Analyses 7W08 MainChallenge

Yesterday, Once More

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six bidding problems were first posed in 1978 to a panel of 18 Florida experts, and I was the moderator. Twenty-two years later in September of 2000, I posed them once more, but this time on the Internet, a medium that was barely heard of back in 1978. The object was to compare current bidding judgment with that of the past.

Problem 123456Final Notes

The September 2000 panel, open to all bridge players, was much larger. It is arguable that an open participation would diminish the credibility of the consensus, but my observance has been otherwise. Yes, a few respondents didn’t belong, but the great majority were well qualified, and a lot of the comments showed deep insight.

David Sterling Wins!

This poll had 207 participants from 72 locations, and the average score was 46.16. Congratulations to David Sterling, James Mates and Harold Simon, each of whom achieved perfect scores of 60. Or to sum it all up: Simon says, “Sterling job, Mates!”

Sorry, but I couldn’t stop the person who placed 42nd. I tried everything. I took away her mouse and keyboard, but she kept buying new ones. I hot-wired the motherboard of her computer, switching the CPU from Intel to Mattel, but even that didn’t work — though her entry was mysteriously signed “Barbie.” I love you, Mabel!

For the poll, it was assumed you play a Standard American system, including 15-17 notrumps, five-card majors and weak two-bids. The objective was to determine the best calls based on judgment, so only the most basic conventions are allowed. For a summary of the default methods, see my outline of Standard American Bridge.

The scoring of each problem is on a 1-to-10 scale. The call receiving the top award of 10 was determined by the consensus of the voting. The scoring of the other calls was determined partly by this and partly by my own judgment.

For the record, my own votes (same as in 1978) are: 1. 2 NT; 2. 4 H; 3. 6 D; 4. 3 NT; 5. 2 D; 6. 3 S.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 1

MatchpointsNone VulYou, South, hold:

2 C
1 D
1 S
S K J 9 4 3
H 5 2
D K 7 6
C A 10 3

2 NT1042211857
3 C87393517
3 D6317136
2 D43172412
2 S316189

This first problem shows a remarkable turnabout. In 1978 the panel preferred the aggressive cue-bid, but now things are back to reality with an overwhelming vote for the natural, invitational 2 NT. I agree.

Many respondents asked why double was not an option. Well, I guess, to save you from a bad score. In 1978 not one expert chose to double because it is penalty in standard bidding. The trouble today is that many players are brainwashed by special agreements such as support doubles, which create a different scenario. While a penalty double could turn out well, the most likely result seems to be plus 100, which is too little to expect a good matchpoint score.

Comments for 2 NT

George Lathbury: If partner accepts he can bid 3 S on the way, and this hand is about right on values, although double may be in order.

Rik ter Veen: Partner has promised at least four diamonds (with three he would have raised spades). I think 2 D is a gross underbid and for 3 D I would like to have a fourth diamond. 3 C, I would treat as a general game force, which is a little too rich for my taste when playing matchpoints. I do have an 11-12 balanced hand, so I don’t see anything wrong with 2 NT.

Carlos Dabezies: Suit is not good enough for 2 S or 3 D. Hand is too good for 2 D, and it is helpful to show a club stopper.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: 2 D and 2 S are too much of an underbid because the hand is closer to game than a partscore. 3 D misrepresents the hand slightly and 3 C commits us to an uncomfortable level. … The only problem with 2 NT is that we may miss the right strain and/or game if partner is minimum.

Nicholas France: Invitational hand. Second choice is double but I like four trumps for that. 3 C should be asking not telling.

Keith Sheppard: “What was strange about what the dog did in the night?” “But the dog didn’t do anything, Holmes.” “Precisely, Dr. Watson.” Why did North pass over 2 C rather than make his normal rebid? Either his rebid was to be clubs (in which case could he not make a penalty double at this point?) or it was to be notrump but he has a club weakness. I think I’m going to assume the latter and risk 2 NT. If I’m wrong it’s only minus 50 or so after the opponents cash the first five hearts. …

Jojo Sarkar: Partner can pass or bid 3 D on a minimum, and show spade support or raise to 3 NT with extras.

Rick Kelly: North has at best three low spades, probably 2=4=4=3 or 3=4=4=2. Let’s invite.

John R. Mayne: Ugly problem; even at matchpoints, 2 D has merit, and 2 S may be the last best hope. The C 10 sways me to bid 2 NT. It’s not on the board, but I think double is a strong contender…

Judy Goodwin: 3 C cue promises another call, one I may not want to make over a 3 D rebid by partner. 2 NT jeopardizes partner’s heart control (if there is one) but shows my count and club stopper and may inhibit a heart lead. …

Josh Sinnett: Game is still not out of the question, so 2 D and 2 S seem timid. The catchall 3 C bid doesn’t do much good, as partner probably would have raised our spades with honor-third support. I’d like to have a fourth diamond to bid 3 D (partner could easily be 2=4=4=3 on this auction). This leaves us with 2 NT, which is right on shape, stopper, and general strength. I would wager that most pairs will play notrump in an uncontested auction even if diamonds is the right spot.

Dennis Kibler: Correct on values. Since West did not double, partner is likely to have hearts stopped.

Mark Raphaelson: Shows extra values, a club stopper and gives partner a chance to show secondary spade support.

Roger Boyar: Had the D K mixed in with my hearts.

Comments for 3 C

Brian Ross: 2 NT is the value bid but is probably wrong-siding it. I’m a diamond short for 3 D; 2 D and 2 S aren’t even serious choices, which leaves the 3 C cue.

Tommy Larsson: A double for takeout seems flexible, but that wasn’t among the choices… Let’s try for 3 NT in the right hand if partner shows a stopper in clubs.

Lisa Evans: Need to show your support for diamonds and allow partner to support spades.

Stu Goodgold: Looking for 3 NT (played from the right side) or delayed spade support if not.

Bill Cubley: I think we have game and 2 NT can be passed. Also, partner is more likely to raise spades if he can. …

Bruce Moore: I generally play cue-bids as a limit raise or better in partner’s suit. 2 NT has some appeal, but wrong-sides the contract. The other bids do not suggest that the hand is playable in three strains.

Comments for 3 D

Mark LaForge: If partner has a heart-diamond two-suiter and a minimum hand, 3 D will be enough. If he has spade support I expect to hear it; and if he has a club stopper, 3 NT may play better from his side.

Mildred Ulster: My partner must have values in hearts and diamonds.

Comments for 2 D

Eric Leong: I hate my choices. I guess to bid 2 D to give partner more room to suggest other possibilities. …

Carl Hudecek: One reason why I am rarely doubled.

Scott Graham: I think I must compete with half the deck and cannot reopen with a double, while 2 S is unilateral so I choose a lesser of evils with 2 D.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 2

IMPsE-W VulYou, South, hold:
2 NT1
3 S
S 10 2
H 10 9 8 4 3
D J 10 8 5 2
C 10

1. 21-22

4 H85286129
4 D100115

The 2000 voting still favors a pass, but the percentage has dropped considerably. My own choice of 4 H moved up a notch, so it is headed in the right direction. That’s the good news; the bad news is that it may take over 400 years to reach the top.

A number of voters (15 percent) took East’s intervention lightly and doubled for penalty. This might be a reasonable gamble at matchpoints, but at IMPs it is surely misguided. When a vulnerable opponent overcalls your 2 NT, he usually has his bid, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he made 4 S. On deals like this it often turns out that partner has D A-K-Q-x-x as part of his bid, which kills your defensive prospects.

Many of the passers expect partner always to reopen with a double. But is this sound bridge? What ever happened to the principle of captaincy? You are the captain here, so it’s your duty to place the contract.

Comments for Pass

David Sterling: And I still don’t know what I will do after partner reopens with a double, as he almost certainly will.

Harold Simon: If partner has a doubleton spade among his goodies, then I may hear him double for takeout.

George Lathbury: Too risky to double; 4 H and 4 D will surely get the hand wrong-sided and there is no assurance of game.

Bas Lodder: Horrible, but double would be for penalties and 4 H could easily fail. 4 D is not an option to me.

Karl Barth: People always seem to make these contracts when they bid this way against me.

James Hudson: Negative double would be nice, but I assume double is penalty. 4 H might work, but I rate it against the odds. They probably can’t make 3 S, so let’s defend — but I’m not confident enough to double.

Bijoy Anand: … The only question is: what will I do if partner reopens with a double. At matchpoints, I’d leave it in without any hesitation and lead my singleton club. I’d expect to score +200 60% of the time, +500 30% of the time and -730 the remaining 10%, for an expected value of 197! Game our way is much less likely — I’d say 4 H would be on one third of the time, 5 D even less (about 10%). …

Gary Schneider: Sure, tempt me with those spot cards! :)

Ernest Kroll: If E-W can make 3 S for 140, we can go down one for minus 100 at 4 H doubled for a good score. It is not certain that E-W can make 3 S, however, so double is to be considered. If we have four spades between us, then E-W have nine trumps for the 3 S bid (law of total tricks). …

Joe Conte: I wasn’t going to game if East had passed. Why would I be goaded into going to game now? Will lead the C 10 and hope to beat it.

Brad Mampe: East knows what he’s doing to stick his neck out at this vulnerability and level. Any game bid here is questionable; besides, partner will have the defensive values to double for penalty here, not you.

Giovanni Bobbio: Partner will reopen (double) with x-x or A-x in spades, right?

Arthur Hoffman: East came in over 2 NT vulnerable, so he’s got stuff. They may even have a game. I’m lying low.

Bill Cubley: Double is too risky at IMPs and the club ruff, while highly likely, is not guaranteed, and we are not getting a lot of red-suit tricks either.

Carl Hudecek: One reason why I am rarely doubled, and why they rarely make doubled contracts against me.

Comments for 4 H

Micha Keijzers: I think chances of making this have increased and I think we have a fit. We don’t play transfers here. So, I’ll have to bid 4 H. Bit of a gamble though.

John Hoffman: Planning to raise the ante to 5 D if West bids 4 S. Who’s hand is it, anyway?

Karen Walker: Looking for a safe spot over 3 S, which, assuming my RHO isn’t a madman, could easily be cold. 4 D may be slightly safer, but partner rates to have at least moderate length in both red suits. Just in case we can actually make something at the four level, you might as well go for the game bonus.

John R. Mayne: …may be turning a plus into a minus or push the opponents into a making 4 S, but I think it somewhat more likely to turn a minus into a plus, and I think that we will sometimes make this game. I admit that when partner comes down with the predictable 2=3=3=5 and hearts are 5-0 (also not a surprise) I won’t be happy.

Josh Sinnett: … East must have a pretty good hand at this vulnerability, but shouldn’t have a solid suit as he may have passed, hoping we would play 3 NT. His spade suit is probably at least 7-8 cards long and should be missing one of the top two honors. With 17-18 points missing, I can easily see this contract making. Therefore, bidding seems to be right, and we might as well bid for a 10-trick game rather than a 10-trick partscore.

Bruce Moore: I have enough shape to give decent play to the heart game. It’s possible that the opponents could make 3 S with a double fit. No other call appeals.

Comments for Double

Jojo Sarkar: At this vulnerability, defending seems right. We have half the deck, and the stiff club is an attractive lead. If partner has the C A, my hand should get two ruffs. They have at most nine spades between them, and declarer should be short of entries to the dummy.

Leo Zelevinsky: If not for East’s 3 S, I was going to transfer to 3 H and play there, right? Seems to me that we are likely getting a better score than that from 3 S doubled on a stiff club lead.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 3

MatchpointsNone VulYou, South, hold:
4 D
S A K 6 5 4
H A Q 10 5 3 2
D 2

6 D106338038
4 NT94223115
5 D68446029
4 H2003718

At equal vulnerability partner should have seven tricks for his bid, which suggests we can make a slam. The obvious problem is that he might lose two trump tricks, e.g., S x H x D Q-J-10-9-x-x-x C K-J-x-x. Unfortunately, there’s no way to find this out (key-card Blackwood is not allowed). Therefore, I’ll just go with the odds and bid the slam.

My reason for the promotion of 4 NT in the scoring is that most 4 NT bidders intended to bid 6 D even if partner is aceless. While it’s hard to find any advantage in 4 NT — a grand slam is out of the question since partner wouldn’t open 4 D with solid diamonds — it’s also hard to find any disadvantage.

Comments for 6 D

Micha Keijzers: Should have a chance. Bidding six of a major is difficult now.

Carlos Dabezies: Some danger of two trump losers, but may get away with none, and a reasonable chance of being able to set up a major depending on the lead.

Bijoy Anand: I have four and one half solid tricks outside the trump suit. If he has eight solid trumps, we are cold for 6 D and have good chances for a grand! But, it is not necessary to find and bid the grand here, as it is matchpoints. Bidding six should get us most of the matchpoints. Looking for 6 NT is too risky as partner’s suit may not be solid, in which case we’ll be permanently cut off from his diamonds. And there is no way we can find out if partner has S Q-x-x or H K-x, (almost necessary to make slam in either strain a possibility). No, I’d rather play in my known nine-card fit than look for a better-matchpoint-scoring major-suit slam.

Karen Walker: If key-card Blackwood were available, I’d bid 4 NT to see if partner is missing the A-K of diamonds. Without that gadget, 4 NT is pointless. 6 D may be on a hook, but it has to have a play if partner has a decent suit.

Jojo Sarkar: His eight-card suit should play for one loser opposite my stiff (especially in 1978). Seems we have 11 on top, and other chances. We could get a club ruff, or have the entries to set up another in a major, or the trumps could play for no losers. Blackwood is not much use, because K-Q-J-x-x-x-x-x can’t be checked for, and that’s more likely than Q-J-x-x-x-x-x-x.

Michael Arnowitt: I’m hoping opposite a 1978 four-level preempt (K-Q-10-x-x-x-x-x and a side king?) I have over a 50-percent chance of making slam. Blackwood wouldn’t help.

George Yorg: Why give the opponents any hints at all?

Dennis Kibler: Giving partner eight diamonds to K-Q-J, we have 11 tricks. Add one more to make him sweat.

Carl Hudecek: His side losers are covered, since he has eight diamonds to at least the K-Q.

Comments for 5 D

Rik ter Veen: I expect 5 D to make exactly after a club lead. Partner can only get to his hand in trump and will have a club loser and a trump loser. He will typically have something like: S x H x-x D K-J-10-x-x-x-x-x C x-x.

Baxter Clifford: Presume partner has eight diamonds missing the ace, so a slam is 50 percent at best.

James Hudson: No room to look for a major-suit fit. Partner’s diamond suit shouldn’t be too good — he did bypass 3 NT.

John Hoffman: The game that is more likely to make. At matchpoints, 4 H beckons, but the spade losers seem too likely even if North has a helpful heart filler (J-x). 5 D has fair chances of making six and tying those in 4 H.

Charles Blair: Two trump losers, I think — and hope.

Joe Conte: Would help to know partner’s preempting style. My shape leads me to believe partner’s remaining pieces are more likely to be in clubs than the majors, so I think slam in diamonds won’t stretch.

Eric Leong: Go for the normal plus score.

Peg Kaplan: Don’t know which major to pick, so I’ll just hope that by getting to a making game (if it does), we score OK.

John R. Mayne: Chicken. If playing PavCo-style preempts, I’m less worried about missing the slam. 4 NT as straight Blackwood is worthless here. 4 H, even at matchpoints, seems exceptionally poor; it’s diamonds at some level, for sure.

Comments for 4 H

John Givins: This is matchpoints; major pays better.

Mark Lehto: A bit of a gamble. …hoping that 4 H makes and 6 D doesn’t.

Stu Goodgold: 6 D looks too risky (if partner had a solid suit, he might try a one-level bid or a gambling 3 NT). 4 H rates to score better than 5 D if partner has any kind of support.

Bruce Moore: Slam might be on in either major (but unlikely in diamonds). I’ll take the likely heart game and hope partner isn’t void.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 4

IMPsNone VulYou, South, hold:
3 S
S J 3 2
H A 4
D A K J 9 5
C A Q 7

3 NT104229445
4 D78443919

People have finally come to their senses! An overwhelming vote for 3 NT on the tenuous J-x-x stopper is a turnaround from the 1978 panel. I agree, both then and now. Certainly, there’s no assurance you can make 4 D, so if you’re going to gamble it might as well be on a game, not a partscore. Hmm. Perhaps in another 22 years, we won’t even need the S J.

Comments for 3 NT

George Lathbury: Close my eyes and bid game with a prayer. If 3 NT is one of your choices, it’s now or never.

Bas Lodder: OK, it’s a gamble, but the alternatives are not appealing as well (4 D looks like a bad score (of course, partner will pass) and 3 S is probably even worse). I play the double for takeout and partner will most likely bid 4 H, which doesn’t look great in a 4-2 or even a 5-2 fit.

Steve White: Very unlikely they can run spades right away; good chance we can take nine.

Rik ter Veen: If West has A-K-Q-x-x-x-x, then at least the D Q and C K will be onside. :) I can only congratulate West if I go down. But a lot of good things can happen: Partner may have a singleton spade honor. East may have a singleton honor, blocking the suit. I’ve seen Wests lead the S A-K dropping the queen from East. Fortunately, I have an understanding partner.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Seems to be the most practical bid (when was the last time somebody preempted with solid spades).

Charles Blair: Sheinwold said to make such bids “with real conviction.”

Mark Lehto: If partner has the sort of hearts that make 4 H right, we will still get there.

Karen Walker: Even if we don’t have a “real” stopper, there’s some protection here because West won’t (shouldn’t) have a solid suit at this vulnerability. The last time I made a bid like this, opening leader had A-Q-x-x-x-x-x with no entry and his partner had a stiff king.

Joe Conte: Hopefully, partner can solidify my spade stopper, or the suit is blocked (no raise). Besides, partner can always bid on if weak and distributional. …

Eric Leong: Last chance to bid and make the most probable game.

Peg Kaplan: A guessing game; might make, might go down three. Big question is what to do if I get doubled.

Howard Abrams: I have too much to pass, and no idea of what is right if I double and partner bids 4 H. 4 D leads nowhere. Do my teammates have a sense of humor? I may have to rely on that should the opponents run seven spade tricks on me at the gun. Maybe they won’t if this is a modern preempt. Or maybe my 3 NT will dissuade them from leading their own suit.

Josh Sinnett: Pass is cowardice, double is begging for trouble after partner’s 4 H bid. East didn’t raise so is likely to be short in spades, so North can easily have help in the suit. Hamman’s rule seems to apply.

Arthur Hoffman: Hoping the spade suit blocks or partner can contribute.

Dennis Kibler: It only hurts for a little while.

Leo Zelevinsky: I’ve had my opponents tell me that they never lead their suit after I promise a stopper in it. :)

Good point. It also helps to stand on your chair and flex your biceps.

Stu Goodgold: At this form of scoring it’s worth a 3 NT gamble. 3 S is seldom done on a solid suit.

Scott Graham: They never have the goods on their first-position preempts, as most pairs are undisciplined.

Bruce Moore: I’m willing to payoff to A-K-Q seventh on my left. Everyone preempts on junk these days; I’ll try the most likely game.

Comments for 4 D

Carlos Dabezies: If you double, you won’t know what to do over 4 H. 3 NT… is too risky. My diamonds could be longer, but this is the best bet.

Jojo Sarkar: I’d bid 3 NT at matchpoints, but ending up in 5 D is not that big of a disadvantage at IMPs. This should work out OK, we’re not past 4 H and could play in 4 NT if partner cue-bids spades.

Chris Pearce: 3 NT could work out. West is almost certainly not preempting with a long solid spade suit, whether or not he holds 12 points, so partner might well have a spade stopper. But there’s a non-zero chance that we’ll go for a huge number in 3 NT and that is not good at IMPs. Double without hearts is just asking for it — East’s hearts are behind North’s.

Kit Nowicki: If partner has any decent hand, he should raise to (at least) game.

Mark Raphaelson: Partner is not likely to leave a double in, so I’ll end up playing in hearts. I’ll bid my diamonds, and take most likely a plus score — not necessarily ending the auction, I might add.

Comments for Double

Uwe Gebhardt: Then, 5 D after 4 H from partner.

Keith Sheppard: Partner might even pass for penalties in which case we probably get a better score than 3 NT.

Tommy Larsson: With four bad calls to chose between I start with a double. I’ll correct 4 H to 5 D and hope for the best.

Comments for Pass

Nicholas France: Sometimes you get fixed and can’t do anything.

Philip Mokveld: If you double, partner will probably bid 4 H, and you don’t want that. 3 NT doubled can be a lot of IMPs for the opponents. So the choice is between 4 D and pass. With only five cards in diamonds, pass is my safest bet for a positive score.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 5

MatchpointsN-S VulYou, South, hold:


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

2 NT1073912661
2 D88444823
3 NT516136
1 NT216147
3 H11673

Another turnaround. Clearly, the choice is between the natural 2 NT and the fourth-suit 2 D. I slightly prefer the latter because it may uncover a superior 5-3 heart fit, and it may right-side the notrump when partner has the D Q. Even in 1978, a bid in the fourth suit was forcing; and being a passed hand doesn’t change this since opener’s second bid confirms he has a full opening. Nonetheless, I’m not adamant about this, and the straightforward 2 NT is acceptable.

Comments for 2 NT

Steve White: Yes, it’s a maximum, but that doesn’t make it worth 3 NT.

Rik ter Veen: … I decided not to care if partner has three-card heart support, since opposite 4=3=2=4, 3 NT is probably a good contract anyway. …

Baxter Clifford: Very close to a 2 D call. I chose 2 NT because (1) the diamond holding is great for a lead from LHO, and (2) I would need to know how weak a hand partner will open. Add a couple of 10s and I would opt for a game-forcing 2 D.

Mark LaForge: This looks like a notrump oriented hand.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Choice is between 2 D and 2 NT. If fourth suit is game forcing, only 2 NT is available.

Bijoy Anand: 2 NT is right both on values and shape. I expect partner to bid his three-card support along the way (if he has it) if he is going to accept my invitation. …

John Hoffman: 2 NT. Partner could have a Pearson count of only 15 (4 spades + 11 HCP) so leave a little room at matchpoints. 2 NT makes it easy for North to rebid 3 H. …

Nicholas France: With no agreement as to what 2 D means, better to show my balanced hand and point count.

Keith Sheppard: Too strong for 1 NT and just a smidgen weak for 3 NT. What else? 2 D to pass the buck? Wimp!

Mark Lehto: I suppose 2 D is the other possibility, but I don’t really want to hear 3 C.

Dirk Enthoven: My passed hand is not getting much better, but 2 NT seems right.

Karen Walker: There’s a case for downgrading this junk and rebidding 1 NT, but an invitation is “normal” (what I usually strive for at matchpoints), and the C Q-x-x is a good holding. No reason to bid 2 D — which I think should be invitational here, even if you play fourth suit forcing to game. Partner will bid 3 H if he has three-card support and a game acceptance.

Eric Leong: I would hate to be passed at 2 D.

Peg Kaplan: I like 2 D to be natural in this auction. With them silent and this much, 1 NT seems too much of an underbid.

Jeffrey Smith: Partner is in fourth chair so he should have a nice hand, it is a tough choice between 2 NT and 3 NT, but bidding 2 NT puts 4 H in the picture.

Chris Pearce: Partner’s fourth-seat bid must show some values, especially since he didn’t come right out with a spade bid. 2 NT is a good representation of my values. Partner can show hearts next turn if he has them.

John R. Mayne: Partner will bid out the shape if hearts are right. 2 D is misguided with this diamond holding.

Josh Sinnett: 1 NT is too weak, 3 NT is too strong, and 3 H overstates the suit. This leaves us with a waiting 2 D call and 2 NT. I’m not sure in “standard” if 2 D will force us to game, plus the responses won’t tell me what I needed to know. 2 NT only loses when partner passes with a minimum 4=3=1=5 or the like, but he may have raised my hearts in that case.

Arthur Hoffman: Book bid. Partner can accept with 3 H if he has three hearts. Even if he doesn’t, the hearts may provide a source of tricks in notrump.

Stu Goodgold: Some old English sage once said: You need two good reasons not to bid notrump. I can’t think of one.

Mark Raphaelson: Seems textbook to me. 1 NT is a gross underbid, 3 NT assumes a lot with what might be a misfit. I’m not quite strong enough to force to game with 2 D. I’d also like better hearts and no diamond stopper to bid 3 H.

Philip Mokveld: If you bid the fourth suit (forcing), partner will support with three hearts. But if he bids 2 NT you still have no way to choose between pass and 3 NT. You can avoid this by an invitation for 3 NT immediately.

Comments for 2 D

Bas Lodder: If partner bids 2 S or 2 C, I’ll bid 2 NT; if partner bids 2 H, I’ll bid 3 H; if partner bids 3 D, I’ll bid 3 NT. I’ll have to guess after 2 NT (12- 14) — I think I would pass.

Peter Gill: A near-perfect hand for “fourth suit forcing by a passed hand”. No doubt this was less popular in the 1970s.

Joe Conte: Fourth suit by a passed hand, to see if hearts is viable, and to announce my strength. If partner lacks a diamond stopper, we can still get to 3 NT if his hand warrants game. But we may belong at the two level. Yes, I will pass 2 D or 2 H.

Jojo Sarkar: Regardless of whether we’re playing fourth suit forcing officially, this will surely be a forcing call. Partner will show heart support at this point. I’d pass 2 NT from him, and invite if he bids 2 H.

Frans Buijsen: Fourth suit forcing; will pass 2 NT or 3 D, and raise 2 H to 3 H.

Comments for 1 NT

Michael Arnowitt: As in the first problem I have 11 points, but I think the chances for game here are enough lower that I’ll take the low road and settle for 1 NT.

Robert Katz: Conservative, but this is matchpoints.

Carl Hudecek: I certainly am consistent.

Bruce Moore: Not a bad hand, but the hands don’t seem to fit well. If partner makes another move, I’ll bid 3 NT or invite game in clubs.

Analyses 7W08 MainChallengeScoresTop Yesterday, Once More

Problem 6

MatchpointsBoth VulYou, South, hold:


1 H
3 C

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

3 NT10105611254
3 S916199
3 D55284019

The voting shows that my own choice of 3 S has moved up from 6 to 9 percent, but the consensus still favors the ubiquitous 3 NT. Grrr. On this sequence partner will almost always have a singleton. If it’s in spades, we belong in notrump; if it’s in diamonds, we belong in 5 C or 6 C. For example, give partner S J-x-x H A-K-x-x D x C A-10-x-x-x, and 3 NT is hopeless with a diamond lead, yet 6 C is odds-on. If you switch partner’s pointed suits, the strength-showing 3 S bid would land you in 3 NT.

Another question is whether 3 C is forcing. In order to duplicate the 1978 conditions, I chose not to clarify with a footnote. Yes, it is forcing in Standard American, but even the 1978 panel had two passers. Actually, I don’t think it matters; if 3 C is invitational, you have enough to accept, and the same logic applies. Change the clubs in my above example to Q-10-x-x-x, and 3 S would guide you to the excellent 5 C.

In the scoring I demoted the 3 D bid (even though it got more votes than 3 S) because it will usually guide you into the wrong contract. The moral: When there are two unbid suits below 3 NT, bid the stronger suit so partner can judge how the hands fit.

Comments for 3 NT

David Sterling: I am assuming that 3 C is a passable bid. In that case 3 D and 3 S seem crazy.

Harold Simon: Partner’s 3 C bid should be forcing.

Bas Lodder: Probably easier to make than 5 C (and 3 NT +1 is better than 5 C). Pass is a bit passive, and 3 D or 3 S might only help the opponents.

Brian Ross: I predict that it either makes or it doesn’t. :)

Rik ter Veen: … I think 3 NT shows 3=2=3=5 distribution; 1 NT denied a four-card major, and now I deny three hearts. (OK, I could have 3=3=3=4 with good stoppers in the pointed suits and a notrumpy hand.). I would bid 3 D with 2=2=4=5.

Carlos Dabezies: 3 D or 3 S may just pinpoint the lead when 5 C is not on.

Mark LaForge: Two aces make 3 NT.

Bijoy Anand: … I expect to make 3 NT about 90 percent of the time. Rare that we are missing 6 C. Besides, it is matchpoints; the majority of the field will be in this contract.

Charles Blair: Could be missing 6 C, but can’t partner have S x H A-Q-x-x D x-x-x C A-Q-x-x-x?

Chris Pearce: Spades stopped; diamonds stopped. What’s the problem? Stoppers are somewhat vulnerable, but there’s a good chance for play. If partner lacks the C A, things could be nasty though. I don’t know if my views are representative of bidding trends. I didn’t learn bridge until 1987, and I am just a natural bidder without many bridge miles under my belt. …

Bent Vangli: Best choice in long term. You are probably close to a club slam but need one more initiative from partner.

Stu Goodgold: Do you feel lucky today? I might pass if looking down the barrel of a .44 Magnum.

Carl Hudecek: This time they should double.

Comments for 3 S

James Hudson: … I’ll try for 3 NT (we may still stop in 4 C). There’s not much difference between my spades and diamonds; still, I’ll indicate weakness in the latter suit by bidding 3 S.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: …to suggest that my values are in spades and that I’m playable up to 4 C. I’ll pass anything partner bids, including 4 H.

Peter Gill: Showing spade cards suitable for 3 NT, relative to diamonds.

Eric Leong: Who knows? Maybe partner has S x-x-x H A-x-x-x D x C A-Q-x-x-x, and 5 C is a better contract than 3 NT.

Jeffrey Smith: Bid where you live and identify the possible diamond problem; 4 C is going to be cold if partner bids it.

Comments for 3 D

Joe Conte: If this is invitational, I want to be in game. Showing my values on the way to 3 NT can’t be all bad. If this is forcing, I want to cue-bid. Either style lends itself to 3 D.

Bill Jacobs: Seems easy, whatever partner holds. This might get us to slam opposite: S A-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C A-Q-x-x. Is pass really an option? I would have thought most people would play 3 C as forcing.

Arthur Hoffman: No reason not to cue here. Partner may be short in diamonds, in which case a club contract or slam may be right.

George Yorg: Partner only has a limit raise and 5 C is a reach and a half. Good play for nine untrumpable tricks if played in notrump.

Comments for Pass

Peg Kaplan: Oh, we might make 3 NT; but it is matchpoints, so will pass and hope that a plus score is plus matchpoints.

John R. Mayne: Assuming this is an invitational sequence, I have no reason to run out of a maker into a non-maker. Even at matchpoints, a plus in a minor is better than a minus somewhere else. In 1978, I turned 12, but I still think the sequence was forcing then. If so, 3 S seems superior to 3 NT, as 3 NT is likely to be best only when partner has a diamond card.

Adjat Abdurodjak: If North has a stopper in diamonds, 3 NT is best; if he doesn’t, 4 C is not safe enough.

Dennis Kibler: We can make 3 C.

Scott Graham: Take the plus; S x-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x-x C A-Q-x-x does not create a play for game.

Bruce Moore: I’d like to make a move, but I don’t have anything extra (except some club length). I’d bid 3 NT at IMPs.

Final Notes

I received a total of 318 comments and included 160 (50 percent). 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 option are listed in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing.

Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks. Evidently, this feature has considerable interest, so I plan to continue. Tentative plans are to alternate bidding polls (odd months) and play contests (even months).

Chris Pearce: It would be nice to see how the bids of the originally polled experts have changed.

I thought about this, but only about half of the original panel are living, and none had e-mail addresses known to me.
Hmm… For the other half, should I hold a seance?

Peg Kaplan: No laughing at my answers!

Sorry, too late.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek