Analyses 8W40  MainChallenge

Culbertsons Win in London

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six bidding problems were published on the Internet in May of 2005, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. The problems are from actual deals played in a past tournament. In the poll I did not reveal the year or location, and participants were invited to guess from the clues on the page.

Problem 123456Final Notes

As you can see, my title has changed. Previously, it was anagrammed as “Stolen Crown Blinds Union” to conceal the location, but about 90 percent of those who ventured a guess got the city right; the pictures were pretty generous. Nonetheless, there were a few stray guesses for Hamilton, Bermuda; Manila, Philippines (must have missed my last poll); Paris, France; Edinburgh, Scotland; Amsterdam, Netherlands; New York City (going with the odds); and lured by my hotel picture: Phoenix, Arizona.

Pictured at the top is a London street lamp on a foggy evening, with Westminster Abbey in the background. Next is the ornate facade of Selfridges Department Store on Oxford Street, where the tournament was held. Also shown is a portion of the Phoenix Hotel in Kensington Garden Square with a black cab at the curb.

The blue book image alludes to Ely Culbertson’s bidding bible of the times.

While the city (London) was easy, the year was less obvious, although clearly long ago from the total-point scoring. One clue was my mentioning of the “Filipino Labor Union,” which really does exist (headquartered in California) and was founded in 1933. Another clue is that Culbertson’s book (second edition) is entitled “Blue Book of 1933.” Thirdly, the background song Stormy Weather was written by Harold Arlen and recorded by Ethel Waters in 1933.

About 80 people correctly guessed London, but only five came up with 1933 as well. Congratulations to Barry White, Jess Cohen, Nick Doe, Jonathan Siegel and Tim Francis-Wright. Several others came close (various in the 1930s). Barry White also improved my title for this page! Originally it was “Culbertson Wins in London,” but his plural suggestion was better, since both Ely and Josephine were on the team — and the relocated ‘s’ didn’t affect my anagram.

Kingsum Chow Wins!

This poll had 1435 participants from 126 locations, and the average score was 43.95. Congratulations to Kingsum Chow (Oregon) who submitted the only perfect score. Hmm… Didn’t I just say that to Mabel when she went out to get dinner? Oh, no; that was “Bring some chow.” Close enough. Close behind at 59 were: Tania Gariepy (Australia); Mike Bukala (Texas); and Dennis Kaye (Rosendale, New York). No fewer than 10 players scored 58.

Participation this month was the third highest, falling 17 short of the high 1453 in January 2005. The average score was the lowest ever (previous low was 44.08 in January 2005). This has little to do with the field quality but simply reflects the voting diversity, and to a lesser extent, my scoring decisions. The problem set produced the tightest voting of all my polls. Highest vote-getter was only 32 percent, and Problem 2 was won by a mere 19 percent. That’s tight! A total of 761 persons scored above average (44 or higher) to make the listing.

In the overall standings, David Caprera (Colorado) held his lead, cruising with a cool 56.50 average. Next in line are Jouko Paganus (Finland) with 56.00, Geraint Harker (England) with 55.50, and Manuel Oliveira (Portugal) with 55.25. Three players have 55.00: Jorge Castanheira (Portugal), Rinus Balkenende (Netherlands), and Tristan Dupas (France).

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 Contract Bridge Championship of 1933 is not considered official, but it attracted more public attention and media fanfare than any championship of modern times. The event was basically a challenge match between United States and Britain, organized chiefly by Ely Culbertson, a great promoter — like Don King is to boxing.

The event was held July 17-22, 1933 in London at Selfridges Department Store. Three hundred boards were played over a six-day span (50 per day). The playing area was surrounded by a glass cage, swarmed by hundreds of spectators who fought for every inch. Vendors even sold periscopes, allowing many more a chance to view bridge history in the making. Talk about a crowded department store!

Representing the United States (pictured L-R) were Michael Gottlieb, Josephine and Ely Culbertson, and Theodore Lightner. Representing Britain were Henry Beasley, Guy Domville, Graham Mathieson, Doris Rhodes, George Morris, and P.V. Tabbush.

At stake was the inaugural Schwab Cup, a beautiful trophy donated by the business tycoon and philanthropist, Charles M. Schwab.* One of Schwab’s noted quotes could be an inspiration to us all: “None of us is born with a stop-valve on his powers or with a set limit to his capacities.” But then, maybe he was referring to weight gain.

*In 1962 the trophy was rededicated for the World Pair Olympiad and subsequently donated to the World Bridge Federation for perpetuation.

The U.S. Team selection, done by committee, was arbitrary to say the least. Culbertson wrote, “From the 20 leading contract players in the country, the committee chose myself, my wife, Gottlieb and Lightner. Oswald Jacoby was named as an alternate…” Why only four-handed when six is normal? I’m sure Jake was delighted to hear he’d be called up if someone fell overboard as the ship crossed the Atlantic — but I’m guessing, maybe they flew — let alone that Josephine was selected ahead of him. No doubt there were still bad vibes between Jacoby and Culbertson from the Culbertson-Lenz match four years earlier. Maybe I’m biased, but Jacoby should have been the #1 pick. I guess it only shows that even back then, money and politics came first.

A remarkable feat is that the book Contract Bridge Championship of 1933 (Ely Culbertson), from which I obtained these problems, was prepared continually as the event progressed. Publication was just 36 hours after the match ended. Amazing! Let this be a lesson to those modern-day promoters who want to increase bridge interest. Granted, the quick release was evident in the poor editing; but the efforts of Culbertson (did he ever sleep?) and the London News-Chronicle (publisher) were greatly appreciated.

The match was an exciting turnaround. Britain took the early lead and held it until the half-way point, at one time leading by 3630 points. Then the tide turned, and United States surged to win by an impressive 10,900 points.

Game time! Grab a periscope and find a spot at the giant fishbowl. Compare your bids with the dinosaurs, er world’s best of 1933.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 1

Total pointsN-S vulYou, South, hold:
1 C
S A 9 4 3
H K 7 6 3
C A 10 9 7

1 NT1045732
2 C (Michaels)41007
1 H2342
1 S1151

I was a bit leery of using this problem, suspecting that a majority would pass (my choice); but it turned out to be worthy if not surprising. Voting was rather evenly split among three obvious choices, and 1 NT got the edge for the top spot. So be it, but I’ll invoke my editorial privilege to take a close second.

Of all actions, 1 NT seems the least flawed, as it sets the stage to reach most games that could be on — albeit at the slight risk of getting into trouble if partner is broke. The fact that partner is a passed hand makes the off-shape 1 NT more palatable, as you can rule out some hands that would be disastrous raises to 3 NT (e.g., D K-Q-J-x-x-x and out).

Double is also a sound option, catering to finding a major fit, and perhaps a game that would be missed after 1 NT (e.g., S K-x-x-x H Q-J-10 D x-x-x-x-x C x). The danger is greater, however, as there is no viable extrication if partner bids diamonds. I suppose this is no big concern after a 1 D response (I would pass); but you will often hear a major bid on your left and 2 D (or more) from partner, leaving an awkward predicament. I’d rather go quietly on the first round and see what develops.

The remaining options were added mainly as fillers and border on folly. Michaels (2 C) has some merit, as it might catch partner with a long major and lead to a light game on shape; but the downside is heavy. Overcalling on a weak four-card major vulnerable begs for disaster.

Here’s what happened in 1933 London:

West dealsS 10 6WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH J 8 4DomvilleEly C.BeasleyLightner
D J 9 8 5 4PassPassPass1 C
C Q 5 4PassPassPass
S Q J 2TableS K 8 7 5
H Q 10 5 2H A 9
D K 7 6 2D Q 10 3
C 8 3C K J 6 2
S A 9 4 3
H K 7 6 3
C A 10 9 7
USA N-SBritain N-SWestNorthEastSouth
1 C South1 NT SouthGottliebMorrisJo C.Tabbush
West leadsWest leadsPassPass1 C1 NT
Made 2 +90Made 1 +90PassPassPass
No swing

The problem auction occurred at the second table, where Tabbush followed our consensus — no big difference on the actual deal, as neither side was going anywhere. After the H 2 lead, Tabbush managed to scramble seven tricks, though accurate defense could have prevailed.*

*No play record was given, but I suspect three rounds of hearts gave declarer two heart tricks and a dummy entry to lead the C Q.

At the first table, Beasley passed his 13-pointer in third seat (talk about the generation gap) so Lightner opened 1 C and played it right there. This produced eight tricks; no swing. Not very exciting, but it’s nice to derive an interesting bidding problem from a deal in which the final contract was one club. At least you don’t have to ask: How did the bidding go?

Comments for 1 NT

Thomas Kniest: Gets the value right and presumably won’t bar finding a major-suit fit if partner has anything.

Matthew Mason: Every option is a distortion, so I might as well get the correct point count in the picture.

Guillaume Lafon: I don’t want to bid such horrible four-card majors. And I can’t see any good rebid if partner answers 1 D to my double — and no doubt he will. :) There are not so many bad cases for 1 NT.

Ciaran Coyne: The best of a bad lot; and if very wrong, I may get away with it since West may not be trigger-happy opposite a third-seat green-vs-red opening.

Lorne Anderson: Too strong (just) to pass; and double leaves me in a hopeless position if partner responds 1 D. I might pass if partner were the dealer, but there is less chance of being doubled now that West has already passed.

Justin Lall: If you promised me the opponents would bid and raise diamonds, I would pass. However, I am worried about being stolen from by my white-vs-red opponents; if I don’t bid now, I may never get a chance. I like my good club spots.

Damo Nair: So, I’m a diamond short. What am I going to do? All options available after a double are still available now — I think.

Chris Moore: The least lie, in my opinion. Passing is my second choice; bidding 1 H or 1 S doesn’t really appeal to me.

Jess Cohen: Off-shape, but so is double. I do have 15 points and a club stopper; and if partner wants to know about a major, he can bid Stayman.

Jerry Merrell: Every option is flawed: Don’t have the club shortness for double; the shape for Michaels; or enough honors in either suit to overcall a four-card major. I feel like 1 NT is descriptive; the singleton is OK because it is an ace, and partner likely has a bit of length in diamonds.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Vulnerable, I don’t want to miss game by passing. My club fillers and top controls more than compensate for having only 15 HCP. As we play system on, partner can use Stayman with 8+ (or a good 7) and a major. Double leaves me badly placed if partner bids diamonds.

Glenn McIntyre: This keeps the majors in play and doesn’t risk an inconvenient rebid over diamonds [if I double].

Gerald Murphy: Hand is too good to pass, and I have the majors… Double doesn’t seem right with only 1 D

Bill Powell: Fractionally off-shape, but very descriptive nonetheless.

Kevin Podsiadlik: I hate to pass with such prime cards. Partner is less likely to insist on diamonds over 1 NT than over a double.

Ernest Skolnik: Action now or I’m totally doomed; opponents [almost] never bid 1 D over 1 C, hence I won’t be able to double later. This is dangerous — but so is crossing the street. Too much defense for Michaels.

Bill Huepenbecker: I must take action due to the hyperactive third-seat white-on-red openers that have become common.

Nick Doe: This is the closest to what I have. I’m very tempted to pass, but that probably just postpones the problem. I’m not tempted to overcall a mediocre four-card major when I have two of them to choose from.

Frans Buijsen: I’ll tell partner I had a spade in with my diamonds. This looks like the best description, getting nearly all my values across in one bid.

Ed Barnes: Waiting for a better chance to overcall 1 NT could take a long time: Good stoppers in clubs; both majors; and a stiff ace is better in the closed hand [than dummy].

Jimmy Hubbard: Although flawed, I want to be in the auction, and other actions seem no better. The first to 1 NT often wins the hand.

Micah Fogel: If the C 7 were a diamond, you’d bid 1 NT in a second; no? This allows us to use all our bidding tools (Stayman, transfers) to find a major fit… In addition, it limits my hand right away. Doubling and correcting 1 D to 1 NT should be stronger, about 18-20. …

Arindam Ray: To avoid a rebidding problem later. [Double] looks unsuitable for a follow-up rebid after a likely diamond response from partner. …

Jeff Ruben: I can’t really stand a diamond bid by partner at any level. This shows my strength, club stopper, and still allows us to find a 4-4 major suit fit via Stayman.

Robin Young: Shows the strength and club stopper; and a major fit can still be found.

Nicoleta Giura: Wrong shape for a double; I wouldn’t know what to do over partner’s 1 D.

Leonard Helfgott: The double club stopper and my stiff being an ace makes this a much better bet than hoping partner doesn’t bid diamonds over an off-shape double. I would never pass; and Michaels with only 4-4 courts disaster.

Michael Spurgeon: Not strong enough to double then bid 1 NT if North responds 1 D.

Robin Zigmond: Stayman exists to find a major fit if there is one. While this isn’t ideal, it’s the most descriptive action available; and I wouldn’t dream of passing a 15-count with such good intermediates and no wasted values.

James Hudson: Pass is all right, but I like to get into the bidding; so I choose the non-pass that constitutes the smallest lie.

Carolyn Ahlert: This is the least lie, and partner can always bid Stayman to find a 4-4 major fit.

Petko Boukov: Smallest lie. … My best suit is clubs, and I’m too strong to pass. Michaels (or unusual notrump) is OK by me with 5-4, or even 6-4; but never 4-4.

Thijs Veugen: Describes my strength, and partner can easily ask for a major if interested.

Fraser Rew: Not pretty, but if I don’t act now I will never catch up. Double, with short diamonds and poor holdings in both majors, is awful…

Rosalind Hengeveld: Of the two sensible options (double being the other) this seems the lesser distortion and comes closer to selling my hand in one bid. It may also shut out West from bidding diamonds, though not from leading them.

Nigel Marlow: The only realistic alternative is double; but if partner bids a lot of diamonds, I won’t be feeling very happy.

Comments for Pass

Roger Morton: I have poor suit intermediates in the majors for 1 NT or a suit overcall. Over a double, partner is likely to bid an awkward number of diamonds. I’ll wait and see.

Donna Engelhart: The auction won’t end here.

Sandy Barnes: No source of tricks eliminates 1 NT; double invites disaster; and no major suit is really worth an overcall.

David Caprera: This hand rates to play two tricks better in a suit, which we might not find if I overcall 1 NT; but the suit quality doesn’t justify a major-suit overcall or a short-suited Michaels. Whenever I double with a hand like this, partner bids diamonds…

Joshua Donn: … I hope to get a chance to act later; but even if I don’t, it may turn out to be a good thing. Even if a major-suit card were a diamond, this would be a very marginal 1 NT bid at best.

John S. Robson: All actions have rebid problems; so why not get more information? One club will not be passed out.

Dimitris Danellakis: I don’t like any action; ergo, I’ll pass, and maybe I can enter the auction later. I have lovely defense values, anyway.

Rinus Balkenende: Trusting partner keeping the bidding alive holding S K-10-x-x-x-x H x-x D J-x-x C J-x, so I don’t need the freebooter 2 C bid here.

Barry Rigal: I hope diamonds get bid and raised so I can double; if not, I’ll opt to defend. Yes, 1 NT might get me to 3 NT; but it might also get me to 1 NT doubled. The last time I saw someone overcall 1 NT on a hand like this (in a Camrose match, no less) it got him to 2 D doubled — not a success.

Sandy McIlwain: None of the actions appeals; each is a distortion with a significant downside. The bidding is still open.

Winston Munn: By process of elimination; everything else has bigger faults. It’s too early to panic, although it is hard to think that pass will get much of a score in a bidding poll.

Bill Cubley: When an opponent bids your [best] suit, you must pass with a lot of strong hands. …

Christian Vennerod: I don’t have to bid just because I have some points.

Stephen Fischer: Maybe I’ll be better placed to bid next round. Bidding a suit is too much of a misdescription; and double risks having to recover after some number of diamonds. One notrump is all right on points, but this hand suggests suit play.

John Haslegrave: There’s not much chance of game, and I don’t fancy a subminimum 1 NT with no source of tricks.

Rainer Herrmann: Any immediate action would misdescribe this hand. Next round I am likely to be in a much better position to judge what to do; and if I do not get another chance, defending against 1 C may well best.

Tom Dawson: While I’m not averse to overcalling a four-card suit, these majors are too weak. Double is less likely to work this round…

Carsten Kofoed: The bidding hasn’t stopped yet, so I won’t panic. Any action now will often lead to our side going down instead of opponents — from time to time doubled.

Ken Brantferger: One notrump is tempting, however, pass seems best without a source of tricks.

Lawrence Cheetham: The singleton D A is not notrumpish, so I’ll bide my time.

John Swanson: I hope to make a descriptive takeout double on the next round. If the opportunity does not arise, we probably don’t belong in the auction.

John R. Mayne: I am not following the doubling herd to…a ridiculous contract. Choices are 1 NT or pass; and total points doth make cowards of us all — or at least us sensible folks. :)

Jim Munday: I will be in good position to judge this hand after hearing more of the auction; no reason to distort the hand initially. Hands with 4-4-4-1 shape do not play well unless partner has a big fit; and my lack of major-suit spots is not a plus either.

Olle Morell: Pass, double or 1 NT; a toss of a three-sided coin? … I hope to make a takeout double later.

Josh Sinnett: There’s simply no good action at this point. If the opponents bid diamonds, I have an easy takeout double next round; or if they bid a major, I can risk an overcall in the other major.

George Klemic: I don’t envision all pass; but if it does, we are probably beating 1 C. I will have a chance later to show this hand.

Scott Stearns: The lack of spot cards leads me to pass now and hope to catch up later.

Dale Freeman: We may not get in the auction; however, alternatives do not look any better.

Dean Pokorny: No need to enter the auction now. If the bidding continues 1 NT P P, or 1 D P 2 D, I will double.

Bill Erwin: Opposite a passed hand and at unfavorable, I will await developments. We probably have no game, and we could go for a big loss if I act.

Paul Friedman: No tricks; no suit; no good bid after partner bids diamonds — but good defense. The bidding isn’t over yet.

Julian Wightwick: The clubs look promising, but the major suits are thin, and the stiff D A is not holding its weight. On balance, this is not worth 1 NT, and neither major is strong enough to overcall.

Jyrki Lahtonen: Ugly. A double risks partner bidding diamonds at an uncomfortably high level; and 1 NT risks playing it there. I expect to get another chance later. …

Paul Flashenberg: I do not feel compelled to bid just because I have 15 HCP. If I had to choose between double and 1 NT, I would double, hoping to find a major-suit fit. However, a 1 D response leaves me poorly placed; so I will bide my time and hope to enter the auction later…

Comments for Double

Blair Seidler: This probably won’t be everyone’s choice, but I firmly believe that a takeout double of a minor asks partner to bid a major. If partner really wants to bid the other minor, I hope he has lots of them. I don’t want to overcall 1 NT with only 3 1/2 tricks opposite a passed hand; and Michaels is a gross misdescription of my offensive potential.

Mitch Edelman: Not the classic shape. Partner may need the practice in playing 4-1 trump fits. :)

Imre Csiszar: This risks reaching a bad diamond contract, but a “safe” pass risks missing a vulnerable game. One notrump and 2 C appear worse distortions than double.

Erik Lauer: Too much to pass; no major strong enough [to bid]; and too control-heavy for a 1 NT overcall.

John Lusky: If my singleton were in a major, I would pass and hope to get in over a response and raise of that major; but with diamond shortness, I won’t be well placed to enter next round on most common auctions. So I think it is better to act right away… Double will work better on a large number of hands where partner has a four-card major; while the texture of the hand seems ill-suited for 1 NT. If partner bids a lot of diamonds, I will have to hope my singleton ace is enough support.

Lajos Linczmayer: If partner has a balanced maximum, or a decent hand with a five-card major, we should reach a game; so I must act directly. To pass and act later is more dangerous and confusing. I prefer double to 1 NT because, if partner is weak, I would hate to play 1 NT doubled…

Ognian Smilianov: None of the answers are perfect, but one thing sure is that I must act. Double is the least terrible…

Chris Maclauchlan: Game is still likely enough that I can’t pass; and 1 NT is dangerous at these colors. The auction is at such a low level that I don’t think there is much danger in doubling, even if partner bids diamonds.

Tim DeLaney: If partner bids 1 D, I will have a problem; but at total points, I will bid 1 NT and hope to go plus. My hand is just too good for major-suit play to do otherwise.

Michael Fosse: I have to get in the auction, and I don’t like my spot cards for 1 NT or a major overcall. …

Bogdan Vulcan: Strange hand; both double and 1 NT have advantages. Double defines shape and strength, although has a nasty rebid after a 1 D response; 1 NT shows points and stopper(s), but is odd with 7 controls, 4-4 in the majors and a singleton. I vote for what seems the least of evils; at least we won’t play a partscore wondering how to bid another easy game.

Brad Theurer: This gives us the best chance of finding a major-suit fit — at the risk of partner bidding diamonds (which does not have to be bad for us).

Sebastien Louveaux: I wouldn’t mind a 1 NT overcall with this shape; but I find the hand a bit too weak, vulnerable, opposite a passed partner, with no source of tricks. …

Richard Morse: I have to act — I think — and it’s between double and 1 NT. If partner can dredge up a major, it should play better than notrump. I will rebid notrump over diamonds.

Mauri Saastamoinen: This might seem a bit strange, but it’s the winning call if partner has either four-card major. Pass is giving up. If I bid 1 NT, we might end up minus 500 or find a wrong contract, e.g., opposite S K-Q-x-x H Q-J-x D x-x-x C K-x-x or S K-Q-x-x H Q-x-x D x-x-x-x C x-x.

Alon Amsel: At total points I don’t want to miss an easy game; five hearts to the ace or five spades to the king might be enough. If I pass and West bids a major, I will just have to keep passing.

Neelotpal Sahai: Prime cards are more suited for suit contracts. Double will bring other suits in play, and I’ll just have to live with partner’s response in diamonds. …

Mark LaForge: I think this is automatic; it’s not like passing or bidding 1 NT will solve [anything]. If partner bids 1 D, I will pass; over any other response, I will have no problem.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 2

Total pointsE-W vulYou, South, hold:
2 S
1 D
3 H
1 S
1 NT
S Q 8 5 3
H K 3 2
D 10 8 7 3
C A 8

4 C1027119
5 D821915
3 S722215
4 H623817
4 D527519
3 NT418513
4 NT1262

Wow. This voting sets a new record for the lowest percentage (19) for the most popular call, as well as for the most tightly packed choices. Hmm… How did that 4 NT bid get in there?

While 4 D got the most votes (barely), the general opinion was to make a forward-going move. I agree with the consensus to show club control, as your hand could easily produce 6 D opposite a shapely two-suiter; e.g., S x H A-Q-J-x D A-K-J-x-x-x C x-x offers an 89-percent play. A few respondents rejected 4 C because it might be taken as natural, but that’s illogical. While you sometimes must respond 1 NT to 1 D with a long club suit, you would hardly do this voluntarily; hence, 1 NT showed a balanced hand, and 4 C is a control-bid implying a fit.

Other slam tries are OK but less helpful. Jumping to 5 D gives a good message about your excellent values lacking the S A, but partner will also infer no C A from failure to bid 4 C. Cue-bidding 3 S is certainly economical; but I think it should show the S A, a potential turnoff for partner when he is void. Some might say that 3 S is a choice-of-games probe, or marking time, but that seems offbeat after showing a limited hand. Blackwood 4 NT is not a slam try of course, but more like a commitment (partner almost surely has two aces) and is properly demoted.

Raising to 4 H is an interesting choice, as it should indicate about what you have in hearts: honor-third. (Partner would not expect four hearts since you failed to make a negative double.) A 4-3 heart contract is likely to play OK, as an effective spade tap will be difficult when East has the S A. At matchpoints 4 H might be the winning choice, aiming to pip those in 5 D; but at IMPs it must be more important to wave the slam flag.

A preference to 4 D is essentially a nothing bid, hardly suggesting four trumps, two prime honors and ruffing potential. Further, a preference by a limited hand is not even forcing*, so you may have some explaining to do when you are plus 150 or 170.

*From the large vote, it is apparent that many thought 4 D was forcing, but I see no precedent for this. Partner may have stretched to compete with shape, and 4 D will turn him off.

What about 3 NT? This sounds like a broken record — reaffirming your 1 NT bid in case partner didn’t hear it (or see it today). Partner rates to be highly distributional, so notrump could be hopeless barring nine top tricks. If opponents can’t beat you in the spade suit, a club shift may do just as well.

Now brace yourself for a shocker, reminiscent of Jack the Ripper in the dark days of London:

West dealsS 7WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH A Q 7 4LightnerDomvilleEly C.Beasley
D A J 6 5 2Pass1 DPass2 D
C Q 4 2PassPassPass
S A 9 6TableS K J 10 4 2
H J 10 9 8H 6 5
D 4D K Q 9
C K J 9 5 3C 10 7 6
S Q 8 5 3
H K 3 2
D 10 8 7 3
C A 8
Britain N-SUSA N-SWestNorthEastSouth
2 D North5 D× NorthTabbushGottliebMorrisJo C.
East leadsEast leadsPass1 D1 S1 NT
Made 3 +110Down 2 -3002 S3 HPass5 D
Britain +410PassPass

The second auction spawned the problem, which Jo Culbertson solved with a straightforward value-bid of 5 D. Morris shrewdly doubled with his well-placed trumps; down two. By today’s standards, the villain of course was Gottlieb, whose 3 H bid was obscene. No modern expert would even consider such a bid; but these were seat-of-the-pants times, before negative doubles, and reverse bids were like a new toy. I was amused by the master’s critique in the book:

Ely Culbertson: In Room 2, South obviously overbid. The proper bid should have been 4 D and passed by North.

Sure, blame the wife… probably can’t cook worth a damn either.

Ancient times were also evident at the first table, where Beasley chose to raise diamonds immediately rather than respond 1 S. (Culbertson’s decision not to overcall is certainly sensible at the vulnerability.) Showing a four-card major was a low priority then, and Q-8-x-x wasn’t even considered “biddable.” In view of some of the hideous contracts reached today, these dinosaur ways may have merit after all.

Comments for 4 C

Thomas Kniest: Partner chose to reverse [into hearts] after I didn’t make a negative double — he might be 6-4; maybe a spade void. I can cover partner’s third club and his fourth heart, and maybe my H K even covers the club loser. I have to show some speed here.

Matthew Mason: There’s no reason why partner can’t have S x H A-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x; but this allows us to stop [in game] if he has S x H A-Q-x-x-x D K-Q-J-x-x-x C x.

Blair Seidler: I’m not willing to insist on notrump with Q-8-5-3, so I may as well cue-bid along the way. If partner has S x H A-Q-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C K-x, 6 D is on a trump break; and the D J or D Q improve on that. Assuming partner bids 4 D next, I intend to bid 4 H, which should be a further cue-bid since I didn’t make a negative double, and I’m unlikely to offer a 4-3 fit with the tap coming in the long hand. …

Roger Morton: This hand has got better and better. I’ll cue-bid to see what else partner can tell me.

Ciaran Coyne: I have to do something encouraging since I could not have less in spades for 1 NT.

Jonathan Brill: Realistically, my hand could not be much better. I can’t be expected to have four hearts because I did not make a negative double, so H K-x-x is gold; likewise are D 10-x-x-x and the C A. Therefore, a cue-bid is clearly indicated.

Gary Spence: If I had a real club suit, I would have bid it instead of 1 NT. Partner must be short in spades, and we have a double fit; so slam is possible.

Jim Grant: Can we make 6 D? Is 4 D forcing or just giving a preference? I wish I’d raised diamonds instead of bidding 1 NT. Partner ought to take 4 C as forward-going and agreeing diamonds. If I had four hearts, surely I would have made a negative double.

David Caprera: The fourth diamond, the big H K, the C A, a ruffing value, and not too much wasted in spades all make this hand a relative monster. This shows club control…

Imre Csiszar: The honest cue-bid appears the best way to reach seven with some confidence, though a double by West may give us a dilemma, as with a club lead this rates to be a five-or-seven hand. As 6 D appears cold with a spade lead, I might have preferred that if it were listed.

I always wondered if the word “hungry” was derived from the country. Now I’m sure of it.

Damo Nair: This has to show support for partner’s suit(s)… I cannot possibly have a suit good enough to bid at the four level and not be able to bid 2 C.

Joshua Donn: How could a 1 NT bidder be introducing a natural club suit now? Four diamonds or 4 H do not approach doing this hand justice, as partner with S -- H Q-J-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C K-x would have no reason to go beyond game. …

Peter Smulders: Control in clubs; slam interest.

John S. Robson: This should ask partner for more information; he may only have four hearts.

Jess Cohen: Partner is probably 5-6 with spade shortness and a good hand. I’m hoping for SH A-Q-J-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C K-x, as I haven’t given up on seven.

Michael Palitsch: I like my hand: good support for diamonds, 3 controls and a possible ruffing value in clubs.

Barry Rigal: A great hand for both diamonds and hearts. This has to be a cue-bid, though some would say a choice of games. Bidding 3 S might sound like the ace and discourage partner.

Erik Lauer: This must show the C A and [slam] interest…

Alain Boudon: A control-bid, agreeing diamonds and [implying] something useful in hearts.

Stefan Jonsson: A cue-bid, heading for 6 D. Partner has at least 1=4=5=3 distribution with strong values, or more distribution.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Three notrump also looks like a reasonable choice; but with a nine-card fit, 5 D can be played, and even a slam (6 D) is possible. This shows the C A.

Gerald Murphy: Slam looks like a strong possibility after the reverse in hearts. I will cue-bid 4 C now (this can’t be a real suit) and raise diamonds later to show the true layout. …

Alan Brooks: Get the cue-bid out of the way, then raise hearts — with no negative double, that’s three-card support. I can select diamonds [later] if partner makes a choice-of-slams bid…

John Lusky: As SH A-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x is odds-on to make a grand, I want to try for slam. This must be a cue-bid in support of partner.

Bill Powell: Six diamonds may well be on, and revealing the C A could be vital in getting there.

Winston Munn: With a big red two-suiter opposite, my hand has grown. It appears we’re playing in a 30-point deck with partner’s expected spade shortness. Next I will correct 4 H to 5 D or raise 4 D to 5 D.

Barry White: I’m happy to cooperate for a slam; and if no slam, stay at a comfortable level. Partner could have S x H A-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x.

Bill Cubley: Much as we all like 3 NT, it might well go set while 6 D makes. I will use this opportunity to sneak in a cue-bid. My diamond length, H K and C A are big for us.

Nick Doe: I had better tell partner the good news that my hand has less wastage in spades than he might expect.

Frans Buijsen: Partner knows from my 1 NT bid I don’t have four hearts, so he looks to have a strong 5-6. I’ll start cueing with 4 C, looking for a red slam.

Lajos Linczmayer: The lot of bidding suggests that opponents may have a nine-card fit and partner has a 6-4 or 6-5 distribution. My hand is super; the C A, H K and four-card diamond support are sure values. If partner has S -- H A-Q-J-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x-x, I would like to play 7 D. Opposite S x H A-Q-J-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x, or S -- H Q-J-x-x-x D A-K-J-x-x-x C Q-x, 6 D is a decent contract. If partner bids 4 S, I should invite him for a grand; maybe I will risk to bid 5 H.

Eugene Dille: An advance cue-bid. A grand slam is possible if partner has SH A-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x.

Sartaj Hans: Let’s try confusing partner.

Karl Barth: My hand sure grew! Sure, the S Q is wallpaper; but [the rest] is gold. Four clubs and 3 S seem like the only calls that make sense. This should be a cue-bid… and I will [raise] diamonds later.

Micah Fogel: Partner is 5-6 (or better) in the reds, else he has a huge hand… Therefore, 4 C must be a cue-bid; and when I correct partner’s next bid to 5 D, he should know the score.

Kevin Conway: This should be cue-bid for diamonds since I did not make negative double. If partner thinks it shows clubs, I will convert to diamonds of course.

Rainer Herrmann: If an undiscussed bid could have a natural meaning, that should be the interpretation by default. However, with a club suit worthy of introducing as a trump suit, I would not have made a free bid of 1 NT on the previous round. … So this must be an advanced cue-bid (to be followed by 5 D); partner could hold S -- H A-Q-J-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x-x).

Carsten Kofoed: With opponents competing despite the vulnerability, 3 H surely shows more distribution than high cards; but I have rather good cards for my 1 NT bid. I think this shows diamond support (a good raise) since I did not double 1 S.

John Swanson: As little as H A-Q-x-x and D A-K-x-x-x-x gives us a play for slam; and this cue-bid will give us a shot at bidding it.

John R. Mayne: An advance cue-bid — even at the Phoenix Hotel in London. If I don’t know where I am, maybe that’s why I don’t know what my bids mean. :)

Leonard Helfgott: Spades are wrong for 3 NT; 3 S is nebulous; and 4 D is totally inadequate. … The value bid is 5 D; but the cue-bid shows a good hand [and the C A]. If partner simply returns to 4 D, I will raise to five. …

Josh Sinnett: A cue-bid, intending to bid 5 D next. Partner should play me for one more useful card, else I would have supported a red suit rather than cue-bid. Slam is not out of the question, e.g., opposite something like S x H A-Q-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C K-x-x.

Tim DeLaney: I will support diamonds next. At total points, there is no great need to play in hearts rather than diamonds.

Bogdan Vulcan: Suddenly my junky hand became a monster, with excellent controls and fits in partner’s suits. …

Jorge Castanheira: I have a maximum for my previous bid, a golden fit and useful key cards. Partner will know I have a diamond fit because with hearts I would have doubled previously. …

Nigel Guthrie: … Opposite a red reverse, this hand is promising, so I make an advance cue-bid. As an expression of joy, 4 NT may sum it up [better], but that is far too unilateral.

Dale Freeman: A cue-bid in support of diamonds — the good fit, H A and C A are nice [values].

Bill Erwin: A cue-bid. We may have slam opposite S x H A-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x.

Martins Egle: Cue-bid for a possible diamond slam. I expect partner to be 4-6, or even 5-6.

Comments for 5 D

Guillaume Lafon: Slam seems far away, so I’ll just bid what I think we can make.

Dimitris Danellakis: In 4 H, partner’s hand will get tapped a lot, so he could lose trump control. Moreover, I don’t like 3 NT either. Slam is too uncertain. …

Christian Vennerod: Partner is [likely] 5-6 and strong; probably void in spades. This is clearly a cue-bid; opposite S -- H A-Q-10-x-x D A-Q-J-x-x-x C K-x, we belong in six.

Jack Rhatigan: I think my values are close to bidding 6 D, but 4 NT doesn’t fit. …

Alain Lacourse: Three hearts is forcing, showing at least four hearts and five diamonds, and a good…hand. This lets partner know I have a diamond and [values] for game.

Dirk Enthoven: Partner has a very strong hand, and [may be] 5-6 in the reds. … Bidding 4 D or 4 H looks too much like a close-out, so with two working cards 5 D seems in order; partner can decide on six.

John Haslegrave: I am worried about diamond ruffs if I choose the 8-card fit over the 10-card fit, [assuming partner is 5-6 in the red suits].

Jim Munday: Is 3 H game-forcing? I don’t believe so. Slam is in the picture, but I don’t know enough to use Blackwood myself. I want to set diamonds as trumps and show working cards. I’d like to have a trump honor, but I do have four of them. Partner should play me for a couple of working cards and bid the slam when it has a good play.

George Klemic: Either red-suit game [should] have a play, but this rates to be the safer spot. I have a good hand relative to the auction, and 4 D would be nonforcing.

Michael Fosse: Partner is going to be tapped in spades, so I’ll give him the longer trump suit. Also, he may need to ruff a heart.

Petko Boukov: I imagine partner has something like S x H A-Q-10-x D A-K-J-x-x C Q-J-x. I limited my hand with 1 NT, so we could miss a slam; but I cannot afford to miss game by bidding only 4 D. Four hearts is a dangerous game because spade leads will shorten the longer trump hand.

Paul Flashenberg: Partner is either 5-6 in the red suits, or has a big hand; in either case, game should be a good proposition. My S Q is wasted, but four-card diamond support and a useful ace and king are too much for a simple preference…

Comments for 3 S

Sandy Barnes: My S Q is useless, but my C A and H K are great cards to be added to my four-card diamond support. Partner wouldn’t expect this much after my 1 NT call.

Lorne Anderson: I will play 3 NT if partner bids it; else I will cue-bid 5 C over 4 D, as slam is possible.

Justin Lall: It’s unclear which strain or level we will end up in. I will pass 4 H; otherwise, raise diamonds (I will not play 3 NT).

Chris Moore: I have definite slam ambitions.

Jerry Merrell: I am committing to a red-suit game because of my spade length opposite partner’s shapely hand. A raise to 4 H might cause the minor-suit game to be missed, and a raise to 4 D may be passed.

Sven Neirynck: … I have a wonderful hand (H K, C A, four trumps and ruffing potential) so slam is in reach.

Ernest Skolnik: If partner is 6-5, I want to hear about it; won’t guess by bidding 4 H. A diamond slam is probably on a finesse.

Stephen Fischer: This hand is just getting better and better. I can’t have four hearts, so it’s unlikely partner will insist on the wrong red suit.

Manuel Paulo: The H K and C A are sure values; and even the S Q may be useful, e.g., to squeeze East for 12 tricks if partner has S x H A-Q-x-x D A-K-J-x-x-x C Q-x.

Don Hinchey: I have a nice hand on the bidding, but I’m not sure I want to bypass 3 NT. …

Ognian Smilianov: The question is which game, and I’ll give partner a chance for one more bid before deciding. Slam is remote but not ruled out, especially if partner is void in spades. If partner has a singleton honor in spades, 3 NT may be the safest contract — which is why I keep the bidding below 3 NT. …

Michael G. Phillips: I will be bidding clubs next.

I like your style. When partner shows a red two-suiter keep feeding him black suits and watch him dance.

Arindam Ray: I am willing to play 3 NT if partner has a partial stopper. …

Tom Dawson: … I will bid 5 D over partner’s next bid.

Chris Maclauchlan: I have a great hand for partner. … This followed by 5 C should get my message across. Partner should know I am unlikely to have four hearts, so he should [assume] these bids are in support of diamonds.

David Wiltshire: Establishing a game force. I will next raise diamonds to suggest slam interest.

James Hudson: An encouraging noise on the way to game.

Brad Theurer: Not sure where this hand belongs; could be diamonds, hearts or notrump. This cue-bid shows some doubt about notrump; and since I have little wastage in spades, it shows willingness to play elsewhere. Not sure if partner has five hearts, so I’ll stall and let him describe further.

Dean Pokorny: Showing a diamond fit and decent hand. If partner rebids 3 NT (singleton S A or S K), I will pass; else we will play 4 H, 5 D or 6 D.

Richard Morse: Despite my meager point count, I like the fit with partner and feel we are headed for game. It sounds as if he has decent length in hearts and diamonds. … Next I will cue-bid the C A. If you ever decide to have a poll for the worst bid (rather than the best), I would suggest 3 NT on this hand as a contender.

Jack Brawner: When in doubt, punt.

Alon Amsel: I’m way too strong for 4 D or 5 D. Partner might have a minimum opening with 1=5=6=1 shape, in which case we should play 4 H; otherwise I will try to reach 6 D.

Julian Wightwick: My hand looks huge for diamonds, with less wastage in spades than partner will expect. If partner is 5-6, a grand could be old. … This leaves me well placed to bid 5 C next time.

Jyrki Lahtonen: The red-suit double fit gives us some slam potential…so I’ll bid 3 S to show interest… If partner bids the expected 4 D, I will cue-bid 5 C, getting most of my values off my chest.

Comments for 4 H

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: … Partner will [often] have 5-6 distribution. Opposite something like S x H A-J-x-x-x D K-Q-J-x-x-x C x, 4 H is the best contract. Partner knows I usually won’t have a four-card heart suit (no negative double), so this tends to show a top honor; otherwise I would bid 3 NT or support diamonds. If partner is stronger, he can still make a move, as 1 NT showed a positive hand.

Neelotpal Sahai: Partner is distributional with a big hand. Additionally, I am aware both sides have a double fit. If opponents compete to 4 S, I will bid 5 D.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 3

Total pointsN-S vulYou, South, hold:

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

5 S1036025
5 NT9765
5 D737326
5 H617612
6 D518813
6 H4534
4 NT321015

East’s pass of 1 D was the calm before the spade storm. Now it’s a question of which red suit to bid and how many. While 5 D got the most votes, it could hardly be considered the consensus when 62 percent were willing to insist on slam. One good reason to be optimistic is that opponents have to guess whether to sacrifice, so you can afford to play a little poker.

Of the slam moves, 5 S easily wins the top spot. Besides promising a fit* and committing to slam, it keeps the possibility of seven alive by earmarking the first-round spade control. All partner needs is S x-x-x H A-x D K-J-x-x-x C A-x-x for a nearly cold grand, and with that hand he should bid it. Some will argue that advertising the void may induce a save; a valid point, but you can’t have everything.

*Partner should assume a diamond fit; though it is possible the cue-bid is based on a self-sufficient heart suit, intending to correct. Some respondents felt it asked partner to choose the trump suit, but I see no precedent for that. Standard practice is that cue-bids beyond 3 NT indicate a clear direction.

Five notrump* also deserves high marks, as it might resolve the issue about whether to play diamonds or hearts; e.g., partner should bid 6 H with S A-x-x H Q-x D K-J-x-x C K-x-x-x, which would save the day when a heart ruff beats 6 D. Even so, this concern seems secondary to showing spade control.

*I did not stipulate the meaning of 5 NT, as most partnerships would have no agreement on this auction. Logically, I think it should mean “pick a slam among bid suits” (i.e., clubs and notrump excluded). No doubt, some respondents rejected 5 NT for fear of misinterpretation.

Ranking the red-suit bids was difficult. After much consternation, I decided to rank 5 D and 5 H ahead of the respective six-bids for three reasons: (1) Tactics in not advertising the intent to bid slam, (2) flexibility in allowing a subsequent six-bid in the other red suit or 5 NT, and (3) voter preference. At the vulnerability, opponents likely have a good save against anything you can make, so buying the contract is important. On a good day, opponents will compete to 5 S; but when you push to six, they will not bid 6 S because they think you’ve overbid.

What about 4 NT? Some respondents thought it was for takeout, which would be great; but it’s Blackwood by any precedent in standard bidding. Usually, asking for aces with a void would be foolish, but it’s not as bad here due to tactical considerations. One could dream that it might cause East to try to cash the S A when a singleton heart lead would beat 6 D.

Here’s what happened in the London fog:

North dealsS 6 5WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH A 6BeasleyLightnerDomvilleEly C.
D K J 5 31 CPass1 H
C A 8 7 3 21 SPass2 S3 S
S A Q 10 9 7 3TableS K J 8 4 24 SPassPass4 NT
H 3H Q 10 2Pass5 DPass6 D
D 7 6D 10 4 2All Pass
C Q J 10 9C 6 5
H K J 9 8 7 5 4
D A Q 9 8
C K 4
USA N-SBritain N-SWestNorthEastSouth
6 D North5 H SouthJo C.TabbushGottliebMorris
East leadsWest leads1 CPass2 H
Made 7 +1390Made 7 +710Pass2 NTPass3 D
Pass5 DPass5 H
USA +680PassPassPass

To improve the problem (i.e., to make South aware of the fit) I took the liberty to change the opening to 1 D, which I think many (if not most) experts would choose to avoid a rebid problem after 1 C P 1 H P.* I also threw in some real-life spade activity, unlike the paltry raise by Domville. Two spades? Really.

*Opening 1 D not only allows a convenient 2 C rebid but provides a better lead-director if you end up defending. I seldom open 1 D with 4-5 in the minors but would do so here.

At the first table, 4 NT was not Blackwood (that wasn’t invented yet) but probably a variation of the Culbertson 4 NT.* In any event, it may have provided a tactical advantage, as the subsequent raise to 6 D over Lightner’s sign-off left mystery in the air.

*Supposedly, 4 NT shows three aces or two aces and a king of a bid suit; but the hand lacks in either department. Perhaps Ely treated his spade void as an ace, or perhaps he was just being tricky to avert a save.

Curiously, the British failed to reach the laydown slam at the second table without interference. While I don’t know their system details, it seems Tabbush passed 5 H because he lacked spade control; but how could Morris bid 5 H (lacking the H A) without spade control? In 5 H, Morris won all 13 tricks by taking the heart finesse — perhaps eschewing the normal play per Culbertson’s (bogus) Law of Symmetry — not that it mattered much after missing the slam.

The actual deal also expounds the point of buying the contract as the primary goal. Note that 7 D is cold, but it is better to play in only 6 D (or 6 H) than have the opponents bid 7 S (down 5) over 7 D.

Comments for 5 S

Thomas Kniest: The sky’s still the limit!

Matthew Mason: Showing a spade void, but directionless. If partner bids 5 NT for clarification, I will bid 6 D to show what’s going on.

I once knew a guy who was directionless with a void. Only trouble, the void was in his head.

Jouko Paganus: Seven is still possible; partner can have the H A, D K and C A in his minimum opening. …

Guillaume Lafon: Stopping below slam seems extremely pessimistic, and I have no bid to describe this monster. This seems more encouraging, and I hope partner makes the right decision. …

Mitch Edelman: It’s conceivable that partner has a flat, aceless hand with much spade wastage, e.g., S K-Q-x H x-x D K-J-x-x-x C Q-J-10; but I would not open that hand in first seat, vulnerable, at any form of scoring.

Roger Morton: Partner’s silence on the second round increases the chances of a balanced hand opposite, and he won’t have too many wasted spade values. I’ll blast a slam; if we’re off two aces, opponents might sacrifice anyway. I’ll cue-bid to see if partner really has a diamond suit. Why on earth did I not jump shift in hearts on the first round? Or is that a weak bid these days?

Sandy Barnes: I want to keep hearts in the picture since partner may have two [or three] hearts; and I also want to let him know I have primary diamond support with first-round spade control.

Jonathan Brill: I object to this problem. I had a strong jump shift to 2 H at my first turn, and should not have to worry about showing slam interest now… But, given the problem, clearly it is time to just haul off and bid a slam. Question is: Should it be in diamonds or hearts? I will ask and show my void.

At PavCo we cater to all objectors. Just press “Abstain” and you’ll be hauled away to Al Roth’s laboratory.

Jim Grant: Opponents have done well to cloud the issue. We have two places to play, so the decision is whether to offer the choice with 5 S, or just bid 6 D because partner will never read me for a seven-card heart suit. Well, partner could still have three hearts…so I offer the choice.

David Caprera: This hand is too good not to bid at least a small slam; and partner needs as little as S x-x-x H A-x D K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x to make 7 D just about cold. But I don’t know which suit to play in. Five notrump should mean “pick one” but gives up on the grand; 5 S sends the same meaning but invites seven.

Justin Lall: I want to show the first-round spade control in case we have a grand. I plan to follow up with 6 D.

Joshua Donn: Partner shouldn’t have too much wasted in spades after not rebidding 1 NT, so I am willing to shoot out a slam at least. I hope he realizes the power of the round aces and D K.

Jess Cohen: Asking partner to pick between his suit and mine, and showing a spade void. This will probably result in a guess over 6 S; but partner doesn’t need much for seven, e.g., S x-x H A-x-x D K-J-x-x C A-x-x-x.

Michael Palitsch: I hope to show a good hand with a spade void, asking partner to pick a suit and level (small or grand slam). I will correct any club bid to diamonds.

Rinus Balkenende: Giving the grand all chances — looking for a dull hand like S J-x-x H A-x D K-J-x-x-x C A-x-x.

Jerry Merrell: This tells partner I have spade control and slam-going values, and he should infer that I have either a self-sufficient heart suit or…diamond support…

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: My hand is huge, and six will usually make. This shows my spade void on the way to 6 D or 6 H, so partner may be able to bid seven.

Jean-Christophe Clement: A slam is likely (6 H or 6 D) even if North is minimum…

Sandy McIlwain: This grand-slam try leaves options open in both suits. It’s a bit hard to imagine not making [six] in one of the reds.

Alan Brooks: Four notrump (two places to play) is best; but I’m afraid it might be Blackwood — or partner might think it is. This is second best, and still keeps seven open if partner can bid clubs [to show the C A].

John Lusky: As many minimums, like S x-x-x H A-x-x D K-J-x-x C A-x-x, will likely make a grand, I am going to take the slight risk that we are off two cashing aces and commit the hand to slam. The opponents’ bidding and partner’s failure to bid 1 NT over 1 S [suggest] partner will not have a lot of wasted spade values.

Bill Powell: Suggesting a grand if partner has no wastage in spades.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Lots of plausible options here, but 5 NT is needlessly ambiguous (and probably should be the grand slam force); and six of either red suit is too committal.

Barry White: … If partner can cue-bid 6 C, we might have a grand (e.g., facing S x-x-x H A-x D K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x) via 6 C 6 D; 6 H 7 D.

Christian Vennerod: With only four losers, we belong in six at least. … Partner may have the D K and both rounded aces; but will he see that it gives us a play for seven? If 5 NT is “pick a slam,” this should be a grand-slam invitation with a void in spades.

Nick Doe: Partner seems to have a weak notrump, and 7 D may prove awkward if he only has four trumps — even if he has the three key cards I am hoping for. … Partner may well have five diamonds, and I think I am too good to settle for 6 D (my second choice).

Frans Buijsen: It doesn’t look like partner’s pass was based on a [spade stack], so I think he has a minimum balanced hand with no spade stopper. Opposite a dead-minimum S x-x-x H A-x-x D K-J-x-x C A-x-x, we’re almost cold for seven; so I’ll make a strong move. …

Lajos Linczmayer: I think it is better than even money that we have a slam, but I am uncertain about the trump suit. Partner may have S x-x-x H A D K-J-x-x-x-x C Q-J-x, or S A-x H Q-x-x D J-x-x-x C A-Q-J-x. If he has S x-x-x H A-x D K-J-x-x-x C A-x-x, we should get to 7 D.

Stephen Fischer: Seven looks like a better shot than five; and showing spade control is likely to be critical in finding any grand.

Don Hinchey: I would have bid 2 H initially. Now, 5 D isn’t enough; so I will be aggressive, inviting partner to pick a slam and showing control of spades. A grand is still in the picture.

Michael G. Phillips: Partner has surely denied many wasted values in spades when he passed 1 S, so slam should be gin. …

Jeff Ruben: We could easily have a grand if partner does not have too much in spades. Hopefully, he can figure out I have hearts and diamonds, and make the correct decision if an opponent bids 6 S.

Rainer Herrmann: One more effort, but we can probably say good-bye to the grand, even if it happens to be laydown. The problem is flawed because it was aggravated by the 1 H response; after all, the spade preempt hardly came as a surprise. “Experienced players know that rules are made to be broken — or at least bent. Judgment and foresight are the keys to avoid awkward predicaments.” -RP. A jump shift response (1) might have shut out the opponents, (2) would create a handy forcing-pass option, (3) would immediately establish a game force and invite slam, and (4) focus closer on bid suits. …

Rainer makes some good points (despite that dude he quoted) and I do agree that 2 H is a better start. I must admit that I was biased in presenting the problem. In all my regular partnerships I play weak jump shifts (and always have) so I was influenced by my ways. -RP

Tom Dawson: I’ll bid 6 D over 6 C; pass 6 D or 6 H; or bid 6 H over 5 NT.

Chris Maclauchlan: Partner did not bid 1 NT, and so should not have a concentration of values in spades, which means we should play for slam at the very least. This followed by 6 D should give partner the message (I think I have to pass if he bids 6 D or 6 H).

Nicoleta Giura: Slam [should] still be makable opposite a minimum opening… I’ll correct 5 NT or 6 C to 6 D.

Jan Andersson: I bid “exclusion Blackwood” in a previous poll and was informed the convention wasn’t allowed — but I got maximum points that time. :)

Josh Sinnett: Showing the spade control on the way to six. I’ll correct 6 C to 6 D; or pass either red-suit bid.

George Klemic: Slam seems odds-on, but the level is still a question. This seems the best way to get partner interested, as it should [indicate] support for his suit as well [as spade control].

Peter Gill: Followed by 6 D next time — assuming there is a next time. :)

Bogdan Vulcan: Showing a good hand, a wonderful fit and a spade void. … Maybe we’ll play in a grand opposite S Q-x-x H A-x D K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x (or without S Q); and if I bid only 5 D or 6 D, the auctions ends. Of course, partner could have the nightmare hand: S A-x-x H x-x D K-J-x-x-x-x C A-x, where six may go down; but I think it’s worth the risk.

Jorge Castanheira: Maybe opponents won’t let us play 6 D or 6 H; but at least partner will know what to do. If West passes and partner cue-bids 6 C, I will bid 7 D — I would not expect a cooperative move without the C A, H A and D K.

Brad Theurer: This hand is too good for 5 D or 5 H. I will bid 6 D over 5 NT or 6 C. My hearts aren’t good enough to commit to that suit, as partner could be short. …

Sebastien Louveaux: The perfect 11-count makes a grand slam easy (S x-x-x H A-x D K-x-x-x-x C A-x-x), so I should at least give it a try.

Comments for 5 NT

Blair Seidler: Bid a slam in one of our suits. If I were 0=6=5=2 with the same high-card structure, I would bid 6 D. I can’t just bid 6 H because partner will always be 3=1=5=4 (or worse) when I do.

Imre Csiszar: Six diamonds has tactical merit; opponents may let us play 7 D if they believe we were unwillingly pushed to it by their 6 S save. Still, 5 NT to “pick a slam” should be technically correct; if partner picks hearts, it may well be that 7 H is on and 7 D fails (West may have a heart void, or either opponent D J-x-x-x).

Barry Rigal: Offering a choice of slams, initially with both minors on the agenda; but I will convert 6 C to 6 D to give partner a chance to go back to 6 H with, e.g., a 2=3=4=4 pattern. I won’t stop below slam, though I admit there is a certain amount of guesswork.

Glenn McIntyre: We could have a grand, but I’d be happy getting to the correct small slam; hence 5 NT. If I bid 5 S instead, it would likely leave me with the last guess.

Gerald Murphy: I am not giving up on a slam in hearts or diamonds, and this will let partner decide which.

Winston Munn: I don’t expect the bidding to die any time soon, so I will offer partner a choice of slams with 5 NT. Hopefully, knowing I have diamond help, he will be better able to judge what to do over the following 6 S bid.

Manuel Paulo: I have a very good offensive hand; so I ask partner to pick a slam.

Ed Barnes: Can’t keep me out of slam on this one; but which slam is best? That seems to be partner’s problem now.

John Haslegrave: Pick a slam. I’ll correct 6 C to 6 D, obviously.

John Swanson: Without an agreed suit, this asks partner to choose a slam. … We probably want to play in hearts if partner holds Q-x, but not if he holds A-x, though it is essentially impossible to get him to [judge] that difference. Five spades is perhaps a tiny overbid and also pinpoints a club lead…

Olle Morell: Terrible situation. … I would like one more true ace for 5 S (my second choice); and I don’t know what 4 NT would yield as I have a void. I’ll ask partner to pick a slam and take out 6 C to 6 D.

David Wiltshire: This should be “pick a slam.” I hope we don’t miss seven, but I don’t dare risk 5 S without the C A…

Julian Wightwick: Pick a slam. This is a little aggressive given partner’s low-level pass, but bidding at the five level seems conservative. I am hoping the opponents’ fierce bidding means that partner has little wasted in spades.

Comments for 5 D

Dimitris Danellakis: I have doubtful values in clubs and hearts; and partner [may] have doubtful values in spades, so slam is uncertain. Vulnerability is wrong to double, and 4 NT won’t help me; so 5 D

Stefan Jonsson: Partner should have 4-5 diamonds and…a minimum. It would be nice if 4 NT were a distributional takeout with hearts and a minor.

Ernest Skolnik: Go quietly and hope partner has a play. The auction isn’t necessarily over, by the way.

Dirk Enthoven: Trying to walk the dog. …

Carsten Kofoed: This leaves the door open, while 5 H closes other options. Opponents either have a cheap sacrifice or can beat a slam with a ruff; so [bidding six] has lots to lose and little to gain.

Robin Young: Showing positive support for partner’s suit may enable him to go higher.

Leonard Helfgott: Partner can probably figure out the spade situation; and since he didn’t raise hearts competitively earlier, I’m happy to play diamonds. Not enough tickets to insist on slam; not enough heart honors to insist on hearts.

Tim DeLaney: Partner’s pass is a warning signal. I should not be surprised to find him with better spades than hearts.

Robin Zigmond: First, I think diamonds will…be a better place to play than hearts, as partner should have bid 2 H on [many] minimum openings with three-card support. Slam will always be just a punt, as partner could be very minimum [with] wasted values in spades. So I’ll be conservative for once.

Steve Moese: Opposite certain minimums, this is all we can make. With right fit, partner might continue, and we’ll find six. Five spades appears too unilateral as to level.

Nigel Guthrie: Preempts work! If East-West have their bids, slam is likely. Unfortunately, nonvulnerable opponents often indulge in flights of fancy, and there is little room to explore. Hence, I’ll take the money in game. If opponents proceed to 5 S, partner is likely to have few wasted spade values, so slam prospects improve; then 5 NT becomes a reasonable shot.

Jack Brawner: What I want to do is bid 4 NT as a two-suited takeout, planning to correct clubs to diamonds; however, unless we have discussed it, partner is going to [assume] Blackwood. “When opponents preempt, just try to land on your feet.”

David Colbert: Partner’s pass is ominous.

Neelotpal Sahai: Prospects of slam are slim, requiring correct cards from partner; so I will settle for game for the time being.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Seven-card suits don’t belong in dummy, I know; but this ragged one won’t look misplaced. Finding a good game, or even a sacrifice, has priority over dreaming about slam in such competitive auctions.

Nigel Marlow: It feels like I want to be in slam; but on a bad day, partner could have S A-x-x H Q-x D K-J-x-x-x C Q-J-x, and there is no play for it. I suppose 4 NT as ordinary Blackwood will avoid the above problem; but what if partner’s [ace is somewhere else]? Partner is surely marked with a marginal hand after his pass of 1 S, so 5 D seems percentage to me.

Comments for 5 H

Micah Fogel: I’ve been stampeded! I’m sure this is a four-or-six hand.

Jim Munday: With 6-4 in the red suits, I’d consider bringing diamonds into play. Partner’s failure to act over 1 S is interesting — likely not much wasted in spades — so even opposite a singleton, hearts figures to be the right strain.

Comments for 6 D

Michael Fosse: I won’t discourage a spade lead when we haven’t much of a heart fit. Partner is likely to be 3=2=5=3, 3=1=5=4 or 3=2=4=4. A grand may be there; but a heart lead may kill 6 D.

Dean Pokorny: I’m not enough strong for 5 S, and 4 NT doesn’t show the spade void.

Richard Morse: Difficult to know how high to go after the successful barrage from East-West; but 5 D feels too wet despite partner’s ominous silence over 1 S. … This has some risk of being too high, and some risk of missing the grand…

Mauri Saastamoinen: Difficult hand to bid; but partner will have chances even with this lousy collection: S Q-x-x-x H x D K-J-x-x C A-Q-x-x.

Alon Amsel: Better to play in a 5-4 fit than a 7-1 or 7-2 fit…

Thijs Veugen: This should play at least as good as 6 H.

Paul Flashenberg: … Slam only requires a modicum of useful points from partner. We even have a grand if partner has the three magic cards; however, partners rarely do, so I’ll settle for bidding the baby and hope that if partner has nothing in hearts (a worthless doubleton), he can work out the hearts.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 4

Total pointsNone vulYou, South, hold:
2 H
3 H
2 NT1
S A K 10 4
H K 6
D A K 8
C K Q 10 8
1. asks for feature if not minimum

5 H1043530
4 C9201
4 H841829
3 NT6816
3 S5846
4 NT439127
4 D270

This problem offered a cute disguise for my venue this month, as nobody ever heard of a weak two-bid in 1933. Sure enough; both Norths passed when the deal occurred. Nonetheless, I thought it would be an interesting problem today, and so it proved with a closely divided vote among three choices.

The consensus was right on the money with the best way to answer the question: How good is your heart suit? Nice work! Partner needs good hearts for slam, and 5 H focuses on this need.* Holding A-Q-x-x-x-x, partner should bid 6 H; but with A-10-x-x-x-x, he should pass. With A-J-x-x-x-x, he probably should also pass; but at least six has a play if he bids it.

*Raises to five in a major ask for (1) control in the enemy suit if they have bid, (2) control in the unbid suit if only one unbid suit exists, else (3) good trumps relative to the bidding.

Another slam move that appeals to me is 4 C, despite only 20 votes. This could be the magic bullet if you catch partner with S x H A-10-9-x-x-x D x-x C J-9-x-x (good 6 C); and if partner rebids 4 H, you can still bid 5 H to ask about trumps. The danger is that partner may raise clubs with J-x-x (conceivably x-x-x); but even then, 6 C might be the only prayer for slam (e.g., S x-x H A-9-8-x-x-x D Q-x C J-x-x). If nothing else, it is enterprising.

Other new-suit bids (3 S and 4 D) seem useless. Neither is apt to find a better strain (partner is unlikely to have four spades, and surely not Q-x-x-x) so the subsequent bidding will only cloud the issue about needing good hearts for slam. Therefore, I decided to rank 4 H and 3 NT next, if only because simplicity should prevail when there is no obvious advantage in getting fancy.

Blackwood is also a misguided slam venture, as knowledge of one ace in partner’s hand is useless. You need to find out about the H Q, and Blackwood won’t do it.* It’s amazing how often a simple, natural bid will accomplish more than a convention.

*Even Roman key-card (which is not part of the system) won’t help, as the one-ace reply (5 D) leaves no room to ask for the trump queen. Yes, “1430” responses would work — but that’s not allowed either.

Thump, thump! What’s that I hear? Yes, it’s the heartthrob of a female culbersaurus in distress:

West dealsS 3WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH A J 9 7 5 2Ely C.BeasleyLightnerDomville
D J 7 3PassPassPass2 NT
C 7 6 4Pass3 HPass3 NT
S Q J 8 6 2TableS 9 7 5Pass4 HPassPass
H 3H Q 10 8 4Pass
D Q 6 5 2D 10 9 4
C A 9 3C J 5 2
S A K 10 4
H K 6
D A K 8
C K Q 10 8
Britain N-SUSA N-SWestNorthEastSouth
4 H North5 H NorthMorrisJo C.TabbushGottlieb
East leadsEast leadsPassPassPass1 S
Made 4 +420Down 1 -50Pass2 HPass3 C
Pass3 HPass4 NT
Britain +470Pass5 CPass5 H

As I mentioned, there were no weak two-bids in those days, so both Norths routinely passed. Domville opened 2 NT, and Beasley just bid his hearts twice — sorry, no transfers either — ending in the best spot. Well done! Two dinosaurs easily outbid most of today’s experts (this writer included) by going plus on an ill-fated deal.

At the second table, Gottlieb chose to open 1 S, no doubt milking the new “approach forcing” concept. Jo Culbertson bid and rebid her hearts (2-over-1 then was bid on air). Gottlieb trotted out the Culbertson 4 NT (promising two aces and the king of a bid suit); and 5 C (cheapest naturally bid suit) was the denial. While makable at double-dummy, Jo had no mirrors and was down one. Curiously, I think 6 H is a better contract than 5 H in the long run.

Comments for 5 H

Rita Redlich: Partner does not have the C A. This asks partner to bid 6 H if he has two of the top three honors in hearts.

Matthew Mason: Perfect! Asking if there are two heart losers. Partner will go on with H A-Q, but not with Q-J or A-J. The five level should be safe.

Blair Seidler: I can’t stand it. If partner is opening filth in second seat at equal vulnerability, 5 H may be down. If he has H A-Q-x-x-x-x and out, I’ll take my chances in six. I’d love to cue-bid, but new suits here are natural and forcing. On a side note, I wish I had 4 C “modified Roman key-card” available over 2 H, since that would make this a non-problem; I would be able to pass 4 H (one key card, no H Q), bid a slam over 4 S (one key card with H Q) or 4 NT (two key cards, no H Q), or perhaps even a grand over 5 C (two key cards with H Q).

Jeff Mayhew: Partner should recognize H A-Q as enough to bid six…

Guillaume Lafon: Even without the C A, I want to play 6 H when my partner holds H A-Q, and this is the right bid to ask for that.

Roger Morton: Opposite a minimum, notrump may play poorly on a diamond attack; and in 6 H, I might well lose the C A and a trump trick — or two with some of my partners. :) At some slight risk, I’ll ask him about the quality of his hearts; just A-Q sixth will do nicely.

Ciaran Coyne: Since H A-Q-x-x-x-x gives a great play for slam, while H Q-x-x-x-x-x and C A does not, this seems better than Blackwood. I’m willing to risk an occasional 5 H down one for plenty of good slams.

Sandy Barnes: I want to be in slam opposite H A-Q.

Jonathan Brill: Seems like I should be asking about trumps. I can count 11 tricks if trumps are solid, with multiple possibilities for developing a 12th. Slam has to be better than 50 percent if partner has good hearts. Five hearts is safe because his hearts won’t be pathetic for a second-seat weak two-bid.

Jim Grant: Suit quality is the key.

David Caprera: I am hoping for partner to hold either H A-Q-x-x-x-x, or H Q-J-x-x-x-x plus the C A. A stray jack would be nice as well, but even without it I am willing to take my chances. Even key-card Blackwood wouldn’t help (preferably 4 S kickback or “1430” to find the H Q) because I don’t want to be there opposite H Q-x-x-x-x-x. But sometimes simple is best — a straight invitation of 5 H ought to get me to six on the hands I hope for, and avoid six on others. Yes, we may go down; but I consider it a reasonable risk.

Lorne Anderson: Since partner has said he is minimum, this must ask how good his trumps are; slam is fine opposite H A-Q-x-x-x-x. Four notrump fails because after a one-ace response, there is no [way to ask] for the trump queen.

Justin Lall: I want to be in slam opposite good trumps, so this should do the job…

Imre Csiszar: This looks obvious. Your Bidding Guide says that partner showing a minimum only denies 9-11 points, so he may still hold H A-Q, or H Q-J and the C A.

Damo Nair: Almost obligated to bid this; too risky not to try for a slam — though it might depend on whether this partner would open on A-Q fifth…

Ron Nordgren: Asks partner to bid six with good hearts.

Joshua Donn: Where is “1430” Roman key-card Blackwood when you need it? The five level is in some danger opposite hearts like Q-10-8-x-x-x, but I will take my chances and ask for good trumps.

Jean-Luc Lachance: Intending to convert 6 H to 6 NT.

Chris Moore: Would partner have bid 3 C with H Q-J-x-x-x-x and the C A? If not, hopefully he will bid 6 H over 5 H. Four notrump is out because, without a queen ask, it’s useless (other than to determine if we are off two aces). Five hearts should be easy if partner has no ace, because then he must have the heart filler cards and hopefully the S Q, [D Q] or C J.

Jess Cohen: If partner has good trumps, why not be in slam?

Michael Palitsch: If partner has H A-Q-x-x-x-x, I can almost count 12 tricks. …

Bridge players always seem to have a positive attitude. Who would say 11 when “almost 12” is the same?

Dimitris Danellakis: After three tough problems, this looks easy: Ask for trump quality. Partner will go to 6 H with H A-Q; else pass. He denied [two aces] with 3 H, so no grand.

Barry Rigal: Focusing on trumps. We might get to slam facing H A-J-10-x-x-x; but I believe I’m suggesting one top honor, and partner can work out why I didn’t bid 4 NT. If we played “1430” RKCB, I could handle it all with Blackwood; but then you wouldn’t be posing this problem, would you? :)

Craig Zastera: If playing “1430” Roman key-card Blackwood, or 4 S as “kickback” for hearts, I could find out if partner holds H A-Q without going above 5 H if he doesn’t. Lacking these tools, I’ll hope that 5 H asks him to bid six with two of the top three honors.

Sandy McIlwain: Six should have some play if partner’s hearts are good. Standard Blackwood won’t give me the right information.

John Lusky: This should get partner to bid 6 H with the H A-Q. Four notrump will not answer the question about the trump queen.

Bill Powell: Have you got good hearts? This not only seems like a good question, but one which should easily be understood.

Winston Munn: It seems the bulk of this problem must be in the heart suit itself. Has partner opened with H Q-9-x-x-x-x and the C A? Or does he have H A-J-9-x-x-x or A-Q-x-x-x-x and out? This seems the only intelligent way to ask, although it could get us too high; surely, it’s worth the risk.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Lacking RKCB (not that the standard version would help me anyhow), this looks like the only way to get partner to focus on trumps. Cue-bids seem pointless.

Barry White: Partner cannot have good hearts (A-Q) and the C A, so no grand. At this vulnerability he should have enough for a small slam, and this should say: Bid six with two of the top three honors…

Ernest Skolnik: The best I can do. If partner is out there on a [queen-high suit], I hope he can make it.

Bill Huepenbecker: Asks about trump quality for slam. If partner bids 6 H, I will bid 6 NT to avoid a possible club ruff. Yes, 5 H could go down; but I have too much to settle for game.

Christian Vennerod: If partner has H A-Q-x-x-x-x and the C J, we’re favorites to make six. This asks for good hearts…

Jim Masson: If we played Ogust, I’d already know if partner holds H A-Q.

Frans Buijsen: Tough choice, but just enough to make a try. Slam depends almost entirely on the quality of partner’s heart suit, and 5 H asks precisely about that…

Lajos Linczmayer: If partner has H Q-J-x-x-x-x plus the C A, or H A-Q-J-x-x-x, I want to play a slam. According to the system, he should bid 3 H with 6-8 HCP, so…we may still have a slam. As a second-seat weak two must be the most reliable, I hope partner’s hearts is not worse than Q-J-x-x-x-x. …

Stephen Fischer: I really want to know partner’s trump quality, and we’re not playing [any special methods]. I wouldn’t expect partner to bid on [over 5 H] without H A-Q or A-J-10, and either of those should give us a reasonable shot.

Manuel Paulo: Partner has a minimum, but he can still have a good suit. If he bids the slam, it [should be] laydown or depend on a finesse. Perhaps the contract will be harder when he passes.

Don Hinchey: Partner, how good are your trumps? If they’re A-Q-x-x-x-x, we have a good play for 6 H. Everything else seems too unilateral.

Karl Barth: … It all comes down to how good partner’s hearts are. With H A-Q, I expect him to bid six; with less, I expect him to pass.

Micah Fogel: I want to be in slam opposite H A-Q-x-x-x-x. Sure, it may require one more card or a finesse — but that’s life.

Kevin Conway: Slam has a play opposite H A-Q-J-x-x-x.

Jack Rhatigan: Six hearts to the A-Q is enough for slam — maybe.

Alain Lacourse: … I expect partner’s hearts [are headed by] A-Q-J, A-Q or A-J; but having the H A is not a guarantee. … This asks partner to bid 6 H if he has two of the top three honors (H A-Q in this case) or pass otherwise.

Arindam Ray: Looking for trump quality for six; [potential] club hook accepted.

Jeff Ruben: Since partner can’t have H A-Q and the C A, I will just ask him how good his hearts are.

Tom Dawson: Asking for 6 H with quality trumps. Partner almost surely has the H A.

Robin Young: Bid six with adequate trumps. Missing H A-K both, could any trump suit be called adequate?

Chris Maclauchlan: This should ask about trump quality. Partner knows I know his trumps are not solid; I don’t know whether he will accept with just A-Q, but surely he will with A-Q-J. My black 10s should allow partner to scrounge up a 12th trick. The five level should be safe unless partner opened with a trashy suit, and he shouldn’t do that in second position.

Lawrence Cheetham: I want to be in 6 H if partner has A-J-10-x-x-x and a side queen (or the C J).

John R. Mayne: Would partner bid 3 NT over 2 NT with H A-Q-J-x-x-x? I think he should. Will any try below 4 H help me? Nah. Choices are 4 H and 5 H, and I’ll try 5 H (with trepidation) since it asks the right question. Partner can still have H A-Q-10-x-x-x, enough by itself for a reasonable play.

Leonard Helfgott: Second-chair preempts should be fairly sound, so H A-Q-x-x-x-x and out is enough [for slam] if the C A is onside — and if offside, my black-suit length and 10s give [extra chances]. If partner has H A-J-10-x-x-x, he still has some play. Blackwood won’t help; nor would regular RKCB.

Alan Kravetz: Partner should read this as asking about trump quality.

Jim Munday: If partner has H A-Q, I want to be in slam; otherwise not — except he should also take the plunge if looking at H Q-J-10 and the C A.

Olle Morell: Please bid six with H A-Q, partner. I hope that partner in second seat does not have Q-x-x-x-x-x, but I guess we’re paying the price for the system’s low requirements on suit strength. I don’t like 4 NT, as H Q-x-x-x-x-x and C A is not at all as good as H A-Q-x-x-x-x.

Tim DeLaney: If partner’s hearts are good, I want him to bid slam.

George Klemic: … Asking for good trumps. Partner in second seat should not be messing around with a ratty suit, so I’m not concerned about finding something like S Q-x H Q-10-x-x-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x.

Michael Fosse: Slam only needs H A-Q-x-x-x-x and finding one of the club honors on side.

Steve Moese: Partner needs H A-Q and a pointed-suit queen [or the C J] for six. Let’s hope 5 H asks this question!

Bogdan Vulcan: Opposite H A-Q-x-x-x-x, I can count 11 top tricks. Maybe partner has the C J [or a side queen], or maybe a finesse works, or some other wonder happens. …

James Hudson: I must make a slam try and want partner to focus primarily on the quality of his heart suit. …

Brad Theurer: This should be a general slam try showing all side suits controlled, so partner should probably focus on having good trumps (or possibly fair trumps plus the C A)…

Sebastien Louveaux: This should focus on good trumps. If partner has H A-Q-J-x-x-x, I see only 11 tricks; but either the C A onside [or a finesse] or a squeeze (even a double squeeze around diamonds) should bring us to 12. I think this is much more than 50 percent, even if partner lacks the H J.

Dale Freeman: …Blackwood will not work. I hope partner will bid 6 H with A-Q sixth. It would be nice to have 4 NT or 4 C available as a trump ask on this type of auction.

Dean Pokorny: Asking opener to bid 6 H with A-Q-x-x-x-x.

Mauri Saastamoinen: Difficult. I want partner to bid 6 H with H A-Q-x-x-x-x; but what will he do with H Q-J-x-x-x-x and the C A? I hope he [judges] to bid 6 H also. Three notrump deserves to get a diamond lead opposite S J-x-x H A-J-10-x-x-x D x-x C x-x.

Peter Hudson: If partner’s too high, I can always blame him for his too weak two-bids. :)

Paul Friedman: All depends on partner’s style; I have no problem with 4 H either.

Alon Amsel: Actually it depends on how the partnership defines a minimum. I’ve seen people open 2 H nonvulnerable with S J-x H J-10-9-x-x-x D Q-x C x-x-x; but even in this case, 5 H has a chance. If partner has H A-Q, slam should be very good.

Paulino Correa: If partner has H A-Q, there are quite reasonable chances for the slam.

Comments for 4 C

None, so I called the White House:

George W. Bush: Is this Gerbil, or what? Wake up, Dick Cheney, and pay attention! I’m askin’ for aces, man, so hold up some fingers — one if by land, two if by sea. Oh! And smile if you have the heart queen. Kyuk, yuk. Saddam will be shredding his khaki undies when he hears this. Want a review?

Comments for 4 H

Thomas Kniest: No safety at the five level, so I’ll stay low.

Gary Spence: Partner has a minimum, so slam is unlikely; my hand can only cover five side-suit losers. Even if [partner has an ace] he needs H A-Q and the C J [or a side queen], or H Q-J and the C A, for slam to have a reasonable chance… Five hearts could easily be down opposite H Q-x-x-x-x-x.

Rinus Balkenende: Giving me a headache. Yes, slam is very good opposite S x-x H A-Q-10-x-x-x D x-x-x C J-x; but does 5 H ask for that hand?

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: What to bid depends largely on partner’s style, and what he regards a minimum. According to the Bidding Guide, 2 H requires H Q-x-x-x-x-x and 6-10 HCP; so 5 H is in danger opposite [many] minimum hands, and I will sign off. My second choice is 5 H to ask for good hearts; but even opposite H A-Q-x-x-x-x…, 6 H is not sure. … I prefer to play Ogust, so partner can show a minimum with or without a good suit.

Glenn McIntyre: Playing in hearts is clearly better than notrump opposite almost any heart suit. Slam is possible, but going down in 5 H seems more likely.

Darren Cotterell: This depends on your agreement for minimum weak two-bids. It is reasonable to open S x-x-x H A-x-x-x-x-x D J-x C x-x, in which case slam has no chance.

Nick Doe: This seems clear with an ace missing. Even if partner has H A-Q, he has seven plain-suit losers for me to cover. Although the five-level is probably safe, I don’t see how I can find out about cards such as the C J.

Ed Barnes: No way to find the perfect cards unless we’ve discussed continuations.

Sartaj Hans: My partners’ weak twos are a pile of junk. Why shouldn’t your partners be the same? :)

John Haslegrave: If I try for slam and trumps aren’t 3-2, we’ll probably end up going off at the five (or six) level. Three notrump will probably make also, but there could be entry issues.

Rainer Herrmann: Slam is not particularly likely; there is no way to invite slam below game; and the five level is not necessarily safe.

Carsten Kofoed: Opposite a minimum, 5 H could be a high-risk project.

Robin Zigmond: Another hard one. There are quite a lot of useful cards for partner that might make a slam good; however,…if partner has H A-Q (so there is no trump loser likely), his minimum range doesn’t allow much room to hold one of those cards. …

Richard Morse: Too risky to go on, even if partner has one of the two missing aces.

Jack Brawner: Didn’t a great player once say, “Don’t play me for specific cards because I won’t have them?” Since all my partners are great players, they will not have H A-Q-x-x-x-x and the C J. This is called logic. :)

Jyrki Lahtonen: A slam could be on if partner has H A-Q sixth, but it still requires [more] as I can only count 11 tricks. Admittedly, this is somewhat wimpy. :(

Comment for 3 NT

Petko Boukov: Three hearts is the weakest possible answer, so I’ll postpone my slam ambitions until a better day.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 5

Total pointsN-S vulYou, South, hold:


1 S
3 S1
1 H
2 C
H A Q 10 8 7 5
D A 2
C K J 9 4
1. forcing

4 H1045732
4 D933023
4 S726619
3 NT530721
4 NT4524
4 C2161
5 S181

As usual, there were complaints about the system, mostly due to unfamiliarity. Some players are so used to limit jump rebids by responder that they can’t see the other side. So look; 3 S is forcing* whether you like it or not. It’s not so bad, really; chances are it won’t even bite.

*To invite game in the default system, you bid the fourth suit (2 D) which is artificial showing 11+ points. At your next turn, you rebid spades (without jumping) to show 6+ cards.

My first reaction with this hand is that it’s too good just to bid game; 15 HCP including the golden S J suggests slam. I would bid 4 D, which must be an advance control-bid agreeing spades by inference. Having only one spade and an unshown sixth heart causes some concern; but lacking a good alternative, I’m willing to bank on my S J being key. On a good day, partner will have S K-Q-10-9-x-x H x D K-x-x C A-Q-x, then Blackwood leads to the easy slam.

As usual, I’ll succumb to the consensus. Bidding out your shape with 4 H describes the overall strength well, because you would tend to rebid 2 H with a minimum 6-4. Indeed, 4 H would be ideal if your singleton spade were a low card; I guess I’m just too enamored by that jack. I suppose the S J could be useless (e.g., opposite S A-K-x-x-x-x) and partner could have the H K (or jack) to provide a worthy heart slam. What bothers me is that partner will pass like a shot with my previous example, and a good 6 S will be missed.

Other game bids (4 S and 3 NT) do not imply the extra values suggested by 4 H and are likely to end the auction. Partner will have no cause to be optimistic (you were forced, remember) and some good slams will be missed, such as my first example. At least a spade raise offers some good news by revealing a fit. Three notrump seems way off base to me with 6-4 shape and only D A-x, and I would have scored it even lower were it not for the sizable vote.

Other slam moves seem wayward at best. Four notrump is too aggressive, kind of like a coin flip to decide whether you have a slam. Four clubs distorts your shape and does nothing to encourage spades, though it would be nice to hear a heart preference. Raising to 5 S conveys the wrong message, asking for diamond control (the only unbid suit), so partner may have to pass when a grand is laydown.

While we may disagree on the best approach today, things were even darker in 1933 London. Can you hear the werewolves howling?

East dealsS A K Q 10 9 6 3WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH K 2TabbushEly C.MorrisLightner
D J 4Pass1 H
C Q 2Pass2 SPass3 H
S 7 5 4TableS 8 2Pass3 SPass4 C
H 9 4H J 6 3Pass4 SPass5 S
D Q 9 8 5 3D K 10 7 6All Pass
C 7 6 3C A 10 8 5
H A Q 10 8 7 5
D A 2
C K J 9 4
USA N-SBritain N-SWestNorthEastSouth
5 S North4 S NorthGottliebDomvilleJo C.Beasley
East leadsEast leadsPass1 H
Made 7 +710Made 7 +710Pass1 SPass2 H
Pass4 SPassPass
No swingPass

At the first table, Ely Culbertson began with a strong jump shift and followed with successive spade rebids. Lightner’s sequence of bidding was fine up until 5 S, which was the obvious culprit. Surely, he was worth a slam bid, or 5 D to show the control en route. Culbertson had the same opinion, which he expressed with vitriol in the anthology — and no doubt at the table when dummy came down.

At the second table, the British never even sniffed at slam, ending quickly in 4 S. Neither East cashed the C A, so both sides scored the usual 810 — that’s 710 for us, plus honors.

Comments for 4 H

Thomas Kniest: I bid 2 C [in order] to show the good 6-4 hand, so no reason not to continue in that vein.

Rita Redlich: I’ll show my 6-4 distribution; and if partner continues to 4 S, that’s OK too.

Blair Seidler: This should show a good 6-4 (with a bad 6-4, I would have rebid 2 H and shown clubs only if I had time). …

Lorne Anderson: If 4 S is right opposite a singleton, maybe partner will bid it; but 4 H [may be] better opposite two hearts.

Justin Lall: Continuing to pattern out. If spades is right, partner will save me sometimes by bidding 4 S over 4 H.

Imre Csiszar: Shows my 6-4 distribution and the slight extra strength (I would have rebid 2 H if weaker). This is right if we have a heart slam (or no slam). The alternative, 4 D agreeing spades, appears against the odds, as the Bidding Guide does not say that 3 S shows a very strong suit; apparently it could be A-x-x-x-x-x, and even A-K-x-x-x-x is not enough for slam.

Chris Moore: I don’t see why I shouldn’t show my shape. Given what partner is showing, I don’t feel like I have too many extras. Any move by partner, and I will start exploring slam.

Jerry Merrell: Shows my 6-4 shape and implies at most one spade.

Stefan Jonsson: I will not bid 3 NT since partner bypassed 2 D (fourth suit); and I will not support spades without [normal] support.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Partner has at least six good spades but may have two hearts.

Sandy McIlwain: This is the last chance to describe my hand. Three notrump should show more diamond stops. There is a reason why forcing jump rebids have lost favor, and this is it.

Kevin Podsiadlik: Bidding out my shape. I’m a little apprehensive about having significant extras, but the lack of great fit compensates.

Bill Cubley: Describing a good 6-4 hand and [suggesting] a singleton spade… Simple, standard bidding is often best.

Bill Huepenbecker: Bidding out my 6-4 pattern, which I haven’t shown at this point.

Don Hinchey: Unimaginative, but descriptive.

Karl Barth: I’ll give partner a chance to pass with a doubleton heart. Four spades is my [second choice].

Arindam Ray: Choice between 4 H and 4 S. I do not think 3 NT is an option after the [jump] rebid from partner. If he had any doubt in his mind, he would have bid 2 D (fourth suit forcing) to go slow.

Dirk Enthoven: Showing length and strength. … Notrump is not in the cards unless partner has solid top spades and we don’t get a diamond lead.

Jarek Wyganowski: Showing a good 6-4. With a weaker hand, I would have rebid 2 H.

Jeff Ruben: Too much stuff to settle for 3 NT, so I might as well bid out my hand — maybe partner has H K-x and will now realize its value.

Lawrence Cheetham: I don’t think this will end the bidding; but if it does, it will be the right spot. Partner will understand I am [likely] to be 1=6=2=4, and with H K-x he will consider slam.

Alan Kravetz: Bidding out my shape. Three notrump will probably go down if partner has S A-K-x-x-x-x-x H x D x-x C A-x-x, while 4 S is [almost laydown]. Give partner one less spade and one more heart, then 4 H is best.

Josh Sinnett: Showing the sixth heart and letting partner decide which major to play in.

Michael Spurgeon: Showing my 6-4 pattern and extras.

Robin Zigmond: There’s no harm in emphasizing my six-card suit, as 4 S should have plenty of play if partner doesn’t like hearts. Playing in hearts could right-side the contract, too.*

Richard Morse: … Bidding out my length. I’m pretty confident partner won’t pass 4 H; then I can show my D A on the next round.

Zoran Bohacek: Describing my 6-4 hand and letting partner decide whether to go further.

Neelotpal Sahai: Three notrump is unappealing with very little in diamonds; and it [probably] should be played from partner’s side. This describes my hand [quite well] as 1=6=2=4 or 0=6=3=4 shape…

Thijs Veugen: This shows 6-4 and a good hand; otherwise I would have rebid 2 H.

Comments for 4 D

Matthew Mason: I assume this generally sets trumps and is slammish… so I’ll show my first ace.

Roger Morton: I’ll make one try for better things in case partner has, say, H K-x.

Ciaran Coyne: My singleton S J should be enough support, so I’ll make one encouraging effort.

Sandy Barnes: The S J looms large on this auction.

Jonathan Brill: Partner has [emphasized] playing in spades, so I will show my feature on the way to game in case he is looking for slam. My S J is a good card, so I am not afraid of encouraging partner.

Gary Spence: Partner [probably] has a self-sufficient spade suit, and I hold an honor; slam is possible.

David Caprera: Playing 3 S forcing has eaten up a lot of space, leaving little room to find either the right strain or level. Rather than guess between majors, bidding 4 D should allow partner to show partial heart support or a really good spade suit. I don’t expect partner to be raising diamond on this auction. :)

Jess Cohen: … Even though we haven’t found a fit yet, I have more than a minimum opening and will show my control on the way to a major-suit contract. Game or slam is up to partner.

Barry Rigal: I hate this style; but since you’ve foisted it on me, I’ll make a slam try in response — great controls plus a trump honor looks like enough to show signs of life.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: A cue-bid, trying for slam, as I have a good hand with controls. If partner responds 4 H, I will bid 5 NT as “pick a slam.”

Gerald Murphy: … Maybe this is all partner wants to hear. Spades will play [fine] opposite my singleton jack.

Alan Brooks: Partner had 2 D (fourth suit) available and chose to use up a lot of space instead; so I’ll cooperate.

John Lusky: We could belong in spades or hearts, and I’m hoping partner’s next call will shed some light on that issue.

Stephen Fischer: Even with just a singleton trump, this looks like a good dummy in a spade contract. I’ll show the D A in case partner is looking for slam.

Eugene Dille: Spades will be trump, so I’ll cue-bid my D A.

Ed Barnes: If partner has H K-x, he’ll end up giving me a choice of slams anyway.

Sartaj Hans: Those who bid 3 NT should be shot.

Kevin Conway: Just in case this is what partner wanted to hear.

Jack Rhatigan: Maybe I can get a heart bid from partner. Six spades is possible, but 4 NT…won’t guarantee if two key cards are held by partner.

Chris Maclauchlan: I think my hand is just barely worth a slam try.

John Swanson: That S J makes this hand worth a slam try.

Jim Munday: Partner’s spades figure to be as good as or better than my hearts. I’d love to have a second spade, but the S J figures to be a very useful card (I’d bid 4 H without it).

Manuel Oliveira: It must be difficult to find a worse bid than 3 S forcing. Now, any bid is in the dark; but I cannot bid as if I had 11 HCP. I’ll pass 4 S.

Steve Moese: Bidding 4 H or 4 S won’t tell partner what he needs to know…

Jorge Castanheira: …I have a good hand with good controls and the golden S J. [Slam] is up to partner now.

David Wiltshire: Can’t give up on slam yet, and 4 S should be playable. If we end up bidding [further], I’ll bid 6 H to suggest a heart slam.

Nigel Guthrie: … A small slam is probable, and a grand is possible. This cue-bid seems the best way to explore. …

Dean Pokorny: Hoping to hear the H K in case we belong in 7 H or 7 S, e.g., S A-K-Q-x-x-x H K-x D x-x-x C A-x.

Bill Erwin: Perhaps this will elicit 4 H on K-x, e.g., with S A-K-x-x-x-x H K-x D K-x C Q-x-x.

Mauri Saastamoinen: How good is my S J? If partner has S A-K-10-9-x-x H J D K-x-x C A-x-x, or S K-Q-10-x-x-x H x D K-x-x C A-Q-x, we should bid 6 S; if he has S A-Q-10-x-x-x H x D Q-J-x C A-10-x, 4 S seems to be OK. …

Julian Wightwick: A cue-bid for spades; the S J could be a big card. I’m a little heavy for 3 NT.

Rosalind Hengeveld: Choice-of-games fourth-suit bid at the four level. For the latest developments in bidding, be sure to stay tuned to PavCo Polls and Contests! :)

Comments for 4 S

Damo Nair: The S J makes the difference between 3 NT and 4 S. Four diamonds is courting trouble.

Joshua Donn: My stopper in the suit about to be led is anti-positional for 3 NT, and a stiff jack is fine support. I’m a little short of 4 D, which would show a really good raise. Will any of your keyboard monkeys really bid 4 NT or 5 S? …

Michael Palitsch: Difficult! Partner has 12-16 points, and slam is possible; but I can’t describe my hand correctly.

Winston Munn: Partner’s spades are surely as good or better than my hearts, so the S J is good enough support. The only bid to imply slam potential in an intelligent way is 4 D, but [it seems better] to agree on a suit without undo confusion and let partner make a move if he has extras.

Barry White: Just not good enough to bid 4 D; I’d want better spades or a better [hand].

Nick Doe: Good problem. My initial thought was 4 D; but partner may expect a 3=5=1=4 hand too good to raise 1 S to two… My stiff jack is therefore on the thin side for such an enthusiastic noise. Four hearts suggests much less suitability for spades than what I have.

Lajos Linczmayer: I intended to show my good 6-4, but partner’s jump ruined my plan. Now I cannot bid 4 H, as my suit is not good enough. Partner’s spades must be at least as good as my hearts. If he has S K-Q-10-9-x-x H x D K-Q-J-x C A-x we can make 6 S, and 4 H may go down…

Rainer Herrmann: Four diamonds is probably better used as a choice of games than an advance cue-bid, but this would require a [special] agreement. Four spades looks more likely than either 4 H or 3 NT, and is more encouraging should partner be interested in slam.

Tom Dawson: This will play better in spades [than hearts or notrump]. If I had S J-x, I’d be more aggressive.

Carsten Kofoed: Partner has 11-16 HCP and at least six spades. With a misfit in sight, I’ll take it easy and hope the S J is useful.

John R. Mayne: My prime cards and singleton spade honor make spades as good as anything. Four diamonds shows a better hand than this, and other calls are quite unattractive.

Leonard Helfgott: With a stiff jack and short diamonds, spades seems safer than notrump — or even hearts opposite x-x or a singleton — but this hand is not worth extra value on the auction.

Olle Morell: Close call between this and 3 NT; changed my mind two times. As I have a singleton honor, it might be as good as two small. Plus, I’m usually at my best as dummy. :)

Peter Gill: Narrowly ahead of 4 D. There are too many hands where 4 D will get us too high.

James Hudson: This feels timid; but in view of the broken suits and substandard support, it’s probably enough.

Brad Theurer: With only D A-x and no assurance of running nine fast tricks, 3 NT is out. I have a little extra for my bids, but with no good fit I’ll just raise; the singleton jack should be adequate support.

Sebastien Louveaux: Not very imaginative. I don’t want to play 3 NT with such a weak diamond stopper. If partner wanted to suggest alternative strains, he would have bid more slowly; so 3 S must show good trumps…

Dale Freeman: I am wavering between this and 4 D. I think I should show my diamond control, but my spade support is inadequate. Three notrump, 4 C and 4 H are [probably] heading for wrong contracts; and 4 NT and 5 S are too aggressive. If partner makes any more noise, we are in slam.

Petko Boukov: … My unshown D A compensates for the lack of trumps.

Fraser Rew: Ace-doubleton in the unbid suit is a terrible holding for declaring 3 NT.

Paul Flashenberg: I do not have enough extra to feel compelled to make a slam try. Am I playing 1940s bridge? If partner had bid 2 D as fourth suit forcing, I could rebid my hearts to show my shape; then even cue-bid 4 D over 3 S. I feel like one arm is tied behind my back.

No problem. Stick around and we’ll get the other arm tied, too.

Nigel Marlow: Three notrump will be horrible if partner puts down S K-Q-10-x-x-x H x D Q-x-x C A-Q-x, and a diamond is led.

Analyses 8W40 MainChallengeScoresTop Culbertsons Win in London

Problem 6

Total pointsE-W vulYou, South, hold:


1 H
3 D1
1 D
1 S
S A Q 10 8
D Q J 9 3 2
C K 10 2
1. forcing

4 NT1037626
4 C828120
3 S717712
4 D61339
3 NT539427
5 D2755

Just in case you haven’t seen enough forcing jump rebids, here we go again. North’s raise shows game values (13+ points) so a diamond slam is likely with your extras. Should you be aggressive and just bid it (after Blackwood)? Or be cautious to allow for the wrong dummy; e.g., S K-x H K-Q-J-x D 10-x-x-x-x C A-x would not be a happy slam.

Once again, the top vote-getter (3 NT) was not the consensus. Most respondents (67 percent) wanted to proceed to slam, or at least explore; and of these, the consensus was simply to use Blackwood.* I have no strong feelings and could accept any slam move, but 4 NT keeps it simple. Odds are overwhelming that partner has a high diamond (forget my example) so a slam rates to be on a finesse at worst.

*Voting was skewed because some respondents did not realize that 4 NT is regular Blackwood. Obviously, Roman key-card Blackwood would be a standout because you will avoid 6 D opposite my previous example. To some extent, this is my fault for not reminding you with a footnote (many people do not bother to check the system reference). Even so, the margin of victory suggests 4 NT would still win if understood by all.

Other slam moves (3 S, 4 C and 4 D*) are OK, but it’s hard to see what any will accomplish. If partner bids 3 NT over 3 S, do you intend to pass? And what will you do if partner bids 4 H over 4 C or 4 D? It all seems too pessimistic to give up on slam, so you’ll probably end up using Blackwood anyway (except over 3 NT which kills Blackwood).

*Note that 4 D here is unlike Problem 2, where a preference by a limited hand was nonforcing. Responder’s jump created a game force; so 4 D does not stifle slam opportunities.

Those who bid 3 NT may have been enthralled with Hamman’s Rule instead of accurate hand evaluation. Three notrump certainly could be right, but it bucks the odds. Imagine this dummy: S K-x H 10-x-x-x D K-10-x-x-x C A-x; not only is 6 D cold, but you could go down in 3 NT with a heart lead. Ouch.

Jumping to 5 D might also be considered a slam try but is demoted because it sends the wrong message. With clubs being the only unbid suit, this should deny club control. Further, it should indicate good trumps. I suppose Q-J-9-x-x could be considered “good” in context, but the hidden club control could hurt.

A few respondents complained that 3 H was not listed as an option; but in standard bidding this is not a control-bid but shows three-card support. In some cases, such a bid can be improvised as either-or, but it’s too dangerous with hearts a higher ranking suit; you certainly don’t want to hear partner correct 6 D to 6 H based on your bid.

Here’s what happened in 1933 London:

East dealsS J 9 7WestNorthEastSouth
E-W vulH K 9 7 4DomvilleEly C.BeasleyLightner
D A 10 6 4Pass1 S
C A 8Pass2 NTPass3 D
S K 6 2TableS 5 4 3Pass3 SPass3 NT
H 10 8 6H Q J 5 3 2Pass4 DPass6 D
D K 8 5D 7All Pass
C Q J 6 5C 9 7 4 3
S A Q 10 8
D Q J 9 3 2
C K 10 2
USA N-SBritain N-SWestNorthEastSouth
6 D South5 D SouthGottliebMorrisJo C.Tabbush
West leadsWest leadsPass1 D
Made 6 +920Made 6 +420Pass3 DPass5 D
USA +500

At the first table, Lightner strangely chose to open 1 S — a harbinger of canape? — after which the auction took on a reasonable flavor to reach the good slam (needing one of two finesses). Culbertson was so enamored by his success here that he wrote in the anthology:

Ely Culbertson: It is bridge chefs-d’oeuvres like these that make me sometimes say that the same divine spark of intelligence goes into the playing of a beautiful slam, as in the creation of a Gothic cathedral.

Some day I may learn to write like that; but until then, I’ll just ask the chef for more ovaries, er hors d’oeuvres.

At the second table, the British bid only diamonds. Were they trying to impress Josephine with their jewelry? Study the bidding carefully, as you may never see this auction again.

Comments for 4 NT

Thomas Kniest: I’ll be happy to try six if partner has two aces; or pass if he has one.

Robert Lipton: I’d be happier if this were Roman key-card.

Sandy Barnes: … I’m worth a slam, so it’s all about enough aces.

Dimitris Danellakis: Good ol’ Blackwood will give me the information I need — I think.

Gerald Murphy: With good cards after partner’s forcing raise, I am going to slam…

Darren Cotterell: With a five-loser hand, I want to look for slam.

Ed Barnes: To Blackwood or cue-bid; that is the question. Given that I can’t cue-bid partner’s suit…, I guess good ol’ Blackers is the sane alternative.

Alain Lacourse: … We have huge fit in diamonds. Opposite only one ace, a small slam should make — pull trumps, cash winners and crossruff the majors.

Carsten Kofoed: I have the D 2 and H A more than I showed. Partner probably has at least 5-4 in the red suits. I’ll bid a slam as long as we have sufficient aces.

Nicoleta Giura: Forcing? I haven’t told partner yet I’ve got a good hand. :)

John R. Mayne: [Slam] will have a play opposite one ace, so there’s no reason to try to puzzle partner. I’ll do what the 93-year-olds do when looking for slam. :)

Alan Kravetz: Partner has at most a seven-loser hand, and I have a five-loser hand in a diamond contract. If we have the controls, we should be in slam.

Michael Spurgeon: I will bid 6 D if North shows two aces; otherwise I will stop at 5 D.

Peter Gill: Prepared to take the punt. With D 10-x-x-x, partner should have bid 2 C in my opinion. Anyone for Roman key-card Blackwood?

James Hudson: Three notrump is too much of an underbid, so I choose the overbid, driving to slam unless two aces are missing. A 4 C control-bid would serve no purpose.

Petko Boukov: Blackwood. Some may loathe it, but the time to bid it is now. Admittedly, I could miss a grand; but that’s not too likely with the heart misfit.

Comments for 4 C

Matthew Mason: Patterning out. I can follow partner’s 4 D with 4 H, and hope to hear something positive after that.

Lorne Anderson: Just about enough to bypass 3 NT.

Justin Lall: I have too much extra just to bid 3 NT. I’ll start a cue-bidding sequence, and hope partner can take control or show the S K.

Imre Csiszar: Too bad Roman key-card Blackwood is not available. Regular Blackwood probably would leave me guessing, so perhaps a cue-bid will help. Partner may then be able to use Blackwood if he holds the D K.

Damo Nair: I feel like I have to investigate slam possibilities. This is not matchpoints!

Joshua Donn: The extra diamond length and good controls convince me to bid out my shape in the hopes of finding slam. Bidding 3 NT is pessimistic…

Stefan Jonsson: It might seem pointless to cue-bid when I have all suits under control; but if partner has solid hearts, I want him to be able to find out about my ace.

Sandy McIlwain: I can’t quit without making a slam try. This keeps the auction flexible and allows partner to evaluate his holding more accurately. Another hand that I’m sure led to the retirement of standard Blackwood.

Bill Powell: Kind of “white noise” encouragement; a bit vague, I know, but nothing else appeals either.

Bill Cubley: Cue-bids always get some sort of plus score in these polls — just not a top. I have a good hand, and bidding out my pattern usually helps partner a lot.

Ernest Skolnik: I’m interested in big things.

Christian Vennerod: Cue-bid. Slam is possible, so I must inform partner.

Kevin Conway: Partner might want to hear about my club [control].

John Haslegrave: I would prefer 4 H (cue-bid since 3 H is forcing); but since it’s not available, I’ll hope to bid it next round.

Confucius say, “Splinter in partner suit like arrow in chest.”

Tom Dawson: Showing my shape and slam interest.

Lawrence Cheetham: … If partner cooperates by bidding 4 S, it should be safe to use Blackwood on the way to slam. If he signs off in 4 D, I will cue-bid 4 H and see the reaction.

John Swanson: The plan is to contract for at least 12 tricks in diamonds. I would like to be using 4 D as an ace-ask on the sequence. I am asking myself how I would bid this hand versus one with 4=2=5=2 shape without the S Q, i.e., when I elected not to open 1 NT.

Manuel Oliveira: Here we are again! To ask for the best bid when the system is absurd is unreasonable. Underbid in 3 NT, or eventually overbid in 4 C?

Olle Morell: … I think our slam prospects are decent with at least nine trumps; 3 NT is my second choice.

Tim DeLaney: Showing the C A and interest in slam. I fervently hope the C K is close enough!

Robin Zigmond: Some kind of small-slam try seems in order…

Bogdan Vulcan: Ugly hand. What am I going to do with two clubs and two spades if partner is missing the C A and has the H K? My instinct tells me to bid 3 NT; but will partner ever expect this hand? … If partner next bids 4 H, I will bid 4 S… Please do something intelligent, partner! :)

Richard Morse: Awaiting developments. Partner is likely to have the C A; but in any case, I will be playing the hand so showing a club feature shouldn’t be damaging.

Bill Erwin: Gotta make a try. Bidding 3 NT would miss a good slam opposite S K-x H K-x-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C Q-x.

Mauri Saastamoinen: This is clear-cut; I intend to go further with my lovely diamonds. … I’d love to see partner make a control-bid in spades, e.g., after 4 C 4 D; 4 H.

Zoran Bohacek: Finishing the description of my 4=1=5=3 shape. Up to you, partner.

Peter Hudson: Bidding out my pattern, so partner can better gauge his values.

Julian Wightwick: Cue-bid. Again, a little heavy for 3 NT.

Comments for 3 S

Ciaran Coyne: … Bidding 4 C to complete my pattern takes too much room.

Jonathan Brill: Time to start cue-bidding. If partner can bid 4 C, I will be ready with 4 H. …

David Caprera: … This does not promise a fifth spade — frequency of 5-6 hands doesn’t justify it — but just shows a concentration of values, allowing partner to better evaluate his hand.

Chris Moore: Thank you for not giving me 3 H as an option. I wasn’t sure if it would have been delayed three-card support, or a cue-bid [for] diamonds. This makes my 3 S call that much easier.

Michael Palitsch: Showing my S A and slam interest.

Richard van Houten: Cue-bid. I’d like to hear 4 C, and only then will I investigate further. …

Glenn McIntyre: Next I will pass 3 NT; or bid 4 H over 4 C or 4 D.

Jean-Christophe Clement: With a nine-card diamond fit and [extra values] slam is very likely, and a grand is possible. I must show my S A.

Winston Munn: Auction may continue: 3 S 4 C; 4 H 4 S; 5 C, which pinpoints the trump suit as the problem for a grand slam, as well as allowing a stop in 5 D if partner has D 10-x-x-x-(x)…

Kevin Podsiadlik: I have to make a slammish move, and this seems the best way to ferret out the C A if partner has it.

Barry White: This should get partner’s attention. I hope that after bidding around for a while, I can trot out the grand slam force for diamonds.

Bill Huepenbecker: I like to play that once trumps have been set (and I think they are) that cue-bidding can start. This keeps 3 NT in the picture but doesn’t give up on the possible slam.

Nick Doe: On grounds of frequency, this shouldn’t be taken to show 5-6 pattern. Perhaps 4 C is a less ambiguous forward-going move for diamonds; but I don’t like bypassing two first-round controls to bid a second-round control. Besides, I would like to hear economically about partner’s C A.

Frans Buijsen: A cue-bid and slam try for diamonds. …

Lajos Linczmayer: If partner has S K-x-x H Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C A-x, or S K-x-x H Q-J-x-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C —, I hope the bidding will proceed: 3 S 4 C; 4 H 4 S; 5 NT 7 D. If he has S x-x H K-Q-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C A-x, maybe 3 S 4 C; 4 H 5 H; 6 C 7 D is an adequate sequence. I think 6 D must be a decent contract if partner has two of the three missing key cards, so I will try again to convince him to play Roman key-card Blackwood.

Don Hinchey: I’m not eager to bypass 3 NT and hope to glean information from partner’s next bid.

Jarek Wyganowski: I am too good for 3 NT, so I bid my cheapest control.

Rainer Herrmann: A cue-bid. I will not pass 3 NT.

Chris Maclauchlan: I don’t think 3 S should show 5-6 once we have suit agreement. This should stress the importance of the S K if partner has it. I don’t think there is a way to get partner to show his trump honors, so I’ll try to make him captain.

Jim Munday: Once partner has supported diamonds, this should cooperate in diamonds and show good spades… I will continue with 4 C over 3 NT.

Jorge Castanheira: Partner built a forcing auction, and I have extras. If he shows the C A, I will try for seven with 5 NT.

David Wiltshire: … I will raise 3 NT to 4 NT; or otherwise cooperate in cue-bidding, but won’t force to slam.

Sebastien Louveaux: This should be a cue-bid since partner’s bid unambiguously sets trumps. My plan is to bid 4 H next to let partner show the S K if he has it.

Dale Freeman: Three notrump is too dangerous if we are missing a diamond honor and have only one club stopper. I think 4 C shows the ace. I’ll show concentrated spade values and temporize — or be wimpy. :)

Fraser Rew: With no 3 H cue-bid allowed (I’d bid 4 D next to clarify my intentions), I’ll cue-bid my second cheapest ace.

Paul Flashenberg: Too much for 3 NT. We can always play 5 D if we don’t have a slam.

Nigel Marlow: Three notrump or 5 D are likely to close the auction, and I have unshown strength. Pushing to slam may be optimistic if partner has wasted values in hearts… so I’ll make a soft try, hoping to hear 4 C.

Paulino Correa: I’d like to hear partner respond to my spade control with club control.

Comments for 4 D

Barry Rigal: Slammish with extra diamonds, so it looks right to set diamonds unequivocally as trumps.

John Lusky: Forcing. We may reach five, six or seven. If partner has S K-x H x-x-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C A-x, I envision the auction: 4 D 5 C; 5 H 5 S; 5 NT 7 D.

Jeff Ruben: Forcing and establishing the trump suit. This and the previous hand are why fourth suit forcing became popular.

Robin Young: Stronger than 5 D per the principle of fast arrival, suggesting slam exploration is worthwhile.

George Klemic: At matchpoints, it would probably be OK to downgrade and take an almost certain plus; but slam potential is there, and it will be OK if we only get to 5 D.

Nigel Guthrie: … No harm in exploring because 5 D should be safe.

Dean Pokorny: Not playing RKCB, I must encourage partner to use Blackwood. This shows a good hand with a fifth diamond but does not deny any specific control…

Final Notes

Comments are selected from those scoring 51 or higher (top 224) or with an overall average of 50.50 or higher (top 207) prior to this poll, and on each problem only for calls awarded 6 or higher (except for one 5 on Problem 3). Over 75 percent of the eligible comments were included. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

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

I hope you enjoyed this journey back to ancient times (at least on a bridge scale) and rehashing some old deals. If nothing else, the next time you hear “total points” you can say: Sure, I played that! Thanks to all who participated, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Time for my glass of wine, so I’ll leave you these words from the peanut gallery:

John R. Mayne: Lawsuits? Excellent! In Poor Richard’s Almanac (not by RP, or at least Ben Franklin took credit) two men were fighting over an oyster. The lawyer surmised: Blind plaintiff; lame defendant; share the friendly law’s impartial care. A shell for him, a shell for thee, and the middle is the lawyer’s fee — as it ever shall be.

Ivan Viehoff: I’m not sitting very far from the locations in the pictures. The misty lights are in Westminster; the Phoenix Hotel is in Bayswater; and I’m pretty sure the roof line is Selfridges Department Store on Oxford Street. Oh well; this won’t save me from my poor scores.

Petko Boukov: You don’t think I suffer enough for my mediocre bridge skills? And now I have to be responsible for not being able to find a stolen crown? Should I solve the Loch Ness mystery on my way there as well? (apologies to R. Chandler)

Don’t give me ideas. Hmm… Nessie… monstrous hands… not bad.

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© 2005 Richard Pavlicek