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December 2016

Readers' Bidding Forum with Brad Coles, December 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 February    

                Scroll down to see final scores
Hand One - South deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ---
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K64
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AQJT75
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AK84


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


Call Award %
2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 78 51
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 80 6 12
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 17 29
2NT 0 0 3
2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 3
3NT 0 0 1
Other 0 0 1

Welcome to our final forum of the year, where we announce the Readers' Race winners and our new guest expert panellist for 2017.

Our first problem is one of two submitted by George Cuppaidge, and this is the easier of the two. The hand is clearly good enough for a jump to 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), but there are obvious advantages to keeping the bidding low:

Michael Smart: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'm not going to preempt us out of a club fit by rebidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Dan Baker: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). With partner bidding my void, this is definitely not worth a jump shift (if partner had bid 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), it probably is). Worth a 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) bid, but it's better to show clubs on the way in case partner has a black two-suiter.

Wayne Somerville: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Maximizing my space to describe my hand. The auction is unlikely to end

Dean Eidler: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Need to show all our features so take it slowly. Will bid hearts over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) preference but pass 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Par Ol-Mars: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Get a second suit into the picture, but keep it low until a fit is established. Will continue after a 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) preference.

Damo Nair: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't see the hurry. North could easily have 4 clubs

Ron Lel: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not happy with the Spade void. If partner bids 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) I will raise.

Peter Vlas: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not the most pleasant when partner bids your void and he will most likely bid again. Then I can show my strength

Duncan Roe: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Neither 1NT nor 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) reflect my HCP. Partner has promised 6 points and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but the points may not be in S so try to find a fit in some other suit.

David Graham : 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I'd show a second suit to see where we can land. With a 4 loser I want to be in game at least

The risk with 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is that partner might pass it out, but that's not automatically a bad thing:

Robert Black: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). An underbid, but so far no fit, and no certain game

Kees Schaafsma: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Should this be passed, odds are 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) will also be passed.

Artur Wasiak: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The main danger is that partner will pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with 3 clubs and singleton diamond (and we will find the worse partscore). However, it is not sufficient reason not to show what I have.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Since we seem to have the auction to ourselves I choose to keep maximum room to exchange information. Next round I will try to find a forcing bid to maximise information from partner. In the event he uses FSF we have all the room available to determine strain and level. Should he pass 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), we are probably in a good spot (as I expect a correction with 2-3 in the minors)

Derek Pocock: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Hand has not improved by partner's bid so will take it slowly.

Julian Foster: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I normally play this as forcing but I imagine it isn't in AB standard. But I still think it's best - if partner passes, it's hard to think we've really missed anything.

I play a new suit by opener as forcing in all of my partnerships (when not playing Gazzilli) but that agreement is far from standard, and I think virtually unknown outside Australia. There are two advantages of the old-fashioned method: being able to bail in two of a minor on a misfit, and (more importantly) more meaningful rebids by responder (since his bids are voluntary). Still, the modern Aussie has moved to forcing... not that this is necessarily a "modern" treatment:

Tim Bourke: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This is why I have played 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as natural forcing in this auction since the early 1970s.

As previously mentioned, there is also another systemic way to deal with this problem (also from the 1970s):

Andrew Robson: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I play 1NT here as Gazzilli but that's another thing altogether.

You can read more about Gazzilli in the August issue of Australian Bridge Magazine, page 23.

Timothy Wright: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We could have anything between a misfit and a slam. Especially with a void opposite partner's suit, going low makes sense.

Nigel Kearney: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Good problem. 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be the wrong spot if partner passes. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) makes it hard to investigate strain or get to 3NT. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) could take us too high. People respond very light now so I prefer to go low.

Gary Hyett: 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Not good enough for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If there is more bidding we should be OK.

3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) looks wild to me, but a third of the readers went that way, as well as three experts:

Michael Ware: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A good example of why 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should be forcing :-) Too good a hand to not GF. I don't mind 2NT 18-19, but it seems unnecessary when I have good alternative.

Paul Lavings: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I would like to bid a forcing 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) and then 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Would prefer the style where 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is almost forcing and the jump to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is a mini-splinter, to judge games and slams accurately.

Ron Klinger: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Only 17 HCP, but powerful diamonds and only 3 losers. The risk of landing too high is offset by the chance of finding a good slam.

Emil Battista: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2NT Appeals - protects images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K but conveys message that hand is more balance AND includes at least ONE spades

Phil Hocking: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A four loser hand in Diamonds or Clubs if Partner has a fit so bidding at the 2 level without knowing Partner's strength could miss out on game.

Charles Scholl: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A little shy on high points, but with only 5 losers anything less is pusillanimous.

Ian McCance: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). a prime hand. Doesn't need much for 3NT, even if misfit

Brad Johnston: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Even with this misfit this hand feels too strong to just bid 2m. I'm not sure what major's correct, but it'll be hard to get clubs into the picture if I rebid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Forcing North to bid again. He may bid NT or bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in which case we can explore further. Slam may be on.

Margaret Copland: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I don't think a 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid is forcing here

Alex Kemeny: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have a 4 loser hand and a powerful source of tricks so I am worth a game forcing rebid.

Tania Black: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I have enough to jump!

Roger Yandle: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). It looks like 3NT is the best spot but I don't want to jump there in case partner reverts to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Also, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) keeps the unlikely possibility of a minor slam in either strain in play.

Cathy Hocking: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Looking at 3NT possibility

Ron Landgraff: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). No problem now! After 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? But pard could bid something else.

Barbara Hunter: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). show strength & 2nd suit

David Matthews: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Straightforward stuff. If partner rebids Spades I will go to 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) as 3NT would seem to be out as partner would be bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) if interested in 3NT and one stopper is not enough.

John R. Mayne: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Too strong for 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), even though may be better placed if not passed out. The clever people who try 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) deserve what they get.

Leigh Matheson: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Well, do you want to find our game (or slam) here or not?

The other option on the hand is 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), which is the only bid that accurately describes our strength (at the expense of our shape):

Neil Silverman : 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Close betwwen 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) a huge winner when partner has five clubs. 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) would be my choice at imps.

Andrea Viscovich: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I won't blame who says 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)

Adrian Pang: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). My 17 pts are worth about just that as partner bid spades and the most realistic game is 3NT with spades stopped by partner. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be good old invitational with 6+ diamonds. If he had responded 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I would jump-shift to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to force to game.

Alan Jones: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Prepared to bid 3NT if partner rebids spades.

Larry Brose: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This lets partner know how strong my hand is. Would like to go on to game. I hope to get a heart lead.

Brian Lawless: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Too good for 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) but not good enough to force to game with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

The full deal:

spades AQJ76
hearts J1053
diamonds 84
clubs 73
spades 10942
hearts AQ64
diamonds K92
clubs J4
spades K853
hearts 98
diamonds 53
clubs Q10982
hearts K72
diamonds AQJ1076
clubs AK65

Hand Two - South deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) JT7653
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK83
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K8
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 4


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

   Natural long-suit trials, 2NT artificial short-suit trial (3C asks for shortage).

Call Award %
2NT 100 22 28
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 95 33 10
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 80 11 10
Pass 70 11 22
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 70 0 1
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 22 29

Remember the days when we thought we needed 13 HCP to open the bidding? I wonder how this problem would have been received in the 1950s!

For the purposes of this problem, we are assuming you are using the methods described in the system column in the June issue of Australian Bridge Magazine; combined long- and short-suit game tries. (The December issue contains a better and more sophisticated method from Michael Cartmell, but that's a little complex for this forum.)

We'll start with the short-suit try, which is triggered by an artificial 2NT bid:

Alex Kemeny: 2NT. A 6 loser hand is usually worth a game try opposite a simple raise. No suit qualifies for a long suit trial so let us see if partner has any interest in where my singleton is.

Leigh Matheson: 2NT. I'd bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) promised 8-10. Even without this agreement I'm still very tempted to bid a vul Imp game. Short suit trials tend to be more effective. If you bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) partner will usually be scratching his head to work out if his support is useful or not. Here Qx of hearts is amazing, but if our suit were A983, it would be rubbish.

Phil Hocking: 2NT. Assuming my next bid will be 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) after Partner bids 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Yes, that would be the most common continuation, although some people prefer to show shortages artificially "up the line" (so 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would show the short club). Make sure you're on the same wavelength with your partner if you adopt these bids.

Pat O'Connor: 2NT. Then, after 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) by partner, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to show a club singleton.

Tim Trahair: 2NT. Game in spades seems pretty remote but if North is maximum with the right cards game could be there.

John R. Mayne: 2NT. I am more than willing to telegraph my hand to the opponents to find out what I need to know on this one; the defense doesn't likely matter a whole lot.

But just in case, check out the alternative method in the December issue of the magazine, which describes how to make a try like this without telling the opponents anything.

Peter Vlas: 2NT. I'm not so much interested in his shortness. I want to stop if his values are in Clubs, otherwise I want to be in 4.

Dan Baker: 2NT. Opposite nothing wasted in clubs, even some horrible minimums have a play. With wasted values there, even some maximums are hopeless.

Cathy Hocking: 2NT. spade fit showing a shortage and 6 looser

Timothy Wright: 2NT. With 6 losers I should make a game try. Bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could work, but partner will not expect that her small doubleton is helpful there.

Martyn Rew: 2NT. worst case here is playing in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) which should be more safe than not.

Emil Battista: 2NT. More elegant than the plain vanilla invitational 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Considered 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to show a 54 just in case partner holds 4 Hearts and too weak for a 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) response. But, will a 44 play better than a 63 when there is clubs to ruff and trumps to draw

Speaking of the plain vanilla 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), that choice actually got the top expert vote! There is an explanation: two of the 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders on the expert panel intended it as obstructive (which, to be honest, I thought was fairly standard). The majority meant it as a game try asking for trump quality, but the ambiguity pushed this choice into the top spot, in much the same way that Double always gets the top vote when no one agrees on its meaning.

David Graham : 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 6 loser invitational.

David Matthews: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The choice is Pass or Invite. I don't want to give too much away by bidding 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Wow, is that the end? Yep, only two comments from the readers on the top expert choice. I'm totally unconvinced about 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and have promoted 2NT to the top score. A few other readers did mention 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), while discussing the merits (or otherwise) of a preemptive bid:

Ron Lel: Pass. I would bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if this was preemptive, but this is not part of the system. Too many losers to make a trial.

Ian McCance: Pass. game try hopelessly optimistic, even for this forum. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might pay for obfuscation but why trade - for +

Nigel Kearney: Pass. Not worth a game try. Even if 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not invitational, I would not do it here because I have some defence against four of a minor and the scoring and vul gives us a decent chance of buying it in 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Next, the long-suit try:

Neil Silverman : 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner doesn't bid game over 3h you are probably not missing anything and often going down but could win an imp against their 3 of either minor.

Gary hyett: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We might make game. More likely is they make game!

No votes for 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), with good reason, but I don't really think 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is that much better. As Leigh and Timothy mentioned earlier, it's hard to know what's useful opposite a long-suit trial. In the recent GNOT I went for 500 after partner (perfectly reasonably) accepted my long-suit trial with exactly the hand I didn't want. If you use long-suit trials, you really need to be specific about the requirements (again, the December article has a lot to say about this).

Remarkably, that's all we have on game tries, with the majority of readers split evenly between passing 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and going straight to game!

Julian Foster: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 9 card fits are so much more powerful than 8 and here I have shape and controls too. If I bid something else and we end up in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) I am still going to feel nervous we've missed a vul game.

Brian Lawless: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). An overbid but OK at IMPs

Michael Smart: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I have a 6th trump, 3 losers outside and we are Vul at imps. So would I be content if partner declined whatever invitation I might make? (No.)

Charles Scholl: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's IMPs, and I don't really need much from partner to make game.

Anne Paul: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Six losers so will bid game

Hmm, better get a copy of Ron's book on LTC and give that another read...

Barbara Whitmee: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). "Six-four, bid more", and we are vulnerable at IMPs.

Nigel Guthrie: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Game is playable opposite hands with which partner would stretch to raise

Henri de Jong: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Yes, pard needs to have the right cards, but we are vul. Short suit trial would be no help.

The common argument for the wild 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid is the lack of information given to the opponents:

Wayne Somerville: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Giving nothing away, hoping for a beneficial lead.

Brad Johnston: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm in favour of having them lead blind here, that's often worth a trick in itself.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too many hands make game that partner cannot value opposite a trial. This adds the opponents 'blind' lead to my chances. Yes sometimes I'll go off.

Derek Pocock: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must surely be a play for it and any trial bid is giving more infofmation to oppsition than to partner.

Peter Qvist: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My opps likes to bid, with my 11 hp pd is proberbly in opper range with silent opps. Maybe against odds - but it doesn't help opps making right lead.

Alan Jones: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Since partner is limited, this should be the right spot. It offers the opponents no help in defence.

Roger Yandle: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If I try using either trial bid there is no guarantee partner's response will put us in the right spot. Also, whatever information I give out will help the defence. It's vul at IMPs so I'm shooting for game and hoping partner has the right hand or the opps don't defend optimally.

Par Ol-Mars: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Alternative is the scientific 2NT. But as 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) often has a play, and the blast reveals nothing and shut out opponents i prefer it.

I have to admit that all adds up to a pretty compelling case for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), capped off with this answer:

Damo Nair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Jeff Meckstroth once said in an interview that if you have 6, a singleton & partner supports your suit, bid four.

I'd like to see the source for that quote. I'm still not convinced myself; in fact, I'm more sympathetic to this bunch:

Tania Black: Pass. A light opening and a raise that does not promise much

Rainer Herrmann: Pass. Close. I would not object to a short suit trial bid.

Kees Schaafsma: Pass. Even 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not safe opposite xxx/xxx/Qx/KJxxx.

Michael Burt: Pass. Even if partner is a maximum, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is probably only a 50% chance, so settle for a plus in 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Duncan Roe: Pass. I am only slightly over a minimum, and partner's response is minimum also. Expect to lose 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and either 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (lose more if S are not trumps). So, no game try.

Adrian Pang: Pass. I have a sub-minimum opening and P proba bly has around 6-9. I see not much prospect for game with such weak trumps, although we have a 9 card fit. If we played Bergen and partner bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) showing 7-9 and 4 spades, I would consider making a game try with 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

I'll draw the line at that point; if partner has 7 points and four spades, you are WAY too good for a game try.

A.K. Simon: Pass. I'll take the push to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if need be.

Andrea Viscovich: Pass. Maybe 2NT would be fine, in a very good day I'm making 4s with less than 20 HCP. In a bad day I will go down in 3s.

Robert Black: Pass. My hand has not improved much with partner's non forcing raise.

Ron Landgraff: Pass. My partners never have perfect cards and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may not make. If the opponents compete, I will raise. Too many hands where partners Club values are wasted.

The problem came from Paul Lavings, who bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) at the table (raised to game, failing). The full deal:

spades Q42
hearts 62
diamonds AJ765
clubs Q63
spades 98
hearts Q1075
diamonds 104
clubs KJ982
spades AK
hearts J94
diamonds Q932
clubs A1075
spades J107653
hearts AK83
diamonds K8
clubs 4

NS can make 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on the actual deal, although half of the declarers in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) were allowed to make it.

For the record, I've put this hand through the simulator (after writing my commentary) and the Pass did not come out looking too good. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) was 30% opposite 6-9 with three spades, and obviously better if partner is accepting a game try (better still on imperfect defence, as seen in the real-life results). Furthermore, on many of the occasions where we get to 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and it fails, it's flat against three of a minor.

Addressing Adrian's scenario (a 7-9 Bergen raise) 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is now 63% (and strangely, not much higher if partner is maximum -- which is one reason why invitations are rarely made after a Bergen raise).

Hand Three - North deals, both vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) J3
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) J86543
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) K64
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K7


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


Call Award %
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 100 50 42
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 90 50 54
Pass 60 0 4

From one weak hand with a big fit, to a weaker hand with a bigger fit. 21st century teaching tells us to bid game with ten trumps, but there must be exceptions; is this one of them?

Ian McCance: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 10 trumps is enough

Tania Black: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). The Law of Total Tricks protecteth me.

Anne Paul: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). bid on total tricks

Brian Lawless: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Level of the fit. JS may be useful. IMPs

David Matthews: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Too many trumps not to bid game.

An opposing view:

Leigh Matheson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Bidding 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is shooting for a 5% game - at least one of the minor kings is likely useless opposite shortage. Note The Law doesn't apply here in an uncontested auction. So why 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? Passing has risks too - West will bid a minor and East could easily have a hand to raise.

Exactly. 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may well be a good save against 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) -- or more importantly, a good preempt against 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) -- but that's purely theoretical. There is no way anyone is bidding 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) (unless we let them get started with 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)).

So, as unlikely as a balance into 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is here, 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) does serve as cheap insurance to make sure that doesn't happen. That's not the reason most people chose it though:

Ron Lel: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). At least one of the minor suit kings is waste paper. This allows pd to bid game with a max.

H A de Jong: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Big fit, but no certainty for 10 tricks. Let pard decide

Peter Vlas: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Could well be 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but I can't bid 3 1/2 H. I'm very tempted for 4 though

Adrian Pang: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I have 8 HCP but this hand is instantly upgraded with a whopping 10 card fit in hearts. P is likely 5-4, and if i can find a diamond ruff game is likely if partner is in the upper range, so it is a natural 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) invite.

Phil Hocking: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I think there is at least 9 tricks so if partner can decide on final contract.

Rainer Herrmann: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner does not accept I doubt game will be good.

Timothy Wright: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If partner has a minimum 5-4-2-2, even 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is not cold, but I clearly have to see if 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is in the cards.

Julian Foster: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Obviously great trumps but there's a decent risk of 4 quick losers if partner is minimum (esp with one of my minors getting led through) hence I just invite. Unlike hand 2, if partner passes 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I am not going to feel so worried we've missed a game.

Alexander Shchennikov: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). One of our kings most likely against singl, but the game is still possible.

Neil Silverman: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner sees you are vulnerable so not worried about missing game.

John R. Mayne: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner will aggressively accept invites here, and this is a serious invite. I expect partner to get this one right almost all the time.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Advertisement for Gazzilli?

I'm sure there would be fewer bidding forum problems if everyone played Gazzilli. To clarify, with Gazzilli, we don't need to worry about opener having 16 HCP, OR an attractive 5-5 hand such as AK109x-AQ10xx-x-xx, making it a little easier to go slow on this hand.

Martyn Rew: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner will need extra values or luck to turn this in to a successful game contract.

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). There are still many gaps to be filled if 10 tricks are to be made

Charles Scholl: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With a good hand or almost any excuse, partner will take the bait and bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). But why force the issue opposite a minimum?

Artur Wasiak: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 6-card support is great but it seems that one of my minor-suit kings may be useless.

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). My Kings don't match well, I don't want to punish pard for opening on AKxxx/Axxx/xx/Jx.

Dan Baker: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not playing 2/1 is an advantage for once, as 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) here is a great picture bid (I can't have too much more than this or I would have bid 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). But that should be a hand that's vastly improved by his bidding, and kings in partner's short suits are not improved. Kx Jxxxxx xxx Ax would be an easy 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) here, but if partner can't move over 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) we probably shouldn't be in game.

The expert panel voted 50/50 between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), with the readers being just a little more aggressive. Let's hear from the game bidders:

Damo Nair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 2 kings outside ... but I'm still bidding it.

Nigel Kearney: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) could be quite a lot less and does not do the hand justice.

Brad Johnston: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I don't envision my minors are worth anything much at all, but I have 6 trumps. Maybe something good will happen.

Par Ol-Mars: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Aceless so no 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) cue. :)

Luckily Par included the smiley face there, just in case we didn't know he was kidding. There were actually a few people who at least mentioned slam, and in the absence of a smiley I'm forced to assume they seriously believed it to be at least an option (albeit an easily-rejected one).

Michael Smart: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). No courtesy cue this time. Partner didn't bid 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) over 1NT, and at least one of my kings figures to be worthless.

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Surely anything else is either wimpish or fanciful

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). They will probably lead a minor, which will hopefully give partner the info he needs to plan the play. This hand is nowhere near good enough to investigate slam and too strong to just invite

Michael Burt: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I regard going past 1NT as somewhat encouraging and game at IMPs is worth a go with the heart fit.

I don't think that's a common agreement at all. When I was just starting out I used to occasionally pass 1NT with four hearts, so I think I'm well qualified to tell you it's a losing strategy (sometimes embarrassingly so). 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) does/should not promise extra values.

Duncan Roe: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Tough choice between 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (passed out, making 4) and 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (making 3). Hope 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) can in fact make.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Two way shot. Might make, opponents might have a minor suit contract on.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Notwithstanding 9 losers my hand just improved a lot. Have to try for the vulnerable game at this firm of scoring.

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Our poor hand has been transformed by N's second bid.

A.K. Simon: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). What else? Hard to think of a 2nd choice

Ian Patterson: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). With the known fit the hand now has 6/7 losers (deducting 2 losers for the extra trumps).

Since I had the simulator already fired up, I gave this one a run too. Assuming partner has minimum lengths and 14 HCP (enough to accept the invitation) 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) came out at 49%. So it's not looking good for this small group, who had no expert support:

Cathy Hocking: Pass. not enough points for game between us better get part score and not go too high

Derek Pocock: Pass. unlikely to be much more in this as we're looking trump bound.

The full deal, also from George Cuppaidge:

spades A10954
hearts AKQ2
diamonds 542
clubs Q
spades 876
hearts 109
diamonds AJ8
clubs A10743
spades KQ3
hearts 7
diamonds Q763
clubs J9652
spades J2
hearts J86543
diamonds K109
clubs K8

The original deal included the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)109, which didn't appear in the original problem). On either layout, NS can make 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and EW make 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). West wasn't planning to balance over 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) (from his point of view, we may be in a misfit).

Hand Four - South deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KT7632
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) ---
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 43
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) AJ652


West North East South

  Natural weak twos.

Call Award %
1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 39 34
Pass 90 33 24
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 22 37
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 50 6 4

So, having established in Q2 that 11 HCP is enough to open and force to game opposite a single raise, opening with an 8-count should be fairly routine:

David Graham : 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 11 total points & a void too good for a weak 2

David Matthews, Phil Hocking, Anne Paul, Jack Lai, Alex Kemeny, Barbara Hunter, Charles Scholl, Cathy Hocking: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too strong for a Weak Two.

Julian Foster: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Can't believe a weak two is an option! That deserves to play in 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) with 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) cold! I prefer pass to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). But I think 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) gets us into the auction first and we may be able to show Cs later as well - hopefully without partner taking us too far overboard! I don't like passing and coming in later with Michaels when I have 6 spades (that's more appealing with 5026 shape).

Leigh Matheson: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not much of a stretch. Adding the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)10 would make this hand a routine 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opener.

Nigel Kearney: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is ridiculous. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is still an underbid and makes it hard for partner to judge as he won't expect this hand type. We can't accurately describe by passing and bidding later and I hate passing shapely hands anyway. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems best. At least I have some defence.

Brad Johnston: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is wrong, but on the fence about passing to catch up later and opening 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This loses when pard has an average flat 13 count and drives, but makes it harder for the opps to find if they should be in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or just 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Emil Battista: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Just enough HCP to meet ABF one level opening requirements. I am a fan of Paul Marston, so could easily pretend this is a most suitable hand for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

That's a good point Emil. While a world-class expert panel has declared that this is a routine 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) opening, the ABF tells us that if not for the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)J, 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be a HUM (Highly Unusual Method, banned in nearly all events). Maybe it's time for administrators to back the hell off and stop trying to tell bridge players how to bid.

And while I'm on that topic, it shouldn't be mandatory for standard bidders to write their minimum opening points on the system card. The other day I lost half a board (at BAM scoring) because I played an advertised "6-9" weak two opener to have 6-9 points. She had a perfectly normal five-point weak two, but why write 6-9 on the card? It doesn't help anyone, and it's misleading. Rant ended.

Rainer Herrmann: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bidding has more to gain than to lose.

Neil Silverman : 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). At MPs see no reason not to open 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This hand seems a lot better than the flat 11 counts people open these days.

Alan Jones: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I don't want to lose the clubs.

Damo Nair: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's MPs. I am never going to pre-empt with a control-rich hand.

John Newman: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Most of my partners like aggressive preempts, but this doesn't really fit 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and passing isn't fun, therefore 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) feels least worst.

Derek Pocock: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must get in first rather than wait to expect to be reduced to a negatuive double on next round. Am prepared to show my other suit at this vulnerability

Gary Hyett: 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not ideal but playing strength OK. 6/5 come alive!

Moving on to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), some of the comments were fairly self-defeating:

Andrea Viscovich: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is too obvious, so the right answer should be another one

Peter Vlas: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 1, 2 or 4? For 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) my defensive values are too little, for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) my pips are too small so I choose 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Tim Trahair: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A hand where 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) might be a better bid, However if North has values and S support we may find game.

Brian Lawless: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Could Pass but it may be at 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) when it comes back to me.

Ian McCance: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Given the conditions, I think it best to get in quick with boss suit before opps get away

Wayne Somerville: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I normally hate weak 2s with a side 5 card suit, but the spades are not good enough to bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

John R. Mayne: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). OK, this is a stupid bid and I hope it scores badly. My real bid would be 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), and if they pass it out for down 1 with 7images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) frozen cold, I'll do it again next time. This is just a cheesy attempt to match the field.

We offered 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as an option, but there were virtually no takers. Except:

Patrick Huang: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Must bid something with this 6-5 pattern. Choice is between 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I choose 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to put more pressure on opponents.

3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) looks like a silly choice, but how bad can it really be? Nil vil, at Matchpoints, it will be a good bid when the hand belongs to the opponents, and only really costs when we aren't supposed to be in spades. Even when partner has clubs and a void spade, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will work well if no one has a takeout double and they can make 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) -- they may even end up in 3NT with no club stopper.

2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) has almost the same downside as 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), possibly with less of the upside, but it was by far the more popular choice as John anticipated. In fact, it was the top reader vote:

Dan Baker: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I worry that this will miss a good club contract, but in first seat it's more likely that I'm blocking a red-suit fit for the opponents.

Michael Smart: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Lack of suit quality compensated for by shape.

Duncan Roe: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Only have 19 rule-of-20 points. This warns me off opening 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). With 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), partner knows he's on his own if he raises.

Martyn Rew: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). this is a many loser hand, but you certainly don't want to be defending. 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) here would be very misleading for partner. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) has a very big potential downside. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)x is unlikely to be left in.

Michael Burt: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). This won't mislead partner.

Barbara Whitmee: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Was considering 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) because I don't have too many losers, then thought about opening 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to hog the bidding space so they may not find their heart game, then subsided in 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) so partner will maintain confidence that what I bid I have!

Adrian Pang: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Too weak for 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would pre-empt ourselves as we could have a slam opposite as few as QJx xxxx AKx Kxx. Not enough spades for 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Although very distributive, 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is the best description and if partner has any sign of life (except a preemptive 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) raise) I would probably be raising to game.

I wonder if it's actually right to pass a preemptive raise with this hand? Obviously we've all been taught that you should never bid again after a preempt, but in real life you often see experts do it on the unusual hands. Case in point:

Larry Cohen: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bidding clubs next. I always tell my students, once you preempt, you shouldn't bid again. Maybe I should stop telling them that.

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Rebid clubs if possible.

Finally, we have the Pass, which ironically was chosen by the people who thought the hand was too strong for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes):

Roger Yandle: Pass. call me old fashioned, but I'm too strong for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and too weak for 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hopefully I can back in later if it's appropriate.

Dean Eidler: Pass. I have the boss suit so can come in later. Not quite good enough for 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Ron Landgraff: Pass. Rebids are awkward to impossible. It will not be passed out and I will know more later.

Timothy Wright: Pass. While 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is preemptive and I am in first seat, the call has three flaws (bad suit, outside void, strong 5-card side suit). I am not quite strong enough for 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Ian Patterson: Pass. Too strong (6 losers, if a fit is found in either Clubs or Spades) to open a weak 2, but not strong enough in HCP to open 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner may yet open 1NT.

The logic that a hand is "too good for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)" but "not good enough for 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)" is frowned upon in expert circles -- there is not meant to be a gap in between 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (assuming sufficient suit quality for 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)). However, two-suiters have a valid excuse for breaking that rule:

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. I have agreements to describe this hand more accurately as an overcall.

Robert Black: Pass. There should be a chance later to describe this potentially powerful hand.

Ron Lel: Pass. Hope to come in later.

Par Ol-Mars: Pass. With highest suit I'll be able to enter the action later.

Alexander Shchennikov: Pass. This hand is not for preemptive bid. For 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) spades are very weak. So pass and hope to take part in next bidding.

The full deal:

spades AJ98
hearts A1032
diamonds 1097
clubs J4
spades Q5
hearts QJ98765
diamonds Q
clubs K103
spades 4
hearts K4
diamonds AKJ8652
clubs Q97
spades K107632
diamonds 43
clubs A8652

After Christmas I'll see if I can dig up the travellers and report what happened at the table.

Hand Five - South deals, NS vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AKQJT
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 4
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q2
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T9874

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


Call Award %
Pass 100 56 52
2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 17 22
Dbl 80 28 13
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 20 0 11
Other 0 0 2

Our final deal requires a lot of speculation about what will happen if we reopen, with the heart suit seemingly missing from the deck. I'll kill the suspense by giving you the layout up front: partner has a singleton spade, but we can still make 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (and 3NT); partner has images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)AKQ3, but we can't make 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes); partner does have a diamond stack, but opponents have an easy escape to 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

The voting produced an outright majority for Pass, with the readers and with the experts.

Par Ol-Mars: Pass. Difficult to know the outcome if we help them to find the heart suit. But hopefully Pass is likely to gain a smal plus or reduce losses.

Alan Jones: Pass. This bidding only makes sense if partner has diamonds and East has spades. This implies that the best result our way is a part score in clubs. It would be nice to double and have partner pass, but this risks EW finding a heart fit. Therefore, pass and hope for three light.

Nigel Kearney: Pass. Timid maybe, but acting here just seems like it's aiming at a narrow target with too much potential for bad things to happen if wrong.

Damo Nair: Pass. If North can't make any noise why should I? If we have club fit may be they can make some number of hearts or diamonds.

Many people echoed the comment that there was no need to act because it's not our hand. You'll be disappointed when you see the actual deal, but don't let that put you off. Partner has bid poorly; it happens sometimes.

Phil Hocking: Pass. Don't want to bid at the 3 level with this hand and 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't necessarily going anywhere given our side doesn't appear to have the balance of power.

Leigh Matheson: Pass. Likely that they have a nice heart fit and/or the hand belongs to them anyway. The only risk here is that partner has a good hand (with diamonds). Still, +150 is fine if our game is not laydown.

Alexander Shchennikov: Pass. We have no game, fighting for 110 when we easy can go for -500 is not nesessary on imps play.

Derek Pocock: Pass. No place for negative double and at this vulnerability can easily find us minus 200

John R. Mayne: Pass. Nuh-uh. Partner doesn't have four hearts and a decent hand, doesn't have any kind of spade support, and I'm content to take the 50's. When partner has x AQJx KJTxx Jxx and was looking for blood, well, sorry pard.

Michael Burt: Pass. Partner couldn't double or bid and we are vulnerable. We could easily get in to trouble at IMPs if I bid .

Dan Baker: Pass. Partner didn't double and didn't raise, so either he's broke (and we go for at least 500 if I say anything) or the opponents missed a 9+ card heart fit and partner is loaded in the minors. Either way, there's a lot more downside than up if I act again.

Cathy Hocking: Pass. partner obviously doesn't have points, not strong enough to bid again being vulnerable and imps

Brad Johnston: Pass. They've missed their heart fit, partner may have a stack but if it goes X p p 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I'm in a worse position. 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be all sorts of wrong, pard couldn't raise and I could get tapped. I don't have the strength for bidding 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so here it looks right to get out low.

The heart deficiency was a common argument, whether it be fear of partner bidding hearts in response to a reopening double, or fear of opponents finding a heart fit (possibly in game) over any reopening:

Gary Hyett, Rainer Herrmann: Pass. If pard has hearts he's weak. If he doesn't we're in trouble.

Artur Wasiak: Pass. Worried about hearts.

Wayne Somerville: Pass. It looks as if the opponents are in the wrong contract, I'm not going to help them out.

David Matthews: Pass. Someone has some cards and points and it looks like the opposition who may well be missing game in Hearts.

Anne Paul: Pass. Can't double as do not have four hearts, would normally reopen with x if playing compulsory reopening x. In Acol I could also rebid my spades can't bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) not strong enough

Ron Landgraff: Pass. Double gets me nothing but hearts by partner or a nice 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) which may get them to Hearts. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) directly could be dicey or worse.

Ella Pattison: Pass. If I balance they'll bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), it's just how it goes for me.

I sympathise Ella, I'm having a bad run too. This year I've balanced opps out of 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) into a making game four times -- one of them cost me and Erin a spot in the ACT Open Team. I'm beginning to hate balancing decisions (which means you'll be seeing many more of them in this column).

Timothy Wright: Pass. Maybe partner has a diamond stack, but I cannot double, lest she bid hearts.

Ian Patterson: Pass. Opponents probably have a Heart fit which they may find if I re-open. If partner has a trap pass, he might have considered finding the vulnerable 3NT game. The only way to show the 2 black suits with this weak a hand is to open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Ron Lel: Pass. Partner cannot make a sputnik double? The opponents have a big heart fit. I am passing.

A.K. Simon: Pass. Partner couldn't even croak 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or make a negative double. Let them play 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), they may be cold for 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and get there if you reopen.

Neil Silverman: Pass. Partner not likely to have penalty pass at these colors. He couldn't make a negative double so they might belong in hearts.

Brian Lawless: Pass. If partner has a penalty double of 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), opponents have a big H fit

Ig Nieuwenhuis: Pass. No spade-raise, no double, so he could be waiting for re-opening, he could also be looking at a poor hand. From my hand the opps belong in hearts, they are in diamonds; we might go plus. I suspect 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) will win this vote.

Looking to the bidders, the top reader group was 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), although hardly any of them left a comment:

Peter Vlas: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Dbl and hoping that partner will either bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or pass on my 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over his 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is too optimistic in my mind

Ian McCance: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). everyone curiously silent except me (and West) Can't cost more than 800

Michael Smart: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Perhaps shows a 6th, but I don't have the extras for 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If partner can bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) now, then I can bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). (dream on...)

Nigel Guthrie: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Typical modern partners believe that their pass is forcing.

Barbara Whitmee: 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Very good suit, but also like 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to describe the hand pattern.

This is the winning action on the actual deal, but that doesn't really mean anything as partner's actions were fairly unusual. For the experts, the small number of non-passers were skewed strongly in a different direction:

Alex Kemeny: Dbl. Have to allow partner to pass for penalty. Will remove 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Where are all the points?!

Duncan Roe: Dbl. Hoping partner passed because his suit is D. Will convert H response to S: we have 5 sure tricks that way.

Charles Scholl: Dbl. I don't see a downside to doubling: I'm OK with correcting 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), passing partner's 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), or seeing partner pass.

H A de Jong: Dbl. Missing lots of images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and points and don't intend to pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Pard may well be very red.

Julian Foster: Dbl. My philosophy here tends to be to ask "would I have passed a penalty X of 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if partner had made one?" If the answer is yes (which it is here) then I re-open with X. Will pull a H bid from partner to S.

Adrian Pang: Dbl. North might be either weak or having a trap pass with strength in diamonds. As I am quite short in diamonds a dbl will be most flexible. If pard pulls to 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) I will bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to show a two suiter not strong enough to bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) directly (that would be 16+).

Emil Battista: Dbl. Up until recently I would have bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Today I will double. If Roger Yandle does not double then I will need a please explain :)

Emil and Roger have a long-standing side bet on who will do better in this competition each year. Emil is in for two disappointments this year: Roger has (1) beaten him, and everyone else in Australia, and (2) apparently forgotten his partnership discussion:

Roger Yandle: Pass. where are all the hearts? If partner has them she isn't strong enough to neg double. It looks like the opps might have a much better place than this so I'm going quietly.

The final option, 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), turned out to be a non-contender, with no expert votes and only a handful of readers:

Tim Trahair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). If North has reasonable values he may be able to chance 3NT. If he repeats Ds we can try 4th suit forcing or repeat our excellent Ss.

stephen bartos: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). While pass is appealing, the 5-5 shape is worth another bid. HCP appear fairly evenly distributed among all four hands, so shape is important.

Martyn Rew: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Certainly don't want to be defending 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with this hand.

The full deal, making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in the 5-1 fit but not 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) in the 5-4 fit:

spades 9
hearts A109
diamonds J10743
clubs AKQ3
spades 863
hearts KQ63
diamonds AK985
clubs 2
spades 7542
hearts J8752
diamonds 6
clubs J65
spades AKQJ10
hearts 4
diamonds Q2
clubs 109874

I think partner can take most of the blame for this bad result, as it's a pretty poor penalty pass (at this vulnerability, very poor). His diamond holding pretty much guarantees 3NT, with a double-stopper and 13 HCP outside, and finding a good 6images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) after this start is virtually impossible. Maybe we should have presented this problem from his point of view instead, perhaps with favourable vulnerability.

That's the end for another year; thanks very much to all the readers who took part, and all the world-class experts who provided their answers for the magazine. Our Readers' Race results are listed below; congratulations to our winners Artur Wasiak of Poland, Fredrik Jarlvik of Sweden, and our own Roger Yandle from Newcastle.

Our next issue will be out in mid-February. The February questions are already online, here.

Top scores for December
1Niklas Andrén SWE500
2Tom Moss NSW495
3David Woulds GBR490
3David Johnson CAN490
3Aviv Shahaf 490
3John Newman NSW490
3Timothy Wright 490
3Hans Van Vooren NED490
9Dean Sole NZL480
9Gerald Koonce USA480
9Fredrik Jarlvik SWE480
12Dominic Connolly NSW470
12Rainer Herrmann GER470
12Robb Gordon USA470
12Gary Hyett GBR470
16Nigel Kearney NZL460
16Toby Weinstein USA460
16Neil Silverman 460
16Dan Baker USA460
16Peter Lipp 460
16Ron Lel LAO460
16Andrew Macalister GBR460
16Phil Hocking NSW460
16Leigh Matheson NSW460
16Ian Patterson Qld460
16Dean Eidler NZL460
16Robert Black SA460
28Cor Lof 455
29Leigh Blizzard Tas450
29Dean Pokorny CRO450
29Anne Paul Vic450
29Peter Vlas NED450
29Alexander Shchennikov450
29Damo Nair USA450
29Zbych Bednarek POL450
36David Matthews WA445
36Pravin Nahar NSW445
38Ig Nieuwenhuis NED440
38Peter Nuoristo SWE440
38Michael Davy Vic440
38Mark Laforge 440
38Par Ol-Mars 440
38Pat O'Connor NSW440
38Kajsa Fröjd SWE440
38Julian Foster NSW440
38Arie Meydan 440
47Nancy Kent USA435
47Ian Spight NSW435
49Artur Wasiak POL430
49Alex Kemeny NSW430
49Alan Jones Qld430
49Benjamin Kristensen 430
49Jack Lai HKG430
49Emil Battista NSW430
55Cathy Hocking 420
55Kees Schaafsma NED420
55Bastiaan Korner NED420
55Alan Boyce Qld420
55 John R Mayne USA420
55Derek Pocock WA420
55A. K. Simon CAN420
62Alexander Cook NSW415
62Bruce Ballard NZL415
64Ella Pattison NZL410
64Larry Brose USA410
64Peter Tarlinton NSW410
64Nigel Guthrie GBR410
64Dick Canton 410
64Wayne Somerville IRL410
64Brad Johnston NZL410
64Gary Lane NSW410
64Ron Landgraff USA410
64Andrea Viscovich ITA410
64Dennis Raymond 410

Final scores for 2016
1Artur Wasiak POL2690
2Fredrik Jarlvik SWE2640
3Roger Yandle NSW2620
4David Woulds GBR2580
5Nigel Kearney NZL2550
6Alex Kemeny NSW2540
7Kajsa Fröjd SWE2530
8Tom Estenson USA2520
9Andrew Macalister GBR2500
9Wayne Somerville IRL2500
9Dean Pokorny CRO2500
12Julian Foster NSW2480
12Ian Patterson Qld2480
12Rainer Herrmann GER2480
15Peter Nuoristo SWE2460
15Roland Voigt GER2460
17Kees Schaafsma NED2440
18Hans Van Vooren NED2420
19Pravin Nahar NSW2415
20Bastiaan Korner NED2410
20Dominic Connolly NSW2410
20Gary Lane NSW2410
20Alexander Shchennikov2410
24Damo Nair USA2390
25Nigel Guthrie GBR2380
26Andrea Viscovich ITA2360
27Mick Mcauliffe NSW2340
28Margaret Copland Vic2335
29Tania Black SA2330
30Kay O'connor NSW2320
30Leigh Blizzard Tas2320
30Phil Hocking NSW2320
33Pat O'connor NSW2310
34Ig Nieuwenhuis NED2300
35Dan Baker USA2290
36Ian Spight NSW2285
37Vlad Dragalchuk2270
37Emil Battista NSW2270
39Martyn Rew NZL2260
40Bruce Ballard NZL2255
41Peter Vlas NED2240
42Henri De Jong Vic2230
43Jack Lai HKG2230
44Brad Johnston NZL2220
44Duncan Roe Vic2220
46Robert Black SA2170
47Geof Brod USA2130
48Nancy Kent USA2115
49Tim Trahair NSW2110
50Zbych Bednarek POL2100
50Mark Laforge 2100
52Alexander Cook NSW2095
53Charles Scholl USA2080
54Manuel Paulo POR2065
55Michael Smart ACT2060
56Ian Mccance Vic2030
56Gerald Koonce USA2030
56Niek Van Vucht ACT2030
59Derek Pocock WA2020
60Jim Greer GBR2015
61John Shield NSW2000
61Peter Lipp 2000
61Ron Lel LAO2000
64Peter Robinson Qld1980
65John Newman NSW1980
66David Johnson CAN1980
67Michael Burt ACT1970
68Tom Moss NSW1965
69Cor Lof 1955
70Peter Stride Qld1950
71Peter Qvist SWE1940
72Jim Thatcher NSW1910
72Ron Landgraff USA1910
74David Matthews WA1905
Thank you to all the readers and visitors who entered this month's forum.
Click here to try your luck at the next set of problems, to be answered in the
February issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
new-look December issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.