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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles April-May 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, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQ975
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q8
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ---
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K76543


West North East South
1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) * 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass pass ?

1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is Precision. 10-15, could be short.


Call Award %
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 1004354
Dbl 802925
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5097

Over the past few issues we've seen a lot of bidding problems with seven or more different answers; now for a change, here is a whole set of problems with only a few possible choices. I'm a little concerned that this could cause a sudden spike in readers' scores, but I've still got the rest of the year to rectify that if necessary.

Many people thought our first problem was the toughest of the set, but the readers' votes matched the expert vote almost perfectly.

Ken Berry: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I like my shape.

Frank Campbell: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not much defence to double but I think we can make 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Barbara Whitmee: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Five losers opposite partner's probable 8 losers means 11 tricks. images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q may be useful to help establish his hearts. Alternatively, partner may be able to set up my clubs.

Rex Fox: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Trust your teammates do the same at the other table.

Bridge Baron: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bridge Baron uses simulation to choose this call.

Boris Richter: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I am strong offensively, I have some working cards in partner's heart suit and this auction is strongly suggesting that there are many tricks out there. I like my side six club suit and my good holdings in the heart suit.

Martyn Rew: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Should be a doddle unless partner has overstated his hand.

Richard Morse: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Worth the push, I think. All my cards should be working, and I don't think they can make 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Noting the lack of vulnerability, several people were just looking to take out some insurance:

Jeremy Kennard: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). At IMPs, happy to be one off in 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) even if 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is one off, rather than pass 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and find it makes.

Zbych Bednarek: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even if 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) both fail, one off is good bridge!

Jameson Cole: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). There is too much chance of game our way, and too much chance of game their way. Must avoid a double game swing. PS. hope partner didn't make a slow pass.

Helena Dawson: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not going to double 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), 300 is the maximum. If 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) doesn't make, 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) probably does. If 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) does make, 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a good sacrifice.

David Hester: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). OK if either contract makes.

Others were thinking of a slam rather than a sacrifice, although it seems unlikely that partner will take anything as a slam try after our 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid on the previous round:

Terry Dunne: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's pass shows at worst uncertainty whether to defend or not. He should view this as a strong invitation to bid slam.

Paul Tranmer: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In my view, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the last round was an underbid, so Ill soldier on again here. North didnt double 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) so I see no good reason to do so although I would expect it to go one or two off. Bidding it slowly like this is also likely to persuade West to defend a contract I expect to make.

Tim Trahair: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It seems that North has 10+ points, with few diamonds and probably four spades; also East has little other than perhaps four diamonds. Reluctant to pass and don't want to double North's hand may even be good enough to venture 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)!

Sydney Frish: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With a 5 loser hand and very likely 9 trumps between us I would have preferred to bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on the second round would have made it more difficult for opponents and easier for partner to decide on further action.

Sydney and Tim both believe we have a nine-card spade fit. In fact, the entire problem hinges on partner's spade count does he have three or four?

Manuel Paulo: Dbl. It looks like a deal with 19 total tricks.

Martin Eggins: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner should be 4531 or 4522. Since all I need for 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K, a chunky heart and another card, this looks better than double.

Sam Arber: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner probably only has three spades as may have made takeout double. Hearts may be better, as we can take the tap in the short hand.

Sartaj Hans suggested that partner is sure to have only three card support, as with four card support a good partner would anticipate our problem and bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), not 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I hadn't thought of this, but it makes a lot of sense with a heart suit good enough to overcall, and four card spade support, there is certainly no danger in partner bidding 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). And if partner does in fact have only three spades, then it is surely wrong for us to be bidding on at the five level.

David Matthews: Dbl. Must do something so will leave it to partner to decide. I certainly do not want to be tapped if partner only has three spades. 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) doubled may be our best score.

Bruce Minchinton: Dbl. Opps do not have a second suit to run. Expect them to be three off.

Lindsay Coker: Dbl. It looks as though West probably has diamonds and clubs, giving East a good few hearts; partner is almost certainly going to have some diamonds, hopefully enough. Bidding on will give them a plus.

Margaret Reid: Dbl. This action should be a plus for us not sure we can make 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Amiram Millet: Dbl. Though 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will be better on some occasions. Would be tougher at unfavourable vul.

Fred Altstock: Dbl. Happy to double for penalties. Think we might be a trick short in 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

David Monahan: Dbl. While 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may make, the Law of Total Tricks suggests double to be the best options at IMPs.

Birol Guvenc : Dbl. My partner's pass shows strong hand he would double with a moderate hand, because the five level belongs to the opponents.

Birol's comment is suggesting that partner's pass is forcing, a view supported by Eric Kokish in the magazine. But most people do not feel that is the case, particularly this lot:

Steve Hurley: Pass. Too much work to be done in 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and sounds like distribution will let 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) make.

Eric Leong: Pass. I think East has both majors for his bidding. I don't want to pay off -300 or more against an uncertain game.

Bastiaan Korner: Pass. Don't try to be too clever.

Erin Tewes: Pass. Points split evenly, voids and singletons abounding, be grateful it's them and not you!

Finally, the minority votes. I've given this choice a last-minute upgrade to 50 points after receiving some emails from the readers:

Henri de Jong: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Would have bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) at my second turn, which may have assisted partner.

Henri suggests 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) on the second round, and in the magazine Karen McCallum and Jill Courtney suggested 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) on the third round. This just goes to show what a truly awful bid our 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was. I'm surprised so few people complained about that.

Nick Bailey: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't want to defend the hand, will let partner know about doubleton heart in case he would rather play 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Leigh Matheson: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This distributional hand has to bid on, and the most descriptive bid is 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The hand could play better with hearts as trumps, particularly if partner has 6+ hearts and a few small diamonds.

Nigel Guthrie: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It is likely to be our hand but 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may play better opposite e.g. Kx-AKJxxx-xx-Qxx.

The deal is from the quarterfinal on the NEC Cup in Yokohama. The Australian player bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), trading +500 for -100. An extra heart or spade with North would have been enough to make +450, but defending 5diamonds is certainly a safer way to make a plus score.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ4
hearts AK1092
diamonds 1085
clubs Q9
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2
hearts 653
diamonds AQJ632
clubs AJ8
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10863
hearts J74 
diamonds K974
clubs 102
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQ975
hearts Q8
diamonds ---
clubs K76543

Further details of the deal appear on page 28 of the April issue.

Hand Two - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J92
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQT98
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 864
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 5


West North East South
  1NT 1 pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2
pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass ?

1. Weak notrump, 11-14 balanced.
2. Transfer to hearts.


Call Award %
3NT 1004325
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 903837
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 501932

Sydney Frish: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This is the problem with the wide range of weak NT: 11 or 14 HCP? If a game is on, its more likely in hearts.

Bridge Baron: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I've always used the commercial version of Bridge Baron in every bidding forum it's entered until this problem. The commercial version of Bridge Baron can't interpret partner's 1NT bid as 11 to 14. If it interprets 1NT as 11 to 13, it bids 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If it interprets 1NT as 12 to 14, it bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). (This is a sign of a good bidding forum problem, I think!) So I hacked it to interpret partner's 1NT bid as 11 to 14, and it bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). (With luck, we'll have a way to enter the 11 to 14 interpretation in the commercial version of Bridge Baron soon.) By the way, Bridge Baron uses simulation to make all these decisions between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Bridge Baron confirms what we already suspected that the decision between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was close. However, the panel threw a spanner in the works by rejecting both options!

Leigh Matheson: 3NT. Nine tricks are likely enough, even opposite a minimum.

Steve Hurley: 3NT. If the suit was a minor, it would be 3NT. The minimum values still indicate 3NT.

Gary Lane: 3NT. See P10, hand 7 of the February magazine.

Yes, there are a lot of similarities with that hand. Nicely spotted!

David Matthews: 3NT. On balance this is the best chance to make game.

Jameson Cole: 3NT. What I think we can make, most of the time. 6 heart tricks, an outside AK, A, or trick given on the opening lead. This doesn't preclude partner from bidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) when it is right. The ability to make slam would require a distorted distribution.

Sam Arber: 3NT. May be easier than 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), with the lead coming up to partner.

Paul Tranmer: 3NT. At this vulnerability we must be in game and I believe the hoary old adage that nine tricks are easier than ten applies. Partner will only have to provide three tricks from his balanced 11-13 and whilst it is possible well lose the first five tricks its actually quite unlikely.

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. Worth the risk at teams opposite ATx-Jx-Qxxx-KQx.

Ken Berry: 2NT. Hopefully I have the same six tricks in either contract. Partner will make the right move!

Richard Morse: 2NT. Must be worth one more shot and the solidity of the hearts makes NT worth offering.

Eric Leong: 3NT. Give partner Axx-xxx-Axx-Axxx or similar and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has little or no play. Why didn't I bid 3NT earlier?

In fact at the table David Stern did bid 3NT directly, without showing the major first. Our enforced transfer caused a problem for some overseas players:

Boris Richter: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I would have bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) instead of 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) here, I think that this hand belongs to game. Now since I play here 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) as a mild slam try I'll have to invite to game only instead of bidding game myself.

Bob Jones made the same comment in the magazine. Boris, I've changed your answer to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), since we didn't anticipate the problems this sequence would cause for Texas players. 

David Hester: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I considered 2NT, but it seems inappropriate with one point outside hearts.

Helena Dawson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Notrump won't work well with a singleton.

Denis Haynes, Stephen Bartos & Fred Altstock: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Invite partner to game if maximum.

Jeremy Kennard: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner can decide to bid 3NT with good holdings in other suits. With no stops in other suits am a little reluctant to just bid 3NT.

Martin Eggins: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Invitational. A balanced 11 means losers galore. I see no way of ascertaining partner's spade or diamond values but my six trumps, images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)J and club shortage should assist.

Dean Sole: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Show the six good hearts, let partner evaluate his hand for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 3NT, or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

The readers' majority unsurprisingly went for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I'm sure most of them were expecting an easy 100 points here.

Martyn Rew: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hard to imagine partner having a hand which would make 3NT safer.

Bastiaan Korner: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Don't want to miss a vulnerable game; perhaps 3NT is better but I can't find out.

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). And hope partner does not have club AKQ.

Bruce Minchinton: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not watertight, but worth the risk.

Manuel Paulo, Frank Campbell and Terry Dunne: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At IMPs, vulnerable, it's a must.

Nick Bailey: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bit of a gamble perhaps, but with such quality trumps and a stiff club, I don't think I would like to play only 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Margaret Reid: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Good chance of making with the right cards (in the right places).

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If we bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), North may correct to 3NT which will probably be a disaster we would then need to correct to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). So the options seem to be Pass or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) we are likely to provide 6 tricks so Pass would be wimpish.

You are right pass is a bit wimpish. Unlike this choice, which is not wimpish at all:

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm sure we have game, but what about slam? With Axx-xx-AKQxx-xxx partner can bid 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

At the table no one was looking for 40% slams just getting to game was worth 10 imps. Gary was right, the hand was from page 10 of the February issue, although we swapped the majors so that you wouldn't recognise the hand (pretty tricky, huh?).  

images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 764
hearts Q754
diamonds A3
clubs AQ82
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 53
hearts 1086
diamonds KQ952
clubs KJ7
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J2
hearts AK3 
diamonds J107
clubs 109643
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQ1098
hearts J92
diamonds 864
clubs 5
West North East South
  Stern   Grynberg
pass 3NT all pass

9 tricks, +600


West North East South
Marston Prescott
pass 2hearts pass 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) all pass

10 tricks, +170



Hand Three - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KT3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J54
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 7653
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A87


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

1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is better minor, 3+ clubs.


Call Award %
Pass 100 4329
Dbl 80 2912
2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 198
1NT 40 951

Thank you to Tom Moss for this excellent problem, where more than half the readers opted for the lowest scoring of the four options. Let's find out why.

David Hester: 1NT. WTP?

Margaret Reid: 1NT. What else?

Fred Altstock: 1NT. Only bid possible !!!

Pretty convincing arguments, and worth every cent of the 40-point award.

Helena Dawson: 1NT. Not exactly dangerous is it?

Denis Haynes: 1NT. 6-9 points and a flat hand.

Frank Campbell: 1NT. I have 8 points, no 4 card major, no support for partner and a flat hand, which is a 1NT bid.

Sydney Frish: 1NT. With Pass a very close almost equal choice.

Martyn Rew: 1NT. Albeit that 7653 is not a great stopper.

Emil Battista: 1NT. I do have cards in the opponents suit!

Amiram Millet: 1NT. Next hand I'll have a diamond stopper...

Bruce Minchinton: 1NT. No stopper, but points are worth showing. A negative double would imply 4 card majors which I don't have.

Yes, you wouldn't want to show something you don't have, would you!

Jeremy Kennard: 1NT. Not ideal but lets partner know I have some stuff. don't like double with 3-3 in the majors.

Manuel Paulo: 1NT. To describe my hand-type; partner can check for a stopper if he is bidding on.

Dean Sole: 1NT. Gets the values and hand shape across well.

Nick Bailey: 1NT. We have to lie about something, and it seems the diamond stop is less misleading than misrepresenting our strength or major suit holdings.

Bridge Baron: 1NT. Five years ago, Bridge Baron would have passed, but in the interim, it's decided that 'stoppers are for children' in this auction.

The computer becomes a little bit more human every day!

Jameson Cole: 1NT. I play this doesn't promise a stopper at the one level. It is right on strength and shape and somewhat preemptive. It implies support for partner's clubs and denies interest in bidding again.

Richard Morse: 1NT. Least bad bid, unless you promise a stopper with 1NT. Everything else is a distortion of shape or values.

All three bids (1NT, Dbl, and to a small degree 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)) carry the same risk partner may expect something you don't have, and put you in the wrong game. However, in the case of 1NT, the downside will be terminal. Partner may still make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (or even 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)) after finding fewer trumps in dummy than he expects, but 3NT could be over before it starts.

Terry Dunne: Pass. No doubt there will be support for 1NT, but I've had partner raise to 3NT often enough with his 18-19 HCP and my stopper.

Sam Arber: Pass. Tempting to bid 1NT but being played by wrong hand; if I bid 1NT partner may raise to 3 and they cash five diamond tricks.

Henri de Jong: Pass. Can't play NT from my side.

Eric Leong: Pass. I see no compelling reason to make a misdescriptive bid now so partner can make a mistake later.

Paul Tranmer: Pass. Unless partner is either strong or distributional Id prefer to defend. I expect a reopening double from partner with a chunky 14+ point hand or he can bid a suit with a distributional hand. Either way Ill be well placed to proceed.

Bastiaan Korner: Pass. Silly hand.

Ken Berry: Pass. East has preempted me... will have a second bid, (or if not an interesting lead problem).

Yes, the preemptive 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) overcall doesn't come up often, but it can be a devastating weapon.

Lindsay Coker: Pass. There may be another opportunity, but pass here might tell partner about our diamonds.

David Matthews: Pass. We are likely to be forced in a major contract. If West bids 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will reconsider if it comes round to me again.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. No major, no stopper, no clubs. Just wait for partner.

John Leenders: Pass. Partner is still there and can come in later if appropriate.

Steve Hurley: Pass. You can bid later. Sometimes you're stymied, just wear it.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. 100 free marks J. Pass seems to be the least flawed call available.

Alexander Cook: Pass. A negative double would show 4-4 in the majors, 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would show four clubs, 1NT would show a diamond stopper. With a 4333 pattern, passing is obvious.

I really want to present a sequel to this problem next month, to find out what these people are planning to bid on the next round. But that would be unfair to the majority of people who didn't vote for the pass. 

This next choice seems more natural to me:

Leigh Matheson: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). You would raise partner's major suit in an instant. Why hesitate with the minor? Partner can still choose to play in notrumps with a stopper. Bidding 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) also hinders the opponents' ability to find a major suit fit.

Barbara Whitmee: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Would have been 1NT without the intervening diamond bid.

2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems to describe the hand fairly well, but I can see why that bid isn't for everyone. Here is a more mainstream option: show both majors now, so that you won't have to guess which one to show later:

Erin Tewes: Dbl. It'd be nice to have four of each major, but any other bid is a bigger lie and you can't really pass. 4-3 fit is ok, pards can bid NT if she has stopper.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. Need to tell pard we have a few points. Double may suggest that we don't have a 4 card suit other perhaps than diamonds. May end up playing in a 7 card fit. Possibly North will bid 1NT or if he has five clubs may rebid them.

David Monahan: Dbl. Select the bid you dislike the least.

Martin Eggins: Dbl. Either more clubs, 1NT or a low level Moysian major fit will be fine. My silence would leave partner thinking West has remainder of the points.

Boris Richter: Dbl. Bad shape but with relatively nice cards, if partner is holding a singleton or a low doubleton diamond we have good fitting cards for an 'Italian fit' especially if the suit is spades. Maybe we can even find a game if partner is 4315 or 4216, or stronger with no diamond stopper. Perhaps a bit risky but worth a try.

This deal is from the NSW Interstate Team Selection event. The winning bid on the deal is, well, pretty much anything. Although I'm still really curious to see what the passers are planning to do on the next round!
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQJ4
hearts Q975
diamonds A
clubs QJ84
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 98
hearts 1032
diamonds J952
clubs K1095
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 7652
hearts AK6 
diamonds KQ103
clubs 76
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K103
hearts J84
diamonds 8764
clubs A32

Hand Four - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J8764
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q3
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q84
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A65


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

We play Bergen raises:
2NT would be a game force raise.
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be a four-card raise, 6-9 points.
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be a four-card raise, 10-12 points.
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be a preemptive raise.
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be just a normal single raise.


Call Award %
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 1006739
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 603323
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 30024
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2004
Other 0010

Richard Morse: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In my experience these hands do not always play as good as they look.

Steve Hurley: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 10 card fit means game in my book.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Following the Law.

Another problem which stumped many readers, with 38% straying off the beaten track. Doubtless many of them will blame Larry Cohen for their choice, so let's go to the magazine and give him a chance to defend himself:

Larry Cohen: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Thanks for the opportunity to vent: this is not a hand to drive to the 4-level with ten trumps. The 5332 shape and general soft nature are enough cause to pull it in a notch. People who critique the jump to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and blame the LAW should instead blame the player for not adjusting properly.

Now that our liability insurance is all paid up, let's hear the answers:

Helena Dawson: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Law of total tricks. They probably have a huge heart fit.

Terry Dunne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have 10 trumps. I know some would like a singleton for this bid, but we have more strength than we might have.

Paul Tranmer: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Obey the law! 10 card trump fit equals the four level. Its also a good each way shot as if partner is good itll make and if not itll be a cheap sacrifice against the opps game contract.

David Matthews: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Standard pre-emptive raise in my opinion.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Would like to hold a singleton for this bid, but I am feeling optimistic and we are vul at IMPs.

Dean Sole: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Is 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 37% or better to make? I'd think so.

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Anything else might distract your partner from where you want to be and maybe give the opponents a look in.

I've upgraded the award for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), in response to several appeals from readers. There was also reader support for a few other minority choices, but the experts viewed this problem as a simple choice between Bergen-1 and Bergen-2. Bergen-2 was a 2 to 1 winner:

Ian Patterson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Limit raise with 8 losers.

Emil Battista: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The queens may not pull their weight, but we do have five spades and a bullet.

Alexander Cook: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With the fifth trump and a doubleton I am treating this hand as a limit raise.

Adding a point for the fifth trump is fine, but did you also count the point for the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)J? They can't both be worth a point. And a point for the doubleton heart as well as two for the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q? I think there's some creative accounting going on here.

Bastiaan Korner: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Cheating a bit.

Rex Fox: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). May be an overbid.

Ken Berry: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Who counts points... must have some extra value for 5th spade.

Sydney Frish: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The fifth trump must be worth at least another point. But at the table I'd bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it may make it more difficult for opponents to find the 'killing lead'.

Playing for the bidding forum win rather than the bid you'd make at the table? It worked this time.

Henri de Jong: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Very tough as we are too good for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and any 3-level bid may already be too high with so many losers. We do have 5 trumps, possibly some working queens and this is IMPs.

Martin Eggins: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 1 more Spade = 1 less loser so my HCP has been gently(?) upgraded.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Knock off a loser for the fifth spade. The bullet compensates for the quacks. Game at teams seems reasonable if opener has a midgeon to spare e.g. ATxxx-KJx-x-Kxxx.

Now we're adding points for midgeons! Hang on, let me check my textbook, I don't remember that chapter.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Any excuse will do for an upgrade. Whilst the heart shortage is dubious, the extra trump length will do just fine.

Jeremy Kennard: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Not enough shape, and unsupported queens make for not enough for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). But still have 9 count with 5 trumps so must invite.

Lindsay Coker, Denis Haynes, John Leenders and Sam Arber: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). The extra trump puts this 9 points into the must invite range. Too strong for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We have 10 HCP revalued but 5 card support. Too strong for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but not strong enough for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). No doubt the experts will disagree!

Bridge Baron: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With five (or more) trumps, Bridge Baron never makes a 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Bergen raise; it chooses among 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 2NT. It's a point too strong for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and two points too weak for 2NT.

Jameson Cole: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Definitely too weak for a game forcing raise. The two queens may fill gaps in partner's hand, but they are not as valuable as Q and AQ in two of the other suits. Still, the opportunity for a vulnerable game even at less than 50% should not be passed up. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be cowardly.

"Cowardly" is a bit harsh. I have a lot of sympathy for this next group, who score only 60 points.

Nick Bailey: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Despite the fact that we have five trumps, Qx and Qxx are not worth a jump to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I will accept a game try from partner.

Eric Leong: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). One would think 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is the precise system bid especially given the doubtful holding in hearts.

Bruce Minchinton: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A conservative bid because HCP are spread across all the suits.

Boris Richter: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This is a bad 9-count with a good fit for spades.

Margaret Reid: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not the right shape for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let pard choose the contract.

This one is from the Yokohama Swiss Teams at the recent NEC festival in Japan. Again, we changed the hand slightly, giving South the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)J instead of the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)10. In retrospect, it looks like if we had left the deal as it was, the vote may have been much more evenly split between 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), since many of the 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders were scratching for every point they could find to justify their choice.

At the table South actually bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), buying the contract at the two-level for a six imp pickup. EW do have a game in hearts available (good news for the LAW bidders), but it was difficult for them to reach it.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KJ532
hearts K7
diamonds K965
clubs Q9
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A
hearts 109852
diamonds A1072
clubs J74
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q9
hearts AJ64 
diamonds J3
clubs K10832
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 108764
hearts Q3
diamonds Q84
clubs A65

Hand Five - West deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 9876432
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 8
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT542


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


Call Award %
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1005229
Pass 903858

Frank Campbell: Pass. You must still be on your quest to find the weakest hand for a 4 level overcall. 

The quest is over! With only 4 HCP we've managed to entice 62% of experts and 42% of readers I doubt I'll ever be able to improve on that! Next month I'll start looking for the strongest hand you'll pass with at the 1-level (oh hang on, that was problem 3).

Martin Eggins: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). East's pass gives me the clearest info to move even with only 4 HCP. East's pass suggests a fair share of the tricks are in partner's hand. Double looks putrid since partner may leave it in.

Jeremy Kennard: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't like it much but can't bring myself to pass with 7-5 shape.

Boris Richter: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner has probably some length in spades with some kind of stopper there, and he does not rate to have 15+ HCP nor an unbalanced hand and therefore he is not very likely to bid anything over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), while East is not strong enough to bid game. Still, maybe now he will. And he rates to go down.

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If I double, North may leave it in and be horribly disappointed with our defensive values or bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) which we will need to correct to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). So let's go straight to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with fingers crossed. If North is reasonably balanced 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may make.

Fred Altstock: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not being vulnerable and have not much defence against spades.

Steve Hurley: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I expect partner to have values likely spades but not hearts. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is best chance at game. I bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if doubled.

Sam Arber: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Hope partner does not get too excited.

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Only because East passed. Hope I don't put EW into a making spade game though.

Ken Berry: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Again, I like my shape (so does my wife!).

Recent studies show that over 50% of people are unhappy with their shape, so it's good to know that you are not one of them. But at the moment we're discussing bridge problems.

Let's see what the cowards, I mean the cautious players, have to say:

Emil Battista: Pass. I have been on a red meat free diet for a while.

As Sam Neill says, red meat is an essential part of the diet of the most highly developed species on the planet we were meant to eat it. Email me and I'll give you the number of a good nutritionist. But at the moment we're discussing bridge problems.

Helena Dawson: Pass. They're not in game and any bid from me might go horribly wrong.

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may be OK opposite a sensitive partner who picks up on why you immediately close your hand, remove your deaf-aid, and write down the final contract.

Alexander Cook: Pass. With only 4 HCP passing is best even with the exceptional shape. If you bid, partner may overestimate the strength of your hand. You could gain a lot by bidding but you could also lose a lot by bidding as well.

Sydney Frish: Pass. And congratulate the heroes who found a winning (?) 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid. If the remaining 30 points are evenly divided between partner and RHO, there is no game on either way.

Margaret Reid: Pass. I don't preempt over a preempt. Pard can bid NT or double with a good hand.

John Leenders: Pass. Never preempt over a preempt my mother told me.

This response cost John the perfect 500 on this set, but 490 is still a pretty rare score in this column. The rule of preempting over a preempt is a good rule, but it applies to auctions like (2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In our auction, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is not a preempt it's a balancing overcall, which in a way is the opposite of a preempt. The whole point of balancing is to undo the damage done to your poor preempted partner.

Amiram Millet: Pass. Excellent shape but too high even for balancing.

David Hester: Pass. Life expectancy of lemmings is poor.

Eric Leong: Pass. Partner rates to have 9-10 cards in spades and diamonds. East seems to be something like 1444 with some points. I can see paying off -800 easily when 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was going down.

Martyn Rew: Pass. Anything else and you will have a bit of explaining to do when partner pops six spades on the table as dummy.

Erin Tewes: Pass. Anything else would lie about your hand, and will excite your partner unnecessarily. Probably can give pards some ruffs.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. I'm afraid lest the opponents should bid and make game.

A couple of answers have mentioned the fear of EW making game. But is it really possible that a pair who didn't bid game initially will be able to take ten tricks despite foul breaks in every suit?

Bruce Minchinton: Pass. Opponents missed game as I trust partner to bid if he/she could.

Dean Sole: Pass. If partner has his bits in the right places for us to make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) then E-W are likely to make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron isn't even close to being tempted. It doesn't consider the possibility that partner is praying for the chance to convert a double to penalties.

This is an interesting insight into the problems a programmer faces when creating a bridge-bot. It's one thing to teach a computer to bid his own hand; it's another thing to teach him to wonder why his partner bids a certain way.

Of course, the human players are all perfectly aware that partner wants a protective double, but they chose to protect him in a different way:

Terry Dunne: Pass. Partner is likely to sit a double, and we simply don't have enough firepower to bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Nick Bailey: Pass. If I double it is likely partner will want to pass, and this is a poor hand to defend with. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems rash, with poor trumps and only a 4 count.

Tony Treloar: Pass. I am very tempted to double for partner to convert to penalties, as partner figures to have the bulk of the missing strength and some values in spades. But I don't because it is too misleading and potentially dangerous.

Jameson Cole: Pass. North rates to hold about two hearts (with three decent hearts he might have doubled). I think this is time to go quietly as game is unlikely our way and chances of partner making three spade tricks and two outside tricks appear quite good. The images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A should also make. Double is wrong since it risks partner bidding diamonds.

Is there really anyone here who believes partner is going to bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) here? If our passing partner has diamonds, not spades, then that means East has the spades and the points surely he would have raised to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Put me down with the minority yet again:

Ian Patterson: Dbl. Bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if partner bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if partner bids 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Richard Morse: Dbl. Expecting partner to convert, and will correct diamonds to hearts. East is marked with fair values but passing is too feeble with this shape.

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. The hardest question for some time. Get this one wrong and you may be looking for a new partner and youll almost certainly be looking for new teammates. Partner must have at least 14 points, so is most likely passing with a spade stack. So Ill double and hope to hit partner with KJ10x-xx-AKxx-Kxx.

David Matthews: Dbl. Partner must have a good hand with spades but not enough to bid 3NT. If partner bids doesn't pass but bids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) then I will correct to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Lindsay Coker: Dbl. Lacking a heart honour, bidding is as much a gamble as pass, but I have to protect partner; if he doesn't have spades, then he'll bid and drop us in it.

Leigh Matheson: Dbl. It looks like partner has a spade stack and is looking to spill blood on this deal.

I agree entirely, which gives me a final score of 330 out of 500 this month. And that's after seeing all the answers, and upgrading some of the awards myself. So I'm off to enrol in one of Paul's refresher courses, and hopefully I'll see you all again in a couple of months.

The deal is from the selection event for the Australian Youth Team (deal has been rotated for convenience). Full details are in my article on the Australian Youth Championships, on page 19 of the February issue. 
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q109852
hearts K
diamonds J9
clubs KJ97
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
hearts 9876432
diamonds 8
clubs A10542
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ764
hearts AQ 
diamonds AQ54
clubs 63
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K3
hearts J105
diamonds K107632
clubs Q8
West North East South
  pass 1S all pass

6 tricks, EW -50


West North East South
K'malik Gosney
  3S pass pass
4H pass 6H all pass

10 tricks, EW -100


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 April
1John Leenders490
2Alexander Cook480
3Ron Lel470
3Tim Trahair470
5Joe Lentz460
6Bastiaan Korner450
6Ron Hutchison450
6Henri de Jong450
6Sam Arber450
10Halil Birol440
10Nigel Guthrie440
12Andrew MacAlister430
12Gary Lane430
12Jameson Cole430
12Martin Eggins430
12Boris Richter430
12Pauline Lane430
18Andrew Thompson420
18Emil Battista420
18Eric Leong420
18Jenny Monger420
18Lindsay Coker420
18Sonny Schultz420
24Paul Gipson410
24Les Varadi410
24Terry Dunne410
27Amiram Millet400
27Arthur Porter400
27Ken Berry400
27Leon Slonim400
27Mike Freeman400
27Sid Kanter400
27Steve Johnston400
27Tania Black400
27Steve Hurley400
36Duncan Roe390
36George Czubala390
36Jeremy Kennard390
36Pat O'Connor390
40Bridge Baron380
40David Hester380
40Denis Haynes380
40Ian Erratt380
40Julian Gauld380
40Barbara Whitmee380
40Rex Fox380
40Paul Tranmer380
40Sydney Frish380
49David Monahan370
49Fred Altstock370
49Ian Patterson370
49Linda Lubeck370
49Trish Whitton370
49Peter Stride370
55Bruce Minchinton360
55Margaret Reid360
55David Matthews360
55Leigh Matheson360
55Peter Tarlinton360
60Sevgi Birol350
60Zbych Bednarek350
60Ian Spight350
60Martyn Rew350
60Peter Nolan350

Progress scores for 2007
1John Leenders920
2Alexander Cook870
3Steve Johnston860
3Tim Trahair860
3Henri de Jong860
6Andrew MacAlister850
6David Hester850
6Lindsay Coker850
9Paul Tranmer830
9Terry Dunne830
11Arthur Porter820
11Bastiaan Korner820
11Ian Patterson820
11Rex Fox820
11Sam Arber820
16Arthur Hoffman810
16Fred Altstock810
16Linda Lubeck810
19Emil Battista800
19Nigel Guthrie800
19Joe Lentz800
19Mike Freeman800
23Amiram Millet790
23Eric Leong790
23David Matthews790
23Jameson Cole790
27Gary Lane780
27Steve Hurley780
27Ivan Demeny780
27Paul Gipson780
27Tania Black780
32Pat O'Connor770
33Trish Whitton760
33Bridge Baron760
35Andrew Thompson740
35Jeremy Kennard740
35Peter van Casteren740
38Margaret Reid730
38Peter Nolan730
38Sydney Frish730
41David Monahan720
41George Czubala720
41Roger Yandle720
41Ian Erratt720
41T L Goodwin720
46Peter Tarlinton710
46Toby Weinstein710
46Birol Guvenc 710
46Jeff Brokenshire710
50Manuel Paulo700
50Peter Stride700
50Rick Lu700
50Leon Slonim700
54Ken Berry690
54Boris Richter690
56Julian Gauld680
56Zbych Bednarek680
56Barbara Whitmee680
56Dean Sole680
60Ian Spight660
60Kay O'Connor660
62Ian Smith640
63Michael Davy640
64Sid Kanter630

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 June issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your April issue to see what the experts had to say about this month's hands.