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June 2014

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, June 2014

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, Bob Jones, Frank Stewart,
Eddie Kantar, and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.
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Hand One - East deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) QJ32
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQJ
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QT6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKJ


West North East South
    1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) dbl
pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
1NT 100 65 23
2NT 80 10 17
2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 5 22
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 10 25
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 50 5 4
3NT 40 5 2
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 40 0 1
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 20 0 5

Welcome to the June reader’s bidding forum. Thanks to Michael for filling in for me in the March forum; I'm back now, so you can expect a return to kinder and gentler comments, even if your bid is a hopeless monstrosity. (Except the guy who bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on this question, and said he was worried about missing slam -- I couldn't think of anything nice to say about that.)

He wasn't totally alone; most of the readers were heading for game, although the majority did offer partner one chance to get out at the 3-level.

Wayne Somerville: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 19-21 support points, pretty much everything rates to be working other than a possible spade finesse. Partner should raise on any semi-respectable hand.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forced bid by partner, and not a lot of points left between West and South. If he has anything to show, now will be his chance. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will still have prospects to make.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If East has his bid, then partner can't have much. But if he has decent shape, he may see fit to raise to a making game.

Emil Battista: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just got up and full of vim. A couple of finesses should not fail. Sure partner could be a bust, but how much more do we need for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)?

Phil Hocking: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's hope North has some points.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner may have very little.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Kxxxx-xxx-xx-xxx. At IMPs, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be makeable if partner has the right king; although 3NT may be better.

Bridge Baron: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Shows a monster, as partner could have a Yarborough.

Toby Weinstein: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Tempted to bid 2NT.

3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) did receive two panel votes: Mike Lawrence, who wrote "We are probably too high," and Tim Bourke, who wrote "Opposite myself I might only bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)".

The big problem with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes): there's simply no excuse for bidding that high, with the significant chance of going negative, when we have the ability to describe our hand perfectly accurately at the one-level.

Nigel Kearney: 1NT. May be the best spot if passed out, otherwise I can support spades next time.

Kees Schaafsma: 1NT. Should partner pass even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is practically illusive.

Robert Black: 1NT. Shows 19 plus, as I did not overcall 1NT. Partner only promises four spades, and may have zero points.

Alex Kemeny: 1NT. Square shape, treating the hand as 19 HCP. Partner may sometimes have just three spades, eg 3-3-3-4 shape and weak.

Many people suggested the possibility of partner having three spades. I don't think we should concern ourselves too much with that; with 3-3-3-4, 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be the more normal response. In any case, partner will never rebid a 4-card suit, so we'll never find out; it's simpler to just assume he has four. 

Niklas Andrén: 1NT. I think 3NT is a more likely game even if partner has four spades.

Gary Hyett: 1NT. Pard probably has 4+ spades, but everything else - 4333, secondary cards, says notrumps. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) second choice.

James Coutts: 1NT. This hand really isn't that nice and NT could easily play better than spades. Good 18 to a bad 20 sounds about right.

Michael Smart: 1NT. 19-20, no shape in support of spades and a triple stop in the opponent's suit. Clarify my strength and shape, jump in spades if partner moves over 1NT. Is this a trick question...?

We don't do trick questions here, we just try to shine a light on situations that some people may not have previously considered. Concealing the spades isn't intuitive if you haven't seen the situation before.

Fraser Rew: 1NT. I know that if we're going to bid, we should always raise partner's major with 4-card support. But he might not have four, notrump is right-sided but spades are not, 4333 is NT oriented, and I can't show this much strength without possibly getting overboard.

Dan Baker: 1NT. Balanced hand too big for a 1NT overcall. With this shape, 3NT may play better than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) anyway if partner has a few points, and when it doesn't partner's further bids will probably make that clear.

Alan Boyce: 1NT. I want the lead coming up to me. If partner is drop dead empty for his bid 1NT might be plenty, in spite of the spade fit. However, if partner sneezes after my 1NT I'll bid game in spades and take our chances.

Ian McCance: 1NT. I'm very wary of boxes.

I'm very wary of boxers -- did you see what happened to Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover...

Given that 1NT shows our actual strength, I'm not sure what this next group is trying to achieve:

John Newman: 2NT. A selfish and descriptive 2NT; put a spade in the clubs if necessary. Partner could have a weak hand with longer diamonds that'll play better in NT. The hand I'm nervous about is one with long clubs and three spades.

John R Mayne: 2NT. images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)10 and onside images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J make notrump more attractive. We probably won't get to spades from here unless partner has five, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

David Matthews: 2NT. A 1NT overcall would show 15-17 and a rebid of 1NT would show 18-19 so this must be 20-22. 3NT is likely to play better than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with the flat hand and jacks. If partner is shapely and makes an enquiry then I can bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the next round.

For what it's worth, I do not agree with 20-22, no matter what system you play. It can't be correct to assign a 2-point range to 1NT (which has invitational responses) while giving a 3-point range to 2NT. In your methods, 1NT should be 18-20, with 2NT as 21-22.

Sam Arber: 2NT. Flat hand partner must be minimal can rebid spades if has five.

Richard Morse: 2NT. I feel more inclined to show my strength and general shape than to support spades at this juncture. I can handle any response from partner.

Larry Brose: 2NT. Partner has at most 10 HCPs, so we aren't going past game. I want to send a message that I have clubs covered. Bid spades next.

Tim Trahair: 2NT. Showing a strong balanced hand and looking for game if North has the bulk of the outstanding HCP.

Michael Burt: 3NT. With the most finesses likely to be working and entries to partner's hand in spades, if partner has a 4-card spade suit and images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K (or even just five spades to the 10), 3NT has reasonable chances of making. At IMPs worth a go. In 3NT, we only have to make 9 tricks whereas in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) we need to make 10 tricks and South's hand is flat.

Several of those are planning to bid spades on the next round, which basically means they want to play in either 2NT or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and have given up on 3NT. Others, like John Mayne, recognise that this route is more consistent with a 3NT goal, and accept the loss of the spade suit. 

If we do choose to support the spades, it's unclear how high we should bid; in fact, we received votes for every level. Unlike the more common auction 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)-2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), a raise to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here is a free bid, so it promises extra values. Or does it? Opinions are mixed, although I side very strongly with Rainer:

Rainer Herrmann: 1NT. I think a raise here should not show significant extras strength, simply confirm four cards in spades and some distribution.

Bob Jones: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I may have an extra jack or two for this bid, but the square shape negates that. This hand 'looks' like a notrump hand, but with four-card support, I'm gonna raise.

Manuel Paulo: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm afraid of a Yarborough.

Passing 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a minimum hand, and then coming back in with 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) after opponents bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), doesn't seem like bridge to me. I was taught 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) the way Rainer describes it (and even if I hadn't been taught that way, I would switch to it now). If partner has a Yarborough, all the more reason to get to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) quickly with a 13-count.

Finally we have the people who felt they needed to support the spades, but didn't want to hang partner at the 3-level. This is how to do it:

JC Clement: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 1NT, 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), or 2NT? I really don't know. But I think 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is wrong, for partner can have only three of them.

Stephen Bartos: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Forcing for another round to find out more about partner's hand (they will rebid spades if absolutely minimum, show another suit with some values).

Jack Lai: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Forcing, try to get more information from partner in order to test whether game/slam is better.

Bjarne Andersen: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have to force partner to bid again. Since I do not know if 2 NT is forcing in our system I bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) which is forcing in every natural system I know.

Damo Nair: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Keeping all options open. Over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I'll make one more try with 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Chris Woolley: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Normally shows a hand that would jump to game opposite a minimum response. If partner bids anything other than 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I'll now bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not good enough to go to game after partner's 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner bids 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will raise to 3 and we should get to game across from an ace or king.

Zbych Bednarek: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Opps suit, forcing on way to 3NT or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Roger Yandle: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Pard hasn't got much but I'm sitting over opener so it looks like all my points are working. NT might still be the right strain so I'll make a cue-bid showing my strength and see what pard has to offer.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner tell me, are you absolutely minimal? In that case even 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be too high. If not, 3NT may be a good alternative.

Jacco Hop: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too strong for 1NT, based on partner's response my next bid is 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 2NT. Direct 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is okay on value however 4333 and good stops look too much NT like.

Ron Lel: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Wait to see if partner can bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), in which case I will raise to three.

So some people are planning to bid on over 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), while others bid on over anything but 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Oh well.

Once again I have failed to collect the full deal before it disappeared (I forget that many clubs only leave their hand records online for a short time). Once again I will undertake to be more diligent in future.  

Hand Two - West deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQJ97
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q2
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J74
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K62


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


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 40 31
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 30 20
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 10 29
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 20 20

I mentioned earlier that we don't do trick questions in this forum, but in fact this is almost a trick question. At the table I believe most people would bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but in our artificial environment 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) got the top vote from panellists and readers.

Manuel Paulo: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's hard to evaluate my red honors.

Larry Brose: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), to keep West quiet.

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 8 losers so I am not getting too excited.

Charles Scholl: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Enough for now.

Emil Battista: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q of doubtful value. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may clarify.

Roger Yandle: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q is probably worthless so my hand isn't as good as it looks. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems to be enough for now.

David Matthews: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Standard jump after the double. Bidding a direct 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be too high considering my soft points in the other suits. Will wait for partner to make a further move.

Ian McCance: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Wary again. 2˝images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Dan Baker: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q is a rather dubious value, so I'll go low here with an invite rather than a game force.

Niklas Andrén: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too many un-working points for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Rainer Herrmann: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I am not tempted to bid more.

That would have been the winning bid at the table, with eight tricks the limit.

The next group takes us into another hazy system area:

Mike Lawrence: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have spent years trying to find the perfect meaning for this bid. The current meaning is that I have too much for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and not enough to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and then to show spades, which would be game-forcing.

Mick McAuliffe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is probably best, but I don't like my images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Q2.

Hans van Vooren: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A horrible hand, despite the points and the 5-card suit. If anything, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is an overbid.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Getting to NT from my side when it is right is too hard. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the value bid in spades because we don't want to punish partner for an aggressive double.

Damo Nair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think this is more than enough with these soft controls.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Invitational. My better half doubles on AT42-86-A96-AT74.

I think we all do, don't we.

Stephen Bartos: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Inviting game in either 3NT or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) depending on partner's holding.

Chris Woolley: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing good values and a 5-card suit. At IMPs I would happily bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Phil Hocking: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Suspect 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ought to be final contract but allow partner to push on if they so desire.

Sam Arber: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Shows 10 plus and 5+ spades.

I remember a time when many people played 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as preemptive, but these comments suggest it's definitely seen as constructive now. 

Well, enough with the partscores, time to look at the slams:

John Newman: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is probably the best spot but it's silly to rule out other contracts when partner's hand is undefined.

Fraser Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I can bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) later, but I'll cue for now, to cater for partner's freak hand where slam makes.

Richard Morse: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think this is too good a hand for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), so start by establishing the force.

Robert Black: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). And spades next time.

Gary Hyett: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Far too heavy for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Tony Treloar: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Game force, will bid spades twice if necessary.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Game force. Next bid is a number of spades.

Duncan Roe: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Need to do something special with this opening hand - we'd have to bid with a Yarborough. AB standard says a bid of their suit forces to suit agreement: I see no need to jump as well.

Jacco Hop: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To show forcing with spades.

JC Clement: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too rich for any other bid.

John R Mayne: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Where are the hearts? 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not strong enough with all these nice things, and 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) gives room if partner has an off-shape moose.

Not all of those were actually looking for slam -- some were simply catering for partner having a big hand with short spades. Fair enough, I guess this is a better bid than 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). There were just two panel votes for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), from Ron Klinger and Tim Bourke. Although Ron writes the books on this kind of stuff, so his minority vote is worth more than the average expert's.

Bridge Baron: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Five-card major with nice texture, opening hand (even with images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Qx), textbook response.

Michael Smart: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is an underbid -- but let's not see 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) get passed out.

James Coutts: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Am I missing something? Slam chances are surely remote.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Keeping information to a minimum. Even if partner has a singleton spade and a hand too strong to overcall in a minor, this should be fine.

Tim Trahair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North has about an opening hand or better with probable support for our good spade suit. Go for the game most likely to be on.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Axx-xx-AKxx-QJxx. Limit bid. If you bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) it may be hard to convince partner that your spades are playable opposite a doubleton.

Alan Boyce: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). What's the problem? Surely this is the only strain to consider.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With lots of soft values slam is remote (note partner can still kick on with a big hand).

We don't have the full deal (from the Toowong Bridge Club), but we do know that partner held A108-98-J1063-AQ97. Yes, I know that's too many diamond jacks -- in reality the South hand had the queen instead of the jack (a full 13-count). South bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and went two down. 

Scoring for this problem was tricky. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) had the highest individual vote from both the readers and the panel; in addition, both groups produced a clear majority vote for not bidding game. For this reason, I think 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the clear winner, although all the other bids have been given generous consolation prizes.

Hand Three - West deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQ2
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q43
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K32
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 9876


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

2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a natural weak two, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is a preemptive raise.

Call Award %
Pass 100 75 18
3NT 60 25 62
Dbl 20 0 20

Next we have a simple yes-no problem; do you bid or don't you. We have ten points more than we might have had, which led 82% of the readers to bid -- but the panel strongly disagreed.

Kate McCallum: Pass. If partner doesn't double again in passout seat, this is most likely our only shot at a plus score.

Matthew Thomson: Pass. If you could double with a fullstop after it, I'd try that. The images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)KQ is likely wastage in a suit contract, and you are not strong enough to bid 3NT, so pass. If partner has a better hand they will double again. With length and strength in the opponents suit angle to defend.

Chris Woolley: Pass. Double is too risky at IMPs. They're probably making 8 or 9 tricks in spades while we're making 9 or 10 tricks in a minor, probably clubs. Can we scramble 3NT? Maybe, but with only 5 HCP outside spades, I'll pass this time.

Margaret Reid: Pass. Not enough to bid. Pard can take it further if strong.

Martyn Rew: Pass. Would like to double here, but expect partner to double again. Might end up short of a spade stop if I go to 3NT.

Hans van Vooren: Pass. This hand is going nowhere. I wonder what I am going to do if partner doubles again.

John Newman: Pass. If I double it's making, if I pass it's two off and we don't have a game on, so I'm going on table feel. If the opponents look meek I will double, if they bid confidently I would pass. If they are muppets I would bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If they give nothing away, I'll pass - if partner doubles again, I have ten more seconds to figure out how to get it wrong.

I don't think too many Muppets would let you get away with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (maybe Animal, he always seems a little distracted). As for your table feel, I'm sure after you've aged a few years you'll be taking a simpler approach like these five veterans (in increasing order of my estimate of their age):

James Coutts: Pass. Perhaps difficult if we were vul and they were not. Simple if they are vul and we are anything.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. I used to bid 3NT with these hands and usually went down a couple. So I stopped doing it.

Fraser Rew: Pass. In tempo, I hope.

Jacco Hop: Pass. Too little play value for 3NT.

Nigel Kearney: Pass. There are no tricks in sight so I don't want to play 3NT unless partner can double again.

20% of the readers chose to act immediately with a double, with about a quarter of those believing it was a penalty double. Our system notes say "responsive doubles to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)", which I think applies to this auction. In any case, I think it's poor bridge to play double as penalty if the opponents have found a fit and we have not -- especially after a preempt, where the initial doubler may not always have perfect shape.

We'll print a comment from just one of the doublers -- our resident mathematics guru who always knows what the right contract is, if not how to best get there: 

Bridge Baron: Dbl. Simulation: +272.67 for defending 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled, +149.67 for defending 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) undoubled. 3NT doesn't look promising.

Those extra 123.00 points don't seem like a good argument for doubling. Even if you ignore the 472.67 points partner will cost us if he pulls the double, those averages seem to suggest that 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doubled will make often enough to hurt.  

We'll finish with some quick highlights from the bidders, and then move on:

Ian McCance: 3NT. Don't expect to make it unless partner has a long suit, but where else?

Gary Hyett: 3NT. I've been down before!

Toby Weinstein: 3NT. I have doubts if 3NT is a make.

John R Mayne: 3NT. Double would be responsive, and when partner rebids 4red, that's our fault. Sure, maybe they beat us a bunch, but passing is impossible and 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is revolting.

Michael Smart: 3NT. Passing is too negative, and double will take us past 3NT, possibly the ideal spot (despite images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A probably being offside).

Emil Battista: 3NT. And cross fingers East does not get in before we can garner nine tricks.

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. Aggressive, but passing is giving the opponents an open invite to steal and everything else feels wrong.

Dan Baker: 3NT. I must be missing something. Balanced, 10 points, at least one stopper... this seems obvious. Too much chance they make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to consider doubling, and no other bid seems a better fit.

"At least one stopper" sounds like creative arithmetic to me.

Richard Morse: 3NT. Who knows? This seems the last chance to bid 3NT, and gives a fair description of my shape and strength.

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. x-AKxx-AQJxx-Jxx. A stretch but partner's 2nd-seat double should be sound. 3NT might be better than a 4-level contract.

Kees Schaafsma: 3NT. For what it's worth, I've witnessed and played raises to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on a singleton spade. Very effective, I might add.

I'll award an extra 30 points to any of the 3NT bidders who specified that they were playing against Kees; the rest of you get 60 (not because the bid is worth 60, but because most of the other problems this month have 60+ as the lowest possible score). 

Hand Four - North deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJ83
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A764
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) JT6
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q9


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


Call Award %
3NT 100 55 24
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 20 26
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 5 0
2NT 70 15 43
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 5 5
Other 0 0 3

I think this next problem makes a beautiful companion to Problem Two. Both problems feature what you might call "an opening hand opposite an opening hand" (which, even in the age of 11-point openings, is still the gold standard for bidding game). However, Hand Two, despite the known fit, is mostly junk. This hand is all muscle -- our top ten HCP are in the best configuration possible, and even the diamondsJ could pull its weight as a slow stopper.

Hans van Vooren: 3NT. Seems rather straightforward. Am I missing something?

Emil Battista: 3NT. 6 club tricks + 2 aces = 8. Not much more to do for another trick.

Dan Baker: 3NT. JTx is close enough to a stopper. With the club honor, chances of running off six club tricks are good enough to warrant a stab at game.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Partner shouldn't have spades, so clearly we want to play notrump. Simulation shows +244.50 for declaring 3NT and +134.33 for declaring 2NT.

JC Clement, Todd Holes, Chris Woolley: 3NT. The clubsQ is a nice card, so I bid the most likely game.

Alex Kemeny: 3NT. Worth a shot, since partner only needs to have AKJxxx in clubs and a little help elsewhere. Trying to get scientific about the diamond stopper will just help them find the best lead.

Exactly. I'm not a fan of the reader majority:

Duncan Roe: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bid out my shape. Will have to show my strength in a later bid.

Barbara Whitmee: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Describing my hand pattern and stoppers for notrumps.

Richard Morse: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think it is too early to commit to NT and this slightly faked reverse seems the best bid to elicit a bit more about partner's hand at a low level.

Phil Hocking: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). North has shown fewer than four spades so change of suit by responder is forcing, I assume looking for 3NT.

Nigel Kearney: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). NT should be played from partner's side and I am a little too good for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Larry Brose: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner's bid makes my images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q of clubs good.

Michael Burt: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Gives partner the opportunity to go 2NT with cover. If partner thinks I am showing five hearts and four spades and raises hearts (with 3-card support) will leave it there in a 4-3 fit.

Passing 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) in the "4-3 fit" seems ill-advised -- wouldn't partner give preference to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with KQ-KJ-xxx-KJxxxx?

Robert Black: 2NT. 12 HCP and balanced. Bidding 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might get partner excited about my presumed five card heart suit.

Yes, and since 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is traditionally game-forcing, we'll be unlikely to get out below 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) even opposite a minimum with images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)Qxx.

Martyn Rew: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner can go to NT with a diamond stop. He has some points somewhere other than clubs, and he should know that we have points for game.

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Showing we have reasonable HCP with the majors covered and letting North bid 3NT if he has diamonds covered.

Manuel Paulo: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This rebid invites partner to bet in notrump with a diamond stopper.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Maybe if North has a diamond stop he can try 2NT or 3NT.

A lot of talk there about partner having a diamond stopper, but diamondsxx could easily be enough for 3NT, and diamondsxxx is fine. Besides, the modern style is to lead a major.

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. This is worth an upgrade with the clubsQ9. We are likely getting a spade lead in this auction and I would rather receive it than have it put through me.

John Newman: 2NT. Nick Jacob suggested inviting conservatively, accepting aggressively. None of my partners would pass unless 3NT is going off. The downside is diamonds could be wrong-sided but I want a spade lead and I'm not sure how to have it both ways.

The remaining votes go to the two invitational bids, and at Matchpoints, it's not much of a contest:

Sam Arber: 2NT. Look for better matchpoint score.

Ian McCance: 2NT. Options a bit limited, 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) not practical.

Alan Boyce: 2NT. Don't think there is a choice. Jacks make 3NT a bit of a stretch if partner is minimum for his opening.

Andrea Viscovich: 2NT. I would bid 3NT at IMPs, and I would also bid it with a queen instead of two jacks.

Gary Hyett: 2NT. Would bid 3NT at teams.

John R Mayne: 2NT. I'd bid 3NT at IMPs, but 2NT seems like enough here. The 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders guarantee a plus, and if they are +130 vs my +120, well, good for them.

As you can see, the scoring method not only influenced people's choice of strain, but also choice of level. At IMPs, 3NT has a lot to gain over 2NT, but at Pairs 2NT could get quite a good score itself (especially if these guys are in the field):

Dean Eidler: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Notrump from partner's side.

Michael Smart: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Ongoing in a known 6-2 fit. If partner is not a min, his 3NT will right-side it.

It would be great if we could play 3NT from partner's side, especially if he has diamondsAx. But I think playing 3NT from our side is still better than not reaching 3NT at all.

Ron Lel: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I normally play 2NT as forcing here, but that is not an AB standard style.

Eric Kokish also voted to change the system to a forcing 2NT, and we also had a few other wishing for more forcing options:

Kees Schaafsma: 2NT. Forcing. Asks to bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with a minimum and something else with a maximum.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2NT. Enough opposite some opening bids. If we should be in game opener should raise. 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) forcing would be a good agreement here.

Jacco Hop: 2NT. I am surprised 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is not an option. If want to force Game which is reasonable 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems an option.

James Coutts: 2NT. Several options here, both 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) are tempting but easy to see both of those turning out badly. Partner is perfectly capable of bidding 3NT with a good club suit so no need to stretch at MP.

Another tricky hand to score; with 81% of the panel bidding game, it's hard to justify promoting 2NT and 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) above the stronger bids. Although I do have a feeling that if you are planning to bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the way, you'll wish you'd stopped in a partscore. Again, all options were scored very generously.

The full deal, from the Double Bay Bridge Centre:

spades 2
hearts KQ9 
diamonds AQ7
clubs J107532
spades 9754
hearts 53
diamonds K92
clubs AK84
spades KQ106
hearts J1082
diamonds 8543
clubs 6
spades AJ83
hearts A764
diamonds J106
clubs Q9

We can make 3NT or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), despite partner's minimum hand and bad suit.  

Hand Five - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AQJT942
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 62
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Q973

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

1. Weak two in either major (no strong option).
2. Pass or correct, and the only way to stop in 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (planning to rebid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) non-forcing if partner corrects to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)).


Call Award %
Pass 100 80 58
Dbl 70 5 13
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 15 21
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 7

We had a lot of international players on last year's leaderboard, with only a few Aussies in the top 20. In a shameless attempt to give the locals an edge, here's a problem featuring one of the many simple conventions that are outlawed in the USA. (I'll try to think of a way to handicap the Europeans next month, but that will be much harder...)

A quarter of the readers looked no further than the long semi-solid suit; thankfully most of them stopped short of game:

Dean Eidler: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner has a weak two in hearts, he raises.

Nigel Kearney: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). May be -50 instead of +50 but plenty of good things can also happen.

David Matthews: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). On this bidding, partner must have a weak 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opener. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) must have a play but the opponents may well find their diamond fit if I bid. So there is a good case for just passing and letting them struggle in 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Duncan Roe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Should go down less than 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Stephen Bartos: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Sticking to the plan...

Wayne Somerville: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This should have been asked the round before, now we're pretty much committed to bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Bjarne Andersen: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). To pass with such a 7 card suit is a crime :-) and for cowards. Okay, this could lead to a loss but still.

Toby Weinstein: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What is pard's pass? Is 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a psych?

No, there are 13 spades missing, plenty for everyone to have their share. Psyches do work well against multi-twos, but only in direct seat -- after the 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid there's not much to gain from a psyche.

Richard Morse: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What a strange auction! Anyway 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) seems like a decent two way bet to me -- fair chances of making and a fair chance of pushing the opps too high in spades... assuming that is partner's suit...

Tim Trahair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This seems to be a weird situation - North presumably has six spades but West is prepared to bid spades so presumably also has good spades. It seems we should be able to make at least six tricks in hearts and hope to scrounge a few more in the black suits.

There was just one comment from the 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders, and it came from Bridge Baron. More naive than the average player, he assumed partner must have hearts, and bid game in the known 13-card fit! Ironically, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) was a possible make at the table (but don't write in asking for an upgrade, it's not happening).

The Baron wasn't alone in expecting partner to have hearts; most of the doublers were hoping their pass-or-correct double would be corrected:

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. Surely partner has spades can fall back to hearts if necessary.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Dbl. To play if partner has spades, if not partner will correct to hearts. This agreement has been advantageous to me, especially over the non-forcing relays.

Phil Hocking: Dbl. Still cannot tell if North is hearts or spades. Double allows North to pass (for penalties) or correct if they are hearts.

If partner has does have hearts, then the opponents have 23+ points, 10+ spades, and one void each. There are few certainties in bridge, in fact this may be the only one: partner has spades.

The next doubler knows this, but still hopes partner will run from 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a poor suit:

Martyn Rew: Dbl. If partner thinks his spades are good enough sitting behind West, he can leave it in, but if he bids anything else, it can be corrected to hearts.

A moment ago, your partner was willing to try for eight tricks in spades; now that he only needs six tricks, and you've shown good values, I doubt he'll choose this moment to run to his 3-card side suit. Bear in mind, he doesn't know you've doubled with nothing -- he may think four trump tricks are enough to beat 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

We'll end with a call that more befits a hand with only one defensive trick:

Alan Boyce: Pass. Who wants to declare when there is a misfit like this!

Hans van Vooren: Pass. Partner certainly has spades (would be awesome if he didn't). The only downside I can find is that the opponents have managed to stay low.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. The additional reward from doubling is probably not worth the risk -- at other tables partner will open 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and have to play it there, so we are already picking up imps.

Good comment Leigh.

Damo Nair: Pass. I'm packing it in. No way am I doubling this, West could easily make this.

Sam Arber: Pass. Partner would leave in a double, but still not sure if we can shoot the contract.

Chris Woolley: Pass. Why didn't partner double? Probably because his spades are very weak, maybe something like KQ5432. West is clearly very strong, maybe even as good as AJT987-void-AKxx-AKx. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may well be making.

While many people were worried that 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might make, even more were worried about other contracts making:

Roger Yandle: Pass. Unless East is asleep, pard has got a weak 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With such a misfit I'm happy to defend. I'm not doubling cos 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might make or the opps might run to a making 3NT.

James Coutts: Pass. Yes I know partner has five or more trumps, but that certainly doesn't mean we're beating 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Or 3NT. Or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Niklas Andrén: Pass. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't the opps' best spot.

Fraser Rew: Pass. Are we playing a Goulash? Sure feels like it. I changed my mind about five times. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may make and 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may push them into a better spot.

Tony Treloar: Pass. I think I might just take the 50s, doubling gives opponents the opportunity to run.

Andrea Viscovich: Pass. If I double and North passes, opponents will shift to diamonds.

Michael Smart: Pass. Partner has six spades (unless both East and West are concealing their heart voids) and therefore 3-minor is bound to play better than 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if I double. Take a positive on this one and be happy to do so.

Jacco Hop: Pass. Partner probably has six spades so the opponents for sure have a better spot to play. I don't think we will make 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and sometimes they will still be able to make something. Let's try a plus score.

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Looks obvious to me. West may have a spade-diamond two suiter.

Ron Lel: Pass. Let them play in their worst fit rather than 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Dan Baker: Pass. West is not going to like this contract one bit. We might make 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ... or we might push them into a much better diamond contract (which would surely happen if I double).

John R Mayne: Pass. Stop it. Just stop it. If you're going to impose methods other than AB standard, then we need an explanation of the methods less cursory than this. Is partner obliged to double 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with spades? Does he guarantee six? Can he have outside stuff? Help us out. Anyway, if partner has spades, this isn't their best landing spot - they may make 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If hearts, we may have a cheap sacrifice in 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). So here we sit.

See, that wasn't so bad, once you got over the initial panic. Once you realise that 7images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is unlikely to be a good sacrifice against 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), the hand bids itself. And defending against the convention is even easier than playing it. Spread the word -- unfamiliar doesn't have to mean scary.

The full deal, from Kings and Queens:

spades Q109643
hearts 5 
diamonds KJ9
clubs K108
spades AK752
hearts K3
diamonds A5
clubs A652
spades J8
hearts 876
diamonds Q108743
clubs J4
spades ---
hearts AQJ10942
diamonds 62
clubs Q973

Partner has many big cards in support of hearts, so 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) does have some play. It is beatable in theory, as East can get a club ruff; if West tries to cash a spade first, the ruff will go away, although declarer still has guesses in both minors.

Partner's sharp cards are also sufficient to beat 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) a couple of tricks. If opponents run to diamonds they are only one off.

Thanks again for joining us. We hope to see you all again next month; the questions for the August issue are already online, here.  

While you're here, click on the Home link at the top of this page and check out our new-look web site.


Top scores for June
1Kajsa Fröjd SWE500
1Paul Sontag CAN500
3Fraser Rew NZL490
4Charles Scholl USA480
5Dan Baker USA460
5Chris Woolley Qld460
5James Coutts NZL460
5Niklas Andrén SWE460
5Hans Van Vooren NED460
5Julian Foster NSW460
5Andrew Macalister GBR460
12Duncan Mckinley 450
12John Shield NSW450
12Alexander Cook NSW450
12Leigh Matheson NSW450
16Peter Qvist 440
16Jacco Hop NED440
16John Newman NSW440
16Henri De Jong Vic440
16Peter Nuoristo SWE440
21Jc Clement 430
21Dean Pokorny 430
21Ian McCance Vic430
21Geof Brod USA430
21Hongda Cheng CAN430
21Rick Giles USA430
27Todd Holes USA420
27Emil Battista NSW420
27Gary Hyett GBR420
27Michael Smart ACT420
27Robert Black SA420
27Patrice Fincias 420
27Alex Kemeny NSW420
27Zbych Bednarek POL420
35Bastiaan Korner NED410
35Gary Lane NSW410
35Mark Laforge 410
35Ian Patterson Qld410
35Nigel Kearney NZL410
35Michael Davy Vic410
35Fi Nadir CAN410
35Kees Schaafsma NED410
43Ian Spight NSW400
43Par Ol-Mars 400
43John R Mayne USA400
43Barbara Whitmee Qld400
43Rainer Herrmann GER400
43Jack Lai 400
49Margaret Copland Vic390
49Sam Arber Vic390
49Conny Wahlgren SWE390
49David Woulds GBR390
49Radoslav Radev 390
54Larry Brose USA380
54Len Hammarholm SWE380
54Trish Whitton 380
54Nigel Guthrie GBR380
54Peter Stride Qld380
54Rick Lu NSW380
54Murray Perrin Qld380
54Leigh Blizzard Tas380
54 Alan Boyce Qld380

Leading scores for 2014
1Kajsa Fröjd SWE910
2Fraser Rew NZL890
2Dean Pokorny 890
4Paul Sontag CAN870
4Bastiaan Korner NED870
4Geof Brod USA870
7Rainer Herrmann GER860
7James Coutts NZL860
9John Newman NSW850
10Hans Van Vooren NED840
10Jacco Hop NED840
12Ian McCance Vic830
13Andrew MacAlister GBR810
13Ian Patterson Qld810
15John Shield NSW800
15Alexander Cook NSW800
17Gary Hyett GBR790
18Kees Schaafsma NED780
18Dan Baker USA780
18Nigel Guthrie GBR780
18Andrea Viscovich 780
22Pravin Nahar NSW770
22Roger Yandle NSW770
24Damo Nair USA760
24Toby Weinstein USA760
24Wayne Somerville IRL760
24Todd Holes USA760
28Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN750
28Fi Nadir CAN750
28Niklas Andrén SWE750
28Charles Scholl USA750
32Peter Qvist 740
33Ron Lel LAO730
33Pat O'Connor NSW730
35Duncan Roe Vic720
35Leigh Blizzard Tas720
35Gary Lane NSW720
35Bjarne Andersen DEN720
39Tom Kiss NSW710
39Tim Trahair NSW710
39Conny Wahlgren SWE710
39Kay O'Connor NSW710
39Nigel Kearney NZL710
44Michael Davy Vic700
44Dror Axelrod ISR700
44Par Ol-Mars 700
47Mark Laforge 690
48Dean Eidler NZL680
48Nancy Kent USA680
48Jim Thatcher NSW680
51Leigh Matheson NSW670
51Tony Treloar Qld670
51Ian Spight NSW670
54Zbych Bednarek POL660
54Bram Amsel 660
54Alan Boyce Qld660
54Peter Tarlinton NSW660
54Manuel Paulo POR660
54David Woulds GBR660
60Robert Black SA650
60Tom Moss NSW650
60Julian Gauld NSW650
60Alpay Ari 650
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
August issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
June issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.