Main   Analyses 7W32 by Richard Pavlicek  

Another Time, Another Place

These six bidding problems were published on the Internet in March of 2001, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. The problems are from actual deals played in a past tournament. In the poll I did not reveal the year and location, but participants were invited to guess from the clues on the page.
Problem 123456Final Notes

Among the wrong guesses I received were Canada, Iceland, Norway and New Zealand. This respondent wasn’t even about to guess:

Steve Stein: Glacial lakes and cows? What’s the theme?

Would you believe ice-cold milk?
I didn’t think so.

Charles Blair was the first to identify both the country and the tournament. The pictures are all of Argentina — Iguazu Falls (at the top) located on the northern border with Brazil and Paraguay, the glacial lakes in southern Argentina, and the pampas (grassy plains) with grazing cows, or maybe they’re bulls (hard to tell from here).

Josh Sinnett Wins!

This poll had 294 participants from 77 locations, and the average score was 47.39. Congratulations to the winner, Josh Sinnett of Washington (state) who achieved a perfect score of 60. Second place went to Thomas Alm of Sweden, also with a perfect score. In third place with a score of 59 was Kent Feiler, a longtime friend*, of Chicago.

*Kent was my bridge mentor. In 1965-66 we were both stationed near Stuttgart, West Germany, with the U.S. Army. Kent took me under his wing as I learned the game. I can vividly remember him trying to teach me some high-tech play, like a double squeeze (say what?), only to discover on the next deal I would butcher the defense. Ah, the good old days. Coincidentally, this was in the same time frame as the tournament that inspired this poll.

For the poll it was assumed that you play a Standard American system, including strong notrumps, five-card majors and weak two-bids. The object is to determine the best calls based on judgment, so no special conventions are allowed. For example, if you elect to use Blackwood, it is regular, not key-card.

The scoring of each problem is on a 1-to-10 scale. The call receiving the top award of 10 was determined by the consensus of the voting. The scoring of the other calls was determined partly by this and partly by my own judgment, which to some extent may be influenced by the actual deals.

1965 World Championship

The tournament was the 1965 World Championship in Buenos Aires. (No, I wasn’t there.) Four teams vied for the world title: Argentina, Great Britain, Italy and United States. The event was conducted as a round-robin, with each team to play 144 boards against each of the others. Italy won all its matches (by wide margins) and was the winner. These deals are all taken from the U.S.-Great Britain match, which was never completed. With 20 boards left to play, Great Britain had a sizable lead of 46 IMPs, yet their non-playing captain Ralph Swimer conceded the match to the U.S. because of alleged improprieties.*

*This was the tournament in which Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro were accused of using finger signals to indicate their heart length. The World Bridge Federation found them guilty, but in a subsequent trial the British Bridge League found them not guilty. The incident spawned two famous books: The Great Bridge Scandal by Alan Truscott, and Story of an Accusation by Terence Reese. Each book is convincing for its side and, having read both, I can only say that I am not sure of the truth. Therefore, I take no stand on this issue.

To set the stage for this unfinished symphony, let’s drift back in time and pull up a kibitzer’s chair. For the United States, you will see the famous partnerships of Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt, Ivan Erdos and Kelsey Petterson, and B. Jay Becker and Dorothy Hayden (now Truscott). For Great Britain, you’ll witness the flair of Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro, Albert Rose and Maurice Harrison-Gray, and Jeremy Flint and Kenneth Konstam. Imagine the tension that filled the air during this match that, unbeknownst to the players, would be suddenly halted. TopMain

Problem 1

IMPs N-S Vul

Table
S K 5
H K 10 6 2
D K
C A Q 8 7 6 2

West
North
East
3 S
South
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 NT108529
Double87927
Pass56221
4 C36823

This turned out to be a great problem, as evidenced by the even distribution of the voting. Any action is dangerous, but 3 NT and double offer a substantial upside for the risk. Conversely, an overcall of 4 C has about the same risk but less to gain; hence, the lower award. In the long run, the neutral decision to pass would probably fare better than 4 C. Consensus was to take the shot in 3 NT — the most likely game, and probably the only chance to get there. If this seems too brash for you, consider that you could also lose a bundle of IMPs by passing.

Three notrump bidders would have been a thankful breed back in 1965 when this deal occurred:

S A 10 2
H J 8 5 3
D Q J
C K J 5 3
S 7 3
H A Q 9 7 4
D A 8 6 5
C 9 4
TableS Q J 9 8 6 4
H
D 10 9 7 4 3 2
C 10
S K 5
H K 10 6 2
D K
C A Q 8 7 6 2

West
H-Gray

Pass
Dbl
North
Petterson

Dbl
All Pass
East
Rose
3 S
Pass
South
Erdos
Pass
4 H

Hayden

Pass
Dbl
Schapiro

4 H
All Pass
Becker
3 S
Pass
Reese
Dbl
Pass

Erdos chose the conservative pass and Reese chose to double. Curiously, both decisions led to the same 4 H contract, doubled — evidently there is no escaping those 4-4 major fits. In fairness, 4 H is a decent contract and would have good chances against normal breaks. Alas, not this time. Both declarers escaped for down one (the defense could have beaten it two) so there was no swing. If only our 3 NT bidders were there — such an easy game.

Note: Actual deals have been rotated as necessary to make the problem hand South.

Comments for 3 NT

Josh Sinnett: When left with a blind guess, it’s usually best to take the action with the highest upside. However, if I hear a violent double on my left, I’ll be in 4 C so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Kent Feiler: Retaining the option to run like a rabbit if I hear a loud double on my left.

Tjeerd Kootstra: … Could be our last makable game, and could be a lot off. …

Manoj Kumar Nair: There is nothing like the power of speech. Give partner his quota of 10 points, and you have a shot at 3 NT… We could go for a number, too, if doubled in 3 NT or in a retreat to 4 C. Still, I will guess with 3 NT in the heat of the battle (and if I go down with guns blazing, so be it). … Rest assured that our teammates will give the same treatment to the other South.

Gareth Birdsall: This may be the correct spot, and it’s our last chance to bid it, so I will.

Simon Cheung: The standard way of handling an opponent’s preempt in direct seat is to assume partner has a normal 7-count and bid accordingly. Here, if partner has S x-x-x H x-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x, 3 NT is a decent contract. Given the match form and the vulnerability, you should be more aggressive to bid game.

Will Engel: It looks like a great time to invoke Hamman’s Rule (or is it Hamman’s Law?); and they haven’t led their D A-Q-J-x-x-x-x yet. :)

Lutsen Jansen: Thought too long to pass. If West doubles, I run to 4 C. My partners always bid diamonds when I double.

Kieran Dyke: Eep! Double has me screwed over any number of diamonds. Pass is too wet. Four clubs loses one of our most likely games and makes it hard to find another. At least I know where to run if somebody says double.

John R. Mayne: Pass is quite reasonable; double and 4 C are awful. This is a stretch, to be sure, but I shouldn’t go down 1400 in 3 NT — I’ll proudly be out only 800 when I run to 4 C.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Double could unearth a heart fit, but the obvious downside is that partner may bid diamonds at various levels. Bid 3 NT and blame it on Hamman if it is terribly wrong!

James Hudson: I may be taking Hamman’s Rule too seriously, but I’ll hope for C K-x-x and a red ace (or a number of other possibilities). If doubled, I’ll run to 4 C (which may be no picnic).

Peter Gill: If doubled, I can run to 4 C. If I double and they start doubling, we could end up anywhere — even in “another time or another place”. Switch my minors and I would double.

Frans Buijsen: This is very close to pass for me. Partner has to show up with something like C K, D Q and H A to make 3 NT. I stand to win about 13 IMPs if I’m right, and lose 7 IMPs or so when I’m wrong. Since I guess that partner has the right cards about 40 percent of the time, I’m taking the chance. …

Bas Lodder: Tough one. Pass appeals to me as well, but 3 NT isn’t as dangerous as it looks — 4 C is the safe haven after a double. The worst thing that can happen is my partner bidding 6 D. Well, at least my stiff king is upgraded, then. ;)

Leonard Helfgott: I don’t think it pays to pass with a hand both short in spades and loser count, despite the risk. For me, a double is out since a 4 D bid puts you in an impossible position, and if partner were to pass you’ve probably missed a game. … As eccentric as it looks, I choose 3 NT over 4 C since I can (in theory) run to 4 C if necessary — not available the other way around — and nine tricks are easier than 11.

Comments for Double

Neil Morgenstern: Nice and flexible, as the experts say in these bidding polls. No, really; the clubs need to be running for 3 NT, and double keeps hearts in the picture. Even if partner jumps to 5 D, he may have A-Q-J-x-x-x in the suit.

Andrew de Sosa: Passing or bidding could be equally disastrous… if I pass, it is far less likely partner will be able to reopen with values that would make game (or even slam) a laydown. … Despite Hamman’s Law, I would like either one more spade or the ace to bid 3 NT so that I could hold up at least one round. …

Larry Robbins: Three notrump is better with S K-x-x (can hold off).

Jerrold Miller: Then bid 5 C over 4 D, showing four hearts and longer clubs. Three notrump might work, but I want to look for a heart fit, and there is no guarantee that they won’t run diamonds.

John Weisweiler: Yes, partner may bid diamonds, but he will bid hearts first.

Chris Maclauchlan: Partner having 4+ hearts seems more likely than him having the necessary club support plus an outside ace needed for 3 NT. …

Neelotpal Sahai: With four tenaces, 3 NT is another option. But I can’t let go the chances of finding a likely 4-4 heart fit.

Dick Wagman: I hate doubling with this shape, but the IMP odds push me over the edge. If partner bids 4 D, I bid 5 C and pray!

Tonci Tomic: Never pass preempts with such a strong hand and four hearts; don’t want to bid 3 NT with weak clubs; don’t want to miss 3 NT with 4 C, so double. Keep all options open. Over 4 D, I’ll bid 5 C.

Mark Raphaelson: Three notrump is only bound to make if partner has a pretty good hand or a spade stopper as well. Let’s keep 4 H still open.

Bill Powell: Really tough. Double seems to have the most ways of winning. (An in-tempo pass is too hard.)

Comments for Pass

Tony Melucci: Too many ways to go minus 500 or 800 without an assurance of landing in the right spot if we do have a place to land.

Craig Zastera: Color me yellow. I need the C K and a red ace (and a diamond stopper) from partner for 3 NT. What are odds he holds these? I’d guess 25 percent or so — not enough for this chicken to risk it. I can’t handle a diamond response if I double, so that’s out.

Peter Ijsselmuiden: Too few aces for 3 NT. …

Bruce Scott: … Your teammates aren’t going to appreciate you dialing this one up. “I had 15 points and 6-4, I had to bid!” isn’t going to go over well. Doubling with the plan to pull 4 D to 5 C is too aggressive (you are even more likely to get doubled when you are wrong on this sequence). … I pass and stay fixed. …

Doug Burke: Your values are too ragged for a vulnerable overcall, and your shape is wrong for a takeout double.

Per-Ola Cullin: I lack a spade in order to bid 3 NT; double may change a plus score into a minus; and 4 C won’t get you anywhere. …

Carl Sardella: We may very well miss a game in hearts, but bidding in second seat is dangerous. The high cards may all be stacked in LHO’s hand.

Dany Waldberg: It’s tempting to act, but dangerous if West has the missing points.

Chuck Arthur: This one is the toughest of the set. You simply cannot be perfect after a preempt; sometimes they work. The real problem is going to come if partner balances…

Bob Boudreau: Even the C K plus an ace doesn’t guarantee game. If partner can’t act then we have to pay off.

Comments for 4 C

Ben Alexander: Keeps options open for the most likely game contracts, 4 H and 5 C. …

Leo Zelevinsky: I hate it, but it seems to me the best of a rotten lot.

Steve Stein: I’m afraid a double will buy a diamond jump.

Bill Cubley: The clubs are not good enough for 3 NT. This does not end the auction and we might yet end in hearts. Just too much to pass and wait for partner’s double — we might miss a slam because neither thinks the other is that strong.

Bill Jacobs: Pass: no guts. Double: can’t handle diamonds. Three notrump: lack side aces. This is what’s left.

Francois Dellacherie: The most likely pars for us rate to be : 4 C, 4 H, 5 C, 3 NT and 3 S doubled, in decreasing order of probability. Clearly, if I pass I will defend more than 90 percent of the time; thus, I should do something. Partner will have 8 HCP in average. … Three notrump is tempting, but the problem is that I cannot duck the opening lead if partner has two spades. Double will lead to 4 H when partner has 4+ hearts, … but if partner bids the likely 4 D (or even 5 D!) what do I do? …

Alex Perlin: To make 3 NT I need the C K and some ace. I don’t think partner will have that more than 30 percent of the time. If 3 NT is wrong, it could go down a lot. …

Arline Fulton: Ugly problem to start with! Three notrump is probably on ice, but when it’s right, my partners bid 4 D… I suppose I could pass, but partner with a smattering of values may not be able to balance. TopMain

Problem 2

IMPs None Vul

Table
S A K 10 2
H 10
D Q J 9 6 3 2
C K 6

West
North
East
1 H
South
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
2 D1015252
Double78529
1 S33412
2 H (Michaels)2227
Pass110

No surprises here. Bidding your long suit won by a landslide, as I agree it should, though I thought the voting would be closer. Bidding the four-card spade suit first makes little sense; as does an off-shape Michaels cue-bid. The option to pass was not intended as a real candidate — but, hey, it got a nibble.

Some of the doublers cited the “equal-level conversion” treatment, which means that a later correction from clubs to diamonds would not show a strong hand. This may be true in your favorite partnerships, but it’s certainly not standard. Most respondents correctly assumed that doubling and bidding diamonds would be a distinct overbid.

After overcalling 2 D, there rates to be more bidding, and you should be well placed to bid spades next. The only question is how high you would dare to compete. Witness the fearless Schapiro on the actual deal below.

S 9 4 3
H Q 4
D K 7 5
C Q J 7 5 2
S J 8 6 5
H K 8 2
D A 10 8
C 8 4 3
TableS Q 7
H A J 9 7 6 5 3
D 4
C A 10 9
S A K 10 2
H 10
D Q J 9 6 3 2
C K 6

West
Rose

2 H
North
Erdos

3 C
East
H-Gray
1 H
4 H
South
Petterson
Dbl
All Pass

Becker

2 H
Dbl
Dbl
Reese

Pass
5 D
All Pass
Hayden
1 H
4 H
Pass
Schapiro
2 D
4 S
Pass

Schapiro’s sensible overcall and daring follow-up fared much better than Petterson’s double. Four hearts made exactly, and 5 D went down only one when East failed to shift to a spade at trick two; 8 IMPs to Great Britain.

I doubt that many would agree with the 4 S bid, but as seems so often the case, it’s a bidder’s game. I’m sure most players would raise to 3 D with the North hand, after which 4 S would be routine; but Reese apparently took a conservative course, knowing his partner’s aggressive style.

Comments for 2 D

Josh Sinnett: This auction is a little easier to control. I expect the opponents to bid hearts at least once more, and I’ll follow up with a minimum spade bid to finish describing my hand. Does this include 4 S over 4 H? Probably; depends on table feel.

Kent Feiler: This isn’t a problem; all the other bids have terminally serious flaws.

Tjeerd Kootstra: This depends on style: Some can double and convert 2 C to 2 D; I can’t, so I’ll have to bid my suits naturally (hoping they won’t bid too many hearts).

Peter van Montfoort: If possible I’ll bid spades later.

Gareth Birdsall: I imagine I’ll be making a takeout double of hearts next time around. …

Jonathan Weinstein: Planning to double after 2 H P P, or 3 H P P, though the latter is a bit of a stretch.

Simon Cheung: Equal-level conversion may work out, but it is not the standard methods we are playing… So, one should be satisfied to bid his best suit, planning to introduce spades by bidding them at the two or three level, or doubling at a higher level.

Neil Morgenstern: Unfortunately, you Americans don’t play same-level conversion as standard, otherwise a double would stand out. You can probably bid spades next if you get a chance.

Andrew de Sosa: Start out with my best suit in what I assume for the nonce is a fight for the best part score.

Larry Robbins: Will bid spades later.

Lutsen Jansen: If I double and bid diamonds it would show a stronger hand, so I bid my longest suit. If 2 H comes back to me, I will double.

Arvind Srinivasan: I have enough strength and shape to make another bid, hence the overcall in the spade suit is unnecessary.

Kieran Dyke: I do have six of them, don’t I? Responsive doubles might catch a spade fit later.

Daniel Korbel: No reason to distort my hand. Michaels is a possibility but I like to have five spades for that bid.

John R. Mayne: I plan to bid spades on my next call. I don’t mind Michaels on a mid-range hand, but I do mind it with outside defense.

John Weisweiler: I will almost always be able to introduce my spade suit later.

Tudor Gheorghiu: With calm bidding (2 H) I will reopen with 2 S; after 3 H or 4 H, I will double. …

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: With shortness in hearts, it is not right to overcall with a four-card suit. Michaels is unthinkable for the same reason. Double and correcting clubs to diamonds should show extras, which leaves a simple overcall.

Ufuk Cotuk: One might bid 1 S as a lead-director, but I still prefer 2 D, as this is the suit I would open if East passed.

Bruce Scott: … If we play responsive doubles, this is even more clear. I am willing to protect if the auction dies after a heart raise.

Leo Zelevinsky: I’ll bid where I live. I think I will likely be on lead if they buy the contract, so I don’t need to lead-direct in spades. Michaels (2 H) is close, but I really prefer diamonds to spades, so I will bid that.

Sverre Johnsen: Pretty routine; will bid my spades later up to four level.

Doug Burke: With a 6-4 hand, I’d like to bid this out. Hopefully, partner can make a spade call on his turn.

Per-Ola Cullin: … I intend to double 2 H if it comes back to me.

Dick Wagman: With the bidding this low, I prefer to take my chances on describing my lengths accurately. Two hearts is out with only four spades; double gets the spades right, but badly botches the minors. I’d double with one more club and one fewer diamond.

Jeffrey Smith: I will follow up the likely 2 H bid with 2 S

Mitch Edelman: I expect to get a chance to bid spades later. Partner would expect a fifth spade for a Michaels call.

Mark Raphaelson: … I’m not strong enough to double and then bid my suit over clubs, and I like to have five spades for Michaels (it’s a close second though).

Bill Cubley: Michaels is for weaker and stronger hands than this. I will have the chance to bid spades, and partner will know my shape and strength.

Bill Jacobs: Pass: no guts. Double: can’t handle clubs (unless I’m an equal-level-conversion fan). One spade: lose diamonds forever. Michaels is possible, but I’m strong enough to bid diamonds then spades in most continuations…

Francois Dellacherie: Pass is pusillanimous. I don’t like to show five spades when I have good alternatives, so both 1 S and 2 H look bad. That leaves 2 D and double. I think it’s a close decision. If the majors were reversed (East opened 1 S and I’m 1=4=6=2) I would double. Here, I think bidding diamonds is more descriptive than a double. If the opponents bid 2 H, I will bid 2 S.

Alex Perlin: Too bad this tournament is over. I want to be dealt 6-4 every time. I promise to behave. You see, I am bidding my six-card suit before doing anything fancy.

Gerry Wildenberg: Wrong point range for Michaels (not to mention the relative suit lengths). Wrong shape for a double. Yes, 2 D might miss a spade contract, but this is IMPs. Harder at matchpoints though I’d still bid 2 D.

Bill Powell: Hope to get to show spades by a later call rather than the opening lead!

Tim Bolshaw: I feel strongly this is best. If all pass, I have usually done the right thing, though partner might have: S Q-9-x-x-x H Q-x-x-x D 10 C Q-x-x. If either opponent or partner bids, I can show the spades and partner knows my shape. Doubling and following with 2 D over 2 C would be an overstatement of my values.

Sebastien Louveaux: Why bid anything else? If we can make 4 S, partner will bid something and I will be able to introduce spades.

Chuck Arthur: This is very close to a 1 S overcall, but the diamonds are just good enough to overcall, and the whole hand just good enough to bid spades the next time (as high as 3 S over, say, a raise to 3 H).

Comments for Double

Jerrold Miller: I will pass 2 C and hope for the best. I don’t like Michaels with only four of the major.

James Hudson: If partner bids clubs, I’ll have another decision to make.

Sartaj Hans: Overcalling 2 D is not going to give us enough time to get spades into the picture if next hand bids 3 H or 3 D.

Leonard Helfgott: I generally don’t play equal-level conversion, but with solid values in a five-loser hand, I’ll risk getting too high … to get to spades. I have had poor results trying Michaels with only four in other major, and besides, I prefer that bid only with a weak hand or a monster.

Franco Baseggio: Takes very little to make game opposite a four-card spade fit so I must get spades into the picture. One spade or 2 H might lead us to a Moysian fit, which would probably be too tough.

Comments for 1 S

Bruce Moore: It’s a good suit and it outranks hearts. I don’t like off-shape doubles. I’d consider 2 D if playing transfer advances.

Micha Keijzers: … It’s either 1 S or 2 D. … My diamonds are not that good and my spades are, so 1 S. … TopMain

Problem 3

IMPs E-W Vul

Table
S A Q 9 7 2
H 7 6 5 3
D K
C A K 4

West

Pass
North

2 D
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
2 H1020770
2 NT72910
3 C63512
3 NT5155
2 S483

OK, so I really struck out on this problem — or maybe I was 36 years too late. I thought there would be more votes for bids besides 2 H, but the modern consensus is clearly to bid by rote. No doubt, many respondents voted for 2 H because all of the alternatives were defective, too.

My own choice would be to bid notrump (2 NT in standard methods, or 3 NT in my own methods to show 15-17). If we missed a 4-4 heart fit, it would usually be for the better. I can’t recall any successes for bidding bad suits on potential slam hands, but I can remember some disappointments.

In 1965, the concept of a “biddable suit” was more in vogue, so I doubt that many of that era would bid the worthless heart suit. Alas, this was not necessarily any benefit:

S K 3
H A 4
D A Q J 7 5
C Q 8 3 2
S 6 4
H K J 2
D 9 6 4 3
C J 9 7 5
TableS J 10 8 5
H Q 10 9 8
D 10 8 2
C 10 6
S A Q 9 7 2
H 7 6 5 3
D K
C A K 4

West
Erdos

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
H-Gray

3 D
3 NT
East
Petterson
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Rose
1 S
3 S
6 NT

Reese

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Hayden

2 D
3 C
5 NT
Schapiro
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Becker
1 S
2 S
5 C
7 C

Witness the second auction, which parallels the problem. Becker chose to bide time by rebidding his spade suit; then when Hayden bid clubs, he made a jump raise to show extra values without heart control, evidently assuming Hayden would not be bidding a poor suit either. Hayden expected to be facing four clubs, so she used the “grand slam force” to ask for two of the top three trump honors. Sigh. It seems you never get a 3-3 break when you need one.

The British had a straightforward auction to the easy notrump slam after North chose an immediate jump shift. I doubt there is a decent player in the world who would mention hearts on that sequence.

Curiously, the only grand slam that can be made on this deal is 7 D, but getting there is unrealistic. Note that 7 NT is defeated by a heart lead, which removes the entry for a double squeeze. (For double-dummy fans, a heart lead also defeats 7 S.)

Comments for 2 H

Josh Sinnett: A no-brainer. The suit is piss-poor, but any other bid misdescribes the hand. I will bid 3 NT next round over anything partner bids below that level. The 2 H call could also be lead-inhibiting in that contract.

Kent Feiler: If we were playing two-over-one game forcing, we’d be in the slam zone and I might try 2 NT; but here, we’re still just looking for the best game, no matter what the quality of the suit.

Tjeerd Kootstra: I have four of them, don’t I? Second choice is 2 NT, natural and extras.

Manoj Kumar Nair: … Why gild a lily when other bids may not tell anything to partner?

Gareth Birdsall: This seems fairly clear since 2 NT and 3 NT both misdescribe my range.

Simon Cheung: Forcing and flexible. When in doubt, keep the bidding low for exploration.

Andrew de Sosa: In case partner has four hearts. Besides, if notrump is right, it may be better played by partner who most likely has the heart stopper. If partner prefers back to 2 S, I will bid 3 NT. …

Larry Robbins: Will inhibit a heart lead against 3 NT.

Will Engel: No reason to lie with 2 NT, as they might run five heart tricks against 3 NT. Bidding 2 S is reasonable, but we may have a heart fit.

Lutsen Jansen: Despite the weak hearts, my HCP suggest a suit contract, it’s an honest bid (I’ve got four of them) and it leaves partner more room to describe his hand. …

Andrei Varlan: It’s a good suit, isn’t it?

Jerrold Miller: Why not look for a 4-4 heart fit? Partner must bid again. Two notrump should deny four hearts.

Kieran Dyke: Just normal. Two notrump is a possibility if it shows extra values and flexible orientation.

Daniel Korbel: No reason to distort my hand. We are going to game and may have a heart fit.

Kit Nowicki: I like my distribution enough to bid that shoddy suit, and it may protect us from a heart lead against notrump.

Peter Ijsselmuiden: At least I have the seven. :-))

Tudor Gheorghiu: A normal bid — sure, I prefer some heart honor, but nothing is perfect. …

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Quality of the suit shouldn’t be a factor. Notrump may be right only from partner’s hand.

Chris Maclauchlan: This one could hurt, but it has the added bonus of discouraging a heart lead in 3 NT. Also, a 3 NT bid after a possible 3 H raise should get the message across to partner.

James Hudson: It’s not likely we’ll end up in hearts; maybe this will stop a heart lead against 3 NT.

Peter Gill: With reservations. However, the space-consuming unilateral 3 NT looks worse, and there is doubt about whether 2 NT is forcing in the enforced simple bidding methods. …

Bruce Scott: There is simply no other call… 2 S is obscene; 3 C is misguided, and notrump bids are anti-positional. If you bid 2 S now, you have buried your heart suit. … If it is right to play notrump, it is from partner’s direction. The only tenace you have is in a suit that the opponents aren’t leading anyway. …

Neelotpal Sahai: Bid out the shape first. None of the likely contracts (3 NT, 4 S) are going away, and there’s the additional chance of finding a 4-4 fit in hearts.

Frans Buijsen: Last time I bid something like this partner raised to 4 H on J-x-x-x, but I stick to my principles.

Bruce Moore: How will we find our 4-4 heart fit if I don’t bid them now? Easiest problem of the set, and I haven’t looked at Problems 4-6. :-)

Dick Wagman: This gets the shape right. … If partner bids 2 NT, I raise; 2 S fetches 2 NT; 3 C will get a raise (!) from me; 3 H will fetch 3 NT. …

Micha Keijzers: If we end in 3 NT, the opponents might be talked out of their natural heart lead. The drawback is that your hearts are so weak; but it discovers a heart fit if we have one.

Peter Skafte: Most flexible bid. I just hope partner doesn’t want to play 6 H.

Mark Raphaelson: Partner may very well have four good hearts, and if nothing else, this could scare the opponents out of a heart lead.

Bill Cubley: This is tactical to stop the lead, and it describes my shape. Partner’s rebid is important here.

Bill Jacobs: What distortion do you want from me to avoid bidding hearts? Sometimes, it’s best to relax and just bid out your pattern; 4 H might be right, even opposite 9-8-4-2.

Francois Dellacherie: … I would also bid hearts with 5-4-3-2. :-)

Alex Perlin: This is outrageous. I wanted to bid a solid suit, but instead of the H 8 or H 4, they dealt me the trey! And this singleton D K is so ridiculous. Director, please! My partner has unauthorized information. I am giggling and partner knows my hearts are a joke and that I may have this stupid king.

Leonard Helfgott: … I’d do the same with S A-K-Q-J-10 H 5-4-3-2 D x C A-Q-x.

Bill Powell: Never bid a weak suit with a good hand — unless the alternatives are worse.

Sebastien Louveaux: I was tempted to bid 2 NT, but I think it is wrong to let partner believe I have two diamonds. Sure, my hearts could be better (!) but 2 H shows my shape…

Bob Boudreau: … Over 3 H I’ll bid 3 NT.

Comment for 2 NT

John R. Mayne: … We can still get to hearts if it is right.

Comments for 3 C

Ufuk Cotuk: After partner’s bid our D K is a big value. I must make a forcing bid and let partner bid notrump if he has a heart stopper. …

Tim Bolshaw: … A bid of 2 H will get us to the wrong contract too often and 3 NT is unilateral. …

Chuck Arthur: Bid where I live. I don’t wish to alleviate partner’s heart concerns, if he has any. We still have chances to find our 4-4 heart fit, if it exists. TopMain

Problem 4

IMPs None Vul

Table
S A K J 9 8
H A K J 7
D 7 2
C 8 5

West

Pass
Pass
North

3 D
4 D
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 S
3 H
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 NT1011238
4 H83311
5 D76823
6 D65619
4 S4124
5 H393
5 S241

I am not well-versed in the area of strong jump-shift responses (I usually play weak jump shifts), but the presence of an extra ace would seem to make slam a heavy favorite. The obvious danger is the club suit. It is difficult to give partner a hand without club control (but possible; e.g., S Q-x H Q D A-K-Q-J-x-x-x-x C Q-x) and most of the respondents were willing to take this chance and drive to slam via Blackwood. This is certainly reasonable and might be the winning approach to a grand slam if partner has the C A. Nonetheless, I don’t care for Blackwood because it also precludes playing 6 NT from the right side when partner has the C K.

My own choice is 4 H, which should be a control-bid and forcing. It is generally accepted that a strong jump shift should not be made with a two-suited hand (unless the second suit fits opener); hence, the auction should not be allowed to die in 4 H. I am hoping partner will take control with Blackwood and place the contract; and if he does so in notrump, it will be right-sided.

The actual deal (below) was ironic. In the Acol system, jump shifts are made more freely (often just to create a game force), while in American systems they are usually stronger (suggesting slam). The actual North hand looks more like an “Acol jump shift” to me, yet the roles were reversed:

S Q 10
H Q
D A K 9 8 5 4 3
C K J 4
S 7 6 2
H 9 6 4
D Q J 6
C Q 9 6 3
TableS 5 4 3
H 10 8 5 3 2
D 10
C A 10 7 2
S A K J 9 8
H A K J 7
D 7 2
C 8 5

West
Leventritt

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Konstam

2 D
3 C
4 S
East
Schenken

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Flint
1 S
2 H
3 S

H-Gray

Pass
Pass
Pass
Becker

3 D
4 D
5 D
Rose

Pass
Pass
Pass
Hayden
1 S
3 H
4 NT
6 D (AP)

The conservative British auction missed a good slam. Alas, the Americans bid the wrong one — 6 D had no chance after the C A lead. Note that 6 NT by North is an excellent contract and would easily make. It’s cold on a club lead; or if East leads a heart, declarer would test the diamonds, then cross to South in spades and lead a club to the jack (no guess is involved since West could take two tricks if he had the C A).

Personally, I don’t care for Becker’s 4 D rebid, lacking intermediate cards in his suit and with a tenace in the unbid suit. Predictably, this led to a clumsy auction, and it’s hard to fault Hayden for driving to 6 D. Three notrump seems like a better choice, after which the best slam is easy to reach.

Comments for 4 NT

Josh Sinnett: Partner has told me that diamonds are trump — period. There’s no way he can have a strong jump shift without at least second-round control of clubs, so Blackwood should be safe. Two aces and two kings (or maybe even one king, if I think we need a swing) puts us in seven.

Kent Feiler: It’s just barely possible that we’re off the C A-K, but it’s much more likely that we’re on for 7 D. Any other auction would be awkward and might cause us to miss seven.

Manoj Kumar Nair: Slam may at worst be on a prayer and a finesse. How do you judge your karma today? … Is 3 D a suit-setting bid or a fit-raise? Or a strong jump shift? Or weak? How am I supposed to play against a partner who has taken an oath of silence, Mr. Pavlicek? …

Interesting point.
Now silence this.

Manoj Kumar Nair: However, rather than settle for 5 D, I will attempt 4 NT hoping to find partner with a couple of howitzers. …

Gareth Birdsall: Tough one. Maybe 5 H or 5 S is a more intelligent call, but I can’t imagine my partner will enjoy hearing it — unless it means he can count 16 tricks!

Neil Morgenstern: Blackwood isn’t ideal, but partner must surely have something in clubs, as just D A-K-Q-J-x-x is not enough for a jump shift. If partner can show me the C A, I will bid 7 D.

Larry Robbins: Will bid 6 D or 7 D.

Tony Melucci: Nothing is perfect, but I’m planning on following with 6 D. Partner doesn’t know I have these excellent controls.

Craig Zastera: Will follow with 5 NT if partner shows the expected two aces.

Peter Ijsselmuiden: I will gamble on the club control.

Rich Pavlicek: I’m going to assume partner’s suit is self-sufficient beyond the ace, and that he has clubs controlled (he couldn’t have enough strength otherwise).

Chris Maclauchlan: … The best route for discovering if we have a grand. I’d love to let partner be the captain here, but I don’t think 4 H or 4 S is forcing.

Leo Zelevinsky: I think we belong in slam; but I’m not sure how partner will take 5 H or 5 S, and the other bids don’t seem clearly forcing. I don’t want to shut out 7 D if partner has the right hand.

Bruce Moore: Partner has solid diamonds. If he answers two aces, I’ll bid the grand in diamonds. One way or the other my spade suit should provide a source of tricks.

Mark Raphaelson: Any bid I can make at the four level will look like it’s showing more shape, and I have no idea if partner will recognize 5 H or 5 S as a control-bid agreeing diamonds. …

Bill Cubley: I guess it’s time to take the bull by the horns. Partner must have a great suit and a good hand.

Tim Bolshaw: In my book, all heart and spade bids are natural and can be passed. Partner may be planning to return me to a major but, from my hand, it looks like we should be in diamonds. It’s hard to imagine partner without a club control, so we are going to slam. The question is whether we have a grand slam. …

Comments for 4 H

Simon Cheung: … I have no clear idea what this means (my guess is a control-bid with diamonds trump), but I would try my luck … hoping that partner may take over with Blackwood. Four notrump by me is wrong-siding the captaincy, and 6 D may hinder a grand-slam probe.

Andrei Varlan: If he believes I’m 5-5, I’ll tell him the D 2 was with my hearts…

Kieran Dyke: I guess this auction sets diamonds; else why jump? This is definitely a control-bid.

Daniel Korbel: Diamonds are agreed as trumps, so I can now control-bid my A-Ks. This hand is excellent opposite something like: S x-x H x-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x-x C A-x, where 7 D is odds-on. Five diamonds is an underbid.

Steve White: This should be a control-bid; to jump shift and rebid his suit, partner should guarantee an excellent suit.

John R. Mayne: Control-bid for diamonds. No other agreement is playable. It is probably better to be able to bid 4 S first; but to many, this would deny a heart control. With no special agreements, I’m not taking that ride. …

Bruce Scott: … I assume that when partner bids 3 D he has one of three hand types: (1) single-suited with a strong suit (solid or missing one card); (2) good balanced hand with stoppers in the unbid suits; (3) good suit and spade support. Partner’s follow up specifies Type 1. … My 4 H is not an offer to play. … If partner bids 5 C, I am bidding 5 S; I am raising 5 D to 6 D. …

Sverre Johnsen: Partner states diamonds as trumps, so 4 H is a control-bid.

Per-Ola Cullin: I want to be in slam on these cards if partner has a club control. I feel that 4 D has established diamonds as trumps, and therefore 4 H should be safe…

Steve Stein: Meant as a control-bid. Partner’s sequence has set the trump suit. If we’re really playing Standard American, we may easily have a grand.

Micha Keijzers: … Control-bid for diamonds; hope partner bids 5 C.

Bill Jacobs: Hey, no fair. Tell us the system please! Oh, all right, I have to use my judgment. Well, this tells me that partner has unconditionally set diamonds, so 4 H is a control-bid. We’ll get to seven opposite: S H x-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x … and stop in five opposite: S Q-x H D A-K-Q-J-x-x-x-x C Q-x-x.

Francois Dellacherie: Could partner be looking at S x H Q-x D A-K-Q-J-10-x-x-x C Q-x? Yes. Clearly, I cannot go past 5 D then. Is partner denying a club control? I don’t think so. … We will play 5, 6 or 7 D … and 4 H is the only possible bid now.

Charles Blair: I think partner has set diamonds as trumps, and that my only sign-off is 5 D. I expect a void in one major (probably spades) and two-small in the other.

Sebastien Louveaux: Partner’s 4 D sets diamonds as trumps (even if I have a void) so I start to show my controls. If partner bids 5 D, I pass (lack of a club control).

Comments for 5 D

Tudor Gheorghiu: Three diamonds denies another playable suit, and 4 D denies club control. …

Doug Burke: Trying to control-bid a major would be too confusing right now, and I don’t feel we have enough to bid the slam with my hand alone. Two fast club losers are a good possibility. …

Herbert Wilton: Adequate trump support and denies a club control (else 5 C). Hope partner can bid 6 D now. …

Douglas Ogozaly: If we’re off two cashable clubs, … at least I will have warned partner.

Leonard Helfgott: Since D 7-2 is fine support in this sequence, I prefer the raise to rebidding a four-card suit to presumably show control (this would also imply nothing in clubs). The downside is that partner may have need the room to bid 4 NT over 4 H, but since we’re not playing Roman key-card Blackwood, he could have done this himself. If partner now bids 6 C, I’ll bid 7 D, expecting him to have at least: S x-x H x-x D A-K-Q-J-x-x-x C A-x.

Chuck Arthur: What can I do? A Zia-type 5 C bid never seems to work for me (roaring double by LHO, etc.). Partner can have a very nice hand, and we have no semblance of a club control. …

Comments for 6 D

Will Engel: I wish that 5 D asked for a control in clubs, but it certainly sounds slam-discouraging. Also, four of either major doesn’t sound like a control-bid for a diamond slam. Hence, I trust my partner not to have: S Q H Q-x D A-K-Q-J-10-x-x-x C x-x, and bid 6 D.

Arvind Srinivasan: Difficult to envision a jump shift that will be off two key cards.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Partner must have at least second-round club control for a strong jump shift. My jump to 6 D should indicate no control in unbid suit with extras. …

James Hudson: Four of either major couldn’t be read as a control-bid, and 5 D would sound weak. This isn’t very descriptive, but at least it sounds encouraging.

Peter Gill: If partner’s clubs are queen-high, his jump shift is an extraordinary action. I dislike the previous 3 H bid. If partner had H Q-x-x-x or similar, 2 D must be a better space-preserving call than 3 D, so the 4-4 heart fit should be impossible. Thus, 4 D and 3 S appeal more than the auction-destroying 3 H, which prevents me from sensibly control-bidding hearts now.

Gordon Brown: Second choice: 4 NT. I assume (hope) partner has club control for his strong jump shift.

Bas Lodder: If I bid 4 NT and the answer is 5 D, I still know nothing. The other bids seem unclear or too weak. …

Gerry Wildenberg: This is hard. At first it seems crazy to go to six with the feeble minor-suit holdings, but partner wouldn’t have jump-shifted without lots of values, and I’m about an ace better than a minimum.

Comment for 4 S

Dick Wagman: Partner’s bidding has really not improved my hand; the five level may be our maximum. This should mark time, while leaving Blackwood open to partner (no good for me with that club holding). If partner doesn’t bid Blackwood, I’ll raise diamonds next. TopMain

Problem 5

IMPs Both Vul

Table
S 10 8 6 3 2
H 10
D Q 8 6 3 2
C Q 3

West

1 S*
Pass
North

Dbl
Dbl
East

2 S
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
?
*often four cards

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 D1016155
4 D97124
Pass36020
2 NT121

Reluctantly, I give the top award to 3 D per the overwhelming consensus, but this is surely an underbid. Having passed over 2 S, I think it is clear to jump to 4 D to invite game; and even 6 D would be odds-on if you caught partner with, say: S H Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C A-K-J-x-x.

This was basically a two-horse race (3 D or 4 D). Most respondents judged well to reject the penalty pass of 2 S. Even if partner were known to have one spade, this seems ill-advised; you will often achieve a small profit (probably plus 200 against a partscore) but there’s potential for a huge loss. The option to bid 2 NT was included just to make sure you’re still awake — wow, I sold two tickets!

Here’s what happened in 1965:

S K
H Q 9 4
D A K 10 9 5
C A K 10 8
S A Q 9 7
H A K J 6
D J 7 4
C 9 7
TableS J 5 4
H 8 7 5 3 2
D
C J 6 5 4 2
S 10 8 6 3 2
H 10
D Q 8 6 3 2
C Q 3

West
Schenken

1 S
Pass
All Pass
North
Flint

Dbl
2 S
East
Leventritt

Pass
Pass
South
Konstam
Pass
2 D
3 D

Rose

1 S
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Hayden

Dbl
Dbl
4 D
H-Gray

2 S
Pass
Pass
Becker
Pass
Pass
3 D
5 D

Five diamonds made; 10 IMPs to U.S.

Consider the second auction, which inspired this problem. In my opinion, Hayden’s raise to 4 D was an overbid; in effect she was bidding part of Becker’s hand. If Becker had a typical bad hand, such as S J-x-x-x H x-x D J-x-x-x C x-x-x,D would be too high, and the chance of finding a hand to produce game seems negligible. If Becker had jumped to 4 D, reaching game is routine.

The first auction is a similar case. Konstam showed absolutely nothing with his 3 D bid, yet he had an excellent playing hand. A jump to 4 D feels right there, too.

Comments for 3 D

Josh Sinnett: Pass and 2 NT are way too big a position, especially at IMPs. “Often” four cards doesn’t mean definitely, and East could have a four-bagger also. Plus scores are nearly never bad, and I think we’re going plus in 3 D.

Manoj Kumar Nair: Do they often raise with three, too? And where are we going today? Give partner a good hand: S x H K-Q-J-x D A-x-x C A-K-J-x-x, and 4 D will be on intensive care; 3 NT on oxygen (you really don’t expect to play in 2 NT, do you?). Partner is begging you to speak. Humor him or defend a nail-biting double? If nothing else, there will be a score on your side of the sheet.

Simon Cheung: A takeout double means to be taken out. A huge penalty is unlikely because your trumps are so weak (and under opener) and your hand has little defense. So instead of risking minus 670 for plus 200 or 500, I’ll just take my plus score in 3 D.

Harold Simon: If partner has something like: SH A-Q-J-x-x D A-K-x-x C K-x-x-x, he will bid one more time, and so will I.

Andrew de Sosa: With no diamond spots and partner’s presumably high diamonds most likely to be used to ruff spades, I’ll take the conservative route. If partner subsequently invites in diamonds, I will accept and bid game, the C Q being the kicker.

Will Engel: I don’t like this contract, let alone more, on a trump lead; but since we can’t lead a trump against 2 S doubled in all likelihood, I don’t like that contract either.

Lutsen Jansen: Take out partner’s takeout doubles.

Andrei Varlan: Even the singleton heart; even the D Q-x-x-x-x; even this C Q do not excite me. I’d say 4 D with: S x-x-x-x H J-x D A-x-x-x-x C x-x; honestly.

Jerrold Miller: Not strong enough to pass with them in game; 4 D should show a better suit.

Kieran Dyke: Pass is too big a position for me. Maybe it’s right anyway, but the price is too high, particularly if partner has no trump to lead. Diamonds may play poorly on a trump lead or opposite 1=4=3=5 shape. Color me yellow.

Kit Nowicki: Even with the crossruffing potential, who is to say partner has more than three diamonds?

Chris Maclauchlan: I’ve seen too many of these contracts make to pass, and I don’t think you can qualify the spade suit as a “stopped” when the opponents can take the first four (maybe five) tricks.

James Hudson: Too chicken to pass. I don’t think partner should double twice with a void, but he may have other ideas. In 2 S doubled I wouldn’t be able to get in to lead trumps. If I had some intermediates in diamonds, I’d bid 4 D.

Ufuk Cotuk: Yes, partner! I got the message! … I cannot take the risk and responsibility that they can make 2 S, so … 3 D.

Bruce Scott: This should be the runaway winner. Passing now has to rate as one of the worst answers ever allowed as a possibility in one of your quizzes. It should be awarded negative points. … I understand why you listed 4 D as an option, but I think that is burying partner. …

Leo Zelevinsky: Call me a wimp. I don’t think we are getting rich from 2 S doubled, and it might even make.

Frans Buijsen: It’s close to 4 D, but I don’t want to hang partner for being active.

Doug Burke: I wouldn’t even think of trying to convert this trash for penalties.

Bruce Moore: Pass is unlikely to be right since partner probably doesn’t have a trump to lead. I’ll try to keep it simple.

Dick Wagman: Two spades doubled doesn’t rate to play well for us — too much chance that my trumps will get munched by West, and the rest of my hand is lousy defensively. …

Micha Keijzers: There is no guarantee we can beat 2 S, so I’ll bid my longest suit. I don’t have enough values to do something extra.

Mitch Edelman: I take out partner’s takeout doubles.

Francois Dellacherie: Pass is not serious, and I don’t like 2 NT for whatever reason. That leaves a diamond bid. If partner has: S x H A-J-x-x D A-K-J-10 C K-x-x-x, we are far from home in 5 D, and partner will bid 5 D over 4 D. I think I would bid 4 D with the C K, … but here I settle for a quiet 3 D — even with this powerful hand. :-)

Gerry Wildenberg: Partner is probably highly valuing his void. Notrump is insane; pass is dubious, so the choice is 3 D or 4 D. … If partner can make game opposite this hand, he’ll bid 4 D.

Charles Blair: “When in doubt, bid your longest suit.” –Edgar Kaplan

Tim Bolshaw: An underbid. With a void spade, partner will balance aggressively and I need to take account of that. Eleven tricks would be a lot to ask on a trump lead.

Chuck Arthur: A wise philosopher once said, “Takeout doubles are for taking out.”

Comments for 4 D

Kent Feiler: This hand could play sensationally well.

Tjeerd Kootstra: I have too much for 3 D. When partner has: S x H K-Q-x-x D A-K-x-x C A-J-x-x,D is a good contract, and he could have more. There will be days I’ll go off in 4 D (usually when partner has only three of them).

Neil Morgenstern: I’d have bid 3 D last round. Partner is probably 0=4=4=5 shape, and my queens are both working, plus I have a useful singleton and small cards opposite his void.

Larry Robbins: Could easily make five or six.

Arvind Srinivasan: Partner is 0=5=4=4, and I would have bid 3 D without the two queens.

John R. Mayne: Big money, big prizes. If I were flatter outside, I’d swing the double, but I can’t do that here. Three diamonds could be on a hand two tricks worse than this, so that’s insufficient. Two notrump is just weird as natural.

Peter Ijsselmuiden: Closer to 5 D than 3 D.

Tudor Gheorghiu: Two gold queens, a five-card suit, and a singleton should play well in diamonds. …

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Passing is dicey for two reasons: Partner could be doubling with the right shape and less values, and we could even be making a slam if partner has extras with a likely spade void.

Neelotpal Sahai: Possibility of a vulnerable game and “toss of a coin” tilted the balance in favor of 4 D, as opposed to 3 D.

Per-Ola Cullin: Partner doesn’t need much for 5 D to make. I have no sympathy for the pass.

Bas Lodder: “Never double without high trumps,” my granny used to say.

Dany Waldberg: Partner is powerful and probably void in spades. It’s time to let him know my hand is not completely without value.

Peter Skafte: I would bid 3 D on the last round. I forgot so I have to jump now.

Bill Jacobs: Pass and 2 NT are for spade holdings different from 10-8-6-3-2; 3 D is for wimps, and 4 D is what’s left.

Alex Perlin: Actually, I have extra values for my bid — the major-suit tens!

Leonard Helfgott: Way too weak to consider pass, and 2 NT makes no sense unless playing some form of good-bad 2 NT (which we’re not here), so the choice is between 3 D and 4 D. Since I didn’t bid over 2 S, 4 D [seems right] …

Bill Powell: I could have much less.

Sebastien Louveaux: I wouldn’t dream of passing 2 S. Our chances to make 5 D are good if partner has the right cards because of the two known major singletons. …

Comment for Pass

Mark Raphaelson: Partner is likely void in spades, but we should be able to beat this at least one. TopMain

Problem 6

IMPs E-W Vul

Table
S A K Q
H 4 2
D A 7 6 5
C J 6 5 3

West

1 S
North

2 C
East

Pass
South
1 D
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 C1013847
2 S95619
2 NT66020
4 C4124
3 NT32810

Too many spade stoppers should be a warning here. If a person overcalls (vulnerable) with a topless suit, he probably has another suit to lead; and it’s pretty obvious what it is. Most of the respondents saw this and averted the notrump trap, though the consensus to bid 3 C* seems like an underbid to me. I slightly prefer 2 S since I’m willing to drive to game.

*Competitive two-over-one sequences comprise a foggy area for many players. The philosophy of most experts is that responder does not promise another bid if opener raises or repeats his original suit. Note that without the interference, responder would promise a second bid, so 3 C would be forcing.

Before I reveal what actually happened, please ask any children to leave the room. It’s not pretty, folks.

S J 7 5 4
H A
D K J
C A Q 10 8 7 2
S 10 9 8 6 3 2
H K Q 10 7 5
D 2
C 9
TableS
H J 9 8 6 3
D Q 10 9 8 4 3
C K 4
S A K Q
H 4 2
D A 7 6 5
C J 6 5 3

West
Hayden

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Flint

2 C
3 S
4 NT
6 C
East
Becker

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Konstam
1 D
3 C
4 S
5 H

H-Gray

1 S
Pass
Leventritt

2 C
3 NT
Rose

Pass
All Pass
Schenken
1 D
2 NT

Horrors. The British bid and made a cold slam, and the Americans went down in game.

Schenken’s decision to bid 2 NT certainly looks poor, but you have to give a lot of credit to Harrison-Gray for his foxy overcall that created the problem. (Most players today would use Michaels if they bid at all, but this was not part of Acol.) This deal certainly provides some seething evidence of the perils of not raising partner.

Comments for 3 C

Josh Sinnett: Support with support. If 3 NT is right, partner will show a heart fragment next and allow me to bid it.

Kent Feiler: Partner can find out about my spade stoppers later, but he might have trouble finding out about club support later if I bid 2 NT now.

Tjeerd Kootstra: We might miss a game, but I fear the heart suit for 3 NT, and 4 C sounds a lot more distributional. I also don’t like to bid notrump when I have a real fit.

Simon Cheung: It is not fair without defining the rebid of 2 NT, for this can mean different things according to different people, even playing standard methods (see The Bridge World MSC, Jan. 2001). I would not risk it, so the choices are 3 C (an underbid) or 2 S (an overbid). You need not stretch at this vulnerability, so a conservative raise seems best.

Neil Morgenstern: We can still get to 3 NT, but partner is unlimited and I may as well show support. A club slam could be on if partner has, say: S x-x H A-K-x D x-x C A-K-x-x-x-x (7 C is excellent).

Will Engel: I almost feel like asking “What’s the problem?” If partner is interested in game, we’ll get to 3 NT after his western cue-bid; if he isn’t, we’re in the safe partscore. If it were matchpoints, I’d expect 90 percent of people to bid either 2 NT or 3 NT. At IMPs, I expect about 70 percent.

Andrei Varlan: Preparing in some way 3 NT, which I’ll bid over 3 H, which has to show a stopper (or suit). Over 3 D I’ll bid 3 S, showing a stopper; and over 3 S, 4 S

Paul Hardy: I’ll show the club fit first. Partner can always ask me about a spade stopper for notrump if that’s where he wants to go.

Arvind Srinivasan: Best in case partner is distributional or slammish. …

Jerrold Miller: Show the fit. … If partner shows something in hearts, I can bid 3 NT.

John R. Mayne: I lack the cleverness to find an alternative call. Surely, supporting partner on this nice prime hand is the right way to get to the right place, be it 3 NT, 5 C, or 6 C.

Tudor Gheorghiu: … Over partner’s 3 H rebid I will bid notrump, and over 3 D I will bid 3 S.

James Hudson: Now’s the time to show my club support; notrump can come later (if at all). Partner may have less than an opening bid; I want to hear from him again before bidding game.

Peter Gill: My first priority is to support partner, especially at IMPs, so that he can go slamming or probe for 3 NT.

Bruce Scott: This is a good problem. Every call has flaws, and none of them are awful. Do we have a game-forcing hand or not? … Who has the heart suit? Partner doesn’t, unless he has game-forcing strength. If that’s the case, I can get away with a nonforcing call. …

Neelotpal Sahai: Show support with support. I also play 2 S as good raise to 3 C, but it could also be a directional asking bid. Partner, without a spade stopper, would probably bid 3 C; then I would be left with a Hobson’s choice. … So, bid 3 C right away.

Doug Burke: At matchpoints I’d take a shot with 2 NT; but at IMPs I want to play in the safer club contract. If partner bids hearts next, I’ll bid 3 NT happily.

Dick Wagman: I don’t like 2 NT with this heart holding. Let’s get the club fit off our chest now. If 3 NT is the right spot, partner will bid on.

Steve Stein: Notrump can wait.

Micha Keijzers: After 3 C, partner can ask for a stopper by bidding 3 S. For now, it is important that I show my club support.

Mitch Edelman: Where are the hearts?

Tonci Tomic: I have club support. Partner can ask me for a spade stopper if he wants to play notrump.

Mark Raphaelson: I’m minimum with support for partner; let’s show him. If he wants to know about a spade stopper, he can ask.

Bill Jacobs: I’m worried because West has overcalled a weak suit, vulnerable; so I’m going to take it easy, sensing bad breaks. If I get a chance, 3 NT is next.

Gerry Wildenberg: Give partner a chance to make a notrump probe. He didn’t make a negative double, so he has at most three hearts. I’d like for partner to bid notrump, so maybe I should bid 2 S… But “support with support” seems to be the overriding argument.

Charles Blair: Still time to get to 3 NT, I hope.

Bill Powell: When the obvious bid describes the hand, why not make it?

Chuck Arthur: I really hate it when my partner fails to support with support. … If partner has a good enough hand that we might make 3 NT if I have a spade stopper (or three), he can easily bid 3 S. More often, partner has a competitive 2 C bid only, and we are high enough at 3 C. One thing is certain: If I bid any number of notrump on my own, I am not getting a spade lead.

Comments for 2 S

Gareth Birdsall: My hand is now much too good to bid 2 NT. I’ll show a strong raise in clubs, then bid 3 NT.

Andrew de Sosa: If I could trust West to lead from his jack-high suit, I’d probably try 3 NT, but my bet is, given partner’s failure to make a negative double, we’re getting a heart or diamond lead. Consequently, if we are to be in notrump, I’d prefer partner to play it. … I will subsequently bid 3 S to show my spade stoppers. If partner has both heart and diamond stoppers, he should get the message and bid 3 NT.

John Weisweiler: 2 NT could be passed. I want to know more.

Kit Nowicki: Knowing 3 NT is only a bid away, I would like partner to be declarer.

Michele Holm: If we end in 3 NT, I have no reason to want to play it, and my tendency is to bid what I have, not ask for stoppers.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: I presume this shows a good hand with a club fit. I don’t want to commit myself to notrump, particularly with two small hearts.

Chris Maclauchlan: I’ll not stop below 3 NT. It’s a shame I can’t get partner to bid 3 NT without me showing a spade stopper; but even so, this route may net me a spade lead, and still leaves the option of 5 C. …

Bruce Moore: I don’t know enough yet to set a clear direction. I’ll cue-bid first and bid 3 NT on my next turn. This should help partner make the decision whether we should play in clubs or notrump.

Carl Sardella: Partner will bid 3 NT with a good stopper in hearts. I want the lead to come from the East hand.

Bill Cubley: If partner bids hearts, I’ll bid 3 NT. And we may still have a club slam, so the early cue-bid helps there, too.

Francois Dellacherie: I don’t like to cue-bid without a reason. … Two notrump and 3 C are nonforcing, and I certainly want to play 3 NT when partner has: S x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x C A-Q-10-x-x. … If partner bids 3 C, I bid 3 NT; over 3 D, I bid 3 S; over 3 H, 3 NT; over 4 C, 4 D.

Alex Perlin: Three notrump may be correct technically but is poor tactically. It gives the opponents the impression I am looking forward to a spade lead. Holding S J-10-x-x-x-x, West may do something defiant, like leading from H A-K-x. The bottom line is that I am not bidding notrump until partner begs me by calling three of either major. If partner next bids three of a minor, he will get to play in some number of clubs. East will surely lead a spade. The expression on his face upon seeing dummy will more than compensate for a few IMPs my bidding may cost our team.

Comments for 2 NT

Lutsen Jansen: The spades may be well stopped, but we could be weak in hearts. For now, a stopper-showing 2 NT…

Kieran Dyke: Should I wait for a fourth stopper?

Daniel Korbel: We have a nice club fit, but we’ll probably end in 3 NT. Three clubs shows the support but doesn’t show the S A-K-Q. :) I’m trying to slow the auction down.

Frans Buijsen: If I bid 3 C, partner won’t be thinking of 3 NT anymore, I fear.

Peter Skafte: Spade stopper(!); 12-14.

Noer Imanzal Kartamadjana: Shows a spade stopper and invitational.

Leonard Helfgott: Despite the heart weakness and club support, I think you just have to show this kind of massive stopper by bidding notrump. Partner may have stretched slightly to bid 2 C in competition. … Although I’m worried that partner might pass and miss a game, I’ll bid only 2 NT; if I jumped to 3 NT, he might play me for much stronger hand and get us too high.

Comments for 3 NT

Mark LaForge: So sue me.

Sartaj Hans: Problem with bidding 2 S is partner is going to bid 3 C or 3 D, and then again I can’t safely show my club fit. Might as well just bash 3 NT and hope they don’t lead a heart.

Tim Bolshaw: If 2 S showed a spade stopper, I would love it. As it is, we almost certainly belong in notrump and I must bid it. With the club fit, I strain to bid game. (Thirty years ago, I would have to take account of a possible West psych with hearts. Now, the psychers have mostly [vanished], so hopefully North has some heart values.)

Christian Vennerod: Partner needs only C A-K-x-x-x to have a decent shot at 3 NT. He often could not see that his hand is what I need. TopMain

Final Notes

Comments are selected from those above average (top 160). About 72 percent of the eligible comments were included. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

Use of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but just that it expressed something relevant, unique or amusing. Comments are quoted exactly except for corrections in spelling and grammar. Where I have included only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. Text [in brackets] was supplied by me to summarize a cut portion or fix an omission. Comments for each call are listed in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into one of the most controversial times in bridge history. Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. It’s dinner time, so I’ll only be able to answer one question:

Tjeerd Kootstra: I like these bidding and playing quizzes. Do you construct these, or are they from real life?

Real life? Ah, yes… My Dad once told me
I should get one of those. TopMain

© 2001 Richard Pavlicek