District 8 Solvers Forum -- February 2003
by Scott Merritt -- Harare, Zimbabwe

  Call      Score    Panel    % Solvers 
2C 100 9 65
2NT 90 2 11
3NT 80 1  4
1C 70 3 20

1. IMPs, North-South vulnerable

   West      North       East      South 
-- Pass Pass ???

 What is your call as South holding:  S-AK3  H-73  D-A6  C-AKQ1074 ?

We’ve been given a nice hand, and the opponents have not yet ruined our masterstroke of a bidding plan. Unfortunately, all that means is that the opponents have given us free reign to make an ass of ourselves. Now, with our objective squarely in mind, what is the best means to that end? Let’s start out as low as possible.

Jones: “1C. I'll stick with the 1-bid and see how the auction develops.”

Dodd: “1C. No problems rebidding over any response (except perhaps 1D), so an off-shape 2NT is out of the question.”

I don’t share their optimism about describing this hand after opening a mere 1C. Several people feared  the possibility of 1C being passed out, but this seems unlikely to me. You only have 20 high-card points, and your clubs are long enough that someone is going to be short and be tempted to get into the auction. The real dilemma for me is what DODD declared a non-issue:  What adequate rebid is there over any response other than 1NT? Your upcoming rebid will have to be a distortion, and no matter what you come up with, partner will never play you for a hand this good. And since you’ll be jumping levels of bidding later, the level you saved by opening only 1C will become a detriment.

The remaining bidders now seemed to have two main questions to answer:
Is this a notrump hand or a club hand? and
If you answered notrump to question 1, how good of a hand is it after all? Is it right for a 2NT opening, or 2C followed by 2NT? I will start with the first question, of which the panel was almost perfectly split.

Kniest:  “2C. I think the doubleton heart is too big a flaw for 2NT or 2C followed by 2NT, so I open 2C and intend to rebid them.”

I thought that the “stopper in every suit to open notrump” theory died sometime before I was born. While I certainly agree that if we have slam, the suit would most likely be clubs, the minor issue of a small doubleton in a major just doesn’t strike me as a problem for opening this hand with 2NT. I would feel fairly comfortable if, after bidding this hand as a notrump hand, partner puts me in 4H.

The second possibility – 2C followed by 2NT --  is the one that I find more interesting.

Walker: “2C, with the intention of rebidding 2NT. I'm a queen or so shy in point-count for this sequence, but this hand is better than most 23-counts, which makes it far too good for a 2NT opener.”

Unfortunately for me, I haven’t held enough mammoth hands to be a true connoisseur like Karen, but how would AKxx, QJx, Ax, AKQT compare? I don’t know if I am in on her "better" assessment, but I would certainly say that it fits in the ballpark.

   Call     Score   Panel % Solvers 
2NT 100 5 13
3D 90 3 13
3C 70 4 25
Pass 50 3 50

2. Matchpoints, East-West vulnerable

   West      North    East       South
-- -- 1D Pass
1S Pass 2S ???

 What is your call as South holding:  S-A4   H-Void    D-A109864   C-A9743 ?

I must start out by asserting that 2NT must absolutely be a hand with long diamonds. Any two-suited hand without diamonds could have been shown on the previous round of bidding. Further, I would suspect that 2NT should show exactly clubs and diamonds, because it is highly likely that if you had a hand with diamonds and a major, you would have started with a simple overcall, suppressing the super-secret diamond suit. With that being the case, what should we bid anyway?

I will start out with the club bidders, all of whom seem to know that this is the wrong bid.

Kessler: “3C. If 2NT was absolutely for the minors, I'd bid it. I just think passing at matchpoints is wrong. When I get doubled and partner saves me in 3H, it will show what I know.”

Vongsvivut: “3C. Partner should be short in spades and diamonds, so he should have length in hearts and clubs.”

There’s just so much more to this hand than A2222 of clubs that it seems unilateral to insist on that suit. In a partnership game, 3C surely can’t be the right bid. So if 3C is the wrong call, should we start by showing our length or our distribution? The distribution bidders say:

Jones: “3D, which has to be natural. I can follow up with bidding clubs to properly show my suits. With 5 diamonds and 6 clubs, I would bid 2NT, which partner would be able to read for the minors.”

Kniest: “3D. I’ll follow with 4C if LHO doubles or bids 3S and it’s passed back to me. The fact that partner didn't preempt in hearts over 1S gives me some comfort.”

While I like Tom’s comment about partner not preempting in hearts, remember that you’re red vs. not, and even with a 7-card heart suit, partner is going to be mute on many hands. A diamond lead probably won’t hurt too much against any contract of theirs, but what if the auction comes back to you at 4S? While I am certainly a big fan of bidding your longest suit first, I think the 2NT bidders should take the top score on this hand.

Dodd: “2NT. Not exactly according to Hoyle, what with all these first-round controls and the weak suits, but this hand could easily belong to us for a partscore, or even push NS a level higher than they'd like.”

Walker: “2NT, which shows any two suits. Partner should work out that my two suits have to be clubs and diamonds, so this is the best way to talk him out of bidding his ugly string of hearts. Partner is not ‘marked’ with clubs here, so there’s no reason to assume that’s our fit.”

Hudson: “2NT. Clubs will usually be our suit, but showing diamonds too will help partner evaluate.”

Stabell: “2NT. Any 2-suiter. Partner will hopefully not go overboard. Will double 4S and hope that partner finds the heart lead.”

   Call      Score   Panel   % Solvers 
4C 100 6 28
5C 90 0 7
3H 90 1 20
3NT 70 0 7
4D 70 5 5
3S 60 1 0
4H 60 0 11
3D 50 1 5
Pass 40 1 22

3. IMPs, both vulnerable

   West      North      East     South 
-- -- -- 1C
Pass 1H Pass 1S
Pass  2D * Pass 2H
Pass 3C Pass ???

  * (New-minor forcing)

What is your call as South holding:  S-10742   H-K74   D-5   C-AKQ85  ?

We need to emphasize that 3C is a 100% forcing bid here. Partner's auction has shown a good hand with hearts and club support, and could even be the start of a slam try. Partner had to start with the temporizing bid of 2D to set up the force in clubs. And while it was in vogue in the past to make 3C directly forcing (1C-1H-1S-3C), and use the temporizing bid followed by support as invitational, Bridge World Standard and most modern pairs simply don’t play that way.

Now on to what the panel has to say, as clearly there is no right answer on this hand. I will start with the 4C bidders, and then see if any of the comments about the other calls seems to be stronger.

Stabell: “4C. Should confirm 4-3-1-5 with good clubs. With 4-3-2-4, I would have bid 3D and hoped to land in 3NT. We can hopefully still stop in 4H if partner is just looking for the best game. “

Jones: “4C. I have excellent trumps and controls in two of the side suits.”

Vongsvivut: “4C. Should show a very good club suit and set the trump suit. “

A 4C bid here does a good job of emphasizing the club strength, but the final decision about the trump suit is pretty much up to partner, as he may just be looking for extra help for a 4H game. All of these panelists seem to feel that the simple call may indeed be the best. Another contingent chose a splinter bid to show the stiff diamond. Can they do better?

Kessler: “4D. I really think 2H the first time is correct, not 1S. However, as long as we are overbidding, let’s go for the gusto and splinter.”

Dodd: “4D. An easy splinter. I've shown nothing but a minimum thus far and offered little clue to my distribution (I'd have bid the same way with 4-3-2-4 or even 4-3-3-3 with xxx in diamonds). With this distribution and all working high cards, to do anything less would be cowardly.”

Walker: “4D, splinter. It's not clear yet what partner is up to, but I have a great hand for him and this covers all bases. I've already limited my strength with the 2H rebid, so this should show a super maximum-minimum with good holdings in our two suits. If partner was slamming in clubs, this should get us there. If he was just making a game try for hearts, he can retreat to 4H and I'll pass.”

The reason I didn’t score the splinter higher is that I think it misdescribes your hand. I have to agree with Leif -- that with a 4-3-2-4 hand, I would have tried 3D after 3C, so I think the splinter should show more distributed values, while the simple raise shows more concentrated values in clubs. This may be splitting hairs, but it’s my column!

My final note on this hand is that I also agree with Kessler. I would have rebid 2H right away instead of dragging out that awful spade suit.

Editor:  There's no hurry to raise hearts here, as you'll always get another chance to show 3-card support. That spade suit is ugly, but you may lose a 4-4 spade fit forever if you don't bid it now. Even inveterate handhogs won’t be happy about declaring 2H with a hand like QJxx, Jxxx, Kxx, xx.

   Call     Score    Panel    %  Solvers  
2S 100 6 48
DBL  90 5 15
2NT 80 1 13
Pass 70 3 24

4. Matchpoints, none vulnerable

  West      North      East      South
-- -- -- 1D
Pass 1S Pass 1NT
Pass Pass 2H ???

What is your call as South holding:   S-Q75   H-KJ6   D-AJ84   C-K103  ?

So you pick up your flat nothing hand, and you’re ready for a flat nothing auction, but those annoying  opponents go and mess up everything up. Now you are forced to guess, and knowing your luck, this is going to be a zero for the good guys. Do you go for the throat with a dubious double? Do you show partner your meager spades? Do you advance to 2NT knowing that you will be getting the most damaging lead? Or do you back down and defer to partner?

I will start with the bloodthirsty:

Stabell: “Double. A bit dangerous, but with my well-placed maximum, +50 or +100 does not seem to be enough against our +90 or +120.”

Dodd: “Double, at matchpoints only. This is likely to be an all-or-nothing hand because of the balance. If we beat them one, at least we'll now beat all the 90s, and if they go for 300, we get all the marbles. And if they make it? We were headed for a bottom anyway, unless for some reason I'm supposed to chirp out 2S (or hope North will) and pray for an 8-card fit and trick-taking values opposite.”

Vongsvivut: “Double, for penalty, should show heart control with a maximum 1NT rebid. If 1S was very weak, partner will run to 2S.”

Kniest: “Double. A good lead, lots of defense. I've already limited my hand, and I have a maximum for the given auction. Partner isn't barred.”

Doubling is certainly fraught with danger. You’re a heart shy, and it’s true that partner can pull, but what hand could he have for this? If he had a weak hand with long spades or diamond support, he wouldn’t have passed 1NT.  Give him a routine hand like KJxxx, 10x, Kxx, Jxx. He’s going to pass your double, and the location of every ten will determine if this is an all-or-nothing hand.

Maybe those wimps on the opposite end of the spectrum have some better insight.

Walker: “Pass. 2S won't be right unless partner has 5, and if he does, he'll surely bid 2S himself in the pass-out seat. He's played matchpoints before. If he has only 4 spades, we should be defending, but I'd really want to have another heart for a penalty double, even at matchpoints.”

Hudson:  “Pass. I've described my hand -- almost (I do have a maximum in both high cards and spades). I'll hope that partner will rebid a 5-card spade suit without any input from me, and that he'll double with three hearts and a maximum in high cards.”

I am really noticing a lot of ‘if’s” in these answers. So are the 2S bidders any more sure of themselves?

Kessler: “2S. Gotta compete and 2S is the best available. 2NT should show a source of tricks, which we do not have.”

This hand makes me wonder if Larry Cohen’s “when in doubt, bid 4S over 4H” rule applies at the 2-level. The flaw in a bidding quiz is that we don’t know our opponents nor our partner, and we can't pick up on the opponents' "table action". They’re supposed to be “experts”, but we all know that if RHO is one of those Mixed Pairs guys who simply must play the hand to enjoy his round, double is clearly best – and we then just hope that dummy doesn’t table a 19-count. If your partner is the type who pulls your penalty doubles unless he has an ace to spare, double would also be right. More people should have abstained from this question because of this lack of relevant information!

   Call      Score  Panel  %  Solvers 
DBL 100 7 24
2C 80 4 39
2D 70 0 2
Pass 70 2 7
2S 60 1 20
3S 50 1 10

5. Matchpoints, East-West vulnerable

   West     North       East       South
-- -- 1D 1S

What is your call as South holding:   S-A87542   H-3   D-AJ    C-KJ102  ?

What a spirited first round of bidding! We have much to say, and I am certain that the opponents will as well. We clearly have more than our share of the high-card points, we have a pretty firm grasp on the boss suit, and from the logic of the auction, at least a fair grasp on the other major as well. So how do we start to tell our story, knowing that efficiency will be critical as the opponents are bound to continue bidding the red suits?

Kessler: “Pass. Partner must bid again after the redouble, so let’s see what he has to say. It is easier to exchange information at a lower level.”

Is that really the case? We are stacked, and it looks like West is bidding shape over high cards. While you are certainly likely to get a second crack at bidding, I think that pass here is too non-committal.

Hartsman:  “2C. If partner can't move over this, then it's probably where we belong. Hard to tell what's going on, but I suspect 2C won't be passed out, in which case, I can then rebid 2S.”

I think Jenni makes excellent points, but the problem with 2C is that you lose your shot, however small, at defending their 1NT doubled. Call me an optimist, but it certainly could happen -- at least all the doublers think so.

Kniest: “Double and lead a spade. We have at least 23 highs and partner has hearts tied up. I have clubs tied up and a diamond stopper, maybe two.”

Jones: “Double. I could have a lot less for a non-vulnerable overcall. Show the strength now and bid more later if need be.”

Walker: “Double. They're going for their lives. Partner's redouble doesn't promise spade support; it suggests defending, and I'm loaded.”

Dodd: “Double. Automatic, as North's redouble shows strength. This could be bloody, assuming EW don't run out to 2D (likely). If so, partner can decide if that contract needs to be hammered.”

The doublers seem confident they’re right, so how can I argue? I like putting the pressure to the opponents as soon as possible. It looks like they might have stepped in it, and letting them off the hook would be a travesty.

  Call      Score   Panel   %  Solvers 
6S 100 6 46
5NT 90 3 0
6C 90 1 7
DBL 70 1 16
5D 60 0 7
5S 60 3 27
5H 40 1 0

6. Matchpoints, North-South vulnerable 

  West      North      East       South
-- 1S 2C 2H
5C P P ???

What is your call as South holding:  S-K84  H-AQ9765  D-AQ4  C-J ?

The opponents are really pushing our buttons. To paraphrase a Grant Baze maxim, does the 5-level really belong to the opponents on this hand? I’ll start with the lone dissenter, who also happens to be my editor, so she gets special billing.

Walker: “Double. This seems a close decision at first, but the more I think about it, the more obvious it is that this isn't the time to be bullied into the 5-level. Even though it ‘sounds like’ the opponents are sacrificing, this is absolutely not a forcing-pass auction. Partner's pass just shows a dead minimum. If he had the cards you need to make 5S, he would have doubled 5C.”

With AQ10xx, x, KJTxx, xx, is partner is going to double 5C? We simply won’t beat 5C four tricks, so double is only right when you can’t make 5 of anything, and I simply can’t construct that hand. The odds are raised slightly by the odds of being in the wrong strain, but even still, I think double is shooting at a very small target.

As most of the panel blasts to slam, we are unable to discuss the merits of a 5-level bid. So as we are blasting, what is the best means to that end? I will start by including partner with a 5NT call.

Hudson: “5NT. Pick a slam. I have a very good offensive hand. Even if partner had doubled, I'd be tempted to pull. With partner making a forcing pass, I'll go for it, letting him choose the strain. I won't bid 6C -- that sounds like first-round control, looking for a grand slam.”

Stabell: 5NT. Partner's pass was (hopefully) forcing, so we might miss a grand slam. If they sacrifice, I can make a forcing pass and trust partner to do the right thing.”

Dodd: 5NT. Impossible to get scientific after a high-level preempt, so not wanting to choose, I pass the buck, hoping North will work this out as pick a slam. Any suit call here is a blind stab in the dark, and double at this vulnerability is nuts. For those who think slam is too much (my only worry is that we'll miss a cold grand), remember that North would likely have doubled with wasted club values, so he’s likely to hold the missing controls in the majors and in diamonds. Giving North the choice of suits may be critical as well if he holds something like AQxxx, Kxx, Kxx, xx, since a bad spade split is more likely given the bidding.”

I can’t disagree with this. If partner has three hearts, we’ll certainly want to play in our 9-card fit instead of our 8-card spade fit, and 6S blocks the opportunity to find out that information.

It is certainly vital to know if the pass by partner was forcing. Bridge World Standard says:
     “No force is created after an opponent’s preemptive bid over our one-over-one response.”
You might read this as implying that our auction does set up a forcing-pass situation, but we didn’t really make a two-over-one response either. In competition, you would have bid 2H here with as little as 9 or 10 pts. and a decent heart suit, which is in the same range as a one-over-one response. For a forcing-pass situation to be “on”, we have to have freely shown game values, and neither one of us has done that. So … I guess the jury is still out.

Now on to the 6S bidders.

Jones: “6S. Hey, the last hand is supposed to be a lead quiz, guys! Let's bid a confident 6S and see what happens next.”

Kessler: “6S. I'm gambling on good spades. We're playing with a 30-point deck, we have 15 and partner opened the bidding -- I really believe this is a high percentage bid. If we need a red finesse, it rates to be on after the overcall.”

This is hard to argue with, except that I feel the 5NT choice is simply better because it gives you more options for finding the right slam.

Thanks to all who sent in answers for this interesting and very tough set. Congratulations to Manuel Paulo of Lisbon, Portugal and former District 8 member Jenni Hartsman of Atlanta GA, who were the top solvers for this issue. They're invited to join the panel for April.

Thanks to our 2002 guest panelists, Tony Curtis and Bob Bernhard, for a job well done. Top scorers for the year in the 2002 Solvers Contest were Arbha Vongsvivut and Jim Hudson, who won seats on the 2003 panel. Congratulations and welcome! A full list of 2002 winners and runners-up is in this issue.

You can enter the monthly and yearly Solvers Contests by trying the six new problems for April (see below). Please submit your answers by March 15 on the web form or by mail or email to our April moderator:

Tom Dodd,  43265 IH 10W,  Boerne TX      USA
Email:  fieldtrialer@yahoo.com

 How the panel voted:

  1 2 3 4 5 6  Score 
Midge Beiger, Champaign IL  2C   P    4C     2S   P    5H  460 
David Forrest, Kirkwood MO 1C 3D P 2NT 2C 5S 420
James Hudson, DeKalb IL 2C 2NT 4D P DBL  5NT  530
K. C. Jones, Euless TX 1C 3D 4C DBL DBL 6S 550
Larry Matheny, Bloomington IL       2C   2NT  4C 2S 2C 5S 540
Mark Kessler, Springfield IL 2C 3C 4D 2S P 6S 510
Larry Rabideau, St. Anne IL 3NT P 4D 2S 2C 6S 480
Glenn Smith, St. Louis 2C P 4C 2S 2C 5S 490
Leif Stabell, Harare 2C 2NT 4C   DBL   DBL  6C 580
Arbha Vongsvivut, Godfrey IL 2C 3C 4C   DBL  2S 6S 520
Hugh Williams, Carbondale IL  2NT   3C 3S 2S   DBL     6S   520

 How the staff voted:

Tom Dodd,  Boerne TX   1C      2NT     4D      DBL    DBL   5NT     520  
Tom Kniest, St. Louis  2C 3D 3D DBL DBL  5NT  520
Scott Merritt, Harare 2NT 3C 3H P 3S 6S  460
Karen Walker, Champaign IL           2C  2NT 4D P DBL DBL  510

 Solvers Honor Roll  (Average Solver score: 470)
   Manuel Paulo, Lisbon, Portugal   570     Larry Wilcox,  Springfield IL   530
   Jenni Hartsman,  Atlanta GA  570    Chuck Zalar, Springfield IL 530
   Terry Goodykoontz, Champaign IL      560    David McNitt, Elkhart IN 520
   J. Gosse, Hangzhou, China          560    Kathy Miller, Bloomington IL 520
   Mason Myers,  St. Louis


   Dean Pokorny, Opatija, Croatia   520
   Tony Jowett, Canberra, Australia  530    Alan Gengenbach, Eau Claire WI      510

 Tied with 500:  Uwe Gebhardt, Wiesloch, Germany;  Tad Hofkin, Aurora IL; Bud
, South Bend IN;  David Melin, LaCrosse WI;  Allan Sheppard, St. Louis

Solvers Forum -- April Problems

Thanks for the problems below to Mike Halvorsen (#1), Scott Merritt (#2), Will Engel (#3), Donn Miller (#4) and Barry Rigal (#5 & #6).

1. Matchpoints, both vulnerable                  

  West       North      East      South
-- 1C Pass 1S
Pass 3NT Pass ???

What is your call as South holding:
S-AK76532   H-6   D-A82   C-97 ?

2. Matchpoints, NS vulnerable

  West     North     East     South
3S Pass Pass ???

What is your call as South holding:
S-Q63   H-KQ1087   D-KQJ10   C-J ?

3. Matchpoints, both vulnerable

  West       North      East      South
-- 1S    Pass 1NT *
Pass 2C ** Pass ??? 

* (forcing NT)       ** (3+ clubs)

What is your call as South holding:
S-Void   H-AQ974   D-54   C-QJ9653 ?

4. Matchpoints, none vulnerable   

   West    North      East     South
1S 2H Pass ???

What is your call as South holding:
S-KJ73   H-7532   D-A7   C-J63 ?

5. IMPs, NS vulnerable

  West      North     East     South
-- -- -- 1H
Pass 1S Pass 2D
Pass 3D Pass ???

What is your call as South holding:
S-AQ   H-K9765    D-AQ94   C-104 ?

6. Matchpoints, NS vulnerable

  West     North     East      South
-- -- -- 1H
Pass 1S 3C ???

What is your call as South holding:
S-A   H-AQ8642   D-AQ5   C-K102 ?