved" - overheard as someone tried to explain their 14 imp swing out.
We don't really have the values to make any of the contracts mentioned by that group. There were no other comments from the 3NT voters, although a few people did mention it in their comments; for some it was the deciding factor in their choice between 4 and 3:
Peter Fordham: 3. This is an ugly proposition, but I do not want to bid beyond 3NT in case partner can follow up with that. 4 has little going for it.
Sam Arber: 3. Might make 3NT if partner has a diamond honour.
Tim Trahair: 3. A bit scary but better to keep the bidding at the three-level in case we have game in 3NT.
Dan Baker: 5. 3NT is wrong; if partner had the stopper you'd be gambling on he'd likely have bid 3NT himself, afraid you'd bid 4 over a double. A Moysian ruffing in the long hand doesn't look appealing either. I'm too strong to make a minimum response.
David Matthews: 4. 3NT can't be right without a stopper and partner might well have a big hand so I bid my suit. If partner now bids a Major I have reasonable support.
Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4. Minus 470 or more in IMP-games never does well. 3NT is too risky without at least 10xxx and I dont have majors. If I'm lucky he's strong/long enough to bid again and I can offer up my three-card spade suit.
Brad Johnston: Pass. 3rd hand favourable preempts are often jokes (if I'm playing a rock-solid citizen I'm bidding 3NT instead). I have some nice defensive cards and while 3NT could be a goer I believe the eV from passing is higher than bidding here.
Yes, that was Kiwi Brad discrediting his own 3NT bid in his second set of answers. As much as I enjoy duplicate answers, I'll undertake to have some accident prevention measures in place before the next forum.
The Pass was a popular choice with the panel, with a full 50% of the vote. For the readers there was only 25% support, which is understandable; it's a potentially expensive and embarrassing choice at the table, and a risky choice in a bidding forum.
Julian Foster: Pass. A no-brainer at Matchpoints. Tougher at IMPs but I can't think of anything I prefer.
John R Mayne: Pass. What else? Partner figures to lead a high card, and maybe I get a heart ruff before all the trumps wander off. I admire the heroic 3NT bidders, though that could end with our hero burning bright.
Peter Vlas: Pass. Hard one. It's for takeout but I have no great place to go although having the values for it. 3 is not my style, 4 is a bit vague, 3NT is a bold gamble. None is attractive so I pass, praying for a good result.
Leigh Matheson: Pass. Hopefully he hooks straight into partner's stiff K.
Nigel Kearney: Pass. In my experience the percentage action is to pass in these situations. The frequency and magnitude of the gains is enough that you can live with the occasional -470.
Ian Patterson: Pass. Is West in 3rd seat weaker or stronger than "usual"? What will partner bid over 3? Even 2 off doubled is better than a partscore.
I think third seat just means a wider range. He's allowed to be weaker, and allowed to be stronger.
Martyn Rew: Pass. Looks to be more chance of taking opps light than making anything constructive here.
Derek Pocock: Pass. Hoping fot 300 to our improbable game. This Forum seems to be devoted to the problem with the difficult red suits and which side do they support - the good guys or the shooters.
Emil Battista: Pass. Thinks any other bid will convert a sure plus score to smaller plus score.
Peter Robinson: Pass. This may not work out, but the Law of Total Tricks taught us that on these hands with no big fits, it's better to defend at the three-level when you have some trump length.
Dean Pokorny: Pass. Clear pass, classic LOTT decision. Both 4 and 5 would be wrong with only four clubs.
Kees Schaafsma: Pass. No clear fit, at best 18 total tricks opposite 4-4-0-5, else less than 18 which makes pass the favourite call. I'm happy with any lead.
With all those comments about the law of total tricks, we probably should hear from the poster-child:
Larry Cohen: Pass. In real-life, I'd be afraid to do this, but on paper, what the heck. If nothing else, it will maybe make them think twice about their next preempt.
Andrew Robson: Pass. Finally, an easy question. Bidding would break The Law, for sure.
Getting back to the "takeout doubles are for taking out" group, nearly half of the readers simply bid their best suit. In the long run (assuming you are taking out the double) I do think it's worth going up a level to increase the chance of playing in a fit:
Andrea Viscovich: 4. I know someone will try 3 but I don't like it.
Cathy Hocking: 4. Can't leave double in as don't have rule of 9. Maybe spades is the correct bid but I only have 3 and would give wrong information.
Timothy Wright: 4. I have a real club suit. If we have game in a major, it is because partner has extras. She can show her suit next.
Nigel Guthrie: 4. Pass at MPs but a horrible guess at IMPs. Clubs might play better than than spades.
Michael Burt: 4. A 4-3 spade fit could be in big trouble if diamonds are led. The club bid looks safer even if we end up in a 4-3 fit.
Similar to the decision between major-suit Moysians on the previous problem; as Dan mentioned earlier, we prefer the one where the force is being taken in the short hand.
Bridge Baron: 4. I don't have a penalty pass with my weak trumps. I don't have a stopper for 3NT. I don't have support in a major.
Damo Nair: 4. I don't think I should pass with soft values. Not sure.
Roger Yandle: 4. It's too hard to tell whether 3 is making or not (give pard Axxx-QJxx-void-AQJxx and 3 makes) so at this form of scoring I'm pulling the double as the risk of a bad score are too high
Tania Black: 4. Partner was looking for a major, but I haven't one, and we need five quick tricks if I pass. West's third seat 3 may not be that weak.
Brian Lawless: 4. Too many small Diamonds to pass for penalties.
That's an often-overlooked point regarding trump length. Our weak four-card holding simply tells us that West (who has six or seven of the remaining nine trumps) will have the important ones. Our partner might provide as much as a king or a queen, but that still leaves West with four that will beat our 9.
Alexander Shchennikov: 4. Maybe bad contract. But the others can be even worse. And the partner still can rebid his major if he has or bid 4 with both majors.
Robert Black: 4. Pass is a bit scary at IMPs. We probably can make five tricks before West makes nine, but we might not. Partner's double does not promise the earth.
Ian McCance: 4. Maybe Pass, but takeout doubles should be taken out (Kaplan?)
Ron Lel: 4. Takeout doubles are for takeout. If partner raises I am not unhappy; if partner bids 4 of a Major, I am not unhappy. Yes we figure to beat them in 3 but at this vulnerability I feel I need to try for the extra 500 or even more.
There was in fact "500 or even more" available from pulling the double (or passing it):
Problems 1, 2, 3 and 5 came from this year's Great Lakes Congress. The first three were supplied by Paul Lavings, who has supplied most of our problems over the past few years. This one, coincidentally from the same event, was from Johnno Newman. Johnno bid 5, raised to 6 by partner and making 12. They were one of only two pairs, out of 34 tables, to bid a slam, and earned 12 imps. In theory, a few imps were also available by passing 3x, but in practice only two pairs defended diamonds and they both dropped a trick in defence.
The August questions are online now, here, and the June magazine should have arrived by the time you read this. Thanks for joining us again, and we'll do our best to stay on schedule for the rest of the year with the next forum being published in mid-August.