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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles – August 2005
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 including Andrew Robson, Larry Cohen, Mike Lawrence and Ron Klinger.
Scroll down for final scores
Hand One -  East deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQJ753
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 943
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K9
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A9


West North East South
    1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass pass ?


Call Award %
Pass 100 63 53
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 21 39
Double 30 16 8

We've had a record response this month, with some very long answers, so let me apologise in advance to anyone whose answers have been cut up into bite sized pieces. Hopefully I've kept your meaning, if not your actual words.

We start with the most fundamental of bidding problems: to bid or not to bid.

Jameson Cole: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Automatic at IMPs. Partner's hand could be minimal, with 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) making on as little as xxx x xxxx xxxxx, if RHO has spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A. If partner has any help at all, game is easy.

Bill Bennett: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). To bid is dangerous, but so is to pass. Reasonable chance of success, disaster unlikely, and 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make.

Manuel Paulo: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). On a good day, I can set 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but on a better day, I can win 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) even though partner has a Yarborough.

Joan d'Entremont: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner must have a void or singleton in hearts, but could have spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K and two small spades which would limit loss to two or three.

Ron Lel: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hard. I realise I could go for a number here. Would double if diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K was the ace.

Sam Arber: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even with right cards partner cannot bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opposite our 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) overcall. If we can defeat 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then we'll make 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too much downside to pass.

Zbych Bednarek and Sid Reynolds: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has short hearts with 3+ support, and at least one key value (diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A, clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K, spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K).

Eric Leong: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If West is showing some shape for his bid, he is probably short in spades so I would guess partner has a few spades and the spade hook is on if necessary. Give partner something minimal like xxx-x-Axxx-xxxxx and 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) has a decent play.

Tim Trahair: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). West's jump puts pressure on us, particularly vulnerable. Probably East has diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A so we may just make.

Vince Davies: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Difficult choice. The total trick count might well be 20. I am gambling on EW having ten hearts and enough strength to get home. If so we stand a 75% chance of game and a 25% chance of one down. Two down is not all that bad. There is also the possibility of EW bidding 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and going off.

Bidding 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is very unilateral, so at first glance it seems sensible to give partner an "out":

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. Far too strong to sell out to 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have hard defensive values so if partner decides to defend, that's fine by me. If I find partner with three small spades, a singleton heart and one top card in the minors I'll have good play for 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

David Hester: Dbl. Of course, I may be offering partner a choice of disasters.

Nathan Crafti: Dbl. If I was any good at this game I might get these decisions right occasionally. If I pass, 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will romp in. If I double, pard will pass and 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will roll in with overtricks. If bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), it will go off when 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) didn't have a prayer. So I make the decision that passes the buck to pard and gives me a chance in the post mortem.

Marshall Lewis: Dbl. Pass is out of the question. 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems insufferably unilateral, though likely to prove right. Double is flexible, but the reality is that partner will often choose a losing action, because our hand has less defense than one normally holds for this sequence. But even so I Double, in keeping with one of Lewis' Laws for tiebreakers: look beyond the individual deal and select the action that will do least damage to partnership harmony if it goes wrong. (Cynics might translate this as: "select the action that does least to forfeit the postmortem".)

Marshall's comment about lack of defence is spot on, and so (post mortem issues notwithstanding) the Double has been demoted in the scoring.

Top score goes to the people with the plus score.

Peter Robinson: Pass. The silence of partner with a known heart shortage suggests defence. I'll be happy with a plus. It's actually a better lead problem, I think.

John R Mayne: Pass. Partner isn't void in hearts; he would have moved. Plus 50 is fine.

Fred Altstock: Pass. Not going anywhere on my own. Maybe we can defeat 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Denis Haynes: Pass. Nowhere to go, concentrate on defending 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Fraser Rew: Pass. I hate selling out to 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with spades, but my flat shape, potential defensive tricks and partner's silence suggest defending is the long-term winner.

Alexander Cook: Pass. You have already described your hand; don't bid it twice.

Andrew Gordon: Pass. Partner has a singleton heart and still cannot find a bid. Vulnerability is unfavourable, so a sacrifice could be expensive.

Terry Dunne: Pass. I’m far too weak to rebid spades. Partner, with at most one heart, couldn’t make a takeout double. I can’t double for takeout as we will almost certainly end up playing at the 5-level in at best a 5-2 fit and only about half the points.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is attractive but dangerous and unilateral; double will almost certainly get a minor response.

I hope partner would go out of his way to bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here. A minor response should be used only in an emergency.

Richard Bowdery: Pass. The little old biddies I play against always bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with this type of hand, to great effect, not for me though. Double is close, if partner will guess to pass with a decent hand and bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) otherwise. Bit too cute for me.

Robin Cross: Pass. Meckwell plays that 1M-4M could be a weak NT type with 3+ major support. A recent result was a 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid going for 800 or so vs their game. I adopted this style so bidding 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here against me might find heartsm.gif (112 bytes)xx in dummy and not the 'obvious' void. 

Thanks for the warning. Or is this a double bluff to scare us out of bidding against you?

Vic Liersch: Pass. Concede game; they are not going to slam and might still go down. Double could just give them more, especially if one has a spade void. Any other bid doubled two down is worse off.

Ken Berry: Pass. Too frightened by vul to bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might go down. (Does this make me an optimist or pessimist or just mist?)

Just mist, but you're in good company. On the actual deal, from a European tournament a few years ago, bidding 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was right in the sense that 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was a good save. But it achieved very little, because the opponents had an easy 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid:

ͺ T64
© T
¨ 762
§ KJ8752
ͺ ---
© 8765
¨ AQJ853
§ QT3
ͺ K982
¨ T4
§ 64
ͺ AQJ753
© 943
¨ K9
§ A9

Hand Two -  South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQJ3
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QJ76
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AJ
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q42


West North East South
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2 pass ?

1. Natural.
2. Natural and forcing.


Call Award %
4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 48 31
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 42 51
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 5 1
3NT 10 5 9
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 4
4NT 0 0 4

Fraser Rew: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). You're joking, right?

Comments like this are rarely accompanied by high-scoring bids, but this one sums up the problem perfectly. However, after a tough few weeks in Sydney, playing the Australian Nationals and the World Juniors, Fraser suffered a bit of a memory lapse and submitted a new set of answers:

Fraser Rew (one month later): 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) goes off with 3NT making surprisingly often. It would be nice to know whether LHO has a bid showing hearts and a minor. I prefer 3NT here if he does (as this increases the likelihood of a heart lead, not a minor when pard has diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)xxx or clubsm.gif (113 bytes)xx). I will assume there is no such bid available so will try the radical idea of raising partner's suit.

I'll pretend we never received the second answer. Let's go back to the obvious bid.

Eric Leong: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With superb trumps, slam is an excellent prospect if partner has a two suited hand and a stiff heart or a heart control.

Ken Berry: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Allows partner to control-bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Jameson Cole: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Implies big fit, slam interest, and denies a club control. Partner is now in control. If I hear 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from partner, I'll still bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to deny holding any additional useful feature.

Zbych Bednarek: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If I hear 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from partner, my next step will be 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) slam invitation.

Steve Johnston: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Obliged to cue below game level.

David Hester: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I owe partner one slam try, and the control bid seems most helpful.

Paul Tranmer: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My likely wasted heart values are compensated by my doubleton diamond.

Peter Robinson: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Even with duplication in hearts, the rest of the hand will fit well enough to justify a try below game.

Bill Bennett: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Although the hearts are useless, the excellent spade support makes the control bid worthwhile.

In the August issue of Australian Bridge, Mike Lawrence's column discusses the difference between a 5-3 fit and a 5-4 fit. He argues that the value of the 4th trump can actually be a whole trick, or even more. So even if we devalue our heart honours on this hand, the 4th spade puts us well in the maximum range.

Marshall Lewis: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I basically have a strong notrump even outside hearts, including four great trumps. I can't even think of a BAD reason to refrain from making the honest call, let alone a good reason.

Richard Bowdery: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner wants to force to game with poor spades, must have a good hand. I don't have too much in hearts so time for a cue.

Vince Davies: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Showing slam interest in spades and first round control of diamonds but not clubs. If partner can bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) we are up and running. If not it is probably better for North rather than South to bid 4NT.

Sam Arber: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If we decide not to bid 3NT then may as well cue 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on way to 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Slam is still possible.

Nigel Guthrie: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3NT may be safer but partner will never forgive me if we have a spade slam.

That's very true. Bob Jones was in your seat, and he hasn't forgiven partner for the actual 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid, let alone a selfish 3NT. Let's look at the 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders, some of whom are entranced by the wasted heart values.

Sid Reynolds: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 9-card fit overrules 3NT. Not worth a 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) control bid with wasted values in hearts.

Ron Lel: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I know 3NT could be the right spot, but I can't suppress such good support. This hand is not good enough to cue 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Vic Liersch: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pard already knows my hand and is in the position to make any further moves. If he invites I will accept. He has values outside spades; therefore RKCB would serve her/him well, if considering slam.

Terry Dunne: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a big trump fit and strength for game. It’s certainly possible that 3NT might play better than 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but to make that call I’d like better club spots. The doubleton diamond also suggests 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will play better than 3NT.

Alexander Cook: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 10 or 11 tricks seems easy, but partner is unlikely to have the perfect hand needed for 12 (Kxxxxx-x-KQx-AKx).

Why is this hand unlikely? I suppose by definition, any 15-count is unlikely because the average hand has only ten points. Does that mean we should never look for slams? Anyway, partner doesn't need nearly that much: the sixth spade and diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q are extras. We can even do without clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K if partner has diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)KQxx.

Sydney Frish: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Somehow it doesn't look right to go overboard – even if my NT is close to the top of the range.

Andrew Gordon: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner will like my hand. Partner can cue or ace ask.

Missing the AQJ of trumps? You'll need a pretty aggressive partner. If you think partner will like your hand, tell him.

Nathan Crafti: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Curse West. If only I could have super accepted. Hopefully, pard will be strong enough to ask me for keycards.

Herbert C Wilton: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Silly to go down in 3NT with 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on. Of course we can always construct hands.

That's true, we can always construct hands. Which leads us nicely into the minority vote:

Manuel Paulo: 3NT. Consider this example, where partner can't win 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a heart lead, and I win 3NT with any lead.

Frank Campbell: 3NT. My heart stoppers are OK and partner must have minor strength to justify his bid. If he has a spade stack he can rebid spades but nine tricks could be easier.

John Leenders: 3NT. East might get a ruff with a heart lead, this might be the better score.

John R Mayne: 3NT. Even with a 5-4, notrump figures to be safer here.

Robin Cross: 3NT. If partner shows another suit, I can support spades with AQJx.

I have some sympathy with those who feel AQJx is only good enough for second round preference. I've partnered some lousy declarers myself. You're still not getting the 100 points though.


Hand Three -  East deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 432
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQ42
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) T97
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T2


West North East South
    pass pass
pass 1diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 1heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass ?
Call Award %
2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 63 9
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 21 44
3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 30 11 8
2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 5 12
1NT 10 0 17
Pass 10 0 5
3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 4
2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 1

Partner has bid two suits, and has declined to support our suit. Isn't this what they call simple preference?

Manuel Paulo: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I show my preference between partner's two suits.

John R Mayne: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Must take another call, and 1NT is wrong-siding.

Nigel Guthrie: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). There is a very slight case for passing 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but partner could have passed 1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with a flat minimum. If partner has three hearts, he will support later.

Tim Trahair: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Can North do something more? If so there may be a game in NT or even hearts if he has three card support and now shows it.

David Hester: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Lack of points in partner's suits suggests caution.

Eric Leong: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too good to pass, so give partner another chance to bid again if he has a stronger than minimum hand.

63% of the experts were happy to simply give preference, but the readers were a bit more aggressive.

Nathan Crafti: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Pard knows that I'm a passed hand. Now I'll tell him that I'm a good passed hand with diamond support. Anyone who repeats hearts is just a hand-hog.

Ron Lel: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner's bidding has shown an unbalanced hand with diamonds and spades, and should not be 4-4 (rebid 1NT). This hand is a bit too good for a simple preference to 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may be a tad of an overbid, but I prefer this to the Caspar Milquetoast 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid.

Sid Reynolds: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Assuming 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) shows an unbalanced hand.

Sydney Frish: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Hearts are nice, but jump in diamonds should help partner to decide where to play.

Craig Taberner: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). No fourth suit forcing by a passed hand.

I confess that I have no idea whether FSF applies to a passed hand. In my partnerships, we pass so rarely that the issue has never come up. Here are the fourth suit bidders:

Richard Bowdery: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If ever I was worth fourth suit as a passed hand this is it. Never going to bid 1NT with this collection, too good for 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) doesn't get the job done.

Ken Berry: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Making one last positive step. Hope this is just a one round force only. Will respond 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if get the chance later.

Zbych Bednarek: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4th suit with passed hand – good heart suit. Who knows, even 3NT is possible.

Paul Tranmer: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4th suit forcing. I'm just too good to limit the hand by bidding anything else.

Well, one way or another, we have shown partner our trump support. So now we can move on to the next problem. But first, a short message from the hand hogs:

Sam Arber: 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Did not open so cannot have six hearts, must be max with solid 5 card heart suit. Partner appears to be short in hearts as did not bid NT at any time. Other bid is 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but may miss 3NT.

Vince Davies: 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes). North opened 1diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) fourth in hand, and opps failed to open or overcall, suggesting North has reasonable strength. 3NT or 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is more likely to succeed than 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). South is a passed hand and 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) shows a good heart suit and poor clubs. The only alternative might be 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Marshall Lewis: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A bit crass, but this is IMPs and we could have a game, and this seems the likeliest call to allow us to bid it intelligently (apologies to Webster's).

Fraser Rew: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I should have a sixth here but everything is looking pretty flawed so I make the smallest lie.

Fraser Rew (2nd attempt): 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Haven't we had this problem before? Looks awfully familiar.

You've got to hand it to these youngsters. They never forget a hand, even after a whole month.

Herbert C Wilton: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not perfect, but it's where I live.

Jameson Cole: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Why not? Hearts are what I have and a rebid shows a good suit with limited values.

Fred Altstock: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Showing five hearts. Partner could have three. Can't see game on.

As Nigel and Tim pointed out, if partner has three hearts he will bid them over 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Frank Campbell: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not thrilled with it but it is a solid suit and I am equally unexcited about supporting either of partner's suits at this stage. Prefer to see if he bids again.

Peter Robinson: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner happens to have the dreaded shortage in hearts, the suit could still be the best trump suit. Partner's long side suit can force out the defence's long trump and establish five trump tricks in hand.

Vic Liersch: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows preference for the suit without promising anything I haven't got.

Margaret Reid: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Describes my hand better than NT.

If there's one thing to be said for 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes), it's that it describes the hand better than 1NT. I don't think anyone would argue with that. Would they?

Rex Fox: 1NT. Should produce 7 or 8 tricks opposite a minimum opening even if there is a 5-3 heart fit.

Denis Haynes: 1NT. Show point count and leave partner to bid again.

Terry Dunne: 1NT. One alternative is pass (possible because I’m a passed hand), but my heart suit could well provide five tricks in no trumps while not being as useful in a 4-3 spade fit – at some point the defence will ruff a heart and partner will have no way back to dummy to take the rest of the heart tricks. The other alternative is 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes), although it’s not clear to me that hearts will play any better than notrumps.

While none of the panel actually bid 1NT, Eric Kokish and Marc Smith did happen to mention it in the "bids I would never make" category. I figure if two world class players took the time to reject it, it must be worth something, so I'm happy to upgrade the award to 10 points.

Hand Four -  West deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ876
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) JT85
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K94


West North East South
1clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass 1NT ?

2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be Michaels with five hearts and five spades.


Call Award %
Pass 100 42 31
Double 80 32 30
2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 16 13
2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 10 26

Vic Liersch: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). To get a preference without going too high. If partner prefers hearts I'll stop. If spades, game could be on.

John R Mayne: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'll cheat by a card, though 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) has appeal for lead value.

Ron Lel: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Very poor methods. Why is this nonsense forced upon us? 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) here should just be a major oriented takeout, not necessarily a 5-5 shape. Other alternatives are pass and 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pass is wimpy as East has denied a 4 card major, and 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is too unilateral. West may well have a four card spade suit here and we have missed our 4-4 heart fit.

Especially for Ron, I've compiled a set of problems which are all accompanied by conventional bids that perfectly describe the hand. If I get enough requests, we'll use that set in the October issue.

Sam Arber: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Lie about Michaels, seems more descriptive for this hand.

Eric Leong: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Game is possible make opposite a suitable 7-8 HCP hand from partner and revealing bidding by the opponents.

Of course 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) isn't the only way to show majors. But the fear of partner bidding diamonds scared many away from the takeout double:

Tim Trahair: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Reluctant to double as no doubt North will then bid two or more diamonds. Can bid hearts if the opportunity arises.

Vince Davies: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think West has a club suit and partner has a diamond suit. I'll make life difficult for West and give partner a lead indication if West presses on to 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If NS win the contract, it is best played by South.

Bill Bennett: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Better to have the lead come to me. Also Michaels might find us with a 4-3 heart fit, possibly at too high a level.

David Hester: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Aside from the missing heart, this hand is too strong for weak Michaels and too weak for strong.

Marshall Lewis: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If West is minimum and pard's share of the remainder are well situated (which is entirely consistent with the auction) then we can have a vul game perhaps no worse than a finesse. Such a game is far more likely to be in spades than anywhere else so that is the grenade I will lob into the fray.

A few optimists felt that partner should not expect diamonds for a takeout double:

Zbych Bednarek: Dbl. Should show interest in majors.

Craig Taberner: Dbl. Cannot be penalties, should be for majors (which East has denied).

Ken Berry: Dbl. Hoping not to hear 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from partner.

However, the majority of doublers were not worried about partner bidding diamonds.

Sid Reynolds and Frank Campbell: Dbl. Don't want to miss hearts but will bid 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if we get that far.

Sydney Frish: Dbl. Should partner bid diamonds, 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will complete my shape.

Herbert C Wilton: Dbl. Take out of clubs, partner can leave in. At worst I'll have to correct 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Still, could be a disaster!

Robin Cross: Dbl. If partner bids a major that's fine. If the big ox bids 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I get to bid 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Am I really bidding this way at IMPs? It just seems wrong to pass an auction where 1clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-1NT normally shows a club fit.

Andrew Gordon: Dbl. Difficult. If I use Michaels, opponents are bound to push diamonds at our 4-3 heart fit! If partner bids 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I can bid 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It seems likely that partner has something in the majors and a 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid will mean we have a 4-4 heart fit.

The expert panel was evenly split between bidding and passing, but the arguments for pass were strong, so the top score goes to:

Alexander Cook: Pass. Bidding is unwise here opposite a passed hand.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Good odds on defending with this hand.

Barbara Whitmee: Pass. Let the opponents have 90, rather than 200.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. A little bit too dangerous to join the party at this stage. I'll wait for West's rebid and will then be better placed. If 1NT is passed out I'll be on lead to attack with a spade.

Jameson Cole: Pass. It's hard to imagine us missing a game with the opponents holding half the HCP. We have a fair chance of setting 1NT and going plus. Double with those anemic suits could be rather costly.

Nathan Crafti: Pass. Pard will balance with values won't she? If she doesn't I'm likely to be on lead so I don't need to make a lead director. 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be Michaels, would it? Strewth.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Unless you play non-constructive "same level" rebids, double is too dangerous. Given our Michaels restrictions, 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the only other bid that is tempting.

Peter Robinson: Pass. If we agree that Michaels shows 5-5, we've agreed not to bid it on this hand. So the correct action is to pass and, if we don't like it, discuss the system after the session.

Rex Fox: Pass. More suited for defence, partner could still balance after two passes.

Richard Bowdery: Pass. Partner couldn't bid or double with short clubs and, most importantly, partner is still there and will surely act when it is right.

Fraser Rew: Pass. Another non-problem. When I show 5-5 I have – wait for it – 5-5.

Sorry Fraser, I can't resist doing this just one last time:

Fraser Rew II: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hate passing here, also hate 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with only 5-4 and doubling with an off-shape minimum. So as ugly as 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is, it's the best option.

Having had a few laughs at his expense, now is a good time for me to point out that Fraser has moved into first place in the 2005 Readers' Race, with a total score of 1580. (And no, I didn't give him extra points for sending two sets of answers).


Hand Five -  East deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQJT85
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K7
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 7
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KQ9


West North East South
    1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) dbl
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3NT pass ?


Call Award %
4NT 100 33 31
5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 17 1
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 23 32
5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 50 17 1
6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 20 5 10
6NT 20 5 5
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 6
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 7
Pass 10 0 7

Ron Lel: 4NT. Is 4NT quantitative or Blackwood? As AB Standard does not discuss this, I will bid what I play with my partner. For those who decide to bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) – what are you going to do over the likely 4NT? If you bid 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will partner guess to bid six with two aces or seven with, (unlikely I know), three aces.

Ron says he'll bid what he plays with his partner. One of Australia's top players, complete with 45 pages of system notes, gave the same comment, adding "I assure you, my partner will definitely get this right". Unfortunately, partner didn't agree – now there are 46 pages of system notes.

David Hester: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Gerber, I presume (if not, please substitute the correct ace ask). There are about six aces in this pack; my best guess is that partner has heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and a 1-loser diamond suit, but what does that leave East?

The "please substitute the correct ace ask" bid. A smart choice, but it'll never work at the table. As soon as AB Standard reaches 46 pages, I'll substitute a new answer for David – meanwhile, let's try to solve this problem with the information we have.

Part one – the scientists:

Herbert C Wilton: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My 4NT is no longer ace asking, so that's out. 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would work if partner has heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A but not otherwise, so my plan is to bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and then 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which should get the message across to partner.

Richard Bowdery: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Mmm, curiouser and curiouser. I have 18HCP and a heart stop, in fact I was close to being able to bid 3NT on my own. Let's find out what partner's hand is all about. This auction could well get tortuous.

Rex Fox: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Cue bid asking for suits or controls, pard should have around 11-12 HCP min, most likely xx-AJx-AKxxxx-xx or similar. I wish 4NT was RCKB.

Part two – the bashers:

Zbych Bednarek: 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4NT would be quantitative. I hope today is my lucky day.

Paul Tranmer: 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Could we be missing two aces? I suppose it's just possible as North's 3NT is based on a diamond suit but his hand shouldn't be just diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AKQJ10xx and heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q10x!

Robin Cross: 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Do I get to look at the backs of the cards before I bid 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes)?

Eric Leong: 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Given that both opponents bid hearts, partner must be short in hearts so he must have the heart ace for his stopper. Also, for partner to gamble 3NT with a lack of HCP, he should have at least Axxxxx in some minor.

Terry Dunne: 6NT. The only way I can make sense of the bidding so far is that West has a spade void. Partner has a heart stopper and a running suit for his bid, otherwise there are about 50 HCP in the pack. There is no way I’ll stop below slam unless we are missing two aces, but I have no way to find out. If we can make slam, we will probably make as many tricks in no trumps as in spades, so I’ll close my eyes and bid 6NT.

Part three – the conservatives:

Manuel Paulo: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'd like to check for aces, but I don't see how to do it.

Steve Johnston: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hoping partner can cue a minor.

Fraser Rew: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Surely suggests this sort of hand – otherwise why pull 3NT?

Fraser and Steve make a good point, arguing that 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a slam try in itself. However, most of the 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders are clearly not expecting cooperation from partner.

Michael Davy: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Someone's fibbing.

Vince Davies: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I would check to see if East was a regular in the psyche book. South's double might be a bare opener and North would need 13+ points and a heart stop for a genuine 3NT bid. This gives EW a total of 9 HCP and 8 or 9 hearts. If East is not psyching, North can't have many points and can't have many hearts so presumably has both minors (jack high!!). One ace in the North hand would be sheer luxury but still not enough for 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I would bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in the hope of a heart lead. A club ruff or two heart losers would be very unfortunate.

Frank Campbell: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not sure what West and North are bidding on but prefer to believe pard has a heart stopper and probably length in diamonds. In any event I want to be in spades.

Barbara Whitmee: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too much to hope North has two aces.

Bill Bennett: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With both opps bidding, it seems likely that North has only solid diamonds. He might make 3NT, but surely cannot have two aces. 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks safer, since the heart ace could be with West.

Alexander Cook: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It seems natural to remove to 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here.

Sam Arber: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). What has partner got, obviously long diamonds with heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A but likely to be missing two aces, unless East has psyched. Partner might have KQxxxxx diamonds and Qxx hearts and now 3NT may be going off with 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) making.

Part four – the ultra-conservatives:

Peter Robinson: Pass. Even allowing for West to have a shapely yarborough, I don't see how the others can have their bids. The most I place partner with is heartsm.gif (112 bytes)QTx and running diamonds. I can't assume he has two aces, and I see no way of finding out.

Marshall Lewis: Pass. Invitational 4NT would almost surely be a waste of time because partner is a virtual certainty to pass (no doubt gnashing many teeth while muttering sotto voce that once again the village idiot across the table has hung him for his highly commendable enterprise).

The clear majority agreed that 4NT would be non-forcing, not Blackwood. But 4NT still received more votes than any other individual choice, so the rules dictate that it gets the top score.

Nigel Guthrie: 4NT. I hope this is Blackwood.

John R Mayne: 4NT. Ace-asking, right? I don't think this sequence can mean otherwise, and we might have slam.

Tim Trahair: 4NT. An ace ask. This seems to be a very strange hand. Am assuming 3NT shows the minors and reasonable values. (No, 3NT shows only a desire to play in 3NT – BC). If he can show two aces – probably unlikely – slam is on. Otherwise likely to subside in 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and hope for the best.

Sydney Frish: 4NT. Or punt with 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) – but I'd rather know that we are not two aces short.

Nathan Crafti: 4NT. Old fashioned bid called Blackwood which asks pard to tell you how many aces they hold. With three I count 13 top tricks; with two I count 12 and with fewer than two why has pard bid 3NT?

Jameson Cole: 4NT. I can't describe my hand. The only thing that makes sense is to bid 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if partner has two aces. Failing that, we hope to sign off in 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5NT.

Andrew Gordon: 4NT. Looking for slam. Partner probably has long diamonds and the heart ace. Has East psyched?

Vic Liersch: 4NT. Too many points in this deck. Partner's jump is a sign off but with two heart stoppers between us, I like slam.

Ken Berry: 4NT. What's going on? Who is overbidding? I hope it isn't me.

Sharing the top score, here is a cute little convention from the North American branch of the expert panel (and John Leenders):

John Leenders: 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Three loser hand, looking for two aces.

Larry Cohen: 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The obvious call. Jumps to 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 3NT are "Super Gerber," asking for aces. 4NT should be quantitative, not blackwood. Since 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) has to be forcing, I can't want to bid 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) natural. Any expert would take this as ace-asking ("he says hopefully").

Eddie Kantar: 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Super Gerber. 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be forcing so 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) asks for aces.

Eric Kokish: 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4NT would be natural, 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) nonspecific. We need a bid for aces and 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) R Us, otherwise unnecessary as 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is forcing. I would risk 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and expect partner to do more with two aces, but in the history of this feature in AB, I've seen far worse hands double and then bid a new suit, so it's risky in Oz to settle for a sage 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).  

Top scores for August
Rank Name Score
1 Nigel Guthrie 500
2 Ian Smith 450
2 Jameson Cole 450
2 Margaret Reid 450
2 Tim Trahair 450
6 Fiske Warren 440
7 Andrew Gordon 430
7 Fraser Rew 430
7 Heather McL 430
7 Liz Shonk 430
11 Michael Price 420
11 Vic Liersch 420
13 Barbara Whitmee 410
13 Gary Lane 410
15 Ivan Demeny 400
16 Derek Pocock 390
16 Craig Taberner 390
16 Jeff Brokenshire 390
16 Ken Berry 390
16 Michael Davy 390
16 Steve Kitching 390
22 Bill Bennett 380
22 Fred Altstock 380
22 Ian Spight 380
22 John Mayne 380
22 Trish Whitton 380
27 Everybody else 370

Leading scores for 2005
Rank Name Score
1 Fraser Rew 1580
2 Henri de Jong 1550
2 Peter Stride 1550
2 Zbych Bednarek 1550
5 Herbert C Wilton 1530
5 Ken Berry 1530
5 Andrew Gordon 1500
8 Jameson Cole 1480
8 Robert Black 1480
8 Ron Lel 1480
8 Trish Whitton 1480
12 Tim Trahair 1460
13 Mark LaForge 1430
14 Craig Taberner 1420
14 Frank Campbell 1420
14 Jeff Brokenshire 1420
17 Sam Arber 1410
18 Margaret Reid 1400
19 Eric Leong 1390
19 Gary Lane 1390
21 David Read 1380
22 John Leenders 1370
22 Rex Fox 1370
24 Alexander Cook 1360
24 Fred Altstock 1360
26 Ian Patterson 1350
26 Ian Smith 1350
26 Rick Giles 1350
29 Michael Davy 1340
30 Philip Kline 1320

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 October-November issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your August-September issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.