Main     Ask Richard 9R09 by Richard Pavlicek    

Defensive Bidding

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about defensive 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.

Too close to callOctober 19, 2012 (9S71)

West
Pass
North
Pass
East
1 D
South
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S K Q J
H A Q 10 9
D J 7 6
C K J 8

Pass, double or 1 NT, and why?

Either double or 1 NT is acceptable (no strong feelings) but I would probably go with 1 NT. One advantage is that 3 NT may be the best game even without a diamond stopper, e.g., opposite D x-x-x.

I don’t like pass, as any later action would imply long or strong diamonds. My third choice is 1 H.

Yeah, I thought about doubling then changed my mind to 1 NT. Wrong! This led to a penalty (minus 500 which should have been 800) whereas the safer double would fetch a 1 H bid by West; 20-20 hindsight, or two demerits for no diamond stopper and no source of tricks. With 3-4 in the majors I couldn’t be embarrassed by a double. Does any of this make sense or am I being a result merchant?

Certainly it makes sense, and double may be better than 1 NT in theory. I was torn between the calls but felt that safety was less of a concern after a third-seat opening than aiming for the most likely game.

Cue-bid of a raiseOctober 7, 2012 (9S68)

West
1 S
North
Pass
East
2 S
South
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S 8
H 10 9 8 7 4 3
D J
C A K Q 10 5

Is there an expert consensus on the meaning of 3 S at this point, in the absence of prior agreement?

Good question and I’m not sure. I play 3 S as a strong 1-suiter, often aiming for 3 NT if a minor. See Three-Level Cue-Bid Overcall. Therefore, the major-minor two-suiter is shown by jumping to four of the minor (here 4 C), commonly called leaping Michaels.

I think most top partnerships have the same philosophy, as using 3 S as Michaels precludes showing the other hand type, but this is surely based on prior agreement. Without prior agreement, who knows. If I sat down in an individual opposite, say, Meckstroth, I’d probably opt for 3 H to avoid tossing a grenade.

Raft of optionsJuly 31, 2012 (9S59)

West

Pass3
5 H
Pass
North

5 C
Pass
6 C
East
1 C1
Dbl
Pass
Dbl
South
1 NT2
Pass
Dbl
AP
IMPs
None Vul
S 7
H 5 3
D K J 3 2
C K 10 9 6 5 2
S J 10 6 5 3
H J 10 9 8 7 4
D 9 8
C
TableS A K Q 9 8
H A Q 6
D 10 7 6
C J 7
1. artificial, forcing 2. minors
3. 0-2 HCP



6 C× North
S 4 2
H K 2
D A Q 5 4
C A Q 8 4 3

Passing with such a strong South hand is possible but may make it hard/risky to describe later. North’s pass over 5 H then save in 6 C seems incongruous when partner makes a percentage double. IMO this is a tactical hand and North should aim to buy it as cheaply as possible. But how? It’s hard to see how a major-suit psyche would work with South advertising minors; I don’t like a notrump bid either, since East will have a minor-suit cue-bid available. Should North bid 6 C directly over 5 H?

Nobody did anything terrible in my view, except possibly East’s double of 5 C which looks like “maybe you didn’t hear my 1 C bid” but might be fine, e.g., if it showed a balanced hand (vs. pass = shapely).

Lots of choices, yes. North might have walked it, or bid diamonds instead of clubs to attract the right lead (club void is likely). South might have bid differently (pass 1 C); and West might have bid 5 D over 5 C to let opener pick the major and protect a possible D K or A-Q.

North’s 5 C then 6 C pull may have been tactical, not incongruous, as there are concerns about pushing E-W into a makable slam.

At IMPs I wouldn’t worry about occasional small minuses, as opting to defend can breed disaster, like double game swings.

Asleep at the switchJuly 23, 2012 (9S53)

West

1 NT
2 H
North

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



2 H West
S 9
H 10 7 6 4
D A 7 6 3
C Q 8 5 4

Playing DONT, how should North bid over 1 NT?

While I don’t play DONT (thankfully), no matter what you play you have to bid your values. Passing 2 H with 7-5 shape, and South failing to raise diamonds, are like mileposts on how to lose at bridge.

Assuming 2 D shows diamonds and a major, and East’s double is nonpenalty (obvious from the hand), South should raise to 3 D over the double; then North should bid 5 D, or optionally 4 S to suggest an alternate contract. While 6 D makes, even top experts are unlikely to get there after an opposing strong notrump.

If South didn’t bid, I would jump to 3 S as North (over 2 H) then South should bid 5 D with his great dummy. Bottom line: Bid ‘em up with wild shape.

TopMain

Takeout or penalty?July 8, 2012 (9S44)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass?
North

Pass
Pass
3 C
Pass
East

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

3 C× South
Lead: S Q
made 4 +870
S A 3
H 10 6 2
D A K 3
C A Q J 10 3

East’s double was left in because West thought it was penalty. East thought it was a competitive double, asking West to support spades or bid hearts. How should East bid to compete without getting too high?

Passing the double was clearly wrong. The general rule is that if partner has not acted, a double below game is takeout, so 3 S stands out.

With 6-4 in the majors, it is usually better to bid hearts second, rather than repeat spades. The logic is that it shows nine of your cards (at least 5-4 shape) instead of just six. That said, this case is still borderline because only East’s spades have internal strength (J-10) which is important in trumps.

Also, East lacks the values to bid twice and then double (put the C K elsewhere then OK). Expert practice would be to bid 2 H after 2 C, then of course West would compete to 3 H. Even after 1 S and 2 S, an expert West would compete to 3 S.

Caught off balanceJune 20, 2012 (9S42)

West
1 S1
Pass
North
Pass
2 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
Dbl
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
1. 4+ spades, 11-16
S A Q J
H A
D A Q 10 8 6
C Q 9 5 3

What should South bid now?

Surely 2 NT. Of course, this sequence may depend on system, as I play a balancing jump to 2 NT as 18-20 and would have chosen that (taking my chances with the blank ace). Hence on the given auction my 2 NT would show 16-17.

The only other option is 3 D, which is not only misdirected but puts you out on a limb needing trump support.

No way to inviteJune 17, 2012 (9S40)

West

1 NT
North

2 H
East
1 S
2 S
South
Pass
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S K 7
H K 8 5 3
D K 7 5
C 8 5 3 2

I don’t see any alternative to bidding either 3 H or forcing to game with 3 S. (I hate bidding 4 H with defense, and three of a minor is nonforcing.) Being nonvul at IMPs, I opted for 3 H. Wrong! Partner held S A-x-x-x H A-Q-J-x-x-x D x-x C x, making 5. Comments?

Poor decision I think, as 4 H has a lot going for it. Besides the fair chance of making, opponents will often bid 3 S when 3 H was right; you may be minus 50 instead of minus 140; and you might provoke a phantom 4 S save. Another consideration is that competitive raises are often shaded, so with an over-under decision it’s wise to go long. Further, it shifts the final guess to the other side.

As to 3 S versus 4 H, I prefer the latter since I don’t want to create a forcing auction; e.g., over 3 S West might bid 4 S, and partner may forcing-pass to me; then I’d have to double (too scant) or lose his trust.

This auction brings to mind a system agreement I’ve had for 30+ years. I apply my Weak Two-Bid Structure (1) after our two-level weak jump shift response, (2) after our two-level weak jump overcall, and (3) after our 2 H or 2 S overcall of an enemy 1 NT opening. I will now add (4) after our 2 H or 2 S overcall of an enemy 1 NT response, so on the above auction 2 NT will be an artificial inquiry (game try).

Certainly worthwhile. Apparently a natural 2 NT in competition is becoming extinct in many instances.

Chicken a la kingsMay 10, 2012 (9S34)

West

Pass
Pass
North

4 S
East

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


4 S South
down 3 -150
S A Q 9 8 7 2
H J 6 4
D Q J
C 7 3

Four spades was minus 150, while East-West make 4 NT, 5 C or 5 D. East might have bid 4 NT, since I think he holds enough HCP to think North is raising preemptively. Comments? Any general principles?

I think East did the right thing. Even with the great catch, any E-W game depends on picking up diamonds, which is slightly odds-against. East’s HCP seem borderline to infer North’s bid either way, and it’s easy to imagine going for a huge number with 4 NT. Make the diamonds K-10-9-8-x, and it would be a close decision in my view.

North was the hero for his bold raise, well-judged because of the long hearts, which makes a double less likely; though a raise to 3 S might have stolen the pot as well.

TopMain

Put up or shut upMay 10, 2012 (9S33)

West

3 H
North

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



3 H East
S A 10 9
H A 8 7
D Q 7 6 3 2
C K Q

What’s the risk-reward for entering the bidding? Over 2 H, I prefer 2 NT to a takeout double but chose to pass. At the other table East passed, and the bidding was a simple 1 NT 3 NT, which is cold. Comments?

Like you, I feel torn as to the long-term winning strategy by South. Certainly it’s close. My gut feeling is that you did the right thing, and I think a majority of experts (over age 30) would agree; but the old cliche about bridge being a “bidder’s game” instills doubt. This would be a good situation to run a simulation.

If I did act as South, I would double 2 H. This is safer than 2 NT and surely no worsely directed with only the H A stopper.

The only villain was your teammate at the other table. Anyone who passes the East hand at favorable vulnerability has no place at the bridge table.

As suggested I did run a brief simulation (10 deals) with East opening a textbook 2 H. It was OK for South to pass on six of them, of which three we were outgunned (they bid on or doubled) and three partner would balance. On the remaining four deals it might be OK for South to enter, but the task of finding the right landing spot (two club partials, one spade partial and one 3 NT) is iffy. Such a small sample, but even with the help of software, reviewing each deal seems necessary.

Colossal misquoteMarch 24, 2012 (9S24)

West

1 D
North

4 H?
East

AP
South
Pass
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S K 7
H A K Q 6 3
D 4
C 10 8 5 3 2
 
 
 
 
Table
4 H North

My friend quotes you from years ago that you suggested 4 H is the bid he should make. As often happens, tactics and bids are taken out of context. Is this really the bid you would make? Is there something you have taught that is close to this scenario?

Was I blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back? Your friend must be downing too many beers. Overcalling 1 H is routine and probably a unanimous expert choice. The only other possibility is 2 NT to show hearts and clubs, but the lopsided strength clearly favors 1 H.

Possibly your friend was confused by playing-trick evaluation, which often dictates a preemptive bid, but this only applies to hands with at least a six-card suit (usually seven).

After a mighty leap to 4 H his famous yell pierced the room…
“Here I come to save the day!”

Good clean livingMarch 3, 2012 (9S22)

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

4 C× South
Lead: S A
made 4 +510
S Q 10 9 6
H K 6 4
D A 8
C Q 9 7 4

What do you think of my 3 NT response to North’s delayed takeout double? Seems I can either go low with 3 C or play partner for full values and go for the gusto. When East doubled, I deduced that partner was shapely and retreated to our known club fit. Is there any other call that makes sense?

Close choice. At matchpoints I’d pass 2 S doubled — two good chances for a top: down 2 or down 1 with no game — but at IMPs 3 NT is reasonable and probably my choice too. North’s double should be full valued in direct position (obviously passing 1 H due to short spades) but rates to be on the low end with both opponents bidding vulnerable. I would never bid 3 C, which is a gross underbid, while 3 NT is only a slight stretch.

Looks like you would have made 3 NT too, as West would surely lead a spade; then I don’t see a way to stop it. If West starts either red suit, East can win the first club and lead a spade through (10-K), then a low spade back will beat it.

No conventionsFebruary 5, 2012 (9S21)

West
North
1 NT
East
 ?
South
IMPs
Both Vul
 North
 
 
TableS A K Q 6 4
H 8 6 5
D J 9 5 4 2
C

Playing no conventions over a 1 NT opening, what would you do as East?

I would bid 2 S. The upside of discovering a game outweighs the downside of going for a number. I regret losing the chance of being on lead against 3 NT with spades running, but even that could be a loss with a spade contract our way (maybe even 4 S). In my experience virtually all experts would do something, but it may be comparing apples to oranges, since they all use two-suited conventions.

I never passed a one notrump opening in my life. -R.P. aka R.I.P.

TopMain

Elusive heart fitNovember 25, 2011 (9S09)

West

1 S
3 C
North

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



3 D South
S 7 3
H A 9 7 4
D A Q J 8 3
C 8 4

How do we get to 4 H? Or at least a heart partial? (If North doubled 1 S it would penalty.)

Good question, and I see no obvious answer playing a double of 1 S for penalty. Almost all experts play it for takeout, an extension of the responsive double, commonly called “snapdragon,” showing the unbid suit and at least a doubleton in partner’s suit. Obviously South would then bid hearts, and North is worth another bid (based on the diamond fit) and 4 H should be reached.

I play snapdragon through 2 S. I also play that if West bid 1 NT, double is takeout for the unbid suits. See Pavlicek System for details.

I like snapdragon and have played it (regardless of level, even 1 SHD Dbl) but to me it implies five cards in the unbid suit — unless further bidding reveals it was lead-directing — so overcaller can freely bid the suit with three cards. It seems to me that doubling with only four cards is untenable; e.g., if I double and partner bids hearts, there’s no way to ascertain that we have a 4-4 fit. Or is there?

Don’t worry about 4-4 versus 4-3. Strategically chosen 4-3 fits can work wonders, especially when the opponents are in the dark (like you). I play the double only promises four, and overcaller will usually choose the suit with three; so we have at least seven, and any extras are known by our side only. Most of these auctions are competitive, so why advertise the fit length?

If headed for game, you can often elicit further definition, e.g., in your case the bidding would go: 1 CDS Dbl; P 2 HCD; P 4 H. The 4 D bid (invitational) logically shows only four hearts, else 4 H would be routine.

Rescue attemptAugust 13, 2011 (9RC0)

West
1 S
Pass
North
Dbl
2 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 H
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S Q 3 2
H 10 8 7 5
D 5 3 2
C J 6 4

What should South bid now? I was unanimously outvoted by a panel of local experts. Please come to my rescue!

Well, 2 NT is clear-cut to me. My only alternative would be 3 NT, which is pushy nonvulnerable at IMPs. Showing the spade stopper should be adequate. Also note that S Q-x-x will be a safe stopper, since East would have doubled 2 S with a top honor.

The dispute may have to do with bidding theory. My philosophy, and I’m sure a great majority of experts, is that doubler’s cue-bid is a one-round force, typically 20+ points, and does not necessarily show a fit. Responder should bid as naturally as possible, and any minimal bid is nonforcing; hence it takes little to jump, although this hand seems a bit too little.

Therefore, consider yourself rescued if you bid 2 NT; or macho for 3 NT. Anything else? Open a booth at the local zoo.

Spade underbidFebruary 14, 2011 (9R60)

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


3 S South
made 3 +140
S K J 10 9 8
H 8 7 6 5
D 9 8
C A 4

Should North bid 3 S despite a minimum-range double? Or should he pass and hope South can bid 3 S as he would here?

Whoa, let’s back up a round. South was out of bounds with 2 S, as the free response shows 6-9 total points (not necessarily HCP). By my evaluation the hand is worth 12 points if a 5-4 fit (11 if a 5-3 fit) so South should bid at least 3 S; and most experts (including me) would appreciate the high-card purity, trump texture and partner’s inferred heart singleton to go long with 4 S.

You say 3 S “made 3” but proper play should win 10 tricks. If faced with a diamond guess, declarer should play opener for the ace.

There is no definitive answer to your question. Expert philosophy varies, but I think most would bid 3 S as North. Some have agreements that it’s strictly competitive, while others would do it anyway hoping South doesn’t bid game.

Flannery defenseFebruary 12, 2011 (9R57)

West

2 S
North
2 D1
Pass
East
Dbl2
 ?
South
2 H
Matchpoints
E-W Vul
 North
 
 
TableS A K
H A 8 7
D A Q 10 8
C 8 6 4 2
1. Flannery, 5+ hearts, 4 spades
2. Strong notrump equivalent

Not your everyday auction, but what should East do now? Should partner’s 2 S bid be natural?

With such prime values, I definitely bid; the only question is whether to drive to game (3 H cue-bid seems best) or invite with 3 S. Partner’s bid is clearly natural, and he would hardly bid a lousy suit like S J-x-x-x-x into the teeth of a known spade stack; so I’m inclined to go long (at IMPs a no-brainer). A simple raise to 4 S is also sound, as even if partner bid 3 NT over 3 H, it’s not clear to pass.

To cope with the wide variety of artificial two-bids, many years ago I devised a Junkyard Defense to encompass all. Bill Root loved it, because it kept us in sync without having to discuss each situation separately.

TopMain

Two topless suitsJanuary 7, 2011 (9R43)

West
North
East
1 H
South
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S Q J 10 6
H A K
D J 9 8 6 5 3
C A

Double is flawed (unless playing equal level conversion) and 2 D risks languishing there with a game in spades available. Is pass an option? And what if the sixth diamond were a second club? Also, would the vulnerability matter?

Like you, I am not happy with any action, but I would never pass. Besides double and 2 D, I suspect 1 S and 1 NT would be chosen by some experts (not me). I would bid 2 D, because a double then 2 D (over 2 C) is too appalling to contemplate. I may be able to bid 2 S next over 2 H, or partner might bid or make a responsive double, so missing a spade game seems unlikely.

If the D 3 were the C 3, I would double. Then if partner bids 2 C, I would let it go, hoping he has at least five. Another reasonable option is to overcall 1 NT, which avoids the bad club contract but might miss a 4-4 spade fit.

The vulnerability doesn’t matter (famous last words).

Normally promisingJanuary 4, 2011 (9R39)

West
1 S
2 H
AP
North
Pass
2 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
Dbl
3 NT
Matchpoints
E-W Vul
S A 7
H 10 4
D 10 9 8 5 2
C A J 5 3
 
 
 
 
Table


3 NT South
made 3 +400
S K Q 3
H A 8 2
D K 3
C K 10 7 4 2

Do you approve of my 2 S cue-bid as North? While I normally promise to bid again after a cue-bid, in this case I was passing whatever partner bid. Fortunately, the C Q fell singleton and we had nine tricks.

Your choice was not egregious, but I disapprove. Based on the principle of being conservative after a balancing double, which could be as few as 9-10 HCP, I would bid 3 D. South would then bid 3 NT anyway, as this must have been his intention in doubling first. Indeed, South guessed well (or luckily) to go long, as many experts would balance with 1 NT (10-15 or 11-15) rather than risk 2 NT over a forced reply, especially with top-heavy spades and meager heart support.

Most important, however, is to realize that “normally promise” does not exist in a good partnership. Either you promise to bid again or you don’t, and whatever your agreement is should be honored. Zigzagging might work on occasion, but it will lose partner’s trust forever.

How can you pass? You said this is normally forcing.
True… but I never said I was normal.

I want my bid backDecember 17, 2010 (9R36)

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


5 C South
down 8 -800
S 8
H Q 8 6 5 4 2
D 8 7 5 3
C A K

Can you explain this bidding (sic) from a major event found on your site?

No, can you? Yes, I remember it; 800 the hard way. Are there any children around? OK, the coast is clear: After East’s 4 H splinter (spade fit, short hearts) South decided to be cute. Rather than raise hearts immediately, he bid 5 C to direct a club lead against an eventual spade contract. This wouldn’t have been so bad at other vulnerabilities, but here East took his money to the bank. Actually, the defense slipped, as it could have been set nine.

For the ultimate in true life “lead directors gone bad” see Bizarre Auction Is Bridge Nightmare.

Balancing actDecember 4, 2010 (9R27)

West
1 H
2 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
Pass
South
Pass
 ?
IMPs
N-S Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S K 9 4
H J 10 6
D K 7 2
C K Q 10 9

Would you balance in this situation? And if so with what action?

When the opponents find a fit at the two level, it is usually good tactics to balance, but sometimes you have to draw the line. I see five negatives: 4-3-3-3 shape, aceless, secondary honors in the enemy suits, no haven at the two level, and unfavorable vulnerability. Remove any two and I’d probably take a chance and double. As it is, I lead the C K. The form of scoring wouldn’t matter.

TopMain

Rebid by doublerNovember 24, 2010 (9R23)

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

What should North do now? I looked in Modern Bridge Conventions, and this hand is not really described in your examples. Mike Lawrence suggests North now bid 2 C.

Your last statement surprises me, as I’d guess 95 percent of experts would bid 1 NT. This shows 18-20 balanced without four spades. I wouldn’t worry about having only one stopper, as 1 C is often a convenience bid, and the auction isn’t necessarily over. Cue-bidding 2 C should show better (21+ as I play) although either bid leads to 3 NT this time.

It’s a good thing MBC wasn’t a snake, or you’d have been bitten. Page 116 shows the sequence 1 D Dbl P 1 H; P 1 NT, with doubler holding S A-K-9-7 H A-8-4 D K-3 C K-J-9-5 — about a perfect analogy.

Your deal provides a good play lesson. Suppose North declares 3 NT with a club lead; duck West’s nine then win the ace. Cross to dummy in spades, run the H J, then cash two more spades to squeeze West. Parting with a club is his only temporary answer, but then you establish a diamond. Of course you could also take nine tricks off the top with the lucky heart lie, but that’s too easy.

Bid now, pay laterOctober 31, 2010 (9R16)

West

Pass
North

5 C
East

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

My partner and I had a heated debate over this deal. What should East do? And if East bids 5 H, passed around to North who doubles, should West pull to 6 D?

I would bid 5 H, as the enemy bidding suggests 10 clubs, leaving partner with none. I'm not a blind believer, but there’s no middle ground, and I’m willing to take my chances. Oops, so much for that analysis.

West should bid 6 D, not after the double but immediately over 5 H. Could this be wrong? Certainly, but you have to bid what is staring you in the face. Whether making or more likely not, diamonds will outplay hearts by at least two tricks probably 70 percent of time, and a good portion of the remainder will by one trick which gains if 6 D makes, else breaks even. If East is the kind of partner who lamely corrects 6 D back to 6 H, well, putting down this dummy should be a lesson for him.

VisualizationOctober 12, 2010 (9R09)

West
1 S
Pass
North
Pass
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 H
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
S Q 7
H A K 7 6 4
D Q 10 6
C J 9 7

Do you consider this a close decision? Would the caliber of the opponents make a difference?

Close, yes, but maybe not the way you think. I would score it: Pass = 10; 3 NT = 9; 4 H = 2. The only realistic hope for game is 3 NT with the S Q providing at least a double stopper (e.g., opposite S A-x-x or K-x-x) which is a decent chance on the quiet auction.

I’d be more inclined to bid 3 NT against strong opponents, particularly if needing a swing. Against weak opponents, an enterprising 3 NT gone bad might the only way to lose the match.

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek