The issue is whether we should invite slam, and if so, how to do that. Since RHO did not raise, we might wonder where all the spades are. Partner might have a hand stronger than a 2NT overcall with good spades, or a strong hand with lots of clubs:
Robb Gordon: 4. It is beyond strange that East couldn't act. Sounds like partner has a good balanced hand. I am taking it slowly.
David Caprera: 4. What? AB standard doesn't have a bid for an 8-4 hand? Preposterous! Why was there no spade raise? (The dog that didn't bark.)
Robert Black: 4. Give up on slam unless partner is interested.
Christine Chandler: 4. Natural, game forcing.
Neil M. Silverman: 4. Sounds like partner has a 2NT opening or East is fooling around. Either way, not likely to go all pass.
Peter Vlas: 4. That's where I want to be. In my opinion 3 suggests more strength and leave things out in the open.
Tony Treloar: 4. This might be a little good for this bid but should still get us to slam when right.
Alan Jones: 4. Who knows? Was that meant to be a penalty double by partner?
We can also use Lebensohl to get to 4. Without any detailed agreement, this sounds weaker and therefore more shapely than an immediate 4. We also get to find out whether partner has a typical takeout double or something else.
Martyn Rew: 2NT. After partner's 3, 4 will show shape rather than high card strength.
Dean Pokorny: 2NT. If I jump to 4, partner will never pass. Lebensohl 2NT is the best way to: 1) buy 4, or 2) reach 6/7 (in the case partner continues with 3 over 2NT).
Brad Johnston: 2NT. Seems suspicious - I have a spade void and partner made a takeout double. If he has a double and bid he won't complete the relay, so I'll have a better idea of what to do next round. I can decide what to do later, but it's probably bidding 4 to play or supporting diamonds.
Niklas Andrén: 2NT. To find out if partner is strong. 4 over 3. 4 over 3.
When playing Lebensohl, 3 here is invitational not forcing. Of course it is very unlikely to be passed on this hand because either partner has spades and therefore extra values, or RHO is walking the dog. Two experts chose 3 for tactical reasons and it does have the benefit of showing our suit while keeping the bidding relatively low to let partner get his hand off his chest so he won't feel as bad when we then ignore him and keep bidding hearts.
Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3. I'm expecting a club bid next (that always happens), but he did double, so I'll start by introducing my hearts. Over his next bid I may have a problem, but can cue after a red bid and rebid hearts later.
Phil Hocking: 3. A forcing bid showing hearts as my suit. Can look for slam hopefully.
Peter Nuoristo: 3. Bid slowly. Partner might be strong with clubs, or even better with diamonds.
David Matthews: 3. For me, playing Lebensohl means that a three-level bid is 100% forcing to game. We may be able to cue spades later (or KickBack or Voidwood, whichever is your agreement).
The cue bid is always popular on these problems and was the preferred expert choice.
Tim Trahair: 3. Asking partner to bid his suit. We can follow that with 4 showing our long suit and letting him decide where to go next. Slam or even grand slam in hearts must be a real possibility.
Peter Lipp: 3. Chances for slam are good. So overbid a little.
Cathy Hocking: 3. Five-loser hand. Cuebid to let partner know I have a good hand forcing a rebid by partner. Then I will let him know my heart suit, maybe slam is on. Too strong to bid 3 or even directly bidding 4. I think partner has a good hand as East passed after North doubled; they could have bid but chose not to.
Brian Lawless: 3. If partner bids 3NT, I will then bid 4. If he bids anything else, 6 will be a good bet.
David Appleton: 3. Only because others are worse and ripping partner's response to hearts is a slam try.
Michael Burt: 3. Slam in hearts or diamonds looks a real possibility. 3 is likely to be taken by partner as encouraging and elicit more information.
Arthur Porter: 3. Strong, tell me more partner. 6 must be a good chance.
Roger Yandle: 3. Where are all the spades? If partner has some then they must have a hand that's too strong to overcall 2NT. Hence slam is a real possibility. Hopefully my bid will let partner describe their hand further without cutting off and avenues just yet.
John R Mayne: 3. Where are the spades? Partner sounds very strong with tripleton garbage spades (with more, she just has to bid notrump). I intend to follow whatever partner does with 4, and I will be happy to cooperate with slam tries. When the 4 bidders catch xxx-KQ5-AK43-Axx and attempt to blame partner, I'm not buying what they're selling.
The problem with this is that we are suggesting more high card values than we have. Of course we have compensating shape, but partner with a big balanced hand will be a bit stuck over 3 and might even take a shot at 6NT which is unlikely to be best.
If not 3, then maybe 4. This could work but will need an understanding partner:
Dan Baker: 4. Followed by 5. Is it too much to hope partner will interpret that as a void + freak shape, given that a real monster hand would have started with a regular cue instead of a jump cue?
A. K. Simon: 4. Bizarre. Why didn't East raise spades? I imagine partner will bid 5, then over my 5 he will know to disregard his spade values. Or so I hope.
Rainer Herrmann: 4. I would rather jump to 6 than to game. Partner seems to be strong.
Murray Perrin: 4. North has a monster. I changed from 6 to 4 exclusion key card for hearts; it depends on system. One does not have to worry about the queen as there is a 10-card fit or better.
Todd Holes: 4. What is East up to? 4, then keep bidding hearts.
Here's the simplest way to try for slam:
Gary Lane: 6. 5-loser opposite 7-loser. 12 tricks with no defence.
Patrice Fincias: 6. Could be an underbid!
Alex Kemeny: 6. I think this hand has had too much publicity for you to have selected it. I expect a singleton Q in dummy and I'll drop the singleton K on my left to make this contract. (Obviously not enough publicity Alex; it seems word hasn't gotten out about the cold 7 you just missed. - Brad)
Emil Battista: 6. Just in case partner has forgotten Lebensohl! And on this bombshell I shall say see you next year.
Fraser Rew: 6. Sue me.
Ron Lel: 6. This is a very difficult hand. I am really put off by East's failure to raise spades which suggests partner has a few. If this is the case then partner should have a very good notrump-type hand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I would do what I would do at the table and bid 6. Please, why are we not playing transfers here? (Ron, you know I love transfers in every possible situation, but virtually no experts play transfers in this position, with good reason. My previous articles have discussed why Lebensohl is more appropriate than Rubensohl here. - Brad)
Ron, you need to consider that partner doesn't know we have figured out his hand, and that we are bidding his hand when we bid 6. Sometimes partners feel entitled to bid their own hand, so you'll find yourself taking 12 tricks in 7. I think partner will raise 5 to 6 on the sorts of hands the 6 bidders are hoping for. So I prefer this:
Tania Black: 5. Feeling optimistic, but cannot show hand otherwise.
Zbych Bednarek: 5. Looking for slam (depends on heart honours in partner's hand and aces).
That's all for now. Have a good Christmas and see you next year.
The full deal, from Peter Gill at the Territory Gold Festival:
More than half of the pairs in 6 went down (presumably by running the Q). No one bid the easy 7 although there were a few pairs in 6.
Congratulations to our 2018 Readers' Race winner, Paul Sontag of Canada.
The February questions are online now, here, and the magazine should have arrived by the time you read this. We have also had some requests to make the archives of our previous forums available, so we will be working to do this over the next few weeks.
Merry Christmas, and we'll be back here again in early February. -Brad