Analyses 7W16 MainChallenge

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Scores by Richard Pavlicek

The year was 1980. “Ol’ Blue Eyes” had just recorded his unforgettable rendition of New York, New York, and yours truly had just recorded his… um… well, forgettable bidding panel. Twenty years later in November of 2000, I posed the same problems on the Internet to get a comparison of bidding trends.

Problem 123456Final Notes

In 1980, the panel consisted of 23 Florida experts, of which I was the moderator. The November 2000 poll, open to all bridge players, was much larger. Unfortunately, living in Florida, I couldn’t determine how large because every time I counted the votes I got a different answer. Many respondents complained they were credited with calls they would never make, because my butterfly ballot was ambiguous. [Police knock on door]. “Mr. Pavlicek — or whatever you call yourself these days — you’re under arrest for voting fraud. You have the right to remain silent…”

James Hudson Wins!

This poll had 202 participants from 68 locations, and the average score was 47.44. Congratulations to James Hudson, who was the only person to achieve a perfect score of 60. I guess that’s only fitting, as the Hudson River nestles the Big Apple. Four players were close behind at 59, including my son Rich — shhh… don’t tell him he beat me.

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 are: 1. 4 S; 2. 4 C; 3. Double; 4. 6 NT; 5. Pass; 6. 3 NT. These are the same as in 1980.

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Problem 1

IMPsNone VulYou, South, hold:

1 S
3 S
1 NT
H 7 6 4 3
D A J 7 5
C A 9 8 3 2

4 S1011487336
3 NT84176331
4 C3626189

This first problem upheld the 1980 verdict, though the percentage has dropped considerably. Perhaps this reflects some bitter experiences in raising partner with a void, or maybe it just means that bidders of today don’t require as good a suit for the jump rebid. Who knows. Despite the pain in bidding 4 S, the power of two aces cannot be denied. There rates to be a play for game somewhere, and 3 NT is unappealing — especially with the likely heart lead.

In 1980, the number of votes for 4 C was alarming, but the current consensus has put it in proper place. The “standard” meaning of 4 C is unclear — mainly due to the incompleteness of traditional textbooks — but whatever it means, this hand doesn’t qualify. If it’s a natural bid, the club suit is too short and too flimsy; or if it’s a control-bid, partner will need a sense of humor when he sees your spade support.

Comments for 4 S

Alvin Bluthman: Aggressive call, but when do I ever get the chance to raise with a trump void? If my two aces aren’t enough for partner, no hand (in this auction) will ever be strong enough.

Sandy Barnes: I trust partner’s suit is sufficient quality. I have no tricks for notrump and I am too good to quit here.

Colin Smith: I suspect a heart lead in 3 NT will leave too much to do, and my partner is worth the extra trick.

Don Varvel: I’ve done this before. It worked out that time. 6-0 fits can play pretty well.

Walter Pupko: I am contributing two aces to a strong hand with a good trump suit. Unless partner has a holding like H Q-x-x, I should be filling whatever holes he has outside the trump suit. There should be a good play for 10 tricks.

Harold Simon: Two aces and a fit with partner’s second suit (?) overcome the conventional wisdom not to push for nonvulnerable games. My trump support (ahem) could be better.

Ed Harris: I expect there to be 10 tricks: two from my aces, five from North’s spades, and three from North’s side suits. I learned from this analysis the importance of North having at least semisolid spades for the 3 S bid.

Bas Lodder: I am happy with my aces and hope partner’s suit is solid or semisolid. Pass is not one of my favorite calls, 3 NT can hardly be better (no heart stop, two aces), and 4 C promises a better suit.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Pass could be right at matchpoints or at this vulnerability, but is too timid with values for game (especially two aces). Does partner’s bid promise a good enough spade suit playable for one loser opposite a void? I choose 4 S over 3 NT, but not with great conviction.

Gary Nute: If partner has solid trumps and the heart ace, either 4 S or 3 NT is good. If not, 4 S still has good chances, unless partner is a maniacal bidder.

Ian Payn: Shimmying up the gum tree.

Josh Sinnett: Partner’s 3 S should show both a fairly strong suit and extra values, so pass is anti-percentage. My two aces suggest a suit contract, and 4 S should have a pretty good play.

Richard Willey: This protects partner’s H K-x-(x) from the opening lead. Playing 3 NT, I might encounter trouble running the spade suit; I expect to lose at least one spade trick and it might prove difficult to find entries to dummy.

David Neiman: We should have the values for game, with a reasonable trump break. A faint heart never won a fair lass.

John R. Mayne: The only other option is 3 NT; 4 C is spade-slammish, and my spades are a touch short for that. I expect the majority to pick 3 NT, but 4 S figures to be right by a lot, both right-siding and colder than 3 NT. …

Truls Ingebrigtsen: I’ll trust partner’s spade suit and protect whatever he has in hearts.

Brian Ross: Had to make this one IMPs, didn’t you? Sigh.

Comments for 3 NT

Fred Zhang: The most practical game. A potential 6-0 spade game isn’t very attractive.

Simon Cheung: Tough. My aces say to bid on while my spade void cries to stop. It is certainly helpful to know partner’s style. … My choice is probably influenced by a bidding problem appearing in The Bridge World MSC: After the sequence 1 S P 1 NT P, the majority voted for 3 S with S A-K-9-8-x-x H A-K-Q D x C x-x-x, hence 3 NT has fair chances while 4 S is doomed opposite this opener’s hand). I would not be surprised (and have prepared to apologize) if 3 NT goes down a number.

Uwe Gebhardt: If partner has six spades and 6-3-2-2 shape, he should pass; in any other case he should bid 4 S. Deep in my heart I know that pass is best, but I am still young and we have 25 HCP.

Steven Whitaker: Ugh. Lovely problem. What is the least bad alternative? 4 S seems worst with my trump support. 4 C seems wrong on that holding and might miss 3 NT. Pass is possible and I think I’d try that at pairs; but at IMPs, I’m going to go for the contract which will gain most if it’s right.

Daniel Korbel: We probably have enough values for game, and although hearts may be wide open, there is no way to find out. Pass seems just a little too timid, and 3 NT is our most likely game.

Dan Hugh-Jones: Toughest of the set. I’ll apologize if it goes down, but with two bullets, it looks right to bid a game. Yes, they may beat me in hearts, but in 4 S, they may beat us in trumps.

Paul Gipson: A partial fit in one or both of the minors may easily be good enough for 3 NT to have play. 4 S is a close second choice.

Martin Carpenter: Not really confident at all. :) 4 S would need really great spade intermediates from partner, though.

Comments for Pass

Mark Raphaelson: Without any source for tricks in notrump, you’d be relying on spades. Partner has twice told you his hand has more value in spades, so leave him there. Your aces will be useful in spades. Outside of spades, partner’s hand will not.

Grant Peacock: So I missed 3 NT if partner has S A-K-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D x-x C x-x. If I were vulnerable, I might bid 4 S. I am contributing two tricks in spades. If partner has the other eight, I think he is a bit heavy for 3 S.

David Caprera: Partly this is a question of style. How light do we open? Will partner often bid two of a minor with 6-3? I think it is unlikely that 3 NT will make when 4 S goes down so I view it as “how likely is 4 S?” I expect 1 1/2 spade losers and don’t think I have enough to cover.

Alex Perlin: If I pass and partner makes four, he’ll say I’m chicken and pat me on the back. If I raise and he has no play, he will be really mad at me because of the spade void.

Sid Ismail: Subtract two tricks for the obvious misfit.

Barry Rigal: Nonvulnerable games have to be 50 percent or more to be worth bidding. But it is not just the +6 or -6 IMPs. On this limited auction, 4 S occasionally gets doubled when trumps fail to split. … Since partner’s spades are not solid (else he’d bid 3 NT) I fear losing two trumps and two tricks in the red suits facing, e.g., S K-Q-10-8-x-x H K-Q-x D K-x C Q-x, which would be a 3 S bid for me.

David Stern: Misfits require conservatism. 3 NT figures to be poor with zero spades.

Karen Walker: Much easier to pass at matchpoints, but even at IMPs, I can’t see a game unless partner has the absolute perfect hand (seven very strong spades with most — or all — of his outside honors in the minors). And if he did have that hand, he might well have rebid 4 S.

George Yorg: This could be the last makable spot. He needs three or four tricks from me for game. Where are they?

Howard Abrams: As much as there is a premium on bidding games at IMP scoring, this hand lacks the intermediate cards to make 3 NT a realistic gamble. Holding six solid spades plus H Q-J-x and a minor-suit king, partner might have ventured 3 NT. It is also my experience that 6-0 trump fits do not usually play well at the four level.

Comments for 4 C

Phil Clayton: Toughest hand of the set. If you bid 4 S, wouldn’t you feel terrible if partner held: S A-Q-x-x-x-x H A-Q D x-x C K-Q-x? If you bid 3 NT, wouldn’t you feel rotten if partner held: S A-K-J-10-x-x H x D K-x-x-x C K-Q? If you passed, there are too many hands to worry about that can lead to a poor result. So that leaves 4 C. This caters to partner holding extra length (or interior strength) in spades, or partner holding four diamonds, four hearts (albeit unlikely) or at least three clubs. Only problem patterns are 6=3=2=2 or 6=2=3=2, but partner may have rebid 2 NT with good holdings in his short suits.

John Hoffman: Leaves a lot of options open. The two aces are sure tricks and sure entries, so this hand is too good to pass. The void makes setting up spades at notrump look very uphill, and opener would probably need a double heart stopper.

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Problem 2

MatchpointsN-S VulYou, South, hold:


2 C
3 D

1 S
2 H
S A K Q 7 3
H A 8 5 2
D 5 3
C Q 2

3 S1093910351
4 C97303015
6 C71442
3 NT46266231
4 NT30042

What kind of hand would partner have for a 3 D rebid? Surely, he wouldn’t have a routine 2-over-1 response with five clubs and four diamonds — with that he would bid 2 NT or 3 NT. Logically, he must have a hand that is either (1) too strong to settle in 3 NT, or (2) uncertain of the best strain, probably with six or more clubs. In either case, this makes 3 NT a poor choice. With extra values, a fitting club honor and a source of tricks, slam is imminent. Therefore, I’d raise to 4 C to encourage partner, and hopefully partner will follow with a control-bid of 4 D.

I have no great quarrel with the respondents’ consensus to rebid 3 S, emphasizing the strong suit — that is, if their intentions are to continue with 4 C if partner next bids 3 NT. Unfortunately, many of these bidders intend to pass 3 NT, which seems far too pessimistic about the potential of this hand.

I felt that 3 NT was way off base here, so I reduced its award despite the sizable chunk of votes it received. On similar reasoning, I promoted the award for the imaginative jump to 6 C — a bit brash, perhaps, but that’s often the hallmark of a winning player.

Comments for 3 S

James Hudson: If partner can’t bid notrump, neither can I.

Christopher Miller: Deny a diamond stopper; don’t bypass 3 NT; don’t wrong-side 3 NT.

Bill Jacobs: The littlest lie. 4 C is tempting, but going past 3 NT like that would strongly imply a stiff diamond. …

Sandy Barnes: Keeping my power dry. Over 3 NT I will make a try with 4 C, pushing a little. The C Q looks huge to me, but I think it is important that partner know I have strong spades.

Mark Raphaelson: … The strong spades are worth my rebid here. If 3 NT is right, it’s better from partner’s side, and I haven’t passed it.

Colin Smith: A bit wet, but 4 C seems to imply only room for one diamond loser.

Walter Pupko: Yuck! Partner’s bid should be fourth suit forcing and does not promise diamonds, otherwise 3 NT would be a standout. I think I will lie about a potential sixth spade, rather than risk 3 NT.

Harold Simon: Hopefully showing this good a suit. If partner raises to 4 S, I plan to bid 5 C. …

Fred Zhang: This shouldn’t show six spades here, just deny diamond stopper. Give partner a chance to bid notrump. Slam looks like a long shot at this moment because we haven’t found a real fit.

Simon Cheung: Partner’s 3 D is the fourth suit, hence he is merely creating a force without promising values in diamonds (his hand could be S x-x H K-Q-J D x-x C A-K-J-x-x-x, a game force lacking a fit in either major or a diamond stopper for 3 NT). … If partner next bids 3 NT, I plan to bid 4 C.

Grant Peacock: When in doubt make the cheapest call. (: Partner’s 3 D asks for a stopper so 3 NT can’t be right; 4 C is my other choice; 4 NT is flagrant Blackwood abuse.

Manoj Kumar Nair: Emphasize the quality of spades first. There is always time to prefer clubs. We should be playable up to 4 NT or more.

David Caprera: I assume that 3 C by responder would not have been forcing so 3 D could be anything. I don’t want to drive past 3 NT so I rebid my “six-card” suit.

Bas Lodder: This depends on the agreements one has on 3 D. With my partner, it is game forcing and asks me to describe my hand. I can’t stop diamonds, I don’t have three clubs, and none of my other suits is longer than promised. The least of evils must be to rebid the great spade suit. I am willing to play in a 5-2 fit, and if both 4 S and 5 C make, we’ll get a superior score.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: I can’t bid notrump without a diamond stopper. The quality of my spade suit compensates for the lack of an extra card — but does this auction promise six cards anyway?

Christopher Monsour: I can suggest my spades will play opposite x-x. If my spades weren’t so good, I would be happy to show Q-x support for clubs, but as matters are, that can wait. This is matchpoints, and I have to get to the highest scoring game if we don’t have a slam.

Peter Gill: The hand begs to be played in 4 S in the 5-2 spade fit. Even a 5-1 spade fit is playable opposite S J H K-Q-x D Q-J C K-J-10-x-x-x-x. …

Josh Sinnett: Close between this and 4 C. Can’t wrong-side the notrump (should that be where we play) and 6 C with two potential diamond losers is sick. 3 S doesn’t take us past 3 NT and allows partner more room to clarify the 3 D bid.

Bruce Scott: I am not going to go overboard with this hand. Two small diamonds are a big minus. It is not yet time to support clubs — this is matchpoints. The 5-2 spade fit might make 620 against only 600 in clubs. I will pass 3 NT. If partner rebids 4 C I will use Blackwood, planning to bid 6 C opposite one ace.

Dan Hugh-Jones: Why wrong-side 3 NT? Partner can bid it if it’s right, and if it’s not, this will help get us to the right black-suit game.

Alex Perlin: Partner can have a club one-suiter without a diamond stopper, a heart fit in a hand too good for 4 H, or he may really have the minors. North has spoken — too bad it’ll take a while to figure out what he had to say.

Onno Eskes: For slam purposes 4 C will probably be best, but priority lies in finding the best game, which could easily be 4 S in a 5-2 fit.

John R. Mayne: On the first problem I headed to a 6-0 fit, and here to a 5-1. If partner has a soft diamond stopper, he can bid 3 NT over 3 S. Anything else commits us too far. Even without modern special gadgetry, 3 D could be a directionless punt. 4 NT and 6 C? Jokes from the PavCo factory, I think.

Sid Ismail: With such good spades, I favor 3 S over 4 C. This is matchpoints, and +420 will beat the +400s. At IMPs, I’d bid 4 C.

Jan-Allard Hummel: I prefer showing my H-H-H-x-x as a six-card suit, rather than Q-x as three-card support.

Barry Rigal: This is the least lie. I’m closer to having a sixth spade than anything else (diamond stopper, club support or five hearts). Duck soup?

Truls Ingebrigtsen: Partner’s 3 D is game forcing. I’ll pass over 3 NT and try for a club slam over 4 C.

Martin Carpenter: Economical, and 3 NT is just a bit too sick. :)

John Hoffman: This suggests a suit that might play OK opposite a doubleton. … Above all, I do not want to deprive North of time and space to follow up on his forcing but very ambiguous 3 D.

Andrei Varlan: Very close between this and 4 C, but I don’t want to get beyond 3 NT for the time being. 3 S does not promise six cards in this sequence.

George Yorg: Best I can do is show him where my strength is. 3 NT might be a rough cob.

Howard Abrams: Partner’s 3 D bid makes this auction absolutely forcing to game, even if his 2 C bid did not. Thus, I can show a spade concentration, deny a diamond stopper for notrump, then show club support on the next round (which would suggest a doubleton honor). I expect partner to infer that if I were 5=4=1=3, I would bid 4 C over 3 D.

Comments for 4 C

Don Varvel: Partner could have bid notrump. This is a nice hand for clubs. (In 2000, in America, surely partner won’t pass 4 C.)

Tim Bolshaw: My hand is good on the bidding to date. If I bid 4 NT, however, I cannot see how we can ever reach (a very possible) grand slam with any confidence. Let’s see if we can persuade partner to take control. If partner eventually bids 4 NT and then 5 NT, I’ll bid the grand.

John Reardon: The C Q is a very valuable card, and although I don’t have second-round diamond control, the first-round control in spades and hearts more than compensates (as does the strong spade suit).

Phil Clayton: Close between this and 3 S. I want to set trumps as soon as possible, as the auction is getting uncomfortably high. Over 4 D, I will use Blackwood and bid at least 6 C. …

Jojo Sarkar: Partner knows I have nine or 10 cards in the majors, and so he’ll never expect a better club holding. His sequence shows a strong hand, and my hand is very pure. I’ll never convince him to bid clubs again if I bid spades or 3 NT.

Karen Walker: Partner is usually looking for support for his first suit on this auction, and Q-x — plus my outside quick tricks — have to be good cards for him.

Philip Chase: Partner’s clubs must be real; he knows I’m at least 5-4, he’s headed someplace, so why not help him decide the best strain. I distrust 6 C for we may lack a diamond control. Let partner Blackwood if that’s his desire.

Comment for 6 C

Curtis Cheek: I was opting for 4 C with the intention of going to six, but that seems likely to screw myself when partner tanks and raises to 5 C. Plus, 6 C seems a good description: at least two first-round controls, a club honor, and a trick source.

Comments for 3 NT

Andrew de Sosa: Partner’s 3 D is not necessarily a suit on this auction; he may simply want to know if I’ve got either five hearts or six spades. Thus, I’ll bid out my shape and continue with 3 NT. With no stopper and/or shortness in diamonds, partner should be leery of leaving this in. If partner really has a big club-diamond hand, he can always continue slam investigation by rebidding a minor over 3 NT. In that case, over 4 C, I’ll bid 6 C and over 4 D I’ll bid 5 C.

Everett Dyer: My partner knows the shape of my hand and general strength. He can carry on if interested in slam.

Comments for 4 NT

Dwayne Hoffman: Assuming fourth suit forcing, partner has a club control, a diamond control, and I’d like to bid 4 NT as a slam try.

Anton van Uitert: Assuming 3 D is not fourth suit forcing, this is not Blackwood. Partner should have a hand too good for 3 NT. I like the C Q.

I get it… Partner’s 3 D is or is not fourth suit forcing so hit him with 4 NT, which is or is not Blackwood.

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Problem 3

MatchpointsBoth VulYou, South, hold:

1 S


2 C
1 D
H K 9 5 3
D A K J 9 8 7
C 4 3

2 H7293618
2 D55225728
3 D414147
2 S21431

Judging from the overwhelming preference for the double, this was not a particularly good problem. Nonetheless, it does show that opener’s double in these situations is clearly for takeout, even though there is only one unbid suit.

Some respondents felt this double virtually guaranteed four hearts, but that seems a little extreme. I’d say it shows at least three hearts, which makes a reasonable case for a natural 2 H bid to emphasize the 4-6 shape. Nonetheless, with such a flimsy heart suit, the double is my choice, too. The double also keeps your penalty options alive in the event partner is looking at nine or 10 black cards.

Comments for Double

Alvin Bluthman: This is takeout for hearts. A direct 2 H bid should be stronger, and I do not believe that I hold enough strength for that. Essentially, I want to give partner (who has little strength) the chance to get out at 2 D, rather than 3 D if he lacks heart support.

Bill Jacobs: If this is takeout, it’s a standout. …

Mark Raphaelson: Perfect call; gives partner all the information needed to make the right choice. I have defensive values, and the double implies hearts. Partner can hardly make the wrong decision here — either pick a suit or convert to penalty.

Don Varvel: Partner hasn’t bid so it’s for takeout. … I hope partner doesn’t think I have spade support.

Fred Zhang: A close choice between double and 2 H. I think the double shows four hearts and extra values, and it also has more flexibility. The hand doesn’t seem pure enough to bid 2 H (swapping the S A and H 3 might be good enough).

Simon Cheung: … If I bid 2 H instead, partner would (and should) expect much better hearts from me. Since I don’t want to emphasize my anemic heart, I double to show additional values and tolerance for the unbid heart suit.

Grant Peacock: Partner might have a decent hand with 5-5 in the black suits, so let’s not let them off the hook. Double describes my hand anyway. If it continues 2 S P P, I will venture 3 D. If West bids 3 C, I will defend — I’ll lead the S A and then try to find a way to partner’s hand.

David Caprera: Seems automatic. Anything else is too unilateral. Sometimes we get to play 2 C doubled.

Tim Bolshaw: 2 H should show 5-6; neither 2 D nor 3 D keeps hearts in the picture (though since partner could not find a negative double of 1 S that may not matter); 2 S is both an overbid and misleading (it should be looking for no trump); double understates the diamond suit, the most likely way to compete to the 3-level. However, if you double now, you might still risk 3 D later and partner will have a good picture of your hand. If you rebid diamonds now and double later, partner will treat it as penalty.

Peter Gill: We may have 4 H on, opposite as little as H Q-x-x-x-x, which makes the double preferable to 2 D.

Steven Whitaker: Clear-cut, so far as I’m concerned. … Partner can bid diamonds, hearts or even pass for penalties with a fistful of black cards.

Phil Clayton: Brings hearts into play. … Partner should get very excited with: S x-x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C x-x.

Barry Rigal: Red suits and extras. I can’t double to expose a psych although there have been times when I wanted to do that — but not of a minor.

Comments for 2 H

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Bid your shape. The extra diamond length makes up for the slight overstatement of values.

Ian Payn: Taking my life in my hands.

Jeffrey Smith: It’s tight, but you are willing to play 3 D opposite almost all hands and 2 H gets diamonds into the picture, big time.

Curtis Cheek: Bidding what I’ve got. This must show at least six diamonds, else double. I’m a little worried about getting overboard, but the upside of getting partner in on the act seems to warrant the risk.

David Neiman: Most descriptive. At worst, we return to 3 D. At best, partner doubles the opponents or finds 3 NT.

Alex Perlin: If partner has ace-fifth of hearts and bids game, I’ll take her out to a restaurant.

Martin Amorison: Give partner H Q-J-x-x, and 4 H is a good game.

John R. Mayne: The hardest problem of the set. 3 D has a lot going for it; the diamonds are so much better than the hearts that the 6-1 will be considerably better than the 4-3, and it will block better than 2 H. But 2 H is descriptive, and maybe I’ll get lucky and catch partner with S x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x D x-x C x-x-x.

Karen Walker: I’m not wild about the quality of the heart suit, but this is the only way to show a two-suiter. Double implies greater high-card values and (usually) a more balanced hand.

Will Engel: I am fairly certain partner has a trap pass, but even if he doesn’t, 3 D isn’t too unsafe.

John Hoffman: With a good shapely hand, I show my suits if it’s affordable. There is some danger at the two level (the opponents have shown values but no fit), but there’s also a big upside if partner has shape and a fit for either of my suits.

Andrei Varlan: This shows a good hand and promises at least six diamonds (and four hearts). With 4-5 shape, I would double.

Comments for 2 D

Walter Pupko: Partner does not have a decent hand with hearts, otherwise he would have doubled. I would rather compete in my good suit.

John Reardon: Partner’s failure to double 1 S suggests that, if he has hearts, he must be very weak (unless he is trapping). I am prepared to compete, but only in my strong suit. I want to avoid the “kiss of death”.

Christopher Monsour: Partner couldn’t make a negative double of 1 S, so I give up on hearts in favor of letting partner know where I live.

Pekka Niemisto: I don’t think we will be allowed to play in 2 D, but I have to show diamond length so that partner is able to make a sensible decision later.

Josh Sinnett: Process of elimination. Double is confusing and will often lead to minus 380; 2 H is worthless since partner didn’t make a negative double; 2 S needs another ace; and 3 D is more preemptive. 2 D describes a good suit and an above-average hand. Hey, that’s what we have!

Bruce Scott: Was 2 C by RHO forcing? Double should show a pattern like this, but I am short an ace for this call. I wouldn’t crime a pass. If 2 C is forcing, I expect RHO to show spade support later. If 2 C was not forcing, then it looks like partner may have a trap. In that case, doubling is going to get us too high.

Carl Hultman: Partner failed to make a negative double so he either lacks hearts or values. If he lacks diamond support, perhaps he will correct with long hearts.

Sid Ismail: With no negative double from partner, 2 D is easy. Perhaps partner can come to life with a 3 D bid over their 2 S or 3 C.

Truls Ingebrigtsen: Partner didn’t make a negative double or bid 1 NT so I’ll introduce my extra diamond length. Maybe partner can compete for the contract over 2 S or 3 C.

S.T. Arasu: A partscore fight — an eye on the vulnerability suggests no adventure.

Leo Zelevinsky: Sure, this is a nice hand, but I think partner is broke with only cards in spades. If partner has a diamond fit, he will compete. …

Howard Abrams: Double is out because I lack club strength. Partner’s failure to use a negative double makes 2 H unattractive. Between the underbid of 2 D and the overbid of 3 D, I choose the underbid with no firm conviction. At IMPs I would try 3 D because of the premium for vulnerable games — even though on the bidding I think partner is less than 50 percent to hold a hand that can make 3 NT or 5 D.

Comments for 3 D

Ed Harris: South’s diamonds (excellent intermediates) are worth five tricks (more than 50% chance). … South should not bid 2 H because North did not make a negative double.

Onno Eskes: Even if you double and North has four hearts, he will probably not bid them over West’s 2 S or 3 C. Better to obstruct now with 3 D.

Sandeep Thakral: It looks like the opponents own the hand, and also that partner doesn’t have hearts, otherwise he had an easy double available. So you have to try and make things difficult for them. You won’t be crucified in 3 D and might even make it.

Jan-Allard Hummel: … This takes away a 3 C bid by West

Martin Carpenter: After no negative double, it seems considerably more likely to catch partner with decent diamond support than four hearts. Quite likely it is their hand, hence 3 D (not 2 D or 2 H). Hopefully, I’ll be safe. :)

Bill Cubley: Showing what I have and putting pressure on the opponents.

Comment for 2 S

Olivier La Spada: In case of a heart fit, A-x-x-x or Q-J-x-x in partner’s hand should be enough for the game. This will give partner enough confidence to bid it if West bids 3 S.

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Problem 4

IMPsN-S VulYou, South, hold:
2 S1
4 D
6 S
S K 3
H A 10 4
D 10 6 5 3
C Q J 8 2

1. weak two-bid

6 NT96265829
7 D4522189

In 1980, I was pleased with myself for coming up with a great problem, having accomplished the feat of dividing the panel as evenly as possible. At that time I gave the top award to 6 NT since that was my choice. So much for satisfaction! Today’s consensus clearly favors the double, so I’ll take the demotion — but I’ll use my moderator’s license to take 9, thank you.

Partner’s jump to 4 D clearly shows a good hand — it is almost universally accepted that if one side makes a weak bid, a jump bid by the other side is not weak. Typically, North should be able to win about nine tricks (one less than his bid). This makes 6 NT a reasonable venture, and it tosses the problem back into the opponents’ camp. At the vulnerability, they may take out insurance and bid 7 S.

Another issue is whether a pass by South is forcing on this sequence. I would say no, since the auction itself does not indicate that one side has the clear majority of HCP (23+ is my guideline). Admittedly, it’s almost certain that East is taking an advance sacrifice with no expectation of making 6 S, but that is based on South’s actual hand, not the auction. Hence, partner is not privy to this, so you’re obliged to do something to show your values.

Several respondents mentioned that they normally play partner’s jump to 4 D as “leaping Michaels,” showing a two-suiter with hearts and diamonds. Yes, so do I with most partners (an immediate 3 S cue-bid would indicate a strong one-suiter). Nonetheless, we all have to pay homage to Mother Nature once in a while, and bid what we have.

Comments for Double

Mark Raphaelson: I have my fourth of the points… So why am I at the six level already? I’ll double, so partner knows I’m not broke. I don’t want to end up negative here. I’ll take down four for 800, beating those who were able to stop in 5 D.

Walter Pupko: Betting on a spade void (which can be diagnosed by the pair at the other table) seems foolhardy. Do we have 12 tricks outside spades? I am not willing to bet on it, and I don’t think I will be getting a spade lead in 6 NT.

Fred Zhang: Partner’s 4 D shows an invitational hand. I don’t think my hand could provide three tricks for 7 D. My S K is a bad feature and a wasted card. …

Grant Peacock: Partner’s 4 D says, “I’m afraid we’ll miss 5 D if I bid only 3 D” Even though the S K is nothing, the rest of my hand is nice so I am confident we can make 5 D, and 6 D seems reasonable. But seven? That strikes me as unlikely, so I tell partner this with a double. …

Manoj Kumar Nair: Fixed? Stay fixed! Partner could have great hand and you could end up down one in any contract, e.g., S H K-Q-J D A-K-Q-x-x-x-x C A-10-9.

Ed Harris: At 7 D South’s long diamonds will be no help to North, and South should expect North to have one spade. South’s S K is probably of no value, and the C Q-J are doubtful values. North has a huge hand, so 6 S should go down.

Itea Goldstein: I’d expect partner to have doubled with a hand so large as to make a grand slam here the right call.

John Reardon: Pass would not be forcing. Any other call would be a complete gamble. I would have played 4 D by North as “Leaping Michaels,” but I assume that is not the case here.

Steven Whitaker: Pass would obviously be forcing but I think our values are too defensive for that. The S K will be useless in diamonds and probably also in notrump. Going off in slam when you could have collected 500 or 800 is a disaster. Partner can still bid with really weird distribution.

Andrew de Sosa: With wastage in spades and slow values (other than the H A) I double despite my four-card diamond support. East won’t be aware of the duplication in diamond shortness with West, and the high likelihood of mirror-image hands that won’t play together all that well. Besides, the “law of total tricks” says they are at least one level too high here.

Curtis Cheek: To bid 6 NT is banking heavily on the C A-K. Everything else seems nutty. I think partner would overcall 5 D on hands that make seven, e.g., S H K-x-x D A-K-J-x-x-x-x C A-K-x.

Jojo Sarkar: Anything else is pure speculation. If we get a bad score, we can say “nice bid.” In 6 NT, we could be more than one trick short if they don’t lead spades; and 7 D could easily be off the S A.

David Neiman: Take the sure plus. Is it really that easy to push me around? Maybe, but 6 NT and 7 D require such perfect cards in partner’s hand. …

Alex Perlin: These despicable creatures sitting East-West seem to have reached a slam holding less than 15 HCP. A penalty double is the only way to hold them accountable for this nonsense. Just kidding. Well done opponents!

Priya Ranjan Sinha: We may make 6 NT or 7 D, but I will accept the nuisance of preemption and collect a positive score.

Charles Blair: Can’t partner have: S x H Q-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x C A-K-x-x?

S.T. Arasu: I do not have any scientific way to find out about 7 D so I go for the sure penalty.

Comments for 6 NT

David Lindop: Anything could be right. 7 D might stampede the opponents into a save, or partner may be void. 6 NT is at worst on a club finesse.

Sandy Barnes: Pass is out, and 7 D seems too great a reach. Double is about a two-trick set on average, and 6 NT is likely a 50-50 gamble or so. If partner has a spade void and some strong side stuff, he may bid 7 D himself.

Micha Keijzers: This is probably safe. In 7 D we might go down because some finesse doesn’t work. Doubling them doesn’t seem to win enough. …

Steve Mager: I may live to regret it, but the opponents seem to want to sacrifice. Even if I am wrong, they may go a level higher.

David Caprera: Pass is not forcing so that’s out. My hand is far too good to double. I am not willing to bet that partner has a spade void so I bid 6 NT. Partner isn’t barred from bidding 7 D, particularly if I can bid in tempo.

Bas Lodder: … If partner has C A-K, this makes. If partner doesn’t have the C A, we will not make 6 NT. But in that case, they might even make 6 S, and then, playing 6 NT doubled, down three (seven diamonds, a heart and a spade) is a good rescue. (Of course, West might start with a club to his partner’s ace and collect six spade tricks after that, but it’s unlikely.)

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Partner’s 4 D is strong (don’t preempt over a preempt). Double is unlikely to be enough. Even if my RHO bid only 5 S, I’d make the same bid.

Steve White: East thinks we have a slam; I hope he’s right. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that pass would be forcing.

Christopher Monsour: If partner wanted to be in 3 NT opposite a mere spade stopper, he would have bid 3 S, not 4 D. So he is either more distributional or far stronger. I suspect we can make slam, and we are sufficiently jammed that I will be happy to bid the safer of 6 NT and 7 D. However, they may have a good save against either (in 7 S) and 6 NT will do more to discourage the save. Finally, it really would be embarrassing to bid 7 D and find partner with a spade. …

Ian Payn: Sticks out a mile. Nothing else seems attractive. Seven Diamonds? I don’t think so. How many times has partner been “marked” with a void and turned out to have two small?

Josh Sinnett: Should show this exact spade holding (would pass with first-round control and double with no spade control). Should also show some outside values (duh). Partner is welcome to convert to 7 D if his hand warrants it.

Phil Clayton: Think about what partner needs for 4 D at adverse vulnerability: SH K-x D A-K-x-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x would be an absolute minimum, and I expect more like: S x H K-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x C A-K-x. With the first hand, we are on a hook, a favorable lead or some endplay without the count. Can’t get to 7 D with this.

Neelotpal Sahai: Cannot afford to miss a vulnerable slam.

Bruce Scott: … If I were Al Roth, I would say that “there is no correct answer.” How am I doing in the match so far? (Yes I am stalling before commenting on my answer.) 6 NT is just a stab, but obviously there are some makes here when 7 D goes down. Will my LHO be smart enough to avoid the spade lead if it is the only losing lead? One downside of 6 NT is that we might go down a lot more than in 7 D.

Martin Amorison: Partner is strong (no preempt over a preempt) and void in spades; 7 D might be cold, but 6 NT seems safer. …

Onno Eskes: Looks like they did OK; 6 D would make and 6 S will be a good save. I must protect my score. 6 NT will be a good result if it makes and is less risky than gambling 7 D.

John R. Mayne: Partner shows a very strong hand, and 6 NT should be +1440 or +1470. Pass shows first round spade control, so that’s out; 7 D is too wild for me, while double is too cowardly.

Barry Rigal: Close my eyes and guess. Who can say what is right here?

Truls Ingebrigtsen: I’ll try for the best contract. I have no way to investigate 7 D — partner could have a singleton spade.

David Stern: If they lead a spade we figure to have one spade and seven diamonds, and there must be a reasonable hope for four tricks in the other suits.

Will Engel: They made me guess, so I guessed.

John Hoffman: Go for the money, but don’t overdo it. Despite a likely spade void in partner’s hand, 7 D might need too much help in hearts and clubs. I hope for six or seven diamond tricks, a spade (if the opponents insist), and a scramble for four or five tricks in the other suits. Might be some interesting squeeze possibilities. Pass is insipid.

Bill Cubley: The vulnerability is theirs and we might miss the grand slam, but our teammates will do the same to them.

Comments for Pass

Simon Cheung: A grand slam is not impossible, as partner could easily have a spade void since he didn’t investigate the possibility of 3 NT. However, bidding 7 D is too much for me, as my S K is wasted and my club values are dubious. So I pass, showing values (certainly we are in a forcing situation where I am forced to double when I have nothing to discourage partner from going on). I hope partner can make the right guess if he has something like S H K-x D A-K-Q-x-x-x-x-x C A-K-x.

Tim Bolshaw: … Partner should have strong diamonds and be very distributional (to bypass 3 NT), something like: S H K-x D A-K-J-x-x-x-x-x C A-x-x. Some would argue that we will not get rich against 6 S, and if 6 NT is right you must bid it now. However, I think that if 6 NT is making, 7 D probably is too. Pass is forcing and (in my view) should show a good hand not necessarily including first-round spade control. I would need to add the C K to my hand before risking 7 D all by myself.

Leo Zelevinsky: Nasty problem. I think that this pass has to be forcing, and it has the best chance of getting partner to do the right thing.

Anton van Uitert: This should be forcing, suggesting 7 D. It leaves two or three possibilities open, whereas double, 6 NT and 7 D are unilateral.

Comments for 7 D

Dan Hugh-Jones: If they are not laydown, I suspect 6 NT and 7 D will likely depend on the same finesse, i.e., they are both making or both failing. May as well go for the big bonus.

Everett Dyer: Trusting partner to have a mittful.

Harold Bernstein: Partner is void in spades and should have a seven-card diamond suit, so he needs only the C A-K and H K to make the grand.

Howard Abrams: This guess — and they are all guesses on this auction — has the most to gain if it is correct. I may be wrong to play partner for a spade void, but I doubt East would jump to six spades with only four pieces.

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Problem 5

IMPsN-S VulYou, South, hold:

1 S

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

2 S88356231
2 D73134924
2 C4292211

Everyone has a good hand! This unlikely auction usually indicates a psych (surely by the opponents at the vulnerability), but it is also possible that every call was normal — especially considering West opened in third seat. If this were backgammon, we could “turn the cube” once more, but at bridge we can’t up the stakes beyond a redouble.

So what’s the best way to proceed? In the expert community there is some precedence for this situation, and the consensus is that direct bids (including jumps) are weak; hence, the way to show constructive values is to pass the first time. I agree, and so do the plurality of the respondents. It may be just a partscore battle (barring an enemy psych), but it is important to let partner know we have real high-card values — just in case the opponents get too frisky.

It could also be argued (correctly) that an immediate cue-bid shows constructive values, but the danger is that it will overstress hearts (the unbid major). This would often lead to an inferior 4-3 fit, since partner will bid any four-card heart suit as the first priority.

Comments for Pass

James Hudson: I may be able to show some strength later.

David Lindop: The problem with 2 S is that you are endplayed if partner bids 3 H. I prefer to pass, then double when West (presumably) pulls to 2 S and this is passed around to me. I don’t think partner will play that sequence for penalty.

Bill Jacobs: Wish I could re-redouble. Since no bid fits well, I will pass and listen. I will be fairly comfortable on most continuations. 2 C and 2 D are very bad, making it difficult to get out of that denomination.

Mark Raphaelson: Looks like everyone’s got a shapely 10 points. I’ll pass and let partner pick his best suit. If West bids first, all the better.

Walter Pupko: Someone is fooling around, and the odds are 2-1 it is not my partner. I don’t think I am strong enough to bid 2 S (I would not have made that bid without the redouble), particularly without four hearts, and two of a minor is a weak bid that will most likely be passed. If I pass and then bid, I think I will be showing something like this hand. Otherwise, psychs sometimes work.

Peter Clinch: It appears that re-redouble is not available. Next round will be a problem, but I won’t solve it by bidding anything this round.

Steve Mager: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Gray Robertson: Partner should know I don’t have four hearts or I’d have bid them; we should have a 4-4 fit in a minor. I can’t bid 2 S as this is an unassuming cue-bid, which would virtually guarantee hearts.

Dean Eidler: I don’t have a clear indication of where to go, and I am too strong for a simple suit bid. Jumps are preemptive after a redouble.

Frans Buijsen: Someone’s lying, so I’ll just pass for a bit to see if I can find out who.

Steve White: Too good for 2 C or 2 D; too weak for 2 S.

Christopher Monsour: I refuse to misdescribe my hand. … I would rather hear what opener and partner have to say. I am afraid a 2 S bid by me will be taken to suggest four hearts.

Ian Payn: Awaiting developments. I think they are going to be in trouble, not us.

Pekka Niemisto: East might be joking with spade support, but lacking a stopper I’d rather find out which minor partner has.

Jerry Bigler: At my next turn I will raise whatever partner bids. Another pinochle deck has been slipped into the game.

Richard Willey: If redouble implies no fit, than my spade shortness suggests that partner has a balanced hand and is too strong for a 1 NT overcall. Another strong possibility is a psych by West. … I always prefer to trust partner rather than the opponents.

Bruce Scott: Someone is lying here — probably LHO. … I believe that the normal plan is to pass and bid strongly later. If LHO passes and partner bids a suit, I will cue-bid 2 S and then preference partner’s first suit.

Jojo Sarkar: East is probably psyching (bad hand, good spade support). I don’t have a five-card minor or a four-card heart suit, so I have nothing to say.

Dan Hugh-Jones: One of the opponents is lying, and pass is the first step in telling partner that, despite what the opponents are saying, this is not their hand. The hand is not worth 2 S and jumps, of course, would be weak.

Onno Eskes: In principle this shows no preference. Later I will cue-bid or double to tell partner that East-West are fooling around. The problem with an immediate 2 S is that you have a blind guess on the next round.

Olivier La Spada: Wait and see. … If West bids 2 S, passed around, I will bid 2 NT (showing minors).

Comments for 2 S

Sandy Barnes: No good choice here, but I need to show strength since someone is joking.

Don Varvel: With more spades I might lay low, but the opponents know where they’re going. We don’t. Showing values will expose the psych.

Grant Peacock: This says “somebody at the table must have psyched, or we’re looking at a 50-point deck.” … Any other call here shows no values. My second choice is to pull out two redouble cards at once and say: I fourdouble.

Manoj Kumar Nair: No penalties at this level — thank you very much! Light anybody?

David Caprera: A lot of bidding going on. Either everybody has a minimum or West is being comic. … If West is the culprit, this is my only chance to show values. Passing could work, but suppose it goes 2 S P P; now what? 3 S? 2 NT? I am certainly worse off. Had South not been a passed hand, this would be harder. My problem with 2 S is that partner may expect a rebid, and I don’t know what to rebid over 3 H.

Tim Bolshaw: Big deck!! Either West is very minimum or the redouble is psychic (probably the former). I think it’s best to show values immediately rather than risk the waters becoming muddied further. 2 S implies a near maximum pass and tends to deny a four-card heart suit.

John Reardon: This shows the ability to compete until suit agreement and helps expose a possible light opening bid by West. If I were any stronger I would have opened the bidding myself.

Arvind Srinivasan: Expose the psych. Bidding 2 S later might look like a natural bid.

Gary Nute: Somebody (probably West) is lying. I have a near maximum for my pass and support for partner’s suit(s). At IMPs I’ll pay my money, try for game, and take my chances.

Peter Gill: An old chestnut. This shows a maximum passed hand, exactly what I have, and tips off partner about their psych before things gets complicated.

Steven Whitaker: Having already passed, partner knows I don’t have a big hand. Now he can bid his best suit competitively. West is probably weak and single-suited on this bidding.

Andrew de Sosa: Someone is stretching the truth here and it’s likely to be West or East. West probably has an extremely light opener, and East probably has a marginal hand with a big spade fit and wants to discourage competition for the contract. 2 S really serves as a responsive double here and should alert partner into exactly what is going on. It denies four hearts and shows a willingness to compete to 2 NT (if partner can bid it), three of a minor, or even 3 H if partner has undisclosed length.

Curtis Cheek: The only way for partner to know I have anything. I’ll feel comfortable passing for the remainder unless forced. I would feel bidless if I passed, partner bid two of a minor, and RHO bid 2 S.

Phil Clayton: The short spades in my hand are an enigma. … I assume the redouble does not deny a spade fit, so I expect West is light, or that East psyched the redouble. … I don’t want to pass and hear the bidding advance to the 3 S on my next turn.

Neelotpal Sahai: I am showing tolerance for the other three suits and a decent passed hand. … Partner can also deduce that I don’t have four hearts, else I would have bid them.

David Neiman: Anyway you want to play it, this seems to work — shows values, with interest in notrump or either minor.

Judi Carter: Looking for 3 NT if North has spade stopper, otherwise will play in three of minor.

John R. Mayne: The only way to show a directionless hand this good. 2 C and 2 D are clear errors. Pass will leave us poorly placed if my next call is over 4 S.

Sid Ismail: Expose the psycher, I say!

Truls Ingebrigtsen: I’ll trust partner (over the third-hand 1 S) and show that I have maximum for my pass.

Everett Dyer: Asking partner to bid notrump with a stopper in spades, else to pick the suit. …

Philip Chase: Holding the best hand I could have for an original pass, I feel obligated to urge partner to pick the best suit. Even 4 H on a 4-3 (Moysian) fit could be the best spot.

John Hoffman: Near-maximum values (none wasted) for a passed hand, with uncertainty about strain. 2 C and 2 D are runouts. It could be hard to show these values later after passing the redouble.

Anton van Uitert: This puzzle is for partner :)

Comments for 2 D

Fred Zhang: It is tempting to explore for the vulnerable game, but with East showing values and West opening light in third seat, I don’t think I should push hard by bidding 2 S. After bidding 2 D, I will have the option to bid 3 C if East-West compete to 2 S.

Itea Goldstein: What I’d actually do at the table is take a peek at the opponents’ convention card and see whether the redouble implies support or non-support. In a vacuum, my guess is that everyone is a bit light, so this is a partscore deal, and I might as well bid diamonds now, then 3 C over 2 S. …

Mark Lehto: … I would like to pass but I fear that West will be bidding lots of spades. Thus, I’ll bid 2 D because that’s the lead I prefer.

Josh Sinnett: Where are the spades? Who’s lying about their point count? I’m guessing East is psyching a redouble with a poor hand and five spades, though it’s certainly not the most effective psych I’ve seen. I’ll bid clubs next round.

Michael Arnowitt: At first I thought of passing, which partner might interpret as “no particular preference of what suit to play in.” But with my short spades…, it seems that they will end up in 2 S one way or another. So perhaps it’s better to bid 2 D now and 3 C later to get both suits in and compete for the partscore.

Alex Perlin: If you are playing with me, please don’t cue-bid 2 S, because I won’t know what it means. If you are playing with an expert, you should read his comments, not mine.

Martin Carpenter: Easily enough room for everyone to have their bids — if I’m sitting all 4 seats :) — hence, a simple 2 D for now. …

Leo Zelevinsky: I bet everyone has about 10 points and we have a fit in one of the minors. I will compete in clubs later if allowed to do so cheaply.

Bill Cubley: Better to show something. What do I do if I cue-bid and they go to 3 S and we have not found a fit?

Howard Abrams: This sounds as if either the strength is very even or very distributional around the table. I choose 2 D, as I expect to bid again. Perhaps the choice of bids is too limited as I think 3 C or 3 D are viable choices.

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Problem 6

MatchpointsNone VulYou, South, hold:


1 S

1 C
S 5
H A Q 3
D K 5
C A K J 9 8 7 6

3 NT105229346
3 C711485829
2 H63132814
2 D40094
2 NT2417157

In 1980 — quite to my surprise — the panel preferred the hefty 3 C rebid. I thought the potential of this hand was far too great, and this was clearly vindicated by the current consensus. It’s amazing how the march of time often brings people to their senses, but sometimes it’s a slow march — at least for some of the bids I’ve advocated.

In my view, 3 NT is a standout — a long strong club suit, stoppers in the unbid suits, and shortness in spades — though some players require that the suit must be solid. Come on, folks. Are there really enough bids available to enforce such stringent requirements? Certainly not. You have to bid the nature of your hand, and this one reeks for a shot at 3 NT. To be sure, you won’t make it every time, but odds look good.

Some respondents rejected 3 NT because they felt it might decrease their chances of reaching a good club slam. Again, I disagree. Jumping to 3 NT is a picture bid, and partner is certainly able to move (probably by bidding 4 C, natural) with a suitable hand. Surely, 3 NT is more likely to get you to a successful slam than the weaker 3 C rebid.

Another approach is to make a fake reverse (2 H or 2 D), but these bids only distort the picture for partner, and I don’t see how either could be interpreted as stronger than 3 NT.

Comments for 3 NT

David Lindop: Too good for 3 C. I’ll just have to hope the clubs run.

Bill Jacobs: No need for a phony reverse. 3 C is too little. 2 NT is OK, but 3 NT is better, showing the long strong club suit. If it’s meant to be solid, too bad.

Sandy Barnes: I don’t want to reverse into a short suit, and I will not risk partner passing 3 C. Jack-ten fourth of spades and the C Q give me a fine play for game.

Mark Raphaelson: Long, potentially runnable minors are made for 3 NT. …

Micha Keijzers: Should show 18-19 with a good six-card club suit. With 17 and a fine seven-card suit, I also bid 3 NT.

Walter Pupko: Normally, I would like this bid to show a solid club suit, but my hand is too good for 3 C. I don’t think I can recover if I bid a red suit.

Peter Clinch: It strikes me that this choice will be popular, but not necessarily successful.

Harold Simon: Isn’t matchpoints grand?

Fred Zhang: This shows 18-20 with good clubs. With seven clubs, this hand is good enough. 3 C might get into a wrong-sided 3 NT.

Simon Cheung: This shows a good minor one-suiter, stoppers in the unbid suits, and probably a singleton in responder’s suit. A pretty accurate description, isn’t it? The other choice is 2 H (forcing and keeping the level low for slam exploration), but I believe it is counterproductive to invent a suit rebid with three cards when a natural rebid describes your hand so well. …

Hans Gelders: I don’t see the problem. Long clubs, strong hand, irregular distribution, stoppers in both red suits, and matchpoints — 3 NT looks automatic.

Ed Harris: The biggest weakness of 3 NT is that the opponents may be able to run spades… But 3 NT does not demand North to pass. If the hearts and diamonds were reversed, I would prefer 2 D (reverse; forcing), but I do not think that lying about a major’s length is a good idea…

Itea Goldstein: Most likely game. If clubs come in, I expect it to make. I need to protect my diamond stopper. I’d hate to hear partner bid 2 NT (over 2 H) and have a diamond through scuttle the goods. …

David Caprera: A slight overbid. I’m a touch too heavy for 3 C. If I bid 2 D or 2 H and partner raises, I don’t like my options; 2 NT is balanced and I’m not (neither is this hand).

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Stopping short of game is unthinkable. A temporizing 2 D or 2 H may give us more room to bid a thin slam. Alternately, it could lead to partner bidding 2 NT and wrong-siding 3 NT. If partner can’t act over my 3 NT (don’t think I have too many extras), then that is where we belong.

Tim Bolshaw: A gamble, obviously, but the odds are high (1) that this is where you belong and (2) that it should be played from your side. Actually, I am just slightly concerned that my red suit controls are too good and we may miss a slam — but this is matchpoints and I am willing to risk that.

Christopher Monsour: I sure hope my suit is good enough. 3 C is also very tempting, but my red suit stops are positional.

Josh Sinnett: Standard American defines this as a long, running suit, a singleton in partner’s major, and outside stoppers. I’m worried about missing a possible 6 H contract if partner is 5-5 or has four good hearts, but partner has another bid.

Jerry Bigler: Always works for everyone else.

Andrew de Sosa: … Partner should know that I’ve got a source of tricks (in this case lots of extra clubs in a semisolid suit) and positional stoppers for NT. Partner can always bid 4 C over 3 NT should he wish to make a slam try in clubs. …

Curtis Cheek: What else can I do?

David Neiman: Pretty descriptive, and it doesn’t shut out exploration of slam. I prefer not to make fragment bids (2 D, 2 H) if avoidable. …

Alex Perlin: The problem is insoluble. How can we get to a slam opposite: S A-x-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x, or S J-x-x-x H K-x-x D A-x-x C x-x-x?

Onno Eskes: A little light, but the red suits yell for notrump from your side.

Karen Walker: Too much playing strength for 3 C. The 3 NT rebid should usually imply running clubs, but this suit is close enough.

Fred Theurkauf: I would like to have the C Q instead of the jack, but it’s my most descriptive bid.

Comments for 3 C

Don Varvel: Underbidding with a singleton in partner’s suit. Make the clubs A-K-Q-x-x-x-x and 3 NT is easy; it may be best here too. 2 NT is awful, and 2 D and 2 H are dangerous and unlikely to lead to easier choices.

Arvind Srinivasan: Rebidding 3 NT risks a minor-suit slam being missed. With a passed partner I would rebid 2 NT.

Gary Nute: Maybe wimpy, but if partner can’t bid again, we probably aren’t missing anything and will go plus against all those down in 3 NT (I hope). And if he has the right hand, we may reach 6 C, when 3 NT would shut him off.

Mark Lehto: At IMPs I would just bid 3 NT. At matchpoints the extra chance of 6 C offsets the possibility of a pass.

Ian Payn: Maybe a bit top-heavy, but if it goes all pass I think I’m probably in the right spot.

Bruce Scott: This is a breather. A more interesting question is whether I would have bid 3 C over a 1 H response. There is absolutely no reason for the manufactured reverses. …

Everett Dyer: I know it is nonforcing, but I expect partner to make another effort to bid unless he only has 5 or 6 points.

Comments for 2 H

Manoj Kumar Nair: The only holding I will run into trouble with is 5-4 in the majors from partner. If I bid 2 D and LHO doubles, they’ll find their fit thanks to me. 2 NT is an interesting bid too, but we may miss 6 C if partner raises to 3 NT with: S A-x-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x. Now how am I going to get there? That was not your question, Mr. Pavlicek!

Jojo Sarkar: Most flexible bid. If partner is good enough to raise to 4 H, we might be OK.

Gary Schneider: Originally I bid 3 NT, as it is the most likely contract when partner has a bad hand or soft values. However, 2 H is a better start towards a club slam if partner has a couple of prime cards.

John R. Mayne: Ye old fake reverse. Second choice: 3 NT, but that would lead to too many missed slams with this prime monster.

Will Engel: I would be tempted to bid 3 C if the C K were the D 2, so I think I have to reverse with this. …

Charles Blair: In spite of the spade misfit, this is too good for 3 C. I will bid 4 C over 3 H and hope for best.

Martin Carpenter: Clearly very dangerous but seems more descriptive than 2 D… Looks like I might be reduced to bidding 6 C over 4 H. Yuck!

John Hoffman: Too strong for 2 NT, 3 C, or 3 NT. I’m ready for just about anything partner might rebid. The worst case: a 4-3 heart contract that could turn out to be excellent at matchpoints.

Howard Abrams: … All choices are flawed and 2 H (lying about the heart length) seems the least of evils, as a subsequent club bid will keep the possibility of slam in the picture.

Comments for 2 D

Steve White: Safer to reverse into a minor than a major.

Barry Rigal: No one raises diamonds here, do they? — but 2 H might get me into trouble.

Olivier La Spada: Let’s prepare the lead against 3 NT. …

Andrei Varlan: Is this the same kind of hand that jumped to 3 S in the first example? I don’t think so. When lying about a suit, my experience has taught me it’s better in a minor one

Comments for 2 NT

David Stern: Looks like an 18-19 hand. I normally don’t like a singleton in this sequence, but everything else has little appeal and 3 NT is best played by me with tenaces in reds.

Bill Cubley: Closest to what I have and I get the lead into my tenaces.

Final Notes

I received a total of 468 comments and included 276 (59 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 call 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. Even this guy may have a valid point:

Bill Cubley: All bids are fine. It is only the scorer who makes them bad.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek