Main     Ask Richard 9R08 by Richard Pavlicek    

Competitive Bidding

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about competitive bidding, although discussion sometimes includes other topics. Presentation is reverse-chronological (most recent first). Queries and followups appear in this color, and Richard’s replies are in black. Names, greetings and personal messages have been removed to respect privacy and focus on bridge.

Borderline upgradeOctober 7, 2012 (9S69)

West
1 D
 ?
North
Dbl
East
2 C
South
Pass
IMPs
E-W Vul
 North
 
 
 
S Q 10 2
H K Q 4
D K Q 10 7 6
C A J
Table

Do you have strong feelings about the opening bid?

No. I presume it was judged too good for a 15-17 notrump, but I would have no quarrel with 1 NT either. Certainly borderline.

Without the double, I’d rebid a routine 3 NT; but 2 NT is more than enough after a nonforcing 2 C. My gut feeling is that this hand is not going to produce a game, but passing 2 C is too pessimistic.

Second negative doubleSeptember 9, 2012 (9S63)

West
1 C1
Pass
 ?
North
1 S
3 S
East
Dbl
Dbl
South
2 S
Pass
Matchpoints
Both Vul
 North
 
 
 
S 9 4
H A K J
D 8 4 3
C A 10 6 5 3
Table
1. 4+ clubs

What should West bid now?

Options are pass, 4 C and 4 H. I would rule out 4 C, since it seems to aim for mediocrity. A pass is tempting at matchpoints (never at IMPs) as plus 200 against no game is a common occurrence, but I would go for the gusto with 4 H. Maybe East has S x-x H Q-10-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-Q-x, where 4 H is excellent, and 3 S might make (clubs 4-1, hearts 4-2).

Bid your valuesJuly 24, 2012 (9S55)

West

3 D
North

Dbl
East

Pass
South
1 C
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S Q 4 3
H A Q 9 3
D 4
C A Q 10 5 2

Somehow, the bridge circuits in my brain are flickering. What should South bid?

I bid my values, which is 4 H. If partner can’t handle this, I’ll remove the red cards from his bidding box. (I speak from experience, as Bill Root often threatened to fill my bidding box with green cards only.)

I suppose a case could be made to cue-bid 4 D to reach a 4-3 spade fit with the tap in the short hand, as opposed to a 4-3 heart fit tapping the long hand; but this is too subtle for me. Partner might instead choose his better 4-card major, landing in the wrong one.

New zoo reviewJuly 23, 2012 (9S52)

West

2 S
North
2 H
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Matchpoints
None Vul
S J 3
H K Q 10 9 6 4
D K 8 4
C 7 5
S K 10 6 5
H 2
D Q 10 9 7 2
C K 9 8
TableS Q 8 7 4
H J 8 7 5 3
D
C Q J 6 2



2 S West
S A 9 2
H A
D A J 6 5 3
C A 10 4 3

What should South have done? Bid 2 NT (Ogust)? Double West’s 2 S bid?

South should have redoubled first, which creates a force, inviting North to double any suit in which he has three trumps. When North passes 2 S, I wouldn’t like my chances of plus 500, so I’d bid 4 H. (Normally this would make as East should have virtually all the missing HCP, and the heart stack would be in front of North if anywhere.)

Is East from planet Earth? Remind me never to play at your club.

The East player who doubled is a Flight A player in our club who plays precision. The funny thing is that he dislikes Marty Bergen’s style of bidding light. Well, at least Marty advocates shape!

I see, Flight ‘A’ for animal.

TopMain

No middle groundJuly 11, 2012 (9S46)

West

Pass
4 C
North
1 D
2 NT
AP
East
2 C
Pass
South
Dbl
3 H
Matchpoints
N-S Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table



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

What is the proper way to bid the South hand? North is 3-3 in the majors, and we are cold for 4 H. Did I have enough to start with 2 S?

Your sequence, call it the conservative route, would be the choice of many experts, perhaps the majority. It’s OK by me, though I might not pass out 4 C (depending on opponents and state of game) but double instead, as it feels like they’re stealing. Of course this still wouldn’t get us to 4 H, unless North (a prime suspect here) is holding out.

Bidding 2 S over 2 C is the aggressive route, because you must follow up with 3 H, which is also forcing. Many experts would risk it, since game doesn’t need much (3 of your 6 top losers covered) if a fit exists. Unfortunately, there’s no route in between.

Both majors and clubsJune 20, 2012 (9S41)

West

Pass
2 D
North
1 C1
Dbl2
Pass
East
1 D
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
1 H
 ?
Matchpoints
Both Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
1. 2+ clubs
2. mandatory (unless 4+ diamonds)
S Q 10 5 2
H 10 9 4 2
D
C K 9 7 4 3

Do you agree with South’s actions so far? And what should South bid now?

I would have taken a chance and double 1 D, though I may be biased by safer grounds of 1 C showing 3+ cards. Pass is certainly OK.

Having passed, and in general when responding to a takeout double with 4-4 in the majors, South should bid 1 S. The logic is that choosing one major over the other is a tossup, but subsequent bidding flows easier if you can bid hearts to offer a choice. Your sequence is the exact predicament to avoid; but if I were forced to bid 1 H, I would come out swinging with 2 S.

Forward motionMarch 25, 2012 (9S26)

West

2 D
3 S
Pass
AP
North
1 H
Pass
4 C?
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
3 C
4 D
5 C
IMPs
None Vul
S K 9
H A Q 10 5 3
D 8 6 3
C K 9 3
 
 
 
 
Table


5 C South
down 1 -50
S 8 5 4
H 7 2
D A 5
C A Q J 8 7 5

I intended 4 C to be forward going, but in retrospect it precluded 3 NT if that were partner’s intention. If I had passed, partner would have doubled. I might sit (not a good result vs. a 7-5 hand) or take it out to 4 C, which partner would have passed. Any suggestions?

I would have raised to 3 C over 2 D. This doesn’t show extra as I play and might be the only opportunity, as the auction could be at 4 D or higher when it gets back. South would then try 3 NT with the likely running suit.

Looks like both games (3 NT or 5 C) need the heart finesse, so 5 C wasn’t a bad spot with the S A almost surely onside.

As your auction went, 4 C is competitive after passing previously, not forward going. South is the one who took an optimistic view; 4 D was a slam try which he didn’t have, and even 5 C seems odds-against with such barren shape opposite a minimum.

Going too quietlyNovember 6, 2011 (9S07)

West

4 S
North
1 H
Pass
East
2 H
Pass
South
Pass
 ?
IMPs
E-W Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S 8 5 2
H
D A K 10 8 7 5 3
C 7 6 4

I elected to pass, but both games were on. I did a few hundred simulations and discovered (regardless of vulnerability) bidding 5 D was a big winner; results improved 67 percent of the time. One reason for my not bidding was that West was not an expert (hence unreliable). Another, I like to play faster online, so I didn’t really think about partner likely to have at most one spade. Insights?

First, I would have bid 3 D over 2 H, which is nonforcing in my methods. (See Invisible Cue Bids for my structure.) Having bid 3 D, it seems clear to pass 4 S, as partner would have raised to 5 D in almost all situations this would gain.

In your predicament I would bid 5 D, especially against a non-expert West, who would almost always have 4+ spades for his bid. If West would often have three spades, 5 D still seems right, but the longterm gain would hardly be a windfall. The crux of bidding in situations like this is that gains are often huge (like a double game swing) while losses are often small (like both games down one).

TopMain

Put up or shut upJune 25, 2011 (9RA7)

West

4 H
North
1 C
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S K J 10 3
H
D K 8 7 5 3
C Q 10 5 3

What should South do? Too much to pass? If South bids, is there any alternative to 5 C?

I would bid 5 C. I'm not delighted, but partner’s failure to double implies values outside hearts, so my club fit could easily produce game. Experience has shown that it’s usually right to bid in these situations, especially at IMPs, as a double game swing could be in the offing.

Any other action borders on insanity. Double will play there, and 4 NT is Blackwood by my rules (see Four Notrump Meanings).

Abandoned fitJune 10, 2011 (9RA3)

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
 ?
East

2 D
South
1 NT
2 S
Matchpoints
N-S Vul
S A 10 9 4
H 3 2
D K 9 8 4
C Q J 3
 
 
 
 
Table

North decided to raise to 3 NT instead of the pedestrian 4 S. Was this too risky? South expressed some surprise, since 2 S denied four hearts (with both majors the partnership bid hearts first).

It certainly was risky, but so would be a raise to 4 S with West likely to have a stiff diamond. Which is more risky is a close call. The good news is that 3 NT is unlikely to get a heart lead, not only because of East’s bid but because North’s sequence implies hearts. The bad news is that a diamond lead and a heart switch could be worse.

I admire North’s enterprise. The offbeat 3 NT makes a lot of sense at matchpoints, where the aim is to win or lose, rather than settle for a middling session that would lose anyway.

Rolling the diceMay 15, 2011 (9R95)

West

2 H
Pass
North
1 D
3 D
4 S
East
Pass
Pass
AP
South
2 C
3 S
IMPs
Both Vul
S Q 3 2
H 7 5
D A K Q 10 9 8 4
C 6
S A 8
H K 10 9 8 6 4
D J
C Q 10 9 7
TableS K J 4
H Q J 2
D 7 5 3 2
C J 8 2


4 S South
down 1 -100
S 10 9 7 6 5
H A 3
D 6
C A K 5 4 3

Four spades was not a success. At the other table North opened 3 NT (gambling) and had 10 easy tricks. Thoughts?

South’s 2 C bid is alien to me — and maybe this planet — but I’d also reach 4 S after responding 1 S. While down as the cards lie, 4 S certainly has good chances; and the swing might have gone the other way, e.g., put the D J with the length and 3 NT is down three.

Sometimes the gambling 3 NT works, but its track record is unimpressive, particularly since optimal defensive strategy such as leading an ace is well-known. I gave it up 30 years ago for my own pet gadget (see Three Notrump Opening).

This deal reminded me of my candidate for the “worst lead in bridge” circa 1992:
a diamond from S 6-5-4 H A-8-2 D J-7-4-2 C A-K-8 against a gambling 3 NT.

Shortest of shortMay 1, 2011 (9R91)

West
North
1 D1
East
4 S
South
 ?
Board-a-match
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
1. Precision, 11-15, 0+ diamonds
S J 2
H A K Q J 10 2
D 9 8 3
C 4 3

This deal is from the Open Board-a-match Teams in Orlando. What is your call as South, and your thoughts behind it?

Good question. At IMPs I would bid 5 H, since chances of a substantial gain are greatly increased at the expense of forfeiting a small gain. Indeed, this might create a double game swing. At board-a-match it seems close, and I don’t claim to know the answer, but my feeling is that passing will produce a greater win rate.

Zero-plus diamonds? I play that too — when I open a major.

TopMain

Anxiety for notrumpApril 2, 2011 (9R79)

West
Pass
3 C
AP
North
1 D
3 D
East
2 C
Pass
South
Dbl
3 NT?
IMPs
N-S Vul
S J 6 5
H K 4
D A K J 9 8 6
C 8 5
S Q 7 4
H A J 10 9 3
D 10 5
C 10 7 2
TableS K 8
H 8 6
D Q 3 2
C K Q J 6 4 3



3 NT South
S A 10 9 3 2
H Q 7 5 2
D 7 4
C A 9

South might have passed or bid 3 S but chose 3 NT. What is the percentage action? Also, do you agree with North’s 3 D bid?

South’s bid was a poor gamble, as he not only needs diamonds to run but a ninth trick as well. Indeed, you can’t even make 3 NT with a diamond lead, which emphasizes the point. To me it’s a close choice between pass and 3 S, and the latter feels better vulnerable at IMPs. Chances are fair of catching a spade fit (North rates to have a doubleton club) and even honor-doubleton may suffice. This would lead to a skimpy 4 S, but it seems to make.

North stretched a bit, but it’s reasonable with such a good suit. My definition of a 3-level competitive non-jump rebid is 15-17 total points (North has 14). Make diamonds A-K-Q-9-8-6, and it’s on the mark.

Two-suit ordealMarch 30, 2011 (9R77)

West

3 C
Dbl
North

Pass
 ?
East
1 C
3 S
South
1 S
4 H
Total points
Both Vul
S 4 3
H 9 8 6
D K Q 10 4 2
C J 8 6
S Q 7 5 2
H K 3 2
D 9 6
C A 7 4 3
TableS J
H A J
D A J 5 3
C K Q 10 9 5 2
S A K 10 9 8 6
H Q 10 7 5 4
D 8 7
C

Should North pass 4 H doubled or correct to 4 S?

Definitely pass. South should have at least 5-5 shape, so the only known 8-card fit is hearts. If South is 6-5 as here, it’s generally a tossup which fit will play better, so pass is as good of a guess as 4 S. On this auction West should not have four hearts (no negative double) so his double will often be based on better defense against spades hoping you will run. Stand your ground! On a side note, any West who bid 3 C with that hand wouldn’t know when to double either.

This time hearts plays better. With careful handling 4 H is down only two (4 S is down three) so it’s a better result than if East bids 5 C — which I think he should.

South’s bidding is questionable, though not necessarily wrong. I think most experts would prefer to use Michaels (1 CC) since bidding unilaterally to the four level could have been disastrous if North were shorter in the majors.

Ax cannot waitFebruary 16, 2011 (9R61)

West

Pass?
North

3 S
East
1 H
AP
South
2 S
IMPs
E-W Vul
 North
 
 
 
S 10 9 8
H 6
D A 10 9 8
C Q J 5 4 3
TableS 4
H A K Q 10 5
D 5 4 2
C A 10 9 7

3 S South

As West, I did not make a negative double of 2 S because it would force partner to bid at the three level on a potential misfit. (I doubt that I would even double 1 S.) Of course 6 C makes on a friendly lie, so partner had plenty to complain about. Comments?

You would have a lot of expert company in passing 2 S, though a double of 1 S would be clear-cut. My own philosophy is looser: 6+ at 1 level; 7+ at 2 level; 8+ at 3 level; 9+ at 4 level; so this hand barely qualifies to double 2 S. Even so, since 2 S is the highest 2-level case, I consider 7 HCP borderline; weaken the diamonds to A-x-x-x, and I would pass.

If West doubles, East would bid 4 C over 3 S, and West should continue to five. The fifth trump, diamond control, D 10-9-8, and inferred spade singleton in East all suggest being aggressive.

Confucius say: Axe cannot wait, with two ten-nine-eight.

Save our shipDecember 7, 2010 (9R30)

West

Pass
Dbl
North

1 C
AP
East

Dbl
South
Pass
1 D
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S Q 10 9 2
H A 10 8 4
D 10
C A J 10 7
S K 4
H 9 5 3
D A K J 6 2
C 8 5 2
TableS A 8 7
H K Q 6
D 8 3
C K Q 9 4 3


1 D× South
down 2 -500
S J 6 5 3
H J 7 2
D Q 9 7 5 4
C 6

Without prior agreement, would a redouble by North be SOS? (A 2 D opening by South would have been a weak two.) You be the judge.

No, a direct redouble by opener shows extra values. Only a balancing redouble after a penalty pass (1 C Dbl P P; Rdbl) would be SOS.

I see a lot of lunacy here. East’s double of 1 C is laughable. South’s bid of 1 D is wrong; it should be a normal response (6+ points) not a rescue bid. Most experts play a new suit forcing at the one level (unless the opening is light in third or fourth seat) so you can’t expect to play 1 D — except maybe doubled as here. Now I have to wonder why South didn’t just open 2 D and get it over with.

You want me to be the judge? OK then… Pull the plug.

TopMain

Texas un-transferDecember 7, 2010 (9R29)

West

Pass
Dbl
Pass
North

2 NT
Rdbl?
East

Pass
Pass
South
Pass
4 H
Pass?
Matchpoints
None Vul
S J 8 4
H A 7
D A K Q J
C K Q J 2
S A 10
H K Q 8 5 4
D 10 9
C 9 8 4 3
TableS Q 7
H J 9 6
D 8 7 6 4 2
C A 10 7


4 H×× South
down 4 -1600
S K 9 6 5 3 2
H 10 3 2
D 5 3
C 6 5

On this deal from a major event, a top partnership went down four redoubled for a fantastic loss of 1600 points. How could this happen? What does it all mean?

Accidents happen, even at the highest level. South’s 4 H was a Texas transfer to 4 S, West doubled for a heart lead, and then came a misunderstanding. North intended his redouble to show control (H A) in case South were interested in slam. South interpreted the redouble as penalty (strong hearts) suggesting to play there if South’s hand were suitable. Oops. South’s hand was suitable.

My rule about redoubles of lead-directing doubles is they are penalty only below 3 NT. Anything higher is control-showing, so I would side with North’s viewpoint. Every partnership has an occasional mix-up, sometimes disastrous as here. True experts adjust their agreements to prevent recurrence, and move on without further ado. In fact, playing an absurd contract like 4 H×× once in while may be beneficial in the long run by toughening your game.

Another good agreement when a transfer bid is doubled is to make pass the default action, with or without trump support for partner. The purpose is to switch declarers to put doubler on lead, which will sometimes gain a trick or a valuable tempo. Transfer bidder simply bids his real suit to sign off, or makes his normal rebid to continue.

Transferrable valuesNovember 17, 2010 (9R20)

West
1 H
North
4 S
East
 ?
South
IMPs
Both Vul
 North
 
 
TableS Q 4 3 2
H 2
D 3 2
C A 6 5 4 3 2

Should a double by East show “transferrable values” or is it simply penalty? I assume only the latter case allows East to double.

I’m not adamant about whether the double should be negative, optional (same as your ‘TV’) or penalty. In my system a double is negative through 4 H, and penalty higher, though to accommodate some partners I’ve played the higher doubles optional. The important thing is to have an agreement. Your assumption is correct that East can only double with above hand if penalty.

Even if the double is penalty, the odds favor a pull when opener has extreme shape, because doubler will usually have some useful values (as opposed to a trump stack) but there’s no guarantee.

Hey, Lou! Do your doubles show transferrable values?
Never! I use Jacoby with those hands.

Short spadesOctober 30, 2010 (9R15)

West

2 C
North
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
 ?
IMPs
Both Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S 4
H A K Q 9
D J 10 9 7
C A K 7 3

As South what is your call (1) as shown? (2) if East responded 2 S? (3) if East responded 2 S, you doubled and partner bid 3 H?

1. Despite the club length and short spades, it seems too good to pass, so 2 H. Actually, I would have taken a practical view previously and opened 1 H. Yes, I play 5-card majors; but the object is to reach the best contracts, and 1 H should get you to more of them, let alone the right lead from partner.

2. Double (takeout) is routine.

3. Four hearts, which could roll opposite as little as S x-x-x-x H J-x-x-x-x D Q-x C x-x. Vulnerable at IMPs it’s a no-brainer; at matchpoints it would be close (4 H or pass).

Negative double repeatOctober 8, 2010 (9R08)

West

Dbl1
 ?
North

2 H
East
1 C
Pass
South
1 H
Pass
Matchpoints
None Vul
S A K 8 7 4
H 8 7 5
D 8 4 2
C K 2
S J 10 5 3
H A 10
D A K 5
C 8 7 5 3
TableS 9
H J 6 4
D Q J 7 3
C A Q J 9 6
1. negative, exactly 4 spades
S Q 6 2
H K Q 9 3 2
D 10 9 6
C 10 4

As West, I wasn’t sure how to show my extra values and chose 3 C. What should I have done, and how should the auction continue?

West has three viable options: 2 NT (conservative); 3 NT (committal); or double (perfect). A second double by negative doubler (when opener has only passed) is not for penalty but competitive, showing extra values and uncertainty about the best strain. East would pick diamonds (3 D) then West should bid 3 NT, which on an expert plane is tentative from the failure to bid 3 NT before, so East can pull it if unhappy; but with H J-x-x East is pleased. Fortune smiles with the C K onside; 10 easy tricks.

Raising opener’s suit after a negative double (your 3 C) shows a weaker hand, about 7-10 points.

TopMain

© 2012 Richard Pavlicek