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Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles Ė June-July 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 - East deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 97654
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q963
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K7


West North East South
    3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) dbl 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ?


Call Award %
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 1005966
Pass 902922
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)50121
Dbl 40011

We start this month with a fairly simple looking problem -- a strong majority of panellists and readers voting for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), also the bid chosen at the table.

John R Mayne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This seems like an easy one; we have spades, and we have a reasonable shot at game. I'm not ready to shoot at 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with these holdings.

Frank Campbell: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tempted to make a responsive double but would not want partner to pass or bid 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), hence will try for game. A club lead is likely and my images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q should help.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not much defence against 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

John Furedy: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm tempted to pass, but spades are too long and weak for putting them down four doubled.

Liz Jeffery: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner is showing spades and diamonds. I have a clear preference for spades and ruffing capabilities in the diamond suit.

Bastiaan Korner: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must be close.

Steve Johnston: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Clear cut.

Ken Berry: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I would like to know if 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) by West was a forcing bid. At least the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K is protected (but not from a 2nd round ruff).

Yes, a new suit over a preempt is forcing. If your partner preempts and you do not have game interest, you should pass the preempt -- not try to rescue him.

Terry Dunne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q are useful cards, and I have a 5-card suit. Admittedly, it's not the strongest 5-card suit I've ever seen...

David Hester: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I cannot tell who can make what, but this bid retains flexibility. If they go on, I shall double next.

John Leenders: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I see no alternative although it is likely that we lose the first three tricks.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hand looks defensive but partner knows you are a passed had and still asked you to bid at the three level so you can hardly suppress a 5 card spade suit at the four level.

Marcel Winkel: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't believe West's 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid, but still would like to play spades.

Panellists Eddie Kantar and Frank Stewart were also concerned that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be psychic; in fact they took North's double as a penalty double (hence their choice of 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). We don't worry about such issues here, although it was in the back of the minds of a couple of readers:

Sam Arber: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Unless 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is psychic, I assume partner's double is takeout.

Denis Haynes: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not vulnerable and I am reading double as the other major.

Fraser Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). When the opps have forced with an (ostensibly) strong hand partner's double should be fairly sound. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could be psychic, though this is unlikely if partner's double is takeout, as RHO didn't raise.

At the table, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) converted +500 into -500. Of course one deal proves nothing, but a 1000 point swing is extreme for such a popular choice. Should we have seen the warning signs?

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. I cannot see where they'll gather 10 tricks from and I think there's too much distribution about to make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a good bet for us. Plus 200 or possibly even +500 looks better than a minus score for us.

Eric Leong: Dbl. Partner doesn't have to have four spades for his double, eg. AKx-xxxx-AKJx-xx. And even if partner does have AKxx-xxx-AKJx-xx, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be a big underdog.

Eric has picked North's hand almost card for card, except North actually had a fifth diamond.

Martin Eggins: Dbl. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks hairy as we could lose the first four tricks (images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A, club ruff, images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, heart ruff). So I'm going for blood, leading images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)Q if the double is left in. If East has 3-0-4-6, the vulnerable sweat beads should appear soon!

Rick Lu: Dbl. We might make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but the opposition have a misfit and about 20-22 HCP.

Fred Altstock: Dbl. Hoping to get a better score from penalties.

Manuel Paulo: Dbl. With bad breaks, I don't expect to make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tim Trahair: Dbl. It looks as if EW have very distributional hands but no fit. North probably has a semi balanced hand. If we bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), EW may take the first six tricks if they have singletons in each other's suit. 

The doublers are playing an aggressive game, and none of the panellists chose that bid. We don't need to make such a large commitment -- any plus score is a good score.

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron uses simulation to choose this call.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Three reasons:
(1) at this vul it is better to defend,
(2) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be down on a crossruff,
(3) canít double because partner might not take it as penalty.
I think just settle for a positive score on this one.

Erin Tewes: Pass. EW are in trouble, why give them a plus score when you can get your own plus score? Weak and your few points are in their suits and in short suits, drop it ASAP!

Jameson Cole: Pass. It should be easier for them to make 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) than for us to make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't want to push them into game. However, if partner doubles, I'll bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Sydney Frish: Pass. West's 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) promised a strong hand and East's takeout to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may well contain a void heart. Even if 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is on, it would play safer from North hand. With a partner on the same wavelength would try 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to ensure that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is played from the the North hand.

Ron Lel: Pass. Hmm. It seems I held this hand in the Laos Open Teams final. Pass was the winning bid then. I only have one honour card to help pd out. Incidentally, why isn't Laos in the list of locations?

Sorry about that Ron. If anyone else is living in a country that I've never heard of, let me know and I'll add it to the list.

The full deal (not from the Laos Open Teams, but from an OzOne vs Israel practice match):
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK8
hearts K5
diamonds AJ1082
clubs 843
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJ103
hearts AJ10872
diamonds K5
clubs A
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2
hearts 4 
diamonds 9743
clubs QJ109652
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 97654
hearts Q963
diamonds Q6
clubs K7

Further details of the deal appear on page 29 of the June issue.

Hand Two - East deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) A3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q8
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKT32
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ76


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


Call Award %
Pass 1009428
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40653
2NT 4004

This was almost a record breaking problem for AB -- only one vote short of (I believe) our first ever unanimous panel. Thank you to Steve and Barbara Shepard for saving us from a problem setter's ultimate fear.

Even more significantly, while the panel saw this as a non-problem, barely a quarter of the readers found the winning pass. Should make for an interesting discussion. Let's look at each of the alternatives, starting with the double...

Fraser Rew: Dbl. Great problem. I have too much to pass, while 2NT overstates minors and understates strength and playability in notrumps. Will decide what to do over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) when he bids it.

Fraser, just a tip for when we play in Hamilton next month: if you start thinking now about what to do over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), you might save some time on the next round.

Margaret Reid: Dbl. Shows a good hand, and maybe we can defeat 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Marcel Winkel: 2NT. Not enough spades for a double.

Ken Berry: Dbl. Partner knows I have short spades.

Paul Tranmer: Dbl. I must bid again here to take the pressure of North who, if I passed, would surely pass the hand out holding Qxxx-xx-xx-Axxxx.

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. Another 100 marks? 2NT and 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) are too committal and use up too much space.

Wow Nigel, your predictions are usually right, sometimes a bit off, but you've never been this wrong before. Luckily you sent in two sets of answers again:

Nigel Guthrie again: Pass. 2NT or 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) expose you to a possible disaster, with little prospect of game.

Jameson Cole: Dbl. Not without great risk.

Steve Johnston: Dbl. Difficult choice so double first and pick up the pieces later.

Denis Haynes: Dbl. Hope partner bids 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

So the doublers are putting their money on a combination of risk, hope, picking up the pieces later, or expecting a flash of inspiration on the next round. Let's see if the readers' majority, the 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders, have anything better to offer:

Ian Smith: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With 17 HCP I feel it worth while to show my second suit and give partner a second option.

David Matthews: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). West may well have a penalty double of diamonds but I must bid again with 17 points. We may end up in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3NT is not out of the question if partner holds the right 7 or 8 points.

Rick Lu: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). East and South hold most of the high card points. Give partner an option.

Emil Battista: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Why not double 1st time round?

There was a time when overcalls were limited to about 15 points, and you had to double with all 16+ hands, but those days are long gone. Today, a double followed by diamonds would suggest a very different kind of hand.

Liz Jeffery: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not suitable for a double at this stage. A double in the first place followed by a diamond bid would have been my preference, but not now without tolerance for spades and a stopper in hearts.

As it is, the panel think it is too dangerous to bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), even as a second suit -- would you really prefer to be in a situation where your first suit bid has to be 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? On a 5-card suit, and with no chance to mention a 2nd suit? In today's game you can't afford to be wasting time with bids that do nothing to describe your hand.

Sydney Frish and Bruce Minchinton: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). To show a good hand and give partner a choice.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Can't double, don't want partner to bid spades.

Erin Tewes: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pd has less than ten points, we don't have game. He'll correct or pass and either way I'm quite happy.

Tim Trahair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not keen on double because North can't have too much and we will have to correct to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)

Frank Campbell: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I can compete to the three level at least with this hand.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It would be a pity to give up on this hand too early. Thereís only one honest bid available.

Martin Eggins: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Neither West nor East made a negative double so I suspect partner has clubs. We could have 17+6 vs 15+2 HCP so partner could easily have images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q. The position of images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K could decide the fate of the contract.

So you are placing partner with six points, and planning for them to include images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q, images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K, and some clubs. Could happen I guess.

But the top score goes to the almost unanimous pass:

Eric Leong: Pass. West's pass and partner's lack of bidding is ominous. Bidding here is risking a huge adverse number against no more than a possible partscore.

Bridge Baron: Pass. Bridge Baron wants better-quality suits to consider 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

John R Mayne: Pass. Not much of an underbid; the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q is a mirage. Partner's pass indicates that it's time to quit -- LHO might well have a stack of diamonds.

Terry Dunne: Pass. While I have a good hand, a 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid here would show an even better one and partner will surely bid spades after a double. My (good) partner will re-open wherever possible when I'll bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Dean Eidler: Pass. Don't want to convert a plus to a minus.

David Hester: Pass. The images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q is surely worthless in attack, as are partner's spades.

Ron Lel: Pass. I am not even that keen on the 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid, though there is little alternative.

Manuel Paulo: Pass. It's partner's time to enter the auction, if he thinks so.

John Leenders: Pass. To bid or not to bid that is the question! Partner will probably have 8 cards in the majors, which leaves 5 for the minors. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) could be costly.

Roger Yandle: Pass. Does West have diamonds? Vul suggests caution. If pard can take a trick we might even defeat 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) -- ever the optimist.

Hand Three - South deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQT54
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ---
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K98
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AT732


West North East South
      1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?


Call Award %
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 6564
Pass 60 1719
Dbl 50 123
6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10 67
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 06
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10 01

Ian Smith: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Anything further is up to partner.

Denis Haynes: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not vulnerable with a void in hearts and 18 TP.

Liz Jeffery: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Have been pre-empted out of finding the necessary slam information. If partner has anything extra he may well go on.

Marcel Winkel: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Might be slam, but partner can be stretched. Don't like to gamble now.

John R Mayne: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just five -- they've cut off our room, and we need not hang partner. Doubling 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will lead to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)x, which is unattractive. Committing to slam is just mean to an awake partner.

Sydney Frish: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not easy to judge strength of partner's hand because bid was forced. With five losers and a void in hearts competing should be safer than selling out to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or double.

Martin Eggins: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The distribution of minor suit values is sheer guesswork so 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be on. Whether someone bids 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may show where the minor values are.

Dean Eidler: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Looks like I am making the last guess.

Nigel Guthrie: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If pass were forcing, it might be worth consideration.

David Hester: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Would a pass be forcing? I don't think it should be, and my void encourages me to go on.

There's really no question of pass being forcing. Partner was under a lot of pressure to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and he could well be on his way to the bar already. Still...

Roger Yandle: Pass. Forcing pass. If pard has right cards we could be on for slam. If pard doubles I'll pull to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Terry Dunne: Pass. Forcing. Then 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over double or 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Forcing. Iíve got heaps of offensive and defensive potential and partner is in a better position to judge. Iíll settle for any positive score on this board.

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. Forcing pass, when partner doubles I'll bid 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to show void in hearts.

Rick Lu: Pass. Forcing pass, give partner an option for penalty or competing to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or even 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Wow, that was a lot of support for the forcing pass! Maybe I should retract my previous statement? No, I don't think so. Let's get back to the 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bids.

Eric Leong: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doesn't make maybe 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would have made.

David Matthews: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may well be making on this bidding.

Tim Trahair: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If North is strong enough he will go to 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Pass is wimpish and anything else is likely to force North to bid 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which may be too high.

John Leenders: 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We may miss slam but partner can still bid it.

5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) won in a landslide, the bid that has it all. Might make, might be a sacrifice, might encourage partner to bid a making slam, might cause the opps to save at the six level, might pave the way for us to save over 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). How could we consider any alternative?

Frank Campbell: Dbl. I have a nice hand to defend or go on. Trusting partner to take the right action.

Bridge Baron: Dbl. Again, Bridge Baron uses simulation to choose this call.

Darn simulators. I would think these are the sort of hands where a simulator would have a clear advantage over a human. There is really no way that the average human brain can compute the expected value of an auction like this. It's tough to choose between a room full of champions and a very fast piece of silicon, but for better or worse, we opt to give the humans the final say. For now anyway.

Finally, the extremists, from the non-forcing pass to the grand slam try. Low road...

Jameson Cole: Pass. Partner has a good idea of my hand. Further action is up to him.

Martyn Rew, John Furedy and Margaret Reid: Pass. Let partner decide whether to push on or double. He will have more of an idea of my hand than I his.

Ron Lel: Pass. Partner was under the hammer when she bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). She may well have only three card support. A void is no reason to bid on.

Steve Johnston: Pass. I would like to encourage partner to bid on. As 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and double are too decisive, I pass and let partner decide. I hope he doesn't pass!

Ken Berry: Pass. Let partner double if it's right.

High road...

Emil Battista: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I like my shape, to quote a fellow panellist. (Do not know about my wife).

Boris Richter: 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I am well aware of potentially missing the grand, but who says that partner is strong anyway. 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a good bet if they lead hearts and not cue-bidding hearts we may get a favourable lead.

Nigel Guthrie: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Guessing. If the five level belongs to opponents perhaps we'd better bid six. 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be better than 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opposite KJx-xx-xxx-KQxxx.

David Monahan: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Continuing to explore. If partner shows first round control in diamonds, I can describe my hand fully by the 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) cue leaving partner with the final decision. If no first round control in diamond, 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should still play well.

Paul Tranmer: 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Dynamite! 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could (just about) be going off or 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be cold. Always the optimist, I'll commit our side to at least 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) by bidding 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) now. Over 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from North I make a grand slam try by bidding 6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).


Hand Four - East deals, EW vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 7
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K752
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KJ542
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q72


West North East South
    pass pass
pass 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) * ?

* East's 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows a good raise in spades.

Over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), North could have made a support double which would have shown three card diamond support.


Call Award %
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1002924
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90237
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70122
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 501852
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40126
Dbl 1066
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 1003

A strange auction, where our system has twice prevented us from showing hearts, and now our kind opponents (both passed hands and with a ten card spade fit) have cuebid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to give us one more chance. I guess we'd better take it.

Martyn Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Taking the chance to show hearts cheaply. Expect a spade bid opposite which will give the chance to show three card club support.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). An overbid but this may be the last chance to show hearts.

Nigel Guthrie attempt #2: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm not brave enough to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (although that is probably a better bid).

The Haynes twins were caught in a similar dilemma:

Denis Haynes: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Show strength in the other major at the two level.

Denis Haynes the 2nd: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too weak to show hearts.

Seems I'm going to have to install something on the web site to warn people when they've already answered the questions. Or maybe not -- it's probably more fun this way.

Dean Eidler: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Natural. Intend to bid clubs next. Too good for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Sam Arber: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Limited partner may still have four hearts.

David Matthews: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may well be making here as all my cards are pulling their weight. If partner is not suitable we can still return to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Jameson Cole: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Since partner knows I'm short in spades, he can deduce I have some support for clubs. I would have bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), not 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This sequence shows more values than I have, but I did pass initially, so partner shouldn't go overboard.

I think we all would have bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). But sometimes the inferior bid leads to a more interesting problem.

Emil Battista: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My initial choice was 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Opting for 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), more bidding to come.

Barbara Hunter: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can support clubs next.

While 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) gets the top score, courtesy of its 29% plurality status (have you ever seen the word "plurality" used outside a bidding forum?), in fact 65% recognised the need to ignore the hearts and get the clubs in before the auction gets higher. 47% chose a game try in clubs, while a further 18% chose to support at a lower level.

This is a major flaw in our scoring system which I've raised before: 47% (or 65%)agree on a course of action, but they are split between several individual bids, leaving the actual minority action free to sneak into first place.

Let's hear from the actual majority, the club bidders:

Eric Leong: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). All roads to game begin by raising clubs.

John R Mayne: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Is there some other alternative? I can't imagine what else I'd do here.

David Hester: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Seems obvious. I trust the vulnerable opponents enough not to try for an 11-trick game.

Ron Lel: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If I wanted to be a smart aleck, I could bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to show a good raise in clubs. That bid is foolish as it gives LHO too many bids. Bid what I have.

That seems a bid rude -- they went out of their way to leave you heaps of space, the least you could do is return the favour. The following readers are more opponent-friendly:

Bruce Minchinton: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Ask partner for spade stopper for NT.

Zbych Bednarek: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too strong for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Ian Smith: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My turn now -- a cue-raise to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Terry Dunne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If only I was sure what double would mean to partner... As I'm not, I'll support with support. Game is still possible if partner has a maximum for his bidding so I need to show my limit raise strength rather than simply bidding clubs.

Many people, even some of the 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders, had no intention of stopping at the 3-level:

Martin Eggins: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This makes more spades from West difficult and it's time partner found out that I have three card support plus red values. Partner can then do the spade distribution sums to bid further. My red kings should help immensely but game is up to partner.

Sydney Frish: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner had four hearts he would have doubled spades; 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should be safe and make it easier for partner to save against 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or push E-W too high.

Liz Jeffery: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Passed hand now shows good support with an invitational hand. If opponents bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) partner will be in the position to either bid to game or double 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Frank Campbell: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks a long way off. If we have game North should have jumped. If West and North both pass we will probably be in the right spot. Will compete to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if pushed.

Rex Fox: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Intending to compete to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Bastiaan Korner: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Will bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

If you're planning to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) anyway, there's really no reason to not describe your hand in one go:

Steve Johnston: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Show short spades and some values, given that I am a passed hand, to let partner decide whether to sacrifice over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or not.

Erin Tewes: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). You want to show a great hand for partner despite your initial pass. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will get passed, and 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) goes above 3NT, so bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) -- if pard has a stop he'll bid 3NT if not he'll know what to do.

But most of the readers (and one machine) were happy to just stay low:

Bridge Baron: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Bridge Baron considers its hand just barely strong enough to raise to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Fraser Rew: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I expect to make 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) but not much more. Partner would have jumped on almost all hands where game was making.

Roger Yandle: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Looks like a part score battle. Let them guess at the three level.

John Furedy: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Break the law by one, given the vulnerability. By the way, I assume that the advice that South should bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) initially only holds for Matchpoints?

No, 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is fine at any form of scoring. Sartaj just happened to choose 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) on this occasion. I think he's going through a minor phase. By the way, you are not breaking the Law here -- with 19 total trumps and a possible game bonus at stake, you still have a few tricks to spare.

Tim Trahair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a possibility but only seems likely to lead to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so let's show our support now.

David Monahan: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) better describes my hand, 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would make me look stronger than I am and 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be stretching to the limit and perhaps beyond.

Manuel Paulo: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My hand looks fine for this raise.

Helena Dawson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). They are forced to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) anyway so may as well show support straight away.

That's right, if they can outbid us in spades anyway, it makes no difference whether we play in hearts or clubs. At least in clubs we know we have a fit.

We'll finish with the only reader to appreciate the significance of EW's passed hand status:

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). East, who knows West couldnít open in 3rd seat, has shown a hand too good to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)! So it would be wise to conservatively assume that Westís next bid will be 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This means you have one bid left to describe your hand and you need to prioritise. Letting partner know you donít have a complete misfit is the main concern here. 

The full deal:
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J10
hearts AQJ6
diamonds 3
clubs AK9653
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQ862
hearts 984
diamonds Q1098
clubs 4
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K9543
hearts 103 
diamonds A76
clubs J108
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 7
hearts K752
diamonds KJ542
clubs Q72

North and South were Tony Nunn and Sartaj Hans. We received a few complaints about their system, which I haven't printed in this column. Any inadequacies in the system can be reported directly to Tony and Sartaj. You won't find it easy to contact them though -- as I write this, they are sitting at Table One in our national Butler Championships in Fremantle, having just stopped briefly in Sydney to drop off their Silver Medals from Indonesia.

Full details of the table action are on page 32 of the magazine.

Hand Five - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AK54
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) KQJ762
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 75
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A


West North East South
      1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 3NT pass ?

3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a weak jump overcall.


Call Award %
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100297
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90184
5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)60122
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)5060
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 10017
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)0015
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)002

My favourite problem from the set, with ten different answers. It's been a while since we've had a good Blackwood controversy, so let's jump right in.

Eric Leong: 4NT. I am much too strong to pass or sign off in game. Also, I want to give partner an out if he stretched to bid 3NT.

Tim Trahair: 4NT. Slam is on if North has at least one ace. The experts never seem to like the Blackwood enquiry but it seems the best bet here. 

Rex Fox: 4NT. Inviting slam. Partner should have a double stopper in diamonds and about 13 points.

Bridge Baron: 4NT. Bridge Baron considers this Blackwood.

Marcel Winkel: 4NT. An ace and an extra heart is a good reason to raise my partner's NT bid.

Ian Smith: 4NT. RKCB in hearts -- our only freely bid suit.

John Leenders: 4NT. Asking 'how good are your stoppers'. Bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be passed out.

Sydney Frish: 4NT. It looks like a slam but would hate to be in it missing two aces.

Emil Battista: 4NT. And risk losing first two diamond tricks.

Liz Jeffery: 4NT. This hand doesn't need much from partner for a successful slam bid. Cue bidding the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A may call a halt to the auction so Blackwood enquiry in hearts seems best option.

So the field seems evenly split between Blackwood and Invitational. Combined, that should be enough votes to secure the top score? 'Fraid not. Here's the winner:

Roger Yandle: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Would like to bid 4NT quantitative but I'm afraid it would be ace ask. Hence my only slam try looks like a cue bid. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could be very weak so pd could have the cards needed for slam. East looks short in diamonds so NT looks like the right strain.

Boris Richter: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We don't have a fit yet, so this is not a cue-bid but rather asking partner for a four card major and a slam try as well. If he bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), I am going to cue spades, he may well retreat in 4NT next as a sign-off bid.

Terry Dunne: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). It's hard to imagine any hand that partner might hold where we don't have a shot at slam. The cue bid signals extra strength and gives partner the opportunity to describe his hand.

Fraser Rew: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner is under pressure to act so this is not without danger, and it would be reckless to go past 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on my own. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is natural and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is unilateral, not to mention weak. I will pass 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4NT.

Manuel Paulo: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A slam try; I'm afraid that 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be ambiguous.

Ambiguous at best; at worst, natural. But it still gathered a few votes:

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Waiting for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from partner, then 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) from me on the way to slam.

Rick Lu: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Cue bid clubs to show slight interest in slam.

Jameson Cole: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Strength showing. Protects against having only one club stopper and also suggests slam if partner's cards are all working.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Slam is worth exploring, especially as the opponents should have nothing more to say.

Frank Campbell: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner should have an opening hand, diamond stoppers and a couple of hearts. The only way to find our possible heart slam is a cue bid. If he can cue diamonds, I can go on or else bail out in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

A more descriptive slam try:

David Monahan: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing my shape (including the heart extra length), strength and slam interest.

David Hester: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's bid has a wide range, but I must surely make one emphatic slam try, hoping his stopper is not QJx. 

This one has a few disadvantages. On the one hand partner may decide he can pass it; on the other, we could already be too high (although bailing out into 4NT should be reasonable safe). Overall though, a good strong choice, and the award is 90 points. 

Rounding off our collection of different slam tries:

Paul Tranmer: 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A straightforward ask about top diamond losers. If North can't stop diamonds he'll pass 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). No serious concerns about outside losers except, perhaps, the trump ace. If North has bid 3NT without either red ace I will suggest he's trying too hard!

Finally, we have 36% of the readers dismissing slam completely:

David Matthews: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too dangerous to leave 3NT in because partner may only hold one diamond stopper without the heart ace.

John Furedy: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I've got one more heart than promised. More importantly, if the lead is a club from length, 3NT will probably be in trouble. Finally, all my outside points are aces and a king, not good for a notrump contract.

John makes a good point, there are reasons why hearts may be superior to notrump. Still, 3NT has a lot of supporters:

Ron Lel: Pass. CHO is under pressure. She knows why she bid 3NT, I don't.

Steve Johnston: Pass. For me 3NT here means put the dummy down. Slam is close but a lot can go wrong (diamond ruff, hearts break badly). So I give in to partner.

Denis Haynes: Pass. I assume partner has the diamonds covered!

John R Mayne: Pass. This will make. No reason to go on exciting adventures when partner is likely to have slow diamond tricks.

Sam Arber: Pass. Too many chances to go wrong. Partner seems to have long clubs with diamond stopper.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Pard should have a double stopper so 3NT is easy (hope we don't make six).

Nigel Guthrie: Pass. May have a slam, but starting at this uncomfortable level it is hard to explore for the right one. Preempts work.

Martin Eggins: Pass. Partner could have as little as images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A + images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)KQxxx leaving nasty entry problems, but images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q is highly likely or images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)AQ. 6NT may be stone cold but East is likely to hold heart and/or club values.

Those are all good arguments -- in fact they make me feel a little guilty for giving 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) an upgrade to 10 points. Still, it's good to be generous occasionally!


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.

A few late entries remain to be processed and will be edited into the following table at a later date.

Top scores for June
1Dean Eidler470
2Terry Dunne450
3David Hester440
4Bastiaan Korner430
4Rex Fox430
6Barbara Hunter420
6Barbara Whitmee420
6Charles Page420
6John Compton420
6Paul Gipson420
6Mike Freeman420
6Nigel Guthrie420
13Ian Patterson410
13Kay O'Connor410
13Ian Smith410
13Roger Yandle410
17Bruce Minchinton400
17Duncan Roe400
19Gary Lane390
19John Leenders390
19Manuel Paulo390
22Fraser Rew380
23Bridge Baron370
23Eric Leong370
23John R Mayne370
26Henri de Jong360
26Liz Jeffery360
26Marcel Winkel360
26Peter Tarlinton360
26Denis Haynes360
26Sam Arber360
32Sydney Frish350
32Trish Whitton350
32David Matthews350
35Erin Tewes340
35Ian Spight340
35Joe Lentz340
35Leon Slonim340
35Paul Sherman340
35Peter Stride340

Progress scores for 2007
1John Leenders1310
2David Hester1290
3Terry Dunne1280
4Bastiaan Korner1250
4Rex Fox1250
6Ian Patterson1230
7Henri de Jong1220
7Mike Freeman1220
7Nigel Guthrie1220
10Paul Gipson1200
11Alexander Cook1170
11Gary Lane1170
11Tim Trahair1170
14Eric Leong1160
15David Matthews1140
15Joe Lentz1140
15Steve Johnston1140
18Bridge Baron1130
18Emil Battista1130
18Roger Yandle1130
21Trish Whitton1110
22Barbara Whitmee1100
23Manuel Paulo1090
24Arthur Porter1080
24Sydney Frish1080
24Ivan Demeny1080
24Pat O'Connor1080
28Kay O'Connor1070
28Jameson Cole1070
30Ian Smith1050
30Leon Slonim1050
32Peter Stride1040
32Jeff Brokenshire1040
32Martin Eggins1040
35Ian Erratt1010
35David Monahan1010
35Ken Berry1010
35Peter Nolan1010
39Ian Spight1000
39Fred Altstock1000


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.