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Italy Wins in Bermuda

These six bidding problems were published on the Internet in May of 2006, 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 or location, and participants were invited to guess from the clues on the page.

Problem 123456Final Notes
Among the wrong guesses were Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville (Sawgrass Regional?), Florida; Atlanta, Georgia (Vidalia onions?); Memphis, Tennessee; San Diego and Long Beach, California; San Antonio and Dallas, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grenoble, France; Canary Islands; Tahiti; and Pitcairn Island. Curiously, the guesses named all three points of the Bermuda Triangle (Bermuda, Miami and San Juan), so I’m not taking any plane trips east!

My title reveals the location, of course, but before it was anagrammed as “Law Bids Are in Mutiny.” Pictures all relate to the word “Bermuda.” At top is a Bermuda lily (also known as an Easter lily); next is a patch of Bermuda grass; the Bermuda palmetto, a type of palm tree; and Bermuda onions scattered around. Even the page background contains faint triangles to suggest the Bermuda Triangle.

“I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long…”

My only clue to the year was the background song “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell, one of my favorites and a big career boost for Campbell. The song became a #1 Hit (Popular and Country) in 1975, which was the year of the Bermuda tournament.

My story of the Law of Total Tricks was as genuine as a three-dollar bill; and the six problems were not particularly Law-related as some people presumed. Sorry about that, but I can’t be trusted (even my Bank requires me to be handcuffed). I was impressed by this man’s attempt to straighten me out:

Jonathan Brill: The Lawrence-Wirgren book is a valuable effort in that it demonstrates why the Law of Total Tricks is not a robust theoretical explanation for the underlying causes of trick production. Their presentation does not in any way invalidate the statistical truth that the Law correctly predicts the total number of tricks based on total trumps on average. …

About 50 people ventured a guess; 20 were right on Bermuda, but only eight came up with 1975 as well. Congratulations to Barry White, Barry Rigal, Richard Morse, Tim Dickinson, Tim Francis-Wright, Manuel Paulo, Anthony Golding and Bijoy Anand. These wise guys also deciphered my anagram and identified most of the pictures.

Angie Lee Wins!

This poll had 1533 participants from 125 locations, and the average score was 47.83. Congratulations to Angie Lee (England), who was the first of five with the winning score. Also scoring 59 were Goldie Lobel (Ontario); Athanassios Akylas (Greece); Jack Shiffer (California); and Adrianus van Herp (Australia). That’s quite a spread for locations, and surprisingly almost curvilinear on an Earth globe. No less than 12 players were just a point back with 58, including one of my favorite past students. Well done, Dottie!

Participation this month was slightly down but still third highest (January 2006 leads with 1603). The average score (47.83) was well above the all-time average (46.08), and 839 persons scored 48 or higher to make the list. Atypically, there was no perfect score (first time since March 2005). Four problems turned out to be excellent; while two were lopsided (49 and 52 percent for the winning calls).

Jean-Christophe Clement (France) retained his lead in the overall leaderboard with a sparkling 57.50 average — and the all-time lead with a 52.32 average. Joshua Donn (California) moved to second place with 56.75, followed by Ragnar Paulson (Ontario) and Jorge Castanheira (Portugal) with 56.00. Next in line are Jeroen van de Pol (Netherlands) and George Klemic (Illinois) with 55.75.

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.

1975 World Championship

The 21st Bermuda Bowl returned to its original venue for its 25-year anniversary. Four zonal representatives — North America, Brazil (South America), France (Europe) and Indonesia (Far East) — joined defending champion Italy to comprise the elite field. The event was held January 24 to February 1, 1975 at the Southampton Princess Hotel, Bermuda.

The first stage was a double round-robin, with each team meeting each other in two 32-board matches scored by Victory Points. This was to eliminate one team, as the top four advanced to the semifinals. Standings were: Italy 134, North America 116, France 105, Indonesia 90, and Brazil (eliminated) 73.

Pictured (L-R, top row first) are the Italian champs: Giorgio Belladonna, Benito Garozzo, Arturo Franco, Vito Pittala, Sergio Zucchelli, Gianfranco Facchini. Playing for North America were Edwin Kantar, Billy Eisenberg, Paul Soloway, John Swanson, Bob Hamman and Bobby Wolff.

In the semifinals, Italy defeated Indonesia handily 280-134. North America vs. France, however, was a close encounter of a blurred kind, as the winner was decided by a revoke. The official tally placed North America on top 159-147, but the French player who revoked cost his team 19 IMPs. Ouch! Talk about wanting to crawl under a rock.

Tournament of Infamy

Bridge was secondary in Bermuda, compared to events that rocked the bridge world. First, the ACBL had used poor judgment to appoint Alfred Sheinwold as North American captain, because of his unfounded attacks and innuendo against the Italian Blue Team in bridge columns. His selection was taken as a slap in the face by Italy, and bitter feelings seethed — almost leading to physical violence. Unofficial reports were that Belladonna had to be restrained several times from decking Sheinwold — clearly a mismatch.

Then came the foot soldiers. Two Italian players (first-timers to the Blue Team), Sergio Zucchelli and Gianfranco Facchini, were discovered to be tapping feet under the table, and apparently cheating through illegal communication. This led to a frenzy, as the WBF tried to sift through it all, eventually deciding the players were guilty only of “improper conduct” and allowed to continue. Naturally, this only fueled the fire. Sheinwold tried to withdraw the American team but was forced to continue by ACBL officials. What a fiasco! Bridge at its worst.

The final match itself was a thriller. North America took the lead and increased it steadily to a seemingly insurmountable 73 IMPs at halftime. But never count Italy out! In the second half, the Blue Team fiercely surged back, climaxed by Belladonna’s lucky grand slam (trumps were J-9-8-x-x-x opposite A-Q, with K-10 in the slot). Belladonna acknowledged he would have failed if Kantar had falsecarded with the king on the first round, as he had the option to play for a trump coup to capture 10-x-x-x. The final score put Italy on top 214-189; but a different fate on the grand would have swung the match to North America. The usually festive victory banquet was like an Israeli-Palestinian standoff, as the WBF engaged additional security to avoid incidents.

Once again, the workings of the WBF defy me. Giving us “World Champion Foot Soldiers” hurt the game if not demeaning it to a joke; the Italian team should have been disqualified. It’s also unfortunate that Belladonna, Garozzo, Franco and Pittala (all honorable in my mind) were hurt by association.

Time is the great healer, so let’s forget the controversy. Pull up a chair and try to match bids with the world champs and runners-up of 1975.

TopMain

Problem 1

IMPs E-W Vul

Table
S A K 10 9 7 4
H A 8 3
D K 4
C Q 2

West

Pass
North
Pass
2 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
3 S1040927
4 S939126
3 H717912
2 NT629119
3 NT5886
3 C31449
3 D1312

This problem required two decisions: (1) To invite game or to insist, and (2) whether to suggest notrump as a contract. On the first decision, a large majority (68 percent) chose to invite (2 NT or three of a suit), so the top award will come from that group. On the second decision, an even larger majority (75 percent) chose to stick entirely with spades, so the notrump bidders will have to take second fiddle.*

*A few of those who bid 3 C, 3 D or 3 H had intentions of driving to game (perhaps trying to steer a favorable lead) and/or interest in reaching 3 NT, but this probably wouldn’t impact the above numbers by more than 1 or 2 percent.

Well, the verdict is clear. Three spades was the consensus game try, and it certainly makes sense to me with no secondary suit and no obvious focal point. Directing partner’s attention to a particular suit serves little purpose. Ask any expert defender what common auction he hates to hear most, and it’s probably 1-2-3 as a game try. Why? Because it provides no clue what to lead, and declarer’s shape is a mystery.

I think the hand is worth a game bid, and I’d like to bid 3 NT to suggest that possibility; but experience has shown that this is an anti-percentage move. First, it telegraphs your balanced shape (surely no singleton or void) whether partner passes or not. Second, partner will pass 3 NT only with 4-3-3-3 shape (typically), so he’ll correct to 4 S a great majority of the time. Thus, because we’re probably going to play 4 S anyway, I’d rather bid it directly than offer any clues about my shape.

Of all the game-trial bids, the only one that has any appeal to me is 3 H, not because it will help partner but because it might inhibit a heart lead*, and it might confuse opponents about your heart length. Certainly, if you had to guess the lead most likely to defeat 4 S, it would be a heart to knock out your ace.

*Lead inhibiting tactics are well known, so this could backfire against sharp opposition. This is why I would never play the so-called “help-suit game try”; it’s almost like whispering to LHO: Here’s how to beat me.

Fourth place goes to 2 NT, which gets notrump into the picture, followed closely by 3 NT. Partner could have hands producing only nine tricks, e.g., S Q-x-x H x-x-x D A-x-x C J-x-x-x. Partner, of course, will override the decision to play notrump almost any time he has ruffing potential. The downside is that it describes your balanced shape and likely honor holding in each side suit to the opponents.

Other game tries (3 C and 3 D) seem silly to me, as they offer no real help to partner, and they increase the likelihood of a killing heart lead.

Here’s what happened in 1975 in Bermuda:

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

West
Zucchelli

Pass
Pass
North
Swanson
Pass
2 S
3 NT
East
Facchini
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Soloway
1 S
2 NT

Hamman

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Franco
Pass
1 D
1 NT
3 S
Wolff
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pittala
1 C
1 S
2 S
3 NT

The problem scenario arose at the first table, where Soloway chose to invite with 2 NT, and Swanson was happy to try for nine tricks instead of 10. Fortunately, Zucchelli led the C 10, so the club suit blocked, and the contract was home. Soloway actually made an overtrick when Zucchelli didn’t cash his high club and later pitched a heart, leading to a double squeeze.

The same contract was reached at the other table after a strong club opener, but North was the declarer. Wolff led a routine H Q; but the C K shift became obvious when he won the third round of spades; down two, 11 IMPs to North America.

Comments for 3 S

Alan Kravetz: With two aces and no winning queens, this hand adjusts to a 5-loser hand. …

Samuel Krikler: A close decision. If vulnerable, I would bid 4 S, expecting the opposing South player to do the same.

Hermas Tang: [Only worth] an invitation; 6-3-2-2 shape is not enough for game.

Junyi Zhu: None of the side suits stands out for a specific invitation. I will accept partner’s 3 NT suggestion but won’t [initiate] it myself.

David Leavitt: With 16 good points (well, aside from the doubleton queen), I could be cold for game if partner has almost any maximum hand. Instead of pinpointing anything for the opponents, I’ll invite with a simple 3 S. Three notrump is a possibility, but the six-card suit mitigates against it.

Paul Meerschaert: Two notrump deserves consideration, but [suggesting] the six-card suit certainly cannot be wrong — and 3 NT is still an option for partner. …

Franklin Gonzalez: Why not? Partner may have 8-9 HCP to cover three of my losers. Four spades is a bit of a stretch; and none of the other options seems right, as I need help everywhere.

John Payson: Downgrading for C Q-x, I need three tricks from partner for game; or two if my D K [wins on its own]. … Three notrump may work as a final contract, but a club lead could be disastrous…

Brandon Sheumaker: My semibalanced shape and no obvious help suit make a straight point-count invitation [best].

Bill Breslin: … This 6-loser hand will play very if partner is at the middle or top of his range.

Janet Dugle: At first I thought 4 S should be odds-on, but perhaps it is safer to allow partner to [decide].

Amnon Harel: This is much safer than 2 NT. Help in any suit is appreciated, and partner can still suggest 3 NT if he accepts.

Anant Rajani: Instead of a 2 NT trial bid, I prefer to rebid spades with six cards.

Lisa Kow: These onions are making my eyes water.

Harry Ropper: Inviting. Partner should pass only with an absolute minimum, in which case game is improbable.

Tim DeLaney: Not very elegant, but I want to be in game only if partner thinks his values are working.

Robin Zigmond: Mainly competitive (don’t want the opponents to find a three-level…contract) but also giving partner the chance to bid 4 S with a suitable maximum. I have six losers opposite a presumed nine, so game probably isn’t there unless partner has fitting cards.

Frans Buijsen: For game to have good odds, I basically need partner to have a maximum 2 S bid, so a simple invite works [best].

Dan Mytelka: Yes, I want the lead coming up to my hand if we play in notrump; and yes, there are hands that make exactly nine tricks at either spades or notrump; but no, this doesn’t feel like one of them. I have too many relatively [weak] suits and not enough quick winners outside spades [to suggest notrump], even assuming a 2-2 spade break or the S Q with partner.

Comments for 4 S

David Read: With good controls, I always bid four on hands like this.

Jacob Grabowski: The [most likely] game must be 4 S,…so I’ll just bid it and get on with playing the hand.

Joshua Donn: Using 2 NT as an artificial ask, where partner shows his strength, has a lot of merit because it gives away little or nothing about my hand; and if partner bids 3 NT to show a maximum with scattered strength, I’d have an easy pass. As things stand, however, I will just make the straightforward bid. Three notrump may be better, but I don’t see a good way to find out…

Francesco Sallustio: Bidding what I think I can make.

Brian Sharkey: Law be damned; we belong in game.

Barry White: We may have a slam, but my experience is that we are more likely to go down at the five level…

Tim Dickinson: Delicacy? Or brute force? I go with the latter.

Richard Stein: Dare the defense to defeat this.

David Cohen: At IMPs, I bid the game. At matchpoints, I’d make a game try.

Boris Richter: Too good a hand for a game invitation, and not good enough for a slam invitation.

Richard Morse: Do I raise spades or fish for notrump? There aren’t many hands where 3 NT plays easier than 4 S, so this seems more sensible. With useful points and a sixth spade, I’ll take the pressure off partner…

Will Shepherd: … The extra trump makes me stretch for the game.

Jonathan Steinberg: I have a good hand; we have a fit; so I bid game. Good IMP strategy!

Nicoleta Giura: I can construct lots of minimum hands for partner opposite which I can make game. I’ll be ready to apologize if I go down.

Geoff Bridges: There are some crummy hands that partner could have that would make game. I could fuss with an invite, but the extra trump encourages me to take a shot at game. Making a game try also risks the possibility that I will inform the opponents of the best defense.

Jean-Christophe Clement: A minimum hand, such as S Q-x-x H x-x D x-x-x-x C K-x-x-x, can bring the game home; and optimism often pays at IMPs.

David Breton: There are many hands opposite which this will have no legitimate play — but that doesn’t mean I won’t make it.

Stefan Jonsson: A game try — bid the game and try to make it. This is the energy-saving bid I would choose at the table. A partscore is out of the question. Slam is possible if partner has a good side suit, e.g., C A-K-x-x-x-(x), so maybe Plan B would be to bid 3 C and make a slam try if partner raises…

Jack Brawner: Richard Pavlicek: “Bid like a pig.” Bobby Wolff: “Four spades is a game try. I am going to try to make it.”

Hey! Wolff would know more about pigs than I do,
after playing with that Ham-man for so long.

Owen Cotton-Barratt: … It is certainly possible for partner to hold a hand where game has no play; however, a great majority of hands give it some play, and some minimums even make it cold. Three notrump may be better, but most of the time it won’t be, and I’d prefer not to give the defense any pointers.

Comments for 3 H

Neelotpal Sahai: A game bid is not very clear. I need assistance from partner, mostly in hearts.

John R. Mayne: I can’t resist this normal try. I’m surprised that pass wasn’t an option; it’s not ideal but hardly the worst call of the options given. [If] notrump works well, I don’t care. I’m not bidding notrump!

Rob Wijman: I have a lot of sympathy for 4 S (the sixth spade is like an extra ace), but 3 H seems most appropriate… Partner should accept with few losers in hearts and/or a maximum.

Sjoerd van der Schuit: Looking for help in my worst suit.

Craig Zastera: Observing that no game makes opposite S Q-J-x H x-x-x D Q-J-x-x C K-J-x, while game is cold opposite S Q-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x C x-x-x-x (and 50 percent without the D Q), convinces me to direct partner’s attention to his heart holding.

Charles Blair: The H K or H Q would be useful.

Scott Stearns: The bid that elicits the most helpful information; if partner has H K-Q, game should be at least 50 percent. Nagy game tries would work well here: 2 NT asks partner to bid the lowest suit in which he would accept a game try. …

Stephen Fischer: Not enough to insist on game, and I’d like partner to upgrade any honors in hearts.

Roger Morton: Long-suit trial bids are my style. In the UK, 3 S is preemptive.

Danny Kleinman: I intend to bid 4 S next anyway (knowing that it’s a gamble), so I may as well make an ostensible game try in the suit I least want West to lead.

Comments for 2 NT

Carsten Kofoed: The most flexible bid to reach the right game with my 5-loser hand.

Kevin Podsiadlik: A poll question on styles for inviting game? I’ll choose the one that keeps 3 NT in play. Opposite something like S Q-x-x H x-x-x D A-x-x C J-x-x-x, this might be the bull’s-eye.

Kevin Lane: My 6-3-2-2 shape is horrible, but the S 10 is big. I’ll see if nine tricks are in the bag by trusting partner to do something intelligent.

Dan Osman: Keeps things flexible… Partner is [unlikely] to pass, and this lets us both work toward finding the best game.

Damo Nair: I have three of four suits covered, so 3 NT could be decent here; if not, 3 S or 4 S.

Gerald Murphy: Telling partner I have extra values… If he returns to 3 S, I will pass.

David Caprera: After a major-suit raise, it is irrational to attempt to stop on a dime at 2 NT. This leaves logical options open (3 S, 3 NT and 4 S) and allows partner to decide; it also right-sides the contract for 3 NT. …

Josh Sinnett: … Absent other agreements, this should be a game try in a balanced hand.

Bill Powell: Semibalanced; invitational.

Michael Palitsch: I think 3 NT is more probable than 4 S.

Jim Munday: Nine tricks may well be easier than 10.

Manuel Paulo: My hand is worth a game try, and this seems adequate with a rather regular pattern.

Alon Amsel: This gives partner the opportunity to introduce a decent side suit, or bid 3 S with a [minimum]. I don’t have any particular length to show, and I would interpret 3 S as weaker.

Barry Rigal: Three notrump may easily be best, and I’ll pass that call by partner. Equally, 3 S will be enough if partner can’t accept the invitation.

David Harari: General game try. I would bid 4 S if vulnerable.

Daniel Korbel: This seems like the best way to get partner to choose between 3 S, 3 NT and 4 S.

Leonard Helfgott: A priori 4 S is more likely to make than 3 NT; but most of the time that’s true, partner will opt for spades. If he prefers notrump (as he should with three spades and scattered values), the odds shift. This hand is a likely candidate for nine tricks to be the limit opposite a square hand. Second choice is the simple 3 S invite with this 6-loser (5.5 after the raise) hand.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Not enough to jump to game. … Partner will bid game if not minimum: 3 NT with a balanced hand (e.g., S Q-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x C J-x-x-x), or 4 S with an unbalanced hand (e.g., S Q-x-x H x-x D Q-x-x-x C A-x-x-x).

Ciaran Coyne: Three notrump may well be the best game if we belong in game, so I will consult partner.

Pire Cusi: … I want to give partner the option to play in notrump.

Lajos Linczmayer: Not enough to bid a game nonvulnerable, and maybe we should play 3 NT. I will pass 3 S, or bid game if partner encourages.

Nigel Guthrie: Three notrump will [often] play better than 4 S, e.g., S J-x-x-x H x-x-x D A-J C J-x-x-x, or S Q-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x C 10-x-x-x-x, so I must at least suggest the alternative.

Brad Theurer: Were it not for the potentially wasted C Q, I would just bid game; but with that and being nonvulnerable, I will probe. It is possible that nine tricks could be the limit (e.g., S Q-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x C J-x-x-x) with 3 NT the only game, so I’ll show a balanced game try and see what partner thinks.

Joel Singer: Balanced game try. If I am raised to 3 NT, I will correct to 4 S.

Rosalind Hengeveld: No reason to bash into game with this semibalanced hand, IMPs or not. Three of any suit is daisy picking. …

Steve White: I’ll invite rather than bid game, and show scattered values.

Comments for 3 NT

Zoran Bohacek: I want to be in game. Nine tricks in notrump [may be easier] than 10 in spades, and the lead may help in that.

Thijs Veugen: Close decision between 3 NT and 4 S; partner can still correct to 4 S. The disadvantage of a trial is that West might find a better lead.

John Lusky: Game is good opposite many minimums. I may still get to 4 S if I bid 3 NT — but not vice versa.

Joon Pahk: We could be cold for 3 NT with as little as S x-x-x-x H x-x-x D A-x C J-x-x-x opposite. Even if clubs are wide open, West hasn’t led a club yet.

Ed Barnes: Ice cold, I expect.

Antonio Kotsev: I don’t expect a positive answer if partner has S J-x-x H x-x-x D A-x-x C J-x-x-x.

Mauri Saastamoinen: This could be one of those “Hamman hands.” I could bid 3 S and hope to hear 3 NT from partner, but I…will put forward the idea myself. … Comparing 3 NT to 2 NT, if partner has S x-x-x-x H K-x-x D x-x-x C K-x-x, or S J-x-x H J-x-x D A-x-x C J-x-x-x, he may pass 2 NT when I have a good chance to grab nine tricks.

Chuck Lamprey: I’d rather play this one from my side.

TopMain

Problem 2

IMPs None Vul

Table
S A K J 5
H 10 8 6
D 8 7 3
C 8 6 3

West
North
1 NT
East
Pass
South
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
2 NT1040626
2 C838025
Pass766643
3 NT5443
2 H (transfer)1372

The first issue addressed by this problem is whether to try for game with a balanced 8 HCP opposite 15-17, and a majority* felt it was right, no doubt influenced by the quality of the high cards. While pass drew the single most votes, it is clearly not the consensus — though I must admit that 666 votes (sign of the devil?) cast fear into my decision to rank it third.

*Those who chose the oddball transfer might fit into either group, as it’s not clear what they intend to do next — besides fire up their spaceship and return to orbit.

The second issue is whether to use Stayman with 4-3-3-3 shape, and I am pleased to see the consensus in my camp. I used a similar problem in “The Beast of Velvet Cave” (Problem 6) and was disappointed that Stayman won out. Evidently, the trend has shifted — or maybe the field is just trying to appease me before I become dangerous. I’ve always felt it was losing bridge to use Stayman with flat shape, not because a 4-4 major fit cannot be better but because there is no way to determine if it will be better; and most of the time a fit is not found, so the information only helps the opponents.

The large group who passed have a case, but it seems frail with 8 HCP in the same suit and the H 10 kicker. Passing may be the best call at matchpoints, where bidding games is less important, as it may trap West into an indiscreet balancing action, resulting in a top when you double.

There is a growing philosophy that it never pays to invite game in notrump; i.e., either pass or bid 3 NT. While I disagree, I appreciate that many games make in practice that should be defeated. I like to ascribe this anomaly to weak defense, but even experts sometimes slip; and it may be just an opening-lead choice, which is a blind guess. This accounts for the piggish 3 NT raise, which I have upgraded.

I was amazed to see 37 votes for my nonserious offering of 2 H. A transfer to spades? Or a transfer to the nut house? Now I have to run over to Home Depot and buy more lumber. Let’s see; 37 people at eight per cage… only five more cages.

Italy and France met this deal in the round-robin:

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

West
Franco

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Svarc
1 H
2 C
2 S
East
Pittala
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Boulenger
1 S
2 H
4 H

Lebel

Pass
Pass
All Pass
Garozzo
1 C
1 H
1 NT
Mari
Pass
Pass
Pass
Belladonna
1 D
1 S
4 H

While my problem scenario never occurred, I think most American experts would open the North hand 1 NT (15-17). Nonetheless, the proceedings at each table highlight the philosophy to bid game first and worry later. At the first table, Svarc-Boulenger had a natural but awkward sequence (which surely shows why a 1 NT opening is better). At the second table, Garozzo-Belladonna plodded through a strong-club sequence to reach the same spot.

No sensible player would like his chances in 4 H, but the optimism proved to be right at both tables. Pittala led the H 2, and Mari led the S 4 — nothing outlandish, to be sure, but a simple C J lead and continuation would bring just deserts. There you have it, folks. To be a world-class contender, just bid game on every hand and pray.

Those who simply raised notrump will be pleased to see that 3 NT would make, as the obvious S 2 lead allows nine easy tricks after forcing out the H A.

Comments for 2 NT

Alan Kravetz: At matchpoints, I would probably pass; however, the hand is worth an invite at IMPs. The honors together in spades not only provide entries but also could produce four tricks opposite 10-9-x.

Samuel Krikler: The hand is too square for Stayman.

Prabhakar Oak: I have flat distribution; and even if partner has a maximum with four spades, I prefer to play 3 NT instead of 4 S.

Jacob Grabowski: This seems to test [best], as I require a good hand from partner. Furthermore, it gives partner the opportunity to pass (making 3 NT) or bid 3 NT (down one), giving me ammunition for the postmortem. :)

Joshua Donn: I am on shaky ground. It is very likely that spades will play better than notrump if we have a fit, as we probably have weakness in a side suit; but I certainly don’t want to stop East from leading from S Q-x-x-x-x into partner’s 10-x, or H J-x-x-x-x into partner’s A-K-Q-9.

Julian Lim: Nonvulnerable; no trick source; no ruffing values. I bid with great reluctance. At matchpoints, I would pass.

David Leavitt: The flat hand, with precious few intermediates, is likely to play the same in notrump as in spades; so I’ll just invite game in notrump. …

Brian Sharkey: I think I’m worth an invite, and game surely must be in notrump with such a balanced hand.

Franklin Gonzalez: Flat hands belong in notrump. The H 10 could be helpful; plus 2 1/2 tricks in spades warrant an invitation.

Tim Dickinson: Yuck. This is the value bid; and who knows? Partner might have a running minor, such as A-Q-J-10-x, and just need my spade stopper.

Andy Stark: Crazy Eights made me do it; and speaking of eights, this is a nice 8-count. I’m hoping for S Q-x-(x) from partner — there’s four tricks — and 14-15 other HCP to create five more.

Zoran Bohacek: Partner, do you like your hand?

Vlad Rusu: I would never have thought of that 2 H option but will consider it in the future. :)

Kevin Podsiadlik: Just enough to invite… There doesn’t seem much point in seeking the 4-4 fit.

Richard Morse: With 4-3-3-3 shape and 8 [good] points, what more do I need?

Kevin Lane: How can it be wrong to compliment partner’s declarer play? Three notrump might be dicey; but I bid game on hands with which many invite, so my partners know to accept only if maximum [not middle].

Gordon Humphrys: This should work just fine; too balanced for Stayman.

James Fleming: Not a good Stayman hand — nor particularly good for a transfer either — so notrump is probably best, with game if partner is maximum.

Dan Osman: My hand is zip and pip outside spades, but I have to make a move at IMPs; too balanced for Stayman. Even if I provide four spade tricks, partner may have to work overtime to find the other five tricks.

Paulino Correa: Partner needs a good opening for us to have game. I don’t want to be in 4 S, even if he is maximum with four spades.

Marek Malowidzki: I think I should try to reach game; even games [less than] 50 percent are worth trying at IMPs.

Gerald Murphy: I won’t use Stayman with 4-3-3-3 shape; therefore, I will invite with 2 NT.

Michael Palitsch: I think 3 NT is more probable than 4 S — and I don’t want to give information to opponents.

John Lusky: Barely worth an invite; 2 NT is less revealing than 2 C.

Andrei Varlan: Apologies to Grant Baze for [violating] his rule (I don’t have 10s in two suits).

Ciaran Coyne: Initially I was going to pass, but this hand has quick tricks and will take four tricks on a good day. Three notrump seems the more likely game (if any makes).

Pire Cusi: I barely have a game try. Stayman would reveal too much about partner’s hand, and I’m not convinced that spades will score two more tricks than notrump.

Mark Kornmann: Why give away information unnecessarily? If partner has a decent 16-17 and a 5-bagger somewhere, we’re odds-on to make 3 NT… My second choice is to pass, hoping to induce [action] from West, after which we stand to go plus 300 or better.

Comments for 2 C

Francesco Sallustio: Searching for a 4-4 major fit is often purposeless with 4-3-3-3 shape; but with such strong spades, a useful doubleton in opener’s hand can make the difference. It would be nice to have some special tool available; e.g., an invitational sequence ending in 2 S, as in Keri, or a “Stayman in doubt” sequence…

Paul Meerschaert: This seems like pushing the envelope with bad shape; but as 8-counts go, this is better than most. The likelihood that partner may have five spades (in my partnerships) sways me to use Stayman.

Brandon Sheumaker: There’s a theory not to use Stayman with 4-3-3-3 shape, but I disagree. If opener is 4-4-3-2, the ruffing value could be invaluable. Only if his hand mirrors mine will the major-suit contract be touchy, and even then an endplay could create an extra trick.

Richard Stein: Too easy for the defense to run five of something if we’re in 3 NT with 4-4 spades.

David Cohen: I will invite game after partner replies. At matchpoints, I would [pass].

Bill Breslin: I hate that my hand is so flat, but I never miss 25-point games. …

Neelotpal Sahai: Neither level nor strain is certain, so I make an exploratory bid to ascertain that.

Janet Dugle: If partner has four spades I will bid 3 S; if not, I bid 2 NT.

William Grover: Probably better to pass; but if partner should have a good five-card minor, we might squeak into a game despite the flat hand.

John R. Mayne: Work by Alex Martelli supports my thesis that 2 NT invitational is never right. At the table, I’d pass intending to hit West’s balance; but here, I’ll try to match the field, who will look for the 4-4 fit on this lifeless, sterile hand. Pass deserves a good score, though.

Boris Richter: Maybe I’m an optimist, but we may make 4 S if partner has four spades and a small doubleton in another suit… In notrump, I have two or three tricks (maybe four). …

Anant Rajani: Normally, I pass with 4-3-3-3 and 8 HCP; but holding four spades with three honors, I will use Stayman and rebid 2 NT if partner bids anything except spades.

Alecu Pana: Stayman, as partner may have four spades and only two hearts like J-x. I hope that 2 NT is in the cards if partner is minimum.

Will Shepherd: I’m afraid of flat opposite flat, but I’ll look for a spade fit. Opposite a 15-17 notrump, 8 points is game invitational.

Julian Pottage: I do not usually use Stayman with 4-3-3-3 shape, but here any doubleton partner has should be a ruffing value.

Robin Zigmond: Intending to follow with 2 NT or 3 S, depending on partner’s reply. Two notrump is a sensible alternative,…as some hands with a 4-4 spade fit will play better in notrump; but equally many [or more] are better in spades. …

Carolyn Ahlert: Because this is IMPs and not matchpoints, I will check for a 4-4 spade fit then invite game with either 2 NT or 3 S.

Jonathan Steinberg: This one is close. I might pass at matchpoints, but I stretch a wee bit at IMPs. I like to bid games…

Manuel Paulo: Because my side suits are very weak, I’ll try to find a spade fit in spite of my distribution.

Jean-Christophe Clement: To use Stayman or not? With such good spades, I say yes, even with 4-3-3-3 shape.

Imre Csiszar: In the similar Problem 6 (March 2004), Stayman won out over the 2 NT book bid. I expect it will here, too.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
I should know, with as little as anyone.

David Breton: Pass certainly could be right, but I’ll just bid my hand.

Joel Singer: Balanced shape suggests caution, but it’s just barely enough to invite.

Antonio Kotsev: Then 2 NT or 3 S next.

Rosalind Hengeveld: A 4-4-3-2 distribution not only occurs about twice as often as a 4-3-3-3 but also is twice as likely to produce a four-card spade suit. Hence, should partner reply 2 S, chances are about 80 percent that he is 4-4-3-2, opposite which spades rate to play better than notrump. Besides, with 4-3-3-3, partner can bid 3 NT over 3 S. Therefore, if I bid at all, it is an error to forgo Stayman just because I am 4-3-3-3. …

Dan Mytelka: Yucky hand. … Just because I have no ruffing values doesn’t mean that partner doesn’t; so with nothing outside spades, I use Stayman.

Comments for Pass

Hermas Tang: The percentage call; not enough for game opposite a 15-17 notrump.

Barry White: Nonvulnerable, it doesn’t seem worth the [risk] to try for a game.

Michael Mayer: Too square to invite.

Michael Bodell: Even opposite a maximum, this flat 8-count could be trouble.

Rob Wijman: Any game try (2 C or 2 NT) is too aggressive for me with this limited hand and [flat] distribution.

Damo Nair: There too many ways to make 1 NT; besides, we’re nonvulnerable. … You never know; East might find a spade lead.

Tim DeLaney: Not quite good enough to invite a nonvulnerable game; the reward is minimal, and the shape is sterile.

David Caprera: Close to 50 percent of 1 NT openers will be 15 HCP, so I won’t go looking for an unlikely nonvulnerable game; I don’t want to go minus in 2 NT.

Thijs Veugen: The 4-3-3-3 shape is a big disadvantage.

Josh Sinnett: With 23-25 points, no long suit to run, and no help to stop the defenders’ long suit, 1 NT is plenty high.

Bill Powell: Subtracting a point for 4-3-3-3 shape.

Nicoleta Giura: Even opposite a maximum opening, chances of game are remote.

Craig Zastera: It is generally right to pass 1 NT with a flat 8-count, and nothing about this hand suggests an exception.

Jim Munday: I won’t push with 4-3-3-3, nonvulnerable, despite the excellent suit. Opponents may even balance themselves into trouble.

Alon Amsel: I’ll just take the safe plus 90 or so. Seems to me that even opposite a maximum, we will need a couple of finesses and good splits (or bad leads) for nine tricks.

Joon Pahk: What a wretched hand! It’s pretty unlikely that anything other than 1 NT is our best spot. On a good day, West will balance and go for 300 or 500.

Barry Rigal: The side-suit shape means that, even facing a super max (S Q-x-x-x H A-K-x D A-K-x C Q-x-x), even 3 S is in danger.

Scott Stearns: No source of tricks; only one 10. Partner’s values should be pure, given that he has very little in spades. If vulnerable, I would invite.

Daniel Korbel: In my experience, bidding with these hands usually leads to truly wretched contracts. Only the H 10 makes it at all a problem.

Frans Buijsen: The distribution and marginal HCP aren’t enough for a nonvulnerable game.

Curt Reeves: Sterile shape, 8 HCP, and a nonvulnerable game bonus equals pass. Give me the minor-suit 10s, and we can talk.

Leonard Helfgott: As attractive as the spade cluster is, 4-3-3-3 8-counts don’t often produce game. It’s probably [worth] a Stayman invite if vulnerable, where a 40-percent game is OK…

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: I mentally examined a few 16-17 counts, with or without four spades, and game was usually bad or unmakable.

Stefan Jonsson: Close to an invitation, but I dislike 4-3-3-3 shapes. If vulnerable, I would invite.

Stephen Fischer: I’d look for a spade fit if I were going to bid, but too many hands will see us in a no-play game.

Rainer Herrmann: Game is unlikely. Partner probably needs a maximum and the S Q (less than 30 percent with 16+ HCP, and less than 15 percent with 17 HCP). I would also pass vulnerable.

Nigel Guthrie: Aces are undervalued; honors increase their value in combination; high cards work better in your long suit; and good intermediates are plus values. Nevertheless, moving on balanced 8-counts can destroy partnership confidence, especially as nonvulnerable games need better odds.

Jack Brawner: I have been convinced by mentors and experience that 4-3-3-3 8-counts are not invitational.

Brad Theurer: With a flat hand, nonvulnerable, bidding is too much of a stretch for me. Second choice would be 2 C.

George Klemic: With this bad hand, nonvulnerable, I won’t hope partner has magic cards for nine tricks; and trying for 10 in spades is even worse. …

Danny Kleinman: The concentration of honors is counterbalanced by the square shape, so this is a bad 8 HCP. Game won’t be a favorite even facing a maximum, so I won’t even try.

Chuck Lamprey: Even at IMPs, I’m not going to stretch for a nonvulnerable game that probably isn’t there anyhow.

TopMain

Problem 3

IMPs None Vul

Table
S A Q J 9 7 5 4
H
D K Q 5 3
C K 8

West

Dbl
North

Pass
East

2 S
South
1 S
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 S1075549
3 S943729
3 D715310
Double61349
Pass3544

This problem was disappointing, as I expected a closer vote, not only between 4 S and 3 S, but 3 D and double as well. The consensus clearly went for the immediate jump to game despite inferences that opponents may have only a 4-4 heart fit. Four spades might make, of course, so there’s a handsome upside; but it must be odds-against.

I would bid 3 S, mostly as a tactical maneuver, since there will surely be more enemy action after East’s cue-bid. If West bids 4 H, partner might be able to double with a trump stack, converting a phantom save into a nice profit. If 4 H is passed around, I will bid 4 S, perhaps causing opponents to misjudge my playing potential.

Another tactic based on the near-certainty of more bidding is to show the diamond suit. This might be the key if opponents bid 5 H over your subsequent 4 S, as partner can judge to bid 5 S with, e.g., S K-x H x-x-x D J-x-x-x-x C x-x-x, or to pass with the minors reversed.

Double is also reasonable, because it shows extra high-card values and might bring partner into the skirmish. Unfortunately, the most likely scenario will be 3 H by West and 4 H East, placing you in direct position, having to commit before partner has a chance to double. You can’t relegate the decision, since your pass isn’t forcing; and even if it were, you wouldn’t know if partner were doubling because he wanted to or because he had to do something.

Even pass has merit, since lying in wait might deceive opponents into an impulsive double later, although your intentions should be obvious. Preempts are generally less effective after both opponents have acted, so listening for a round may help. As Al Roth might answer: Pass, so I can get more information; what’s the problem?

Here’s what happened in 1975:

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

West
Pittala

Dbl
Pass
North
Soloway

Pass
Pass
East
Franco

2 S
4 H
South
Swanson
1 S
3 S
All Pass

Hamman

Pass
All Pass
Belladonna

1 D
Wolff

3 H
Garozzo
1 C
4 S

The problem scenario arose at the first table, where Swanson chose to bid 3 S — in itself OK, but his subsequent decision to pass 4 H was costly. No doubt, Swanson expected Franco to be groping with a four-card suit and hoped Soloway could double; but not this time. Indeed, Franco was applying some shrewd tactics of his own, hoping to buy the contract in 4 H — 11 easy tricks; plus 450.

At the second table, Garozzo opened with a strong club and ended proceedings with a jump to 4 S after Wolff’s 3 H intrusion. Hamman’s dubious decision to defend 4 S was not a success, as only a four-eyed tree toad would find the killing diamond lead. After a heart lead, Garozzo ruffed and led ace and another spade, soon claiming — a double game swing, and 13 IMPs to Italy.

Comments for 4 S

David Read: Preemptive, protecting against opponents’ 5 H contract.

Jacob Grabowski: I’ll shut out opponents before they exchange any more information. Bidding 3 D could help the opposition more than partner, as [playing in diamonds] is unlikely.

Hermas Tang: I won’t give opponents the chance to bid 4 H, which seems unbeatable.

Francesco Sallustio: This is likely to fail, but 4 H is likely to make.

Junyi Zhu: Looks both opponents have short/weak spades, so our game is still quite possible — and I don’t think I would let opponents play 4 H anyway.

Paul Meerschaert: No half measures for me! As little as S x-x H x-x-x-x D J-x-x-x C Q-x-x gives me a shot, and I may not need that much. Besides, this certainly applies the most pressure.

Brian Sharkey: Surely, I must keep opponents out of their heart fit, and 4 S has good chances anyhow. I’d almost bid five spades.

Franklin Gonzalez: Anyone’s guess. Opponents may have a game in hearts, and we may have a game in spades (always optimistic), so pushing them to the five level is a good idea. …

Barry White: The perfect bid — probably down one — but opponents may well go down one at 5 H, perhaps doubled.

Sandy Barnes: Partner can’t tell what little he needs for game.

David Cohen: Looks like I have 2-3 tricks on defense and 7-8 on offense, so it’s worth the risk to jam the auction.

Carsten Kofoed: Full press on East-West.

Boris Richter: Is this pressure bidding? Who cares. :)

Michael Mayer: A three-loser hand offensively; but how am I going to get to dummy? … I might make this if partner has three points in the minors.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Partner is broke. Opponents figure to be on for 4 H, and 4 S is probably down two at worst.

Alecu Pana: Seems that partner is very weak. Do I have defensive values? I believe not. Can they make 4 H? It is possible. Does partner have 3 points like the C Q and D J? Probably not, but in the worst case I expect minus 300 or 500. My second choice would be 3 S, then pass after opponents’ 4 H.

Richard Morse: Applying maximum pressure early. Three spades may be safer in the sense of incurring less penalty, but it makes it too easy for opponents to bid 4 H.

Gordon Humphrys: This works fine, as my four-loser hand is worth it. (I’m glad 5 S was not an option.)

Will Shepherd: Clearly, opponents are holding all the points on this auction. I’m willing to accept down two doubled over the game they almost certainly make; and since they haven’t chosen a suit yet, this makes their lives really miserable.

Rob Wijman: The value bid; let opponents take it from here. Three diamonds could work well if partner is very short in spades with 5+ diamonds, however, I do not want to play in diamonds opposite four.

Sjoerd van der Schuit: Opponents will double, no doubt, and I will go down one or two; but then, 4 H would [probably] be an easy game.

Harry Ropper: Opponents certainly have a fit in hearts, so I’ll make things difficult for them.

Dan Osman: I gave serious consideration to walking the dog with 3 S, always intending to bid four, but that has two downsides: (1) I’m more likely to get doubled, and (2) I want to force a decision at the five level. Partner doesn’t have points, but he [may] have hearts,…so I doubt opponents can make 5 H.

Shirley Paterson: As a bridge player, I probably gamble too much.

Julian Pottage: Asking to be doubled, I know; but I cannot bring myself to bid any less.

Damo Nair: This could easily turn out to be a cheap save. (Last words before I write down minus 800.)

Paulino Correa: Opponents likely have 4 H. For me to make 4 S, it may be enough to find partner with the D J, C Q and a couple of spades.

Gerald Murphy: My hand is good enough for 4 S, as I only need a few cards like the D J and C Q.

Tim DeLaney: I would never allow 4 H to play, so I must prevent opponents from exchanging information. On a good day, partner will provide S x-x H x-x-x D J-10-x C Q-x-x-x-x, giving an [excellent] chance to make 4 S.

Robin Zigmond: Preemption must be right, as opponents look to have a heart fit and plenty of points. Three diamonds may lead to a better spot for us, but it lets hearts into the picture too cheaply. If we have a game, it’s almost certainly 4 S anyway.

David Caprera: A big bid, but the upside is that I don’t need much to make, and I don’t think that I am going down a lot. This shows offense, not defense, so if opponents bid on to 5 H and partner doubles, I am happy to defend.

Jonathan Steinberg: Keeping to my theme of bidding games at IMPs, I’ll try one more and make East-West guess what to do at the five level.

Thijs Veugen: I don’t need much from partner to make this, so I’ll give it a try.

Josh Sinnett: I’m going to bid this over 4 H anyway, so I’ll keep East-West from exchanging more information.

Bill Powell: I want to play this one — until I see dummy, anyway.

Nicoleta Giura: Make the opponents work, and throw them overboard! I think 3 S is wimpy with 7-4 shape.

Michael Palitsch: Let the opponents decide what to do at the five level.

Jim Munday: Opponents are likely headed for 4 H. Partner may have a pile of hearts and be able to defeat them; but even so, I haven’t gone down in 4 S yet. The D J and a couple spades may be enough to make game. My suits are too lopsided to suggest diamonds, as I don’t want a preference to 5 D with only four diamonds…

John Lusky: This could effectively disrupt the opponents — and even make opposite the right trash.

Barry Rigal: I may be putting my head on the block, but I will be forced to go high or low [over 4 H] without much clue as to which is right; so I choose the maximum preempt. I just hope the first five cards partner puts down are not H Q-J-x-x-x!

Imre Csiszar: Letting the opponents play 4 H looks odds-against, even though partner might have a trump trick or two. Three spades wins if West bids 4 H and partner can double; but more likely, West will pass, East will bid 4 H, and I’ll have to bid 4 S anyway…

Leonard Helfgott: Since I should probably compete to 3 S on a reasonable 7=2=2=2 hand (S A-Q-J-x-x-x-x H x-x D K-Q C K-x), I can hardly go out below 4 S on this 3+ loser hand — all I really need is the D J and C Q…

Franco Galleni: Maybe a boomerang, but I need to give opponents trouble.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Maximum pressure. Opponents are likely to make 4 H, and they may bid on and go set. On a bad day, I may go down three, but it will usually be less.

Stefan Jonsson: Principle of fast arrival. This is where I want to be, so why bother sneaking around? Let opponents guess.

Rainer Herrmann: Safer now than later.

Lajos Linczmayer: Partner does not have much, but I’ll bid 4 S anyway; the sooner the better.

Roger Morton: I don’t need much from partner (e.g., the D J), and this might just shut out a making 5 H bid.

Owen Cotton-Barratt: I’d never be happy selling out to 4 H, so I’ll bid 4 S and put opponents to the guess at the five level. This might even make!

Antonio Kotsev: I’d bid 4 S after 4 H anyway, and I might even make it opposite S x-x H x-x-x-x D J-10-x C x-x-x-x.

George Klemic: A tactical bid. Opponents rate to be close to making 4 H; and I can see 4 S making, too, with the right shape in partner’s hand. Opponents will also have to decide whether to bid 5 H, and now they’re guessing.

David Grainger: All I need to make this worthwhile is the D J, and I know opponents are going to bid 4 H anyway. [Maybe] this will cause them to bid 5 H.

Rosalind Hengeveld: The modern Rule of 11: With 7-4 shape, bid four of the long suit as soon as possible. East can explain what 2 S was at the level that belongs to the opponents according to — yes, there it is — the Law!

Dan Mytelka: East’s cue-bid shows a strong hand, presumably in support of hearts, so I need to preempt before opponents can exchange more information. Depending on the enemy distribution, we might be setting 5 H, or keeping them out of a making 6 H

Danny Kleinman: Why did I make it so easy for my opponents? Too bad we’re not playing “Namyats Has It Backwards” — a 3 NT opening to show a strong preempt in either major.

Comments for 3 S

Alan Kravetz: This gets the message of long spades and power across to partner — and if he has a heart stack, opponents will not be happy in 4 H.

Prabhakar Oak: East’s cue-bid [suggests no long suit] or both minors, so I will not gamble and bid 4 S

Joshua Donn: Double is not enough, and 4 S is too much. I may never see the light of dummy to lead toward my minor suits, and maybe partner wants to defend 4 H anyway.

Kristy Knight: Opponents have a minimum of 24 points; I have some defensive values; partner has diddly.

John Payson: This and 4 S both seem reasonable; 4 S would likely go down but may make it harder for opponents to find a good lead; 3 S puts opponents on a bit of a guess, but they’ll probably find 4 H

Brandon Sheumaker: Partner is broke, but I’m not. A penalty double isn’t likely to be expensive (down two at worst), so I’ll make opponents guess at the four level.

Richard Stein: I’m not done yet (4 H is probably coming back around to me)… No sense messing with diamonds when opponents probably own them.

Bruce Kretchmer: East has four hearts; West has four hearts; maybe my broke partner has five small. I don’t want to go for 500.

Bill Breslin: I hate that opponents have all the points, but West does not hold my spades. … Perhaps partner has a heart stack that will beat them if I push them to 4 H.

John R. Mayne: Seems like a very normal call. I can play in a 7-0 fit, so I won’t pass. I won’t bid 3 D because partner might think I actually want to play in diamonds, which is wildly unlikely.

Anant Rajani: I want to play something is spades, so I’ll rebid my seven-card suit.

Kevin Lane: This is enough. Weird hand; a cue-bid with 13 hearts outstanding but only 25 HCP maximum (i.e., no slam). It would seem East’s bid would be 4 H. Could partner be sitting on six hearts?

Craig Zastera: Tough choice between blasting 4 S (my usual style) and soliciting partner’s opinion by bidding only 3 S. Since opponents are obviously going to bid a game (most likely 4 H), after 3 S I must then respect partner’s decision as final; otherwise, I should bid 4 S immediately. This will work particularly well when partner’s meager values are in hearts and 4 H doesn’t fetch, or if partner has nothing and 4 S doubled is down 500. A problem is that partner will have no way of knowing that he must choose 4 S with S x-x H x-x-x-x D J-10-x C x-x-x-x (might even make!) but pass 4 H with S x-x H x-x-x-x D x-x-x C J-10-x-x. Hopefully, with no defense he would bid 4 S with either… All in all, I think it is best not to take unilateral action (4 S) when I can’t be sure that their game makes or that my sacrifice isn’t too expensive.

Alon Amsel: Partner will not be too happy to hear 4 S with his S x H Q-J-10-9-8 D x-x-x C x-x-x-x. We may miss a game in diamonds, but the four-card suit is just too weak to introduce.

Joon Pahk: I’m willing to defend 4 H, so it seems okay to bid 3 S. …

Charles Blair: Visions of 4 H doubled dance in my head.

Geoff Bridges: I am trying to obstruct the opponents’ auction, but taking a save seems premature.

Daniel Korbel: I expect to hear some number of hearts next, over which 4 S will hopefully sound like a sacrifice and may induce a spite double. There is virtually no chance that East will pass 4 S if I bid it now.

Curt Reeves: Partner should raise to game with a mild fit and a sure side trick. He should also whack 4 H with 1=4=4=4 [or similar] shape and a natural heart trick.

Jack Brawner: Make opponents decide at a higher level. Three diamonds may be descriptive, but it sounds lead-directing and is likely pointless. Secretly, I like a 3 H bid.

Brad Theurer: At first glance, it looks obvious to bid 4 S to make the opponents guess; but partner could be sitting over there with five decent hearts and spade shortness, in which case we should be defending. So I will suggest a good playing hand and take up some bidding room but let partner decide whether to defend the probable 4 H or bid on.

Joel Singer: Partner may be waiting to smack 4 H, so I’ll give him the opportunity.

Comments for 3 D

Manuel Paulo: After West’s double and East’s cue-bid, it’s likely that opponents can make 4 H; so I’ll bid my other suit to help partner make the last decision.

Scott Stearns: I’ll see if I can get partner interested. This very powerful offensive hand is definitely worth another call, and 3 D might turn partner on more than just rebidding spades.

David Harari: Partner is broke, but he might have some diamonds.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Opponents are on the way to 4 H, so the idea is to find our best counter (4 S, 5 D, pass or double).

Pire Cusi: Unless I totally distrust partner, I find it obvious to give him a chance to judge his hand.

David Shelton: Pro: This may allow partner to help. Con: Informs opponents of my hand shape.

Steve White: I’ll let partner know where my side values are.

Mauri Saastamoinen: Three spades (or even 4 S) could easily be the right bid; but why couldn’t partner have something like S x H x-x-x-x D J-10-x-x-x-x C x-x?

Chuck Lamprey: Trying to involve partner if opponents later bid 5 H over my 4 S.

Comments for Double

Jackie Williams: I think this shows a 6+ card suit and better than a minimum opening…

Andrei Varlan: First I’ll show extra values, then I’ll decide later.

TopMain

Problem 4

IMPs Both Vul

Table
S A K 10
H K J
D A K Q 10 5
C A K 10

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 D
3 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
2 C
3 D
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
4 NT (regular BW)1052534
5 S91017
5 NT (pick a slam)821614
6 NT631020
4 C522315
3 NT41027
4 S3564

We must be in Denver, as it’s mountain time! This rock-crusher caused dissent in the ranks, as some respondents questioned the 3 D rebid, preferring a simple 3 NT instead. Debatable, to be sure, but 3 D seems fine to me when as little as S x-x H Q-x-x D x-x-x-x C x-x-x-x offers an excellent 6 D. True, it might be difficult to reach the slam intelligently anyway, but failing to try is not a solution. It is also worth stating that a 3 D rebid tends to be stronger than a minimum 2 C bid, because of the awkward auction it typically creates.

The general outlook was to be optimistic. Many respondents thought partner “had to have something” to bid spades, but the truth is he promised nothing in high cards, since 3 D was forcing.* Therefore, the consensus to commit to slam via Blackwood is an overbid, particularly since you must place the final contract yourself. Even so, a Yarborough is always odds-against, so it is reasonable to hope for at least S Q-x-x-x-x, which is likely to make a sound slam; or maybe S J-x-x-x-x and a little luck. Remembering that “fifty million Frenchman can’t be wrong,” I must concede the top award to the aggressive move — but don’t complain to me when partner turns up with S x-x-x-x-x H x-x-x D x C x-x-x-x.

*There is no “second negative” in the default system, and most who use such a gimmick do not apply it after a 3 D rebid due to the awkward level (no idle minor-suit bid below 3 NT). Without discussion, I think most experts would treat 3 H, 3 S and 3 NT as equals regarding strength (or lack of it).

If partner shows the H A in response to 4 NT, many wondered how they could find the S Q using regular Blackwood (the default system agreement). There is a way, though it may be unfamiliar to younger players born on key-card. A bid of six in the cheapest unbid (unplayable) suit is a “grand slam force” substitute. In this case, 6 C would ask partner to bid 7 S with two of the top three honors; and since there are idle bids available: 6 D shows the king, 6 H shows the queen, and 6 S shows neither.

My choice, and the only sensible slam try, is the 5 S raise, which clearly asks about trump quality. Given that partner has promised no strength, a holding of S Q-x-x-x-x should be enough to accept; and if he bids 6 S, I’ll correct to 6 NT to protect my heart holding. If partner passes 5 S, at least he will have a fair chance to make it. If partner happens to have the H A and S Q-x-x-x-x, he should bid 6 H; then we’ll get to a grand.

If I were to insist on slam, I like 5 NT (pick a slam), as it allows you to reach 6 D opposite S x-x-x-x-x H Q-x-x D J-x-x C x-x, as well as 6 NT (if partner chooses 6 S). Of course, either contract could be hopeless opposite nothing, or the wrong smidgens; but two bites at the apple improve the odds. Certainly, this has to be better than jumping to 6 NT, the second most popular choice.

Bidding 6 NT is a reasonable guess at the best contract, but it has another danger besides the chance of having no play. If partner has the H A and nothing else, isn’t he supposed to bid seven? After all, he promised nothing, so you’re contracting for 12 tricks all by yourself. To be sure, passing and putting down an ace would be embarrassing if not insulting.

The pseudo-scientific 4 C (ostensibly natural) may allow more room to explore, but it’s difficult to see how it will help. A 4 D preference is likely, then you won’t know whether partner has three diamonds or is just being courteous with a doubleton. If you next raise spades, it will imply that you need heart control for slam, as well as pinpoint your weakness to the opening leader. It’s hard to see how anything good might happen.

The conservative route is just to bid game in 3 NT or 4 S. This gives up on some good slams (e.g., partner would never bid again with S Q-x-x-x-x and the D J) but ensures that any slam reached will be ultra sound. Too pessimistic for me. The only thing I know about “ultra sound” was to learn my child would be a boy.

Enough procrastinating. This deal was painful to my countrymen, when it occurred in their round-robin match against France:

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

West
Lebel

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Swanson

2 D
3 S
6 S
East
Mari

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Soloway
2 C
3 D
5 S

Kantar

2 H
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
Svarc

Pass
3 S
4 S
5 S
Eisenberg

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Boulenger
2 C
2 NT
4 D
5 H
6 NT

The problem scenario arose at the first table, where Soloway judged well to raise to 5 S, and Swanson happily accepted with his sixth trump as a bonus. Soloway’s decision to pass could have been right (e.g., S Q-J-x-x-x H x-x-x D x C x-x-x-x offers a better play for 6 S than 6 NT), but not this time. Mari’s lead of the H 10 scuttled the slam quickly, though Swanson would have needed mirrors to succeed with any lead on the foul layout.

At the second table, the French were aided by Kantar’s routine overcall (strange that Lebel passed), so it was imperative for Boulenger to be declarer. Evidently, the 2 NT rebid was forcing in their system; but the lack of transfers made it impossible to play spades from the right side — endplayed into 6 NT. Kantar did well not to cash the H A, but he led a low club to the jack and ace. After cashing two top spades and three diamonds, Boulenger finished spades to reach H K C K-10; Kantar chose to blank his C Q to avoid the endplay, but Boulenger guessed right — making 6 NT; 17 IMPs to France.

Comments for 4 NT

Jacob Grabowski: I’ll check for the missing ace, and at the same time right-side a possible notrump slam.

Joshua Donn: Sometimes simplest is best. This will cause us to miss some good slams when we’re just off the H A; but how are we supposed to get to slam when partner has S Q-x-x-x-x H Q-x-x D x-x C x-x-x? Not to begin the whining crusade, but you really have stuck us with a crappy system here! I don’t even know if partner has a single point, yet I find myself too good for 4 S and with no other happy option.

Francesco Sallustio: I take 3 S as semipositive (even if limited from the 2 D response) with a 5-card suit. Should partner show one ace, I’ll ask for kings and bid 6 S after the obvious 6 C; this should be taken as a grand-slam invitation, and partner should carry on with the S Q.

Barry White: If partner has the H A, I will bid 5 NT to give partner a chance to bid the grand with an excellent spade suit (Q-x-x-x-x-x or so); otherwise, I will try 6 NT to protect my heart holding.

Tim Dickinson: Ugh; 27-pointers are impossible to handle. What would partner make of 5 S or 5 NT? Would 4 C be a suit or spade-support cue-bid? Way too confusing… Three notrump and 4 S are for wimps, and 6 NT is a sure loser because Pavlicek polls frown on punts. So 4 NT must be the winner!

John Payson: Blackwood depends upon having a good sign-off agreement. In my methods, if partner bids 5 C, I’d bid 5 H; partner would then rebid 5 S or 5 NT, which I’d leave as the final contract. If partner has the H A, 6 NT is worth a shot. …

Brandon Sheumaker: … If partner has the magic [maximum] of S Q-J-x-x-x H A-x-x D x-x C x-x-x, 13 tricks are there in spades assuming reasonable breaks. …

Richard Stein: I’m going to 7 NT if North shows the H A; 6 NT if not. I wasn’t dealt this elephant so I could play in game.

David Cohen: Regular Blackwood? How old are these hands? Isn’t the S Q a huge card?

Judge for yourself… though it does look a bit
oversized, now that you mention it.

Andy Stark: This has the benefit of agreeing spades and keeping the grand in the picture. Many of the other choices do not — or else get too complicated.

Bill Breslin: No idea on partner’s hand assuming 2 D is [negative]. I like his 3 S bid and want to know if he has the H A. I’m thinking 6 NT or higher is the target, but I haven’t given up on a bailout in 5 S.

Neelotpal Sahai: To ascertain if a grand could be on. …

Janet Dugle: It looks like we have an eight-card spade fit; and perhaps I will bid 6 NT, so the lead will come around to my heart holding.

John R. Mayne: I’ll commit to the six level; no, I don’t like it; and yes, I’d rather try to get better information than just aces — but the choices aren’t great. Tough!

Boris Richter: Aiming to bid seven if partner has the H A and S Q [if I can locate that card].

Amnon Harel: … How can I find out about the S Q (or a sixth spade) and H A? With some of my partners, I’d try…4 NT 5 D; 5 NT 6 C; 6 H without prior agreement. An alternative is to bid 6 S directly, expecting partner to bid seven with the perfect hand — if I get lucky, even 5 S goes down. :)

Anant Rajani: First I need to know if partner has the H A; then I will play 5 S or 6 NT.

Alecu Pana: Why didn’t I bid 3 NT? I lost the chance to play a spade contract from the strong hand [assuming transfers] to protect H K-J. Who knows where the H A is? I’ll see if six or seven is in range.

Kevin Lane: Has partner denied holding the H A and S Q? Not in my book, so seven is in play; and 4 NT is the easiest way to let partner know. I will rebid 6 NT missing the H A, or probe for a grand after 5 D.

Gordon Humphrys: No option here; can’t be wrong to look for a grand. Six spades could be bad, so 6 NT is the very lowest spot I will finish the auction.

Will Shepherd: Partner should have five spades, not completely empty, so it looks like spades is the place to be. … If partner holds the remaining ace, we have a good shot at seven; and if he doesn’t, six is worth the stretch; so I’ll ask.

Rob Wijman: Partner should have something meaningful in spades (at least jack-sixth or queen-fifth). If he has the H A as well, we could have a grand; if not, I will settle for 6 NT.

James Fleming: Do we have the H A? If so, I might bid 7 NT; otherwise, 6 NT.

Sjoerd van der Schuit: I want to play the notrump, as any lead may give me a trick.

Dan Osman: … I wish 4 NT were key-card, because I would love to know about the S Q [if missing the H A].

Damo Nair: What’s the matter with regular Blackwood? With two cards, the S Q and H A, we could have a grand. Is partner allowed to bid 3 S with x-x-x-x-x?

Sandy McIlwain: I would probably bid 4 C as a delicate probe, but I’ve been probed here before. :)

Gerald Murphy: Slam is too close to call. Maybe partner has the H A and S Q.

Thijs Veugen: I’ll find out whether partner has the H A, and a possible notrump contract will be played from the right hand.

Josh Sinnett: Shouldn’t the rebid have been 3 NT to show a balanced 27-28? Oh well. I’ll find out about the H A and go from there.

Charles Blair: If partner has one ace, I hope 6 C by me will be treated as grand slam force in spades. Otherwise, I’ll hope 6 NT makes.

Scott Stearns: I can’t see myself not having a play for 12 tricks, so I might as well [look for a grand].

Daniel Korbel: This is just a guess, as any contract from 3 NT through 7 NT could be the right spot. Regular Blackwood gives us the best chance to get to seven, so I choose it.

Comments for 5 S

Samuel Krikler: Partner has to view this as a queen ask. Assuming no losers in the trump suit, 6 S has [at least] a 50-percent chance, given the heart tenace.

Julian Lim: The most likely road to slam is if partner has [the S Q] or a sixth spade, and this is the best way to ask. I plan to convert 6 S to 6 NT to protect my hearts.

David Leavitt: Partner is presumably showing at least five spades… If that’s all he has, even 3 NT could go down, as there would be no entry to the long spades, nor any way to get to the board to finesse. Spades appears to be the right strain, and 4 S would be a close-out; so this invites partner to go on…

Paul Meerschaert: … This way I may hear music when partner bids 6 H with S Q-10-x-x-x-x H A-x-x D x C x-x-x. Hey! A guy can dream, can’t he?

Kevin Podsiadlik: I’m too strong not to invite slam (even seven may be worthwhile opposite the right 7-count); but if partner is flat broke, even 4 S may not be cold. Unfortunately, this is the only way to invite.

Joseph Hawes: Now let partner sweat.

David Caprera: I protest! I should have bid notrump at the appropriate level last round. Alternatively, a Kokish 2 H would have worked. Admittedly, balanced 27-counts occur more frequently in bidding contests than in real life, but the partnership does need a way to accommodate them. … So this is one of those, “You are kibitzing the final of the Spingold, and one of the players takes ill half way through the auction…” Am I a man or a mouse? Partner could have a zero-count with only four spades (4=3=1=5); or he could have S Q-x-x-x-x and the H Q and not appreciate their full value. … I will take the middle road with 5 S, the only bid that gets the invitational message across. …

Bill Powell: Extras, but not enough to insist on slam.

Joon Pahk: Partner should know I’m interested in something other than aces, so maybe he will bid slam with a couple of queens. Even S x-x-x-x-x-x and out gives us a reasonable shot at making 5 S, so I don’t feel too bad about bypassing the four level.

Barry Rigal: Too good for 4 S… The advantage of 5 S is that it transfers the blame fairly and squarely to partner.

Imre Csiszar: As Blackwood followed by a 5 H trump-ask is unavailable, perhaps a natural invitation is best. The 6 NT gamble might be right at matchpoints; but at IMPs, I’d hate to go for 1100 with the strongest hand I ever held. I expect partner to bid 6 S on the majority of hands with which slam is good. With both the S Q and H A, he can cue-bid 6 H; and seven will be reached.

Brad Theurer: Three notrump and 4 S are out since they’re nonforcing and I have too much extra; 4 C is forcing but won’t help me find out what I need; 4 NT is no good since I need to know more than the number of aces; 5 NT and 6 NT are too aggressive or optimistic; so I’ll settle for a clear invite. Perhaps the harder question is whether to convert 6 S to 6 NT to protect my heart holding.

Owen Cotton-Barratt: Partner is showing 0-7 points with 5+ spades,…and we’re already higher than I’d like. … When we’re this cramped, 5 S should be a general slam try. … I would have preferred to rebid 3 NT (27-28 balanced) over 2 D, as that would put partner in a much better position to place the contract.

Comments for 5 NT

Brian Sharkey: It’s all about partner having queens and/or the H A. I’ll be happy to play whichever slam partner picks; and if he has better than expected, I’ll let him bid the grand.

Franklin Gonzalez: I may need to protect H K-J from the lead [in 6 NT], but I’ll give partner a say to determine the best slam…

Nicoleta Giura: Now that we’ve wrong-sided every suit slam :) I’ll let partner pick: 6 S with S Q-J-x-x-x H Q-x-x D x-x C x-x-x; or 6 D with S J-x-x-x-x H Q-x-x D J-x-x C x-x.

Craig Zastera: Yes, partner could have a Yarborough; but since slam has a play opposite S J-x-x-x-x and out, I’m not going to stop below six. Ideally, I’d like to play [6 D or] 6 S from my side, but that’s impossible. …

Jim Munday: Other choices require me to choose the strain, but I’d like to solicit further input from partner. … If he prefers 6 S, I’ll have to decide whether to correct to 6 NT.

Alon Amsel: If I go straight to Blackwood, I’m in trouble if partner has no ace, as I won’t know about the S Q or whether diamonds are likely to run. … A grand slam seems highly unlikely, as with [S Q-J-x-x-x and the H A], partner might have bid 2 S. If partner doesn’t have a heart honor, East won’t know that a heart lead is compulsory.

Lajos Linczmayer: Blackwood doesn’t help, and I must show my extras. I don’t like 5 S either, as I would like to be declarer. If partner has, say, S x-x-x-x-x H x-x D x-x C Q-x-x-x,S may go down, while I could make a lucky 6 NT.

Comments for 6 NT

Jonathan Steinberg: My auction would probably go 2 C 2 D (no aces); 2 H (Kokish relay) 2 S; 2 NT (balanced 25-27), then partner would have some idea what my hand is. This auction (to be polite) leaves much to be desired. … Six notrump is a reasonable shot and could make opposite lots of hands. …

Frans Buijsen: I want to be declarer to protect my heart holding. In 6 NT, both spades and diamonds are potential trick sources.

David Breton: … It’s too bad I couldn’t extract any useful information, but the vulnerability makes gambling on slam attractive. Hopefully, opponents are stuck with the same system at the other table. :)

Leonard Helfgott: … If I offer a choice of slams,…we could be down instantly on a heart lead with 6 NT cold. I will gamble on partner having a workable card somewhere;…and if he holds both the H A and S Q, he should bid seven.

Jack Brawner: Slam has to play from my side, and I don’t seem to have the methods to find the necessary cards to bid seven if I find the H A with 4 NT.

Ed Barnes: This may be a deeply unpopular choice, but I simply can’t wait to see the opening lead. …

George Klemic: [I hope] partner has at least one useful queen (or the missing ace). On the chance that partner doesn’t have either heart card, I want to be declarer, and this is the only strain in which that will happen. … I consider it remote that 6 S is the only making slam.

Comments for 4 C

Richard Morse: Partner should have five spades but could have nothing else; and even 4 S could be quite tough. On the other hand, partner could have as little as the S Q and H Q, and slam in spades or notrump would be fine. So game and slam bids seem premature. Four clubs (natural) seems the most versatile bid, with 5 S in reserve for the next round if appropriate.

Tim DeLaney: Hoping partner’s next bid will enlighten me. This hand is just too good to settle for game without trying for slam.

Robin Zigmond: [Even though this is natural], it has to be better than the other options. Three notrump and 4 S are horrible when slam might well be cold (partner only needs S Q-x-x-x-x-x and the D J for 6 NT to be almost laydown); 5 S or 5 NT could lead to [6 D or] 6 S going off on a heart lead, when 6 NT is there; and 6 NT (probably the slam I want to be in, if any) is just a guess. Partner need not have any points for this sequence…

John Lusky: As partner could have S x-x-x-x-x H x-x-x D x-x C x-x-x, I should not commit to slam; but the right queen and jack could make slam good. I think my best bet is to bid 4 C and hope to get more information. Six clubs could even be the best slam if partner has S x-x-x-x-x H x-x D x C Q-x-x-x-x.

Geoff Bridges: If partner is dead bust, I [might not] even make 3 NT; and both 3 NT and 4 S will miss many good slams. I’ll tiptoe with 4 C and hope to survive.

Jean-Christophe Clement: North has at least five spades, and a slam is [likely]. But which one? …

Stefan Jonsson: I only need partner to have the S Q to make a slam; and how am I going to find out if he doesn’t know Roman key-card Blackwood? :) Maybe this is my lucky day and partner rebids spades; then I can ask for aces…

Rainer Herrmann: Your Bidding Guide claims that a direct 3 NT rebid shows a balanced hand of 27-28 HCP. Does 3 NT deny a five-card minor (nowhere mentioned)? If it is too strong for 3 NT (doubtful), why not an immediate 4 NT? I am not fond of these methods; but why agree such methods if they are shunned when the very rare hand pops up? Bidding suits first instead of limiting the hand, but then refusing to play key-card Blackwood, gives you the worst of both worlds, where neither key cards nor combined quantitative strength can be assessed with any certainty.

The answers are buried deep in my cerebral plane.
Unfortunately, I lost my boarding pass.

Nigel Guthrie: Although partner should have five spades or Q-x-x-x, slam is still a long way off. This allows room for more consultation, although, arguably, it’s just daisy-picking.

Joel Singer: Partner may support diamonds or rebid spades, which will help me decide my next action.

Roger Morton: I’ll keep it rolling and listen to another bid from partner. The real problem probably comes next round.

Steve Mager: In this sequence, partner can have a Yarborough — or cards for a laydown grand. This keeps the bidding alive and doesn’t rush things.

Dan Mytelka: The problem here is that the 3 D bid stinks; 3 NT would describe this hand and wouldn’t leave me guessing whether partner has 0 points or 7, and whether he has four spades or more. On average, partner will have about 4 points, so I need to think there is a 50-percent chance of getting to a making slam… I think I need partner to have two cards (out of S Q, H A, H Q and D J) for a decent slam shot, and by crude calculation that’s about 40 percent. …

Mauri Saastamoinen: An ugly one! Why didn’t I jump to 3 NT? Probably, because my hand was too good. (Would a jump to 4 NT after 2 D had shown a balanced 28-30?) … If I bid 3 NT, it is virtually impossible for partner to bid on, even with a perfecta, such as S Q-x-x-x-x H Q-x-x D J-x C x-x-x. On the other hand, I need only S J-x-x-x-x-x or Q-x-x-x-x for a chance to make 6 NT. I won’t want to play in 6 S; but how about trying for 7 S? Would partner bid 4 H over 4 C with S Q-x-x-x-x H A-x-x D x-x C x-x-x? … Is there life on Mars? …

TopMain

Problem 5

IMPs E-W Vul

Table
S Q J 7 6
H
D J 3 2
C A Q 10 4 3 2

West
Pass
North
Pass
East
1 H
South
?

As South, what is your call?

CallAwardVotesPercent
2 C1079752
2 H (Michaels)81077
Double741827
3 C615410
1 S3221
Pass2352

This problem was the bomb of the month, as a majority chose to overcall 2 C. I suspected from past experience that 2 C would win, but I really thought it would be close. In fact, 2 C is only my fourth choice. C’est la vie. One man’s opinion bears little weight against a majority vote, so 2 C gets the top award.

My feelings about this hand lean toward spades. The secondary spade honors suggest that any success on offense (makable contract or good save) depends on partner having a spade fit; i.e., opposite a misfit (S x-x), S Q-J may be useless as declarer while providing a likely trick on defense. The best way to bring spades into the picture is to use Michaels — off-shape, sure, but I’ve been told my mind has the same problem. If you want good results, you can’t play by rigid rules (words of Zia?).

My second choice is to double, again to focus immediately on spades at the expense of suppressing the club suit. The favorable vulnerability makes the strength barely palatable, since you can tolerate a 2 D response. Showing the nice club suit has less appeal than usual, because lead direction is negligible (you’ll be on lead against any heart contract), and finding a club fit will still leave you guessing whether S Q-J is more useful on offense or defense.

If I were forced to bid clubs, I’d bid 3 C (weak). Surely, you can’t plan to bid again with such meager values, so you might as well preempt the auction. The presence of a side four-card major is not a restriction opposite a passed hand. The only nightmare would be to see: P P Dbl; All pass, and dummy hit with 5+ spades and a stiff club. I guess that’s why it’s only my third choice.

Other options (1 S and pass) were thrown in mainly as fillers, but I’ve never had a filler rejected. Since I emphasized how this hand hinged around spades, I’ll rank the eccentric 1 S bid ahead of pass — in fact, I may have found 22 new cell mates.

Here’s what happened in Bermuda in 1975:

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

West
Belladonna
Pass
4 H
North
Eisenberg
Pass
Dbl
East
Garozzo
1 H
All Pass
South
Kantar
2 H

Hamman
Pass
2 D
Franco
Pass
All Pass
Wolff
1 H
Pittala
1 S

At the first table, Kantar seemed to have the same idea as this writer; well, not quite, as his cue-bid (top and bottom) showed both black suits. Belladonna’s raise to 4 H was extremely pushy and justly punished by Eisenberg. Even the cat paws of Garozzo couldn’t bring home this overbid, and when the smoke cleared he was down two; minus 500.

Pittala, too, had spades on the brain at the second table, so he overcalled the suit directly. Hamman was hardly eager to raise hearts playing four-card majors, so he showed his diamond suit and played right there. This unglamorous contract was at least low enough for a plus score; 11 IMPs to North America.

Comments for 2 C

Samuel Krikler: Since partner has passed, the likelihood of game in spades is small; so I prefer to bid my quality six-card suit.

Prabhakar Oak: I have [few] defensive tricks but am strong in playing tricks. If opponents bid 2 H, I will bid 2 S to describe my hand.

Jacob Grabowski: Just wondering how to misrepresent my hand the least; 3 C will lose the other suits, and double could mislead partner into thinking I had more strength. Hopefully, 2 C will leave me with the best options, but it [may] leave me wide open for the opposition.

Joshua Donn: This hand is about clubs first; then spades, which I plan to bid next round. Richard, you are giving me a hernia including Michaels in these problems! Despite what you said in March, Michaels with less than 5-5 is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong in any country. The “accepted norm” [with four spades and five hearts] you referred to was news to me.

You make a good point. In fact, I’m convinced
most topics would be news to you.

Francesco Sallustio: After partner’s pass, I prefer to show the main feature of my hand. Who knows? I could have a chance to show spades later.

Paul Meerschaert: Long suit first! I am not shy about trying to find a fit somewhere else later — I am willing to bid 4 S if opponents are in 4 H when it next comes to me.

Kristy Knight: Mentioning a six-card suit can never be bad.

Kevin Moore: If spades and clubs were reversed, I might bid a non-kosher Michaels, as it seems to go well for sacrifice bids.

Barry White: Just not good enough for a takeout double; partner may bid 2 D and leave me with a problem. If partner finds a 2 S bid over 2 C, I will raise to three.

John Payson: I don’t expect to compete too far; but if West ends up in notrump, a club lead wouldn’t come amiss (even though West would probably have the C K).

Sandy Barnes: Overbidding again, but I don’t want to give up on spades.

Brandon Sheumaker: There’s a serious possibility of a misfit, but I have too much to pass. Double looks wrong because of the club length, even though it gets spades into the picture. Hopefully, after 1 HCH, partner will have enough for a responsive double, then we’ll find our spade fit.

Richard Stein: Double is possible, but I’m a bit light, and I would be dummy in diamonds too often when clubs would be better. I retain the option of coming back in with spades (or more clubs) later.

Bruce Kretchmer: Without partner’s support, I won’t know to sacrifice at 5 C. Who has the hearts?

Bill Breslin: I want to double to show spades but decided just to bid my hand. Michaels isn’t even a consideration.

Neelotpal Sahai: Good ol’ overcall! Have got, will do it.

Carsten Kofoed: The spade suit could disappear, but I think I’ll have another chance on the next round. … If Michaels includes this hand in the system, I’d appreciate to know it.

Zoran Bohacek: Showing my suit and length first; if I get another chance, spades enter the picture.

John R. Mayne: I have enough defense to avoid 3 C; double is seriously misdirected; and Michaels is awful. Pass? With a void? No thanks!

Michael Bodell: I’d rather describe my length and points than double or use Michaels. If we have a spade fit, I’ll get a chance to bid that suit next.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Back in the motherland, this is no problem: 1 NT. Here in America, I’ll bid my best suit. I’m not overly worried about losing spades, as we’re probably not headed for game anyway.

Amnon Harel: Opponents may have a super fit, or a regular fit with a horrible break. Bidding Michaels will leave me in the dark and [may] mislead partner into bidding too many spades.

Richard Morse: Tempting to double (particularly white versus red), but this risks partner overrating my hand, and [may] aid declarer in placing the cards.

Kevin Lane: Opponents appear to have a big fit. What’s the likeliest fit for our side? The worry, of course, is a 4 H bid by West; but I’m light enough in points that if partner can’t act, I can pass in peace. I’m happy if partner bids 3 NT, as my clubs should be runnable.

Rob Wijman: I’m a spade short and a club long for Michaels. I may introduce spades later.

James Fleming: Looks like a poor choice of hands on which to distort Michaels — need good ruffing power.

Sjoerd van der Schuit: I’ll go slowly; even pass is an alternative. Before I know it, opponents will be in 4 H, so I don’t want to tell too much about my hand.

Damo Nair: Maybe I’ll get to come in with a spade bid below the four level.

Sandy McIlwain: Longest suit first. I can back in with a double if need be.

Robin Zigmond: The distribution and good suit more than make up for what pedants may say is a slight lack of points. This is a good lead-director, reasonably safe,…and gives me the chance to show spades later on. If I’m not given the chance to show spades, it’s the opponents’ hand anyway, so I’m not too bothered.

Thijs Veugen: No need for a weak 3 C with such a holding in the mayors.

Josh Sinnett: I’ll have to decide later whether to overbid this hand and show spades, but every other initial choice is sick.

Bill Powell: Not very imaginative — but as likely as anything to be right.

Nicoleta Giura: I might have a chance to show those spades later — unless East-West end up in a spade contract. :) Someone once said: Don’t double if you’re afraid partner might leave it in. (I’m afraid.)

Craig Zastera: Not strong enough to double then bid clubs. If I start with 2 C, I might get a chance to balance with 2 S,…describing my hand well.

Jim Munday: Finding a 4-4 spade fit will not necessarily be beneficial for our side, so I’ll settle for the simple overcall and await developments.

Joon Pahk: If we’re playing responsive doubles, this seems clear-cut — West will surely raise hearts and partner will have the opportunity to show spades… Which is grosser: 1 S or Michaels? How could you want to play this deal in a 4-3 fit with a heart lead coming?

Barry Rigal: No need to preempt; and double with shapely subminimums rarely seems to work for me.

Scott Stearns: This could be a complete disaster, yet the shape and vulnerability say to bid. I don’t like double with so little defense.

David Harari: Not strong enough to double then bid clubs.

Geoff Bridges: I’ll get the best feature of my hand in now. I’m expecting to defend, [as] partner may have a huge heart stack, so this will let him know what to lead when he gets in.

Daniel Korbel: I don’t mind passing and not informing East-West of the horrible heart break they’re likely to run into; but 2 C may get us to a good 4 S or 5 C save…

Curt Reeves: I don’t like Michaels with 4-6 shape, and a takeout double is equally bad. I may be able to introduce spades later if the auction dies at a low enough level.

Leonard Helfgott: A double is trebly flawed: inadequate defensive 10-count; a void (losing if a penalty pass); and [great] disparity in [suit lengths]. So the only question is: 2 C or 3 C? I slightly prefer the low route with this flexible hand.

Stefan Jonsson: Although the vulnerability calls for a disturbing bid, I won’t misdescribe my shape with Michaels or 3 C. East opened in third seat, and hearts are breaking badly, so a game is uncertain. I may get the chance to bid spades later, or support partner’s diamonds, or just be happy when partner doubles 4 H.

Ciaran Coyne: The first bid is easy. Interesting choices will probably come in later rounds.

Rainer Herrmann: Hopefully I can get spades in later, in which case this starts a reasonable description of my hand.

Pire Cusi: I have a pet convention for these hands: Three of a minor indicates a six-card suit plus four in the other major.

Nigel Guthrie: Richard will prefer Michaels, but 6-4 seems extreme. [Nigel the soothsayer. –RP]

Roger Morton: Three clubs is tempting but will definitely shut out spades forever. I am a spade short for a two-suited overcall, and double seems inappropriate on this shape.

Ed Barnes: I like to double with these chestnuts, but the minor-suit disparity here is too much. I will pass 4 H when it comes back to me.

George Klemic: This is not a barn burner, so I like a simple 2 C bid. I intending to balance with a double after 2 H P P, or similar (I won’t bid 2 S with this weak of a hand).

Chuck Lamprey: If I double, I’ve likely lost clubs forever; but there may be ways we can back into spades.

Comments for 2 H

Janet Dugle: Bidding spades first distorts things too much, but Michaels certainly is [appealing]. This may find a neat little fit — also might not!

Paulino Correa: If partner has spades, 4 S will be a [likely] contract; otherwise, we’ll end up in C.

Mark Kornmann: Vulnerability is favorable. If partner bids a long diamond suit or 2 NT [to ask my minor], I’ll love it. …

Comments for Double

Andy Stark: I need to keep spades in the picture without promising five of them.

Anant Rajani: This seems better than bidding 2 C, since I can accept any of the three suits.

David Breton: If partner doubles 4 H, I’ll just cross my fingers and find the killing lead.

Lajos Linczmayer: This will be most effective if partner has five spades. My second choice is 3 C.

Jack Brawner: An advertisement for top-and-bottom cue-bids, if ever I saw one.

Mauri Saastamoinen: If opponents play hearts (very probable), I am on lead; so it is more important to let partner know…I have spades instead of only clubs. (If I bid 2 C now, I simply can’t afford to bid 3 S or higher later.)

Comments for 3 C

Tim Dickinson: Splat! Undesirable side major; but nice vulnerability.

Will Shepherd: Partner is a passed hand; I’m not holding much strength; and my distribution is good against the bid suit. Who could blame me for being destructive?

Charles Blair: At least I won’t miss a 10-card spade fit — unless partner is more disciplined than what I usually get.

Frans Buijsen: No use in trying to introduce spades. I’d rather preempt the opponents as much as I can.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Showing my six-card suit to enable partner to save over 4 H. I might still double for takeout over 3 H (maybe even over 4 H).

Brad Theurer: Opposite a passed partner at favorable, I’d rather bid my best suit and take up as much room as possible.

Owen Cotton-Barratt: This feels obvious with shortage in East’s suit and partner a passed hand, which allows weak jump overcalls to be looser. The hand may play better in spades, but most of the time I want to be in clubs; and the extra space stolen is worth more than the [chance of finding] spades. …

Rosalind Hengeveld: I was about to choose 2 C and add “What’s the problem? A unanimous vote?” for a comment; but the two initial passes tip, nay topple the balance to preemption.

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Problem 6

IMPs N-S Vul

Table
S 8 7 6 5 3
H A J 8 6 4 3
D K J
C

West
Pass
Dbl
Pass
North
1 D
3 D
3 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
?
?

As South, what are you two calls in the above sequence?

Two CallsAwardVotesPercent
B. 3 H then 4 D1035223
A. 3 H then Pass938925
E. 3 S then 4 D833922
D. 3 S then Pass719213
F. 3 S then 4 H422915
C. 3 H then 4 H1322

In this two-parter, the first decision is whether to show the emaciated spades or just rebid hearts. Either bid is forcing, based on the principle that bidding over an invitation is an acceptance. While almost a dead heat, an exact tally shows 3 H won (773-760 votes), so the top award will go to rebidding hearts. This suits my fancy, too, as it seems pointless (pun intended) to bid a worthless suit with no desire to play there.

The second decision is whether to sit for 3 NT. I consider it close, but the panel did not, as only 38 percent were willing to pass. I truly believe that nine tricks in notrump will be easier than 11 in diamonds, but I worry that a spade lead could be deadly, or that partner has a dubious club stopper (e.g., Q-x-x) since he would hardly expect a void opposite. As to how to proceed, it was overwhelming to raise diamonds (45 percent), which seems obvious. Thus, the top award goes to bidding 3 H then 4 D (Option B), followed closely by 3 H then pass (Option A).

Third place goes to 3 S then 4 D (Option E). This strikes me as too forward-going, since a good slam seems out of range when partner announces a club stopper. Further, pinpointing your shape (short clubs) may attract a trump lead, perhaps killing any chance to steal a dubious slam. Logically, this choice is followed closely by 3 S then pass (Option D).

Bidding 3 S then 4 H (Option F) surely overstates hearts, and suppressing the fine support for partner suggests a unilateral fixation. Even at matchpoints, the 11 major-suit cards don’t warrant three bids with such poor quality. The most likely outcome will be to play 4 H opposite a singleton; not pretty. The only good thing I can say is that it sure beats bidding hearts three times (Option C), which leaves me shivering.

Here’s how the cards fell in Bermuda in 1975:

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

West
Franco
Pass
Dbl
Pass
North
Wolff
1 D
3 D
3 NT
East
Pittala
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Hamman
1 H
3 H

Kantar
Pass
Dbl
Pass
All Pass
Garozzo
1 D
3 D
3 NT
Eisenberg
Pass
Pass
Pass
Belladonna
1 H
3 S
4 H

The problem scenario occurred at both tables, but it was tainted by strong club systems limiting the North hand. Hamman chose to rebid hearts, then followed his own rule (albeit as dummy) to let 3 NT prevail. This contract would have failed swiftly with the C J lead and S 4 switch, but Pittala inexplicably ducked the first trick. Wolff couldn’t believe his eyes, but he can count to nine as quick as anyone — make it 10 with the H K falling; plus 630.

Perhaps I spoke too harshly of bidding 3 S then 4 H, as none other than Belladonna took that route at the second table. No doubt he wasn’t proud of it, and certainly not with the result; down two, 13 IMPs to North America.

Comments for B. 3 H then 4 D

Samuel Krikler: Notrump looks very tricky with poor communication between our two hands.

Francesco Sallustio: My hand seems more suit-oriented; long hearts and a diamond fit should be useful features for partner.

Jonathan Brill: I object! The correct bid at South’s second turn is 4 D (forcing). If K-J doubleton plus a side ace and a void is not enough to be clear about diamonds as a suitable trump suit, then your idea of what 3 D shows is very different from mine.

Sandy Barnes: If I am not passing 3 NT, my next call must be to support partner.

Neelotpal Sahai: In the first instance, 3 H seems better; 3 S need not show 5-6 (could be 4-4). After 3 NT, it looks good to [support] diamonds.

John R. Mayne: I choose 3 H first, because West showed spades, and I’m not playing a 5-3 fit with my garbage spades. Passing 3 NT seems wrong in a lot of ways; it might be the wrong game, and I haven’t given up on a diamond slam yet. … Option G (4 D directly over 3 D) probably loses a 6-2 heart fit but has its advantages nonetheless.

Boris Richter: Clearly, a slam try. The spade suit is too weak to be considered.

Michael Mayer: I don’t know how to introduce spades and not accelerate the auction.

Anant Rajani: I have to inform partner of my six-card heart suit, and I won’t pass 3 NT with such an unbalanced hand.

Will Shepherd: The spade suit is too weak to bid, and I have a fair rebid in hearts anyway. My shape clearly cannot play in notrump, so I’ll let partner choose which red suit he prefers.

James Fleming: Partner has at most three spades, so I’ll forget that ratty suit to repeat my six-carder, then support diamonds.

Damo Nair: I have visions! Or maybe delusions. I am just taking a view, OK? :)

John Lusky: Partner should be pretty diamond-oriented for his leap. I need to rebid 3 H to reach 4 H when it’s right. Over 3 NT, I have to guess; but diamonds are likely be safer, and there is still an outside chance for slam; so I’ll run the risk that 3 NT is the last making game.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Five diamonds may be better than 3 NT; and 6 D is still possible.

Frans Buijsen: I don’t want to mention spades, since partner will play me for honors in that suit. This way, I express my six-card heart suit, secondary diamond support, and mild slam interest.

Curt Reeves: Partner needs 10 points outside diamonds for his jump rebid, and they should be in the black suits. A diamond slam is possible, especially if partner has seven [or more] diamonds.

Owen Cotton-Barratt: I’m tempted to bid 3 H then 4 S! Anyhow, I’m never letting this rest in 3 NT.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Now that partner virtually denies four spades, I’ll suppress my anemic five-card suit — but not my decent diamond support.

Comments for A. 3 H then Pass

Prabhakar Oak: With my D K-J, we have six or seven diamond tricks; so partner should have nine tricks for sure, and maybe 10 on a good day. Four hearts would be a bad bid, as partner does not have any heart support.

Joshua Donn: I don’t expect this hand to play well in diamonds. Partner doesn’t have clubs that need help, else he might have bid 3 S over 3 H.

Julian Lim: West’s double makes me less eager than ever to show my spade “suit,” and 3 NT looks like our best contract if we can run diamonds.

Paul Meerschaert: Partner may be looking at S A-x H x D A-Q-10-9-x-x-x C A-J-x; but that’s a perfecta, and East may still know to lead a diamond [against 6 D]. Two nice diamond cards and an ace rate to make 3 NT a decent-to-good contract, so I’ll take my chances there. Spades do not appeal, and I am satisfied having shown the sixth heart.

Brian Sharkey: I don’t think I can expect spades to be a realistic contract, so I won’t bid them. [Over 3 D] I think a diamond contract is probably better; but [over 3 NT] I’ll chance having enough points and communication to give the [9-trick] game a shot.

Kevin Moore: Partner has denied hearts and claimed a club and spade stopper, so we’re likely to be able to run diamonds… Worth trusting partner! …

Barry White: I am basically a coward and hate to go down; but if partner can bid 3 NT over 3 H, he should be able to make it.

John Payson: My D K-J [should] provide entries, and partner should have stoppers in clubs and spades. If partner has two dinky hearts,…it may even be possible to establish hearts. …

Richard Stein: Usually, 3 S would be the bid with 5-6; but eight-fifth against West’s likely four spades has little playing potential. I’ll try for the good 6-2 heart fit; then over 3 NT, with diamonds ready to roll, I’ll pass — and make a face. :)

Andy Stark: This is clear, as there is no point in introducing spades as a potential strain when West will have four almost all the time. Passing 3 NT then becomes clear in context, as partner [must be] short in hearts. … A 6 D slam needs the nuts from partner, especially on a trump lead, so I’ll give him leeway — after West’s double, 3 D might not be a classic jump rebid.

Carsten Kofoed: Over 3 H, North could bid 3 S with a good three-card spade suit.

Michael Bodell: I won’t bid the weak five-card spade suit after West’s double and partners jump rebid. When partner bids 3 NT without my mentioning clubs or spades, I [assume] he has those suits stopped; and my D K-J will help run his long suit.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Without West’s double, I would feel bad about not introducing spades.

Richard Morse: I definitely rebid the 6-bagger (where my points lie). Partner should have the other suits covered and will find my D K-J useful to run his suit. He could have the right cards for a slam, but it’s unlikely after the 3 NT bid.

Rob Wijman: The double definitely lowers my appetite to play in spades; what’s more, partner may well misunderstand 3 S at my second turn, taking it as a [control-bid] for diamonds or a stopper for 3 NT. I will stress my heart length and sit over 3 NT, which should be a comfortable make with D K-J.

Julian Pottage: Giving up on spades after West’s double.

Sandy McIlwain: No future in spades, a four-card suit really. If partner can bid 3 NT over 3 H, he just might make it!

Tim DeLaney: Chances for slam are too remote to consider. A spade game could easily fail when 3 NT is foolproof. When partner bids 3 NT, I am done.

David Caprera: If partner were worried about clubs, he could bid 3 S over 3 H. My D K-J should solidify his suit. I expect (hope for) S K-Q H x-x D A-Q-10-x-x-x C A-Q-x.

Thijs Veugen: I prefer to rebid my six-card heart suit with such lousy spades. Now I have a better reason to pass 3 NT.

Bill Powell: I might have mentioned spades, but West [showing four] has put me off. Despite the 5=6=2=0 shape, there’s no reason to suppose anything will be better than 3 NT.

Michael Palitsch: Three diamonds is nonforcing, but I see a good chance for game in hearts, diamonds or notrump. Three hearts (I expect it to be forcing) shows my heart length; 3 NT shows stoppers and heart shortage, and should be OK with my diamond values. On a non-diamond lead, 6 D might be laydown, but it seems too risky; even 5 D might be one off on layouts where 3 NT is assured.

Jim Munday: I hope 3 H is forcing. I don’t think I have enough for slam if partner doesn’t fit hearts. Over 3 NT, I give up, expecting my diamond fillers to provide at least nine tricks.

Manuel Paulo: I won’t introduce my anemic spade suit. After rebidding hearts, I can pass quietly, as partner has stoppers in the black suits, and I have good cards in his long suit.

Alon Amsel: Diamonds are running, and partner probably has enough side values to get away with nine almost top tricks. The road to 11 or 12 tricks in diamonds is too long, especially with a trump lead.

Joon Pahk: Diamonds will run, so how bad can this be?

Geoff Bridges: I offer hearts as a possible strain. When partner declines, my diamonds should provide excellent fillers for 3 NT.

Imre Csiszar: Passing 3 NT looks clear-cut, but the choice between 3 H and 3 S is close. Three spades forces 3 NT if partner stops clubs, but this may fail when 4 H (reached via 3 H) would make… I would very much hate to go down in 3 NT if partner holds S K-x H K-Q D A-Q-x-x-x-x C K-x-x, and East divines a spade lead holding ace-fifth or sixth in clubs — while 6 H is on (though unbiddable).

Leonard Helfgott: If partner can bid 3 NT without my diamond fillers after I’ve rebid hearts, he should be able to run diamonds and other winners for nine tricks. …

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Partner will usually have a seven-card suit, [no] support in hearts, and not as many HCP as without the double; so 6 D will be too much of a struggle.

Rainer Herrmann: Three notrump looks by and large the most likely game. Spades is an unlikely strain, [unless] partner were to bid 3 S over 3 H.

Lajos Linczmayer: If partner has S J-10-9 H x D A-Q-10-x-x-x C A-K-Q, 4 NT is cold, while maybe only 1 H makes.

Brad Theurer: Not much point in bidding such a weak spade suit with West likely having four, so I’ll show my hearts then respect partner’s decision. My hand isn’t quite good enough (for slam purposes) to bid 4 D over 3 NT…

David Grainger: My D K-J and an ace should be plenty for 3 NT, while a slam seems unlikely with no likely entry to my hearts opposite partner’s singleton.

Steve White: Three hearts first (partner may be able to raise); then pass, since diamonds will run.

Danny Kleinman: No sense in showing five weak spades when West has advertised spades by his takeout double; besides, in context, 3 S would show a secure stopper and a desire to seek 3 NT. I’ll sit for 3 NT because my diamonds solidify partner’s suit, and he shows stoppers in both black suits, while denying as much as honor-doubleton in hearts… Dual dangers await in a diamond contract: (1) A trump lead will keep partner from ruffing two clubs in dummy, or (2) a singleton spade lead will allow East to ruff partner’s spade trick if [West has the S A].

Mauri Saastamoinen: Partner’s S A-10-x H x D A-Q-10-x-x-x C K-Q-x would not surprise me.

Comments for E. 3 S then 4 D

Jacob Grabowski: Not that I am thrilled with the possibility of ruffing clubs with my diamond honors. I do hope partner can choose a major-suit contract; but if he is as strong as indicated, a simple game contract might not be the end.

Franklin Gonzalez: This option best describes my hand: Longer hearts than spades,…tolerance for diamonds, and dislike for notrump.

Brandon Sheumaker: … I want to get to the best game at IMPs, so by bidding hearts-spades-diamonds, I show about what I have. Partner has the option of bidding 4 H to play, 5 D, or even returning to 4 NT.

Bill Breslin: … Partner should envision my hand as at least 4-5 in the majors, and he [may] envision my actual shape. But note: Partner rarely envisions like I hope!

Kevin Lane: Three notrump [seems] wrong with this shape and good support for partner.

Robin Zigmond: Just because my hearts are so much stronger is no reason to conceal five spades, so the first decision is clear-cut. The second is tougher; but 4 H must be out when partner probably has a singleton (perhaps a void), and 5 D probably makes whenever 3 NT does. At matchpoints, I’d yield to the temptation to leave it in 3 NT. …

Jonathan Steinberg: My D K-J, H A and club void make slam a possibility; and 4 H or 5 D may play better than 3 NT. I’ve described my hand, so now it is up to partner.

Josh Sinnett: I’m thinking slam after the 3 D bid, so I’ll bid out my pattern as best I can.

Scott Stearns: A 3 D bid missing K-J? Partner’s hand must be exceptional; e.g., S A-x H x D A-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-K-x wouldn’t surprise me. If his spades are only K-x, the passed-hand double locates the ace. I think we have a play for 6 D, and it doesn’t cost me to investigate.

Nigel Guthrie: … A slam [may be] in the cards, so I force with a robust and descriptive 3 S; then 4 D completes the pretty pattern.

Jack Brawner: I may as well describe my hand as 4=6=3=0, since that’s what it looks like.

Joel Singer: I don’t have the spade stopper I might have had, so I’ll show diamond support and [imply] club shortness. Six diamonds [may] be a happy contract.

George Klemic: Three spades to show my shape; then 4 D to tell partner that 3 NT is probably not the right spot. This sequence certainly [suggests] 5=6=2=0 shape.

Comments for D. 3 S then Pass

Dan Osman: The more I think about it, the more I like this option; diamonds rate to be solid (6-7 tricks right there) plus my H A should make 9+ tricks easy. My 3 S bid probably avoids a spade lead,…and a club [may] be just what partner wants. … I’d love Option E, except 4 D smells like a slam try.

Gerald Murphy: I have two [great] diamond cards; but if I bid 4 D now, it would look like a better suited fit for partner.

Barry Rigal: Anything could be right; my diamond cards suggest 3 NT may have the tricks to run if partner can cope with clubs.

Daniel Korbel: After much consideration, I feel strongly that 3 S then pass is [best]. Three notrump is very unlikely to go down; whereas 6 D (or even 5 D) rates to have extreme communication difficulties…

Stefan Jonsson: Knowing that diamonds are running, I want to let partner know about my spade “stopper” rather than play 4 H in a 6-2 fit with trumps breaking badly.

Roger Morton: Partner [surely] has wasted club values for a diamond contract, while 3 NT [may] have nine top tricks with the help of my D K.

Antonio Kotsev: This will be the only right contract opposite S Q-x H x-x D A-Q-10-x-x-x C A-K-x.

Chuck Lamprey: If partner doesn’t fit hearts, we have nothing [toward a high diamond contract].

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Final Notes

Comments are selected from those scoring 53 or higher (top 278) or with an overall average of 51.00 or higher (top 206) prior to this poll, and on each problem only for calls awarded 5 or higher. Over 75 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 revisit to Bermuda, and the hectic 1975 Bermuda Bowl. At least some good came out of the scandal: Press coverage increased (albeit negative), bringing to mind the media frenzy of the Culbertson era. Thanks to all who participated, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Mmm! Mabel just fixed me my favorite Italian dish, Zucchelli and Facchini — er, I mean, vermicelli and zucchini. Brainwashed! While I eat, I’ll surrender the floor:

Bryan Delfs: If my bidding doesn’t give you heartburn, biting into one of those onions just might.

Mark Kornmann: Palm, Onion, Grass, Orchid = POGO. We have met the enemy — and it is us!

Joel Singer: If I don’t follow the Law, I may end up back in Alcatraz, like last month.

John R. Mayne: Hey! What happened to the valuable prizes offered to the winners? I’m bound to be eligible on one of these, and I’m shocked, shocked and appalled that my entry fees are being spent on booze and bribes rather than the prize pool.

Curt Reeves: I am partial to the Bobby Fuller Four version of Sonny Curtis’s, “I Fought the Law (and the Law Won).”

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© 2006 Richard Pavlicek