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Readers' Bidding
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August 2016

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, August 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.

Click here to submit     
answers for October    

                Scroll down to see final scores
Hand One - East deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) Q83
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) A53
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A5
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K7543


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

   2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) = a weak two, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not constructive.

Call Award %
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 56 38
3NT 90 25 43
Pass 90 13 8
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 6 3
6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 50 0 1
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 6
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 1

Welcome to our slightly delayed August edition; this column is published in conjunction with Australian Bridge Magazine, which was significantly later than usual this month. After such a long wait, I'm sure everyone is very keen to see the answers, so let's jump right in.

Emil Battista: 5C. 3NT if Matchpoints.

Mick McAuliffe: 5C. If this was matchpoints, I think I would bid 3NT hoping the queen is a stopper. However, as it is IMPs 5C would seem best. The club suit quality is terrible, but that should be irrelevant if pard has four. 4C would be a passable bid. I would be expecting 5C to be passed out but if by some miracle pard is a big hand & now bids 5H or even 5D, I would take a stab at small slam.

When the deal arose at the table it was a Matchpoint game, but for the purposes of this problem I've changed it to IMPs. At Pairs, the problem is too easy -- there's just too much chance that 3NT will make, and for all we know, every other table may have had an easy ride to 630. At the table, so many people missed game that 3NT scored almost as many matchpoints as 6C would have.

At IMPs (and assuming we aren't bidding slam) the question becomes, "Which game is closest to being laydown?"

Dan Baker: 5C. In 3NT, I can force the spades to block if the top honors are split and the suit is 6-3, but at IMPs that's still a big risk to take for an overtrick IMP or two, and if partner has extras 6C is possible.

John R Mayne: 5C. 3N is off six tricks, 4C could be 13 points less than this, 4S begets 5 of a red suit. There's nothing left but this.

Michael Burt: 5C. We look to have the points/distribution for game. My previous pass has put me in a difficult position. I should be able to rely on partner having 3+ clubs and would like to avoid playing in a potential 4-3 heart fit.

Damo Nair: 5C. 3NT is tempting fate IMHO. I can expect N to show up with 3 clubs can't I?

Todd Holes: 5C. Can't bid 3NT, the SQ could get ripped to shreds. 5 clubs seems right, though I worry about missing slam.

Margaret Copland: 5C. I expect my partner to have around 16 points, something in all the unbid suits, and not bid again unless even stronger - so I am going right to game (and don't like my stopper much for NT)

If you believe your partner needs 16 HCP for this bid, then 5C is not the best choice. 16 points looks like this: ^sx^hKQxx^dKQxx^cAQxx, which leaves you with a severe lack of losers. In practice, a good partner will bid here with less if the shape is right.

Quite a few people mentioned slam, but there's no good way to look for it. The only constructive bid available is:

Rainer Herrmann: 4S. Bidding just 5C is a bit wet.

Brad Johnston: 4S. Looking more at clubs than at hearts at the moment. If I need to ruff spades it'll be in the long hand, and if hearts don't break well then that'd suck. If mate bids 4N I can show my clubs, if they show a suit I've got support for it.

Michael Smart: 4S. Happily committing us to 6C. This is the one bid available to show my 5 controls.

Of those three comments, Michael's is the only one that explicitly acknowledges that we are unlikely to be able to stop below slam after this move. Also happy to commit:

Peter Vlas: 6C. Feeling bold and with the 2 1st round controls in my hand partner won't be able to progress over 5C.

It's a good point; even with a good hand it will be hard for partner to move with just one ace. 6C still seems like a bit of a gamble, but I've upgraded it to 50 points despite the lack of a single panel vote.

Nigel Guthrie: 5C. Dangerously committal and a slight underbid, lacking space for exploration.

Jack Lai: 5C. 3NT would be danger, slam is near.

Hans van Vooren: 5C. Bit of an underbid, but it's either that, or jump to 6C, which partner can still bid after 5C. 4S doesn't help if partner then bids 5D.

The top vote for 5C was based on the weakness of our Qxx stopper, but the reader majority still thought 3NT was worth a shot.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3NT. at least it's constructive. 4!c could be (very) weak and I don't want to commit to clubs yet by bidding 5C. As partner rates to be short in spades he may bid again. Then I can either raise or introduce clubs.

Charles T. Scholl: 3NT. Good, balanced hand, not enough to bid 2NT over 2S. Why bid anything else?

Roger Yandle: 3NT. hard to tell what is the right here. It looks like pard is 1444/1453 so 3NT might be right, but so might 5C. On a bad day Pass might be best. Given it's vul at IMPs I'm going for the game bonus with the least number of tricks.

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. I may need a new partner if this does not work! Still, with a void in spades he may pull it.

Nigel Kearney: 3NT. If I could rely on partner having a stiff spade, 5C would be better. But we shouldn't expect that against modern expert opponents. We won't get rich passing if game makes, which seems likely, and I would like partner to have another turn to call in case he has a very strong or shapely hand.

On the most likely layout of the suit, the ^sQ might hold up well, assuming we can get past Julian's small flaw:

Julian Foster: 3NT. Most practical shot. Could be a nasty guess at trick 2 though if it goes ^S to the ace and a low one back. Do we try and block the suit or does LHO have Jxx and RHO AKxxxx?! There are obviously perfect hands where 6C makes but partner may have been stretching a bit to act with the S shortage.

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. I am not convinced West has three spades here, and even if he does, it might be AK onside (and assuming no falsecarding shenanigans) or our spades help block the suit. 5C is a close second, but we have no guarantee partner has 4 clubs which would make me feel better.

Alex Kemeny: 3NT. While the SQ may not take a trick, it is almost certainly blocking them from cashing spades. Too many points to not take a shot at game.

Sam Arber: 3NT. Qxx should be a stopper either way if honours split.

Henri de Jong: 3NT. West on lead, so may block spades.

Dean Pokorny: 3NT. Since my partner can still have a 2452 hand, I prefer 3NT to 5C. With a bit of luck, I will guess how the spade honors are divided.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. When opener makes a weak two-bid and responder raises, Q8x is a very tenuous stopper, but still good enough for us to bid 3NT in this spot.

For the minority choices, there were quite a few votes for 4^c. One said, "Hopefully partner will not pass." Another said, "4^c tells partner that we have good values and hopefully encourages him to bid on." So, just in case my silence is interpreted as endorsement: no. If 4^c is encouraging, then what bid isn't? Passing a takeout double doesn't show a weak hand, it shows a hand that will beat the opponents' partscore (by more than our game if we have one).

Having said that, several people believe we will do just that:

Duncan Roe: Pass. At this level and vulnerability, partner must surely have a good point count for his take out. Between us, we should get this contract off therefore. Will lead S

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. I'll lead a spade. North's most likely shape is 1453. If North doesn't have the Ace of Clubs pass is best else 5C is not a sure thing.

Tania Black: Pass. Take the plus 500. If partner could not overcall 4H we may not have a making game.

Andrea Viscovich: 5C. I would pass with other vulnerability. Maybe we have more than 5C but I don't know to get there, 4C is too weak and 4S may be miss understood. Seems at least 18 trumps here, so pass isn't the best choice.

For the panellists, the passers were Andrew Robson and Frank Stewart. The hand plays very well for the defence, but it is just 500 at this vulnerability (still a decent score with many pairs in partscores or heart contracts).

The full deal:

spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @

No one reached the making 6C, although one pair was in the doomed 6H. Out of 17 tables, five reached 3NT, three in 5C, and one took 500 from 3S doubled. Three played in 4H (one making) and the others played their 29-count in a partscore.

Hand Two - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J8
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) J86
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AQT9652


West North East South
  1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)
pass 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass ?

   2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) = weak.

Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 44 46
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 70 31 33
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 6 4
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 50 0 8
Pass 30 19 5
3NT 10 0 1
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 2

Our second problem was a bit hard to manage because of the lack of discussion about 3C. In 25 years I don't think I've ever discussed whether 3C is game forcing, or just forcing for one round, and the panellists didn't have any clear opinion either.

Todd Holes: Pass. 3D was the weakest rebid partner had available.

Peter Vlas: Pass. If P was strong enough for something nice he would have had a nicer bid.

Cor Lof: Pass. Last plus?

Certainly this auction is very hard to manage if opener has to jump to show a good hand (if you've already looked at next month's problems, you'll recognise the same difficulties there). For the panellists, Tim Bourke and Ron Smith both passed, as did Paul Lavings (who supplied this problem and passed at the table).

It doesn't stop there; even if we accept that 3D is forcing, we still need to discuss continuations:

Robert Black: 4D. 3C was an overbid. We may be high enough if partner was minimal.

Michael Burt: 4D. I have a 7 loser hand and hence am worth an invitation.

Andrea Viscovich, Margaret Copland: 4D. Invitational.

Dean Pokorny: 4D. Partner's most probable shape is 3361. That's why I am inviting the 5D game here. Had I bid 3S and got 3NT, I wouldn't feel comfortable with passing at all.

Dan Baker: 4D. Show the fit and let partner decide whether we belong in game or not. Maybe 4C is better (on the theory that without a side entry, my clubs could get stranded unless they are trump), but if his diamonds are really good the third trump might serve as that entry.

I think a non-forcing 4D is carrying things too far. First, we made a free new-suit bid at the three-level, and then we failed to pass at our second turn -- and showed a fit as well. How many positive moves do we need to make before this is considered a forcing auction? (Later, we'll throw a cue bid into the mix, and still people will want to play in a partscore).

Hans van Vooren: 5D. If partner can't bid 3NT, neither can I, and I don't want to do more with this hand than I've already done.

Nigel Guthrie: 4D. Or 5D if that would be weaker.

Kees Schaafsma: 4D. Support with support, clear and simple. 4H sends the wrong message, in my view it shows a control in spades.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4D. I'd prefer a bid that emphasizes the club length and the diamond-support. As I dont have that bid available and dont think a 4!H-splinter is right I'll just support

Bridge Baron: 4D. Not notrump with this shape. Partner has asked me to show diamond support, so I do.

Tim Trahair: 4D. Tempting to repeat our Cs but prefer to show support for partner's Ds. Slam may be on in Ds.

Martyn Rew: 4D. yes, I do have support for your diamonds, but it is not great.

For those who don't want to force to game, and are worried that partner will treat 4D as forcing, there is one other option:

Duncan Roe: 4C. Have too many clubs to not bid them one more time. A doubleton with partner will do.

Alan Jones: 4C. I assume partner is denying a spade stop.

Neither comment mentioned "slowing the auction down" as a reason for their choice, but that's the only excuse I can think of for suppressing the strong diamond support. It's extremely unlikely that we can play this hand in a partscore, but if we can, a 4C bid right now is surely our only chance (short of actually passing 3D). Of course, it's not unlikely that 4C and 5D both have the same chance of making.

Most people didn't have to worry about forcing, because they had no interest in 5D or 6D:

Damo Nair: 3S. The all-purpose cue-bid. I'll be happy to play 3NT if N can bid it.

Alex Kemeny: 3S. Asking for a spade stopper for 3NT. 6C seems a long way off.

John R Mayne: 3S. C'mon pard, bid 3N. You know you want to!

Tania Black: 3S. I have taken a view that the HK will be useful if partner can bid 3NT! If not 4C or 4D may be all we can bid and make.

Tony Treloar: 3S. If partner has a spade stop and the club king then 3NT is a fantastic spot. Can raise to 5D if they deny the stop. No higher ambitions.

Wayne Somerville: 3S. Asking for a stop for 3NT. I will pass partner's 3NT should that happen, fully aware we are probably not far off 6D.

Roger Yandle: 3S. it's a long way to 5D so let's see if pard can provide a stopper for 3NT.

Barbara Hunter: 3S. Lets see if NT will work

Rainer Herrmann: 3S. Not ready to bypass 3NT yet.

Ron Landgraff: 3S. Asks for a spade stop. The real problem comes when pard does not have a spade stopper.

By "real problem", Ron means level; finding a playable suit is the least of our worries. As for deciding whether to raise partner's next bid to the five-level, even that's only a minor problem; we've now made two bids that could easily be (mis)construed as game-forcing, so passing 4C or 4D is a double-cross that won't do much for partnership confidence.

Sam Arber: 3S. Ask for stopper first.

Mick McAuliffe: 3S. IMPs... If pard has a spade stopper then he should be most of the way to making 3NT. If not, 4D should be OK & if he bid 4C that would be a nice surprise. 3NT has its problems, but might be the last making game opportunity. The HK is clearly a concern. A heart lead could be soul destroying depending on what pard has and I would think the CK(J) offside is a good chance. Some dancing could be needed to make.

Julian Foster: 3S. Perhaps it's asking too much for partner to stop spades and help with hearts but 3NT still seems the most likely shot. Failing that 5D and hope we don't have 3 top losers.

Michael Smart: 3S. Presumably 3C was GF, so let's not bypass 3NT (i.e. raise diamonds immediately) on the assumption that 3D denied either 4H or spades stopped.

Nigel Kearney: 3S. Sometimes 5D will make when 3NT does not, but surely the percentage action is to play in 3NT if partner can bid it.

Finally, a couple of minority choices:

Charles T. Scholl: 3H. Showing my (almost) stopper, will bid 5D if partner cannot bid 3N (or 4D if West doubles 3H)

Brad Johnston: 3NT. I don't like 3C, but I've bid it, so now I'm obliged to keep the auction open in case pard is slow-rolling. No reason not to look beyond 3NT at the moment, if mate can't hold that then I'll look to 5D.

The full deal, from the NSW Seniors Interstate Teams Selection Final:

spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @

Hand Three - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AQ9432
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) Q5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) ---
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J7543


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


Call Award %
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 56 46
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 19 40
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 25 5
2NT 40 0 4
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 0 1
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 0 0 4

We've had a few variations on this problem over the years, but I felt this was one of the simpler ones. The choice is close between 2H and 2S, but in all likelihood both contracts will be fine. I was surprised to see four of the panellists move toward game:

Ron Klinger: 3S. Invitational. I'd like to be in game, but cannot justify 3C.

Sartaj Hans: 3S. Invitational. Seems like the right balance between the heavy 2S bid and the unilateral 4S.

Larry Cohen: 3S. Just too much playing strength for a low road action. My spades are barely good enough to justify this invitational jump.

Frank Stewart: 3S. Vulnerable at IMPs, try for the most likely game. If he bids 3NT next, I will pass.

Nigel Kearney: 3S. The suit is adequate and the playing strength is about right. We may play in spades when hearts would be better but we can't avoid that without an extreme overbid of 3C or underbid of 2H.

Bridge Baron: 3C. Fourth-suit forcing to game, which will give me a chance to find out about partner's third spade or sixth heart.

Bridge Baron usually has excellent judgement about these things, so his decision to force to game does give me some doubts about my own vote. After I return from the NZ Nationals I might do some simulations for this hand and add them in here.

Another invitational option:

Dean Eidler: 2NT. Partner's still there.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2NT. Which lie to tell? No bid accurately conveys this hand. 2!h is reasonable but doesn't convey this distribution. 2!s is too weak-sounding, 3!c too strong-sounding. I'll bid 2NT but not happily.

The readers were split fairly evenly between the two-level bids, with a slight majority supporting the panel's choice:

Mick McAuliffe: 2S. I would rather see it played in a 6-2(1) spade fit than a 5-2 heart fit if the hand is a minimum. If pard rebid Ds I would then correct to Hs & if by chance he was 0544 & bid clubs ...Is that forcing or not? pass anyway or bid 3NT?

Rainer Herrmann: 2S. It is still more likely that we belong in spades than hearts.

Wayne Somerville: 2S. Partner likely has short spades meaning we have a lot of losers to get rid of with little communication.

Dan Baker: 2S. Misfit means go low. If partner continues with 3H (good 6-4) or raises spades, I'll go on to game, but otherwise this auction sounds like trouble.

Alex Kemeny: 2S. Not prepared to commit to game via FSF on this potential misfit. If partner can move again then I will drive to game.

Yes, while we all agree that this misfitting collection is a two-level hand, it's certainly a very good two-level hand. We'd be thrilled if partner could find another bid, and the question is, which of our two signoffs is most likely to entice that bid?

Charles T. Scholl: 2S. Best chance for game is if partner has extras and can support spades or bid hearts again (or, clubs could be interesting if 0-5-4-4). If partner passes, 2S is likely our best part score.

Martyn Rew: 2S. NT is rarely a good place with a void, but not sure that shutting the door with a 2H bid leaves us in the best position. 2S fits nicely between those two.

Tim Trahair: 2S. Confirm our strength and long spades. Game may be on in NT or spades.

Peter Vlas: 2S. Constructive bid

Michael Smart: 2S. Too good for a 2H preference, too weak to say more.

A few votes there suggesting that 2S is the more encouraging of the two bids, and therefore a better compromise for those who were considering the three-level. I actually feel that if we really want to encourage partner to bid again, supporting his suit is a more logical move:

Dean Pokorny: 2H. A sure 5-2 fit is always better than a potential 6-0 fit. Besides, partner is more encouraged to bid over 2H than over a (misfitting) 2S, and I have a healthy 9 counter that would rather accept a game try.

Ron Landgraff: 2H. Beware misfits! If pard has extras, he can bid again.

Brad Johnston: 2H. I have 2 cards that my mate cares about, and this looks like a misfit - get out low. I assume that I'd directly raise hearts with 3 over showing a spade suit, but if my mate finds another call then I'd certainly co-operate.

Kees Schaafsma: 2H. After 2S pard is stuck on x/AKxxxx/Axxx/Ax.

Nigel Guthrie: 2H. If partner is interested in game, he can show spade support on the way.

Todd Holes: 2H. Partner is at best semi-balanced. He could have supported spades with three but didn't. I'd like to bid two and a half hearts.

Michael Burt: 2H. This looks to be a horrible misfit. I have poor quality intermediates which would indicate that we should avoid NT. My two hearts may be useful for ruffing diamonds. Bail out as soon as possible.

John R Mayne: 2H. Time to get out fast and low. Maybe 2S is better, but when it isn't, this gets ugly quickly.

Tony Treloar, Jack Lai, Julian Foster: 2H. Stay low on the misfit.

Hans van Vooren: 2H. When in doubt, choose the lower bid.

Andrea Viscovich: 2H. Maybe my two hearts will be good ruffing diamonds. Playing 5-2 in hearts may be better than 2S and hoping on partner having spades. No game here.

Roger Yandle: 2H. with the right cards from pard game could be easy in either spades or hearts. With the wrong cards the 2 level might be too high. The odds seem to favour the wrong cards so I'm staying low.

How wrong can it be to play in the suit where we know we have seven cards (and good ones, too). All in all, I still think 2H is the safer, more encouraging, and more flexible bid, and its award has been upgraded in spite of huge expert support for 2S.

This problem was sent by Yumin Li of Sydney, although in his original problem the hand was slightly different:

spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @

Li wondered if the actual South hand was too strong for 2S, but even after improving the hand (strengthening the spade suit and adding heart support) hardly anyone ventured to the three-level.

Hand Four - East deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 98742
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AKQ
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) QT3
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ


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

   1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) = better minor.

Call Award %
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 44 44
1NT 80 31 26
Dbl 80 25 28
Pass 0 0 2

Some of the problems in this column can be a bit complicated, so I like to throw in an opening bid or overcall every few months. And if I'm feeling generous, you can even have a five-card major.

Dean Pokorny: 1S. If I don't bid 1S, I won't be able to find my 5-3 fit, but double is a close 2nd option anyway.

Hans van Vooren: 1S. It's a 5-card suit. Bad suit for 1S, short clubs for 1NT.

Nigel Guthrie: 1S. Lead-directional.

Peter Vlas: 1S. Sure, I hate the suit. But i don't want to pass and see no realistic other option. Maybe partner has AKQ of spades and five lousy hearts, lol.

Michael Burt: 1S. I would like a better quality suit but if partner has three spades, the spade suit contract should score well.

Yes, this hand will play very well opposite a fit. It reminds me of a hand some time ago where my partner overcalled in spades, I made an invitational raise, and he declined because of poor suit quality. As it turned out, my ^Sxxx filled in his ^SJxxxxx for just two trump losers, while his 11 HCP in the side suits combined well with mine to avoid any side-suit losers. Move nine points into his trump suit, and we would have had four (or five) side-suit losers. Weak suits can take tricks when they find support.

A similar instance arose on Deal Two of our recent Australia-Wide Pairs -- you can see the full deal in our Australia-Wide Pairs results booklet.

Bridge Baron: 1S. Overcalling on 987xx would be ugly if we were planning to defend, but we rate to have the majority of the playing strength.

Wayne Somerville: 1S. I have a rule that says if you have a strong hand, you don't worry about suit quality when overcalling. Here if we defend say 1NT, what's to say partner's proverbial lead from Kx isn't best for the defense anyway?

It's true; while there are several comments and jokes about the spade lead, you could argue that it's good to have our long suit led against notrumps. On the other hand, if partner has a natural lead (in any other suit) it's likely that our holding in her suit will be more helpful than her holding in ours.

Mick McAuliffe: 1S. I don't think this bid will score well. 1NT may be considered the best from how other problems have been scored & dbl has merit also. However, if W bid 2C (or worse 3C) over a dbl then you could be in a world of pain. 1NT might lead to a great result if pard has say 5 crappy hearts & transfers or 4 spades. However, the hand on its own has a lot of its values in the wrong spots & even after losing 3 rounds of spades, a couple of ruffs to regain control could be invaluable. Of course if you can make the same number of tricks either way the extra 10 pts could mean a top board. I suspect 1S has more upside as a bid.

In summary, this seems like an obvious 1S bid to me, although I don't have a problem with double. I do have a problem with this choice:

Alex Kemeny: 1NT. A little stretch, but seems about right on values and shape.

Andrea Viscovich: 1NT. I don't like 1S at MP with that bad spades.

Ron Landgraff: 1NT. Partner can bid Stayman, transfer etc. I can always claim I had a spade in with my clubs.

Tony Treloar: 1NT. Seems right for values-no guarantee spades will play better even if partner has 3.

Damo Nair: 1NT. Why not? Not sure about overcalling 1S with that suit.

The downside of this bid is enormous. I bid 1NT a lot more than the average person, but where are your tricks? Whether it's passed out for two off (-200), or doubled for a bloodbath, this is begging for a bottom board. And if partner has enough to get you to -100, he'll probably raise you to at least -300 (as on the actual deal).

Alan Jones: 1S. I don't like NT with only 1 club stopper. The spades will take tricks as trumps before they will score in NT.

Michael Smart: 1S. Would have bid 1NT with a second club stop.

Rainer Herrmann: 1S. The hand is not strong enough to overcall 1NT.

Tim Trahair: Dbl. Don't like 1NT with our doubleton C and regrettably our Ss are too weak to show at this stage. So X as we can tolerate all other suits. We may have the opportunity to show Ss later and game may be on.

Julian Foster: 1S. Obviously flawed (esp if partner ends up on lead) but the club holding is a pretty poor stopper for 1NT as well.

Charles T. Scholl: 1S. Tough call. Not quite enough values and no good source of tricks for 1NT. Double could easily put us in hearts when spades is the right strain. My extras make up for the poor suit quality.

Nigel Kearney: 1S. We want to find our best trump fit and 1S followed by double on the next round is the most effective way to do that. We'll be a bit nervous if 1S is passed out, but a 1NT overcall or double has a much greater chance of going wrong.

Roger Yandle: 1S. Not a great suit but at least I've got the required number! It's hard to pass with 15 HCP and I'm not sure where the tricks would come from if I bid 1NT and pard didn't have spade support.

Brad Johnston: 1S. Over something like 2C p p back to me and I can double back in. I don't want to bid NT, I'm not guaranteed a stop and I have a very slow suit.

Dan Baker: 1S. Doubling on this is likely to see you in a 4-3 heart fit instead of a 5-3 spade fit too often. The suit quality isn't what I'd like, but it's a solid full opener and it's at the one level, where we have plenty of room to run if we get whacked.

Dan's argument against Double is fairly solid, but of course it could be a winner on any given day:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Dbl. 98742 is 4 cards, right? If partner bids spades I'll be more enthousiastic, but not yet

Robert Black: Dbl. I hate it, but that Spade suit looks like a four card holding, and KJ of Clubs is a bit thin to overcall 1NT.

Kees Schaafsma: Dbl. I've doubled on worse hands, no need to commit myself with 1S or 1NT. If I need to shoot, I would rather pass!

Tania Black: Dbl. Looks like 4-3 in the majors to me.

Barbara Hunter: Dbl. other choice 1NT

Todd Holes: Dbl. Spades look like a four card suit.

Margaret Copland: Dbl. takeout double here every time

Martyn Rew: Dbl. This hand will need assistance from partner to turn in to anything more than 1NT which is a possible rebid.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. With 15 points I would double anyway. Luckily, this hand is also short of clubs, so double is doubly indicated

John R Mayne: Dbl. You should get a sweet three-way split on this one. I'm OK with all three possibilities; unlike some problems, there seem to be lots of routes to survival here.

The full deal, from the NSW Butler Pairs, doesn't really match the problem (sometimes I change the hands because real life isn't always as satisfying as fiction). The hand is real, but East really held a 1D opening, not 1C:

spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @

Hand Five - North deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T7542
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 8
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A97543
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A

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

   3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) = any solid suit, asking for spade stopper.

Call Award %
Dbl 100 25 10
3NT 90 19 3
6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 19 0
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 6 11
4NT 80 6 8
5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 0 8
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 0 5
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 13 42
Pass 70 13 7
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 20 0 3

Michael Smart: 4D. Since I picked up this hand playing against our esteemed moderator, I had best fess up to the very action I took at the table! (Spoiler alert: the bidding was about to become quite spirited!)

Yes, the auction was spirited, and ended with me bidding 7H (just like most other Wests in the room). Whatever action you choose here, it won't be the final contract, which is good news for this lot:

Nigel Kearney: 4S. Assuming we have no trump loser, slam will depend on partner's diamond holding. I don't see a way to find that out when we have no cue bid and presumably no agreement that 3NT sets spades. I am guessing to go low but could easily be wrong.

Bastiaan Korner: 4S. Difficult; can easily be slam

Mick McAuliffe: 4S. I cannot see any real advantage in either passing or doubling as it only leaves then the opportunity to describe their hands. If W has a stopper it can almost certainly be captured unless it is A or KQ. If I bid 4NT & say heard 2 or 2 with the Q, a slam would still seem like a guess as the DK (& DQ) could be the key cards here as 1 trick will probably be lost in hearts. Take the tricks & hope for a good result vs those going slamming.

Andrea Viscovich: 4S. I know he has solid hearts, I may pass looking for their double, I'm sure we have 4S at least.

Rainer Herrmann: 4S. I see no way to find out how many diamond loser we have.

Dean Pokorny: 4S. I should do no masterminding in this round of bidding, because the real problem will come in the next round of bidding.

Bridge Baron: 4S. If we're going to find slam after the interference, it will need to be partner who makes the move. Sure, I have beautiful spade length and wonderful shape, but my only honors are two Aces and the Ten of trumps.

Barbara Hunter: 4S. Prepared to go higher if pushed

Ron Landgraff: 4S. Set trumps. We could be on for 2s or 7s. I doubt we will get to explore!

Alan Jones: 4S. This is still a weak freak.

Margaret Copland: 4S. want to stop them bidding 3N or 4H if nothing else!

Alex Kemeny: 4S. We have a heart loser and unless partner has perfect cards, probably a diamond loser as well. To me, the 3S bid bid implies some other stuff in the east hand, not just the solid hearts.

Peter Vlas: 4S. What I would have bid anyway without intervention.

Nearly half the readers chose this bid, shared by panellist Sartaj Hans. Sartaj made the bid under his "support with support" philosophy, stating that he was sure he'd get a chance to catch up later in the auction. Unfortunately, the only "catch-up bid likely to be available will be 5S, so unless you have a very solid understanding that five-over-five is a slam try, partner is unlikely to play you for ace-ace-singleton in the side suits (and great trumps).

Hoping to increase his later slam-try options:

Andrew Robson: Pass. Slow the bidding down, learn more and give me a cue bid.

Bob Jones: Pass. Let`s find out if West has a spade stopper. It might help in the play. I`ll decide how many spades to bid later.

Ian Patterson: Pass. Forcing West to bid. If West shows a Spade stopper then 6S may not be on. If no stopper, West will presumably bid 4C which East may correct to 4H. Is 4NT then Key Card?

Zbych Bednarek: Pass. lets wait for opps. for sure i will overbidbid after them 4 / 5 / 6 spades

Michael Burt: Pass. My 5 loser hand suggests possible slam. The 3S bid suggests solid hearts plus DK and CK. There's a good chance of trapping the DK with East. There's a risk that we are missing one of the key spades. I'll let the opposition answer that question and hopefully reveal other useful information at the same time.

Roger Yandle: Pass. there's no rush to bid since I'll get another go next time around when I've got more information. So let's see whether W has got a spade stopper (presumably not) and what suit E has got (presumably clubs) before we commit ourselves.

Charles T. Scholl: Pass. This auction should work in our favor if we're patient. Too strong for 4S now, but let's see what partner does over their likely 4C (or even 3N).

Moving on to the various direct slam tries available, this one is always popular:

Ron Klinger: 4NT. Remarkable with only 8 HCP, but prepared to take the risk. Could make easily opposite AKxxx-xxx-Kx-Qxx or similar.

Emil Battista: 4NT. 4S is pusillanimous. Anything less (Pass) will let East disclose his suit and we must be good for 11 tricks at least - the law says so(Smiley)

Tony Treloar: 4NT. Logically East has running hearts and honours in the minors. Suggests that this hand might be working. Will bid 6 if partner has 2 key cards.

Martyn Rew: 4NT. The wrong answer here (5D) and signing off in 5S is still an option

Tim Trahair: 4NT. We have good support for partner's suit and a very strong if off shape hand. So we need to tell partner slam may be on and try to stop EW spoiling our fun. If N has as little as 2 KC and the trump Q slam will be on if he can also show an outside king.

The obvious flaw with 4NT is that it tells us nothing about diamonds (and if we have a diamond loser, it's not going anywhere). That same flaw applies here:

Wayne Somerville: 5S. I suspect this won't be popular, but this is a tactical battle. East clearly has hearts, and given our shape, I suspect we are going to have to bid 5S at some point anyway. Perhaps this will induce a 6H bid. Pass is an interesting option, but we aren't any wiser in the aftermath (how do we know we don't have 2 red suit losers?)

Dean Eidler: 5S. Good trumps?

I've never really had an occasion to use the five-level "good trumps" ask, since RKCB became the standard tool for finding the trump KQ. I can imagine a deal might exist where the trump jack with partner would improve our odds, but this deal isn't it.

As flawed as 4NT and 5S are, the truth is that no sequence is going to tell us what we need to know about diamonds. Although this option gets us moving in the right direction:

Julian Foster: 4D. East presumably has solid hearts so we have no wastage there. The key is what partner has in diamonds - 7S could be almost cold opposite SAKxxx and DKx but 6S probably has no play opposite DQx. 4D might at least allow me to get some more information rather than just guessing immediately (LHO could double 4D, partner could raise, etc). If I could blackwood and find out about the DK before committing to 6S I would, but I can't. Was half tempted to pass to see what W does. But that's dangerous especially if we think for a while first - W could pick what's going on and pass! Partner would almost certainly pass out 3S and we'd probably collect something like +350 or +400!

Dan Baker: 4D. Followed by 5S at my next turn (or 6 if partner raises diamonds). Opposite as little as AKxxx xxx Kx xxx, slam has a good play.

John R Mayne: 4D. I... have no idea what's right. 5S is tempting; that's a good blame transfer. 4S is just too chicken with a 30-point deck - AKJxx xxx Kx xxx makes 6S very good and we still might not find it.

Hans van Vooren: 4D. Too strong for 4S. Hopefully, the 4D bid will help in judging slam.

Henri de Jong: 4D. Very tough with EW having lots of H and C. Will bid 4D as this is the key suit to get to 6S. E may have the DK but if pard has D QJ then we are OK provided pard also has S AK.If the SK is with W we have no problem The alternative is to bid 4S or 4NT, but with nil vul may not stop EW.

Nigel Guthrie: 4D. You would like to show extras. When you later support spades, you hope partner might read this sequence as a slam-try but it's not exactly clear.

A couple of other slam try options:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4C. as this could make slam opposite AKxxx, xxx(x), KQ(x), Xxx(x) I'm cue-bidding and continuing to at least 5!s. Also keeping in mind something like: KQxxx, xx(x), QJx(x), QJx(x)where even 5!s may go down

Damo Nair: 4C. Don't need much from N with this control-rich hand

Kees Schaafsma: 3NT. Sets spades.

3NT is an imaginative "cue raise", also proposed by experts Tim Cope, Larry Cohen and Eric Kokish.

Robert Black: Dbl. And raise to game over West's (or East's) next bid.

Matthew Thomson: Dbl. I want to see what happens, if North freely bids I will try for slam, if North passes I'll bid 4S next. Double shows spade support; with a hand primarily interested in penalties, pass then double.

Duncan Roe: Dbl. Spade slam could be on. Whatever suit E has, Spades outranks it so no worries there

The full deal, from the ACT Butler Pairs:

spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @
spades @
hearts @
diamonds @
clubs @

Five of the ten pairs played in 7H doubled, mostly going for 800. The sacrifice saved three imps against the datum (we lost six imps in 7H and would have lost nine defending 6S).

Thanks for once again being a part of our forum, and I'll be back in early November with our penultimate forum of the year. The questions for the October issue are already online, here.

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