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Island of the Dinosaurs

These six bidding problems were published on the Internet in September of 2002, 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
The most popular wrong guess was the Isle of Wight (off the southern coast of England), famous for its dinosaur bone discoveries. Others included the Isle of Man (British); Cambridge, England; Scotland; Bermuda (site of first Bermuda Bowl); Victoria, British Columbia; Costa Rica (filming location of “Jurassic Park”); Boston, Mass.; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. Some good tries, but not what I had in mind.

Congrats to John R. Mayne, who was the first of 14 people to guess the venue. The “Island” in my title is Manhattan (New York City), and “Dinosaurs” refers to bridge players of long ago. At the top is a sunset view of New York Harbor taken from Battery Park. If you look closely, just to the left of the setting sun you will see a dark silhouette. Recognize it? No, it’s not a brontosaurus out for an evening swim; it’s the Statue of Liberty. Also pictured is the famous Little Red Lighthouse, located beneath the George Washington Bridge. The lighthouse closed when the bridge opened (curiously the same year as this tournament) but has since been preserved as an historic landmark. The picture of a footbridge crossing a duck pond is in Central Park.

“Stars shining bright above you…”

The background song “Dream a Little Dream of Me” was a clue to the year, though I must admit it was a bit tricky. Most people today (including me before researching this poll) associate the song with Mama Cass Elliot (Mamas and Papas) from about 1968. Well, I learned this was a remake that reached only #12 on the music charts (unfairly in my view). The song was originally recorded by Wayne King and became a #1 hit way back in 1931, and that was the year of this tournament.

Paul Nelson Wins!

This poll had 900 participants from 105 locations, and the average score was 49.37. Congratulations to Paul Nelson (Santa Clara, California), who was the first of eight perfect scores. Also scoring 60 were Al Goldspiel (San Lorenzo, California); Lisa Evans (Danville, California); Rajan Iyer (Aiken, South Carolina); Jelmer Hasper (Netherlands); Colin Lafferty (Kitchener, Ontario); Gerry Wildenberg (Rochester, New York); and Dale Swift (Sanford, North Carolina).

My country ‘tis of thee… almost a U.S. sweep, taking the top four spots, six of the top eight, and nine of the top 13. That’s the good news. The bad news is the rest of the world now knows where the dinosaurs live. We’ve blown our cover! Perhaps I can claim immunity, since there are no diggings in Florida.

The average score this month was the highest ever, but this hardly means that rubber bridge is everyone’s hidden forte. It was because the problems were easier, or at least there were fewer realistic options. In selecting the problems, I didn’t have as many to choose from due to limited sources, and I rejected some that might have been interesting, because they involved a carried-over partscore, a touchy area that would turn off duplicate players.

In the overall standings, Rich Dorfman (US) took over the lead with a 56.50 average, followed closely by David Johnson (Canada) with 56.25, James Calabut (Spain) and Chris Maclauchlan (US), each with 56.00.

For the poll, it is assumed you play a Standard American system, including strong notrumps (15-17), five-card majors and weak two-bids. The objective is to determine the best calls based on judgment, so no specialized conventions are allowed. For a summary of the default methods, see my outline of Standard American Bridge.

Each problem is scored on a 1-to-10 scale. The call receiving the top award of 10 is determined by the voting consensus. Other awards are determined partly by this but mostly by my judgment. What actually happened is included for interest sake but does not affect the scoring.

1931 Culbertson-Lenz Match

Of all bridge tournaments in history, this one stands alone as both the smallest (only one table) and the largest in terms of media attention. It might also be the longest with 879 boards played. The major wire services all established headquarters near the playing room, spewing front-page headlines across the nation after almost every deal. (This is what I’ve read, thank you, not first-hand.) Bridge was in its heyday. Boldly billed as “The Bridge Battle of the Century,” the claim remarkably upheld its 69-year forecast.

The match came about as a challenge of bidding systems: Sidney Lenz was the key proponent of the Official System, best described as, “The more you bid, the more you have”; i.e., opening with a three-bid was stronger than a two-bid, which was stronger than a one-bid. Ely Culbertson advocated the Approach Forcing System — the forerunner of most systems today — in which most auctions began at the one level and progressed slowly through forcing bids.

The match consisted of 150 rubbers, and was held in 20 evening sessions from December 7, 1931 to January 8, 1932. Culbertson officially wagered $5000 to Lenz’s $1000, with all going to charity no matter who won, but the real scoop is that bookmaking hit an all-time high from this media circus.

Ely Culbertson played 88 of the rubbers with his wife Josephine. His partners for the remainder were Theodore Lightner, Waldemar von Zedtwitz, Howard Schenken, and Michael Gottlieb. Sidney Lenz played the first 103 rubbers with Oswald Jacoby, who then resigned. (The official reason was “a difference of opinion on defensive card play,” but I’ll bet the deal of Problem 3 had something to do with it.) For the remaining 47 rubbers, Commander Winfield Liggett Jr. took Jacoby’s place. Pictured (L-R) are Lenz, Jacoby, Lightner and the Culbertsons.

My source for the deals in this match was the book “Famous Hands of the Culbertson-Lenz Match” (published 1932 by The Bridge World), an anthology of the match from three perspectives: (1) Ely Culbertson, (2) Oswald Jacoby, and (3) Alfred Gruenther, who was the chief referee. Some of the deals were written up by all three, and it was humorous to compare the biased analyses. For example, if Lenz failed to make a contract, Jacoby would describe it as an “unfortunate lie of the cards,” while Culbertson would call it the “expected result of an inferior system.”

The Culbertson team won the marathon by 8,980 points. Accurate records were kept of the 879 deals, and it was determined that each side had about the same number of high cards.

My personal opinion of the match is that Ely Culbertson was wily and shrewd. No doubt, he feared that Jacoby was the better player (as history proved), yet he overcame this in subtle ways. For one thing, I noticed he sat behind Jacoby on every deal. (Almost all experts today agree this is an advantage.) Surely, as brilliant as Jacoby was, he would also have been aware of this, so I wonder why he didn’t insist on balanced seating. Alas, we may never know, since they’re all gone — like the dinosaurs.

TopMain

Problem 1

Rubber Bridge None Vul

Table
S A 7 4
H A Q 10 6 5
D 10 9 8 4
C 3

West

Pass
Pass
North

3 D
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
4 D
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 S1052158
4 NT818020
5 C6101
5 D5121
5 H4101
Pass216719

For most people today this is a dubious opening*, yet in dinosaur days it was routine with 2 1/2 honor tricks. Nonetheless, having opened, the events leave no regrets, as the hand has improved considerably. Facing typical hands for partner, it is easy to picture a good slam, or even a grand (e.g., S x-x H K-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C A-x-x); but a slam could also be poor (e.g., S x-x H K-J-x-x D A-Q-x-x C A-K-x). Note that partner does not promise a long diamond suit, as this sequence is routine to show a heart raise of 17-18 points.

*I would open it, and my methods teach to open it, as it’s worth 13 points: 10 HCP, 2 points for the singleton, and 1 point for having two aces and two 10s. (Any combination of four aces and/or 10s warrants an extra point.) For further information see Pavlicek Point Count, which compares this method to other popular schemes.

The respondents agreed this hand was worth a slam try by an overwhelming majority (only 19 percent passed). The only question was how to proceed, and 4 S seems just right. The trouble with Blackwood is that if partner has both missing aces, you will be guessing about a grand slam (remember, key-card Blackwood is not allowed). It would be better if you could coax partner into using Blackwood, then his knowledge of your aces would better determine the combined assets.

A possible downside of 4 S is that partner may lack club control and be unable to take control; but in that event he is extremely likely to have a long diamond suit, so 6 D seems like a good shot. The singleton club might make it laydown, and if not, it’s probably no worse than a finesse.

It is comforting, and a credit to the advancement of bridge, that 81 percent of today’s players had the foresight to move toward slam. At the Dinosaur Inn, check-out time came early:

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

West
Jo C.

Pass
Pass
North
Jacoby

3 D
4 H
East
Ely C.
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Lenz
1 H
4 D

Lenz was clearly at fault and indeed took the heat, though the critiques were different back then. Ely Culbertson felt that Lenz should have shown his extra values by raising 3 D to 5 D. Jacoby gave the hand to Lightner to get an unbiased opinion, and Lightner agreed with Lenz’s first two bids but then continued to 5 D over 4 H. In either case, it was agreed that Jacoby would have gone on to 6 H. Before you laugh at these ideas, remember that control-bidding was fraught with danger (you might play it there!) and Blackwood wasn’t even heard of.

Against 4 H, Jo Culbertson led a spade, and even a T-Rex could soon claim 13 tricks.

Comments for 4 S

Jelmer Hasper: Who knows? I want to play 6 D, but you won’t let me bid it :), so I guess I’ll bid 4 S. Maybe this way I’ll reach seven if it’s right.

Toby Kenney: My limited values are all working. I can’t expect partner to be more aggressive with, say, S K-Q H K-J-x D A-Q-J-x-x-x C x-x, so I think I am worth one more try for slam.

David Davies: Although a minimum, all my points are working well, I have good intermediates in partner’s suit, and the singleton club could be useful.

Jim Tully: So I’m weak. Partner’s jump shift plus my diamond fit looks like a magic diamond slam could be in the offing.

Andrew de Sosa: Despite the minimum opener, with a two-suit fit, slam chances are still good opposite the strong jump shift. I’ll give it one more try.

Andrea Missias: I owe partner a bid, despite my (sub)minimum, because he has to bid 4 H to set trumps, even with extras.

Dale Freeman: My S A and/or singleton could be the key to bidding a slam, even though [I have] minimum values.

Jugoslav Dujic: We’re pretty close to a grand… and this is the most flexible way to continue.

Anthony Golding: Even though I’m (sub)minimum for my opener, I’ve got to go on. As little as S x-x H K-J-x-x D A-K-J-x-x-x C x makes slam virtually laydown, and partner probably wouldn’t [jump shift] on that. [Perhaps] he couldn’t use [Blackwood] because of spade losers, but he can over 4 S. It’s hard to envisage a hand where the five level won’t be safe, especially as 4 S may inhibit a spade lead. Of course, partner will probably turn up with S x-x H K-J-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C K-x, and we’ll end up in six, one off.

Jim Grant: Yes, I’ve opened light, but there appears to be a good double fit which will make 6 D or 6 H most of the time. Give partner S Q-x H K-J-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x C x-x, and I’d kick myself if I passed 4 H. An easy 25-point slam.

Jean-Christophe Clement: A slam is possible, so I tell partner that I control spades.

Graham Osborne: Despite my minimum hand, I have very nice controls and am well worth a cue-bid.

Steve Marx: I might as well cue-bid with the apparent double fit.

Richard Fedrick: And then raise 5 C to 6 C which should be an unambiguous grand-slam try. Partner will accept with solid diamonds and the H K, but will probably bid 6 H with either very bad hearts or broken diamonds, which suits me fine.

Leonard Helfgott: Even though this is subminimum, and even though partner shouldn’t be better than about 17 dummy points, slam could be cold, e.g., S x H K-J-x D A-K-J-x-x-x C Q-x-x. I think 4 S will give better information than asking with 4 NT. Partner could take charge and go to 7 D with right hand, e.g., S x-x H K-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x.

George Klemic: Since 4 NT is not RKCB, partner is the one who should take control. I have opened light and found a glorious auction. I would be surprised not to end up in 6 D (which should be the goal).

Alan Holmes: If 4 H is an offer to play, my hand improves; [so I show] aces before shortness.

Sandy Barnes: Looks like I am lucky so far, [and] I am willing to press my luck one more time because of the big diamond fit. I will try to place the contract in 6 D if I can control the later auction.

Ian Greig: If partner is 2=4=5=2, I want to play in diamonds. If 4 NT were RKCB, I would use that to find out about the H K.

Daniel Korbel: I need very little opposite to have a good play for slam: S x-x H K-J-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C x-x is cold, and S K-x H K-J-x D A-Q-J-x-x C x-x-x is on a finesse. This hand’s value increases tremendously on the auction.

Julian Wightwick: Worth one try. I’ve got an easy 5 H over 5 C next. If partner tries 5 D, is he signing off or forcing slam [if I have] club control (e.g., S x H K-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x)? I’ll hope for the latter and raise to 6 D.

Nick Doe: I am unfamiliar with the negative inferences in your style, but in my book partner has a seriously good hand with primary heart support and good diamonds. It is much more likely that we can make a slam than that we will go down at the five level, and 4 S seems the obvious, economical try.

Neelotpal Sahai: Partner has the [better] hand, so I would like him to take control by bidding 4 NT…

Josh Sinnett: My hand has gotten huge on the auction. I’ll cue-bid and let partner help in the decision.

Frances Hinden: For a strong jump shift partner should have more than just S x-x H K-x-x-x D A-K-J-x-x C x-x, opposite which the diamond slam is good. I don’t want to sound as if I’m agreeing hearts; 6 D is a reasonable bid but not on the list!

Ed Shapiro: … My inadequate diamond support prevents me from taking more control, despite the good [hearts] and black-suit controls. Hard to believe I’m talking this way about a 10-point hand that I would not have opened in second seat. Very possible, however, that our slam is in diamonds opposite a light jump shift: S x-x H K-J-x D A-K-Q-x-x C x-x-x, probably too light for 3 D even when this hand was bid. …

Philippe Westreich: I might as well cue-bid since we’ve gotten this far. … If partner’s black suits are the inverse of mine, with the C A, we’re all set. Even 2-2 [is OK] as long as he’s got the H K and the top three diamond honors. Hey, he’s the one who jumped.

Bill Jacobs: … This is a good 10-count; just like partner’s jump shift on S x H K-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x-x would be a good 10-count.

Paul Huggins: It’s a bit frisky to go looking for slam, but we have a nice double fit with at least second-round control of the unbid suits (not bad for a 10-count) and I don’t know just how good partner’s hand is. … Blackwood is possible, but that’s backseat driving as partner has the good hand, not me. …

Leo Zelevinsky: Yes, I have a minimum, but a very nice minimum. Partner was thinking of slam, and my hand has really improved on the auction. If I were playing “six-ace” Blackwood (so I could find out aces and kings of both red suits), 4 NT might be fine; but without it, I’ll take the simple cue-bid route.

Phil Clayton: Partner has heart support; he is not just cue-bidding for diamonds. What’s the point to 4 NT when I’m not playing RKCB? If partner shows the C A, then I can retreat back to 5 H to show that I have mild slam interest.

Gary Brown: When I opened this hand, it was a minimum; but it has grown in stature with the double fit and the stiff club. I have to make a go of it.

Michael Dodson: Points, schmoints; I love my hand. Six hearts second choice.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Just H K-x-(x) plus D A-K-x-x-x-x suffices for slam, and that is barely enough for a strong jump shift in the Mesozoic. I only hope 3 D was not based on a phony suit like A-K-x in a 17-HCP-or-so balanced hand, as was fashionable in those days. Hence, I bid only 4 S for the moment, and pass if partner bids 5 H.

Paul Hightower: Partner surely has an ace, so Blackwood is irrelevant. And, much as I might like 5 D to ask about trump quality (as 5 H does), it more reasonably implies good diamonds. Four spades keeps the conversation going, and I’ll be encouraged if partner does not cue-bid clubs. If he does, I’ll retreat to 5 H expressing last doubts.

John R. Mayne: I agree with opening this 10-count because of the good shape and intermediates, and it’s turned into an enormous rock of a hand. Given our methods, 4 S is a standout.

Dima Nikolenkov: One more move with first- or second-round control in each side suit is OK.

Ed Freeman: Double fit; lots of tricks on this one. The answer [may] depend on cue-bidding methods, but I have to go on. I think I will bid 4 S both to dissuade a spade lead, and to learn more about partner’s shape.

David Wetzel: Knowing of the spade control, maybe partner can bid the “four-five notrump” or something newfangled like that. Wouldn’t that be peachy!

Jonathan Fry: I think I have the perfect minimum partner is looking for. I want partner to know that spade values are working.

Bill Cubley: Partner is in a better position to judge my response to 4 NT. …

Jonathan Goldberg: Once it’s an opener, it stays an opener. I’m hardly in a position to take control, so I show my ace and hope that helps partner.

Kevin Costello: Despite the dearth of points, the double fit has me thinking about slam. I plan to bid 5 H over any response and hope partner can push to any makable slam…

N. Scott Cardell: Three diamonds could be a three-card suit with heart support, so 4 H should be natural. Four spades shows an ace and suggests club shortness. … Partner can now find a slam with typical hands like S K-J-x H K-x-x-x D A-Q-J C A-x-x, or S x H K-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x C A-Q-x.

Brian Ross: This is not the time to wimp out; either this was worth opening or it wasn’t.

Marek Pontus: Slam prospects are good despite the subminimum opening. So I’ll show the first-round control (could be taken also as showing 3=5=4=1 pattern).

John Hoffman: It’s only a 10-count, but it got better with every bid by partner. Standard Blackwood will not get the job done here. I might vote for 6 D if it were an option.

Rick Kelly: I’ve got the controls, and the five level looks safe even at this form of scoring.

Gerald Cohen: Five clubs would suggest no spade control. The big problem is that if we have a slam it’s probably in diamonds; but it’s rubber bridge, so partner may not be a pig about choosing hearts.

Kieran Dyke: It would be nice to have some definition in partner’s sequence. In any case, this is a fine hand; might make seven opposite S x-x-x H K-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C A-x or similar, but playing in diamonds will be worth a trick. A 4 S cue-bid might allow partner to [bid 5 NT as a] grand slam force for hearts, and I’ll accept with 7 D. I can also bid 6 D over 5 C.

Sebastien Louveaux: Keep the ball rolling. I would prefer partner to ask for aces, as he has a better view of whether his [diamonds] are good enough.

Richard Stein: Does it matter any longer that I don’t have full opening values? Opposite S x H K-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x, we have a fine play for 7 D. However, rather than find partner with one ace and have to guess, I’ll show my ace and suggest that partner bid 4 NT himself. With all our side’s kings, he’ll be better positioned to utilize my response.

Dan Hugh-Jones: Nasty; a minimum hand with poor diamonds for a slam; but the black-suit controls look good, so I’ll risk a move.

John Niven: … I’m expecting the double fit to make up for my light opening.

Dave Maeer: I wouldn’t have considered opening, but my control and honor-trick structure is such that it would be foolish to become frightened of my opening bid at this stage.

Wes Harris: See if partner can return the cue-bid in clubs.

Bruce Scott: … I need solid or semisolid diamonds in partner’s hand. If he doesn’t have them, he [probably] should have started with 2 D. If partner follows with 5 H, I am passing; 5 C gets 5 H; and 5 D gets 6 D (I want to collect the likely honors).

Len Vishnevsky: Partner shows something like S K-x H K-J-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C x-x, at the minimum. Four notrump leaves the wrong player captain.

Arpan Banerjee: Good diamond suit from partner; double fit; combined 27-28 points; singleton club. Hmm, smelling a slam already. I’ll start with the cheapest cue-bid. We can always stop at 5 H if things go wrong, and that should not be too difficult to make.

Rossen Georgiev: Slam interest; D A-K-x-x-x-x should be enough.

John Reardon: Playing with some of the rubber-bridge players I have met, I would pass and take the money. Playing with a good partner, however, I believe this hand is too good in controls and playing strength to pass but not good enough to take charge.

Kevin Podsiadlik: While I would not have opened, I can’t come up with a sensible 3 D bid where the five level is in danger. I need to hear a club cue-bid to go on, though.

Baxter Clifford: I think 6 D here is best. Why risk a lead directing double of 4 S if partner holds S x-x H J-9-8 D A-K-Q-x-x-x C A-K?

Al Hollander: … The key to [slam] is the strength of the diamonds. If 4 NT accounted for the six [key cards], it would be a standout. None of the five-level bids communicates the pluses of my hand: fourth diamond, H Q, stiff club, S A. Showing the S A gives partner a chance to take control with 4 NT. If partner has no club control, I can bid 6 D over 5 D or 5 H, which will express the hand strength while showing second-round control in clubs (with the C A, the follow-up would be 6 C).

Chris Maclauchlan: My hand has turned to gold on the auction. Despite my subminimum values, I’d have to have a brain the size of a walnut not to make a slam try.

Comments for 4 NT

Pat Lacerva: Even though I opened light, there seems to be a wonderful fit, so a slam try seems like a good idea. I like the “dinosaur” designation. Strong jump shifts; imagine that!

Jojo Sarkar: We have a double fit, and I have first- or second-round control in all but partner’s suit. [I intend to bid 6 D] but partner can always take a preference to my good suit if he likes. What’s the problem?

Richard Higgins: The double fit looks good for a potential slam with my controls in the other two suits.

Tibor Roberts: Diamonds appears to be the right strain, and partner needs just an ace and good trumps to make six. Four spades seems to establish hearts; 5 D disregards the playing potential of this dummy; 4 NT may mislead partner about trumps but at least puts me in the best position to select the final contract.

Bijoy Anand: … Slam should definitely be on; even a grand slam is likely with the double fit. Four spades is tempting, but partner won’t know about my club singleton and the fourth diamond; so I better take control. I wish we were playing RKCB.

Jeff Goldsmith: Oddly, I think 4 D was a serious error (3 H would have been better). Jump shifts intend to transfer captaincy by describing limited (albeit strong) hands; and 4 D preempts partner from telling you his hand type. Now, I know partner has roughly 16-18 support points with four hearts and stuff in diamonds. He may have side shortness; I’ll never know. … In any case, I plan to drive to slam, so I might as well check on aces.

Andrew Gumperz: Great fit; great cards; controls in every suit. What’s the problem?

Thomas Peters: Slam is good facing as little as S x-x H K-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x, so pass is not an option despite the light opening. I will bid 5 NT over 5 H in case partner can bid seven.

Karen Walker: Partner doesn’t have to have the 19-point mountain for the jump-shift-then-support auction, but it sure looks like I have the right hand for 6 D (or 6 H, should partner insist on correcting). With controls in both black suits, I see no reason to start a tortured cue-bidding sequence.

John Haslegrave: Six diamonds may be safer than 6 H if partner is 2=4=5=2, so I think I should take control.

Tomasz Radko: Opening was overachieving; passing now would be underachieving. Why Blackie? I have all the controls and two suits to get tricks from. Show me money!

Alex Perlin: Partner’s bidding has turned my subminimum opening bid into a monster. Or is it a dinosaur?

TopMain

Problem 2

Rubber Bridge Both Vul

Table
S J 9 3
H Q 9 8
D 7
C K 9 8 4 3 2

West
Pass
North
1 NT
East
Pass
South
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 C (sign-off)1050356
2 NT7597
Pass619622
3 NT4809
2 C2627

Is it right to try for game with a hand like this? I must admit I am not sure. Certainly, partner could have hands where game (probably 3 NT) is a good bet, but it’s hard to differentiate those hands from the ones where game is hopeless. Even if you play minor-suit transfers with “preacceptance” (i.e., 2 S shows clubs and opener can bid 2 NT or 3 C according to his club fit), you still must guess whether opener has adequate stoppers.

I agree with the majority here — just sign off in clubs and worry about the next hand — though I was disappointed the voting wasn’t closer. (Translation: I didn’t choose a good problem, and I’m looking for excuses.) Some games will be missed, of course, but at least you’ll avoid debacles like minus 300 that often arise after being too pushy.

Another advantage of 3 C is that it doesn’t preclude reaching game if opener has an exceptional hand with a club fit. For example, holding S A-K H A-x-x D J-10-9-x C A-10-x-x, opener certainly should take a chance on 3 NT at rubber bridge (and probably at any form of scoring).

What about Stayman? This might be judicious at matchpoints, intending to pass 2 H or 2 S; but it buries the club suit forever. Note that 2 C followed by 3 C is game-forcing.

Now let’s turn back the sundial and imagine you lived in the town of Bedrock. There is no sign-off bid in clubs. In fact, there is no Stayman! Everything is natural, and when you bid over 1 NT you’re supposed to have something — actually, a pretty good system for this hand.

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

West
Jo C.
Pass
Pass
North
Jacoby
1 NT
3 NT
East
Ely C.
Pass
All Pass
South
Lenz
2 C


Lenz’s 2 C response was nonforcing but showed some useful values. Therefore, Jacoby could picture a source of tricks and took his shot at the vulnerable game. This was all quite reasonable, and the friendly club break makes it look like Jacoby was right.

Enter the fox. Ely Culbertson eschewed the normal spade lead, and led a heart (a diamond would also be effective). Jacoby could have succeeded by holding up in hearts and guessing diamonds, but this required mirrors. After winning the H J with the ace and discovering the club break, Jacoby tried the spade finesse; then another heart established a fifth trick for the defense. Down one.

To emphasize how times have changed, imagine if this deal occurred in a tournament today. You might find it on the Internet, or written up later in a bridge column or magazine. Baby stuff! Back then the story, “Short Suit Lead Defeats Contract,” appeared on the front page of many newspapers the next day.

Comments for 3 C

Jelmer Hasper: Certainly in rubber bridge this is better than 1 NT. In pairs, I might pass. Three notrump might make, but nine times out of 10 it’s just down.

Gerry Wildenberg: It’s always tempting to try for a vulnerable game, but rubber-bridge players know how to double.

Brad Ross-Jones: The only realistic choices are pass and 3 C… With a poor six-card club suit, it is probably more valuable as trumps than in notrump.

Toby Kenney: I don’t think it’s totally clear whether 3 C or 1 NT is more likely to make; but they are probably both making, and a 60 part score will mean the next 1 NT contract will be worth game. I think trying for 3 NT would be too optimistic.

David Davies: One notrump will probably make as well, but I don’t want the opponents finding a fit.

Andrew de Sosa: Two clubs would appeal if my clubs and diamonds were reversed. As it is, I can’t handle the 2 D response.

Adam Saroyan: Anything else is just silly; if partner opened with a five-card major, too bad. Passing seems like the only other option, and a weak one at that. I’ll live with whatever partner puts down. And if someone else happens to bid a major, I’ll know what to do next.

Pat Lacerva: In clubs this hand can take a few tricks, but in notrump it might not take any.

Anthony Golding: I know I should stretch for vulnerable games at rubber bridge; but even if clubs come in, partner needs a lot of quick tricks outside for 3 NT to be good. I could bid 2 C to play in a 4-3 major fit, but I go for what rates to be the best partscore.

Graham Osborne: Unlikely to be a game. This looks the safest spot and has some preemptive value.

Steve Marx: I don’t want to be dummy at 1 NT while diamonds are rattled off.

Richard Fedrick: Seems normal. Partner is not barred with C A-Q-x and aces.

Leonard Helfgott: Not enough points or suit to invite, and 3 C figures to be safer than 1 NT. At matchpoints, pass would be a reasonable action.

George Klemic: Game in notrump will be difficult to diagnose without a way to show partner I have some values. I expect 1 NT or 3 C to make, and this way we get 60 under the line instead of 40. Two clubs is tempting, but 1 NT 2 C; 2 DC looks forcing, and that is just wrong.

Sartaj Hans: This has the merit of ensuring a plus score (almost). I am tempted [to try for] the vulnerable 3 NT but dissuaded by the equally likely down four. I would bid 3 NT if I held the H K instead of the queen.

Dale Rudrum: As it is rubber bridge, I guess the trick is to score positive on every hand. Three clubs may not be the best contract but will lead to a positive score more often than the other options. In pairs, 2 C is the obvious choice; in teams, 3 NT is an option, but 3 C is probably best.

Arthur Hoffman: Game seems doubtful or at least difficult to find, given the tools at your disposal. So I look for the safest part score, which I deem to be 3 C. Perhaps partner will move with a super fit, after which I will cooperate.

Csaba Raduly: This looks safer than 1 NT.

Daniel Korbel: Too bad there’s no way to see if partner fits clubs (via transfer and super-accept). I’ll take my best guess and sign off.

Julian Wightwick: There will often be no entry to the clubs playing in notrump. I would pass at matchpoints.

Nick Doe: So 3 C is a weak sign-off at rubber bridge! … So it’s 3 C or pass, and the relatively poor clubs and uncertainty of an entry persuade me to play 3 C.

Neelotpal Sahai: Though my club suit is nothing to be proud off, leaving it in 1 NT could be worse.

Josh Sinnett: Take the surest plus. There’s no guarantee I can take club tricks in notrump.

Jojo Sarkar: This contract is [probably] safer, and stands to go down only one if things go bad. I’d certainly pass at matchpoints!

Tysen Streib: Safety is a big concern at rubber bridge. At matchpoints, I might be tempted to go for pass or 3 NT.

David Harari: Since a transfer bid is unavailable, I will take the low road. Partner cannot evaluate his hand after a quantitative invitation, and game is unlikely anyway.

Frances Hinden: What else? I see from the Bidding Guide I can’t invite in clubs; it’s not worth a game force, and it seems odd to choose notrump.

Hendrik Sharples: Do I have a leg? I don’t see this as being anything more than six clubs to the king with a couple of quacks outside. The right miracle hand might give 3 NT a play, but partner will probably bid it himself if he has that hand, e.g., S A-x-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C A-x-x-x.

Ed Shapiro: Without much more complex methods, anything else is just a crapshoot.

Tim McKay: Vulnerable at rubber bridge, take the money.

Dick Augur: Safe… very little shot at 3 NT with 23 points maximum.

Bill Jacobs: This preempts the opponents and gets to the right contract. Game is pie in the sky. I’ll take the 60 partscore, and bid and make 1 NT on the next hand.

Tibor Roberts: Pass may be right, but 3 C is not only safer but puts another 20 points below the line. Hey, how many do I have under there, anyway?

Paul Huggins: Maybe partner will have just the right cards for 3 NT to make on a combined 21-23 count. More often, though, my clubs won’t be much use unless they’re trumps. …

Leo Zelevinsky: I don’t like this hand all that much; no aces, no tens. At rubber scoring I don’t see the benefit of playing in 1 NT, and I am not strong enough to invite. With all four aces, partner might decide to gamble out 3 NT anyway after 3 C.

Michael Dodson: Safer than 1 NT; 60 on can lead to good things next hand.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Am I supposed to assume my spot cards have petrified into precious gems over the intervening 150 or so million years? The raptors are more likely to get at 1 NT than 3 C.

Kenneth Wanamaker: It is tempting to invite 3 NT by adding a couple of points for the six-card club suit, but I do not like the quality of the suit. Were it something like K-10-9-8-x-x or K-J-9-8-x-x, matters would be different.

Paul Hightower: With no sure entry to my clubs, I’ll just take the plus score. At rubber bridge, the partscore is worth about 200 points [in expectation] plus the trick value.

Craig Satersmoen: Preempt the opponents out of something and get the extra 20 points. Neat!

David Wetzel: It is tempting to blast 3 NT and try to win the rubber, but 3 C seems reasonable. No doubt partner will have something like S A-10-8-x H K-x-x D A-K C Q-J-x-x; but then maybe he’ll take a chance and try 3 NT.

Jeff Goldsmith: I’d prefer to invite in clubs. If partner has good clubs and aces, say, S Q-x H K-x-x-x D A-Q-x-x C A-Q-x, 3 NT is easy. Reverse his black suits and even 1 NT is in danger. …

Christian Vennerod: Three notrump needs a small miracle or bad defense. Partner may take a shot at 3 NT with C A-x-x-x and controls, but he is odds-on to have his points outside of clubs.

Luis Argerich: … My “book” says: Never let partner play 1 NT with a weak unbalanced hand.

Jonathan Goldberg: I don’t play rubber bridge, but I heard a rumor once that I should take a partscore when I can. I think game is a wild shot, the kind of thing a matchpoint player might do if desperate for a top.

N. Scott Cardell: On this hand I want 1 NT 2 C; 2 DC to be weak (because then I could bid 2 C planing to pass two of a major), but it is not.

Thomas Peters: Pass is matchpoints; 3 NT is possible but too aggressive. Two notrump just moves us a trick higher; and how would partner know whether to bid 3 NT when clubs are a secret?

Karen Walker: It appears we have no sequence to invite 3 NT based on a long club suit, so I have no accurate way to assess the chances of a pushy notrump game. In these situations, especially at rubber bridge, my guess is to take the safe money and run.

Richard Stein: My club suit is our side’s most likely source of tricks, so I will insure that they take their intended tricks by making them trumps.

Dave Maeer: Awkward. I think it’s probably best to settle for 60 below. If I can’t make 3 C, partner is unlikely to do well in notrump.

Ron Hutchison: I will play for the partscore. I would like to be playing transfers (2 S) where partner is able to show a liking for clubs with 2 NT; then I would try 3 NT…

Dafydd Jones: I will go for a plus score. Five-card Stayman would be nice.

Roger Morton: I need an invitational raise mechanism. Without it, I’m chicken.

Mike Cafferata: I am handcuffed by the system, as I can’t seem to invite with six clubs. Maybe it is a good thing as my clubs are pretty weak.

Michael Day: This seems safer than passing. Three notrump is probably too big a gamble, even for rubber bridge.

Charles Blair: The Bidding Guide tells me what to do with 2-7 points and a minor, or with 12+, but is silent on 8-11!

Yes, I now call it my “Silent Bidding Companion”…
Seriously, the flowchart says to bid 2 NT or 3 NT.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Chicken. Even if the clubs run we’re not home in 3 NT.

Al Hollander: Rubber Bridge? … This is the form of the game I loved (thanks to S. J Simon, Victor Mollo and Ray Young) but miss because bridge now implies some form of duplicate. Game in notrump requires club fillers, club division, and/or a major-suit entry to dummy — quite a parlay when each undertrick will be (at least) 100; that rules out 2 NT or 3 NT. One notrump is unlikely to produce exactly seven tricks; clubs will either be useless or they will provide a bunch of tricks; that rules out pass. … Two clubs [might] arrive at a Moysian major fit, but if partner replies 2 D, I am endplayed. … [Therefore], I think 3 C wins in the long run. It goes down less if no contract is making and focuses on that magical 60 below.

Chris Maclauchlan: As a child of the Internet, I’ve never really played rubber bridge, so I don’t know how important the higher scoring partial is. But shutting out potential diamonds I think tips the balance in favor of bidding.

Comments for 2 NT

Bill Powell: If this doesn’t work out, I’ll say it was a transfer to clubs.

Gary Brown: You gave me those nines and eights for a reason.

Kevin Costello: If partner has as little as C A-x-x, this hand looks lovely.

Brian Ross: Eight and a half losers opposite a strong notrump; if partner accepts it should be on a hook; and I love the 9-8 combos.

Leif Lundberg: My hand is too strong for 3 C. I prefer 3 C as invitational with 6+ clubs; then partner will probably have the chance to make a better choice.

Comments for Pass

John R. Mayne: Hmm. Do I want 60 on or 40 on? Is 3 C more likely to make than 1 NT? I have no idea how to value the 60 vs. 40, but the slow major-suit cards make me prefer the contract two levels lower.

Dima Nikolenkov: I prefer to try for seven tricks than for nine. It would be nice to have a transfer with superacceptance available.

Ed Freeman: Rubber Bridge? Take my partial and get out. It doesn’t seem worth the risk to look for an unlikely vulnerable game, and a 40 partial is worth a ton.

Doug Burke: I have a possible entry, so my clubs may be useful in notrump. The only question is: Should I invite game?

Justin Lall: Two notrump is just a little hungry for me.

Bill Cubley: Just try for the seven-trick plus score. Overbidding is a loser in rubber bridge.

John Hoffman: Not worth an invitation without two of the top three honors in the long suit. One notrump seems more likely to make than 3 C.

Rick Kelly: Seven tricks here looks safer than nine at clubs.

Manoj Kumar Nair: … Pass and pray (an old tactic before “pass and pull”).

Sebastien Louveaux: Only with a very good fit will partner be close to making 3 NT. As I have no way to know it, I try to score our 40 points and get closer to the exit.

Gerald Murphy: A pass seems reasonable because I have some major support. If partner has no club [fit], maybe 1 NT is easier [than 3 C].

Wes Harris: Granted, the hand is worth more with clubs as trump, but is it worth two tricks more? I don’t think so. If I had a transfer bid available, this problem would be tougher.

Bruce Scott: … I originally bid 3 NT, blaming it on the scoring method. I went about writing about all the minimums partner could have that made 3 NT laydown. I had a little trouble though; I had to get fairly particular about those minimum, and none of them patterned out. Therefore, I am going to chicken out; 40 on is nothing to sneeze at.

Alex Perlin: If partner holds S Q-x-x H K-x-x D A-Q-10-x C A-x-x, he should be able to make 1 NT even against 3-1 club break. On the other hand, 3 C may fail even if clubs divide 2-2.

TopMain

Problem 3

Rubber Bridge Both Vul

Table
S A Q 10 3
H A
D A Q 9 7
C A 7 5 2

West

Pass
Pass
North
Pass*
1 H
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
2 S
?
*Partner does not play weak two-bids.

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 H1060267
4 C912013
3 NT714816
5 H2222
4 NT181

At IMPs or matchpoints it seems clear to support hearts, but at rubber bridge it’s a different story. Consider this: On the average, would a contract of 4 H produce 150 more points per deal than 3 NT? This seems like a tall order to me, yet it would be necessary to compensate the 150 honors guaranteed in notrump.* Therefore, I thought this would be a good problem. Alas, it didn’t work out that way, though I’m sure the lopsided vote for 4 H was largely due to unfamiliarity with rubber bridge. Indeed, there are many players today who have never even played the game in its native form.

*Also keep in mind that you can always reach 4 H after 3 NT, but not vice versa. If partner has an entryless hand with, say, H K-Q-J-9-x-x, it would be sadistic to pass 3 NT. The gain for 3 NT arises when partner has a mediocre suit with a few outside honors, e.g., S J-x H Q-10-x-x-x-x D x C K-10-x-x.

Another consideration is that a raise to 4 H may be inadequate. It is easy to picture a good slam being missed, e.g., opposite S K-x-x H K-Q-J-x-x-x D x-x C x-x (note the stipulation that partner could not open a weak two-bid). Therefore, if I chose to support hearts, it would be via 4 C, which logically must be an advance control-bid. (Virtually all experts would agree that opener should never bid 4 C naturally to show a three-suiter but should bid 3 NT.) At least this increases the upside of a heart contract by bringing a slam into the picture.

When deciding on a title for this poll, the discovery of this deal provided all the inspiration I needed. My first reaction to the bidding was: You’ve got to be kidding! After that, it was easy to understand the breakup of the Lenz-Jacoby partnership. (For the problem, I adjusted the bidding to some semblance of normality.) Stand back! I think I feel the ground shaking from giant reptiles:

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

West
Lightner

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Jacoby
1 H
4 H
5 H
Pass
7 H
East
Ely C.
Pass
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Dbl
South
Lenz
3 NT
4 NT
6 NT
Pass
All Pass

Jacoby’s 1 H opening was a semi-psych (lacking in honor tricks but not playing tricks), a tactic for which he was well known.* (In the Lenz-Jacoby system, no bids were defined as weak; a 3 H opening would be stronger than a two-bid.) Lenz’s jump to 3 NT seems to lack any merit other than to say, “I’ve seen this guy’s openings before,” and collect 150 honors. Can you believe they fought all the way to the seven level? Also, note that seven spades is cold as the cards lie, but that suit was never mentioned.

*To this, I can attest first-hand. In 1983, I played a few sessions with Jacoby as a warm-up for the Reisinger (in which he partnered Edgar Kaplan, and I, Bill Root). I was amazed that he would bid so often with practically nothing yet produce winning results. In his elder years, Jacoby no doubt appeared to be an easy mark for our opponents — as he swept them under the table. After the event, I recall one of Edgar Kaplan’s great quips, “I was sure the opponents had a grand slam.” When asked why he explained, “Because Jake passed in first seat!”

As usual, Ely Culbertson was a shrewd dude. Note the double of 6 NT, a contract that was about to make.* This caused Jacoby, fearing a horrific set in notrump, to run once more — right into Culbertson’s parlor. Imagine if Jacoby had run to 7 S and made it doubled and redoubled. The huge turnaround might have sent Culbertson reeling and changed the course of history.

*Unless Lightner led a club, which seems unlikely to me, with or without the double. Hmm. Perhaps this deal provided food for thought about his later-to-be-invented Lightner double.

Note that in my reconstructed auction for the poll, I had North rebid 3 H before offering a spade raise. This seems like the right strategy, as freakish hands usually play better in the long suit. In this case, however, 6 S has better chances.*

*Thanks to N. Scott Cardell for noting the proper line of play in 6 S: Win S A; H A; S J; then if spades are 3-2, you can immediately ruff a heart (catering to 4-1 hearts), overtake the last trump, and drive out the H K.

Comments for 4 H

Gerry Wildenberg: … Too many holes for slam; maybe no entries to partner’s hearts at notrump.

Brad Ross-Jones: I may not have any entries to partner in notrump, so I hope partner has [a decent suit].

Toby Kenney: Probably the safest game. Three notrump is too likely to go off (possibly two or more off) to justify bidding it for 150 honors.

David Davies: Slam is way overboard, and 3 NT could be down [a lot]. Four hearts hasn’t made yet [either]; give partner H K-Q-x-x-x-x and out, and who is to say there won’t be loser in each suit?

Jim Tully: My hand will be very good for partner. Slam may be made, but it’s [probably] no better than even money.

Andrew de Sosa: This should be enough opposite the misfit and potentially very weak hand. Partner heard my jump shift, so the auction isn’t necessarily over yet.

Adam Saroyan: Duh; should I be looking for more? If we are making a slam, partner will have to push me or we will miss it. He may not get to his hand for a losing finesse until they have a trick already. And 4 H is no certainty either; but who wouldn’t want to bid it?

Pat Lacerva: Surely, partner would have passed 1 D with absolutely nothing — and vulnerable — so 10 tricks could well be there to end the rubber. Uh, we aren’t playing for money, are we?

Jugoslav Dujic: I wouldn’t want to venture a slam with this collection (no real fit, no long side suit). Partner might have the perfect S J-x-x H K-Q-J-x-x-x D K-x-x C x, but that’s wishful thinking.

Anthony Golding: Absent a strong club or similar system where I can show a strong 4-4-4-1, this is a horrible hand to bid; and I would only have bid 1 S. Partner may only have five hearts, but with all my entries he should be able to score most of them with ruffs. Add a couple of winning finesses, and I’ve done the right thing by forcing.

Jim Grant: Partner’s 3 H says he is about as bad as he can be (probably H K-J-x-x-x-x-x and maybe an outside king at best). The worst case could be H Q-J-x-x-x-x and an outside king. I might bid six at teams if we were behind in the match.

Graham Osborne: Partner may have no entry, so notrump is unsafe. With an unexciting 4=1=4=4 shape and no good suit, raising to game is sufficient having already forced to game.

Richard Fedrick: Automatic. Even opposite a perfect hand (H K-Q-J-x-x-x and a pointed king), we are not cold for slam.

Leonard Helfgott: Safer than 3 NT with potential club weakness. … I’ll hope we’re not missing a slam. After all, I have already jump-shifted.

George Klemic: I intend to raise partner at some point; but if I bid 4 C first, I may hear 4 S or 5 C, putting us too high. … Partner heard my jump shift; with more values he can go slamming.

Sandy Barnes: Looks like we may have some transportation issues in notrump.

Daniel Korbel: My singleton ace is hopefully good enough. It’s too deep to bid 3 NT with a single, anti-positional club stopper.

Julian Wightwick: Playing 3 NT, there might easily be no entry to the hearts. Slam tries are too much, given no 3 H opening.

Nick Doe: Surely there are many more possible hands where 4 H will make and 3 NT will not than the reverse. Anything more ambitious than trying to choose the right game seems likely only to prolong the rubber. …

Gyorgy Ormay: I guess my partner as a great sleepy dinosaur.

Jojo Sarkar: It’s a great hand, but I have described it. Since 2 S was forcing, partner could still have a pretty weak hand. We have to play in his suit, or his hand [may be] dead. Partner can still bid; and if he bids Blackwood, I get the rare chance to show four aces.

David Harari: Partner’s hand might be useless in notrump. Four hearts is enough because 2 S was a very strong bid. I know, I have a 150-point bonus for aces in notrump.

Frances Hinden: We might have a slam on, but partner’s allowed to bid again; and 4-4-4-1 shapes never seem to play as well as their HCP warrant. …

Hendrik Sharples: Seems the most likely game, and way too many losers to be thinking about slam.

Tim McKay: Partner probably has only two kings and the H Q, so slam will be a pretty lucky make. …

Bill Powell: A toss-up between 3 NT and 4 H. This at least guarantees some heart tricks from partner.

Tibor Roberts: Partner’s hand may be useless in 3 NT, but my hand is sure to please in any strain. Partner figures to have six hearts (with seven he might have opened 3 H) so it’s asking quite a bit to make a slam try.

Paul Huggins: Partner has shown no enthusiasm for either of my suits, and has not attempted to bid a fourth-suit 3 C or 2 NT (which would suggest a notrumpish hand). Therefore, he is likely to have a weak hand with 6+ hearts, and maybe a couple of small honors outside. Three notrump or 4 H seem the limit of our aspirations, and 4 H is a better bet as I may struggle for entries in notrump…

Rosalind Hengeveld: None of those modern (i.e., Cretaceous) gadgets like weak twos? Four hearts looks easier than 3 NT, if only because partner may not have an entry. … No reason to presume we can make anything over 4 H on this probable misfit.

Bijoy Anand: Three notrump [could] be a folly, as dummy may not provide a single trick. In hearts, partner’s hand may take four or more tricks. …

Paul Hightower: Surely with H K-Q-J-x-x-x and a king in either of my suits, partner can Blackwood over this raise. I’ve shown a monster already; 4 H is enough.

John R. Mayne: Partner doesn’t play weak two bids? Do I? I know we’re with the dinosaurs, but will we have “Partner does not play approach-forcing” next month? Will the bidding begin, “One grunt?” I have a splendid hand for hearts despite the shortage, but I’ll let partner make the next move, if any.

Ed Freeman: I would love to have found a way for the lead to come into my hand. But partner’s hand is only worth anything in hearts and may have no sure entry in notrump. Slam is very unlikely [since] I bring [only] five tricks in hearts. Does partner really have a six-loser hand?

Jeff Goldsmith: Four clubs would be a stronger raise to 4 H, but I don’t have it. Bidding notrump is goofy. Where is partner’s entry?

Luis Argerich: A slam seems to be too pushy, [probably] depending on a finesse in the best scenario. I have two problems in 3 NT: clubs and reaching dummy. That’s why I choose 4 H.

Kevin Costello: Slam might be in the cards, but it feels like partner should be doing the exploring if this is the case. Even 5 H may be too high opposite H K-Q-J-x-x-x and trash in the other suits…

Karen Walker: A stiff ace in partner’s suit never seems to be a good holding for notrump. Even if partner’s suit is not robust, at least he’ll have entries to take finesses.

John Hoffman: Four hearts should play better than other games. This hand is not worth a slam try without a fit. Unfortunately, partner will be hard pressed to try without any aces.

Gerald Cohen: Partner will play me for 4=2=5=2 shape (I would bid 4 C with true heart support), so I hope it’s an OK contract.

Kieran Dyke: Slam tries are insane. I hope partner doesn’t bid his five-card suits too many times.

Howard Byers: Partner heard my [jump shift]. This hand must play in hearts, especially if playing with your spouse.

Is that “hearts” as in romance, or the standard coup:
Let her play the hand if you ever want dinner again.

Cromie Wilson: Partner may only have 6 HCP, and to insist on notrump may well leave me stranded with no way to [use] his hearts…

Gerald Murphy: This hand is going nowhere. It looks like partner has six hearts and not much else. If holding support for me, he would show it over 2 S, so slam does not look like a good bet.

Manuel Paulo: I downgrade my hand and raise hearts.

Bruce Scott: I am not going on a fishing trip here; 4 H is plenty. Partner will enjoy my aces, and at least one of those queens should come in handy too. Let’s get on to the next rubber.

John Haslegrave: I need a lot from partner (who might have H K-Q-x-x-x-x and nothing else) to make any game other than 4 H. …

Dafydd Jones: Three notrump will have few entries to partner’s hand. I am not good enough to make a slam try. If I am opening on Problem 1, then partner would have opened if we could make slam.

Rossen Georgiev: Partner’s hand might not help too much in 3 NT.

Mark Raphaelson: I’ve bid my hand; I assume partner has bid his. My aces will be useful in hearts, but partner’s hearts could be useless anywhere else.

John Reardon: I have few obvious tricks for notrump but plenty of controls for a suit contract. I give up on honors for what should be a better result.

Ben Cowling: Expecting something like H K-Q-J-x-x-x and not much else opposite, and I need something like seven solid hearts and a pointed king to make slam.

Michael Day: Partner could have S x-x H K-Q-x-x-x-x D x-x C x-x-x (where 4 H is in doubt) or S K-x-x H K-Q-J-x-x-x D J-x-x C x (where 6 H is likely cold). Four hearts is probably the prudent call (though often when I take a conservative view, my partner’s come up with the magic hand).

Charles Blair: I guess the theory is that partner would bid 2 NT or 3 D with a five-card or poor six-card suit, and that I would bid 4 C with better heart support.

John Hardy: Partner may have no kings, and therefore may have no entries to the long hearts if we are in notrump. Therefore, I bid game in hearts. I absolutely hate to have the strong hand [tabled], but in this case it is necessary.

Gilles Korngut: Partner could bid 3 C (fourth suit forcing) and then rebid hearts with an interesting hand.

Pratap Nair: Having passed earlier, surely with H K-Q-J-x-x-x and an outside king, partner would have responded 2 H on my diamond opening. Even then I can count only 11 tricks, so I’ll settle for game on this one.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Seems most practical under the circumstances; notrump may leave me with a dead dummy. This hand is the giveaway of the Culbertson-Lenz match. It seems we had no better luck finding the spade fit than Jacoby and Lenz.

Alex Perlin: Give partner S x-x-x H Q-J-10-x-x-x D K-x C x-x, and 4 H is a great contract, while 3 NT is virtually hopeless. Even if we used weak twos, bidding 4 H could be right. Your local gas and water company would not open 2 H vulnerable on my example hand.

Al Hollander: And hope for a plus. If we were in the slam zone, [partner would have bid] 2 H. If we belong in a minor, partner would have rebid 3 C or 3 D. The stiff H A [provides no] transportation for notrump.

Comments for 4 C

Arthur Hoffman: Partner has at least a six-card heart suit (or a very good five-bagger) since he could have made other more economical calls over 2 S. Four clubs should be a cue-bid and forward going…

Neelotpal Sahai: Three notrump will play badly if partner has no side entry. Can partner have four clubs with six hearts? (With seven hearts, he [probably would] have opened 3 H.) I will explore with 4 C, and subsequently 4 H [over 4 D].

Bill Jacobs: Unless partner is a dolt, this should not get us into danger. So, it’s probably a dangerous bid.

David Wetzel: Fully prepared to hear my dreary partner drone on with 4 H, which I will of course pass.

Bill Cubley: How did this partner get in the game? I would not let her cut in. I will bid out my shape and play whatever partner bids. Simple, but that usually works with strangers. Hope she’s pretty and has good shape — cards, that is, so Mabel won’t be shocked.

N. Scott Cardell: If I bid 4 H, partner can hardly know to bid on with S K-x H K-Q-10-9-x-x D x-x-x C x-x. But partner could have as little as S x-x H K-Q-J-x-x-x D x-x C x-x-x, or even S x-x H K-J-10-9-x D x-x-x C Q-x-x. If partner bids 4 H, 5 C or 5 D I pass; if 4 D, I correct to 4 H. …

Sebastien Louveaux: This should show slam interest. As partner has already passed, he is very well placed to make a cue-bid with extras. I will of course pass 4 H.

Ron Hutchison: This has to be a cue-bid with a good hand prepared to play in hearts; I will pass 4 H if that is partner’s next bid.

David Lindop: I hope partner understands that this is on the way to 4 H. A direct 4 H might be safer.

Chris Maclauchlan: I’ve seen better 20 counts, but I don’t want to step back yet. I think I can handle any bid over 4 C.

Comments for 3 NT

Steve Marx: I don’t want to go past 3 NT, perhaps the last game we can make. I would have opened 1 C.

Dale Rudrum: Partner does not have a weak two-bid in hearts, else his response to 1 D should have been 2 H. He now promises only five hearts.

Leo Zelevinsky: Horrible communication problems await me, but partner might either have some little stuff outside to make 3 NT right; and he still has the option of going on to 4 H. It’s tough to go back to 3 NT after any of the other bids.

Thomas Peters: A Walter-the-Walrus jump shift that jams the auction. If partner were to pass 1 S, my guess is that would be a good thing. But usually he will bid, and then I would have a much better chance of reaching the right contract. Meanwhile, it’s a total guess whether 3 NT (possibly no [communication]) or 4 H (possibly a 5-1 fit) is more likely to make. But when 4 H is wrong it may be minus 1100, whereas they won’t double 3 NT.

Richard Stein: Partner has shown but five hearts yet, so his suit isn’t in quite the same boat as my clubs on the last problem. He can still bid 4 H with a classic weak two (e.g., H K-Q-J-x-x-x and out), pass with weakish hearts and points outside, or perhaps even bid 4 C with four decent clubs.

David Stewart: This looks like a trap and a misfit. I want to get out as cheaply as I can.

Dave Maeer: Again awkward, however, it is difficult to find an alternative. I would prefer to rebid 1 S, as the extra room outweighs the risk of partner passing and missing a game. There are plenty of minimum responses out there where no game is good, e.g., S x-x-x H K-J-x-x-x D x-x-x C Q-x.

Brent Draney: I wouldn’t bet on partner having 7+ hearts; but with the comment given, that is probably where you’re going. I’m happy with game. …

Everett Dyer: … I hate to bid past game in notrump, so I will take my chances and suffer if we are short on entries to partner’s hand.

TopMain

Problem 4

Rubber Bridge Both Vul

Table
S J 10 9 3
H J 8
D K 8 4
C A 5 3 2

West

Pass
North
1 D
3 D
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 NT1042848
4 D918420
5 D79310
4 C5283
3 H312214
Pass1455

Do you take a chance on 3 NT? Or raise diamonds and give up that opportunity forever? A tough choice, almost regardless of system or form of scoring. At matchpoints it’s probably right to gamble on the heart stopper since there’s more to gain if you’re right, but at rubber bridge (or IMPs) it seems wiser to raise diamonds. Alas, the respondents felt otherwise.

Some respondents tried to postpone the decision by bidding 3 H. This would be fine if it were the fourth suit, but here it sends the wrong message. Partner will assume you have a heart stopper, so he will consider his club holding; hence, if he lacks a club stopper, you may be worse off than if you just gambled 3 NT. Further, the faux 3 H bid gives West the opportunity to double, which may dim your chances in a diamond contract.

I would bid 4 D*. Probably 90 percent of the time this will lead to 5 D, but there’s an outside chance for slam if opener has extreme shape. For example, with S H A-K-x D A-Q-J-x-x-x-x-x C x-x, opener would continue with 4 H; then I would offer 5 C, leading to the laydown 6 D. If I instead raised 3 D directly to 5 D, opener would have no idea whether to pass or bid six.

*This is forcing by expert consensus, though I’ve never seen it spelled out as such in a standard bidding textbook (alas, including mine). The general principle is that bidding over opener’s game invitation is deemed to accept that invitation, and this should apply here despite the invitational sound of 4 D. Further, there would be so few hands with which opener would consider passing 4 D that it would have little merit as a second game invitation.

The alternative of bidding 4 C seems too aggressive, as a subsequent diamond raise may compel partner to bid slam on many hands that have no play. This sequence would be more appropriate to mean, “Bid 6 D if you have heart control.”

Enter the Stone Age:

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

West
Ely C.

Pass
North
Lenz
2 D
3 NT
East
Jo C.
Pass
All Pass
South
Jacoby
2 NT


Lenz’s opening showed a good hand, but it was not like a strong two-bid. With a game-forcing hand he would open three diamonds, so 2 D was limited and nonforcing. Jacoby suggested notrump with his flat distribution, and Lenz accepted. Don’t you just love this system? Despite the sickening appearance of 3 NT, all’s well that ends well. Jacoby’s heart stopper proved to be adequate.

What heart stopper, you ask? Ely led the H 3 to Josephine’s ace, then the H 6 (fourth best) was led back and won by the jack. On the surface this looks silly, but Ely was catering to a different layout: If Josephine held A-6-4, and Jacoby held Q-J-9-8, the second-round duck is necessary to run the suit. As you might expect, the play of this deal produced heated debates and sent the news media into a frenzy. The consensus of the times was that Josephine should return the queen* to alleviate the problem.

*Modern expert practice would be for East to play the queen at trick one, then return the six. West could deduce that declarer wouldn’t hold up with A-J-9-8, so the six must be fourth best, and the suit is easily run. It is technically wrong for East to play the H A-Q early, as West may have led from K-10-5-3 (how could he know to unblock the 10?) or even K-10-3.

In fairness to the present-day consensus to bid 3 NT, note that on the actual deal East would overcall 1 H after a 1 D opening; hence, the problem scenario would not occur. Therefore, when it does occur, the chance of catching a heart stopper is excellent.

Comments for 3 NT

Jelmer Hasper: To play. Wow, am I good or what?

Gerry Wildenberg: If they run hearts, well that’s life.

David Davies: With the air of someone who actually does have a heart stopper. Five diamonds is very unlikely if 3 NT doesn’t make, as it doesn’t look like partner has short hearts. Opponents may pick the wrong lead, or hearts may be 4-4.

Andrew de Sosa: The most likely game. Three hearts should be natural and show longer spades.

Adam Saroyan: I’d love to bid 3 H, but when my partner tries this on me, we tend to muck up the next several hands too, until sanity is restored and our poor finishing place is assured. I will bid what I think we can make now; 4 D or 5 D gets us to the wrong game too often, or to no game at all when anything makes.

Jim Grant: I reckon partner has a heart stopper; and given our total points appear in the 25-28 range, I bid what I think is the best game.

Shekhar Sengupta: I don’t like doing it, but there seems to be little alternative but to follow Hamman’s Rule: If 3 NT is one of the options, bid it. Since I have the D K, I’m hoping partner has a stopper or two in hearts.

Jean-Christophe Clement: With no void or singleton, 3 NT may be better than 5 D.

Aziza Rusconi: My partner might have hearts stopped, [especially since] the opponents did not bid and I have just two of them.

Graham Osborne: I have a good fitting card in partner’s suit and stoppers in two other suits. Looking to make the percentage bid.

Rob Koopman: I like to steal 3 NT; 5 D could be hard work.

Richard Fedrick: I cannot imagine bidding anything else, so obviously this didn’t work at the table.

George Klemic: The values are clearly there; it’s only a question if they can cash five [tricks] from the top. [Bidding] 3 H [would be natural], and I can’t afford a [raise] to 4 H when I don’t expect 5 D is making.

Arthur Hoffman: Three notrump looks to be the most likely contract but risky without a heart stopper. On the other hand, bypassing 3 NT may be equally risky. With a heart stopper and no club control, I believe the right way is to bid 3 H so partner can bid 3 NT with the club stopper. Ergo, bid 3 NT with a club stopper, with or without a heart stopper. Partner might correct without a suitable heart holding.

Daniel Korbel: Impossible problem. I’ll guess nine tricks are easier than 11 and hope to buy a heart guard. It’s best to make these bids in tempo at the table.

Julian Wightwick: Gamble on a heart stopper. Going past 3 NT looks wrong; 3 H might work because East is less likely to hold five hearts having not overcalled, but it might cause partner to go past 3 NT when it was making legitimately.

Nick Doe: Three hearts shows a guard… and does not seem calculated to get 3 NT out of partner when he has a heart guard but no club guard. So if 3 NT is the spot, I have to bid it now. I’ve been wrong before, and so, presumably, has Mr. Hamman.

Rai Osborne: Bid what I think will make. Three hearts is the tricky call, as it might get partner to bid 3 NT which would [probably] play better from his side; [although] it is highly unlikely to [be raised] (partner would have reversed), it might draw 3 S or even 4 S (yuk).

Josh Sinnett: I’ll be embarrassed if they run five or six hearts with 6 D cold (opposite, say, S A-K H x D A-Q-J-x-x-x-x C K-Q-x), but the lack of opposing bidding seems to indicate they don’t have such an extreme heart fit. Three notrump seems the most likely game.

Jojo Sarkar: I have clubs stopped and help in hearts. Partner must have something for his jump, and my D K-x-x should be working. …

Frances Hinden: Hamman’s Rule. I’d like to bid 4 D offering a choice of 3 NT or 5 D, but unfortunately the opponents might object.

Hendrik Sharples: Heart stopper; who needs a heart stopper? I would like to bid a flexible 3 H, but my partner [would] read me for five spades and four hearts. Thus, the only choices are 3 NT and 4 D; so when in doubt…

Ed Shapiro: A guess. The one bid I don’t make is 3 H, since if it goes double, 3 NT, I have no clue whether to pass or not; and pulling then would misdescribe both my card location and strength. I can readily accept 4 D or 5 D, depending on how sound partner’s jumps are; pass feels wrong, even if partner jumps lightly to distinguish fairly strong hands from those you open in Problems 1 and 6.

Bill Powell: The most likely game. Whilst tempting, 3 H is unlikely to be understood — I don’t even know what it means myself.

Paul Huggins: To bid 3 NT or not to bid 3 NT; is that the question? Partner has a 6+ card diamond suit (headed by the A-Q-J at best) and therefore some scattered honors elsewhere. As neither East nor West has bid hearts, it seems reasonable to hope for partner to have at least a half guard there… so 3 NT it is. A fast-arrival 5 D is possible but may have three top losers. Unless partner is in the habit of opening game-forcing hands at the one level, we aren’t missing a slam.

Leo Zelevinsky: This is one of the reasons why I like Kaplan-Sheinwold, which reserves the 3 D jump for really big hands, and with lesser hands saves space by making other rebids. Here, I am well and truly stuck. For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to rebid 3 NT knowing that they will lead hearts, but they might be splitting; we might have nine tricks off the top once we win our heart trick; and I dislike the other choices.

Gary Brown: There are some cute options like 3 H, but 3 NT again seems sensible. There have been no heart overcalls, and H J-x is almost a half stopper.

Rosalind Hengeveld: This looks like a deal where a hundred million or more years of progress in bidding theory have made no easier what is essentially a guess. I guess that we may as well bid game, and three losers in 5 D are at least as likely as five in 3 NT.

Bijoy Anand: I have a good hand, and it’s close between 3 NT and 5 D. I think nine tricks should be easier than 11. I hope partner has H Q-x-x or better!

Paul Hightower: Three hearts seems likely to get us to 4 S or 5 D when we belong in 3 NT. I have too much to pass (unlike Problem 2), so I’ll try for the most likely game.

John R. Mayne: This is a blind guess. The H J sways me to 3 NT; nine tricks are usually easier than 11. This could be dramatically wrong; but the 3 H try doesn’t help — it expresses doubt about clubs.

Dima Nikolenkov: A good partner will produce half a heart stopper. I am too balanced for 5 D, and it is hard to get to 3 NT once you bid 4 D.

Ed Freeman: At rubber bridge, they don’t call it “three green” for nothing. I hope partner has honor-third in hearts.

Doug Burke: This may not work, but I’d rather try for nine tricks than 11 with this hand.

Jeff Goldsmith: Most of the time, partner will have a heart stopper. With no room to find out, I bid the obvious game.

Jonathan Goldberg: In a rubber game, can I blame this one on Hamman? Five diamonds seems far away.

Kevin Costello: Partner’s got so much he has to have the hearts stopped, right?

Andrew Gumperz: I hope this implies clubs stopped, but not necessarily hearts.

N. Scott Cardell: Partner invites; I accept. Three hearts would be natural, so that’s out. Nine tricks look much easier than 11.

Thomas Peters: When you make this bid in tempo, the hand plays better. It’s not as if you have [much] choice.

Karen Walker: At first, the mark-time 3 H bid appears to be a convenient option; but is partner really going to know what I’m looking for? He may take it as a search for three-card spade support, or doubt about notrump with heart stoppers but not club stoppers. Either way, I’ll be guessing the next round; and if partner bids past 3 NT, I won’t like my options.

Felix Molski: If partner has no stopper in hearts, 5 D is unlikely to make; so I prefer to go for nine tricks rather than 11.

Thijs Veugen: Let’s try the most likely contract. There’s no room to check all stoppers.

Rick Kelly: What? Pass up a chance to close out the rubber?

Manoj Kumar Nair: I am odds-on to make a game with a heart picture with partner. Is partner odds-on to have that?

Kieran Dyke: If I get past the opening lead, I expect this to make. Other bids zoom past what I expect to make. Three hearts doesn’t ask, it shows but might be a useful psych anyway.

Sebastien Louveaux: This should make with six diamond tricks, my ace and two other tricks partner must have to jump the bidding. If partner has no heart stopper, we would [probably] fail in 5 D as well.

Howard Byers: I’d like to play this at the lowest level possible and be in game. Three hearts is mighty tempting, so as to get partner to bid 3 NT. Four-level bids will just hide your incredible card-play technique…

Vish Viswanathan: Since the jump rebid is limited, it is useful to agree that all bids by responder below 3 NT show values rather than shape. Hence, 3 NT confirms a club stopper and denies a heart stopper — a picture bid. …

Gerald Murphy: I have a diamond card and both black suits controlled, and nine tricks are easier than 11. If they can run the hearts on us, so be it.

Len Vishnevsky: It’s easy to give partner a maximum where 3 NT makes, and 4 D or 5 D leads to 5 D down one (or 4 C leads to 6 D down two). Pass is overly pessimistic. Does 3 H ask for a partial stopper? I think not, so 3 NT.

John Haslegrave: A gamble, but anything else would be betting that 3 NT is not making.

Ron Hutchison: Who knows? I won’t be more than one down, I hope. :) Five diamonds doesn’t look promising.

Arpan Banerjee: Serious problem this! Bid 3 NT without checking on hearts? Four clubs is too strong for this hand; 3 H gives a misdescription. … I shall bite the bullet and bid 3 NT; even as little as H Q-x-x will surely make game.

Jyri Tamminen: And hope that looking confident stops a heart lead.

Ben Cowling: I will have to rely on partner for a heart stopper, or opponents not to lead hearts.

Michael Day: Three notrump would appear to offer a better play for game than 5 D. The opponents still have to find the right lead.

John Hardy: We probably don’t have the required 29 points for a game in diamonds. Partner must have strength outside of diamonds for his jump bid, so most likely he has at least one heart stopper. The game in notrump is probably solid, with six diamonds, the C A, and two other winners from partner.

Marcus Chiloarnus: My heart might stop if hearts aren’t stopped.

Alex Perlin: In a recent Flight-A regional, my partner led fourth best from A-K-Q-x-x against notrump. Looking at H J-8, I can only hope that West is equally creative.

Chris Maclauchlan: I know we don’t have a lot of hearts, but I would have expected the opponents to bid with a decent suit (at least modern opponents). The diamonds will run, so 3 NT should be a good gamble. Three hearts would be too much of a distortion to get any real help from partner.

Comments for 4 D

Jim Tully: Partner could have bid 3 NT if he had hearts and was worried about spades. Four diamonds sets trumps and should be invitational (implying a couple of key cards for an 11 trick contract).

Leonard Helfgott: The natural call. In rubber bridge, I don’t have to gamble 3 NT, and 3 H would show a stopper.

Csaba Raduly: We have a fit, partner. Your move.

Bill Jacobs: Good-bye 3 NT, unfortunately. That’s the way the stoppers crumble. Even if partner has a heart stopper, we’re not yet up to nine tricks.

Tibor Roberts: Partner would likely have reversed with four hearts, so the defenders have eight or more, and I should expect a heart lead against notrump. I have no asking bid, so it seems safer to try for the diamond game. Pass may well be right, with partner limited at 16-18, but we have a 9+ card fit — and at least I don’t have to play it.

Kenneth Wanamaker: I don’t like bidding 3 NT with H J-x (perhaps I might risk it at matchpoints). Partner needs to know about the diamond support. …

David Wetzel: Seems sensible; which 3 NT, without a stopper in the suit we’re most likely to need one in, just isn’t.

Bill Cubley: Rubber-bridge players are more willing to play five of a minor, and I have no heart stopper for 3 NT.

Luis Argerich: This is really difficult; 3 NT can go down easily while we can make 5 D, or miss a cold 6 D. … I’m endplayed in the bidding, so I’ll pick the hardest bid to blame.

Janet Kahler: Forcing, showing support. Cue-bids should reveal the correct level. …

Richard Stein: A shot at 3 NT will sometimes work, but this gamble is a bit too rich for me. As there is, annoyingly, no way to find out if partner has hearts stopped, I might as well bite and [raise] diamonds. …

Dave Maeer: Too good to pass; I can’t bid 3 NT; and 3 H unfortunately shows rather than asks. I think this is better than 5 D, which should show values concentrated in my suits.

Wes Harris: Raise when you have support. If partner makes a slam-try with a major-suit cue-bid, I am happy to be able to return the cue-bid in clubs. If partner uses Blackwood, I am equally happy to show one ace; so we have the possibility of stopping in game in either instance. However, if we’re using RKCB, we might be hosed!

Kevin Podsiadlik: Five diamonds is too rich; 3 H and 4 C would be natural; pass is too weak; and 3 NT, well, partner didn’t give us that option. So this is what’s left.

Comments for 5 D

Gyorgy Ormay: Rubber bridge, so write out the game.

Carlos Antunes: I should choose between 4 D and 5 D, and in my opinion four is more promising; so I choose five.

Bruce Scott: Partner needs a lot of stuffing in hearts and clubs for 3 NT to be right. I would like to bid the weaker of 4 D or 5 D. I didn’t notice anything applicable in the guidelines, so I will guess 5 D.

Mark Raphaelson: Tough call. Three notrump will likely be the popular choice, but with heart shortness opposite heart shortness (and no stopper on my side), 5 D may be safer…

TopMain

Problem 5

Rubber Bridge None Vul

Table
S K Q J 10 8
H A K 7 5
D Q
C A 9 2

West

Pass
North

2 NT*
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
?
*13-15 balanced

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 C (Gerber)1022024
3 H860067
3 S771
3 C3233
4 NT2506

Normally I give the top award to the consensus, but I couldn’t do it here. Most 3 H bidders were bidding by rote: With 5-4 in the majors, you bid spades first, then hearts; what else? For one thing, it is difficult* to construct a hand for partner where a heart slam is better than spades or notrump; more likely, it will be the only one that fails (e.g., with a 4-1 trumps).

*Granted, it is possible, e.g., S A-x-x H Q-J-x-x D K-J-x C Q-x-x, where a productive club lead would scuttle 6 S or 6 NT, while 6 H would make with 3-2 trumps. But when partner raises hearts, I see no way to distinguish this hand from the more typical, S A-x H Q-x-x-x D K-J-x-x C K-x-x, where 6 H is poor. There are also cases where a grand slam is makable only in hearts, but detection seems impossible in standard bidding.

Many 3 H bidders assumed it couldn’t hurt to describe their pattern since they could always correct the final contract to spades or notrump. True enough, but this overlooks an imminent danger, which is the real flaw in 3 H: Partner’s next bid is likely to be 3 NT, then you are endplayed in the bidding. There will be no way to ask for aces (Gerber must be a jump, and 4 NT would be a natural invitation) so you won’t be able to find out if partner has the one hand that offers no play for slam, i.e., S x-x H Q-J-x D K-J-10-x C K-Q-J-x. While an aceless 13-count is unlikely, you certainly can’t rule it out.

This hand should play in spades, not only because of the solidity of the suit but also for the 100 honors. The only deterrent for slam is the possibility of being off two aces, so the practical solution is to find out immediately with Gerber. Enough said.

Whether you accept my reasoning or not, one thing is certain. The dinosaurs know a good suit when they see one:

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

West
Jo C.

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Jacoby

2 NT
4 NT
6 S
East
Ely C.
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Lenz
2 S
3 S
5 S

It may look silly for Lenz to bid his five-card suit three times (4 NT was natural, not asking), but it makes good sense to me. Lenz was right on the mark, as 6 S is indeed the best contract.* This deal also illustrates the folly of playing a 4-4 heart fit; not only do you lose your 100 honors but you have to worry about trumps breaking. No thanks.

*Yes, I realize that 6 NT is 100 percent while 6 S is not; but the average expectation in spades is higher than in notrump. Why? Because of the honors, you duplicate junky. Repeat 100 times: This is rubber bridge, rubber bridge…

Comments for 4 C

Jelmer Hasper: I want to ask aces, kings, queens and jacks. Let’s hope I have room for all that.

Oleg Rubinchik: Let’s go there; I don’t know where.

Jim Tully: There has to be a slam on this hand. If partner has both aces and both kings, 6 NT is a laydown.

Jugoslav Dujic: There should be a slam, and I’m going for it. If I’m missing an ace, I’ll settle for 6 S. A grand might be on, but I think it’s unlikely.

Dale Rudrum: We have no fit, except maybe in clubs, but six clubs is never better than six spades (he has exactly two spades?); so I can inquire about his honors. …

Csaba Raduly: The spades look robust enough for a 5-2 fit.

Gyorgy Ormay: With enough aces, I bid the slam.

Jojo Sarkar: We have 32-34 points combined, the right range for 6 NT; I just have to make sure partner has an ace. If partner has two aces and two kings, we have only 12 tricks: five spades, two hearts, three diamonds, and two clubs; so a grand never enters into it.

Dick Augur: Pure slam hand; six or seven? [I will ask for] aces and kings.

Bill Cubley: Looks like a simple math problem. Checking for aces will keep us out of the slam off two aces.

Vish Viswanathan: A direct 6 NT would be my choice, but it’s not offered. The S 10 is a key card, and it is difficult to construct a hand for partner that would not yield a reasonable play for 6 NT. With a solid spade suit and scattered minor values, I do not believe the search for 4-4 heart fit is warranted.

Wes Harris: If partner has an aceless minimum, we stop in 4 NT; otherwise, I’m driving to slam…

Brent Draney: Time to check for aces; 13+19 = slam, slam, slam.

Bruce Scott: Why am I not just bidding 6 S? I don’t want to mess around with 3 H because I don’t want partner to raise with something like four small. I guess I can bid 4 C first just in case partner has S x-x-x H Q-J-x-x D K-J-x C K-Q-J; I don’t think that is worth a 13-15 balanced call, however. I am bidding 6 S (eventually) because of the honors. How often will 6 NT be safer than 6 S? Not very often. …

Mark Raphaelson: I suppose 7 NT is still possible, but so is 5 NT. If Partner has two aces and two kings that would account for 14 points; but there are also 13-point [hands] out there with no aces.

John Hardy: I have 19 HCP and a singleton diamond, so with partner’s points we are in slam territory. Gerber allows me to investigate both aces and kings to see if this is a small or grand slam (in spades since partner is balanced).

David Lindop: I’ll bid 6 NT if we’re not off two aces.

Comments for 3 H

David Davies: I think it will pay to go slowly here as even if there is no heart fit, 6 NT or 7 NT may depend on which minor-suit king partner has: If it’s the C K, six is likely to be the limit; if it’s the D K, seven looks very good.

Andrew de Sosa: Let’s see if we have a heart fit before I investigate slam.

Adam Saroyan: Why shouldn’t I keep all the possible slams in view? Bidding my hand encourages my partner to do the same. When one of us decides not to, we tend to spend more in the lounge after the game.

Andrea Missias: I will drive to slam, but strain is still relevant (and seven might be possible in a suit).

Dale Freeman: I should bid out my shape, as any of these slams may be correct: 6 H, 6 S, 6 NT, and even 7 C or 7 H.

Graham Osborne: Beginning to bid out my shape. Six hearts, 6 S or 6 NT could be the right spot.

Leonard Helfgott: Yes, 6 S on a 5-2 fit might be better than 6 H on 4-4, but I’ve got to bid out my hand naturally.

George Klemic: Natural and forcing; no sense distorting things. Four notrump is too weak, as partner with 14 [may] pass when we belong in slam. How do I continue? Glad that’s not the question.

Arthur Hoffman: Why suppress a good second suit in the march to decide on the best (eventual) slam?

Daniel Korbel: Maybe partner fits one of my suits. It’s too early to use Gerber with a potential grand out there.

Julian Wightwick: Seems clear. Four notrump is possible, but I can bid that next time if I don’t catch support.

Nick Doe: Seems the best way of finding out what (if anything) is going to be trumps. I have this foible that I like to know what trumps are before I ask for aces, and I can presumably still do that later.

Neelotpal Sahai: Slam is a distinct possibility, but which one: 6 H, 6 S or 6 NT? I will explore by bidding out my shape first.

Josh Sinnett: Natural and forcing. I will bid 4 C over 3 NT to finish describing the hand.

Uwe Gebhardt: Second choice: 4 NT, which would probably simplify the auction a lot; but I am a great believer in showing shape.

David Harari: Seems pretty obvious, so there must be a trap (I suppose I have to play in spades to score the 100 extra points for honors).

Frances Hinden: How else will I reach 7 H opposite S A-x H Q-J-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-x-x;C opposite S A-x H J-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-Q-J-x; or 6 S opposite S A-x H Q-J-x D J-10-x-x C K-Q-x-x, if I don’t bid out my hand? I’ll bid 4 C over 3 NT from partner.

Hendrik Sharples: I can construct a hand for partner where I want to ignore my hearts, but I can’t see catering to that and maybe missing a laydown grand in our 4-4 fit.

Ed Shapiro: This could be a trap if a heart loser costs us slam; but I’m not done yet and will try to offer a choice of slams (hopefully through 5 NT) if partner shows interest in hearts. Since there are a few hands where 6 H is the best spot (e.g., S A-x H Q-J-x-x D K-J-10-x C Q-x-x), with the two top honors I’m the one who’ll have to bid them.

Bill Jacobs: I’ll try for the grand in hearts: S A-x-x H Q-x-x-x D A-x-x C K-x-x; otherwise, settle for 6 S. (Mind you, without RKCB available, this ain’t going to work.)

Tim Goodwin: Settle strain before launching into ace asking or slam blasting.

Tibor Roberts: Partner has an ace unless he has every other missing honor; similarly, he is almost as certain to have a diamond control. I’m expecting to end in 6 NT, but I’ll feel safer in a 4-4 heart fit, so I’ll take advantage of the game force to check for it.

Paul Huggins: We’re in the slam zone. If partner has all the right cards, then 7 NT might be there. … Partner might have four hearts, in which case I should show my hearts now. The trouble with these jump responses in notrump showing balanced hands is that they cramp the bidding space. A 2 C or 2 D response by partner would enable me to jump to 3 H on the second round to give a much clearer picture of our hand.

I see. So you can cramp the bidding, but partner cannot?
What ever happened to “equal rights?”

Leo Zelevinsky: I want to be in a slam; but if partner has four hearts, I might very well have a grand slam in hearts but only 12 tricks in spades.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Sauropods should not run.

Bijoy Anand: I am going to be in a slam eventually unless we are off two aces (highly unlikely); but which strain: hearts, spades or notrump? I will continue slowly with 3 H.

Kenneth Wanamaker: I am going to described my hand. Partner may have something like S A-x H Q-J-x-x D A-J-x-x C K-x-x, and so could not mention hearts.

Paul Hightower: Partner should not be eager to raise hearts with x-x-x-x; so if he raises, 6 H or 7 H may be better than 6 NT. This is certainly an advertisement for RKCB, isn’t it?

John R. Mayne: … We’re headed off to slam; it’s just a question of which one. I’ll wander up from 3 H, which seems really normal, despite the great spades.

Dima Nikolenkov: Showing where you live always worked well for me. I will give at least one more push with 4 C over 3 NT; and if partner signs off twice, I’ll settle for six someplace.

Ed Freeman: We’re almost definitely going to a small slam (unless missing exactly the two aces), so let’s find the right one. It is quite likely that 6 S is the safest contract, but the only way I’ll know is to learn partner’s shape. …

Doug Burke: If partner has four hearts, then 7 H may have some play. Otherwise, we are probably going to play 6 NT.

Jeff Goldsmith: It’s unlikely that 6 H will be better than 6 S; but seven hearts could be much better than 7 S, e.g., S A-x H Q-J-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-x-x.

Justin Lall: I’ll go slowly, as we may have a grand or a better strain than notrump or spades. I will never stop below slam.

Sven Pride: I hate to miss cold grands, e.g., opposite S A-x H Q-J-10-x D A-x-x C K-x-x-x.

Jonathan Fry: I want to play in six of something, but is it hearts, spades or notrump? Partner could have four hearts or three spades, and 3 H should get me the needed information.

Luis Argerich: This one is easy. Three hearts is mandatory in order to check for a nice-to-have 4-4 fit in hearts. Partner can bid 4 H with four hearts; 3 S spades with three spades; or 3 NT with neither. Over 4 H or 3 S, I’ll bid 4 NT; and over 3 NT, 4 C. Life is easy, isn’t it?

Jonathan Goldberg: Checking for the fit on the way to a slam invitation. If partner raises hearts, the extra from the fit justifies [bidding slam]; if not, 4 NT over 3 NT will be invitational.

Andrew Gumperz: Why not play in hearts if partner has four of them? I have time to show my values later.

N. Scott Cardell: There rates to be a good slam here, but it could be 6 C, 6 H, 6 S or 6 NT. First I check for a 4-4 heart fit. Even 7 H might be right; give partner a minimum like S A-x H Q-J-10-x D A-x-x-x C Q-x-x, and it’s excellent.

Ashish Agarwal: Clearly, hearts may be a better slam contract than spades, so I go slowly and bid 3 H. If partner bids 4 H, I find out aces and bid appropriately.

Thomas Peters: Any strain except diamonds could be right. I will describe my hand and leave the decisions for later.

Rick Kelly: I’ll bid out my pattern and see what partner comes up with before slammin’ begins.

Gerald Cohen: I may go for honors later.

Kieran Dyke: Investigate strain for now. Slam moves can come later.

Sebastien Louveaux: If partner has S A-x H Q-J-x-x D A-x-x-x C Q-x-x or the like, I want to be in 7 H. I must investigate to choose between hearts and spades, as well as to choose between a small and grand slam.

Leif Lundberg: No need to hurry. Don’t know yet if we are going to play hearts, spades or notrump and how high (clubs is also a possibility).

Richard Stein: No hurry. If partner has heart support with the S A, D A, H Q and either minor-suit king, 7 H will be on. If partner bids 3 S, I bid 4 NT en route to 6 S (or 5 S off two aces). If partner bids 3 NT, I’ll just have to shoot out 6 NT and hope that our luck is here for dinner, even if it’s out for breakfast and lunch.

Howard Byers: Softly, softly, catchee monkey. Yeah, we are in slam; but where? Ease on down the road and see if 7 NT is there.

Gerald Murphy: We should have slam, so will show my distribution. If partner bids 3 NT, I will bid 6 NT.

Dave Maeer: Why not? If partner has H Q-J-x-x and a couple of aces, 7 H may well be the best grand slam.

John Haslegrave: I’m keen to play in a 4-4 heart fit if there is one. There’s plenty of time to find a slam.

Arpan Banerjee: Which slam is it? … I’ll go slow and see if we can locate a 4-4 heart fit first.

Gene Saxe: [Find the] fit first; the D Q may be huge; I will try for slam, regardless. Over 3 S or 3 NT, I’ll bid 4 C; over 4 C, 4 D; over 4 D, 5 NT; and over 4 H, 5 C. We still could have a grand. (We must be making money on this set.)

Mike Cafferata: I’ll bid 4 C if partner bids 3 NT.

John Reardon: I expect to hear 3 S or 3 NT from partner, then I intend to bid 4 C to bid out my shape and show extra values.

Ben Cowling: Hopefully, partner will support one of my majors; then I’m interested in a grand.

Michael Day: Partner could have four hearts or three spades. Let’s find out before exploring for slam.

Scott Stearns: I’ll take it slow and look for the best slam; 7 H, 7 S and 7 NT are all possible.

Michael Kanigsberg: Straightforward. If we find a 4-4 fit, there are lots of ways to explore slam.

Pratap Nair: Find the trump fit and then use Blackwood to check that we are not missing two aces.

Kevin Podsiadlik: I see no reason not to investigate strain further. Seven hearts may be afoot!

Everett Dyer: [With] big hands, bid slow and gather information. We might be on our way to a grand slam.

Al Hollander: We’re going to get to some slam, but the strain is still unknown. I may as well describe my hand. Not only will this help with the strain, but it may help investigate the seven level by enlisting partner’s help (a totally new concept). Four notrump is too weak [with my upgraded values].

TopMain

Problem 6

Rubber Bridge None Vul

Table
S K Q 7 6
H 7 5 4
D 10 4
C A Q 8 7

West

Pass
North

2 H
East

Pass
South
1 C
?

As South, decide your call and whether or not you would have opened.

Call and OpinionAwardVotesPercent
F. 3 H; would not open1036240
E. 3 H; agree with opening918420
B. 2 S; would not open819722
A. 2 S; agree with opening79210
D. 2 NT; would not open3526
C. 2 NT; agree with opening2131

I chose this problem to test one of my pet theories, which is never to raise partner’s suit immediately with three low trumps when slam is a consideration. Too many times, it seems, doing so leads to a poor slam or the wrong slam. It is also likely that a heart raise will cause partner to bid aggressively, when you really want to quell his ambitions. I would bid 2 S to show where my values are; then if partner bids 2 NT, I would just bid 3 NT. I will only raise hearts as a preference, or if partner rebids 3 H.

Well, once again this month I struck out (oops, I guess that would have been better last month for Slammin’ Sammy). The respondents clearly preferred to raise hearts despite the minimal support. No doubt, this comes from the modern tendency to “set trumps” early in the bidding. But is it really wise to set trumps with a hole in them? Some respondents felt that supporting hearts later might show a better hand, but this hardly makes sense to me.

Several respondents commented they would have bid 4 H on the principle of “fast arrival” to show a bare minimum. That’s OK if you have an agreement of such, but it’s hardly standard. Further, I think most experts today use fast-arrival principles only when partner is limited. In this case partner is unlimited, so a jump would have some descriptive meaning, such as to show good trumps.

For the second part of this problem, it was clear that most respondents (68 percent) would not have opened the bidding. I have no strong feelings about this; it’s not an opening bid by my teaching, but the handsome structure of touching honors would persuade me to open. The hand will be easy to bid, and this avoids the need to play catch-up later. Note that in my scoring, the decision whether or not to open was considered secondarily to the choice of rebids.

Let’s see what happened before our Jurassic heroes succumbed to the tar pits. Hey, look! Archaelogical evidence supports my theory:

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

West
Jo C.

Pass
Pass
North
Jacoby

2 H
6 H
East
Ely C.

Pass
All Pass
South
Lenz
1 C
3 H

Jacoby’s jump shift response would hardly meet today’s standards (especially the two-suited pattern) but was routine for the times. The main fault in reaching the bad slam was the raise on three low trumps. Even if Jacoby had a typical modern jump shift (e.g., S 3 H A-Q-10-8-6-2 D A-K-x C K-x-x), it is easy to see how the flawed raise delivers the wrong message.

Against 6 H, Ely led the S J to the queen, ace. This was no occasion for safety plays, so Jacoby took his best chance in finessing the H Q, and later cashed the ace. Down two. Ahh, mirrors would be nice.

The consensus of the times also cited the heart raise as the culprit for reaching the poor slam. Jacoby and Gruenther both offered worthy analyses in the book (suggesting 2 S). Predictably, the wry Mr. C. had this to say:

Ely Culbertson: At the end of this rubber the weakness of the so-called “Official” System in reaching the best bid in the combined hands was apparent.

Comments for F. 3 H; would not open

Jelmer Hasper: I hate partner’s who deny support, so it would look kind of bad if I did it myself. I see no point in opening this hand; it has absolutely nothing going for it except the points in the suits.

Oleg Rubinchik: Is it the first deal of the rubber? Who is my partner? Do I have dental insurance? I would definitely bid 1 C with my favorite partner, but it is too risky with an unknown partner.

Toby Kenney: I don’t see any great benefit to opening my hand 1 C in first seat. (I would probably open it fourth in hand, hoping we might have a spade partscore.) After the jump shift, hearts is clearly our best fit; and 4 H looks the right contract — probably slightly safer than 3 NT, and with the chance that partner has 100 or 150 honors.

David Davies: There seems little to gain by opening 1 C. As it is, I will have to backpedal for the rest of the auction and sign off in hearts [at each turn].

Andrew de Sosa: I have the requisite quick tricks, but my distribution is poor; I would pass in first seat. Having opened instead, I’ll raise partner’s strong jump shift with support and a ruffing value.

Dale Freeman: The Rule of 20 comes up 1 short; if I had some black 10s and nines, OK. I think 2 S should show an unbalanced hand, and 2 NT misplaces the declarer with that diamond holding.

Anthony Golding: I’ve been punished too often for opening this sort of hand at rubber bridge; partner always plays me for more. Once I’ve opened, I should show my support immediately. Partner shouldn’t [jump shift] with a two-suiter.

Jim Grant: I might open with 5-4 in the blacks; but this hand could prove messy if partner has a balanced 12-count that he has taken a fancy to.

Graham Osborne: This is mostly a matter of style. I wouldn’t open because it is not a good 12. I choose to raise hearts because partner normally has a good suit for his jump shift, and support is something he most wants to hear.

Leonard Helfgott: A balanced 11 is not an opener in first chair, even with this concentration. Since partner can’t be interested is spades… it behooves me to raise with trump support, and x-x-x is fine opposite a strong jump shift.

Sandy Barnes: Two spades misleads partner about my shape, and 2 NT may wrong-side the play. The hand is too balanced for my tastes to open with such minimum values.

Arthur Hoffman: While it’s tempting to bid 2 S with the good suit, this could lead to later problems with my minimum hand and three-card heart support. Although some feel you should not raise a jump shift without an honor, my minimum hand makes it imperative to set trumps and let partner do the asking.

Csaba Raduly: I normally play a weak notrump and have this rule: If it’s a balanced hand and too weak for a weak notrump, pass is mandatory. This hand, with 2 1/2 quick tricks and seven losers, is banging on the door.

Bill Jacobs: Opening pros: queens with higher honors, 1 S rebid available, seven-loser hand. Opening cons: no spot cards, no shape, no points. Take your pick; I couldn’t care less. I will apply the brakes later, refusing to cue-bid over 3 S.

Bill Powell: Not quite enough to open. I like to support with support.

Tibor Roberts: This hand does not meet the opening standards of your Bidding Guide; and since those are the agreed methods, one must pass first. Bidding anything other than hearts shows no faith in partner — which for all I know might be just the right message. :)

Leo Zelevinsky: If I had a few more 10s, I’d consider opening this hand; but not as it stands. I think the raise is the most descriptive bid.

Gary Brown: Opening this hand 1 C in first seat has no preemptive value. If anything, it allows LHO to overcall, thus facilitating an entry into the auction that he might not otherwise have had.

Michael Dodson: My dinosaur partner will never expect this little. Now I can’t bid spades without indicating a stiff diamond when I support hearts later.

John R. Mayne: As to opening, I have two quick tricks. Is that enough according to Ely? This Charles Goren guy is out running his mouth about Milton Work; I don’t really cotton to this newfangled nonsense. As to my bid, I must decide whether to try to play the contract and hope partner never figures out my hand (possible at rubber: “no, partner, I had the D Q”) or whether I should put my hand down as dummy and run away. Where’s option G: Feign death?

Dima Nikolenkov: A matter of style. I will bid 3 H followed by 4 H.

Ed Freeman: Actually, I would bid 4 H now (the weakest action). I am in a game force and can make 4 H. If partner is that strong that he can go on after a minimum, let him. A notrump bid makes no sense in rubber bridge; why pervert my hand and [take such a] risk when 4 H is clearly makable? As for opening, 1 C doesn’t preempt anything; I have spades, so they can’t keep me out; and I don’t know I want a club lead. I would pass.

Doug Burke: … I always like to let my partner know when I have a fit as soon as possible. Bidding spades distorts my hand a bit, and bidding notrump asks to get killed on a diamond lead. While it may work out to open, I can envision a lot of hands where opening your mouth would land you in a tremendous pot of hot water. It all depends on what partner expects out of your openings.

Sven Pride: Support with support. I would open this in any seat but first. :) In fourth seat, it passes the Cansino Rule of 15; in third seat, the Rule of 18; and in second seat, I tend to open light with spades. …

Bill Cubley: Raising partner is never wrong, just not always right. I like better shape on these minimal openers, [or at least] ace-king, ace for an 11-count.

Thomas Peters: Three hearts is automatic. I might open this at matchpoints or even IMPs, but not at rubber bridge.

Mike Cassel: Pretty tough playing rubber bridge (where invitational hands are harder to describe) to be opening squarish 11 HCP hands. This will find you backtracking throughout the rest of the auction. By the way, I would not have opened the first hand either!

Wes Harris: … I want to bid 2 S, but I’m afraid partner will play me for a real opener, and I’m much weaker than that; so the simple raise with three ugly trump seems to be the least bad bid.

Dafydd Jones: I play an 11-14 notrump, so I would probably open 1 NT, given the chance; either that, or open 1 S for its preemptive value.

Arpan Banerjee: … I would have passed originally… Now I have to choose the lesser evil and raise partner, hoping he has a five-carder. Two notrump is outrageous without a diamond check.

Gene Saxe: Glad I opened, so I can be dragged forward.

Tomasz Radko: A nice hand, but only 11 points and flat distribution. Two spades now should show more distribution, and later agreeing hearts would sound stronger (and should suggest shortage in diamonds).

Mark Raphaelson: I suppose since I opened this relatively flat hand with no long suit, I should put on the brakes as soon as possible.

Ben Cowling: I’d pass playing SAYC. Two spades here would look like a more distributional, misfit hand.

Michael Day: I think even Jeff Meckstroth would pass this hand in first seat. As for a rebid, I’ll set the trump suit; partner shows at least five, even in dinosaur-age bidding.

Jan Nathan: Why open this horrible hand? Not enough quick tricks; no convenient rebid. I’d look for a new partner if they open this type of hand.

Comments for E. 3 H; agree with opening

Brad Ross-Jones: With all my points in two suits, and a reasonable 1 S rebid over a 1 D or 1 H response, it is close but worth opening nonvulnerable.

Jim Tully: So I’m light; I have 2 1/2 quick tricks and a rebid. It’s a bidder’s game; you make most of your points when you’re playing the hands.

Jugoslav Dujic: I guess this is matter of personal style. I believe in an unambiguous raising when holding adequate support. Everything here is borderline: opening vs. pass; raise vs. 2 S. I think 2 NT would be misleading and indicate no support.

Richard Fedrick: I would prefer to have the S 9, but this honor concentration just tips it for me. Now I’m glad I opened, since this is a very suitable hand opposite a strong jump-shift (i.e., it’s better for slam purposes then a lot of amorphous, quacky 13-counts I might have held).

George Klemic: When partner jump-shifts, first rule is to support with 3+ trumps; so clearly E and F are the only choices. Would I open? Well, usually not, but the hand is prime in values in the long suits, and has easy rebids. It would be consistent to open in the style of the rest of the hands presented here.

Daniel Korbel: This is a nice 11 count, with all its values working; I would open for sure. It’s close between 2 S and 3 H, but opposite a jump-shift, x-x-x is fine support and it’s best to show it as soon as possible.

Julian Wightwick: First-in-hand at white is the best time to open, and my suits are good. The decision after that depends on style, but the hand might not play well from my side on a diamond lead.

Nick Doe: This problem seems an ideal vehicle for me to display my ignorance, so I shall take advantage of the opportunity so kindly offered. Partner presumably doesn’t have spades, so I don’t need to tell him about mine. As I prefer to support partner when the decision is close, I will do so here. I’m afraid I do tend to open this junk, although whether I ought to do so playing Standard American at rubber bridge is perhaps doubtful; but as I play neither, I’ll just stick to what I normally do.

Gyorgy Ormay: Values in two suits, and heart support. I don’t want to find another suit, and my D 10-x is not a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Damo Nair: I like light openings, especially when the values are concentrated in two suits and I have a convenient rebid.

Bijoy Anand: With 2 1/2 quick tricks and seven losers, I surely open (even with this flat hand). … Playing a modern style (principle of fast arrival), I’d bid 4 H to show a bare minimum opener.

Luis Argerich: I agree with 1 C because it suggests a good lead for partner if they play the hand. Now 2 S is misleading with mild heart support.

Kevin Costello: Only 11 points, but they’re all in my long suits. What’s more, I have an easy rebid over almost anything by partner. I don’t want to bid notrump without a diamond stopper, and 2 S followed by supporting hearts might convince partner I have a singleton diamond. …

Brian Ross: Seven losers is an opener, so that is not an issue. As to the rebid, it seems better to play notrump from partner’s side, and 2 S followed by heart support (as I know I am going to do eventually) should pinpoint diamond shortness. So I support hearts now.

Janet Kahler: To lurk only works on hands like this, but not in real life. I like partner’s bid. What’s the problem?

Sebastien Louveaux: My first priority is to show the fit; so with three hearts, I have no other choice. Considering the opening, I have no strong feelings; but it seems that my honor concentration is a plus.

Manuel Paulo: I open because I have an easy rebid (1 S over 1 D or 1 H) or an easy pass over 1 NT. After a strong and suit-length-showing 2 H bid, I raise.

Facundo Chamut: I don’t have a problem with 1 C, nor with 3 H. Two spades should show 5-4. …

Franco Baseggio: Whether or not to open this is a matter of partnership style, but this is about the best balanced 11-count I can have. Would you rather open S Q-J-x-x H Q-x-x D K-J C A-x-x-x with its two extra jacks?

John Haslegrave: Having opened (and I’m inclined to overbid), I have to stick with it, and I do have [heart] support.

Jyri Tamminen: I’d open because of the honor concentration.

Mike Cafferata: I have only seven losers, so I would open. Three hearts seems weaker than 2 S followed by heart raise.

Jonathan Jacobs: This auction now looks game-forcing to me, so I prefer to bid 4 H (fast arrival). [As to opening], this is a much better hand than, say, S K-x-x-x H Q-x-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x, which I [surely] wouldn’t open.

Scott Stearns: Best to raise partner’s strong jump shift. Two spades followed by a heart raise would suggest more distribution; and I want to discourage as much as possible, given that I did open.

Al Hollander: The queens in long suits and supporting higher honors make them pure values. This is a seven-loser hand, which meets minimum opening requirements, and there are no rebid problems. Opening gets us into the partscore battle which is good in any form of rubber bridge where partscores carryover. … My instinct was to bid 2 S (which may be the correct bid in the long run), but I’ve convinced myself that showing support doesn’t rule out being able to show the values in the black suits. I’ve come across hands where I’ve said my rebid would change with the position of the moon, but this is one that will change with the position of the minute hand. …

Comments for B. 2 S; would not open

Jojo Sarkar: There’s really not much reason to open light; it’s a balanced hand with terrible holdings in the red suits. … Once partner jump-shifts, I should finish describing my hand by showing spades. Needless to say, I’m scared!

Frances Hinden: My mother taught me to make the same rebid after a jump shift that I would have done over a one-level response. Also, 3 H is a bit more preemptive and might get partner too excited. The only time I’d open this is with a mini 1 NT.

Ed Shapiro: I opened because of concentrated black strength, so I’ll bid where I’m at. I don’t like to raise on x-x-x, but will bid hearts later, not showing extras, just denying a heart honor (or maybe extra length, by agreement).

David Wetzel: Not quite enough for an opening bid (give me some black 10s and nines and I like it). Over 2 H, I’ll show the values and then the heart support.

Jeff Goldsmith: Passing or bidding is fine; it depends on style within a solid partnership. At rubber bridge, passing is clear-cut. … The bid is trivial; 90 percent of the time, one should bid the cheapest step after a strong jump shift. This allows partner to tell you what kind of hand he has below game. Here I have nothing to say, so let partner show his hand as requested.

Andrew Gumperz: Partner needs to know about the location of my values more than about three low hearts.

Gerald Cohen: When in doubt make cheapest bid.

Richard Stein: I would consider opening this hand hyperaggressive, but I would do it — after two or three beers. Now that I’m in this stew, showing my values, followed by my heart support, is the least I can do.

Howard Byers: What a joy if I passed originally. Opening a weak hand with a minor suit and a secondary major can cause headaches, annoy partners, and miss shots at huge penalties.

Dave Maeer: It’s an appalling opening, despite the 2 1/2 honor tricks (I think I’ve guessed the source of the hands). I’ve never been a fan of bidding 2 NT as the only way to show a weak hand, and supporting partner with three small is too encouraging. Also, like the participants in this match, I do not play that a jump shift is either a self-supporting suit or a hand with primary support for the suit opened. Here there is no reason why partner could not have 4=5=1=3 shape.

Bruce Scott: This is not an opening bid unless we play 10-12 notrumps in first chair (well, perhaps I could stretch for an 11+ to 14 range). … The black-suit honors are a little upgraded for combination. Moving the D 10 to a black suit would persuade me to open. In the bidding given, I choose 2 S not to suggest playing in spades but to help partner place the contract. I need better support for a raise to 3 H. …

John Reardon: This keeps the bidding low and gives partner a chance to tell me why he forced. I will not cooperate with any slam tries.

Charles Blair: This may deter partner if he (or Josephine) has a black singleton.

Ross Lam: Three hearts may be too encouraging with only three little hearts and a substandard opening bid.

Alex Perlin: I am trying to leave partner maximum room to show his dinosaur. I hope the beast won’t kill me for opening a balanced 11-count.

Comments for A. 2 S; agree with opening

Paul Huggins: Not the greatest hand in the world, but because its high cards are all in its long suits (and therefore lead-directing at worst) it is worth opening — but only because its suits are the blacks, allowing a 1 S rebid after a red-suit response to 1 C. … I will tell partner I have a spade suit now and see what he thinks; I can always show heart support later. …

Rosalind Hengeveld: Indicate where my values are, because of which I chose to open; then support hearts next time. (This will not imply a stiff diamond.) As to the opening, about 2 1/2 honor tricks, concentrated in two suits, have sufficed since the Triassic.

Paul Hightower: Concentrated values; 2 1/2 quick tricks; seven losers; cheap rebid; this is worth upgrading. Two hearts does not promise a one-suited hand, so it’s right to bid spades before supporting hearts.

Christian Vennerod: Opening is OK with seven losers and concentrated honors. Two spades shows that I have no extra length in clubs; not honor-third in partner’s suit; and some honors in spades. It does not show a suit, as partner cannot have a two-suiter. I will support [hearts] later.

Jonathan Goldberg: I agree with the opening, but I’m probably ruining my reputation by admitting it. I like to raise on these auctions, but the hearts are just too feeble. I bid my values, [since] being able to do that was my excuse for opening this junk. With any other suit combination this is a pass. …

N. Scott Cardell: I open because values are prime and well placed; spots are reasonable; and I have a convenient rebid over any minimum response. Two spades doesn’t show extras because we are in a game-forcing auction. …

Karen Walker: I suppose this depends somewhat on partnership style, but my approach is to guarantee a top honor for a direct raise of the jump-shift suit. Second choice is a concentration-of-values bid, and 2 S is perfect for that.

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Final Notes

Comments are selected from those above average (top 492), and on each problem only for calls awarded 6 or higher. About 65 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 Jurassic journey. Even if you never play rubber bridge, the insight won’t hurt you, and most of the issues apply to bridge of any form. Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Thump… thump… thump… yes, I feel the ground shaking again. Time to run!

Charles Blair: Given the frequency with which I forgot partscores, it’s just as well that rubber bridge is essentially extinct.

Alex Perlin: In just six problems partner has jumped four times. Are all the Jurassic inhabitants so jumpy?

Bruce Scott: A rubber-bridge tournament? That is from the time of the dinosaurs. Two strong-jump-shift hands are two too many. You Oughta Be in Pictures.

And finally, I’ll leave you with these sage words from 1932, probably just as true today:

Oswald Jacoby: The psychic is the boomerang of bridge. Thrown accurately at the enemy, it produces havoc in their ranks; but should it go wide of the mark, it returns, frequently causing even more damage to one’s own side.

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek