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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles January 2006
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, with moderator Peter Smith.
Scroll down for final scores
Hand One - West deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A9
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 8
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKT85
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT875


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

2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a weak two, and 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a non-constructive raise.


Call Award %
4NT 100 62 44
3NT 70 14 23
4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 14 15
Pass 30 5 12
Dbl 30 5 3
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 2
Other 10 0 1

We start this month with an impressive result such a tempting example of Hamman's Rule, but hardly anyone fell into temptation.

Fraser Rew: 4NT. 3NT could work better, but the controls, shape, and no source of tricks tell me it's not a long-term winner.

Sam Arber: 4NT. 3NT may be best MP score, and 6-minor could be laydown, but the most likely positive is 5-minor.

Not quite the most likely positive... but before getting into that discussion, we need to have a few words about the convention known as The Unusual Notrump.

Ian Patterson: 4NT. Strong takeout for minors.

Barbara Whitmee: 4NT. Want partner to pick a minor.

Steve Hurley: 4NT. A quick bid to the five level may yield results.

Frank Campbell: 4NT. Obvious takeout for the minors.

John Leenders: 4NT. This shows two suited hand in my book.

Fred Altstock: 4NT. Asking partner to pick his best minor I hope.

Manuel Paulo: 4NT. Unusual notrump.

Note that the key word in this discussion is "Unusual". We obviously don't want to play in 4NT, so 4NT is an "Unusual Notrump". Compare with the "Usual Notrump":

Leon Slonim: 3NT. Partnership agreement asks for minors.

Sandra Capper: 3NT. I feel 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) should make, but going down one is still better than them making 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 3NT. For the minors. Where are all the hearts? Probably with North but he can't have many spades and should have a few in the minors. If he bids 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I'll raise to five, if he bids 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I'll raise to six.

William Striker: 3NT. Unusual NT; it's getting rich but we'll get to the best minor.

Martin Eggins: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3NT too ambiguous and double will surely get a 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) answer.

Unlike 4NT, 3NT is a very normal, non-unusual bid (more often referred to as a contract). As Leon suggests, it is possible to have a partnership agreement where 3NT is for the minors, but this is in no way a standard treatment.

Playing 3NT as artificial here means you can never play in 3NT on these auctions. Which do you think is more useful: a 3NT minor-suit takeout allowing you to stop nicely in 4-minor, or a natural 3NT allowing you to play in 3NT?

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. 3NT seems best at matchpoints. It needs fewer tricks and scores more than a minor game. How to stop partner short of a heart slam? Nae probs for us in the UK! Again, face your trusty STOP and 3NT cards together on the table; if partner obstinately bids 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes), then you'd better pass he is blind or stupid, or has very good hearts.

Steve Johnston: 3NT. Horrible but it is matchpoints.

Leigh Gold: 3NT. Will take the risk, as 5-minor is a long way away.

Jameson Cole: 3NT. The toughest hand of this set. I'd like to have another winner in my hand (diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q?) but my hand is too good to pass quietly even though bidding risks going down. Double is impossible, showing heart support.

Let's get back to the discussion about the "most likely positive". I'm not convinced that a 5-level contract is a more likely positive than a 4-level contract, despite the following argument:

Margaret Reid: 4NT. Let's get to our optimum contract.

Ron Lel: 4NT. Well at least we will get to the right denomination if not the right level.

There's a lot of sense in choosing the right denomination, and I suppose it's probably a winning philosophy. But who says there is a "wrong" denomination? Or even a "right" one? On many hands, one minor will play as well (or as badly) as the other, and the extra level may be worth a bundle.

Ken Berry: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Can't double, can't 3NT, don't want to pass, 4NT would commit to five level. What's a non-constructive raise? Sounds like a nasty beast, so I have to bid since I've sat and thought so long! At least I'll get a good lead from partner!

As well as Ken, Denis Haynes was also unsure about "non-constructive raise", guessing wrongly that it probably meant "showing some points". Maybe I should have used the word "terminal" instead of "non-constructive".

Many people would describe the 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid as "preemptive", but I'm not a fan of that word. It tells us nothing about the hand other than what we already knew that we have been preempted. A preemptive bid, depending on the auction, can contain anything from a yarborough to a 16-count. Even a strong 1NT opening is preemptive, in the sense that it is more likely to silence the opponents than a 1clubsm.gif (113 bytes) opening.

Anyway, what I was trying to say was "to play", or "obstructive" as opposed to a constructive or invitational bid that would promise some values.

Bob Samuels: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Looks like game in a minor and able to deny hearts.

Ian Smith: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Then 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from partner or double over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Putting the final touches on the issue of "most likely positive":

Eric Leong: Pass. Passing will probably result in a plus score but maybe not the best plus score available. But you do avoid minus scores getting to silly contracts. So in the worst possible case, you get something. Bidding on speculatively is going to result in a very good board or a very lousy board.

Richard Bowdery: Pass. I expect to get 200 out of this board when we can't make game. Where are all the hearts, mostly in partner's hand. Pard is still there!

Denis Haynes: Pass. I will wait to defend.

Robin Cross: Pass. A coward dies a thousand times. A brave man dies but once.

On the actual deal, from the recent New Zealand nationals, Pass was the technically correct action: 

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J8
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQ743
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q74
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q43
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q107642
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 32
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ96
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K53
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ10962
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J96
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 2
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A9
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 8
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AK1085
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A10875
West North East South
2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
all pass      
Result: 10 tricks, NS +130


I'm not proud of my 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid, but the opponents were kind enough to let me make it and the matchpoint reward was quite generous. Passing 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would have been an easier way to make a living.

Hand Two - West deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QT854
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKQ
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT853


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


Call Award %
2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 38 41
Dbl 90 38 50
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 24 9

Only two questions here: do we want to show the fifth heart, and if so, do we want to go a bit higher and give partner a backup plan in clubs? Voting no and no:

Ian Smith: Dbl. What else???

Richard Bowdery: Dbl. WTP? Oh I see, should I Michaels? Not for me!

Alexander Cook: Dbl. What else is there to bid here?

The "what else" is clearly a rhetorical question, because all the other possible bids are listed in the drop down box on the web page.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. With such a strong hand it seems better to double and rebid rather than using a Michaels 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Fred Altstock: Dbl. Partner, I have points in everything else. Pick something.

Eric Leong: Dbl. If you know LHO is going to bid some number of spades you certainly want to get your one bid in that gets three suits into the picture for your partner now.

Ian Patterson: Dbl. Prepared to double again over 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Steve Hurley: Dbl. Keep the auction low, and prepared for another double to keep it moving.

Denis Haynes: Dbl. Shows an opening hand and possibly allows partner to bid at a lower level.

Keeping the auction low is a good argument for Double, and on the actual hand it's the only action that doesn't commit us to a minus score.

Zbych Bednarek: Dbl. Choice is between 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and double. With weak heart suit, double seems better.

Margaret Reid: Dbl. Will bid hearts over a minor, suggesting five hearts and a good hand.

Martin Eggins: Dbl. Very shapely hand with support in three suits. Too good for Michaels.

Ron Lel: Dbl. I don't like making a two suited overcall on this type of hand there is far too much strength in the diamond suit.

Sandra Capper: Dbl. Happy with whatever partner bids, and strong enough to bid hearts later if necessary.

Jameson Cole: Dbl. My passed hand partner will have no better than an eight loser hand with 3-4 spades which slows me down. I have a weakish four loser hand. But if partner bids 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I have a solid 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) invitational raise.

The doublers were pretty confident that there was no other option, but the Michaels bidders were even more so:

Ken Berry: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm just bidding what I would at a table. Should I be looking for something else?

Fraser Rew: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Has this one slipped in from Paul's novice classes? Really can't see an alternative.

It didn't come from the novice classes, but you are close this problem did come from the Marston files. But he wasn't the 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidder; he was the unhappy partner. Given how close the voting was, this problem will probably never make it into the novice classes.

Bob Samuels: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hearts plus support in a minor.

Craig Becconsall: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Accurately describes your hand.

Nigel Guthrie: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is least flawed. The problem with 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not that this hand is too strong (you can double again later) but that it focuses attention on the round suits when diamonds may be your best bet. IMO, however double is a greater distortion with two five card suits.

Frank Campbell: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Originally was going to double but the hand is much stronger if pard has a fit in either of my suits. Will bid 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if required.

Sam Arber: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Michaels is weak or strong, best description for this hand.

I think Sam, like Frank before him, is suggesting that this is the "strong" Michaels. In other words, he is planning to bid again. This plan is supported by only one other person, but it is a significant person:

Ron Klinger: 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With only four losers, am prepared to bid again opposite minimum action by partner.

That action would have taken you for a four-figure penalty at the table. But the hand is clearly too strong for weak Michaels, which makes this last choice quite attractive:

Leigh Gold: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I consider this hand 'medium' strength (in between weak and strong Michaels) as too many of its values are in the short suits. I plan to back in with clubs next turn. 

Bill Bennett: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I hate to double with the void.

John Leenders: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Best to show those five hearts and await further bidding.

This minority choice gets an award of 70 points. Last month I resolved to cut down on the number of readers who score over 400 on this forum, which will be hard to do if Peter Smith hands out awards of 70 points just for showing up. Still, all three bids are reasonable, so I suppose the scores are fair.

Here's the full deal, from the Hakoah congress in October:

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQ743
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 3
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J8543
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 92
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A96
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 762
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 10972
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K74
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J10852
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKJ9
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 6
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) QJ6
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q10854
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKQ
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A10853
West North East South
Marston Thomson
pass pass 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) all pass  
Result: 6 tricks, NS -150
West North East South
Reynolds Rees
pass 2NT pass 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
all pass      
Result: 8 tricks, NS -150

On the given auction, Thomson chose 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and thankfully did not treat the hand as a "strong" Michaels he passed Marston's 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid and watched it drift three off. At the other table, NS managed to find their best suit after the RCO 2NT opening unfortunately much too high, 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) also going three off.

Hand Three - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 752
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ---
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AK92
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKQ863


West North East South
      1clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?

2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a weak jump, and 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is natural and forcing.


Call Award %
5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 52 32
5NT 90 10 0
5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 14 18
4NT 60 14 9
6clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 5 1
6heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 5 0
6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 40 0 11
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10 0 24
5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 3
5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 10 0 1

Time to start cutting down those scores. This hand, donated by Michael Prescott, saw 38% of readers find bids not even considered by the panel. If you are one of these readers, take comfort in the fact that this was also the bid made at the table by a Dutch international:

Fred Altstock: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Good support for partner. Rather be in 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as I can trump losing hearts.

Bob Samuels: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not sure quality of partner's spade suit.

Denis Haynes: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have support for spades and the void makes 20+ points.

Jameson Cole: 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have a good hand, but my spades are too weak to force to slam. But the fact that I show spade support may be all that partner needs to know to bid six.

There are other things partner will need to know before bidding six. He'll be wondering what will happen to all his heart, diamond and club losers. How can partner justify a second bid if he holds AQJxxx-xxx-xx-xx?

Clearly we need to find out the quality of partner's spades, but there is no obvious way to do that.

Nick Beaumont: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). To quote Jim Borin, "I look forward to partner's explanation of this bid". 

Unfortunately partner's explanation isn't coming, because there are no other 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders out there.

Nigel Guthrie: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Who knows what these bids mean? Pass should probably be forcing, but is partner on the same wavelength? Is 4NT RKCB, or will partner read it as two places to play? 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) puts the emphasis on spades, but does that rule out other denominations? I hope not. 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is good if it asks about trump quality, not so hot if it asks for heart control.

The most common treatment of a 5-major raise, in a competitive auction, is to ask for a control in the opponents' suit. But several people thought that treatment could not apply here.

Sartaj Hans: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner should bid 5NT with solid trumps to permit me to bid the grand. I expect partner to work out from his spades and hearts that I don't have a "two small hearts" kind of hand.

Sam Arber: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Ask for trump strength if partner has solid spades, eg. with AKQxxx he should bid 5NT and can still reach grand.

Alexander Cook: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). You have no losers outside spades. If there are any diamond losers these will be discarded on the clubs. Partner is invited to bid 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with two of the top three honours in spades and 7spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with all of the top three honours in spades.

While these three may be still keeping an eye out for the grand, I get the impression that most of the 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders have already decided to settle at the six-level (or lower):

Leigh Gold: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Anything can make here. 4NT leaves you confused when partner shows something, while 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is simply giving up. I want to be in slam opposite two honour cards, so let's see.

Frank Campbell: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Asking partner to bid slam with good spades. Calculated risk but I think he has at least six of them and with AQJxx, AKJxx or KQJxx or better it is just about laydown.

Steve Hurley: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has 5+ spades and, given the opponent's bidding, not much in hearts, so he has a lot in spades. So, how good are they partner?

Bill Bennett: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The spade slam is likely and partner should bid it with decent suit quality.

Ian Patterson: 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Inviting partner to bid slam with good trumps.

How bad can partner's trumps be, when we have all the points from the other suits? If we're not going to make a serious effort to find the grand slam, put me down for the practical option:

Margaret Reid: 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pard should have a good hand and points in the right place.

A partner who has a good hand AND points in the right place! Wouldn't that be a great world to live in?

Here's another nice practical choice not recommended by the textbooks, but it always works at the table and saves a lot of trouble:

Barbara Whitmee: 4NT. RKCB.

Martin Eggins: 4NT. Clearly Key Card. Expecting to be in 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) even though distribution could be wild.

Tim Trahair: 4NT. Slam in spades is a possibility as North has 10+ points and South has 19 points revalued. May need to subside in 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Too many people are counting points on this hand. How do you find an accurate valuation of two AKQxxx holdings? Much easier to forget points and simply count tricks (or losers).

The top score goes to the multi-purpose cuebid (and if anyone is shocked by that, welcome to your first bidding forum).

Steve Johnston: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hoping to get partner to bid a grand with really good trumps.

Eric Leong: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With good spades partner can bid 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) after a 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) cuebid.

Ian Smith: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Splinter agreeing spades and inviting 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

John Leenders: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A void in hearts, agreeing spades.

Craig Becconsall: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows slam interest, support for spades and heart control.

Fraser Rew: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Huge hand. 4NT asks for aces, and 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a cue but I think the heart void is more important. Would bid 5NT if we had step responses to show all three top honours, or AK with extra length; as it is, this may be a blind guess.

Richard Bowdery: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Nearly impossible to get this level right. Partner may have AKQxx and seven is cold on 3-2 break. AQTxx and a card and six has play, at least, but with QJTxxx and HK five is enough. Start with the ambiguous cue and hope that we can get partner to do the right thing.

This deal is from the Governor's Cup in Indonesia, and while the hand records appear to have been lost, I can tell you that partner did have solid spades, and the thirteen tricks were not hard to collect. Here is the bidding from a US vs Netherlands match:

West North East South
      1clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 5NT pass 6clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes) all pass  
Result: 13 tricks, NS +1460
West North East South
      1clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
all pass      
Result: 13 tricks, NS +710

North's 5NT bid was intended to show solid trumps (a treatment recommended above by Sartaj Hans and Sam Arber). But South interpreted it as "choice-of-slam" and bid 6clubsm.gif (113 bytes). North pressed on with 6spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but South didn't get the message.

At the other table, 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was a transfer to spades. South now had no good option over the 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) preempt, as North could have had a much weaker hand.

Hand Four - East deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A2
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J87
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQT9
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T863


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

A new suit is non-forcing (note that South is a passed hand). 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would be a cue raise.


Call Award %
1NT 100 43 33
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 19 15
2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 9 2
2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 60 19 26
Pass 20 5 14
2NT 20 5 6
2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 3
Other 0 0 1

This year Australian Bridge has been featuring a series of articles by Mike Lawrence on when it is acceptable to raise immediately with secondary support. Here's a problem to see who's been paying attention.

Ian Smith: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I would like to have a third spade but feel doubleton ace will have to do.

Steve Johnston: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Least of evils show a good 3-card raise, after all Ax is as good as xxx. Partner could now wake up and bid NT...

Alexander Cook: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A change of suit might see you left in a 4-2 fit, and 1NT shows a heart stopper (Jxx is not a stopper when they play five card majors). The ace-doubleton in spades makes a cue raise the least worst option here playing matchpoints.

Sam Arber: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Was going to bid 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but non forcing in these notes. Choice between 1NT and 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes), rather not lie about heart stopper.

The top score goes to the 1NT response. An impressive 33% of readers managed to find this bid, despite holding 11 HCP and no stopper. Either very clever, or very undisciplined (or are they both the same thing?).

Jameson Cole: 1NT. Shows values at this level, and doesn't promise a stopper.

Eric Leong: 1NT. A better matchpoint partscore is available in notrump. Also, our side may have a game.

William Striker: 1NT. 1NT does not (in my book) promise stopped hearts. Just cannot raise spades and want to show some values.

Leigh Gold: 1NT. I think 1NT is right here. In my experience Jxx is a good stopper in these situations.

Manuel Paulo: 1NT. Timid advance.

Fred Altstock: 1NT. Happy to be in a low level contract as partner is probably not that strong otherwise he would have doubled.

Robin Cross: 1NT. Into the valley of death rode the six hundred. Actually it was almost 700 men but that does not rhyme. Maybe partner has a heart stopper or the heart bidder 'thinks' that I have one. Partner can bid a second suit or rebid spades and I can either raise or give 'false' preference.

Zbych Bednarek: 1NT. I know I need a heart stopper, but this will give pard a chance to show his hand. I can't see another bid.

Ron Lel: 1NT. Should make some move on this. I wouldn't really object to a pass, the way that my current partner plays.

John Leenders: 1NT. Yes I have 11pts but other bids out of the question and 2NT a bit risky.

It's not surprising that most people were afraid to try 1NT on this hand, especially in a bidding forum, so that leaves us with some pretty ugly options.

Tim Trahair: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). What a woeful suit!

Bob Samuels: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The cheapest way to show 11 points and inability to support spades at the moment.

Barbara Whitmee: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Showing some values, no stopper.

Richard Bowdery: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). NF it may be, but it seems that we have to do something. Fit Non Jump for me. If partner passes we possibly have enough high card strength to go plus. I will probably raise 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Denis Haynes: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Shows a control in the suit and points enough to bid.

Martin Eggins: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not perfect but I want partner to know I have 10-12 HCP. Showing that East's is the weak hand, not mine.

Ken Berry: 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Describes my strength, and where that strength is.

Robert Black: 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I have changed my bid since knowing 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a cue raise. 

Frank Campbell: 2NT. This would have been a good hand to let us double but if we can't! This shows my values and shape; heart stopper is a bit dodgy but sometimes you have to take a punt.

Steve Hurley: 2NT. Best description as there is nothing else that comes close.

And finally, there's the old philosophy that if you don't have anything sensible to say... better to keep quiet and have the world think you a fool, rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Can come in later if bidding progresses.

Sandra Capper: Pass. If West or East bid again, I may bid 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 2NT.

Craig Becconsall: Pass. West is more than likely to bid again, let's see where they go.

Bill Bennett: Pass. Game is unlikely since partner did not double, and I do not want to play in 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I will give delayed support if there is more bidding.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Pass in tempo (or quicker). Another 10 free points (I hope). All other options are for masochists. Most opponents will reopen. Then is the time to consider your options.

When I told Nigel that he scored poorly on one of this month's problems, he tried to guess which one, but he never suspected it was this one. Probably because Pass has been the winner on a few similar problems in recent forums. I like the Pass myself, and I'm not sure why the panel rejected it so strongly.

No details of the full deal for this one it's a made-up problem from our archives.

Hand Five - East deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T83
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K64
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQT74
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 43


West North East South
    1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass
3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 1 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?

3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a Bergen raise, showing four spades and 6-9 points.


Call Award %
Pass 100 48 42
5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 90 14 9
5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 33 41
Dbl 60 5 8

Another hand from the Hakoah congress, this time with Marston as the perpetrator rather than the victim.

Manuel Paulo: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Insurance bid.

Bob Samuels: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Looks like a good sacrifice.

Ian Smith: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Feel I must compete; too weak to double but know partner has spade shortage.

John Leenders: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Leave the five level to opps. But not this time.

It's never this time. These rules are designed for some other hand the hand I have is always the exception.

As it happens, the "five level belongs to the opponents" rule genuinely doesn't apply here. That rule is only for when the opponents are already at the five level. Bidding five-over-four is entirely socially acceptable (as long as it works).

Fraser Rew: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Pard has shown a good hand so 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) rates to be based on shape as such, pard will have singleton (or even void) in spades. Was tempted to try 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but that could be xxx-Ax-AKxx-Kxxx, when I don't really have a bid first time around.

Barbara Whitmee: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner is short in spades, we have at least a nine card fit, and maybe my trumps can ruff a club loser, or two.

Leigh Gold: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Tough choice. I expect four losers at the most, which makes the save better than -420. If partner has heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AQ diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K this may make and if it doesn't, 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will. If he has clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A instead of clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K then 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is likely to be one down while 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) makes.

Martin Eggins: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Could be one or two light but can't find whether partner has the vital diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A.

Robin Cross: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Tweener. Between pass, 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and slam. Partner makes a lot of tricks with AQxxxx and the diamond ace. The question is does partner hold that ace? Double game swing anyone?

Sam Arber: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Felt like passing but finally decided more potential gain by bidding 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Would not be surprised if we have red 2-suiter and they have black 2-suiter.

A couple of people felt that as long as we are bidding on, we may as well be descriptive. This is clearly in preparation for action at the six-level passing the next decision to partner just in case it is right to save over 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Eric Leong: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has an outside chance of making and it could be a cheap sacrifice against 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I bid 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to aid partner in deciding what to bid if the opponents go to 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Jameson Cole: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Since I am a passed hand, this can only be a fit-showing raise to 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes), which allows partner to better assess the hands should the opponents compete.

Zbych Bednarek: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Save or attack, we will see. For sure this must show heart support. If opps bid 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will Pass and respect partner's decision.

In the post mortem over this hand, better players than I suggested that South should have passed 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), because both contracts were failing. I disagree. While turning +50 into -50, we have given ourselves the chance that (a) 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might have made, (b) 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might make, or (c) the opponents will go on to 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and fail. This sounds like a worthwhile investment to me. But the majority disagreed, and the Pass wins at the table and in the forum.

Mike Rival: Pass. Can't tell partner's points; opposition may have 24 HCP, so sacrifice may be costly.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. Both sides probably have a nine card fit and 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could make although one down is more likely. If you bid then 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is better than 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Double is worse: it may stop partner competing when he has the right type of hand.

Richard Bowdery: Pass. If we have nine hearts and they have nine spades someone will be disappointed. Doesn't look like a hand where I can guess comfortably. Double could be a winner as could 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (FNJ) but Pass looks about right.

Steve Hurley: Pass. You might get lucky with 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) being a good save, but 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might go off.

Fred Altstock: Pass. Can't see much future here in 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Steve Johnston: Pass. And lead trumps.

Frank Campbell: Pass. I think they may fail in 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and can't see us making 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Will lead a trump.

William Striker: Pass. For my money, East has a two suiter in spades and clubs neither of which I can stop. Lead a diamond. 

Denis Haynes: Pass. Partner may be void in spades but I am assuming the hearts to be long and weak. Pass and defend.

Bill Bennett: Pass. Hard to know who has all the points. If both declarers have six card suits, 19 trumps should produce 19 tricks, and we should make nine or ten. But East may not make game, and I have learnt to be cautious of five level sacrifices.

Ken Berry: Pass. And hope!

The final option, double, received a lot of support but few comments. Speaking on behalf of all the doublers:

Tim Trahair: Dbl. North must be short in spades but otherwise must have good values and strong hearts. He can decide to leave the double in or bid again.

True, he can decide to leave the double in or bid again. But one of these options will result in him having to find a new partner. OK, I admit that a lot of people would play this as a takeout double here's one for example:

Ron Klinger: Dbl. Double is for takeout with us. It's a "do-what's-right" double. With defensive values, partner can pass. With extra shape, partner can bid and I will correct to hearts.

If Klinger says it's right, I guess I have to respect it. But I think the award of 60 points for this choice proves that Peter Smith thinks Bidding Forum points grow on trees.

The full deal, with 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) both failing: 

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQJ1052
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J6
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K872
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 9754
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 93
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A8
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A10965
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQJ6
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 87
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 9532
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) QJ
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 1083
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K64
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ1074
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 43
West North East South
Thomson   Marston
1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass
3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) * 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
dbl all pass    
Result: 10 tricks, NS -100

That brings us to the final scores for 2005. After a strong end to the year, and just hanging on at the last hurdle, the winner is Fraser Rew with 2490 points. Probably this feature's youngest competitor, he is a current member of the New Zealand national junior team. He will be invited to be a guest panellist in the magazine in 2006. You can also expect him to feature in most of next year's problems, because he is playing with me this month in the NOT and I'll be keeping an eye out for material.

In second place, by the closest possible margin, is Poland's Zbych Bednarek. Zbych made a late strike, grabbing 2nd place by scoring 480 on this month's difficult problems. He started entering our bidding forum this year because he wanted to try to understand how we bid down here. That's what he says, anyway, but in reality it looks like he already understands most of it!

Henri de Jong, in 3rd place, has been featuring on the bidding forum leaderboard for as long as I can remember (and quite likely for long before that). This is his best performance for a while, so we can expect him to be a strong contender for the top spot in 2006.

Happy new year, and good luck in the upcoming nationals in Canberra. Come over and say hi if you're playing at Rydges.

2005 Readers Race Champions

Fraser Rew
Zbych Bednarek
Henri de Jong

Top scores for Dec-Jan
Rank Name Score
1 Zbych Bednarek 480
2 Manuel Paulo 480
3 Andrew MacAlister 470
4 Henri de Jong 460
5 Steve Johnston 460
6 John Leenders 450
7 Alexander Cook 440
8 Fraser Rew 440
9 Ian Patterson 440
10 Julian Gauld 440
11 Phill Fent 440
12 Tania Black 440
13 Rong Lu 430
14 Sam Arber 430
15 toby weinstein 430
16 William Striker 430
17 Eric Leong 410
18 Gareth Birdsall 410
19 Ian Smith 410
20 Ken Berry 410
21 Nick Beaumont 410
22 Ron Lel 410
23 Arthur Porter 400
24 Barbara Whitmee 400
25 Fred Altstock 400
26 Gary Lane 400
27 mike rival 400
28 Peter Tarlinton 400
29 Trish Whitton 400

Final scores for 2005
Rank Name Score
1 Fraser Rew 2490
2 Zbych Bednarek 2480
3 Henri de Jong 2450
4 Peter Stride 2350
5 Ken Berry 2340
6 Sam Arber 2310
7 Ron Lel 2300
7 Trish Whitton 2300
9 John Leenders 2280
10 Jameson Cole 2260
11 Eric Leong 2250
12 Frank Campbell 2240
12 Jeff Brokenshire 2240
14 Gary Lane 2220
15 Margaret Reid 2210
16 Ian Patterson 2180
16 Robert Black 2180
18 Alexander Cook 2170
19 Ian Smith 2150
20 Nigel Guthrie 2140
21 Andrew MacAlister 2130
21 Fred Altstock 2130
23 Manuel Paulo 2120
23 Michael Davy 2120
23 Tim Trahair 2120
26 Derek Pocock 2090
27 Duncan Roe 2020
28 Terry Dunne 2010
29 Peter Tarlinton 1970

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 February-March issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your December-January issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.