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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles December-January 2007
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, Eric Kokish and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - West deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 97432
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QT964
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 97
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 6


West North East South
1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) dbl 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ?


Call Award %
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 1005922
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 8043
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 8084
1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)7049
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)6040
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)6040
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)2001
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)2001
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)0014

With just one readers' forum left in 2006, the leaderboard was displaying most of the usual suspects, but with a couple of unfamiliar names occupying the top two spots. Let's see how they go in the last forum of the year.

On our first problem, we have an enormous hand: five card support for both of partner's majors, shortage in the opponent's suit, and a card with a pretty red "Q" painted on the corner. So many things to show, it's hard to know where to start.

Tim Trahair: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too many choices. Should bid with the distribution despite few points. The opponents may have ten clubs!

Manuel Paulo, Alexander Cook, Nigel Guthrie, John Furedy: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). As I want to compete later on, I bid the higher ranking suit first.

Robin Cross: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We appear to have a double fit in the majors (maybe even two 5-4 fits!) I expect to be forced to bid to the 3-major level, as I expect them to bid to at least 3-minor and would not be surprised if they bid game.

Fred Altstock: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Can't get into too much trouble with 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) being not vulnerable. Hopefully partner has four hearts and four spades.

Emil Battista: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A bit aggressive, but what the heck.

Sam Arber: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too good to pass with 5-5 but not good enough to cue or double.

The readers offered a fair bit of support for a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) "cuebid", some even intending it as Michaels.

Martyn Rew: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). To keep faith with partner -- any subsequent bidding will warrant a pass.

Leon Slonim: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Michaels removes their bidding space.

Dean Eidler: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Might even raise.

John Leenders: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). No points but shape and at that vul worth a bid showing both majors.

Frank Campbell: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Michaels, and more obstructive than 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Maybe some pairs have an agreement to play this as Michaels, but it is far from standard. Partner's double asked us to bid our best non-club suit, and a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid is simply following instructions: telling him we prefer diamonds. If we wanted to make a cuebid, it would be much better to use partner's short suit.

In any case, both 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) score the same marks, because none of the expert panel felt the hand was worth a cuebid. From the magazine:

Mike Lawrence: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Intending to bid up to 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) later. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be natural, and 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be a strong hand of some type.

Michael Ware: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) cuebid would overstate my strength.

The 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid was a clear winner, as most people felt they were good enough to show both suits (hence the higher ranking one must go first). The players who felt they were only worth one bid had to start with the better suit, not the higher one.

Ken Berry: 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). So partner can lead my suit.

Elizabeth Gilbert: 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 6 TP for hearts and non-vul. A double for majors could be misunderstood.

David Matthews: 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think Pass is out with both majors so I bid my best suit even though I am weak. Bidding spades followed by hearts later would mislead partner as to strength.

Amiram Millet: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Weak jump shift while trying to jam the bidding. Best vulnerability.

John Howden: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner will assume five hearts and that the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid is a 'Law' level raise. If North only has three hearts or a 'big double' then no damage in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as we are not vul.

John Sinclair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shutout bid as points are in opps favour and it's unlikely they will go above 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Boris Richter: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Preemptive and even making with many hands when partner has been dealt a normal takeout.

Chris Raisin: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Law of Total tricks indicates that if you have a 5-5 fit in either major this pre-emptive bid will be profitable. If North has 16+ HCP and 5+ spades he will bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which is still OK -- NS not vul so go for it!

Steve Hurley: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not vul, a double fit, and little chance of defeating 5-minor; I get there fast.

In contrast to those who are planning to show both suits, there were a few people who felt we weren't even worth one bid:

Victor Leash: Pass. Partner would expect a free bid to be stronger than 2 HCP.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Weak hand for free bid (even on level 1). I hope to show my majors in next turn.

Ulf Nilsson: Pass. Too weak. Our chance will come.

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron is not really tempted. Change the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)9 to the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q, and it will bite.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. It's far from clear who 'owns' this hand as yet, so I'll await developments. Assuming pard has a classic take-out double we will have at least a nine card fit in one of the majors, but pard will need a much better than minimum hand before I'll want to enter this race.

Pietro Campanile and Helena Dawson: Pass. My healthy two count will still be there at the next round of bidding when I shall be free to make a cuebid without getting partner too excited (thank you for the nice vulnerability for a change!)

It's a bit pessimistic to describe this hand as a 2-count. Sure, partner will expect more than two points for a free bid, but this hand is worth more than two points. Distributional values pull just as much weight as high-card values.

Denis Haynes: Pass. Two points but 5-5 in the majors; wait for partner's next move.

Bill Bennett: Pass. Any bid will show more strength than I hold.

And finally, in what could be a world-wide first for a bidding forum, the top readers' vote went to a bid that was not even considered by the expert panel! One quarter of the readers went for the responsive double, neglecting to show the fifth card in either suit.  

Terry Dunne: Dbl. I have enough (just) considering the two five card suits.

David Hester: Dbl. And rub one of the pips off the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)2. I take it that this is responsive?

Tim Andrews: Dbl. A weak hand, but I would be happy in either major suit.

Ian Smith: Dbl. You choose an unbid suit partner. I can support either.

Neil Ireland and Barbara Whitmee: Dbl. Negative double, interested in majors.

Paul Daynes: Dbl. Though it's weak, it's an 8 loser with reasonable values and good length in the majors. The double invites partner to bid his longest major; either a good pre-emptive sacrifice or possible game.

We don't have the actual deal, so here's the first hand that Jack generated when I keyed in this auction:
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQJ5
hearts A732
diamonds AQ5
clubs 85
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 106
hearts J
diamonds J1042
clubs AKQJ32
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A8
hearts K85 
diamonds K863
clubs 10974
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 97432
hearts Q10964
diamonds 97
clubs 6

Hand Two - South deals, both vul, Board-a-match. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QT6
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KJ98
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 653
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKT


West North East South
      1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
pass 2NT pass ?

2NT is natural and invitational.


Call Award %
3NT 804226
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 801631
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 2006
Other 001

The next problem is from an OzOne practice match. The conditions were Board-a-Match, because the team was preparing for a trip to the US Fall Nationals, where that is the predominant form of scoring.

For those unfamiliar with BAM scoring, it's a teams game where you get one point for each board where you outscore the other team (regardless of the size of the swing). Kind of like a mini-pairs game with only two tables.

So we have two questions: (1) Is game a 50% proposition, and (2) will hearts produce more tricks than notrump. Bear in mind we may only need to get one of these questions right to win the board.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The 4-4 fit may be worth an extra trick even when partner is 3433 eg. Jxx-AQxx-QJx-Qxx.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is tough to talk Bridge Baron out of major-suit fits.

Dean Eidler: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If pard bids 3N now I pass.

Martyn Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Nothing much more for partner than what he knows already.

Ian Smith: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm minimum partner. We do have a 4-4 fit but bidding any further is up to you.

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Confirms four hearts and a minimum opening. Partner can decide what if anything more should be done.

Denis Haynes: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows 4 card support and game on if 2NT is 12 points.

Sam Arber and Alexander Cook: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Won't push for game; hope 140 better than 120.

That sounds like a winner to me. I expect to win the board by staying out of game, and I'd like to secure my plus-score by playing in my known fit. I'm equally content with this next group though, who support Marston's choice at the table:

Fred Altstock: Pass. Being cautious. Don't think we have 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3NT.

Bill Bennett: Pass. I have described my hand accurately. North can have no more than 12 HCP and game is therefore unlikely.

John Sinclair: Pass. I have no extra points and 2NT is easier to obtain with balanced hand than 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

John Furedy: Pass. Minimum opener, and no extra distributional values in hearts. Also, a diamond lead goes to declarer's strength. A 120 should score well against 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) going down.

Terry Dunne: Pass. Do I have enough for game? No. Is my shape better suited to notrumps or hearts? Notrumps.

John Howden: Pass. We have no shape for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and with North promising a flat 10-12 opposite my flat 13, 3NT would be a gamble.

Boris Richter: Pass. Bad shape and the diamond suit is shaky, the intermediate cards are very good though but I don't like bidding 3NT with no five card suit and bad shape. Bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would be even worse.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. Try as a might, I cannot think that 3NT will be a playable contract because pard didn't bid it over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I am, however, delighted that pard has put us into what should be the highest scoring partscore which I hope will win the board for us.

Pietro Campanile: Pass. Lately I seem to be passing a lot in this panel, either I am getting old or my partner's declarer play is getting worse. At this format of scoring there seems to be no incentive whatsoever in moving away from 2NT.

Chris Raisin: Pass. North's hearts are obviously weakish and two balanced hands with max 24 HCP indicates a 2NT contract

Finally, there was a lot of support for bidding game. That seems a big gamble to me -- my partners tend to bid games if they are there, and there is certainly nothing in this dummy that partner isn't already expecting.

David Matthews: 3NT. I think I will accept the invitation so which is the best contract? 3NT is one trick less and probably easier as there appear to be no ruffing values.

Sydney Frish: 3NT. Decided to up-grade my hand; partner should have about 12 HCP for his invitation and the two tens now look good.

Linda Lubeck: 3NT. 9 tricks easier than 10.

Amiram Millet: 3NT. Aiming for a top at BAM. Too flat a hand to insist on 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The good spots are urging not to pass.

Paul Daynes: 3NT. Assuming the 2NT shows a flat hand, possible only nine tricks anyway.

Victor Leash: 3NT. Partner is likely to have a weak holding in hearts to offer notrumps.

Robin Cross: 3NT. 13 HCP plus two tens with good HCP structure. Vul games only need a 38+ success rate.

That might be true at teams scoring, but not at BAM. At teams, bidding game will earn you either +600 or -100, but at this binary form of scoring, your reward is either 1 or 0. A 38% success rate means a 38% score.

Despite the overwhelming vote for notrumps, on the actual deal the winning contract was 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (which was bid at the other table, so at best you can tie the board). It was a poor contract that would have gone down on most days; the percentage contract on the deal was 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Hand Three - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q43
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 97654
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J5
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q54


West North East South
  1NT pass ?

1NT is 15-17.


Call Award %
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 5868
Pass 80 4230
Other 0 02

The next case is a textbook problem from Marshall Miles. Many people believe it is correct to transfer with any five card major, but Miles disagrees. Let's see if he has any support. 

John Leenders: Pass. A toss up but partner may do better in 1NT.

Chris Raisin: Pass. If playing Jacoby transfers you would be tempted to bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to force North to rebid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) -- but what if North's hearts are only xx?

Tim Andrews: Pass. The hearts are feeble and my black queens could be useful to partner.

Sam Arber: Pass. Possibly no entry to hearts but values outside make me want to pass.

Graham Osborne: Pass. Scattered honours in my short suits suggest NT play.

Richard Morse: Pass. Flat shape, slow honours.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. With a balanced hand and less than eight points, I pass.

David Hester: Pass. Yes, hearts may well be better, but I want to reduce the chances of the bad guys finding spades.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. 1NT contract only needs 7 tricks.

Of course, this is a bidding forum, and I think we all knew that the top score would go to the pedestrian transfer (although the margin was actually quite small). So the passers, who sacrificed the top score in order to vote with their conscience, have my admiration. But the pedestrians have the 100 points.  

Bridge Baron: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Automatic for Bridge Baron, even with 65432 of hearts.

John Furedy: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The weaker the hand, the more effective the transfer is. I guess if the 1NT bidder super accepts with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I would have a small problem, but would pass (with 17 points and four hearts, game is still pretty far away, even for IMPs).

Paul Tranmer: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Yes, we will be a level higher but it should play two tricks better than 1NT, particularly as the hearts are so poor.

John Howden: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Is this a trick question? I was taught to transfer to a five card major regardless of points.

Martyn Rew: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Followed by a resounding pass next round.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will usually play better than 1NT even when partner has a doubleton. Your holding of three spades gives you some protection if you stir up competition.

Bill Bennett: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 1NT could make, but a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) contract looks safer.

Linda Lubeck: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Those five little hearts won't be taking any tricks in no trump.

Robin Cross: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Ugly. My first reaction was to pass, however, almost no one lets you play 1NT these days. I will get my suit (such as it is) into the auction and hope to buy the hand for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

I think this reasoning is actually backwards. If we have a heart fit, the opponents will always balance over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If they have an appropriate hand, they can compete over any auction, but over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) they are more likely to compete only when they have a fit.

Jeremy Kennard: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The hearts are potentially useless at NT.

Boris Richter: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Bad suit but if partner has been dealt four hearts I don't want to be guilty of not showing this lousy suit, and I have some shape after all.

Fred Altstock and Ian Smith: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Transfer to hearts is a safer option.

Terry Dunne: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I recall a Larry Cohen comment that he never has any trouble with these hands, he always transfers. If it's good enough for him...

Let's go to the magazine and find out:

Larry Cohen: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). For 20 years I have been blindly following this policy: always transfer with a five-card major and a bad hand. Shameless plug: For more, see

Frank Campbell: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Then pass unless there is a super accept.

Tim Trahair: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Let's hope North doesn't super accept.

David Matthews: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I don't like Pass with a 5 card major and a hole in diamonds.

Pietro Campanile: 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I am sure there are brighter people out there with plenty of CPU and Brainiac power to process simulations of this holding and decide that pass is the percentage action. Personally I bid a pedestrian 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and save my (few) remaining braincells for the next problem.

If that's true, and there really are brighter people out there with CPU and Brainiac power, then I'm happy for them to forward the results of the simulation to me at and I'll add the results in here.

This hand is from the fascinating book by Marshall Miles, Modern Constructive Bidding. Marshall didn't recognise the hand when it was presented in this forum, but his answer and comments in the magazine were consistent with his original text:

Marshall Miles: Pass. 1NT will almost surely be better than hearts if partner has two hearts. It might be better when partner has three hearts. If he has four hearts, there is too much danger of his showing a super-acceptance, forcing the bidding to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Opposite a heart fit I think there is a better chance of taking seven tricks at notrump than nine tricks in hearts.

Hand Four - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 76
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 643
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKQT96
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J3


West North East South
      3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
pass 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass ?

4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is natural and forcing.


Call Award %
4NT 100427
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)8044
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)703350
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 7041
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 401338

Bill Bennett: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). What else can I bid? If North cannot stand diamonds and insists on clubs, my jack may be of value.

Emil Battista and Richard Morse: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Good diamonds, just one or two less than partner expects.

Amiram Millet: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was a foolish bid. Now, I'm stuck.

David Hester: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This is what comes of violating the system. I should have passed or opened 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? The way the youth of Australia are heading they'll be opening 5-counts soon. Hang on a second -- how old are you, David?

Victor Leash: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Nothing to add to opening bid.

Neil Ireland: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Showing first round control in diamonds.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I have neither good support nor any feature to show.

Tim Andrews: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Confirm that my diamonds are strong. I have nothing else to show.

Frank Campbell: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). They are all I have but if I do have J3 in clubs and not 93 as in the magazine can I change to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)?

Nicely spotted Frank. At the table, the cards were actually images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)93, not images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J3. At the last minute we added in the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J to make it a tougher problem and I forgot to apply this change in the magazine. I've changed your answer to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and added you to the year end leaderboard in 38th place. I hope no one else was affected in a similar way.

Let's hear from the other club bidders.

Alexander Cook: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner should have six or more clubs and 0-1 diamonds.

John Howden: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Can't tell partner any more about my diamonds so support his clubs.

Boris Richter: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner has been dealt the singleton diamond with 6+ good clubs so I have no reason not bid game. I do not have side controls therefore I do not have much to choose from.

Pietro Campanile: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should show a mighty powerful and/or distributional hand to blithely bypass 3NT. I shall make the only encouraging noise I can afford.

David Matthews: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have a good hand for partner and many tricks if he can draw trumps. My images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J is very useful.

Tim Trahair: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Must respond. The only other choices seems to be 4NT and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), neither of which seems very attractive.

John Leenders: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). He knows about the diamonds and I have nothing else to show.

Terry Dunne: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not much support to raise with, but with about an ace more than partner might be expecting (as well as the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J).

Only 7% of readers found the winning bid on this problem...

John Furedy: 4NT. Depending on number of aces (or keycards), expect to be in 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), or 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Despite John's belief that 4NT is Blackwood here, this bid does give him 100 points, and makes him the first and only person in 2006 to score a perfect 500. Given that I announced 12 months ago that I planned to make 2006 a year of low scores, I'm a little disappointed that John has ruined my perfect record. But since John is a member of my home club (Grand Slam), if someone had to get a perfect score I'm glad it was him.

Here are some other interpretations of the winning bid:

Zbych Bednarek: 4NT. Should be good diamonds with club tolerance.

Dean Eidler: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Would like to bid 4NT showing the diamond ace.

Helena Dawson: 4NT. Should show two card support (and is not suddenly promising major stoppers).

Paul Tranmer: 4NT. Would really need some partnership agreement here. Personally I don't think 4NT should be Blackwood as strictly speaking no suit is agreed. So, the 4NT bid is intended to show a hand a bit too good for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and far too good for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I hope pard reads it like that, but if not and I get an ace showing response I should be able to handle it.

Graham Osborne: 4NT. Showing a good hand in context with no major suit control. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would sound like a minimum without club support. 4-major would be a cue for clubs. 4NT can't be an attempt to play there and should be stronger than 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Robin Cross: 4NT. Last Train anyone? With a control in a major, I would show that. I would raise to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with considerably less values. 4NT seems to be the only bid left. I also happen to play a lot of Last Train type bids over majors and minors (4NT over clubs and 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over diamonds).

The hand is from the annual Bondi Bridge Club congress. Thank you to all the people who described my 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) opening as foolish, dreadful, sick, or idiotic. I'll try to make my preempts more aggressive in future.


Hand Five - West deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 6
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q93
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ952
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 8764


West North East South
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)* 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ?

* 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is Michaels, 5+5+ hearts and a minor.


Call Award %
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)1004246
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 8083
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)602519
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 4048
Dbl 3046
Pass 005
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 003
3NT 002
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 001
Other 001

Gary Lane and Paul Daynes: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass or correct.

David Matthews: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pass or correct. If partner bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will be bidding 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner passes 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) I have some defence against 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Martyn Rew: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Playing 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) by South or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) by North may well play better than 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) by North, with a shortage of entries in dummy.

Jeremy Kennard: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Presumably pass/correct to minor.

It's not clear whether 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is correctible, but it gets the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. Another bid which produces a wide range of interpretations:

Steve Hurley: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We are likely going to be outgunned in spades, but I want partner to either (1) lead a diamond or (2) bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if that's his suit.

Chris Raisin: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Law of Total tricks indicates a bid to the 4 level in a fitting minor is worthwhile. North will know I have five diamonds and if West overbids 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) then he will either double (with any spades of worth and a chance to take them down) or proceed to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if holding 6+ diamonds.

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Warning partner not to bid over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with hearts and clubs.

Ken Berry: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner can correct to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and knows what to lead.

Bill Bennett: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not enough points for game. Opponents are likely to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and I will then bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if North does not bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Linda Lubeck: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Pass or correct. I'm happy either way and want partner to lead my best suit if we're going to defend. 

John Leenders: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). West is bound to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and I do not want a club lead.

The majority prefer not to mess around with minor suits and correctible bids:

Dean Eidler: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Will bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If pard has hearts and clubs so be it.

John Furedy: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Have to let partner know about the heart fit, and singleton spade looks good even if probably short of points.

Boris Richter: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If my partner is holding the club suit and our opponents the diamond suit 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is high enough, but I have to bid something because my partner may still be strong.

Denis Haynes: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Support partner's major not vul.

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Must bid and don't like looking for North's minor which may lead us to 5-minor when 4-major is more likely to be achievable.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With a double fit, I bid game.

Sam Arber and Sydney Frish: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Then 4NT for minors if 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) comes back to you.

Pietro Campanile: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The opponents have a likely ten spades plus on the line which are probably 6-4, I plan to show first my heart support and eventually bid 4NT over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), describing all of my hand.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Over the inevitable 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), you can still try 4NT.

If you're planning to inevitably bid 4NT, why the 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid? Sure, you get to show all your suits, but unless you're trying to help partner make a six-level decision, what's the point?

Anyway, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is the clear choice of experts and readers, and easily wins the 100 points. But, thanks to Amendment 17b of the 1971 Bidding Forum Act, we no longer have to watch helplessly on those rare occasions where the panel miss the correct bid. We're exercising our option to also award 100 points to:

Frank Campbell: 4NT. Both minors. I could go 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but they will go 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so I will let them guess rather than have to do this later. With our double fit we should be ok in either minor.

Terry Dunne: 4NT. Assuming the Michaels bid is weak/strong and East's bid is a limit raise, this allows partner to chose the best place to sacrifice.

David Hester: 4NT. We will have to sacrifice, so I'll head for the longest trump suit. I note that 3NT is not on offer; surely that bid could not be natural?

I briefly considered offering 3NT as an option for people to hang themselves from, but had a sudden attack of what must have been Christmas spirit. Yes, 3NT is (as always) natural. But leaving it out of the drop-down box didn't deter everybody:

Tim Andrews: 3NT. Asking partner to show his minor.

Aaargh! Here are some other minority choices:

Paul Tranmer: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I decided to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) before West could! Joking aside, if we play Michaels as either weak or strong we should be on to a winner either way. If pard is strong we'll alight in a making five (or six) level contract and if weak it'll be a profitable sacrifice. Also remember that opps sometimes get these high level decisions wrong.

Richard Morse: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think this should be pick you best suit, whereas 4NT would be pick your minor.

Ulf Nilsson: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Putting pressure on West with their 10+ fit. Probably not a contest point winner since it wasn't an listed option ;-)

Correct. If we're planning on going to the five-level anyway, there's no reason to play in the 8-card fit when there is a perfectly good 10-card fit available.

Ian Smith: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I prefer a 5-4 or 5-5 minor fit to our 5-3 heart fit.

Robin Cross: Dbl. I play that a double 'consults' in some competitive type auctions, so I am suggesting that partner bid on with an offensive type hand. At nil vul some of my Michaels bids should not be allowed to be seen by small children or those with a weak heart.

Vince Harackiewicz, Victor Leash and Neil Ireland: Dbl. Pick your better suit.

Amiram Millet: Pass. Too high for any other sane call.

John Howden: Pass. We have a 5-3 heart fit and maybe 5-4 diamonds or 4-4 clubs depending on which minor partner has. Our best 'Law' level bid is at the three level which has now passed. If EW have nine trumps and we have nine (maybe) then there are 18 tricks, so if EW can make 10 spades we can make 8 diamonds. The risk of a 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid is that we have picked the wrong minor.

When people blame their choices on the Law, I always like to give the Lawman the chance to defend himself. So let's go back to the magazine for the final word:

Larry Cohen: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). They will surely bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over which I will bid again (probably 4NT), so I am preparing for higher action by getting the lead and my hand across.

The full deal:
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q
hearts AK764
diamonds AJ763
clubs K10
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ1075432
hearts J
diamonds 4
clubs AQ5
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A98
hearts 10852 
diamonds 108
clubs J932
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 6
hearts Q93
diamonds KQ952
clubs 8764

Congratulations to Israel's Pietro Campanile, winner of the 2006 Reader's Race. Pietro is one of the editors of Israel's national bridge magazine, He will be invited to join the expert panel in 2007.


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 have a score of zero at the time of printing. Once all the reader's votes are in, including the occasional appeal, these responses are sometimes upgraded causing changes to the scores and rankings.

Top scores for December
1John Furedy500
2Bastiaan Korner480
3Rick Lu470
4Graham Osborne460
4Nigel Guthrie460
6Alexander Cook450
6Boris Richter450
6Helena Dawson450
6John Sinclair450
6Pat O'Connor450
6Tim Trahair450
6Vernon Myers450
13Fred Altstock440
14Jeremy Kennard430
14Marek Malowidzki430
16Bill March420
16Elizabeth Gilbert420
16George Czubala420
16Manuel Paulo420
16Pietro Campanile420
16Steve Hurley420
22Peter van Casteren410
22Robin Cross410
24Andrew MacAlister400
24Ian Patterson400
24S Sashital400
24Sam Arber400
24Sydney Frish400
24Tania Black400
30Chris Raisin390
30Ivan Demeny390
30James Thompson390
33Ken Berry380
33Marion Carney380
35Denis Haynes370
35Henri de Jong370
35Robert Black370
35Terry Dunne370
35Trish Whitton370
35Zbych Bednarek370
35Frank Campbell370
42David Matthews360
42Emil Battista360

Final scores for 2006
1Pietro Campanile2570
2Robin Cross2560
3Nigel Guthrie2490
4Andrew MacAlister2440
5Henri de Jong2430
6Steve Hurley2400
7Ian Patterson2390
8Alexander Cook2380
9Manuel Paulo2360
10Gary Lane2340
11Tim Trahair2310
12Sam Arber2280
13Bill Bennett2240
13John Leenders2240
15Ivan Demeny2220
15Joe Lentz2220
17Dean Eidler2210
18Kay O'Connor2200
18Pat O'Connor2200
20Terry Dunne2180
21Leon Slonim2170
22Sydney Frish2160
23Fred Altstock2130
24Trish Whitton2120
25Rex Fox2110
26Denis Haynes2090
27Roger Yandle2080
28Ken Berry2040
29Ian Erratt2010
30Jameson Cole2010
30Peter Stride2010
30Tania Black2010
33Barbara Whitmee2000
33Michael Davy2000
33Zbych Bednarek2000
36Martin Eggins1990
37Arthur Porter1970
38Robert Black1970
38Frank Campbell1970
40Derek Pocock1960
40Jeff Brokenshire1960
40Martyn Rew1960
43Tim Andrews1950

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 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.