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April 2016

Readers' Bidding Forum with Fraser Rew, April 2016

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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                Scroll down to see final scores
Hand One - West deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) K8
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 73
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQ63
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AKT87


West North East South
pass pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
2NT 100 37 33
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 32 27
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 11 19
3NT 70 11 12
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 5 0
Pass 60 5 8
Other 0 0 3

Welcome back, everyone. I started this on the bus to Canberra to run the marathon there, and am finishing it four days later in a backpackers in Brisbane. I should be out of work more often – this travel lark is much more fun. What's not fun is still having sore legs, three and a half days after I crossed the finish line. DON'T DO IT! The last 4km were torture, and the first 38km were bearable, at best. I'd advise you all to play bridge instead – especially now that the days are shorter and the nights are darker.


On problems 1, 2 and 4, the readers strongly matched the panellists. So you're obviously all improving – give yourselves a pat on the back.

On Problem 1, as ever, before we dive in and bid, we need to work out what partner has shown. He won't have a Weak 2, but that doesn't mean as much here as it would in other seats, as 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is more tightly defined. Firstly, at unfavourable it's dangerous – -200 loses to their partscore, -500 loses lose to their game. Secondly, from his point of view, if anyone is strong, it's just as likely to be partner as LHO, so pre-empting might just be making life difficult for partner. So there are some normal Weak 2 bids, like xx/KQJxxx/xxx/xx, that you wouldn't open. You wouldn't, would you, reader?

The next question is where the Spades are. Either partner has four, which may be why he didn't open a Weak 2, or not, which would mean that the opponents have an 8-card fit but not bid it again. So either opener has 6 but didn't like his hand (and he is in 3rd, so he may have opened light) or LHO is weak. All this suggests 3NT. However ... it's not hard to construct hands (similar to my example above) where 3NT is cold off when they establish Spades before we can knock out the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)A, and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is a decent spot.

As usual, we'll start with the minority views:

A.K. Simon: Pass. We open pretty light with 5-card majors, so we're unlikely to miss a game here. Thanks for getting us to the right spot, pard!

That seems ... pessimistic. Partner could still have a 9- or 10-count; even 8 may be enough for game with two finesses through the opening bidder.

Ig Nieuwenhuis (with Ian McCance and Wayne Somerville similarly): 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) isn't forcing but my hand is too strong not to try for a game.

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). A reverse indicating our strength with focus on the minors. Let's see what N can now do. It seems that W can't have much and game may be on for us if we can find the right contract.

Timothy Wright (with Henry de Jong similarly): 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). With luck, partner can either bid 3NT or ask for a stopper.

Ron Lel: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I intend to force to game. 2NT is a bit wimpy, 3NT shows much more robust spade stoppers. I think 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a reasonable compromise.

Charles T. Scholl: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner rates to have about 10 HCP but only 5 hearts. After my 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), partner should be able to bid 3NT with a partial spade stopper, or support one of my suits.

That's well and good. However, we're in uncharted territory here, so he may bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately if he's worried that 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would be non-forcing, and that gets us past 3NT. Also, if he bids 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), as is likely, none of 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will necessarily reach the right contract. Similar to Problem 3 last time, bidding what's in front of us isn't always the path to the best contract.

For the experts, only Alder and Klinger bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Like our panellists, neither compared it to the alternatives and Alder sounded unconvinced about his choice.

Dan Baker: 3NT. Could bid just 2NT but partner will pass too many times when game makes. Some might have overcalled a slightly offshape 1NT the first time, though with concentrated values in the long suits I probably wouldn't [More on that later – FR].

Brad Johnston: 3NT. I'll show you optimistic.

Jack Lai: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Single stopper might not be enough for 3NT.

David Matthews: 3NT. Partner didn't open with a weak 2 in Hearts so must have a good 9 or 10 points with 5 Hearts so I think 3NT is probably the best spot.

Michael Burt: 3NT. Partner should have around 10 HCPs giving us points for game. With most of the remaining high cards being with East, 3NT should be a better than 50% chance of making.

Dean Pokorny: 3NT. Since 2NT isn't forcing here (catering for, say, 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) in partner's hand), I have to bid a boring 3NT, what else?

As noted above, either 3NT or 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is still a lively possibility, so leaping straight to game in one or the other seems hasty. Also, although we're likely to end up in game, we're not yet in a game force. I suspect that many readers would open my example hand above and so are not expecting partner to have six decent hearts, and are jumping to 3NT because they don't consider 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to be a viable contract.

On each panel, however, most people chose either 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 2NT. Numbers were equal for the experts; for the readers, 2NT very narrowly got the nod.

Paul Hangartner: 2NT. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) should be constructive vul so I can show my good values, I expect partner to raise, or rebid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) but 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is also possible

Emil Battista: 2NT. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be the winning bid - but I like being declarer!

Artur Wasiak: 2NT. Enough to keep bidding, not enough to jump to 3NT.

Patrice Fincias: 2NT. Good hand with misfit in heart.

It shouldn't be a complete misfit. Those don't play very well in 3NT, so we'd normally go low. This was identified by ...

Tania Black: 2NT. 16HCP, two hearts and a spade stopper.

Duncan Roe: 2NT. At matchpoints I might blast 3 myself.

That seems backwards. Broadly speaking, Vulnerable at IMPs, game needs to be about 36% to be a long-term winner; at matchpoints it needs to be 50%.

Martyn Rew: 2NT. The images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)K looks well placed. Up to partner to pick the final contract.

Anne Paul: 2NT. Now showing 15-18 HCP, and unable to bid NT in 1st position because of shortage in H.

John R. Mayne: 2NT. The passers may well be right, but too many hands are frozen for game.

And now for the cue-bidders:

Gary Hyett: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is non-forcing I guess, but could be a fair hand. Our next call may well be the real problem.

Phil Hocking: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Asking for a spade stopper.

Kay O'Connor: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think this has to be asking for a spade stopper.

When it's only our partnership's third bid, the cue-bid should just be forward-going and asking for more description. If he has a stopper, the best description will often be to show it, but with a minimum and four clubs, for example, it may be best to sign off in 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Alex Kemeny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). At IMPs vul I don't want to miss a game.

Peter Robinson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). For me the reverse shows more shape, and there's no need to punt NT immediately.

Alan Jones: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Happy to play NT if partner has anything in spades.

Julian Foster: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner can venture a 2-level bid now, we have enough extras that we can play game. If he has 6 hearts we can play 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), otherwise we're probably heading to 3NT. At this vulnerability he could easily have 6 with a weaker suit where 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will be a lot safer than 3NT.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just too good to pass even assuming N doesn't have 6 hearts (playing weak 2 bids, I assume).

Todd Holes: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has values. We want to be in game, but which game?

Peter Vlas: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The most flexible I think. I discarded the alternatives 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (what if partner now says 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)?) or 2NT (too much emphasis on a mediocre S-stop). P should have some values that bring us close to game, but let's see what he says. Over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I consider raising.

Nigel Kearney: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The most likely contract is 3NT but we could belong in hearts, diamonds or clubs. The cue bid says that our hand is flexible where an immediate 2NT or 3NT do not.

Jacco Hop: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too strong to pass. Want to give partner space to manoeuvre.

Before we close this problem out, I'd like to focus on a few complaints about the initial action, some readers preferring 1NT. Those readers were a small minority, but they did have the support of expert panellists Patrick Huang and Kate McCallum. Curiously, though, the readers who objected almost all felt the need to bid the minimum number of No Trumps now, but the experts bid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 3NT, respectively.

Kees Schaafsma, Rainer Hermann, Louis Dekker and Andrea Viscovish (all 2NT bidders) didn't comment further; Leigh Matheson (3NT) and Robert Black (2NT) made the point that 1NT gets our hand off our chest in one go, and lets partner decide. Bridge Baron (Pass) wants to be declarer. and Michael Smart and Roger Yandle made similar comments to others they agreed with:

Michael Smart: 2NT. My passed partner has made a free bid, presumably based on 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and max passed hand (with 6, He could've opened a weak 2).

Roger Yandle: 3NT. I'm assuming pard doesn't have 6 hearts else they'd have opened a Weak 2. It looks like all my points are working and vul at IMPs I need to get to game if there's a chance. 2NT would only be right if pard is very weak and could correct to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), even then 3NT might make - give pard xxx AQxxx xx Qxx.

I disagree. While this is close to a 1NT overcall, there are a few strikes against it. Firstly, we're not fully balanced; secondly, with all the Aces and Kings, it may play better in a suit contract; finally, it may, perversely, wrong-side 3NT – give partner images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Q10x or images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A10x, and we'd rather be dummy. Being declarer with Kx is an advantage only when the Ace is on your left. I'll overcall 1NT on a hand with one or even two strikes against it, but as the saying goes, three strikes and you're overcalling 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

It's for that last reason, incidentally, that I prefer the cue-bid to a 2NT bid now. While it doesn't commit to game, it shows a strong hand and lets partner take over. Over 2NT I'll raise; over 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I'll reluctantly pass (we don't want to discourage partner from bidding reasonable hands by getting overboard); over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I'll show preference with 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes); over 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I'll bid 3NT, showing only a single stopper and over 3NT I'll pass. It's an easy game.

Let's finish with a man living up to his name:

Brian Lawless: Double. Partner must know this isn't penalty as otherwise I would have doubled the initial 1 Spade. Partner hasn't supported my suit so he may well be lurking (i.e., waiting for a takeout double, so that he can pass for penalties – FR). I ma showing a strong hand with shortage in both Hearts and Spades

Brian, I think we've had this conversation before, but you can't double your partner's bid – even if you are called Lawless.

The full deal, from the 2015 NSW Mixed Teams:

spades Q1073
hearts AJ9852
diamonds 5
clubs 52
spades 65
hearts K10
diamonds KJ98
clubs J9643
spades AJ942
hearts Q64 
diamonds 10742
clubs ---
spades K8
hearts 73
diamonds AQ63
clubs AK1087

13 out of 18 pairs reached 4hearts, with six pairs making it and three losing multiple undertricks. With trumps sitting well, the key to the play is the spade suit; North has to be prepared to put in the spades8 if East plays low (if East puts in the nine, the defence has no chance). Two pairs played 3NT, one making. One pair was doubled in 3clubs, one off.

Hand Two - East deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQ95
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A7432
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J86


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


Call Award %
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 37 41
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 32 21
2NT 80 16 21
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 5 11
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 5 1
3NT 40 5 3
Other 0 0 2

This is a Least of Evils problem. As well as the good values, this hand has three nice features – the spade stopper, the 5-card heart suit and the club support – but none of them leaps out as being more important than the others.

First, a quick look at methods:

Cathy Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 12 HCP 5 hearts forcing.

Duncan Roe: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My trap pass last time has fallen flat (personally I would have overcalled 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). Now 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) would undervalue my hand so must bid 3

Toby Weinstein: 3NT. Second choice is 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if it shows a stiff and not a fit jump

The jumps to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) aren't defined in AB Standard, but they must be either splinter (good hand, support for partner, shortage) or fit-showing (3+ card support, 5+ in the suit shown). I'm happy with either – of my two main partnerships, one goes each way. For the experts, Kate McCallum bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), intending it as fit-showing.

Now, the pessimists:

Peter Paton: Pass. Could bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but don't think we could win [the auction].

Patrice Fincias: Pass. North's bid doesn't show opening strength.

Julian Foster: Pass. Perhaps a bit wet. Partner bid some of our hand when he protected. The spade length isn't that good (West didn't stretch to a raise so the odds are he has shortage and partner has length - hence spade ruffs are a risk). Not sure we'll have enough tricks in NT and no need to push for a light game at matchpoints anyway.

This seems a bit pessimistic to me. It's unlikely that 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will go down, and while partner may be bidding our hand for us, he may also have been dealt a 13-count on which game is cold. It's happened before, you know.

Only slightly braver were the 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders. Again, this seems pessimistic. We'd make the same bid with an 8-count; surely if we're showing this hand as a club raise, the extra values warrant a cue-bid? Anyway, let's see if they can convince us that they're not underbidding.

Tania Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). An underbid I think.

Artur Wasiak: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a bit pessimistic but I feel it's the best idea.

Apparently not.

Robert Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If Hearts were not worth bidding over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) they have not improved (yet). We might still get to 3NT.

David Matthews: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). My choice is to raise, cue raise or bid NT at some level. I prefer the raise as partner may just be balancing. Any further try by North and I will bid game but Diamonds look to be a worry in 3NT.

Paul Hangartner: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner did not double so unlikely we have a good heart fit, can't bid 2NT but if partner makes a 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid I can rebid 3NT. Its likely 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will be the final contract.

Well, it is if you discourage partner by not cue raising.

Timothy Wright: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner is expecting a few points from me, and I have them, but five of them are opposite her likely shortness. Mild encouragement is all I dare show right now.

Tim was the only one reader who voiced a reason for preferring this to the cue raise; the others are expecting partner to move whenever game is making. But there are only 40 points in the deck; I have 12, opener has (normally) 12, LHO probably has 2 or so, leaving 14 for partner. In that case, we have our 26 for game, but I don't know why he'd bid more on a 14-count when we haven't encouraged. And the points in spades that Timothy is worried are wasted will yield two tricks in a no trump contract.

Artur Wasiak (continued): 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner probably doesn't have much in spades (because I do) so re-opening 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (instead of double which he could choose with 1345 or 2335) suggests short hearts. That's the reason to hide my 5-card suit.

That does make some sense. However, we don't bid just to find a fit. We often, as here, need to bring partner in on the auction so that he can decide the right contract. So whether or not 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is right, but we shouldn't shun it just because we're unlikely to have a fit.

For those who did bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), there were a few complaints about the first-round pass:

Bridge Baron: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I should have bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) last round. But luckily, I still have a chance to bid it. Partner will be surprised that my hand can be this strong, but that's my fault for passing last round instead of bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Andrea Viscovich: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'll say 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2nd chance now.

Emil Battista: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My turn to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Why did I not overcall 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to start off with? Surely not the poor pips! A heart lead from partner will not embarrass. Now partner will not know my hand better than pass indicates.

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Puzzled why S didn't bid the first time round. So now we need to show N we have a strongish hand.

None of the expert panel made the same complaint, and many made similar comments to...

Dan Baker: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If we have a heart fit, this is how to find it. Partner should infer that my suit isn't great since I didn't overcall originally.

Gary Hyett: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). As I passed 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), this should show 5 weakish hearts and is constructive. Hope I get another chance.

Exactly (and bonus points to Dan for using infer correctly). Two-level overcalls should show a decent suit, and this one isn't. Acting can get you in more trouble than passing would have. One further possibility was a concept that I've come across but didn't know had a name:

Peter Vlas: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). positive action required. My heart suit now is poor, but my points are well located and we could have game here. Some might even say you could have overcalled 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) with the Bomhof-compensation.

I asked my Dutch friends and the idea is that if you have length in RHO's suit, you should lean towards bidding. The reason is that partner will be short in RHO's suit, so must have some cards in yours; and so dummy can overruff when leading them through LHO. E.g., if LHO and partner have 2 each, and partner has (say) Q9x of hearts, the third and fourth rounds can be ruffed by LHO, but overruffed by dummy.

I'm not sold. Firstly, if the opponent's don't have a fit, it's likely that we don't either, and if it's a misfit we should pass; secondly, this is also an advantage for us on defence. If they find another fit (likely to be diamonds, on this hand), partner is likely to have four, declarer will play on spades before drawing trumps and we can get our overruffs in that way. Against that, if you're bidding on a misfit, it's best to do it before they realise that you're in trouble; secondly, as one of the Dutchies said, 'if it gives you an excuse to bid ... '

Alex Kemeny: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). AB Standard is silent on balancing suit bids so let's get one more bid from pard before committing.

Peter Robinson: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Don't see a need to shun natural bidding here. Maybe he/she will drop me when that is bad, but I can't use that as an excuse to try and guess the final contract on my first bid.

Anne Paul: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bidding because of a fit with partner in clubs and shortness in D

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Implies spades over RHO or a fit with partner (or both)

So, Anne and Nigel, how would you bid with Qxx/Axxxx/AKxx/x?

Charles T. Scholl: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Looking for the best of three places to play, maybe in game. Partner can pass 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or rebid clubs with a minimum balancing hand.

Jack Lai: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Trying to find a better game. If there is a 5-3 fit, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be a good choice

Martyn Rew: 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). This may have be close to the dilemma that partner had on the previous hand. 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) takes up the least space and does give partner a clue. Loath to go to 2NT immediately with a singleton in a suit which partner has not bid.

Indeed (and bonus points for knowing the difference between loath and loathe). There's a lot to be said for economical bids; when they're descriptive, even better – we can pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and otherwise move towards game. As noted by Dan and Gary, it should also be obvious that our hand isn't good enough, for whatever reason, to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), so partner won't play us for anything like KQxx/AQJ9x/x/xxx. (same points, honours and shape, but different honour location)

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2NT. I will pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). As partner did not try double he's probably not too strong and lacking 4 hearts. Since he almost certainly has either enough points in diamonds or long clubs this invite seems reasonable

Wayne Somerville: 2NT. Assuming partner has a good suit, then there doesn't appear to be much benefit in trying to play it in hearts. Meanwhile, 3NT is probably not far away. I hope partner has diamonds stopped.

2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) isn't just a suggestion that we play it in hearts. It's cheap, constructive, natural and forward-going, so will give partner an idea of how best to proceed.

John R. Mayne: 2NT. Bit of a partner-hang, but this hand is notrumpy, and lots of ways for this to go right.

Ron Landgraff: 2NT. Hearts probably not optimum even if pard has 3.

Todd Holes: 2NT. Hiding my heart suit. If our best spot is hearts I'm telling partner I thought the deuce was a diamond.

Alan Jones: 2NT. I need to convey my strength, especially in spades. Since partner has failed to balance with either X or 1NT, I assume there is a heart shortage opposite.

These panellists all seem to think that the only reason to bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is to find a heart fit. But 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may help partner decide the best spot and isn't just looking for a fit: it's natural, constructive, forward-going and accurate. 2NT is more unilateral. Obviously we'd prefer better hearts, but we didn't overcall, so he'll work out that they're not great.

Brad Johnston: 2NT. If I pass West'll get in there with 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), and that'd suck.

Well, it will focus partner's mind on the problem with 3NT. They don't always lead suits that they've bid.

Michael Burt: 2NT. Partner didn't double despite the likely short spades. This suggests around 10 to 12 HCPs, so 3NT may struggle. At IMPs, I would support clubs but at matchpoints if we can make a NT contract that will normally score better than a club contract. It's worth taking the chance on NT even though we may have a weakness in either diamonds or hearts.

Ron Lel: 2NT. You do not have a robust source of tricks on this hand, though Jxx of clubs does look good. Partner is short in S and did not double, which suggests a doubleton heart, hence I am not bidding 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Again, this doesn't do anything that 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) wouldn't.

Jacco Hop: 2NT. Right on values.

Yes, that's it. Nobody above compared 2NT to 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and this looks to be the only reason that we'd prefer 2NT: it's more tightly defined than 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), so if the only question is whether our values are sufficient for game, this will help us to evaluate. It should also show scattered values, but our failure to overcall implies that anyway.

Damo Nair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A one-round force. N could have a wide range of hands where game is a reasonable proposition.

Margaret Copland: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cue raise showing 10+ and three card support. Hearts not good enough to mention as an alternative suit.

As above, we don't need to play there for a heart bid to be right.

Dean Pokorny: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cuebid followed by a new suit is GF here, showing a hand too good for a direct 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) continuation. I could bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as artificial forcing here too, but better to take a safe route, especially in a bidding panel.

I'm not sure that I agree with this. We may just be looking for 3NT, and wanting to show a stopper – some such hand as xxxx/KQ9/Ax/KJxx.

Leigh Matheson: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even if the heart suit were stronger, it’s surely a lost cause. Partner is very likely to also have diamonds but didn’t make a takeout double.

Neil Silverman: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Feel like I can control the auction to a degree with a 2 spade call. Over the expected 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), I will try one more time with 3 Hearts and hope partner bids 3 spades if all he needs is a spade stopper at that point.

Aviv Shahaf: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). First we show a good hand and then if partner cooperate we can look for best strain for game.

Nigel Kearney: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I will pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) - it's important not to punish partner for balancing. 2NT could work but I think clubs will be a better part score even at matchpoints.

Note that this is in contradiction to Michael Burt, who bids 2NT only at matchpoints.

Derek Pocock: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Instead of bidding 3NT which is where we'll no doubt be but is it better played by me.


David Caprera: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Limit raise

Michael Smart: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Need to show my strength opposite a wide-ranging balancing bid (3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be a much weaker raise).

So that's it. I remain unconvinced by the arguments for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 3NT, and anything less just doesn't seem like winning bridge. So I'll stick with my original choice of 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

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


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


Call Award %
3NT 100 42 54
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 90 32 12
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 60 26 15
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 0 9
5NT 20 0 1
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10 0 6
Pass 0 0 2
6NT 0 0 1

Only one person thought that this problem was easy ...

Peter Robinson: 3NT. It looked like a great problem at first, but once I realised that partner will strive to introduce a spade suit here on any halfway decent holding, it becomes obvious that you can't by-pass 3NT. We probably only need one of our suits to behave for that, whereas if we pick one, all our eggs will be in that basket.

Making the same bid, but with the same lack of certainty as everyone else was:

John R. Mayne: 3NT. I see the takeout double is unavailable [Brian Lawless, where are you? – FR], which is unfortunate. Partner will pass with K98432 QJ9 -- KJ84, which is sickening, but what else to do now?

Everyone else thought it was a monster, and none of the experts seemed to enjoy this problem very much either. “What depraved mind constructed this problem?” and “Each problem is worse than the last” were two of the comments. As a few readers noted, sometimes pre-empts just get us, and this certainly appears to be one of those times.

In the Master Solvers' Club – the original bidding forum, published in The Bridge World – Al Roth was renowned (infamous?) for saying “Abstain! This is an impossible problem!”. He seems to have found a kindred spirit in one panellist who took his objections to this particular problem to an extreme ...

Todd Holes: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). No “Skip” button? No “abstain” button? I'd like to find our heart fit (if we have one) but refuse to bid a non-forcing 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on that suit. I sure hope 3NT is not our last making game.

Nope, sorry. When Al abstained it was because he'd never face the problem – he'd never play that system, or disagreed with 'his' previous choice. But complaining about a difficult problem in a Bidding Forum is like complaining to God about the weather.

With the complaints out of the way (I've edited them out, because so many people noted how tough this problem is), at one extreme were:

Bridge Baron (and, without comment, Rainer Retzler): 6NT. ... the program can't think of [a scientific approach]. 6NT narrowly outpoints 3NT, +481.30 to +447.35 expected.

6NT wasn't actually on the drop-down list. I once asked Brad how he decides what options to put in there. He told me that he works out the bids of every person he's ever discussed bridge with – be they expert or novice; partner, opponent or neither; young or old – and adds them to the list. So we occasionally get a vote for something not on the list, but when two different players do it, maybe Brad should get out more often. Or stay in and buy a copy of Bridge Baron.

At the other end of the spectrum is someone who is not conservative so much as reactionary.

Michael Burt: Pass. I hate doing this as game may well be on, most likely in hearts. Partner's [failure to] double reduces the chance of a heart or club fit. The bidding also suggests that there are likely to be bad breaks. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not a good place to be but bidding on could make the situation a lot worse.

Yes, game could be off. And Australia could overtake New Zealand in the rugby world rankings. Stranger things have happened, but it's not profitable to bet on them. I think you deserve to be -50 when the room makes 3NT.

Not surprisingly, this meant that most people were somewhere between a signoff in game and a mild slam try.

The next question is, what does a cuebid show? It normally scores highly in a Bidding Forum, but not here – none of the experts chose it. This is unsurprising, as the three who mentioned it had three different meanings – pick a game, transfer to hearts and good raise of spades. Nobody bid 5NT pick a slam, as suggested by Kiwi Brad, but a few mentioned it, and Matthew Thomson intends to bid that next time. Anyway, back to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) – let's see if our panellists can convince us:

Peter Vlas: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). As P might well have no more than six spades, I need more intel. I could well pass 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), hoping to make it on brute force. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) might make me itchy, but I would then have to reconsider the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)K before doing something

John Newman: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Choice of games when you're out of room

Brad Johnston: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Somehow I don't think you'd mark me highly for 5N pick-a-slam. But I told you I'd be optimistic this set.

Phil Hocking: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). NT looks too dangerous if East gets on lead.

For the rest of the panellists, it's a choice between retiring to the (relative) safety of 3NT, and looking to find a fit. For the experts, the 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders seem to know what they're about, but the 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders were more vague. And understandably so – 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is forcing, unlike 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and there's a bit of room below 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to investigate 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), or even 6NT. Against that, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) will sometimes be the last making contract, and it's hard to get there after a 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid.

Stephen Bartos: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is tempting, but if partner's second longest suit is clubs or hearts, that will be a better place to end up.

Derek Pocock: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). En route to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) depending on how good are the Spades and doubt of entry if played in NT

Dan Baker: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't like bidding the lower suit when they're equal length like this (and the hearts are better), but 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) isn't forcing and this looks like a slam hand to me.

Dean Pokorny: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I would like to bid 5NT as a slam-choice with 5 hearts and 5 clubs, but since I hardly have that agreement, I opt for a space preserving 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Over 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I will bid - 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) - 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner raises clubs, I will try for a grand with 5NT (images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A obviously missing here, since 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is skipped).

Margaret Copland: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner has a good hand with spades but not likely to have hearts too or would have doubled. Hand can still go anywhere, so bid club suit and await partners response.

Timothy Wright: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This is a guess. 3NT or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could easily be better.

Ron Landgraff: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Drive to game.

Artur Wasiak: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Even without support 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) might be a better game than 3NT.

The 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders all had different plans for what to do over 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ...

A.K. Simon: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). A nightmare. If partner re-bids 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I will pass.

Henri de Jong: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If pard bids 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Close between 3NT and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

Brian Lawless: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Where are the tricks in 3NT? [I bid] 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) if partner bids 4 images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)pades.

So, as with the experts, not much confidence from the 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders – but they will sometimes be the only ones in the right spot.

Amongst those angling for a suit contact were some panellists who have, I'll admit, more trust in their partner than I ...

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Discourage partner from pre-empting with his usual Jxxxxx xx xxx xxx

Normally I'd expect a bottom for bidding on a 1-count at the 3-level. But as this is a 14-card hand, we'll get 40%, so that's not so bad.

Alan Jones: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I trust partner has a self supporting suit.

Leigh Matheson: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Slam might be on in any of 3 strains, but good luck trying to bid it.

The three strains that I'd be interested in are clubs, hearts and no trumps. If partner insists on spades, fine, but 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) includes a lot of hands where 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is off and 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is cold. So that brings us to those who bid 3NT. Again, this precludes a lot of contracts that might make, but it is the most likely game, and this is our only chance to get there. Is it worth cutting out all those other contracts?

Charles T. Scholl: 3NT. And 4NT, to play, if partner bids 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Gets trickier if partner continues with a second suit.

4NT to play makes sense (4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) doesn't show extras and we didn't have a slam try last time, so we can't have one now) but a lot of people would treat it as Blackwood.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. slam in a number of different strains might be on but I've got no way of getting there sensibly so I'm going for the contract I think we can make. Hopefully pard can rebid a second suit!

Roger and Charles have different ideas about the desirability of partner's bidding a new suit. I'm with Roger.

Michael Smart: 3NT. The practical action.

Ian McCance: 3NT. Hoping for some help in the round suits

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. Any suit bid at this point is speculative and we are likely to hear 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3NT. I want to play game and warn partner about a misfit. I am giving up on slam possibilities as partner has a hand either too weak or too one-directional for a double.

Tania Black: 3NT. It may be our last making contract unless the planets are aligned.

Ron Lel: 3NT. Nasty. Many things could be right. You could try for slam, but now. I am not looking for slam. The spade void and the possible D ruff argue against it. 3NT for me.

Jacco Hop: 3NT. Not in the mood for heroic bids

Duncan Roe (with Martyn Rew similarly): 3NT. Spades look to be breaking very badly for partner and could well be a liability as trumps when NT gets home. Partner will bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with 7+

Tim Trahair: 3NT. Telling N we have the other suits covered and letting him bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if he has good spades but no entry to them for NT.

We're certainly not showing a spade void here. It's far more likely to be a balanced hand with doubleton spade.

Nigel Kearney (with Julian Foster similarly): 3NT. We may have slam in hearts or clubs but cannot safely go beyond 3NT on what is probably a misfit.

David Caprera: 3NT. When in doubt

Peter Robinson may have been in the plurality, but this was a really tough problem – as evinced by these readers.

Finally, let's see the sorts of extremes that brought people together in 3NT ...

Barbara Whitmee: 3NT. Could be bad breaks in the suits so not heading for 6NT.

Gary Hyett: 3NT. Very conservative but nothing else appeals.

Damo Nair: 3NT. I have no idea. With any sort of help in hearts or clubs 3NT may just make.

Toby Weinstein: 3NT. I have too much to pass, though it could be right

When some think they're going high and others think they're going low, it's probably pretty close. Normally I have an opinion before I start reading the answers, and a stronger opinion (normally the same one, sometimes not) after reading all the comments. But this time it's just too tough. Even having read all the panellists and all the experts, I still haven't got a clue. I just hope I never have to face this one at the table.

Hand Four - West deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 953
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q752
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K9862
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 7


West North East South
1NT pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) dbl 3NT ?


Call Award %
Pass 100 84 53
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 40 11 36
Dbl 30 5 10
Other 0 0 1

Tim Trahair: Pass. Why did N double? Possibly showing the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ace or wanting us to bid. Another of life's little mysteries.

Tim, if I may, I'll make a suggestion that will improve your bridge no end: when something happens that you don't understand, don't write it off as one of 'life's little mysteries'; instead, ask an expert what it shows. Most are happy to spend 5 minutes to talk to you. And if you can start to understand expert trains of thought, you can start doing the same yourself.

But the meaning of the double is, obviously, important. I can't see how it could be anything other than showing diamonds – the opponents haven't bid or shown any suits that we can double for takeout. Yes, more technical agreements are possible, but in a scratch partnership, it should just be natural.

Moving on to the answers, it seems that the opponents are cold for 3NT and won't ever run to a higher contract, so all we need to do is determine whether 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) doubled will cost more or less than 3NT. Arguing for less are:

Derek Pocock: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). green v red and looks like they have a long club suit to make their contract. So -300 or even -500 will be towards a top.

Neil Silverman: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I am assuming that double showed diamonds and is not conventional. It is possible I could go for too many but overall feels like down 2 or 3.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I need 7 tricks to beat 3NT's -600. As partner is promising diamonds I should be able to get those. Especially as I expect partner to be short(er) in the majors. Who knows: on a lucky day I might make opposite xx, Kx, Axxxx, Axxx

Bridge Baron: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Law of Total Tricks bid with our presumed 10-card diamond fit -- yes, even over 3NT.

Julian Foster: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too tempting at the vulnerability. Besides if you were EW you wouldn't want to hear this bid as you now have to make another decision. Also I have more defense to 4 of either major if they try moving there.

Robert Black: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner's double meant Diamonds, and East (presumably) knows. So we sacrifice in Diamonds.

The next set of 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders think that 3NT is cold off, but only if partner leads diamonds, which they don't expect him to do:

A.K. Simon: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I doubt partner will lead a diamond, even if I double 3NT

Henri de Jong: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If I passed, would pard lead diamonds?

Tim Bourke, on the expert panel, opined that if partner doesn't lead diamonds here, he didn't have his double.

Some of the panellists think they've found a way around this: Double should surely ask for a diamond lead ... right?

Tania Black: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I do not think we are defeating 3NT on a diamond lead.

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This could be wrong if a diamond lead beats 3NT and partner would find it. I bet against that. Double will likely chase them into game in clubs.

Gary Hyett: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This could drive them to better spot I suppose. Depends on your opinion of opponents bidding. E could bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) asking for a D guard. The save should be cheap anyway.

Michael Smart: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Unless partner's X was an eccentric attempt to show the majors (which would be a reasonable treatment after major denial by opener), there are too many diamonds in this deck. Why didn't east bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to check for a stop with his presumed D shortage? And on this auction I do not expect partner to confidently lead away from A or AQ. Too many uncertainties, so I take insurance.

Phil Hocking: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We aren't vul and they are. Assume the double is a suit more than a lead.

If we're not going to bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), the choice is between Double and Pass. We should first establish what Double shows. Klinger, the only expert panellist to double, was asking for a diamond, but no others ventured an opinion.

Patrice Fincias: Dbl. agree to receive a diamond lead. Otherwise, a conservative lead could offer 9 tricks to E/W

Christer Enkvist: Dbl. Diamond lead please

Nigel Guthrie: Dbl. Hope you've agreed (or partner can work out) that double asks for a diamond lead.

Michael Burt: Dbl. On a diamond lead, we have a reasonable chance of taking 3NT off and so I want to encourage partner to lead a diamond with the double. If it works, we'll probably get a good score. There is also the chance that as a result of the double the opposition might run from a making 3NT contract.

David Caprera: Dbl. Lead your suit

Charles T. Scholl: Dbl. Partner expects to be on lead so his double must be suggesting a save in diamonds. But with this bidding we could easily lose 3 spades (seem to be 4333), 2 or 3 hearts, and a club in 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)X, 1 trick (or worse) too many. Double says go ahead and lead diamonds. Opponents might run to clubs but I'll take my chances.

Dan Baker: Dbl. Partner probably has four good diamonds. I think we can run them if he leads them, but if he doesn't know I have something in diamonds he might try to find my entry to lead through instead.

Aviv Shahaf: Dbl. The double asks partner to lead her suit.

Brian Lawless: Dbl. The only sure way to get partner to lead a Diamond. East is bidding on the strength of a long Club suit

Some of the passers considered a sacrifice, but thought it would be too expensive.

Andrea Viscovich: Pass. Anyone want a sacrifice in 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)? Maybe.

Alan Jones: Pass. I don't think a diamond sacrifice would be worth it.

Alex Kemeny: Pass. Sacrificing against 3NT seldom works. AB Standard is silent on the meaning of a double but I would assume that it asks partner to lead their shorter major. Pretty sure I don't want that!

A common agreement is that a double of a freely bid 3NT asks for the lead of partner's shorter major – so you can double whenever you expect that partner's leading your suit will beat 3NT. But normally that applies only when it's an uncontested auction

Speaking of a double of 3NT – amongst the passers, there were two main schools of thought: one school was worried that 3NT might make, or were uncertain about the double; the others were concerned that 3NT would be off, but we'd either push them into a making suit contract, or that it would deter partner leading a diamond. I'm not sure what else it could ask for, though – we haven't exactly shown much enthusiasm for other suits.

Ron Landgraff: Pass. 3NT probably down. Any run out by East or West could make. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) down 1-4.

Dan Israeli: Pass. Another difficult one. The quality of the opposition matters here, as they might have an agreement for 3NT. Seems like partner doubled with QJTx and east bid 3NT on Ax, or maybe east is crazy or psyching and we are 5-5 in Ds. Without a special agreement re 3NT, perhaps pass should say “make your normal lead” and X should ask for a different one, because if X asks to lead D, they might run away.

Peter Paton: Pass. Bit of a coward here. Let my partner decide here, sorry.

How's he going to do anything other than pass?

Todd Holes: Pass. I'd like to double, but worry they run to a 5-3 club fit or a Moysian major. Please lead a diamond, partner!

Peter Vlas: Pass. If P leads his diamond, I'm happy. If I double I might chase them away and experimenting in 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) looks too dangerous with at least 5 cards in M with partner

Duncan Roe: Pass. If we get them off with our D it will be a good result for us, no need to risk a making double

Roger Yandle: Pass. In AB Standard pard had a natural 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over their 1NT opening but didn't bid it so is she now indicating a void or just a very long weak suit? Either way I'm not getting involved.

Damo Nair: Pass. May be a bit conservative. EW don't seem to have any great fit.

Artur Wasiak: Pass. My first thought was 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but: maybe it goes for 800; maybe 3NT doesn't make; maybe opponents would change their mind and bid (and make) 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner should have 5 diamonds for his double, so West has 3325 (or 6 clubs) and East - something like 4414/4315/3415 with singleton ace of diamonds.

Stephen Bartos: Pass. Partner's lead directing double does not give me a licence to overbid. We would probably end up in 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)X making only 5 tricks: not a good sacrifice.

Margaret Copland: Pass. Pass and hopefully that ends bidding and can lead the six diamonds to take one off (partners X was lead directing, suggesting AQx). Would not want to X for penalty in case they escape to clubs.

John R. Mayne: Pass. What's partner doubling on? He's leading a diamond unless I deter him. Yes, 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is a good save, but I'm not convinced we don't have five diamonds off the top.

I've been a little unkind to my Dad in previous editions, so I have to acknowledge that there was some real wisdom in:

Martyn Rew: Pass. West has at least 2 diamonds, and East has at least one stopper in diamonds, so partner may be advertising not much more than an ace in diamonds. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)X going 4 light looks like it could be a real possibility for the imprudent here. If the East stopper is not a real stopper, then 3NT isn't making anyway.

Imprudent, indeed.

I'll finish with two very different, but very well-reasoned, arguments:

Leigh Matheson: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner will surely be on lead after the start to this auction. So the double should suggest a sacrifice (genuine length) rather than just a good lead (or fragment) in diamonds.

Nigel Kearney: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We can take seven tricks even opposite balanced rubbish such as Jxx Kx QJxxx xxx. Since partner was likely to be on lead he should really be better than that and have a hand genuinely worth competing.

Of the experts who commented on that, Zia thinks it's lead-directing anyway, Kokish said that the reward is so low and the risk of a Redouble so high that partner must have a great suit, and David Kalnins thinks that partner is operating (read: psyching). And of the 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bidders, Nigel was the only one to construct a hand for partner – everyone else was guessing. More advice: if you have a tough problem, invent four typical hands for partner (one good, one bad, two in the middle), and see what the best spot generally is.

However, the reasons that the experts voted overwhelmingly for pass were given by:

Brad Johnston: Pass. It's a good thing you ask us for our bid, not our call. I'd call the director and complain that the other side of the screen is on drugs. Beware the double that's too profitable, I have no defence to a suit, but we can float 3NT off.

Dean Pokorny: Pass. What a delicious spot! The most beautiful thing in bridge is when you score +100 instead of -1370. That's why I'm passing, being prepared to reprimand partner for his short-sighted opponent-helping anti-lead-directing double.

Exactly. Normally it's a bidders' game, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Double and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could both turn a small plus into a huge minus. The best case scenario for 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is -500 instead of -660, and for Double is +200 instead of +100. I'd like to give Dean 110 instead of 100, but the rules don't allow it. This is similar to Hand 2 last month: there's a contract that gives the maximum score, but if we bid it, we just make life easy for the opponents and hard for the opponents.

Hand Five - North deals, NS vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J84
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A4
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 8
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KQT6543

West North East South
  1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ?


Call Award %
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 53 46
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 16 13
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 32 25
3NT 20 0 1
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 10 0 9
Other 0 0 6

Again, they've pre-empted; again, we have a lot of things that we'd like to show and not enough room to show them all. Every bid that we make gives a pretty good description of the hand, so we're not nearly as uncomfortable as on Problem 3; however, at duplicate, we still need to choose a better bid than anyone else. It essentially came down to a decision between raising and showing our own hand; and if we do raise, how strongly?

Firstly, the pessimists:

Toby Weinstein: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be right but expect bad breaks

Alan Jones: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Establish the fit first.

Damo Nair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just 3 trumps, a fair amount of defense. Trying to go positive at MPs.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). S likely split badly, so show support but leave game decision up to partner

... and the optimist:

Michael Burt: 4NT. Partner doesn't need much for slam to be on and this is partly the reason for this bid. If I were to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), I suspect the opposition may well bid on to 5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The 4NT bid might put them off interfering and give us a better chance of ending in the right contract.

With three-card support, a singleton, a probable source of tricks and a couple of potential entries, it's hard to say that we should stop short of game. But with only one ace and three small trumps, it's also hard to see where 12 tricks are going to come from opposite a normal 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opening. So going up the middle seems to be the way to go.

Some more minority voices:

Neil Silverman: 3NT. Only matchpoints gets me to even consider this call but on balance feels like will often be a winner.

Peter Vlas: 3NT. Tough gamble. I can see lots of hands making 3NT with images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Ax in P's hand and going down in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). But only very few without that holding still making 3NT. On the other hand lots of down options in 3NT as well. Maybe even 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) won't make. But with today's light preempts I feel I need to do something

A wiser man than I (in a bridge sense, anyway) once said that Qx is a stopper, but Ax is only half a stopper. He didn't send in his answers this month, but I don't think he'd agree with the 3NT bid. The Qx part is complicated, but the Ax part makes sense: each opponent will normally have at least three, so we can't hold up enough times. That's less likely here as RHO will often have seven hearts, but even then, someone must have diamonds, and if partner holds a 5152 shape, 3NT will need 10 top tricks just to beat the pairs in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

This is matchpoints, however, so if partner has images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A and spades break badly, we could make the same number of tricks in no trumps as in a suit, and then we've got a nice top. If not, however, we're likely to spend the whole play of the hand catching up.

Another minority:

Phil Hocking: Dbl. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be passed leaving us short of the correct contract. Only forcing bid outside of 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 7 loser hand so at this stage game in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but need to give partner a chance if the hand is stronger.

Robert Black: Dbl. No satisfactory bid. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) forces to game; 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) splinter does the same; 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) suggests four card support. Next problem follows partner's 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) rebid!

Barbara Whitmee: Dbl. Support double. If partner makes a minimum reply will subside in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), otherwise looking for slam.

Patrice Fincias: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Positive cue bid in club with spade fit, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be only competitive and a slam is possible

I don't think that support doubles apply here – normally they're only by opener, and only up to the 2-level. And 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be natural and forcing – new suit by responder below game level. Splinters only apply when they're jumps. So it's just a takeout double, which makes it less attractive, especially as the diamonds have to be somewhere.

The others who wanted to make a slam try in spades found a gentler approach:

Margaret Copland: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Cue raise which now allows partner to sign off with a min hand, else party on.

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Give partner images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A and images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)AKQ and slam will be laydown. Experience should sound a word of caution that partners sometimes let you down.

Brad Johnston: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If your partner hasn't a sense of humour you can feign shock and quickly re-sort your blacks before putting dummy down, or just track with 5-5 in them – whatevs.

Whatevs is what the kids are saying instead of whatever. But "hasn't a sense of humour" is what the Irish (and some older folks) say instead of "hasn't got a sense of humour". So I'm a bit confused.

David Matthews: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Just showing my control on the way to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let us see if partner makes another try. My spades are not that good.

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Shows 3 card support for partner's spades. Reluctant to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as N might read that as a splinter showing 4 card spade support. Similarly with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Roger Yandle: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). we've found a fit and my hand has some good points so let partner know and she can make the next move.

I'm not sure that it necessarily shows a control. It's the only spade raise below 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), so you sometimes get pushed into it with no control. And similarly, a cue raise at the 4-level isn't the same as at the 2-level – as we're committing to game it should show a mild slam try. That means that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) can be more constructive than it would be otherwise. This makes sense as well – you have a lot of bids when you're still at the 2-level, but at the 4-level there are fewer, so the same meanings get crammed into fewer bids.

So if we're going to conceal clubs, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks a better bet – can those who bid that convince us otherwise?

Ian McCance: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be better.

Barbara Hunter: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Am I chicken?

Not a good start.

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is natural without special agreement and I don't want to encourage partner too much.

Tania Black (with Anne Paul similarly): 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 6 losers and a fit.

David Caprera: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). An eight-card suit is trump, but it is fun to put a seven-card suit down as dummy

David is paraphrasing a well-worn adage: Never Put Down An Eight-Card Suit In Dummy.

Cathy Hocking: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Fit with partner allowing partner to explore further if they have a strong hand. No space to splinter bid.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Go for the game. I can construct some hands that make slam, but don't see how to exchange enough information to get there reasonably responsibly. At matchpoints, +680 will be good anyway

Artur Wasiak: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I think I need something more to look for a slam with 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid. Maybe with sophisticated agreements (such as 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) = strong with support, leaving more space below 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)) I would make this slight slam try.

That's an excellent agreement, but it's a long way from standard procedure. For the experts, Zia made a similar comment, though.

Charles T. Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'd like to bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) but we could easily get too high opposite a normal opener and possible bad splits. If partner has a better opener my jump should encourage him to bid on.

Martyn Rew (with Bridge Baron similarly): 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner has more than they have shown they can risk going to 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with a key card ask.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Lop-sided, but bidding 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) followed by 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) sounds like strained preference.

Rainer Herrmann (with A.K. Simon and Timothy Wright similarly): 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not enough to bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), too much for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Derek Pocock: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Who wants to be in clubs? 420 better than 400.

So that's that. But maybe if we have a 7-card suit, we ought to show it.

Ron Lel: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Another ugly problem. At least I have a decent seven-card suit here.

John R. Mayne: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Clubs could very easily get stranded if playing in spades, plus we could still get there.

Michael Smart: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). En route to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (and preparing for higher things if partner has the controls).

Peter Robinson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Have to get them in here, since there could be slam.

Jim Greer: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If East hadn't bid, I'd have bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't fancy doubling even though I do come from Ireland. Nor do I fancy bidding 3NT. I want to end up in clubs unless my partner bids 4NT which I'll assume is to play.

Dan Baker: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Intending to get to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) later, but knowing that I have clubs may help partner judge the fit. Unlike February's Problem 2, partner is unlimited, so I can't rule out a slam.

Gary Hyett: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Lots of tricks, lots of gaps! Will bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) next time if I can.

Henri de Jong: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Probably too good for an immediate 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Larry Brose: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Ready to bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if partner passes and East bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Nigel Kearney: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We have an eight card spade fit but clubs could easily play better, e.g. AQxxx xx AQxx Jx. Bidding clubs then spades might suggest 2-6 rather than 3-7 but still helps partner make the best choice.

Summing up for the minority...

Dean Pokorny: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not only might a slam be easily on, but the only slam that makes could easily be 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Paul Hangartner: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Show good suit on the way to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If partner cuebids 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Those are the advantages of 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes): more room to explore slam; and, if only one slam is making, it's likely to be 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). However, the 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders were more numerous (mostly) confident about their choice.

I'll finish with one for the plurality, who made an excellent point that only one other person raised, either reader or expert:

Julian Foster: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Simplest - support with support. If I bid 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) now there are many sequences it might continue where I won't be happy: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-(4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-Pass; 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-(4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)-(5images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes))-X-(P). Will then be wishing I'd shown my spade support when I had the chance.

Larry Brose anticipated a 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid, but nothing higher, and not club raise from partner. Given the amount of bidding that people do these days, it would be naïve to assume that we'll get by without any more bidding from the opponents, though of course it does happen sometimes. I'd like to give Julian some bonus points, but my hands are tied. At least he gets 100 for it.

The full deal, from Kings and Queens:

spades AQ762
hearts 2
diamonds AQ943
clubs A2
spades K95
hearts J85
diamonds K1075
clubs 987
spades 103
hearts KQ109763 
diamonds J62
clubs J
spades J84
hearts A4
diamonds 8
clubs KQ106543

Thanks all, and you stay safe until June. The questions for the June issue are online, here.
(Sorry for the delay publishing the scores; Brad is stranded in Adelaide without a computer for a few days, but he'll update the scores as soon as he gets home).

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