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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles February-March 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 of Andrew Robson, Larry Cohen, Mike Lawrence, Phillip Alder, Bob Jones, Marshall Miles, Frank Stewart, Eddie Kantar, Marc Smith, Eric Kokish and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - North deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A743
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 32
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQT
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KQJT


West North East South
  1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) *
pass 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3NT
dbl pass pass ?

3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is fourth suit, artificial game force.
A redouble now is natural, to play.


Call Award %
5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)1005744
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes)9050
4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)801915
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes)8050
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes)60010

Welcome to another year of exciting, challenging, frustrating, maddening problems. Our first exhibit forces us to go inside the mind of two of our opponents the one on our left and the one opposite us. Is LHO kidding with this double? And if we run to 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), will CHO remember that we are in a game force auction?

Paul Tranmer: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Very glad we're in a game forcing sequence as I don't have to guess the best contract right now. West's double is based on long strong spades, the clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A, and a short heart holding, so 3NT will have no chance. Partner sounds like he has a modest 5-5 in the reds in which case 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is our likely destination, particularly as it seems hearts are not going to behave for us.

Craig Taberner: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3NT looks like going off. Will be embarrassing if 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is cold and partner passes.

Steve Hurley: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I trust the doubler looks like clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A and a solid heart suit after dummy's heart stop is cleared which means there is not nine tricks.

Rex Fox: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Could be a psychic double to induce an escape to 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes)/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but could be genuine based on good spades and a red ace. If partner opened on x-KQJxx-AJxxx-xx, he would find it difficult to find the right action if you pass.

This is obviously the right answer if we believe that partner will bid again. Some think it's even the right answer if partner passes.

Sydney Frish: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Of course West may be bluffing but partner is marked with a weakish red two-suited hand. If 3NT could be beaten, then 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is unlikely to make either.

The best thing about 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is that if anything goes wrong from here, we're in a good position to blame partner sorry, I mean we're in a good position to let partner make the right decision. As most people are unaccustomed to having partner make decisions, the majority goes for unilateral contract placement.

Ken Berry: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Is West sane, holding I guess spadesm.gif (111 bytes)KQJxx and a minor ace? Can't bid 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), have to be in game.

David Matthews: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Obviously West has solid spades and an outside ace. With North at least 5-5, 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) figures to be safer.

Sam Arber: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Presumably West has solid spades plus diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A so probably 3NT not making. Slam in diamonds still possible but 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) probably not forcing, so just bid 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 6diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may need heart finesse.

Jameson Cole: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). At IMPs, you don't double the only contract you can beat. He can't know I have diamond support. This'll learn him!

H A de Jong: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I have a real problem with the 3NT bid. Would have bid 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) after which it would have been easy to get to the right contract. Now we are guessing.

Robin Cross: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). West thinks he can beat 3NT with a spade lead. I trust him.

John Leenders: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Will West double again?

Nigel Guthrie: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If LHO is serious then a red suit game should have excellent chances. Perhaps you should trust LHO to have something like KQJTxx-Ax-Ax-xxx, leaving partner with say void-KQJxxx-Jxxxx-Ax. Would 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ask partner to choose I'm afraid not. So 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems the best guess.

There was one member of the magazine's expert panel on the same wavelength:

Ted Chadwick: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner will pass if I run to 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), so I'll tease him with 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Terry Dunne: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Presumably West has a good spade suit and an ace. Partner's shape and rebids suggest as little as 9 or 10 HCP, perhaps a hand like x-KQxxx-AJxxx-xx. An easy 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) while 3NT is two off.

Pietro Campanile: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Sounds like the double is based on chunky spades and an ace, probably in a minor. While 3NT might still be on, I think 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) will be a much safer spot.

Tim Andrews: 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has shown 5-5 in red suits and nothing in black. The diamond game might be a better bet.

It's not clear to me why everybody wants to go to the 5-level in an 8-card minor fit, when there is a perfectly reasonable major fit available at the 4-level. Maybe everyone is assuming that West is smart enough to have the hearts well held. Here's a couple of people who managed to find a direct route to the only making contract:

Martin Eggins: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Surely West is telegraphing very chunky spades plus clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A... and unfortunately probably a heart void. With decent intermediates partner has more of a chance of success here... especially if 2-6-5-0.

Tim Trahair: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Tough again. We have a lot of points between us but it looks as if West has long spades, perhaps 4+ clubs and probably the missing aces. Chance 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) although the better contract may be 5diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Finally there's a small group willing to bet that we have enough extras to stand and fight.

Frank Campbell: Pass. West is on lead with clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A and a top sequence in spades, but against this if I run to either of North's suits he should be prepared to double again. So maybe 3NT will make on diamonds and whichever major West does not have.

I think this is a really strong argument for Pass, especially since the conditions of contest specify that all players are experts. All the bidders are assuming that West has made a terrible mistake.

Alexander Cook: Pass. Is West bluffing? Is it possible that West has the ace of a minor and KQJxx of a major? Is West trying to scare you out of a cold 3NT into 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? I think I will pass rather than out-bluff West.

Fred Altstock: Pass. Martin Wilcox told me two opening hands are enough for game.

A smart man, Martin. Did he say anything about what it means when West doubles?

Nick Beaumont: Pass. "Always keep a-hold of Nurse, For fear of finding something worse." Belloc

From a gruesome 19th century poem, where a child runs away from the nanny and gets eaten by a lion. But did you ever see "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle"? When the nanny turns on you with a deadly weapon, you run like hell!

Willem Willemse: Rdbl. Is the double only for penalties, or also lead directing? Partner promises an opening hand with 5-5 in the red suits. If there are no points in hearts, (s)he must have diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A and clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A. It's IMPs: I redouble.

The double is almost certainly lead directing. It says "I'm about to lead a spade partner, get ready to have some fun".

Jack B Nimble: Rdbl. West does not need a lead indicator being on lead. I would assume that West has strength in one of the majors plus a minor Ace to continue an attack after knocking out the major stopper. Take a gamble that I can score the first nine tricks.

Martyn Rew: Rdbl. Hard to see a big hole here. Partner must have his points somewhere useful.

David Hester: Rdbl. I think he has spadesm.gif (111 bytes)KQJT9 heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A and I think I have ten running tricks.

Dean Eidler: Rdbl. If West has good spades and heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A they are in for a surprise (five diamonds, four clubs and a spade).

Yeah, that's what I figured too:

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 98
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQ1098 
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AJ964 
clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQJ1062
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AJ5 
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 532 
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 764
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 8532
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A9764
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A743
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 32
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ10
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KQJ10
West North East South
  1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 3NT
dbl pass pass rdbl
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) all pass    
Result: 7 tricks, NS +500

At the table I redoubled, on the grounds that North was overdue to give me a good dummy (maybe two minor suit aces). West must have felt the same way, because she ran to 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), which at least was a good save against the game made at the other table.

(Incidentally, the game made at the other table was 3NT by South. I didn't ask at the time, but if one of my teammates is reading this, how the... no, on second thoughts I'm probably better off not knowing).

Hand Two - West deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKT86
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K73
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQT53


West North East South
3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes)80912
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes)702920
4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)2008
4spadesm.gif (111 bytes)2009

Isn't it amazing that in the year 2006, a minor suit preempt can still cause this much damage. A great argument for opening at the three level any time you have a six card suit!

Nick Beaumont: 3NT. Uncouth.

Pietro Campanile: 3NT. I hate this, but it might give us a chance if pard has an unlikely two suiter and not the seven spades to the KQ9 and 12-13 count that I dread. If I bid 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) there will be no way out below 6NT.

John Leenders: 3NT. I want to protect partner from a diamond lead and bid 3NT. If he corrects to 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I am willing to bid on.

If we've already decided to bid on over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), then shouldn't we have used the four-level to show one of our suits?

Denis Haynes: 3NT. Showing a stopper (?), points, and a dislike for spades.

Dean Eidler: 3NT. Bad breaks about so be conservative. Wish I had diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A so could hold up.

Paul Tranmer: 3NT. North will not just hold long strong spades but will have a few outside values and anything in hearts or clubs will be useful. My immediate concern is the diamond suit if I can't find nine top tricks I'll be in trouble. Might we be missing a 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) contract? Possibly, but I don't believe it can be bid with any confidence. 

Martin Eggins: 3NT. East's pass with most of remaining spades suggests that clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K and/or heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q are in partner's hand. West might even try a non-diamond lead to try to get East on lead.

I've used Martin's comment to create the second example hand below. It didn't turn out to be a good argument for 3NT though.

Rex Fox: 3NT. Partner should have a 5-6 loser hand, something like: AQJxxx-xx-x-Kxxx as a min, should give a play for 3NT.

I wouldn't rule out making 6clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with those cards, but I admit it could be tricky on bad breaks.

Robin Cross: 3NT. Partner should stop the spade suit. I have the other suits stopped.

Sam Arber: 3NT. Difficult problem, as partner must have three card support for one of your suits. 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid probably agrees spades and subsequent bids are cues, so settle for 3NT HAMMAN'S RULE.

Sam, have you forgotten that Hamman's Rule has been banned from this column? And we're only two hands into the new year!

Sydney Frish: 3NT. And not surprised if partner bids 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. Enough on what seems to be a foul misfit.

Representing the heart bidders, we have a new Rew. Now that we've lost Fraser Rew (last year's winner) to the expert panel, the family has sent a new representative for the Readers' Forum. No helping, Fraser...

Martyn Rew: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too many gaps to fill to be happy in 3NT important that partner does not expect any spades from dummy if he bids on.

Bill Bennett: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too good to pass and there may be two or more spade losers. North should have something outside spades, hopefully in hearts, and it's good to have West on lead.

Fred Altstock: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner should have points and hoping he has at least three hearts.

Frank Campbell: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can't bear to pass but won't bid NT with a void in partner's suit even if it renders diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K useless. Partner should be short and will have either a stack of spades or a fit in either of my suits. Will I bid 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I don't know, I would rather have doubled!!

Nobody tried double. Given the difficulty of the problem, I would have been prepared to give it 40 points, on the grounds that if it is accepted you will be well-placed.

A few people have already planned what to do if partner corrects to spades:

H A de Jong: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Then 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Ken Berry: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Then 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from partner?

Tania Black: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). After partner bids 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will say 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Steve Hurley: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Arghh! The power of preempts. 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner is likely short in diamonds and we likely have a fit in hearts or clubs. Without a fit, 3NT shouldn't make anyway.

A good plan, but since 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is non-forcing, why not start with the clubs? This minority choice has been promoted to 80 points, because it's just so likely to work:

Craig Taberner: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Natural and forcing. Misses 3NT but slam is possible.

Jameson Cole: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The only way I can show both suits is to bid 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and hope partner bids 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With a little luck we'll find a fit and get to a makeable slam played from the right side to protect the diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K.

David Matthews: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If pard bids 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), I will leave it. He can always bid 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as a waiting bid. Slam is unlikely with this misfit.

Alexander Cook: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT is likely to be horrendous how are you going to set up the spades? If partner had some hearts as well as spades he would have doubled or bid 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), so must have some clubs.

Tim Trahair: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT seems too risky because there may be no entry to dummy. This bid alerts North to the fact that we need to look elsewhere.

This deal also produced a wide range of minority bids, starting with one of my favourite conventions: the Usual Notrump.

Kay O'Connor: 4NT. Hope partner thinks "That's unusual".

Not going to happen. You may get a useful keycard response though.

David Hester: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If this produces 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I am no worse off than if I had bid it myself; and it might produce something else.

Tim Andrews: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Cue bid shows hearts and clubs with slam interest.

Wow, that's what I call optimism! I used to play a system where the cuebid showed whatever hand I was holding at the time, but for some reason my partner kept stuffing up the continuations.

Willem Willemse: 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner must have a good opening hand. 10 HCP in spades is not enough. We probably end in 6NT.

Indeed, it's very likely this bid will get us to 6NT. Therefore we have upgraded the award for 4diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to make it equal to 6NT.

Terry Dunne: 6NT. A free bid at the 3-level is significantly stronger than an opening bid, perhaps an ace more. In this sequence, this must show every important card outside the diamond suit.

Manuel Paulo: 6NT. Partner should have the heart and club complements, and a fine hand.

Finally, wherever you find a 6NT bidder, there is always someone else wanting to play a partscore. The pass won't get a great bidding forum score, but you never know there may be a few imps in it if all the 3NT bidders go down.

William Striker: Pass. I am tempted by 3NT, but if partner has nothing but spades, at least I offer three tricks. Success here, depends on how many of the outstanding three diamonds partner has.

I wish I had the full deal for this problem, but I don't. Choose from one of these two which I made up. The first one is random, and the second one is based on the comment from Martin Eggins.

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQ9852
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q5
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A4
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K96
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 743
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QJ109652
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 74
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ106
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J9743
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 8
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J82
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK1086
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K73
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ1053
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQ9852
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QJ9
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 6
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ6
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 743
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AJ109542
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 84
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ106
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 7532
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q8
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 972
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK1086
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K73
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQ1053

Hand Three - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK3
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK4
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) JT8654


West North East South
      1clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 1heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass ?
Call Award %
2heartsm.gif (112 bytes)1005238
3heartsm.gif (112 bytes)9095
3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)9050
1spadesm.gif (111 bytes)802412
2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)5050
2clubsm.gif (113 bytes)20530
3clubsm.gif (113 bytes)10013

Everybody knows that a six card suit is rebiddable, so I guess it's not too surprising that so many readers fell into this little trap:

Willem Willemse: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). For the moment not enthusiastic. Can reconsider if partner can bid 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes), showing five hearts. Don't want to give false preference so soon.

gbgb: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If my pard is strong enough to enquire again, then it's game on. If not, we'll be happy in 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Jameson Cole: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My hand is only a QT better than average, with length but a bad suit. Game is not on unless partner can find another bid. If not, clubs will be fine and I have excellent defense if the opponents balance.

Tim Andrews: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not such a good hand unless partner has five hearts or club support. Too early to force. Show shape.

Nigel Guthrie: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is an underbid; 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is attractive second but you don't usually want to ruff diamonds with hearts like this.

Pietro Campanile: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). What else? Pard has a million forcing bids he can make if he has the 10 points I need for game.

The problem is partner won't bid with (he thinks) a misfitting ten points. And you don't need ten points anyway a well-fitting seven could be enough.

Ken Berry: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Waiting for partner to tell me more, I hope.

David Hester: 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes). After the adrenalin rush of Problem 2, I opt for calm. I hope he bids again but cannot force him to.

You can't force him, but you can be more encouraging. 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is the least encouraging action we can take, and this hand is better than that. So, if you're too good for 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes), how about this:

Tim Trahair: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Dreadful clubs but need to keep the bidding open. If North repeats hearts then game is on. If he bids 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) may be able to chance 3NT.

Terry Dunne: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Showing the length and strength of the hand, while still having the opportunity to show heart support next.

David Matthews: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A slight overbid but justified with the heart fit.

Paul Tranmer: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Much as I dislike making a jump rebid on a jack high suit I have to make some sort of noise to show a good hand. The big problem is that North could hold a 6-count and a 4-card heart suit, or a 14-count and 5-6 in the majors. Thus I must convey the power of my hand yet allow room for more description from the other side of the table. I think I'll be well placed over any rebid from North although I'll be nervous if 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) gets passed out!

Fred Altstock: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Nowhere else to go.

Craig Taberner: 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The strength and shape are right. The suit is terrible. Two out of three ain't bad. This does seem like a problem hand specially designed for a 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) rebid, but I would not do this at the table.

At the table, you should always do what you think is right. If you screw up, you only have to face partner, and even if the bid is wrong it could still work out well. But in a bidding forum, where every bad bid is punished to the full extent of the scoring system, that's where you should be really nervous about bidding 3-card majors. If in doubt, you could always try using a pseudonym:

Jack B Nimble: 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I want to force a bid from partner. It is unlikely that a 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid for a short trial would be understood in this system? I hope that either partner with a minimum will sign off at 1NT or give me a better indicator with those hearts.

Manuel Paulo: 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner will raise if and only if he has four cards.

Frank Campbell: 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Nothing is right but I need more info on partner's hand as low as possible. I will bid 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 1NT, raise hearts, pass 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and jump any other hurdle when I come to it.

John Leenders: 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is too weak and 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) too strong. 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) keeps bidding going and if partner raises spades I return to hearts.

Craig was right, of course; this was a problem hand specially designed for a 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes) rebid. But the majority found a much simpler way to encourage further bidding from partner supporting his suit!

Sam Arber: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Underbid first, and if partner can't move we are unlikely to miss game.

Alexander Cook: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I would prefer to raise hearts than rebid the moth-eaten club suit. A raise to 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would show four hearts.

Bill Bennett: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not ideal, but better than 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 1spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Sydney Frish: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good enough to pretend having 4-card support.

Dean Eidler: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Slight underbid especially playing strong NT (pard expects 12-14 bal) but 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) yuk.

Denis Haynes: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If my partner has more than four hearts and/or more than 6 points then I expect another bid, otherwise happy at the 2 level.

Steve Hurley: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner can describe further to feel our way to the right contract.

William Striker: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). OK, it is a 4-3 fit, but the hearts are good.

H A de Jong: 2heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Need four trumps for a 3diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) splinter.

Pat O'Connor: 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems familiar.

I guess the moral is "support with support". When you don't know what to do, you need to find an action that will make it easier for partner to help you out. Hence the low scores for the 2clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) rebids, which effectively make it impossible for partner to make any sensible decisions.

Hand Four - West deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK532
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q64
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQT
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q5


West North East South
2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 1 pass 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2 ?

1. Weak two in either major.
2. To play if opener has spades, requests partner to bid 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with hearts.
Defence: North could have doubled 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to show a weak notrump. South can double 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) for takeout of spades. Everything else is natural, including 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes).


Call Award %
3spadesm.gif (111 bytes)60107

In the magazine, Larry Cohen predicted that this problem would be the most lopsided vote of the month. He was doubly right: the experts voted in a landslide for 2NT, and the readers voted in a landslide for Pass. I'm with the readers, who collect 800 against the experts' 400:

Pietro Campanile: Pass. My hand is not that good with the round suits values dragging it way down. Pass and wait sounds best.

Tim Trahair: Pass. The temptation is to bid 2NT showing the equivalent of at least a 1NT opening.

David Hester: Pass. If he has hearts, my stop is not good enough. He might have spades.

Bill Bennett: Pass. Any other bid could mislead partner.

John Leenders: Pass. I get another chance to bid so I pass. After 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) a 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid would show fewer spades then an immediate 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Paul Tranmer: Pass. It's North's pass of the 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) opening bid that makes me come down on the side of caution here. That and the fact that I still don't know what's going on round the table yet. If we end up defending 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it may or may not go off look how weak my spade pips are. If West corrects to 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes), passed round to me, I'll now try 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes). And if it goes 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-pass-4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I'll double as it'll need very little from North for 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to go two or three off.

Paul is correct to take notice of North's first pass. The auction notes indicated that North would have doubled 2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with a weak notrump type of hand. So for us to make game, we need partner to have a maximum pass with which he will happily reopen the bidding if we pass now.

Martin Eggins: Pass. If spades are 6025 then partner can make a takeout double next round. Passing also let's me assess whether partner or East has the balance of power.

Rex Fox: Pass. Not enough to bid 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes), looks like a defensive hand. Let pard balance if need be.

Sam Arber: Pass. Happy to defend spades, or bid spades over 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

David Matthews: Pass. I don't mind defending 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I will balance if West bids 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Dean Eidler: Pass. Will bid 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) comes back to me and pass if 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) comes back.

Ken Berry: Pass. A lot of soft values... may bid 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in passout? Am I lacking courage?

As long as you're planning to reopen over 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I don't think anyone will accuse you of lacking courage.

Robin Cross: Pass. Preempts work sometimes.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I am not in a hurry to bid.

Sydney Frish: Pass. This promises to be an interesting auction.

2NT, the expert majority vote, didn't get a lot of support from the readers. Here are the few who offered a comment:

Terry Dunne: 2NT. Showing the strength and stoppers all in one bid. 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) works great when partner has spade support but puts partner in an impossible position otherwise.

Steve Hurley: 2NT. The compromise.

Fred Altstock: 2NT. Hoping partner may have 9-10 points and we stay at the 2 level.

If I knew we were staying at the 2-level, I'd be even more keen to defend 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Frank Campbell: 2NT. East has a few hearts and maybe one quick trick. West could well have spades and I have a nice hand with a stop in both majors, so at the vulnerability 2NT it is.

At the vulnerability? If we bid 2NT and it's wrong, it's wrong at any vulnerability, while if it's right, the most we can get is 400. Meanwhile, the vulnerable opponents may be in trouble if they go off as much as one doubled undertrick.  

Nigel Guthrie: 2NT. Descriptive. Passing is just as dangerous. Doubling is insane.

Personally, I don't see the danger in passing. Partner is sure to be short in West's suit (whatever that is), so if he has any values he will probably reopen (having already limited his hand by his first pass). So to take an aggressive position right now just seems unnecessary.

Alexander Cook: 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It is important to show the spades before East-West bids hearts.

Tim Andrews: 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes). West has hearts, but we are stronger and should be in the competition.

Craig Taberner: 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not without risk, but at matchpoints this is the practical bid.

Martyn Rew: Dbl. Expect further bidding to be 3heartsm.gif (112 bytes) from West, all pass. Partner will hopefully be more comfortable leading from singleton spade.

Denis Haynes: Dbl. If West passes my partner may bid clubs which would force us into 3NT. This may be our contract.

This deal is from the Spring National final, although I changed the vulnerability and scoring method to make it a tougher problem (offering a penalty of 800 to the few who were smart enough to take it). At the table, it was actually NS who were vulnerable, at IMPs, so playing for penalties was less attractive and 2NT was the winning action. 

spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J6
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK93
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 875
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K984
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q109874
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J8
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J42
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A7
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10752
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A963
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J10632
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK532
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q64
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ10
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q5
West North East South
  Marston   Thomson
2diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 2spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2NT
pass 3NT all pass  
Result: 9 tricks, NS +600

Hand Five - North deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK98742
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QJT
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 95


West North East South
  3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3NT ?


Call Award %
4heartsm.gif (112 bytes)703832
4clubsm.gif (113 bytes)2008
5clubsm.gif (113 bytes)1003

Summing up the case for the majority:

Tim Andrews: Pass. EW probably have solid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have a chance of defeating 3NT with hearts using the diamond entry.

David Hester: Pass. If partner has two or three hearts I might have seven tricks in defence; if not, I don't want to sacrifice.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I hope to set this contract.

Willem Willemse: Pass. Who's got the spades? I don't want to wake them up with a double or 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes)/4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hope to see three passes, lead the heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K to see the battlefield and play clubsm.gif (113 bytes)9 if needed.

Alexander Cook: Pass. In tempo, of course. If you pass smoothly you will be able to cash the first seven heart tricks. Even if hearts don't run you will cash the remainder once you get in with the diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q. East should have at least AKxxxx in diamonds. East surely would have overcalled with at least five spades.

If East had five spades and solid club stoppers, it wouldn't be unusual to choose 3NT. A 3spadesm.gif (111 bytes) overcall would make it impossible to get to 3NT when it's right. So it's very easy for EW to miss a spade fit, so long as we stay out of their way. 

Gary Lane: Pass. Keep them out of the spade fit.

Jack B Nimble: Pass. Interesting that East hasn't doubled first? I would assume a club control and lack of hearts make it difficult. The trick question is do I overlead or under the hearts?

Sydney Frish: Pass. Tempted to bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but that would ignore the implication of partner's pre-empt. Perhaps we can beat 3NT with the length in hearts and a side entry in diamonds.

Denis Haynes: Pass. Partner has few points and lots of clubs, I have potential entries in hearts and diamonds and two leads to my partners clubs. We have a chance of defeating the contract but I don't see a contract for us.

Sam Arber: Pass. If 3NT is making we have missed a good save. 

Pietro Campanile: Pass. No point in helping them find their spade fit. The best chance of them going down in a game is 3NT.

William Striker: Pass. I could have got away with a heart bid at the three level, but not four.

Pat O'Connor: Pass. Lead a heart.

H A de Jong: Pass. Lead heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A. Hearts are 7222.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. And lead a top heart. 3NT may go a lot down with 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) cold for opponents.

Dean Eidler: Pass. Perhaps I should bid as I don't know what to lead!

True, it's always a good idea to know what to lead before making that final pass. (Or in the case of Problem One, it's a good idea to know who is on lead). In fact, in this case we actually don't know yet who is on lead.

John Leenders: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The choice of lead is very difficult so I'd better bid 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Ken Berry: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I suspect West is about to bid 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and I want a heart lead not a club.

Robin Cross: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Lead directing. Where are the spades? West should be bidding 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here.

Jameson Cole: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Lead directing as I think the final contract will be spades. Passing 3NT is a risk, not bidding 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a greater risk, as partner may fit, and double could be a huge disaster.

Tim Trahair: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The other real alternative seems to be 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Presumably West has a fistful of spades.

Martyn Rew: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Viable bid even if partner passed any help at all from partner and it makes. Have to presume East is not suicidal.

There is a difference between East being suicidal, and East having a difficult problem over 3clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The point of preempts is that they often cause the opponents (even the sane ones) to do the wrong thing.

David Matthews: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). You are not going to deter me from bidding my good suit. Game may not make but I still think it's the right action. 3NT may well make.

Fred Altstock: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We might make or only go one off not vulnerable.

Nick Beaumont: 4heartsm.gif (112 bytes). "Wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!" Shakespeare

I have to admit, I can't quite interpret this quote (from Hamlet). Is South the intruding fool (Polonius), about to be punished for his intrusion? So East is Claudius, initially in trouble but now allowed to escape as Polonius takes the fall. Personally, I think the quote about the nurse is more appropriate for this problem.

Finally, the four minority options:

Bill Bennett: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Expect East to have a quick entry and a suit to run. He may make nine tricks. Best to support clubs since North may otherwise take no trick.

Rex Fox: 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes). East might have a running spade suit and a club stop, so 4clubsm.gif (113 bytes) doubled shouldn't cost too much.

Barb Whitmee: 5clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A sacrifice, making it difficult for West to call the spades.

Martin Eggins: 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This leaves partner in no doubt as to a lead if West dares go 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. This is an attempt to muddy the waters a bit, because 3NT is surely never going to be the final contract when EW have at least a nine card spade fit and West will hold at most one club. So, after they "escape" to 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I'll then bid 5heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and expect to go for 500 against 620 or, better still, defend 5spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and beat it.

This plan makes an awful lot of assumptions, but it does have the merit of working on the actual hand. The full deal:
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J4
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 742
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KQ108764
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 108632
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1065
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A963
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQ97
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J3 
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K85
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ2
spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5
heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK98742
diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QJ10
clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 95
West North East South
3clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3NT dbl
pass pass 4spadesm.gif (111 bytes) all pass
Result: 10 tricks, NS -620

The top scores for the month are listed below. Note that these scores will differ slightly from those published in the magazine. This is because several of the bids received from readers are not found by any members of the expert panel, and are initially given a score of zero. On closer inspection, many of these responses are given an upgrade, causing the perpetrator to suddenly move up the rankings.

Top scores for Feb-Mar
1Leon Slonim480
1Sam Arber480
3Ian Smith470
4Sydney Frish460
5Gary Lane450
5H A de Jong450
5Steve Hurley450
8Joe Lentz430
8John Leenders430
10Ivan Demeny420
10Nigel Guthrie420
10Sonny Schultz420
13Andrew MacAlister410
13Dean Eidler410
13Denis Haynes410
13Nick Beaumont410
17Pietro Campanile400
18Peter Tarlinton390
19Alexander Cook380
19David Johnson380
19Derek Pocock380
19Ian Patterson380
19Jeff Brokenshire380
19Pat O'Connor380
19Peter Stride380
19Rex Fox380
27Bill Bennett370
27Robin Cross370

Leading scores for 2006
1Leon Slonim480
1Sam Arber480
3Ian Smith470
4Sydney Frish460
5Gary Lane450
5H A de Jong450
5Steve Hurley450
8Joe Lentz430
8John Leenders430
10Ivan Demeny420
10Nigel Guthrie420
10Sonny Schultz420
13Andrew MacAlister410
13Dean Eidler410
13Denis Haynes410
13Nick Beaumont410
17Pietro Campanile400
18Peter Tarlinton390
19Alexander Cook380
19David Johnson380
19Derek Pocock380
19Ian Patterson380
19Jeff Brokenshire380
19Pat O'Connor380
19Peter Stride380
19Rex Fox380
27Bill Bennett370
27Robin Cross370

Thank you to all the readers and visitors who entered this month's forum. Click here to try your luck at the next set of problems, to be answered in the April-May issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your February-March issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.