Analyses 7Y72  MainChallenge

Italy Wins in Deauville

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six bidding problems were published on the Internet in January of 2004, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. The problems are from actual deals played in a past tournament. In the poll I did not reveal the location, and participants were invited to guess from the clues. The above title, of course, spills the beans; but before it was anagrammed as “Wily Alvin Led USA in Tie” — also true, as you will see on Problem 2.

Problem 123456Final Notes

Most wrong guesses detected the European flavor and were on the right continent: Monte Carlo (wrong casino); Menton, Cherbourg, Lido and Saint-Brieuc, France; Como, Italy (Catch a Falling Star); The Hague, Netherlands; Knokke-Zoute, Belgium; and Rhodes, Greece.

Then a few strayed across the Atlantic to Hamilton, Bermuda, and on to my turf with Orlando, Miami Beach, Atlanta, San Antonio and Greenwich (Connecticut). The funniest guess came from Kevin Lewis, who was sure the location was Mars, because of the Umbrella People known to inhabit sandy regions of that planet.

The tournament was held in Deauville, France, a seaside resort on the northern coast. Pictured at top is the beach at Deauville, with closed beach umbrellas. Next is the famous Deauville Casino, where the tournament was held. Also pictured is a World War II memorial in the American Military Cemetery at Normandy, honoring the many U.S. servicemen who lost their lives in the D-Day invasion.

“See the tree, how big it’s grown…”

My only clue to the year was the background song Honey by Bobby Goldsboro. The lyrics will almost surely make you cry, but it’s a beautiful song and one of my longtime favorites. Honey became a #1 Hit in 1968, the same year as the tournament.

The bicycle also suggests France, or as cleverly put by Mark Raphaelson, the “Tournament de France.” Congratulations to John Reardon, who was the first to guess the venue, and to Barry Rigal, who was the first to unscramble my title. About 25 people guessed Deauville; 20 got the year (1968); and 10 deciphered the title. Oh, and at least 50 correctly inferred that “wily Alvin” was Al Roth. Well done.

Jim Bauch Wins!

This poll had 1257 participants from 122 locations, and the average score was 48.24. Congratulations to Jim Bauch (US), who was the first of 11 with perfect scores. Also scoring 60 were Bill Cubley (San Leandro, California); John Luoni (New Zealand); Rai Osborne (US); Bob Stitt (US); Csaba Czimer (Hungary); David Lindop (Toronto, Ontario); Gyorgy Ormay (Hungary); Anthony Golding (UK); Sandy McCulloch (Australia); and Ron Zucker (US). Ten players were close behind with 59.

The scores were up this month, and the average (48.24) was the second highest ever (September 2002 has the record with 49.37). Unfortunately, I don’t think this was due to any brilliance, but instead to an easy problem set. Two of the problems had majority votes for a single call, and one of these (Problem 5) was a real misfire with 77 percent scoring 10. The 11 perfect scores was the second highest ever, topped only by January 2003 with 13. Hmm; both January. Coincidence? Or a New Year’s resolution?

The overall leaderboard took on a whole new appearance. Now leading the pack is Anthony Golding (UK) with a 56.25 average. George Klemic (US) is second with 55.75; followed by Mike Doecke (Australia) and Julian Pottage (UK), each with 55.25. Five players are next in line with 55.00.

Assume both sides use Standard American bidding (unless noted otherwise) with 15-17 notrumps,
five-card majors and weak two-bids. The object is to determine the best calls based on judgment,
so only basic conventions are allowed. For a system reference, see Standard American Bridge.

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

The third quadrennial World Team Olympiad, held in Deauville, France, June 7-21, 1968, has been dubbed the “impossible tournament” because of industrial turmoil in France. Only a week before its start, airports were closed by a nationwide strike, and tourists were warned against travel to France. The World Bridge Federation feverishly sought an alternate site (Geneva or Lausanne, Switzerland) but after much consternation, the decision was made to stick it out. Players had great difficult getting to Deauville — many had to travel great distances by car and bus — and with so many late arrivals, the starting date was changed from June 5 to June 7.

When the tournament finally got under way, 33 of the originally scheduled 35 teams were on hand for the Open title. The first stage was a round-robin, in which each team played 20 boards against each other. Victory Point standings of the top eight teams were: Italy 474, United States 473, Netherlands 460, Canada 451, Australia 444, Switzerland 434, Belgium 422, and France 418.

Only the top four teams advanced to the 80-board semifinals, in which Italy easily ousted Canada 171-120 (IMPs); and United States defeated Netherlands 174-142 in a match that was close until the end. The final match-up was predictable from the outset, as archrivals Italy and United States would have another go-round. Italy took an early lead and tenaciously held on to foil a strong U.S. surge. This was the 11th world championship for Italy in 12 years, missing only the 1960 Olympiad won by France.

Representing Italy (pictured L-R, top row first) were Camillo Pabis Ticci, Pietro Forquet, Benito Garozzo, Mimmo D’Alelio, Giorgio Belladonna and Walter Avarelli — the Blue Team, or Squadra Azura. Representing United States were Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Robert Jordan, Arthur Robinson, Bill Root and, of course, the “wily” Alvin Roth.

Deauville was also a tournament of controversy. Julius Rosenblum, non-playing captain of the U.S. team, made the unprecedented decision to bench Roth and Root for the entire semifinal and final. As I understand it (from my friendship with Root) this all stemmed from an argument between Rosenblum and Roth, each of whom is stubborn as a mule — but Roth at least is a brilliant mule. In my opinion, Rosenblum overstepped his authority; the proper move should have been to recuse himself as captain. Even today, where the championships are diluted by sponsored teams, everyone plays his quota.

Then there was the “Lead heard ‘round the world.” Just when the Americans were getting close, Pabis Ticci found the only lead to beat 4 S holding S J-8-4 H 9 D A-10-7-6-3 C A-9-8-6 (dummy bid hearts and raised spades). He divined to lead the C A, which hit partner’s singleton, producing two ruffs. I doubt there was any impropriety, but it’s natural to wonder about his logic. Most experts would choose between the singleton heart and the D A.

Three of the problems are from the exciting Italy-U.S. final, and the others are from the round-robin and third-place playoff between Netherlands and Canada (won by Canada 74-59). So pull up a chair and witness some of the drama, as you match your bidding skills with the world’s best of 1968.

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 1

IMPsE-W vulYou, South, hold:
1 S
S K Q 7 2
H K J 8 5 4 3 2
D 7
C 2

2 H1075460
4 C*715913
3 S6423
4 NT513010
3 H4837
4 D*3131
4 S2766

*splinter bid

The overwhelming vote for 2 H suggests this was a poor choice for a problem, and perhaps it was. Alas, it seemed that Deauville was more like Dullville as far as finding good bidding problems, so I had to go with a few dubious choices. It would have been better if West had not passed originally, or if the opponents were nonvulnerable. C’est la vie.

An immediate 4 NT (Blackwood) is an obvious alternative; but if partner has only two aces, 5 S could be in danger — most likely by losing two heart tricks (perhaps with a ruff). On a bad day, partner will have only one ace, then you might as well crawl under the table when you spread the dummy. Even the ultimate folly is possible if partner bids 5 C, and what you expect to be all four aces turns out to be S J-10-9-x-x H Q-x D K-Q-x C K-Q-x. Ouch.

One advantage of 2 H, brought out by many, is that a heart contract may be superior. For example, facing S A-x-x-x-x H Q-x-x D A-x-x C A-x, a heart ruff is imminent in spades; but a spade ruff is unlikely in hearts. Of course, if partner raises to 3 H, there’s still no comfort as you have a similar problem.* If you trot out the ol’ Black, partner might turn up with S A-J-10-x-x H Q-10-x D K-Q-x C J-x.

*Many assumed they could bid 3 S (forcing) over 3 H, but this is contrary to system; it shows an invitational raise, and opener can pass with a minimum. The fact that you bid again over 3 H means nothing because you promised to do that when you bid at the two level. I am not arguing that this method is superior but only that it is Standard American. For more on this controversial issue, see When the Chips Are Down Problem 3.

To increase the number of options on this problem, I threw in the possibility of bidding 4 C or 4 D as a splinter bid. The old “Pick a Splinter” coup. Which one? Surely, 4 C is better for space reasons, as the voting confirmed. While a splinter should arouse partner on all slam-worthy hands, the downside is that he will think S A-J-10-x-x H Q-x-x D K-x C A-x-x is a great hand (over 4 C) and use Blackwood, ending in 5 S — down on a heart ruff.

This brings to mind the infamous “Lloyd’s Leap” system by Lloyd Jones of Boynton Beach, Florida, in which single jumps were splinters, and double jumps were double splinters. As I recall, the double-splinter structure was to bid the suit without a splinter. I laughed this off when I first saw it, but what a great bid it would be here: 4 H to show singletons in both minors — and natural, too!

OK, before I leap off the deep end, let’s see what happened in Deauville.

West dealsS A J 10 9 5WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH A 9 7BelladonnaJordanAvarelliRobinson
D Q 8Pass1 SDblRdbl
C J 4 32 SPass3 C3 H
STableS 8 6 4 33 SPass4 D4 S
H Q 6H 105 DPassPass5 S
D J 10 9 5 4 2D A K 6 36 CPassPass6 S
C K 10 7 6 5C A Q 9 8PassPassDblAll Pass
S K Q 7 2
H K J 8 5 4 3 2
D 7
C 2
USA N-SItaly N-SWestNorthEastSouth
6 S× North5 S NorthKaplanGarozzoKayForquet
Down 1 -100Made 5 +450Pass1 SPass4 NT
Pass5 HPass5 S
Italy +11 IMPsPassPassPass

Looking at the auctions alone, it’s hard to believe they’re on the same board. The key difference was that Italian takeout doubles have less stringent shape requirements.* Avarelli’s double of 1 S with a stiff heart would make Americans cringe. This spurred Belladonna into a cue-bidding frenzy despite meager values. Wow. A laydown slam on only 19 HCP, including the useless H Q. Is Belladonna a genius or what? Robinson judged well to take the sacrifice in 6 S; down one.

*Generally, they only promise trump support for two unbid suits (else a strong hand). Hence, Belladonna could expect a fit in one of his minors.

At the second table, Forquet chose the immediate Blackwood route, though it’s unlikely Kaplan or Kay would have entered the bidding anyway at the vulnerability. A peaceful 5 S, making five; 11 IMPs for the Italian juggernaut. Were it not for Robinson’s smart save, the Italians would have scored a game at one table and a slam at the other.

Comments for 2 H

Bill Cubley: I would like to bid four cliamonds to show the double splinter, but I’ll go slowly; we might have a slam or a grand slam. The real problem is comparing my bidding with Al Roth’s bidding.

David Lindop: Three aces give us a good chance for slam, but I’ll start slowly to see what partner has to say.

Anthony Golding: With 4 S to follow. It’s tempting just to bid Blackwood, but it’s better to show (more or less) what I’ve got and let partner decide.

Ron Zucker: I don’t want to splinter when I don’t know which one is useful, but I do want to tell partner that heart cards are useful for slam. …

Julian Pottage: I would want more high cards for 3 H; and I can’t show both singletons with a splinter!

Gareth Birdsall: The heart suit may be the key in judging how high to bid.

Adam Meyerson: This hand is worth forcing to game, but best to mention the main feature (hearts) along the way. A 3 H call would suggest a better hand.

Len Vishnevsky: Four notrump…is a random guess and might put us too high; 4 S misses a grand opposite S A-x-x-x-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C A-x — and teammates for the next round. … I will follow with a jump in spades (not fast arrival) to describe my trick-taking potential, while allowing partner to appreciate heart support.

Roger Morton: I’ll determine partner’s hand type first before leaping into the stratosphere.

Jim Wiitala: … I intend to bid 4 S next, which [may be] the only way to get to slam if partner has honor-doubleton in hearts and three aces.

Charles Leong: I will follow up with 4 S. Slam is on opposite as little as S A-x-x-x-x H Q-x D A-x-x C A-x-x. …

Arian Lasocki: If there is a double fit, this hand is huge. …

Michael Dodson: If slam is on, my heart suit is the key; so I bid it.

Haisam Osman: I need to know more and can’t give up on slam. We have the master suit [so competition is no concern].

Martijn Schoonderwoerd: I have no intention to stop below game, but there are a few questions: Will spades play better than hearts? Will the game level be enough? As for a splinter bid, I would like to make one but don’t know which suit (and with my luck I’d choose the wrong one). …

Alan Kravetz: I’ll show the outside source of tricks before supporting spades.

Phyllis Gibson: None of the bids seem just right. I don’t expect to find heart support, but the hand is worth more than its point count and warrants bidding hearts before I support spades.

Michael Errington: It will be easier to judge slam prospects if I show my suit and hear partner’s natural rebid.

Willem Mevius: … It’s important to show my suit, as hearts may play better than spades if partner has support; and also so partner knows my hand if East-West [compete].

Naveed Ather: At my next turn I will make a picture bid of 4 S, making partner captain. If he has S A-x-x-x-x H Q-x D A-x-x C A-x-x, he will move toward slam; or with S A-x-x-x-x H A-x D A-x-x C A-x-x, a grand slam.

Andrew de Sosa: I intend to bid 4 S next over partner’s normal minimum rebid to complete the picture. In the unlikely event partner raises hearts or jumps in spades, I might get more excited.

Keith Falkner: Partner’s opinion about hearts is the key to my ambitions…

Damo Nair: I need to find out more about partner’s hand, especially whether he has any heart support.

Florin Dobrin: Natural approach, then 4 S. If opponents compete higher, I’ll bid 5 H.

Bruce Scott: This followed by [4 S] will encourage partner to appreciate the H Q, minor-suit aces and trump honors. …

Sylvain Brethes: This may not simplify things, but I can’t bid 4 NT because a zero- or one-ace reply will put us too high. …

Karl Barth: Having spade support makes it easy to show hearts first. … Either splinter is unattractive since it fails to mention the second shortness.

Paul Bethe: Then 4 S — a picture bid.

Thijs Veugen: Partner might by misled by a splinter, so I’ll start by bidding the heart of my hand.

Uwe Gebhardt: This shows where I live, then I plan to bid 4 S next… I was toying with 3 H, since I like strong jump shifts; but this doesn’t look like a 3 H bid to me. Four clubs and 4 D are out, since I don’t have a clue which splinter partner wants to hear; 4 NT is out, since 5 S may not be safe opposite a minimum; and 4 S is too lazy.

Michael Palitsch: I have no plan, but I do have a game-forcing hand and want partner to describe his hand. There is no use to describe my hand because partner will never understand this distribution.

Nicoleta Giura: I don’t know which splinter would fit partner, so I won’t commit myself to either. I’d like partner to downgrade his hand if holding a singleton heart.

Cecil Livingston: … Partner will act over my next bid of 4 S if slam is possible.

J.J. Gass: My hand is quite good in support of spades, and we might even have a grand… With such a distributional hand, I need to solicit information from partner, rather than try vainly to describe my collection; therefore, I reject the splinters. No need to rush into Blackwood; I can always do that later. Three hearts is an overbid and consumes space; which leaves 2 H

Rosalind Hengeveld: Slam is at least fair opposite any heart holding but a void, provided partner has three or four aces; yet going down in 5 S (such as opposite S A-J-x-x-x H Q-x D K-Q-x C K-Q-x) is always a strain on our teammates’ spirit. A five-level contract by opponents is a small worry because of the vulnerability.

Karen Walker: The alternative of 4 NT is tempting, as there’s really no way to describe everything here, and it’s a good gamble the five level is safe. That gives up on hearts, though, which rates to play better than spades if partner has any kind of support. I don’t really like 2 H with this type of hand, but this is the only way to find hearts if it’s right.

Paul Huggins: … A jump to 4 S would preempt the opponents, but I have so much playing strength that a slam might be playable opposite a suitable minimum. Therefore, I bid 2 H now and [4 S] later. If we have a heart fit, too, then slam may be on…

Weidong Yang: My heart suit is the most important feature to show [before raising spades] to game.

Tim Francis-Wright: … This gives us room to see if we have a double fit. For once, it seems, the opponents are going quietly.

Dale Freeman: A heart contract could be better than a spade contract, [so I show my suit]. As for the opponents competing, sometimes the more you jump around, the more active they get!

Jon Freeman: The fact that both opponents are silent suggests partner has a good hand, and this route should give us the best chance of finding the right level and strain.

Connie Delisle: I will next jump to 4 S as a flower bid (showing all my values in two suits). …

Michael Spurgeon: I will probably bid 4 S on the next round. If partner has any slam interest, this should focus his attention toward the heart suit.

Jonathan Steinberg: I bid what I have. I plan to bid 4 S at my next opportunity.

Nigel Marlow: It is tempting to bid 4 NT, but partner could have [only one ace]. Three hearts may get the auction too high too soon, so a quiet 2 H and await developments.

Peg Kaplan: Hands like this are often a crapshoot, but I hope that by bidding the primary feature of my hand — in addition to two singletons and superb trump support, hey hey hey! — partner ultimately will figure out what to do.

Lajos Linczmayer: Three spades is my second choice as it makes it harder for West to enter bidding; but 2 H…helps partner evaluate his hand. Also, if we have a 10+ card heart fit, a heart contract may be superior…

Barry Rigal: I want to show a good hand with the majors [in case] preemption is coming… Maybe 4 NT would work, but after intervention, if partner shows one ace, I may not know whether to sacrifice or not.

Ed Barnes: Neither opponent has [bid] a minor, which means partner [is likely to] have minor-suit cards. Now I will only be excited [about slam] if partner shows [extra strength]…

Winston Munn: … Even a skimpy hand like S A-x-x-x-x H A-x-x D A-x C x-x-x most likely will yield a slam, and the key is to hear a 3 H raise.

Hendrik Sharples: I’ll go slow, and haul out the Ol’ Black only if partner shows some interest. Even 4 S could be going down if partner has the aceless wonder.

Pieter Geerkens: Three hearts, however tempting, just overstates the HCP too much… Four notrump will get us to the right level provided partner has at least two bullets; but I still may want to play in hearts rather than spades, and I don’t know yet. … I will bid 4 NT next turn with an expectation that I know which denomination to play in.

Richard Wilson: With both majors under control and favorable vulnerability, I can afford to explore slowly. Slam [may] depend on heart support, and neither splinter helps me to find [this out].

Jason Clevenger: I need to go slow to find out about partner’s hand. Four notrump could be embarrassing if partner has one or zero aces (very possible). …

Kevin Lewis: This would seem like a hand to just blurt out Blackwood;…but a minor-suit lead and continuation, tapping dummy, causes problems at the appropriate level [e.g., in 5 S off two aces]. So I make a natural, forcing call and let the auction develop.

David Stern: Three aces would make slam playable, but I really want to hear what partner has to say. A splinter bid has no appeal as it gives an unattractive inference about the other minor.

Rainer Herrmann: Over minimum rebids by partner, I will bid 4 S (or 4 H after a raise). If partner jump raises hearts or jump rebids in spades, Blackwood [stands out].

Norm Gordon: Based on losing trick count, we are in the slam zone but could go down in 4 S if partner has aceless 15-count. … Both opponents have passed, so we may have an uncontested auction; I’ll use the room.

Jerrold Miller: … If partner bids a minor, I will bid 4 S; if he raises hearts, I’ll ask for aces. …

Brian Zietman: I don’t like to splinter with two singletons… I [may] bid 4 NT later…but in the meantime I must go slowly. Both opponents have passed, so I do not [expect interference].

Phil Clayton: I see no reason not to get partner involved in the decision on this hand. While…4 S might shut out a sacrifice from the opponents, it will also quiet partner. I still might shoot out 4 NT later…

Christopher Miller: Going slowly seems like the best way to find the level and strain. LHO is a passed hand, so I am not scared of a minor preempt jamming the auction.

Comments for 4 C

Ciaran Coyne: I expect partner to cue-bid with three aces; else, pass 4 S.

Rodrigo Cunha: If partner can cue-bid diamonds, we might have an easy slam.

David Cohen: Partner might not have two aces for his opening. This will let me know whether I can use Blackwood [safely] or [pass] 4 S.

Matthew Porter: I’m a little torn between this and bidding hearts and raising spades afterwards. I want partner to know I have 4 S. …

Larry Gifford: A splinter in clubs (rather than diamonds) leaves room for partner’s diamond cue-bid. Then I can cue-bid 4 H, leaving partner well placed. If partner bypasses diamonds to cue-bid hearts, I will infer a secure source of tricks and bid 4 NT. Otherwise, I will respect a sign-off.

Roger Gowland: If partner can bid 4 D, I shall wheel out Blackwood.

Ed Freeman: … Partner knows that controls are critical opposite a splinter; so even with just three bullets, he will cue-bid, then I will bid 4 NT. …

Stephen Fischer: I’ll pass 4 S; bid 4 NT over 4 H; and 4 H over 4 D. …

Randy Corn: This allows partner to cue-bid [either] red suit…

Tibor Roberts: The playing strength is right for a splinter, and 4 C is more flexible than 4 D. …

Peter Skafte: One trump suit is enough. If partner can cue-bid, he should have at least two aces; then my 4 NT won’t lead to 5 S [off three aces]. …

Sharon Horton: This is better than 4 D to allow partner a 4 D cue-bid. It’s tempting to bid 4 NT, but partner could easily have a very good hand with only one [ace], e.g., S A-J-x-x-x H Q-x D K-Q-J C K-Q-J, or a more normal S A-J-x-x-x H x-x D K-x-x C K-Q-x, and we’d be in trouble at the five level. …

Julian Wightwick: Nothing is perfect, but this seems about right in terms of potential.

Charles Blair: If partner bids a red suit, I cheerfully bid 4 NT; over 4 S, I reluctantly pass.

Comments for 3 S

Danny Kleinman: I’m glad that limit raises apply only in competition, as I want to make a forcing raise. I need partner to cue-bid before I can use Blackwood, as otherwise the five level isn’t safe (e.g., partner might have S A-J-10-x-x H x D K-Q-J-x C K-Q-x).

Bill Powell: I’ll keep the hearts a secret and look for slam unless North bids 4 S next.

Kevin Podsiadlik: … If partner shows interest, it will be time for Blackwood.

Comments for 4 NT

Josh Sinnett: Do I really have any concern other than the four aces? I guess I might be a bit worried about the heart suit, but any slower bidding might allow West into the bidding if he has a lot of minor suit cards.

Manuel Paulo: This looks like an overbid; but it tries to reach slam, else make it difficult for the opponents to bid a winning minor game or slam. If, every so often, I could bid as Pietro Forquet, then I would score very well. :)

Conor Moore: Why beat around the bush and give information away? Two aces, 5 S; three aces, 6 S; four aces, 7 S; zero or one ace, tough luck.

Paulino Correa: I only need to know how many aces partner has — if only one, we’ll be in trouble, of course.

Al Hollander: Who knows? Two hearts may help with slam bidding but may also allow competition in the minors. … The good news: I have no follow-up problems after hearing the number of aces — unless the opponents have more than we do.

Guy van Middelem: Nobody knows who can make what, and at least I will find out how many aces are missing. If three, maybe the opponents can make 5 C or 5 D.

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 2

IMPsBoth vulYou, South, hold:


2 NT
3 S
4 S

1 S
3 D
4 D
S K Q 8 7 4
H A 7
D A Q 7 6 3
C 10

4 NT1039431
5 H916013
5 C812810
5 S3393
5 D2131
5 NT1111

To slam or not to slam? My first impulse was to cool it; but after thinking about hands partner might have, there are just too many that provide a good play for 12 tricks. Partner’s pessimism can be attributed to lack of heart control, as he would have to bid beyond game to show the C A. Six spades is excellent opposite S J-10-x H Q-x-x D K-x-x C A-K-x-x, and it’s hard to give partner a hand that doesn’t offer a fair play.

This was a tough problem to score. Pass got the most votes, but the majority (59 percent) favored pushing toward slam. It was also apparent that some of the passers were influenced by their own methods — not appreciating that 2 NT showed 13-16 HCP or that 3 S showed a true fit rather than a coerced preference.* Therefore, the top award goes to 4 NT, the consensus of slam-goers. Personally, I would make a slam try (torn between 5 C and 5 H) and respect partner’s sign-off in 5 S; but it’s hard to criticize the Blackwood choice with just a four-loser hand.

*Some of the comments (which I did not use) of passers gave example hands for partner with many wasted values in hearts and clubs (e.g., S x-x-x H K-Q-10-x D K-x-x C K-Q-J); but partner should never bid 3 S with such hands (3 NT is routine). I would expect the preference to show at least honor-third, as experience has shown that supporting with three low cards on a good hand often leads to a bad slam, or the wrong slam.

In 1968 this deal arose in the round-robin match between United States and Chile, which ended in a tie (10-10 in Victory Points) — so never let it be said that my original title wasn’t true. Indeed, “Wily Alvin Led USA in Tie,” albeit with a nice recovery after their misfortune on this board:

South dealsS A 10 5WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH Q J 9AsrielRothSimonsRoot
D J 9 21 S
C A K 8 3Pass2 NTPass3 D
S J 9 3TableS 6 2Pass3 SPass4 D
H K 8 5 4 2H 10 6 3Pass4 SPass4 NT
D 8D K 10 5 4Pass5 HPass5 NT
C Q 9 7 4C J 6 5 2Pass6 DPass6 S
S K Q 8 7 4All Pass
H A 7
D A Q 7 6 3
C 10
USA N-SChile N-SWestNorthEastSouth
6 S South6 S SouthRobinsonJ. GuzmanJordanE. Guzman
Down 1 -100Made 6 +14301 D
Pass2 CPass2 S
Chile +17 IMPsPass3 NTPass4 D
Pass4 SPass4 NT
Pass5 HPass5 NT
Pass6 DPass6 S
All Pass

The problem was derived from the Roth-Root auction at the first table, where Root judged well (at least in theory) to drive to the spade slam. No doubt, he was comforted by the fact that Roth is a sound bidder. (Opposite me, I think he would have settled for a slam try; or maybe a partscore, hehe.) Asriel found the best lead of a club; and after drawing trumps and taking a heart pitch, Root led a diamond to the ace.* The 4-1 break was then insurmountable; down one.

*While there are several ways to succeed as the cards lie, Root’s play was as good as any. The most sensible alternative is to play a diamond to the queen early (before drawing trumps) — but this only gains against a blank eight in West, while Root’s play gains against a blank king.

The Chilean auction at the second table is somewhat a mystery, especially the choice of opening bids; but the 2 C response was a benefactor in deterring a club lead. Robinson led a heart, and declarer now had an extra entry to dummy after drawing trumps; so it was easy to limit East to one trick after cashing the D A. It’s a cruel game, as little more than this luck factor gave Chile 17 IMPs. The only good news, at least for North America, is that “wily Alvin” would win it back to tie the match.

Comments for 4 NT

Bill Cubley: … I would have bid 4 H over 3 S, and now I feel as upset as Al Roth over a poor bid — so I am forced to ask for aces.

David Lindop: We could be overboard at the five level, but partner is awkwardly placed to show the C A with a hand that will produce a laydown slam (S J-10-x H K-J-x D K-x-x C A-J-x-x). If partner has three low spades, I’ll need some luck.

Anthony Golding: I assume North must have three spades, so slam must be a decent shot opposite a game-forcing hand.

Ron Zucker: Boring, but I want to know about the S A and the C A (not the C K). …

Wes Harris: This is probably a 5 S hand, making four when the middle trumps are held by the opponents; but I’ll inquire about aces and gamble on 6 S if partner holds a pair.

Adam Meyerson: Six spades seems likely, and cue-bidding would suggest concern about the other round suit, which is not really the case.

Ciaran Coyne: Partner can still have a good hand without heart control.

Alan Kravetz: If partner is 4-3-3-3, the right 10 points (S A, H K, D K) will produce slam opposite this four-loser hand.

Michael Errington: With two potential running suits, I just need to be sure of the controls…

Rodrigo Cunha: Why shouldn’t partner have the S A and/or the C A? Slam will depend, at most, on a finesse.

Bruce Scott: Is Blackwood ever the winning answer in a bidding poll? Absent a sharp set of cue-bidding agreements, I think this is a reasonable stab. I plan to bid 6 S if partner shows one or two aces. …

Rosalind Hengeveld: It is hard to think of a hand that offers no fair play for slam, provided partner has an ace. Alternative bids might have partner worry about club [or heart] control. …

Brian Wright: I’m not too happy about 4 D; why not show the H A? Had I bid 4 H over 3 S, then I could bid now bid 5 C

Confucius say, “If plan to bid four suits one 4 NT save time.”

Albert Ohana: With [no heart control] partner is [likely] to have what I need in the other suits.

Larry Gifford: I’m driving to slam in spades opposite an ace.

John R. Mayne: I understand and support PavCo’s rejection of Jacoby 2 NT, but a 13-15 range for 2 NT (or even better, a 12-14 range) would be helpful. As it is, I’ll dully look for aces and bid 6 S with three or four of them.

Roger Gowland: If partner has the S A, I want to be in slam on general values.

Mark Raphaelson: This probably won’t be the popular call, but I really want to know aces… Off an ace, I’m still taking a shot at 6 S, which shouldn’t be worse than a diamond finesse.

Peg Kaplan: It seems like I have just too much to go quietly. If we have [at least three] aces, I’m in for slam and crossing my fingers they don’t find the right lead.

Jerrold Miller: I have a four-loser hand and partner shows about seven. Subtracting from 18 means we should make seven, but I’ll check on aces. If partner shows one, I’ll bid 6 S; if two, I’ll ask for kings.

Phil Clayton: I don’t love it, but perfect minimums give me a spread for seven. The S J [could be] a huge card, and I don’t know how to pinpoint it.

Comments for 5 H

Julian Pottage: Facing 13-16 HCP, I must make a further move.

Kaustuv Das: Slam is so close with any 13 points, yet partner slowed down after learning of my 5-5 shape. This will help partner join in the decision making.

Nigel Guthrie: This must be worth one more try because slam is good opposite a flat 13-count like S A-J-x H K-x-x-x D K-x C Q-x-x-x. Which try is another question.

Jeff Tang: Trying for minus 100 in 5 S. :)

Andrew de Sosa: Give partner one more chance to overbid.

Damo Nair: It takes very little from partner to produce a slam, so it’s worth one more try. …

Tord Wagenius: I can afford one more push, as the five level seems safe. …

J.J. Gass: With my good controls I’m probably worth a slam try…, and 5 H gives partner the best chance to judge. He knows almost my exact shape, and now he’ll know that the H K is [useful] and that club honors other than the ace have to be downgraded.

Tim Francis-Wright: Partner doesn’t like diamonds, but there’s a good chance that the H A is what we need.

Roy Bolton: Worth one more try. Partner could still have the S A and D K but not the C A…

Vincent Mes: This must show D A, H A, second-round club control and good spades.

Danny Kleinman: I’m worth one more move towards slam, and I choose the bid that will tell partner which cards are working and which are not. I want to be in slam facing S A-x-x H K-J-x D K-J-x C Q-9-x-x, but not facing S A-x-x H J-9-x-x D K-J-x C K-Q-x. I disagree strongly with 4 D last turn; 3 NT was much better as it would let partner cue-bid either 4 C (ace) or 4 D (king), then I could cue-bid 4 H.

Stephen Fischer: Partner [probably] doesn’t have the D K, but I’ll still show interest and help him evaluate what’s working.

Manuel Paulo: Pass is too shy, as partner may have S A-J-x H x-x-x-x D K-J C A-K-x-x, and 7 NT is cold. This will be my only slam encouragement; if partner can’t bid it, I’ll pass 5 S.

Adam Saroyan: One more try; the five level may not be safe, but there are just too many slam-producing hands partner can have to risk a pass. …

Mark LaForge: … If partner has the S A and C A, I have done the right thing; and with neither, he should have [at least S J-x-x] — at least that’s what I tell my partner after I go down in five.

Jeff Yutzler: There are still signs for optimism so I will cue-bid.

Jonathan Siegel: I’ve bid out my distribution but haven’t yet shown my extra strength; the hand is worth one slam try at least.

Al Hollander: I probably should pass — partner would make some encouraging sign with both S A and D K — but it is still possible that [slam] will be reasonable. I can’t ask the questions I want, so it seems best to show the undisclosed feature to go along with the pointed 5-5 shape. This seems better than 5 C since partner may be worried about hearts without holding D K.

Comments for 5 C

Gareth Birdsall: I hope partner can cue-bid his D K (then 5 H by me and hopefully 5 NT from partner). Otherwise, I’ll pass 5 S or bid 6 S over 5 H.

Jon Cooke: This leaves room for the continuation: 5 D 5 H; 6 C 7 S.

Len Vishnevsky: … A hand like S A-J-x H Q-10-x D K-x-x C A-x-x-x makes slam excellent, but partner might have tried 5 C. The worst case would be S x-x-x H K-Q-x D J-10-x-x C A-K-x, and 5 S still [rates to make]. … Despite the Bidding Guide, I’ll try 5 C without first-round control, since I want to reach slam opposite S A-J-x H K-x-x D K-J-x C Q-10-x-x.

Roger Morton: One more try. Five hearts would imply lack of club control. I want to hear 5 D.

Charles Leong: … There are many hands for partner which make 6 S cold and have a play for seven, so I’m making a move. I want partner to upgrade red kings, so I’ll cue-bid 5 C. Four notrump wouldn’t really help unless I’m blasting six.

Michael Dimich: How else can I get partner to cue-bid the H K if he has it?

Michael Palitsch: My hand is worth one more bid. Over 5 D, I bid 5 H (then pass 5 S); over 5 H, I bid 5 S; over 5 S, I pass.

Milton Spinner: With a four-loser hand, another try is warranted.

Nicoleta Giura: Four notrump won’t help in finding the red kings, so 5 C invites partner to cooperate.

Cecil Livingston: I hate this sequence. How many of the five missing aces and kings does partner have? Without diamond tricks, I need more than just three. If I weren’t feeling lucky, I would pass.

Dima Nikolenkov: Slam is OK if partner has three out of four key cards: S A, H K, D K and C A (C K would also do if no H K). I think 5 C is the best bid to find this information. Partner will bid 5 D with the D K (then I follow with 5 H and give up over 5 S); over 5 H (likely H K-Q), I bid 5 S; over 5 S, I pass.

Jeff Hand: Even playing strong Al Roth opening bids, this hand is good enough for one more slam try. Cue-bidding my singleton may inhibit a club lead.

Chris Maclauchlan: If partner doesn’t cue-bid 5 D, I’m done. If he does, I’ll still give partner room to bail with 5 H. Passing is certainly reasonable, as the five level is not 100-percent safe.

Andrei Varlan: [Hoping] to hear 5 D.

David Stern: … I don’t believe 5 S will be at risk, so I’ll give it one more go.

Comments for Pass

Jean-Christophe Clement: Slam is unlikely, so it seems wise to stop at the four level.

Keith Falkner: Whenever I commit to the five level with just a queen over minimum, partner points out that our minus 100 matchpoints badly among the 620s.

But this is IMPs, so you can argue that “down one is good bridge.”

Bob Boudreau: Partner must have weak support for my suits, ergo wastage in others.

Paul Bethe: If partner has S A-x-x H Q-10-x D 9-x-x C A-K-x-x, I don’t want to bid on.

Svein Erik Dahl: No need to force partner to sign off one more time.

Joao Faria: The five level is not safe.

Karen Walker: I give up. Partner had two chances to show some interest, so I’ll assume he has something like S A-x-x H K-x-x D J-x-x C K-Q-x-x.

Dirk Enthoven: Even though partner promised an opening hand, he is not enamored by my diamonds, and he did not cue-bid a missing suit; so pass.

Paul Huggins: Partner has 13-16 points but has shown no great enthusiasm for my pointed two-suiter; so hunting for a thin slam is likely to end in 5 S down one, or similar. …

Ron Landgraff: Slam is still possible but the five level is not safe, and it sounds like partner is [discouraged by my bids]. If he held the D K, wouldn’t he have done something else? …

Connie Delisle: I am not playing with Helen Keller (deaf and blind), and I showed extras by not bidding 4 S last round. …

Josh Sinnett: Partner should have bid something other than 4 S if his hand fit mine well enough to be in slam.

Jonathan Steinberg: … I have shown a good two-suiter, and partner has signed off. I respect that decision.

David Grainger: Partner clearly dislikes his hand, and the spot cards in this hand are just awful.

Ed Freeman: … Partner’s sequence must show a minimum and [shouldn’t] include two or more of S A, D K, and C A. Opposite S A-x-x H Q-J-x D J-x-x C K-Q-x-x, the five level isn’t particularly safe. At best, you should be on a finesse for slam. Trust partner; pass.

Lajos Linczmayer: … Blackwood may help if two aces are missing; but if North has two aces and wrong cards (e.g., S A-x-x H Q-x-x-x D K-x C A-J-x-x), 6 S is [inferior]; and if he has only one ace and right cards (e.g., S A-J-x H K-x-x D K-J-x C J-x-x-x), 6 S is nearly laydown. A better choice is 5 S, but as the intermediate cards (J-10-9) are missing in both long suits, I estimate that 6 S or 5 S will go down more times than we make 6 S.

Barry Rigal: I pass; partner heard me make a slam try and rejected it. I have a bit in hand but not much over my initial try.

Sebastien Louveaux: I have told everything I could. Partner cannot help my diamonds and has so-so trumps. We might be in danger in 5 S (for instance if trumps do not behave).

Hendrik Sharples: If partner has three of the four missing key cards (S A, H K, D K and C A), slam should be odds-on; but how can he hold that and bid this way? I’ll pay off to the miracle hand, S A-J-x H Q-J-x D J-10-9 C A-x-x-x.

Tony Rolfe: I’ve made two forward-going moves; if partner couldn’t bid 5 C or 4 H, I’m not going further.

Richard Morse: No bite from partner to the slam try, and no guarantee that he has the magic holdings to let 6 S make. With the wrong cards, 5 S is no certainty.

Julian Wightwick: … Partner presumably shows three-card support, but with S A-x-x and a good hand for suit play, he might have tried 3 S the first time. So I should expect A-x-x in an unsuitable hand, or J-x-x, or even x-x-x. Now, if partner had a good hand in context for the 3 S bid,…he would have cue-bid over 4 D; so there aren’t many hands that make slam good. …

Rainer Herrmann: Partner seems to be 3=4=2=4, 3=4=3=3 or 3=3=3=4, but probably without the S A. For slam to be a good bet, though still far from laydown, I require S J-10-x, C A, D K and either the C K or H K among North’s goodies — in which case I would have expected a cue-bid from him. If any of these cards are missing, slam is not a good bet, and the five level is not safe against bad breaks. Even if North holds three diamonds, there is more than a 50-percent chance that at least one suit will not break 3-2.

Gerald Cohen: … Surely partner doesn’t have two aces and the D K, so slam is unlikely to be better than two 3-2 breaks. Since the five level isn’t safe, and no five-level call truly addresses my problems, forget about it.

Charles Blair: Even the S A and D K do not guarantee that a slam is good.

Christopher Miller: I would pass with greater confidence if I had bid 4 H on the previous round.

Barry Goren: Partner’s 3 S bid either showed 4-3-3-3 of some sort, or weak hearts with a doubleton spade (since he didn’t try 3 H along the way). Given that he didn’t try 5 C, which I imagine he would with S A, D K and C A, it’s hard to imagine that bidding over 4 S can be right…

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 3

IMPsN-S vulYou, South, hold:
1 H
2 D
S A J 7 5
H K J 3
D 10 5 4
C A 7 2

3 C8141
3 D744135
4 H512910
2 S4857
3 H2645
5 H110

Does a negative double deny primary support for partner’s major? That was the point I had in mind when selecting this problem. On the surface it seems you can safely double; then if partner doesn’t have four spades, bid 4 H.

Alas, it’s not so simple. First, if partner bids spades, you won’t really know if he has four (a three-carder is often bid to reach a playable contract). Second, if you next raise hearts, partner may expect a doubleton; or worry that you chose to double without four spades. Most of these nuances depend on style, but there’s no pure and simple solution.

My own choice is to manufacture a forcing bid in clubs. If partner then bids 3 S, I will know he has four; otherwise, I will bid 4 H to indicate a fit with game-going values. The fact that I don’t have a real club suit will rarely matter, as the main goal is to show my strength and reach the proper major game.

I was surprised at the number of votes for the immediate cue-bid. Traditionally, this is supposed to show diamond control (first or second round), and I see no reason to alter that meaning. Surely, there are enough ways to raise hearts, directly or belatedly, that it’s sensible to have a way to show control.* Further, with only three hearts it is dubious to establish immediate suit agreement because it precludes finding a 4-4 spade fit, which will often be superior.

*I’m sure that many of the 3 D bidders were using their own methods, in which competitive jump raises are weak, and a cue-bid shows a limit raise or better. I’m not knocking this, but it violates the framework of these polls.

Some of the negative doublers noted that opener might next bid 2 NT, which may lead to a superior game in 3 NT — most obviously by averting a ruff (e.g., if partner has D Q-J-x). While certainly true, there are also dangers in 3 NT, such as partner having S K-x H Q-10-9-x-x D A-x-x C K-Q-x; and I don’t see a way to differentiate. Also, note that the same option to play 3 NT exists if you bid 3 C first.

What’s the 5 H bid, you ask? Don’t snicker; it got a vote. In the words of Jimmy Durante, “Thank you, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!” I hereby extend my record of never having a listed call shut out, though I cut it pretty close. Should I push my luck next time by throwing in an insufficient bid? Hmm. There just might be enough monkeys at keyboards out there for it to work.

Here’s what happened in Deauville:

West dealsS Q 4WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH A Q 9 8 7 6Pabis TicciKaplanD'AlelioKay
D JPass1 H2 D2 S
C K 10 8 63 D3 H3 S4 H
S K 2TableS 10 9 8 6 35 DPassPass5 H
H 10 5 4H 2PassPassPass
D Q 9 6 3D A K 8 7 2
C Q J 5 4C 9 3
S A J 7 5
H K J 3
D 10 5 4
C A 7 2
USA N-SItaly N-SWestNorthEastSouth
5 H North6 D× WestRobinsonBelladonnaJordanAvarelli
Down 1 -100Down 3 -500Pass2 H3 C4 H
5 DPassPass5 H
Italy +12 IMPsPassPass6 DDbl

The first auction has a prehistoric flavor, as Kay chose a forcing response in spades — a bit dangerous as Kaplan might have raised to 4 S with three trumps, leaving no retreat to 4 H. Well, that was hardly the issue, as the Italians spiced up another auction with a strange cue-bid. Was 3 S natural? Or did it show, let’s see, fifth-round control? One thing’s for sure: Kaplan must have felt sick when the spade finesse lost in 5 H — down one.*

*Note that 5 H can be made by leading a low spade to the queen; but how could Kaplan guess this after the 3 S bid? It’s just another rendition of the cats-in-the-trees saga, as the Italians always seem to land on their feet.

The bidding at the second table was a little more modern. Belladonna’s 2 H (Roman) showed hearts and clubs, so 3 C was takeout for the other two suits (like Michaels) spurring the good sacrifice in 5 D. Alas, Jordan carried the ball one step too far with 6 D — down three; minus 500; 12 more IMPs to Italy.

Comments for Double

Bill Cubley: … Any number of hearts at this time is poor, as that can end the bidding… Double is better than 3 C, as it really does show my spade suit.

David Lindop: The ubiquitous double followed by a raise to 4 H should give partner a reasonable description of this hand.

Anthony Golding: … I’ll try to find a spade fit; failing which, I’ll bid 4 H. …

Julian Pottage: This may play better in spades on diamond forces.

Adam Meyerson: Game is likely, but 4 S or 3 NT could easily be a better spot than 4 H. Occasionally it’s right to defend on these hands if East is being frisky, and double keeps options open.

Len Vishnevsky: Obvious. I can’t imagine this hand ever appearing as a bidding question unless it’s from an appeals case: 1 H (2 D) Dbl; 2 S 4 H, when there was a minute-long tank before the 2 S bid. If partner has S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x, 6 S is great; 6 H is not so hot.

Roger Morton: Showing spades and some points; heart support can come later.

Nigel Guthrie: In an American bidding competition, a negative double is always worth 10.

Ciaran Coyne: This seems more likely to get us to 3 NT when it’s right, than 2 S or 3 D.

Jim Wiitala: If partner does not bid spades, I’ll bid 4 H over 3 C; or 3 NT over 2 NT.

Charles Leong: Intending to follow with 3 D, then 4 H if partner doesn’t bid 3 NT. There are many hands where 3 NT is better than 4 H — for example, give partner six hearts and a diamond trick — and 4 S might play better, too.

Michael Dodson: Spades or notrump may be much better games then hearts, though I’m bidding 4 H if partner bids 2 H or 3 C.

Martijn Schoonderwoerd: Nobody said that a negative double denies support in partner’s major, did they? So I’ll start looking for a spade fit, and whether or not we find one, I will drive to game (or remotely possible, a slam). …

Jean-Christophe Clement: This may allow North to find an eventual 3 NT contract, instead of 4 H.

Alan Kravetz: If there is a 4-4 spade fit, it will play better than the 5-3 heart fit. If partner bids 3 C, I will bid 3 D.

Willem Mevius: … I intend to bid 4 H next (except maybe if partner bids 2 S).

Andrew de Sosa: Check for a 4-4 spade fit on the way to 4 H.

Lorne Anderson: If North is short in diamonds, a 4-4 spade fit [rates to be] better than a 5-3 heart fit.

Robert Lipton: I’ll raise 2 NT to 3 NT, or bid 4 H over anything else — including a spade call.

Bill Jacobs: Speaking for Al Roth, “This is why I invented the negative double!”

Francesco Badolato: I don’t want to lose a possible 4-4 spade fit.

Michael Dimich: Keep your contract options open.

Thijs Veugen: Hearts is not for sure the best contract; spades or notrump might be better.

Stu Goodgold: If North can bid 2 NT, then that is the right strain.

Nicoleta Giura: Flexible, giving us more chances to find the right game (3 NT, 4 H or 4 S).

Apisai Makmitree: If partner does not bid spades, I’ll bid 4 H next turn.

Richard Higgins: … If we have a 4-4 spade fit, my square hand doesn’t appeal too much — but it still may allow a ruff in North and pitches on hearts. …

Fraser Rew: … With a hand this flat, 3 NT may be right with a 5-3 (or even 6-3) heart fit.

Murat Azizoglu: This leaves all options (3 NT, 4 H or 4 S) open.

Dima Nikolenkov: A lot to say so start low. If we have a 4-4 spade fit, [it is likely that] partner can pitch club losers on long hearts — and slam is in the picture if partner has diamond control.

Jouko Paganus: Slam is possible, and it may be better in a 4-4 spade fit.

Larry Gifford: I prefer to save the cue-bid to show four trumps.

Dirk Enthoven: … Spades may play better than hearts. I think it was “wily Alvin” who invented this and called it Sputnik. …

Roth and I think differently. His mind orbits the Earth hence Sputnik. Mine orbits the Moon, uh… Lunatik?

Paul Huggins: OK, so I have 13 points; but I also have nine losers and three low cards in the opponent’s suit. I shall show my four spades and aim to support hearts on the next round without showing any enthusiasm beyond game.

Daniel Auby: Trying to find a 4-4 spade fit; if not, I’ll try to find a diamond stopper in partner’s hand and play 3 NT. As a last resort, I will bid game in 4 H. …

Krijn Hemminga: A 4-4 spade fit will [usually] play better then a 5-3 heart fit…

Jerome Stryker: … Three clubs is goofy; and why cue-bid? … If I were playing with an idiot, I would bid 4 H and be done with it. I would expect first-round control from a 3 D bidder.

Connie Delisle: With 4-3-3-3 shape and nine losers, I will poke around for a 4-4 spade fit to get rid of some of those losers.

Chris Maclauchlan: I think your string of having no listed option go unchosen may end here.

John R. Mayne: I don’t know that we want to play in hearts. Partner could bid notrump or spades now, and that’d be fine. On a side note, I think you have finally succeeded in locating a bid no one will choose: 5 H.

Josh Sinnett: Check on a 4-4 spade fit, then bid 4 H if there isn’t one.

Danny Kleinman: I want to bring spades into the picture before committing to hearts…

Jonathan Steinberg: Keeps all possibilities open, especially a 4-4 spade fit.

Mark Raphaelson: Followed by a jump to 4 H unless partner bids spades.

Nigel Marlow: Three notrump looks like the most likely spot; but the danger is that partner holds, say, S K-Q-x H Q-x-x-x-x D K-x C K-x-x, where 4 H makes and 3 NT fails. Perhaps double, showing spade values, is the way forward.

Ed Freeman: If partner has spades, better to play the 4-4 fit than ruff diamonds in the long hand. Over 2 NT, I’ll happily bid 3 NT (don’t want West to ruff partner’s diamond stopper). …

Rick Norton: With an opening hand, a good trump fit for partner and other working cards, 4 H looks to be the target. What could go wrong? A nonvulnerable save? A slam if partner has the perfect hand? A [competitive] decision at the five level? … Perhaps a negative double, showing black-suit values, will help partner; worth a try.

Stephen Fischer: Spades could easily produce another trick or two.

Peg Kaplan: Seems to me the problem isn’t this round of bidding but next. I don’t want to cue-bid with square distribution and only three trump.

Lajos Linczmayer: This is more flexible than the alternative of 3 D… If North has S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x-x D x C x-x, or S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x, 6 S is a good contract and 6 H is hopeless. If he has S K-x H Q-x-x-x-x D K-J-x C K-Q-x, 3 NT makes and 4 H may go down; and if he passes with [a diamond stack] we may score 800…

Manuel Paulo: Partner may have S Q-10-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x, and we can win a slam in spades but not hearts. I’ll indicate four spades by doubling; and afterwards I’ll cue-bid before raising hearts, if necessary.

Ken Brantferger: Eventually, I may want to find out if partner has two fast diamond losers. Starting with a space-saving double seems most practical, and also serves to keep East on lead to right-side the contract.

Robin Zigmond: This would be clear-cut playing four-card majors; but [despite the known] heart fit, with so much strength it must be worth seeking the 4-4 fit… Another factor against raising hearts is that 3 NT could be the best contract.

Ed Barnes: Partner may be able to pitch a couple of clubs from my hand in a spade fit. If the bidding goes 5 D pass pass, I have no problem bidding 6 D.

Ed Shapiro: Despite two of Roth’s early admonitions about negative doubles: (1) Make a definitive bid if you can, and (2) beware of doubles holding 4-3-3-3 shape, I don’t have a safe definitive call. And nowadays it’s almost standard to double with three-card support and at least invitational strength. I’ll bid 4 H over any minimum call, other than 2 NT (then 3 NT). …

Richard Morse: … I intend to force with 3 D on the next round.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: … We may have a slam if partner has four spades, as my club losers can go on his hearts. If partner doesn’t bid spades, I will bid 4 H next round…

Pieter Geerkens: With no clear-cut action, taking advantage of the opposing overcall to create more bidding space seems clear… A forcing call is available in diamonds later.

Sharon Horton: On a game-going hand, I can afford to probe for a 4-4 spade fit.

Pascal Wassong: I use the cue-bid to show four cards in hearts. My next bid will be 4 H… and if opponents bid 5 D, I’ll double.

Richard Wilson: If partner is able to bid spades, I have a green light for slam as long as he has an ace [and diamond control]. …

Nick Krnjevic: We won’t get to 6 S opposite S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x unless I get spades into the game.

Kevin Lewis: No-good, worthless, overcalling, rat-fink scum. :) I have no accurate heart raise, so with four spades I choose the vague double over the vague cue-bid.

Rainer Herrmann: Why solve a problem now when I can postpone it to the next round? :)

Norm Gordon: … If partner has a minimum such as S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x, 6 S will make when 6 H fails.

Paul Flashenberg: Spades could make the better trump suit for game, and possibly slam.

Mark LaForge: This will definitely play better in a 4-4 fit if partner has a diamond control.

Barry Goren: I have no idea what the right strain is, but I want partner to have as many [options] as possible on the way to find out. Three notrump could be right opposite certain soft diamond holdings, and 4 S could be right opposite short diamonds; so I refuse to commit.

Kevin Podsiadlik: I can raise hearts later if need be, but this gets both spades and notrump into the picture.

Guy van Middelem: … Normally, I hate to double with a fit in partner’s suit because he sometimes leaves it in; but with three diamonds, I’m not afraid of that.

Comment for 3 C

Michael Errington: … This is best because if partner bids [spades or] notrump voluntarily, I can be more confident about his [holdings]. …

Comments for 3 D

George Klemic: I plan to [bid] 4 H next, though passing 3 NT looks right. … Shooting for 4 S is a very small target.

Bruce Scott: I’m going to force to game…then follow with whatever bid shows a minimum game force. After that, if partner makes any sort of slam try, I will cooperate.

Michael Palitsch: I want to show game-forcing values with [flat] distribution. I will pass 3 NT, or bid 4 H over any other bid.

Neelotpal Sahai: … Showing support and game-forcing values will ease the pressure on partner in case competition becomes hot.

J.J. Gass: We must reach game, and at IMPs I’m much less concerned than at matchpoints about whether we can take as many tricks in notrump as in a major-suit contract. I’d be inclined to go for a negative double, but as I read the system notes, double would be penalty.

Say what? My outline of Standard American Bridge states “Negative doubles thru 4 D.” -RP

Optometric Alert! To score better on these polls, try to read past the letter E at the top of an eye chart.

Rosalind Hengeveld: I worry more about an early 5 D bid than missing a 4-4 spade fit. Therefore, the priority is to show the heart fit.

Tim Francis-Wright: This establishes a force but does not unilaterally commit us to hearts. Partner can bid 3 NT or 3 S with the right sorts of hands.

Roy Bolton: This shows heart support and good values. I don’t need to double with support for partner.

Ron Landgraff: Please, partner, further describe your hand. Contracts in notrump, spades and hearts from game to slam are still possible.

Dale Freeman: Double then 4 H is sensible if opponents are quiet; however, at this vulnerability at IMPs I like to show my heart fit and values immediately before the probable 5 D bid.

Michael Spurgeon: There seems little to gain at IMPs by introducing spades and/or investigating a notrump game…

Paul Thurston: Fourth round control!

Barry Rigal: Only way to get to 3 NT [with confidence] is to show a heart raise then respect partner’s decision. Facing S x-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D Q-J-x C K-Q, we make 3 NT easily and have no play for 4 H.

Tibor Roberts: Choice is between double and 3 D. Granted, double saves space, but it seems wiser to let partner in on the game force. If West does something drastic based on the vulnerability, I want partner to know that pass is forcing.

Alan Schwartz: I like to show primary support; we can still get to spades if partner bids them. Double followed by hearts sounds like a doubleton.

Winston Munn: … If I double hoping to find partner with S K-Q-x-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-x-x, he may instead hold S K-Q-x H A-Q-x-x-x D x C K-Q-x-x and never believe my next heart bid is real support. I have found that in competitive auctions, the more direct the approach, the better the results…

David Caprera: At first I thought I could go slow; but if partner rebids 3 H (a likely call), 4 D isn’t going to describe my hand very well. While a 4-4 fit may play better than the 5-3, double may make the subsequent auction hard to handle.

Elianor Kennie: Although I would like to have four-card support for this, what my hand lacks in quantity is made up for in quality. With two honors in partner’s suit, I will show good support for hearts.

Julian Wightwick: Three notrump could be a lot better than 4 H if partner has a diamond stopper, and I also have good cards for slam if he has extra values and shape. …

Carolyn Ahlert: … If opener bids 3 NT showing a diamond stopper, I’ll leave him there. Otherwise, I will next bid 4 H, hoping he doesn’t have three diamond losers and another loser.

Steve White: With two side first-round controls and two trump honors, I can’t do less despite the flat distribution.

Dick Yuen: To invite partner to bid notrump with a diamond stopper.

Christopher Miller: Double may push partner into bidding a three-card spade suit. I would like a fourth heart for this, but it seems the smallest distortion that shows support.

Al Hollander: … If I double, I’m not sure how the follow-up will let me show game-forcing strength and real heart support. This still leaves options, e.g., the best contract may be 3 NT…

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 4

IMPsBoth vulYou, South, hold:
3 D
S K 6
H A K Q 8 3
D K Q 8 5
C 10 9

3 H1049740
3 NT927922
5 D731725
4 NT5433
4 D4353
4 H3534

A surprising bid* to hear from partner! With such a tremendous diamond fit, competition is likely, so this problem is largely a matter of tactics. Rather than worry about reaching a magic spot like 3 NT or 4 H, it might be a success just to buy the contract. It is easy to see how the opponents could make 4 S (or more if the cards and shape are right) so your decision could be the key to a double game swing.

*A number of respondents commented that their decision might depend on partner’s style. Ha! You should know by now I have no style. Seriously, the default agreements are to follow the “Rule of 2, 3 and 4” and never to have more than 10 HCP (typically about 5-8) in first or second seat, but otherwise not strict. In this case North offers to win six tricks in diamonds, so D A-J-10-9-x-x-x and out would barely suffice (by my estimation method), and an outside king (rarely an ace) is possible. Preemptor also may have a side four-card suit, but if a major it should be nearly worthless (at best J-x-x-x).

The consensus was to bid 3 H, which was my first impulse as well. The big plus is to direct a heart lead should partner be on lead against 5 S (or higher), but there are two obvious downsides: (1) West has an easy entry in the auction, perhaps ideal with a black two-suiter that would be impossible to describe otherwise, and (2) if 3 NT is the right contract (e.g., opposite S x-x-x H -- D A-J-10-9-x-x-x C Q-J-x) it will be missed or wrong-sided. Therefore, I am not convinced that 3 H is a wise solution.

Is this a time for Hamman’s Rule? Certainly, 3 NT is a viable option. Offsetting the desperate gamble (prayer?) that partner has a club stopper is the tactical advantage that it may keep West out of the bidding. On a good day, you make 3 NT with a spade lead and find the opponents cold for 5 S. On a bad day, of course, the opponents make 3 NT and you shell out 500 the hard way — but in that event, you were probably destined for a minus anyway. This seems to offer good swing odds, so I’d go for 3 NT.

The immediate raise to 5 D surely has merit, especially if it puts West on the cusp with a difficult decision. While 5 D is unlikely to make (ostensibly off three top tricks), West may come to the rescue with 5 S. Argh, then you’ll regret not having bid hearts as a lead-director — which brings us back to square one. Maybe 3 H is best after all.

A curious option is to bid 4 NT Blackwood, not for any realistic slam expectation but as a tactical move. The trouble is that West will smell a rat when you later pass 5 D after partner shows an ace — like you really hoped to find two? This may inspire him to bid 5 S when he otherwise would have passed.

Enough speculation. I found this problem in the third-place playoff between Canada and Netherlands, and it brings to mind the proverb that truth is stranger than fiction. Looking at the South hand, one would expect 5 D to go down, yet slam was laydown:

North dealsS 3WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH 9 7 4 2SlavenburgSheardownKreynsElliott
D A J 10 9 7 4 3 23 DPass4 D
C4 S5 D5 SPass
S A Q 9 8 5 4TableS J 10 7 2PassPass
H J 10H 6 5
DD 6
C K 8 6 5 4C A Q J 7 3 2
S K 6
H A K Q 8 3
D K Q 8 5
C 10 9
Canada N-SNetherlands N-SWestNorthEastSouth
5 S West5 D NorthMurrayRebattu Jr.KelehaRebattu Sr.
Down 1 -100Made 6 +6204 DPass5 D
Netherlands +11 IMPs

At the first table, Elliott’s raise to 4 D looks worthy of a pusillanimity award; but I’m sure it was a tactical maneuver in the hopes of getting to play 5 D. The auction took a surprise twist when Sheardown took the push to 5 D, and perhaps this should have inspired Elliott to bid one more for the road. In any event, 5 S down one was a small consolation. Sheardown led the D 2 (angling for a club ruff) and Slavenburg faced the impossible task of reaching dummy. He chose to exit with the H J, and the ruff came swiftly.

At the second table, the junior rabbit (er, I mean Rebattu Jr.) found a superior opening bid with 4 D. Dad could hardly envision the slam, but the raise to game achieved the primary goal to buy the contract. Murray no doubt had twitches to bid but took the conservative route — not exactly Murrayesque but probably wise, since he couldn’t make 5 S opposite the amazing catch, and imagine the debacle if Kehela had a red hand. Kehela found the spade lead to stop a meaningless overtrick; 11 IMPs to Netherlands.

Actually, even the 4 D opening was conservative. I would estimate the North hand to win eight tricks (seven in diamonds, one for the fourth heart) and open 5 D — but even that wouldn’t get South to bid six for fear of two cashing aces.

Comments for 3 H

Bill Cubley: This is forcing, except if you are Al Roth. If partner raises, I can easily pass. Yes, they may then lead a diamond for a ruff; a spade back through my king; another ruff; and then take their clubs — but like the blind, one-legged dog, I feel lucky.

David Lindop: Four hearts from my side could be right if partner can raise, and I might need a heart lead if the opponents get busy in the black suits. I don’t intend to sell out below 5 D. …

Anthony Golding: I’m tempted by 3 NT, but maybe partner will bid it with S Q-x-x H x D A-10-x-x-x-x-x C K-x (his first-hand, vulnerable preempt should have outside values since I know his suit is less than robust).

Ron Zucker: I’d rather not play 3 NT at IMPs with those clubs, though I’m thrilled if partner does. Four hearts is more likely to make than 5 D since I can lose two clubs and a spade. If partner rebids 4 D,…I’ll try 5 D.

Julian Pottage: Three top losers are likely in diamonds, so I’ll look for a heart fit.

Adam Meyerson: If partner has two or three hearts, 4 H from my side rates to be a good spot. Sure, there might be a trick-one diamond ruff; but since 3 H doesn’t reveal the fit, a lead from D x-x is unlikely. This also gives partner a chance to clarify his outside values (if any) to simplify a later choice among 3 NT, 4 D, and 5 D if no heart fit exists.

Jacek Gackowski: I hope partner will raise with H J-x (or better); or bid 3 S with any other hand, allowing me to declare 3 NT.

Roger Morton: Partner will raise with H J-x or three small. A pity to bypass 3 NT, but it could be a very silly contract; and partner might bid it anyway with black-suit bits and pieces.

Tomasz Radko: I believe a preempting hand should not have two aces, so 5 D is obviously wrong. So it’s a choice between dialogue (3 H) and monologue (3 NT). I just love to transfer responsibility and guilt on my partner. :)

Michael Dodson: I’d like to bid 3 NT, but maybe partner can if he doesn’t support hearts; else I’ll stop in 4 D.

Jean-Christophe Clement: It is difficult to resist trying for game; but which one? Five diamonds is unlikely; 3 NT may be good (but could be down six!); and 4 H is right opposite a heart fit (or even H J-x). This seems the most reasonable bid, but I also like the 3 NT gamble.

Naveed Ather: … There is a good chance to make 4 H (if partner can raise) when 5 D goes down with three top losers.

Miles Thomson: … Five diamonds is risky with two losing clubs and the semi-protected S K, and 3 NT is a worse gamble if opponents run the club suit. This gives partner a chance to raise or describe a feature (if he has one).

David Rock: … Partner will raise with support; else probably bid 4 D, which I will pass. A quick 5 D has a certain attraction (maybe East will lead a heart); as does 3 NT…

Andrew de Sosa: Should partner have a heart fit (even J-x), 4 H may be the only makable game. The downside is that 5 D will be less likely to make [after showing the heart suit]. …

Matthew Porter: If we’re making game, I think it’s going to be in hearts — partner is 99 percent to hold the D A, and hoping to contain the black suits to two losers is a bit much to ask. I’ll pass 4 D from partner.

Michael Dimich: I want a heart lead if West plays 4 S. If 4 S makes, I [probably] lose 3 IMPs by not sacking in 5 D; but if a heart lead beats 4 S, I gain 12.

Michael Palitsch: I should have six cards for this bid, but I don’t want to decide whether to play 3 NT, 4 H or 5 D; maybe partner can decide.

Stu Goodgold: This is surely worthy of a game try. North can bid 3 S with a club stop but no spade stopper.

Impressive. Can North also stand on his head and do cartwheels?

Neelotpal Sahai: I wonder what partner has when I have so much in diamonds — possibly ace-seventh in diamonds and a picture card in either black suit or both. If partner also has even H J-x, 4 H would play better than 5 D.

Eduard Munteanu: Forcing, and besides allowing partner to raise or show an outside honor, it prepares the defense.

Murat Azizoglu: If partner has heart support, 4 H may be the only game to make. Showing my suit will also help if we end up defending…

J.J. Gass: A lot depends on style. Would partner preempt with a black ace? We could have 12 tricks… but slam is really a tiny target when the bad guys might have two top tricks in either black suit or both. The chance that they can cash exactly three black tricks makes me try for a 5-2 (or better) heart fit…

Karen Walker: Even if partner raises with a doubleton, I like our chances in 4 H better than 5 D.

Daniel Auby: My beginner’s book stated that, without proper heart support, North should always bid 3 S on this sequence because South is assumed to hold tenaces. I have never known whether this treatment is popular or not, although the few times it occurred I’ve adhered to it. I intend to bid 3 NT [if that happens]. A good alternative is a direct 5 D bid — sometimes we’ll get a heart lead.

Tim Francis-Wright: I’d love to know partner’s style in first seat, but it seems that 3 NT is an awfully big gamble. If partner has three hearts, 4 H needs at least two of: a useful card from partner, a helpful spade position, and no diamond ruff. …

Jeff Hand: We can easily be off three fast tricks in the black suits, or the entire club suit in notrump. The only game might be a 5-2 or 5-3 heart fit, and this is the only way to get there…

Josh Sinnett: … If partner has support, he can bid 4 H and protect the S K; else I will bid 5 D.

Michael Spurgeon: A 3 H bid risks helping East find the best lead, but the possible benefits — finding a sound 4 H or 5 D game, or perhaps 6 D if North has the C A and D A — seem to outweigh the risk.

Danny Kleinman: Our best chance for game is in hearts if partner has support… and if West is about to enter in spades, hearts is the suit I want led.

Jonathan Steinberg: Going slowly keeps all options open. Partner can raise with a fit; bid 3 S with a spade stopper; or bid 3 NT with a club stopper.

Ed Freeman: … Four diamonds must be safe, so I’ll force with 3 H and see which red suit we belong in.

Clint Hepner: With my black-suit holdings, both 3 NT and 5 D depend heavily on partner’s hand. I’ll pass if partner rebids 3 NT, 4 D [or 4 H]; over any other bid, I’ll raise to 5 D.

Stephen Fischer: Trying for game, intending to bid 4 D next — and it also gets partner off to the right lead [if we are defending].

Tim DeLaney: I will pass whatever partner bids.

Ah, yes. And if partner happens to make 3 S or 4 C Tim will present the Marquis de Sade award.

Mark Reeve: Partner shouldn’t have an outside ace, so 5 D looks like three top losers (possibly four on a spade lead). Four hearts may well be the only making game.

Barry Rigal: I may not be able to keep the opponents out, so I’ll bid where I live and involve partner in the five-level decision.

Winston Munn: I want partner to raise with [at least] H J-x… He [probably] holds D A-J-10-x-x-x-x and the C K for his vulnerable bid, so 4 H ought to play better than 5 D if I can draw trumps — only one ace needs to be onside then. …

Hendrik Sharples: … If partner can’t support hearts or bid 3 NT, 3 S is available as a help-me-out bid — that’s when the real problem comes: 3 NT, 4 D, or 5 D?

Conor Moore: … Slam is unlikely, and this is our best shot [for game]. Five diamonds is also reasonable but risky.

Pieter Geerkens: What a wimpy collection of choices. I was going to raise to 6 D! There must be a bad surprise in store for declarer; or is partner perhaps playing Namyats at the three level? More seriously, 3 NT seems unlikely to make… so I’ll try for a heart game and see what transpires.

David Caprera: … Even if partner has two bullets, 6 D is probably no better than 50-50; and hoping for two bullets and a black-suit singleton is like wishing for Santa Claus to bring a Ferrari for my next stocking stuffer.

Julian Wightwick: Close among pass, 3 H and 3 NT. Pass would be [reasonable] at matchpoints but seems feeble at IMPs; 3 H will work if I catch three hearts (or J-x) opposite. With a spade stopper and no club stopper, partner will rebid 3 S and I can get out in 4 D; so with just a club stopper, he might rebid 3 NT, which will be perfect.

Jerrold Miller: … If partner doesn’t raise hearts, I’ll bid 5 D — which [may] have a play, given the vulnerable preempt missing K-Q in his suit.

Norm Gordon: Based on the “Rule of 2, 3 and 4” partner [rates to] have black points… If he supports my hearts, I am happy to play 4 H; if he bids 4 D, I’ll raise to five and hope the black aces are favorable, or that he has eight diamonds and a singleton club. At matchpoints I’d take a shot at 3 NT, but at IMPs I want [better chances]. …

Paul Flashenberg: Slam is unlikely, and hearts could be the right game to protect the S K from the lead.

Phil Clayton: Very likely, our only game is 4 H; alternately, a heart could be the only lead to beat 4 S.

Ulrich Nell: Finding partner with two aces may not be enough for 6 D (there may be two losers in a black suit), but finding him with heart support is really good news.

Comments for 3 NT

Wes Harris: Can we make 3 NT? … I’ll bid it and hope for a spade or heart lead.

Kaustuv Das: … I’ll take the slight risk with clubs since partner is apt to provide help, missing so much in diamonds. If he happens to have the C A, 6 NT is almost there!

Charles Leong: A vulnerable preemptor should have a hand approaching decency, e.g., D A-J-x-x-x-x-x and the C K. The C 10-9 are tempting; and so is the S K, which needs to be protected.

Martijn Schoonderwoerd: I trust partner’s preempts not to be made on rubbish (S J-x H x-x D J-10-x-x-x-x-x C A-x) so I expect him to have the D A. If the club suit is wide open, there’s always the possibility the opponents won’t cash their winners.

George Klemic: A tough call. Four hearts may easily be the right contract; but if it’s not, partner will not be able to bid 3 NT comfortably [over 3 H]. …

Rodrigo Cunha: If I lose 3 NT, we would [almost surely] go down in 5 D.

Keith Falkner: Opening three with a shabby suit, North ought to deliver a club stopper.

Bob Boudreau: Must protect the S K.

David Cohen: If 3 NT isn’t making, then odds are we can’t make 5 D either. …

Lorne Anderson: Gambling opponents do not lead or switch to clubs, or that North has C Q-x-x or better.

Bruce Scott: … Even if clubs are unstopped, they might lead wrong. Three hearts is tempting, as it protects against hands where partner has one ace but no club stopper.

Karl Barth: Partner surely has the D A and a side card or two, and my club holding could be just what the doctor ordered. Five diamonds [rates to be off three top tricks].

Thijs Veugen: It’s a guess, but at least the S K is protected. If I bid 3 H, we might not be able to land in 3 NT when it’s the best contract.

Dima Nikolenkov: Vulnerable, with a moth-eaten suit, partner should have shape (hopefully no four-card major) which means clubs. …

Dirk Enthoven: A gamble, but partner should have something on the side for his vulnerable 3 D bid. Thinking briefly about 6 D, could partner have two aces and shortness in clubs? Too much to ask for, or to find out. Even five diamonds [rates to fail] so 3 NT with the lead coming my way is safer…

Steve Kitching: Five diamonds is unlikely to make with the two aces missing. Partner is very likely to hold the D A, so I can make 3 NT comfortably with a major-suit lead; so it will depend on clubs. At IMPs the reward is too great not to play in game.

Ron Sperber: I can’t imagine there is a slam, and I’d rather try for 3 NT than 5 D.

Ron Landgraff: Too strong at IMPs not to bid game, and 5 D may have three or four quick losers. If 4 H makes, I’ll pay off; but partner is unlikely to have adequate heart support.

Dale Freeman: A better shot than 5 D; and if we have a chance at 6 D, I do not like partner’s preempt. I see [little advantage] in 3 H, other than lead directional. If partner is short in hearts, 3 NT is best; if partner has length in hearts, opponents may be cold for 4 S!

Vincent Mes: Tough luck if partner is short in clubs. Bidding 3 H will probably lead to 4 D, bypassing the last makable game. Even if partner has the perfect hand for 6 D, it’s virtually impossible to find that out; so I’ll focus on best game. …

Manuel Oliveira: I will bet on North having an honor in clubs, or on a spade lead. …

Jon Freeman: Try to stop opponents from finding a spade fit.

Connie Delisle: Vulnerable at IMPs, partner hopefully has a club piece; and West [might not lead a club anyway]. I doubt we can make 5 D. My second choice is 3 H.

Mike Kerr: Bidding what I think I can make — besides, club stoppers are for wimps.

Mark Raphaelson: If I can’t gain the lead in time to cash our likely [10+] top tricks, 5 D [probably] would fare no better. …

Rick Norton: If partner has the D A and three clubs, 3 NT looks very playable. Four hearts also looks possible; but don’t they always lead majors on this sequence? …

Tibor Roberts: We probably have too many losers for 5 D, let alone six; but a good partner will have something useful in clubs, and 3 NT will walk.

Robin Zigmond: Should make on a non-club lead — West will probably lead spades. :) Partner needs more controls than I can reasonably expect to make 5 D good.

Pascal Wassong: This protects by S K. Partner must have the D A (but no other ace) so with two black aces to lose, 3 NT has as many chances to win as 5 D. Four hearts could also be a good contract, but I don’t have the room to find out; and this has the additional risk of a…diamond ruff…

Richard Wilson: Good prospects for game after a spade lead, and no hope for slam. Also, it will be harder for the opponents to reach 4 S over 3 NT than a suit bid.

Don Kemp: Zeke Jabbour says real men don’t need a stopper!

Gerald Cohen: Combines game chances with the possibility of [blocking out] the opponents.

Mark LaForge: In a loud voice. :) Partner has something besides the D A…

Jeanne Twait: Hoping partner has a club honor for his vulnerable preempt…

Comments for 5 D

Willem Mevius: This has the advantage (compared to 3 H) that the opponents are less likely to find their fit (or double fit). … It’s unlikely partner has three hearts; and even if he does, we could lose diamond ruffs in a heart contract, or trumps could break 4-1.

Rosalind Hengeveld: This may make (opposite a singleton club or a favorable lead), or it may shut out the opponents from a cold spade game — particularly if we have 4 H on! The only thing going for 3 H would be to indicate the lead, but I don’t put my priorities there.

Larry Gifford: Vulnerable, I’ll play partner for a side ace or a working void (but not both).

Paul Huggins: Unless partner plays very strong preempts in first seat, we are not missing a slam. Playing in a vacuum, 3 H would be best, allowing us to investigate [the best game]; however, with opponents listening, I prefer a jump to 5 D to make it harder for East to find the killing lead (if there is one).

Roy Bolton: Good problem. If 3 H discovers a heart fit, it means the opponents also have a double fit, and they’re likely to come into the bidding; while 5 D is likely to shut them out. … I would bid 3 NT at matchpoints.

Jerome Stryker: Partner is too weak for slam, but game is doable. Clubs are too iffy for 3 NT…

John R. Mayne: With an 11-card diamond fit, if we have a secondary heart fit, the opponents are making many, many spades. Screwing around with 3 H allows them to find spades, while other bids are loopy. …

Peg Kaplan: We might make it; opponents might be cold for something and miss it; or they might take a phantom. Sorry, no 3 H bid for me! I’m not letting West in easily.

Lajos Linczmayer: If opponents have a nine-card spade fit (figuring North on average for two spades), there are about 20 total tricks. If I bid 3 H, West may bid 3 S; then East would attack with a spade. Over 5 D, West will probably double and East will pass. If West has S A-J-x-x-x-x H J-x-x-x D -- C A-x-x, and East S Q-x-x H x D x-x C K-J-x-x-x-x-x, we make 5 D without a spade lead; and they make 6 S! …

Ken Brantferger: Partner should never preempt with two aces, so slam is out. This looks like a possible double fit, with game making in both directions. I choose to bid 5 D because (1) it might make with blind defense, and (2) opponents might be cold for 4 S [or more]. …

Sebastien Louveaux: This might be a good save against 4 S; or it might make — either legitimately, or if East does not find the right lead due to lack of information.

Richard Morse: Although it’s tempting to try 3 NT, it may lead to a silly result if clubs run or if partner does not have the D A. Partner should not have two aces (and even if he does, there may be two club losers) so I will bid the limit ahead of West’s opening shot.

Adam Saroyan: As tempting as it is to bid 3 H or even 3 NT, taking away the four level can’t be too far wrong with so little defense. The wrong lead may give us 5 D

Carolyn Ahlert: Partner shouldn’t have two aces (or an ace and a black void) needed for a slam. I prefer 5 D immediately (rather than a forcing 3 H) to make it more difficult for West to bid a good spade suit.

Barry Goren: Anything could be right. Most likely, partner has D A-J-10-x-x-x-x and the C K, which means a possible game for either side depending on the placement of the black aces. Three hearts lets West in too easily; 3 NT runs the risk of down six; 5 D only risks going down on a black-suit lead, but they have to lead the correct one and might not get a second chance.

Kevin Podsiadlik: With all these cards and vulnerable at IMPs, I have to shoot out a game somewhere. Three notrump is the sexy bid these days and may attract a low spade from the ace; but then, 5 D may elicit a passive lead — maybe a heart from shortness. On top of that, 5 D will go down less (possibly a lot less) when it’s wrong. …

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 5

IMPsN-S vulYou, South, hold:


2 C
3 NT

1 S
3 C
S K J 8 7 3
H 7
D K 8 2
C A K 6 5

4 C71139
4 D5615
5 C4706
4 H3181
4 S2101
4 NT1181

OK, so I picked a loser; a whopping 77 percent for one call makes this the worst problem by far since I began these polls. Oh well; it happens (that’s the family version). I thought the voting would be closer, as 3 NT is likely to go sour with a heart lead unless partner has two stoppers; and at IMPs there is no great concern about reaching 5 C instead of 3 NT.

One reason for the lopsided vote (noticed in many comments) was the belief that South already showed nine black cards. This is hardly true, as 3 C is routine with honor-third, e.g., S K-J-x-x-x H x-x D A-Q-x C K-x-x. Hence, the actual hand is distinctly more club-flavored than it might be. Another reason was that some thought 3 C showed extra values; again untrue, as the structure after a 2-over-1 response is to bid naturally (i.e., rebidding the same suit is not a waiting bid but shows 6+ cards). Hence, the actual hand is about a king better than it might be.

My own choice is to bid 4 C, suggesting the excellent trump support and distaste for notrump without arousing undue slam interest. This is likely to be productive, with potential contracts of 4 S, 4 NT and 5 C. The only real downside is to find exactly nine tricks available in 3 NT and no other game.

A number of respondents didn’t like the conditions, preferring a 3 H splinter over 2 C. Obviously, this wasn’t included because it isn’t part of the system; nor was it available when the problem occurred. Indeed, such a solution would make this a non-problem — but I guess it was almost that anyway. Sigh.

I won’t dwell on the misfire, so let’s see what took place in Deauville. The deal occurred in the round-robin match between France and Canada. Luck was not smiling on the Canadians, as the operation was successful, but the patient died:

South dealsS A 2WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH K 4 2ElliottBourchtoffSheardownDelmouly
D A 10 31 S
C Q 10 8 7 2Pass2 CPass3 C
S Q 9 6 4TableS 10 5Pass3 NTPassPass
H A J 10 5 3H Q 9 8 6Pass
D Q 9 7 4D J 6 5
CC J 9 4 3
S K J 8 7 3
H 7
D K 8 2
C A K 6 5
France N-SCanada N-SWestNorthEastSouth
3 NT North6 C NorthSusselMurrayDesrousseauxKehela
Made 4 +630Down 1 -1001 S
Pass2 CPass3 C
France +12 IMPsDbl3 DPass4 D
Pass4 HPass4 S
Pass4 NTPass5 H
Pass6 CAll Pass

The problem scenario arose at the first table, and Delmouly for France went with our majority view and passed 3 NT. Even with North’s additional assets, this was still in jeopardy after a heart lead; but Bourchtoff guessed clubs by winning the queen first.* Ten easy tricks.

*This is right in theory, too. The only danger is a 4-0 club break, and if West has four, the odds are good that a spade finesse will work as an alternate source for a ninth trick. Conversely, if East has four clubs, the spade finesse is a distinct underdog; so you’d better plan to pick up the club suit.

After a similar beginning at the second table, the Canadian auction was interrupted by Sussel’s takeout double. Murray then elected to cue-bid 3 D — no doubt a sly maneuver to inhibit the lead most likely to damage a club contract. Another round of cue-bids, then Blackwood, led to the excellent club slam — in theory, that is. Murray got the clubs right (obvious from the double) but needed the S Q to fall with one ruff.* Not to be; down one; 12 IMPs to France.

*Murray could have succeeded by running the S J through West (forcing a cover) followed by a ruffing finesse after drawing trumps; but this is surely double-dummy. Sussel’s double might provide a case for it, but it’s still anti-percentage.

Comments for Pass

Bill Cubley: Trusting partner to have hearts stopped. I promised only black-suit cards, and I have them.

David Lindop: I would have splintered to 3 H on the previous round if that were available. Now, I’ll have to hope we’ve reached the best contract. If my spades were the headed by the ace instead of K-J, I’d bid again.

Ron Zucker: Hmm. To look for slam or not? Partner didn’t cue-bid after [I raised clubs]. … Three notrump ends all auctions.

Wes Harris: … In clubs or spades, I have a [better] hand than in notrump; but game takes more tricks. I hate to mastermind…

Gareth Birdsall: I can’t see why this might not be the best spot.

Jon Cooke: To overrule 3 NT would be barking mad. Partner had the three level to investigate.

Adam Meyerson: My 3 C bid was forcing…, and I see no reason to overrule partner. I expect a heart holding more like K-Q-x-x than A-x-x. A stiff spade is also fairly likely, since partner…could have bid 2 NT with [some] balanced hands of this sort.

Len Vishnevsky: … According to the Bidding Guide, 2 C showed 11-16 and I showed 13-18, which means partner had to bid 3 NT with S x-x H K-Q-x D Q-J-x C Q-J-10-9-8, but might have S A-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C Q-J-10-9-8. The percentage call is pass;…4 C is mild overbid… Let’s work on the system.

Kaustuv Das: Is there anything more to add from my side of the story? Is the fact that my red cards are 3-1 and not 2-2 worth risking a minus score? Couldn’t partner be 1=4=4=4?

Roger Morton: I have described my hand pretty well; so why should I second-guess partner?

Please direct all questions to Kaustuv Das… The feedback could produce an infinite loop.

Nigel Guthrie: Partner may have S 10-x H A-J-10-x D A-J-x C Q-x-x-x.

Ciaran Coyne: Too few aces to consider going on.

Charles Leong: Partners usually know what they are doing. North probably has both red suits well stopped, as 3 D or 3 H over 3 C would show a stopper.

Tomasz Radko: Who am I to argue? Partner could have involved me with some waiting bid (3 D, 3 H or 3 S), so he knows what he’s doing (or so I hope).

Jeff Tang: Looks like passing is…an underdog to be the poll winner; but if I didn’t bid 4 C earlier out of fear of missing 3 NT, I don’t see why I should change my mind now.

Martijn Schoonderwoerd: Why should I know better where to play than partner?

Jack Rhatigan: Only “The Shadow” knows.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Either 3 NT or 5 C seems reasonable, and 6 C is possible; but with only one ace, 3 NT seems the best contract.

Alan Kravetz: Three notrump doesn’t end all auctions; but it should end this one.

Michael Errington: I trust partner; if he had any worries, he could have bid a red suit. Maybe I play matchpoints too much, but it wouldn’t occur to me to go back to clubs.

Willem Mevius: Partner is in charge; I have described my hand quite well.

Naveed Ather: I do not want to be in 5 C when partner is short in spades with about 11-12 HCP. …

David Rock: Partner is probably 2=4=3=4 and was fishing for a heart rebid. I’ll take the nine-trick game even with the stiff heart.

Keith Falkner: Whenever I try for 6 C with this stuff, I find I can’t get out before 6 C, even when it clearly isn’t there. Second choice is 4 D.

Bruce Scott: I already chased one slam on this set. You want me to look for another?

Matthew Porter: I don’t really have much in reserve (a king maybe), and I have no reason not to believe partner that 3 NT is our best spot…

Francesco Badolato: Partner seems to have high cards in the red suits, especially in hearts — not the right cards for a club [contract].

Karl Barth: This hand doesn’t look like it’s going to make game anywhere else if partner has a minimum.

Michael Palitsch: This is a very difficult decision between 3 NT and 5 C; I hate these. Maybe three aces are missing and 3 NT is laydown, e.g., S Q H K-Q-J-9 D Q-J-x C Q-10-9-x-x.

Neelotpal Sahai: My bids have accurately described point count and shape, so I will respect partner’s judgment.

Nicoleta Giura: If I didn’t intend to pass now, I wouldn’t have bid 3 C.

Svein Erik Dahl: Maintaining a good partnership in bridge is important, and partner’s judgment should be your law.

J.J. Gass: Trust partner. He knows the auction calls out for a heart lead… If he’s comfortable with notrump, I have no reason to second-guess him.

Dima Nikolenkov: Partner had the whole three level to explore, and I do not think the playing strength of this hand is enough to overrule him.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Am I to remove partner’s serious (in the old-fashioned sense) 3 NT on this near-minimum hand just because I am 5=1=3=4 instead of 5=2=2=4? I can’t believe that’s serious. Maybe partner even has one of those semi-phony 2 C bids on 3=4=3=3.

Vlastimil Lev: I described my hand, and partner [might] have, e.g., S x-x H A-Q-x-x D A-x-x C Q-J-x-x.

Karen Walker: If partner had any doubt about notrump — or any interest in a club slam — he could have shown concentrated red-suit values with 3 D or 3 H.

Paul Huggins: Hearts may cause trouble in 3 NT, but partner knows the lead is likely and should be prepared. In addition, there is a small chance that partner has 3=4=3=3 shape and had to rebid 2 C because 2 H would promised a five-card suit. I trust partner on this one.

Weidong Yang: I am not worth a further bid; partner should know what he is doing.

Daniel Auby: If 3 C promised extras (that’s the way I played it when I used natural methods), I have not much more to show. If 3 C promised a minimum, or if it could any strength, the methods are so unsound that the problem loses touch with reality.

Tim Francis-Wright: Partner needs an awfully good hand — too good for his bidding — for me to think seriously about slam; and he’s ready for a heart lead.

Ron Sperber: Okay, so I’m a chicken.

Roy Bolton: Probably not the bid that gets the points; but I know it’s the bid I would make at the table.

Jeff Hand: I hope partner can make this and have no reason to overrule…

Manuel Oliveira: Partner must know what is best… He may even have 1=4=4=4 shape.

Chris Maclauchlan: The one suit partner has not shown is spades, and I don’t like our chances at a high-level club contract without at least a partial spade fit.

Josh Sinnett: I showed what I have, and partner made his decision. If he didn’t have both red suits well stopped, he could have bid the [strong] one as a probe for 3 NT.

Danny Kleinman: If partner were uncertain about 3 NT, or had slam aspirations, he’d have bid three of a red suit…over 3 C. With no outside aces, I won’t go looking for slam when partner didn’t make a slam try.

Paul Thurston: This is a problem sequence in Standard American, as partner’s club suitability is suspect. …

Nigel Marlow: As a minimum for this sequence, partner could have S x-x H A-Q-x D Q-J-x-x C Q-x-x-x; so I don’t see any reason to move.

Ed Freeman: Trust partner; he should have few controls, lots of intermediates, and at least 1 1/2 heart stoppers. If we can make 5 C or 6 C and not 3 NT, partner has [probably] misbid.

Lajos Linczmayer: … North might have just 11 HCP, say, S x H K-Q-10-x D Q-J-10-x C Q-J-10-x, or S x-x H K-Q-10 D Q-J-x C Q-J-10-x-x, and only 3 NT has a chance. …

Tim DeLaney: This could be the last making contract.

Mark Reeve: Probably the best place to play, and 6 C seems a long way off.

Manuel Paulo: I trust partner. With quacks, this should be our best game; with aces, he would have bid otherwise.

Chris Vinall: I’d like to bid 3 H over 2 C, but I notice that according to your Guide this shows 19+ points with four hearts. So I might not do that. :)

Randy Corn: I hate when partner bids four-card minors to force; or even worse, three-card minors. He might have S 10-x H A-K-J-x D Q-J-x C Q-10-x-x.

Robin Zigmond: It’s tempting to bid 5 C, but partner… should have a sound heart stopper and a second stopper in diamonds. Yes, I have values in reserve for my 3 C raise, but not enough to justify looking for slam.

Ed Shapiro: I’m afraid of where any action will lead us, especially with no side first-round controls.

Sebastien Louveaux: Partner knows more about my hand than I do about his; 3 NT must be playable.

Winston Munn: Even the dreaded balanced minimum ought to have a better chance of nine tricks than 11; and the opponents don’t always lead the right suit.

Adam Saroyan: … With all that bidding room, partner seems to think 3 NT is the spot; and with no red ace, I see no reason to doubt him.

Carolyn Ahlert: Partner must have the red suits stopped, and 3 NT should be easier to make than 5 C.

Kevin Lewis: What is this problem doing here? Don’t I have a minimum? Do we belong in 5 C? Six clubs? Eight clubs? Isn’t partner captain on this auction? Only a real oinker of a partner disrespects the 3 NT sign-off. I have described my hand, and will now put a cork in it!

Rainer Herrmann: There are many hands where 3 NT is the only makable (or most likely) game, e.g., S x H K-Q-J-x D Q-J-x C Q-J-x-x-x.

Jerrold Miller: Partner is not worried about the red suits (if he had only one stopped, he would have bid it)…and not enamored with clubs; so nine tricks will be easier than 11.

Charles Blair: My hand isn’t very different from what partner should expect.

Paul Inbona: I have to trust partner to know what he is doing and have a proper heart stopper.

Jeff Yutzler: If pass is not the obviously correct call here, the rest of the world knows something I don’t. Please clue me in.

Barry Goren: Lots of room between 3 C and 3 NT to explore, so partner has made a statement.

Kevin Podsiadlik: My hand has nothing in particular that will surprise partner, and sometimes 2 C isn’t a real suit.

Al Hollander: … If I felt safe in 4 NT or 5 C, I might take one more bid; but there seem to be too many hands where 3 NT is our last refuge. I recently read it is sometimes OK to have a little extra when laying down dummy, and this hand really qualifies only as very sound since my spades figure to be wasted values. I just hope partner isn’t also holding too many extras.

Guy van Middelem: … Since partner is likely to have a singleton spade, I would continue bidding with the ace instead of K-J.

Comments for 4 C

Andrew de Sosa: Too control-rich to give up on slam just yet.

Fraser Rew: … I love 5-4-3-1 shapes for suit contracts. Can opener have 3=4=3=3 shape in Standard American? This Acol player has no other concerns, though.

John R. Mayne: This hand rocks in clubs, and systemically partner should have real clubs. I’d be a lot happier about romping off if I had the S A… but I think 5 C is going to have better chances, and we’re not yet eliminated from reaching six.

Tommy Cho: I don’t think we have enough stoppers and winners to make 3 NT, and partner may have a suitable hand for 5 C or even slam.

Ken Brantferger: … While slam may be possible, 4 D is a bit strong; so I’ll opt for a timid 4 C call.

Barry Rigal: Normally I pass, but this hand is so skewed in clubs that I may well survive if I misjudge. Could you blame partner for bidding this way with S Q-x H A-10-x D A-J-x C J-x-x-x-x? Give him the C Q instead of the jack, and slam is laydown whenever 3 NT comes in. Similar, if S Q H A is changed to S A H Q.

Tony Rolfe: I’m not happy about 3 NT with such broken spades — opponents are [likely] to set up hearts before partner sets up spades. …

Conor Moore: At matchpoints, pass; but I’ll ignore Hamman’s Rule and see what reaction 4 C produces. Five clubs is the most likely contract; but slam is [odds-on] if partner has two aces, S Q and C Q.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: … Slam is still possible (e.g., S Q-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C Q-J-x-x-x), so I give it another try. …

Norm Gordon: Partner may have S Q-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C Q-x-x-x-x, and 6 C is there. I want to hear a cue-bid; and if partner is aceless, I think we will have 10 tricks in notrump (4 NT is to play).

Phil Clayton: With these sharp cards, another try looks OK — forget Hamman’s Rule. A cue-bid of a red ace greatly improves this hand; I’ll give up over 4 NT.

Comments for 4 D

Vincent Mes: … Showing a fragment (old-fashioned as I am). Three notrump might be best — surely partner will know that after my 4 D bid. :) If partner bids 4 S or 4 NT, it should be to play, as he can bid 4 H with any slam-going hand.

Jonathan Steinberg: I’m patterning out to find the best spot. In my system, I could have bid 3 H last turn as a splinter to describe my hand perfectly; then I could pass 3 NT with confidence.

Rick Norton: Does partner have two aces? If so, 5 C should be about as safe as 3 NT; and we may have 6 C. …

Peg Kaplan: I’m not terrifically crazy about 3 C the first time around, so I will finish the picture and await partner’s next bid. This is a great hand for clubs; way too much to pass — not to mention that we could be cold for 6 C and fail in 3 NT!

Ed Barnes: Give partner a chance; 5 C rates to be as good as 3 NT, and now we can get to slam if it’s there.

Pieter Geerkens: Three notrump looks to be against the odds, and slam is still possible; so I’ll finish describing my hand with 4 D.

Nick Krnjevic: My excellent trumps and suit-oriented distribution dictate another bid; I hope I’m showing a fragment. I’ll pass 4 NT if partner insists…

Steve White: At IMPs, we can afford to play 5 C; and it’s worth keeping chances for 6 C alive.

David Stern: … This should highlight heart shortage and suggest slam interest. I have a very good hand for partner, who obviously has red cards and poor clubs; so 5 C should [almost always] have a play.

Gerald Cohen: Fairly descriptive. If 3 NT was the last good game, maybe 4 S is a good enough game.

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

Problem 6

IMPsNone vulYou, South, hold:
H J 8 7 4 3
C K Q J 10 8 2

Preferred TacticAwardVotesPercent
D. Open 1 C1047037
B. Pass then show two-suiter829323
C. Pass then bid clubs716713
G. Open 4 C6161
F. Open 3 C51169
E. Open 1 H318615
A. Pass then pass again191

What an ugly hand, but that’s what you’re dealt and it’s your turn to make the first lie. Generally, it’s better to get in the bidding first; but preempting with a side five-card major is not appealing; nor is opening 1 C (at least to me) with so little in the way of defense. If the two suits were more equally apportioned, I like the idea of passing then showing a two-suiter.

Options A, B and C (starting with pass) presumed your opponents would be doing all the bidding. That is, it would hardly make sense to “Pass then pass again” if partner opened the bidding — sorry, partner, but 1 D looked like a fine spot to me (hehe). Most understood this as such, but I probably should have stated it explicitly.

My own choice is to preempt, and I’d go with 4 C to make it as difficult as possible for the opponents. Indeed, as an occasional poker player, I have a sneaking admiration for anyone who would open five clubs — alas, I didn’t dare list that option for fear you might start a recall election (a la California) or send over the men in white coats. Seriously, with the lower ranking major and the lower ranking minor, preempting has a lot more to gain than lose. If you miss a great heart fit, it often turns out that the opponents have spades and would outbid you anyway.

Predictably, the popular choice was 1 C. Some of these bidders were bidding by rote, e.g., citing a value of 22 on the Rule-of-20 scale. Geez, give me a break; all this proves is the folly of such rules. Nonetheless, 1 C certainly could work out well, and it gets the top award.

The only choice that has no appeal whatever to me (besides passing throughout) is to open 1 H. Is this the definition of a devout five-card majorite? An apt conclusion would be for partner to have a hand like S A-Q-x-x-x-x-x H K-Q-x-x D x C x (similar to Problem 1) and launch into Blackwood.

In presenting this problem, I took the liberty to make you the dealer so the problem would be more worthy. When it occurred in 1968, the auction began with two passes, so a preempt stands out a mile to me — but what do I know. The facts can speak for themselves:

North dealsS J 7 6 4WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH K Q 10 2BelladonnaJordanAvarelliRobinson
D K 7 5 4PassPass3 C
C 5DblPass3 DPass
S A Q 10 3 2TableS 9 8 54 DPassPassPass
HH A 9 6 5
D A 10 8 3D Q 9 6 2
C A 7 6 3C 9 4
H J 8 7 4 3
C K Q J 10 8 2
USA N-SItaly N-SWestNorthEastSouth
4 D East4 S WestKaplanD'AlelioKayPabis Ticci
Down 1 -50Down 1 -50PassPassPass
1 SPass1 NT2 H
No swing3 C3 H3 SPass
4 SPassPassPass

At the first table, Robinson took a sensible if not timid approach. The 3 C opening apparently caused the Italians to miss their spade fit, though I wonder why Avarelli bid 3 D; if he bids 3 H, Belladonna would be endplayed into spades — though it hardly mattered, as 4 S rated to fail, as did 4 D.

The course taken by Pabis Ticci at the second table is mind-boggling. Passing in third seat, and using his next turn to bid hearts. Wow; but then, he’s a world champion and I’m not. Should I change my name to Pavli Cekki? Or is God really an Italian after all?

The play in 4 S was amusing. Kaplan won the heart lead with the ace (pitching a club) then ducked a club to prepare a ruff. When D’Alelio ruffed the C A on the second round, Kaplan probably fell out of his chair. Or is this just world-championship bidding? Seriously, Kaplan would likely have failed anyway as the cards lie. Just another push.

Comments for D. Open 1 C

Bill Cubley: Anyone for first-seat leaping Michaels? I can easily stand a 1 H bid from partner, or rebid clubs when he bids 1 S. I just hope he doesn’t bid two spades.

David Lindop: Maybe the auction will go well; if not, I’ve gotten partner off to the best lead — of course, declarer will probably drop my S K. Passing doesn’t guarantee an easier auction.

Anthony Golding: Rightly or wrongly, I would never pass this hand; and if I open 1 H, I’ll never be able to convey the relative strengths of my suits, even without competition. I hope to be able to show hearts later; but if not, at least partner won’t lead one.

Ron Zucker: I suspect the opponents have spades, so I have to bid early if I hope to find a fit at an acceptable level. At matchpoints, I’m more likely to pass and show the two-suiter.

Julian Pottage: With such disparity in suit strength, I’m happy to treat the hand as 4-6 shape.

Hennie Broek: If it is our hand, this should cause no problems; and if we lose the bid, I want a club lead.

Gareth Birdsall: I quite like 4 C since I’m not worried about missing 3 NT and it may cause real difficulties for the opponents.

Sure, grab 10 points then tell me how you like my choice. I might’ve won this thing if everyone came clean.

Jon Cooke: Hearts are so comparatively weak I’ll risk losing them.

Raija Davis: I’ll start showing my hand as soon as possible. “Pass and guess later” is a bad policy and will give a headache to both me and partner.

Tomasz Radko: I foresee clubs, clubs, and then hearts. If partner doesn’t have four hearts, I will play in clubs.

Martijn Schoonderwoerd: If I get the chance to bid hearts later on, that will suit me just fine. If not, I’ll be happy bidding clubs ‘til I drop. I would open 1 H on S K H K-Q-J-10-x D J C J-x-x-x-x-x (or possibly 2 H). My actual hand is way too strong to preempt. To pass? Yuck!

Alan Kravetz: If I pass, the bidding may be too high when it comes back to me. Any preempt will lose the heart suit.

Michael Errington: I like to get my bid in while I can. If hearts get shut out, too bad; a 5-3 fit probably won’t play well anyway.

Willem Mevius: With 11 HCP (horrible as they are) I’m prepared to open this. A possible heart fit will be lost if partner bids 1 S; but the clubs are so much better that I prefer to treat this as 6-4 shape. …

Naveed Ather: If I pass now, the bidding tray may come back at a level too high for comfort! … I am not sure if there is really a good way to show the relative lengths and strengths of my suits, but I will start with 1 C.

George Klemic: … Obviously, not an ideal opener; I would open 3 C some days, depending on if I think we need swings. I intend to rebid 2 C; and later pull 3 NT to 4 H if it is our hand.

David Rock: Planning to…show hearts only if there is room to do so without reversing. … I don’t like to pass with six losers, and I won’t preempt with a side major. The hand is a half quick trick shy to open one, but in an imperfect world it pays to bid.

Andrew de Sosa: Not likely the winner in a bidding contest, but perhaps the best way to find out if [we belong in hearts]. If we don’t have a nine-card heart fit, I’d rather treat this as single-suiter in clubs.

Keith Falkner: Hidden strategy: Bid enough to be declarer, then play well enough to earn partner’s forgiveness. :)

Bruce Scott: This hand doesn’t get any easier if I pass on the first round. Showing a two-suiter overemphasizes hearts. … I open 1 C because of the potential auction: 1 C 1 D; 1 H.

Matthew Porter: When opening, there is a continuum: If a hand is too good to preempt, open at the one level; i.e., there are no in-between hands. And we open the longest suit on this planet, not just: Oh! I have a five-card major, and bid it.

Karl Barth: I’m going to treat this as a 6-4 minimum. If I get the chance to bid 1 H, or a non-reverse 2 H, I will.

David Smyth: With all my strength in clubs, and a hand that is strong distributionally, I bid clubs. Whether to bid 1 C or preempt is a dilemma.

Svein Erik Dahl: Hit and run away on a bike; six losers and 11 cards in two suits is tempting for offense, even though the bidding may run into problems. This time I am fairly safe, as I will get my weakness a cross with a club rebid (or a chance to bid hearts at the one level). If partner bids hearts, the band starts playing. :)

Rosalind Hengeveld: For me, passing then coming alive on a decent hand is an option only if it would allow me to better show my hand; but that is not the case here. I often open 1 H on this distribution, but here it looks like I only want to play in hearts if partner has four.

Larry Gifford: I open because I want to indicate a club lead, and I don’t preempt because the correct strain may be hearts.

Paul Huggins: With such a good club suit, I’d rather not pass; and with a five-card heart suit, I don’t like preempting in clubs (third seat would be a different matter). The focus of the hand is the…club suit, not the poor heart suit, so I shall open 1 C. …

Ron Sperber: I can imagine some 5-6 hands where I’d open 1 H instead of 1 C, but this [isn’t one of them].

Roy Bolton: I think most modern players would open, and I like bidding my longest suit. Opening 1 C may not lose the heart suit, which is likely if I open 3 C or 4 C, and I also probably want a club lead on defense. …

Ron Landgraff: I judge this hand too strong not to enter the bidding. If I don’t open one, I may as well start at the four level!

Dale Freeman: Usually I pass and try to show a two-suiter with this type of hand, but the club suit compared to the heart suit is awkward. I do not like a 3 C opening; therefore, I am left with the defensively weak 1 C. Seems to be the trend nowadays!

Vincent Mes: What other lead would I like against 4 S? Best chance to get hearts in is to open because passing and showing a two-suiter is weird with such disparity in the suits.

Manuel Oliveira: Pass gives the initiative to the opponents; 3 C or 4 C is a shot in the dark;… and I don’t like 1 H.

Josh Sinnett: Getting into auctions early is a good thing. I’ll treat the hand as 6-4 because of the disparity in suit strengths.

Jonathan Steinberg: I bid what I have. Unless partner bids 1 D (or bids or implies hearts), I will continue to bid clubs.

Peg Kaplan: Preempt with clubs? I don’t think so! And passing isn’t on my radar screen. With a suit this good, I bid it — now!

Tim DeLaney: Lacking the spade suit, I must strike the first blow.

Mark Reeve: That’s a four-card heart suit, if you ask me; and I’m too strong to pass.

Barry Rigal: I hate to pass then bid; partner never reads my hand type right. Sometimes this shows a bad suit and a good hand; sometimes a good suit. Who knows!

Robin Zigmond: Passing distributional hands like this is certainly wrong in the long run, and it is too good for a preempt — even without the five-card major. Give me better hearts and I’d open them, but this hand will usually play far better in clubs.

Sebastien Louveaux: I’ll rebid clubs on a spade answer; or hearts if [convenient].

Peter Skafte: I do not see a rebidding problem; so why not open? Don’t overemphasize point count when you have a strong suit or a good distribution — and this hand has both. …

Tony Rolfe: Rule of 20 says open; common sense says bid the longest suit; and respect for partner says don’t preempt with a five-card major. In the real world I’d open 2 S (hearts and a minor), but you won’t let me play multiplexed twos. :(

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Difference between my two suits is too great to pass and show a two-suiter, and the hearts are too weak. Enough to open 1 C, and I’ll usually rebid clubs.

Adam Saroyan: No correct bid here, so I choose to open light. If I pass and show a two-suiter, the three level could be a disaster if partner prefers hearts. Playing Chameleon (my system, banned by the bridge gods) three reasonable calls are available: (1) pass, showing an opening hand; (2) 2 H showing hearts and a minor (7-11); or (3) 1 NT showing a one-suiter (7-11). This looks like a 2 H bid; but alas, no one can play such a fun system yet. …

Pascal Wassong: Hearts are too bad to be introduced; but the hand is too good to pass or preempt 3 C or 4 C.

Julian Wightwick: I’m not interested in a 5-3 heart fit, so I will treat this as 4-6 shape. Opening 1 C should encourage partner to show a four-card heart suit. If he’s thoughtless enough to respond 1 S, a 2 C rebid describes my strength well.

Kevin Lewis: Certainly, I want a club lead if the opponents outbid us… I won’t preempt and lose the heart suit. I won’t pass and show a two-suiter when clubs are so much stronger…

Rainer Herrmann: I do not like to preempt with this hand type, but I still prefer to strike first. Best is to treat this hand as 1=4=1=7 or 2=4=1=6 distribution. Should partner show hearts, I have to hold back a bit with no first-round controls to avoid a subsequent Blackwood disaster.

Charles Blair: Here we go: 4 S on my left, and partner doubles.

Jeanne Twait: Hearts look too weak to open… If partner bids hearts, I will be happy; over 1 D, I will show the heart suit; but over 1 S or 1 NT, I will rebid clubs.

Comments for B. Pass then show two-suiter

Adam Meyerson: This hand seems wrong for a preempt that might lose the hearts. Opening these hands sometimes wins, but often I end up in 3 NT opposite some misfitting 12-count. I’ll pass and then bid later, preferring to show both suits [assuming it is convenient].

Jacek Gackowski: Interesting problem but badly presented. Options after pass suggest [enemy] bidding, but… I do not know what I will do in every possible auction. Options B and C should have the same score; and Option A (pass then pass again) is rather silly.

I agree about Option A (it was a filler). My intention with Options B and C was to determine which you would prefer to do if given a convenient opportunity to do either. You make a good point, however, that I probably should have given an example auction if you pass. -RP

Sylvain Brethes: … I pass first, that’s for sure… then if opponents don’t bid one of my suits, I will probably show my two-suiter.

Stu Goodgold: The most descriptive bid is to show a sub-opening, two-suited hand. “Six-five, come alive” may be Baze’s maxim; but he didn’t say when to let it all out.

Neelotpal Sahai: The reason for not opening is the lack of adequate values in long suits (short-suit honors are useless). Additionally, the important feature of this hand is the two-suiter. If I open 1 C and partner responds 1 S or 1 NT, there is a danger that hearts may go to sleep… I don’t like to open a shorter major (in preference to a longer minor). …

J.J. Gass: The system notes say not to preempt with a major as good as Q-x-x-x. I’d say J-x-x-x-x is “as good” so I won’t bid 3 C, or (gag!) 4 C with a six-card suit… As for a one-level opening, the hand passes the Rule of 20; but it is not an opening hand: one quick trick; no aces; four of the 11 HCP in singleton honors. So I’ll plan to show a two-suiter later, so long as I can do so without getting ridiculously high.

Dirk Enthoven: Opening 1 C or 1 H [is likely] to get us overboard, so I’ll wait to see if I can show the two-suiter. If I’m outbid, so be it. …

Jerry Merrell: If I had H K instead of the S K, I would have no trouble opening 1 H… but this heart suit is too anemic, and I do not like the wasted honors. …

John R. Mayne: … Opening 1 C is OK; 1 H is appalling; and preempts are problematic with so much defense and five hearts. With two low singletons, I would open 4 C without regret.

Michael Spurgeon: Not enough quick tricks to open one. I don’t mind preempting with a four-card side suit, but not with a five-card major.

Paul Thurston: Ugh! I hate to open this defenseless wonder and then try to get both suits in — although it really looks more like a suit and a half than two suits.

Mark Raphaelson: I might open 1 H with five hearts and six clubs, but not his hand!

Rick Norton: About a maximum for this strategy. If the hearts and clubs were reversed, I’d open something.

Lajos Linczmayer: This hand is not an opening bid as it does not have enough defensive value; nor is it a preemptive bid at this vulnerability in first seat. My next action depends on the auction. After P P P 1 D (or 1 S), I will show the two-suiter, as I would like to play 4 H if partner has S A-x-x-x H A-x-x-x D x-x-x-x C x or better. After P 1 S P 2 S, I would bid 3 C, as I want a club lead… After P 1 D P 1 S, I bid 2 NT; but after P 1 S P 2 D, I bid 3 C.

Manuel Paulo: I pass because I have at most one defensive trick; and preempting may lose the heart suit. Afterwards, if convenient, I’ll show the two-suiter despite the difference in quality.

Ken Brantferger: This hand caused me a lot of stress. I originally chose 1 H; but without two quick tricks, I’ve decided to pass (with two-suiter follow-up). Luckily, you did not provide the option to open 2 H. :)

Tibor Roberts: If I open, partner will never picture this hand until the postmortem. Better to wait and hope.

Pieter Geerkens: Passing first must be right, so I can believe any penalty double partner might…make later — else the damage to partnership harmony is unmanageable. Now that partner will not expect defense from me, my plan is to show a two-suiter if the opponents reveal a fit; otherwise, bid clubs. The former seems more likely, so Option B.

Michiel Geelen: I do not want to preempt in clubs with five hearts; passing twice isn’t an option…; and I do not believe I can show this hand by passing and bidding clubs. … In real life I would open 2 H (Muiderberg) to show exactly five hearts and 4+ cards in one of the minors with 6-10 HCP.

Gerald Cohen: At least I can sit for penalty doubles this way.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Passing for now is easy with so many points wasted in my singletons. My next choice depends on the auction. …

Al Hollander: … I can see the virtue in C, D or F; but too many things can go wrong with E (1 H) or G (4 C) if partner holds the best hand. As for B versus C, it seems that if I’m only going to bid clubs, I should probably open at some level. …

Comments for C. Pass then bid clubs

Gorkem Kuterdem: Unless partner bids hearts, of course — right. :)

Lorne Anderson: Partner should work out I have a side major suit if I pass and then preempt; else why not open?

Robert Lipton: I know it’s unfashionable to pass; I do it anyway.

Bill Jacobs (as Al Roth again): I pass and listen! I have always trusted my secondary judgment!

Thijs Veugen: Too much defense for a preempt, and too little strength for a one-bid. The club suit is definitely worth bidding later.

Murat Azizoglu: I certainly don’t have an opener, and I won’t preempt in clubs and risk missing a heart fit. …

Dima Nikolenkov: My next action depends on the bidding, but I think I will try to get a club lead.

Tim Francis-Wright: In third seat, 3 C seems indicated. In first seat, I can wait.

Connie Delisle: This is not an opener (honors in wrong places) or a preempt. I [hope] to introduce clubs at the two level, and I will treat my garbage heart suit as a four-card suit.

Danny Kleinman: Not enough defensive strength for a one-bid; and wrong to preempt in clubs with a good supporting hand for hearts. At my next opportunity I want to emphasize clubs (without overbidding). I will not treat this as a two-suiter (J-8-7-4-3 is hardly a suit).

Alan Schwartz: Assuming the opponents are bidding, I need to direct a club lead. This is not an opening bid or a preempt.

Ed Shapiro: My main priority is to [indicate] clubs; thus no Michaels after P P P 1 S, because it emphasizes hearts and can lose clubs. If the bidding goes P P P 1 D, then maybe 2 NT [showing clubs and hearts].

Winston Munn: With no defense, this hand looks too top-heavy in clubs to do anything but emphasize that suit.

Hendrik Sharples: Probably not mainstream, but I don’t like spending auctions backpedaling.

Richard Morse: A tough choice, and at the table it would be hugely tempting to open 1 C. The trouble is that my hand may be entryless in notrump, and misleading partner about strength may hinder his judgment. I can’t see anything in favor of opening 1 H or implying such a moth-eaten suit; passing throughout is feeble; and preempting in clubs ahead of partner seems too unilateral.

David Caprera: I don’t want to preempt partner; 1 H is too much of a distortion; 1 C is a reasonable alternative if the partnership accepts this as an opener.

David Stern: Showing a two-suiter where partner will strain to play in the major is a poor [strategy] when my major is shorter and very weak.

Mark LaForge: Without spades, I will not show a two-suiter with such disparity. I’ll see how the auction goes and may bid hearts later.

Comments for G. Open 4 C

Stephen Fischer: Four hearts worked for a teammate once (if you’re reading this you know who you are), but this looks more like a one-suited club hand than anything else.

Ed Barnes: I can’t get this off my chest with natural bidding, so I’ll try to maximize my chance of a good score. …

Final Notes

Comments are selected from those above average (top 685), and on each problem only for the top three or four calls. Over 65 percent of the eligible comments were included. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

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

I hope you enjoyed this return to Deauville, France, 36 years ago. Thanks to all who participated, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Well, I hope wily Alvin will forgive our bad bidding — or at least award us something besides “Anything else, zero.” Speaking of the devil:

Bill Jacobs: I insist that you score these problems based on what would have worked “At the Table!”

And finally, from the anagram workshops:

Giovanni Bobbio: Could the title be “Italy Wins in a Live Duel?” Unfortunately, not in 2003. :)

Mark Hardaway: My guess is, “Swine Dual Live in Italy,” although I can’t picture pigs playing bridge on the beaches of Italy.

Good point. Best advice: Stay on American soil!

Mabel Pavlicek: “Ladies Win Via Luny Tile.”

Poor girl. We’re playing bridge, and she’s still trying to beat me at Scrabble.

Analyses 7Y72 MainChallengeScoresTop Italy Wins in Deauville

© 2004 Richard Pavlicek