District 8 Solvers Forum -- February 2008

by Kent Feiler, Harvard IL

In 1999 the American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart as being the Best Male Actor in film history. Eat your heart out Errol...and Marlon...and Jimmy...and Charley...and Clark.

Bogie was born in 1899 and died in 1957, so his movies were black and white, but there was something movie-related that was always in bright, garish color: the advertising posters that were outside every theater. The posters were probably the 1935 equivalent of a "trailer". They went away, or at least inside, when theaters started showing a dozen or so movies at a time. There are a few below, plus some panelists you might not recognize.

SPADE: "When a manís partnerís killed heís supposed to do something about it. It doesnít make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and youíre supposed to do something about it."

Bridge is crueler than the detective business. In bridge, if a man's partner isn't killed we kill him ourselves!

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
Pass 100 12 59
1D 70 2 11
Dbl 60 1 10
1S 60 1 16
1NT 60 0 5

1. Matchpoints, Neither Vulnerable

  West   North    East   South
  --   --   1C   ?

As South you hold:  AQ72   65   KJ75   A86

What's your bid?

There are several bids we could try with this hand, each with a potentially fatal flaw. It's easy to list them, let's start with the lowest ranking and work our way up.

1. Pass
2. Double
3. 1
4. 1
5. 1NT

To help make this difficult decision we have a group whose experience with flawed auctions is legendary: our panel.

The PASSers say either, "I pass because I can't do anything else" or, "I'll be able to make a better bid on the next round."

VONGSVIVUT: "Pass. 1 point short for 1 NT over call, distribution is not right for take out double, no good suit to over call."

LAMBERT: "Pass. 1NT is an overbid, 1D/1S are too weak to overcall, and double is out."

PAULO: "Pass. There is no hurry to enter the bidding."

KLEMIC: "Pass. Is this problem a typo? I will either be able to enter the auction later, or judge that our side doesn't belong"

WALKER: "Pass. This is a perfect hand for doubling back in if they bid hearts, and for defending if they bid anything else."

POKORNY: "Pass ... followed by a double of 2H is surely the best choice."

These panelists seem to treat PASS as a no-op bid that doesn't show or deny anything, but is that true? I think it either shows a worse hand than we have or a club stack, so PASS is also flawed. Will the auction be easier to enter next round or will it just be higher? If the opponents raise hearts as Walker and Pokorny hope, we'll have an easy bid, but what if the opponents don't co-operate and try the likely [1C-P-1H-P; 1NT-?] or one of several other auctions? Now what?

Let's see what the panelists who consider Pass to be a four-letter word decided to do.

DODD: "DBL. You don't win pair events by sitting back and waiting. If your partners have no sense of humor and insist on bidding your short suits you may find yourself winning the consolation instead."

Kniest: "1D. Tempting to wait for the 1H response and raise and then have the perfect double, but I want to get into the auction now; maybe we'll get to play 1NT our way."

All true, and if the persistent opponents still find their heart fit, the perfect double may still be available. It's also nice to make a noise with a good hand in case partner has something he'd like to contribute.


I've never understood the scoring here on the Solvers Forum. The overwhelming leader, Pass, automatically gets 100, and nothing gets lower than 50. The scores in the middle are supposed to represent the number of panelist votes received and how close the bid was to the general idea the panel had about the hand. That's where it gets a bit murky.

GOLD HAT (leader of the banditos): "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"

Ok, ok, forget about the badges. We'll just go on to the bridge hand.

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
4S 100 14 73
6S 70 1 3
DBL 50 1 3
5C 50 0 5
Pass 50 0 11
4NT 50 0 3
5S 50 0 2

2. IMPs, North-South vulnerable.

  West   North    East   South
 --  --  --  2C*
Pass  2D**  4C  ?
* Strong
** Artificial, game forcing - at least a king or two queens

As South you hold:  AKQ764   AJ7   A52

What's your bid?

We could have used a bit more info on how the rest of this game forcing 2-2 convention goes. People who play it usually play 2-2 as a second negative and 2, 3 and 3 as game forcing showing a good suit. 2-2NT shows the remaining hand -- game forcing with good hearts. What all that means for us is that partner isn't likely to turn up with a good red suit.

Most of the panel just bid what was sitting in front of them, although dark tendrils of worry seep into some of their answers.

KLEMIC: "4S. Do I have a partner I can trust? Partner did see me open 2C, and though he is looking at no aces, if I can unilaterally bid 4S here (rather than pass or dbl), partner should infer a hand sort of like this."

NELSON: "4S. Allow partner to tell me more ... he can always bid maybe 5S...or whatever his hand allows...I am not bidding 5C after the 4C bid."

Bev Nelson is the Forum's "Queen of the Ellipsis!" But...she's right on target here...just bid your hand...don't do anything weird...and trust your partner...

STRITE: "4S. For a 2C opener, this hand is nothing spectacular, so I think 4S suffices."

KNIEST: "4S. I have a normal 2C bid; not an eleven tricker. Sure, partner could have the perfect minimum, but after this auction, he knows more about my hand than I know about his.
'I could almost see the stiff club in your hand,' we could say to partner.
'If I had one, I would have seen it myself,' he'd reply! "

SPEAR "4S. My New Year's resolution is to never again predict a 100% vote, but I do not see a good alternative to bidding spades."

Mark Kessler agrees.

KESSLER "6S. Partner rates to be short in clubs, therefore he's likely to have some spades. Preempts make life tough on opponents; sometimes you just have to bid what you think you can make. I understand pass is forcing, but what is 4S over partners 4H?"


This one is easy. The panel felt that they had only an ordinary 2C opener and that if they missed a slam it would be partner's fault. I agree. Making the right bid isn't the issue; it's being able to blame partner if things go wrong! As Kessler mentioned, the problem with the other bids -- pass, dbl, 5C -- is whether partner would take a later spade bid as a suit or a cue bid.

ALLNUT: "Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!"

Now is that any way to talk to Katherine Hepburn?

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
4C 100 13 83
3H 70 2 6
5C 70 1 8
3NT 70 0 3

3. Matchpoints, East-West Vulnerable

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

As South you hold:  KT9654   T3   Q   AKT6

What's your bid?

WALKER: "3H. It feels like it's time to head for notrump, and the 4th-suit bid is the only way to search for a heart stopper. Bidding spades a third time would give partner a picture of a MUCH stronger suit. There's no reason to get excited about clubs, as at this point, we aren't even certain partner has 'real' clubs."

Pokorny: "3H. Fourth suit, the most flexible call. Expecting partner to bid 3NT with decent heart stopper or 3S with spade tolerance."

What's going on here with these 3H bids? It's really quite simple. 3C is or may be an artificial 4th-suit-forcing bid, except that because we rebid spades, it's really only the 3rd suit. Nevertheless, that means that 3H is or may be a 4th-suit or even a 5th-suit forcing bid (perhaps asking for a stopper in some alien, extra-dimensional suit) or it could be a response to the 3rd- or 4th-suit forcing 3C bid showing a heart stopper and denying a club stopper, which isn't exactly what we have. Or maybe it's something else entirely! I hope that clears everything up!

The panel replied to all of this by saying, "Huh?" and going about their business.

KESSLER: "4C. Partners hand is totally unlimited, so I just cooperate and describe my hand. I can't imagine doing anything else."

STRITE: "4C. Always a priority to confirm a fit in a strong auction."

NELSON: "4C. Time to tell about my four clubs for you partner. .Ugh, what an ugly hand I have..."

MERRITT: "4C.  I need to stay low enough that partner can now try 4S on a stiff Ace or Qx."

LAMBERT: "4C. Jumping to 5C would give up on slam and spades, and 3H (asking) is just too weird for me."

SPEAR: "4C. My New Year's resolution is to never again predict a 100% vote, but do not see a good alternative to raising clubs. I will carry on to slam if pard shows a heart control."

KNIEST:"3S. Hard to go past 3NT at matchpoints."


Most of the panel assumed a big club fit and happily showed support. Hopefully, they're right. If not, bidding 3H may not be much better.

MARLOWE: "You don't like my manners? I don't like them either. Sometimes I stay up on long winter nights worrying about it."

No need to worry, but at least get your elbow out of the soup!

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
4D 100 9 52
4H 80 4 5
3S 70 2 6
4C 70 1 32
5C 50 0 3

4. Matchpoints, North-South Vulnerable

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

As South you hold:  Q72   QT4   AT8743

What's your bid?

Do we have a heart stopper? Inquiring partners want to know. We don't, but the inquiry makes our singleton look a lot better.

NELSON: "4D. Let partner bid more if he needs to. I am a sign off 4D bidder on this bad hand."

WALKER: "4D. Very close to 5D, but I'll give partner some room to bid 5C, just in case his game-force was based on a club fit. I'll be very surprised if he passes 4D."

DODD: "4D. Yeah, my hand is pretty ugly, but I may as well show the support for North's first bid suit on the way to ... who knows what. North may even conclude we have a perfect fitter (say Ax, x, AKxxx, KQxx) and wouldn't that be fun."

SPEAR: "4D. My story will be that 2C implies 6, or I would not have risked being passed out while holding diamond support. I will accept a slam invite on the basis of my singleton heart if pard shows a spade control."

PAULO: "4D. Without a heart stopper, I must show my diamond fit."

Let's see, Nelson is signing off, Walker is highly invitational, while Dodd and Spear are forcing and dreaming about slam (I wonder what they'd do with worse hands?). Paulo didn't say what his 4D bid was -- probably too obvious to mention. If we're sign-off or invitational, we're stuck with 4D, but if we're slamward bound, isn't there a better way?

KLEMIC: "4H. Cuebid back at partner...I am willing to play either clubs or diamonds at whatever level partner decides."

KESSLER: "4H. Our hand certainly has improved. I'll let partner make a decision based on knowing I have a heart control. Seems unlikely four of a minor is the right spot. May well have a slam."

There's one more onion in the stew -- a 3S bid.

VONGSVIVUT "3S. Show a 3-card suit with an honor. I still have some hope for a 3NT bid by North."

Pokorny: "3S. Since I cannot have four spades, this must be some kind of last-train for 3NT (partner has club support since he didn't double 2H for takeout), showing spade values."

I think the idea here is that we'd have made a negative double on our previous turn if we had a 4-card spade suit. Some partnerships may have that understanding, but with 4-6 in the blacks, I'd start with 2C. If this is a "last-train" kind of bid, there's still a question of whether we want to take a ride on that train. Partner would have bid 3NT himself with good stoppers.


If you ask for stoppers to bid 3NT and they aren't there, what do all the "I ain't got it" bids mean? Apparently the bridge world hasn't made a decision yet.

RICK: "We'll always have Paris."

Yeah, well here in District 8 we also have a Paris -- Paris, Illinois. We also have a St. Louis, Paducah, Kokomo, Champaign, Peoria, Rockford, Elgin and more small towns than Paris has sidewalk cafes. True, we don't have Ingrid Bergman, and that might make all the difference.

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
2NT 100 7 48
3D 90 4 11
4D 80 3 7
5D 70 1 2
Pass 60 1 13
2S 60 1 5
3H 60 0 10
3NT 50 0 5

5. Matchpoints, Neither Vulnerable

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

As South you hold:  J8543   AT4   K82   64

What's your bid?

Ok, what's 2H? Showing a 4-card heart suit, showing a 3-card heart suit, asking for a heart stopper, or just foolin' around? And what do we do next?

LAMBERT: "2NT. A very tough problem. Assuming pard is 0-4-5-4/1-4-4-4 with say 16-17 HCPs (no reverse but extra values), NT, diamonds, or even hearts might be the correct strain. 2NT suggests better spades than I have, but it could be the best/last plus score on this hand. I hate this bid, and hope it scores miserably."

FWIW, I think 16-17 HCP is enough for a reverse which means partner probably has 1-3-5-4 distribution or could it even be 2-2-5-4? But I hate 2NT bids too. I'll see what I can do about the scoring!

PAULO:"2NT. At Matchpoints, with a balanced shape and a heart stopper, I bid notrump."

Paulo may be wondering about something I was wondering about as well. If partner wanted to make a game try, why didn't he try 2NT himself? Nobody asks for stoppers in bid suits like spades, so maybe it's a heart stopper partner's after.

NELSON: "3D. I am not excited YET....it will take more than what I have to bid NT."

Our Fearless Leader is a bit more excitable.

WALKER: "4D. Partner should have a 1-3-5-4 pattern with around 17 HCPs, and I have two big cards for him. My fifth-round spade stopper isn't enough to try 3NT."


Sorry to Bob Lambert, but 2NT got the most votes so it has to get 100, even though the panel as a whole seemed to lean toward going back to diamonds.

MARIE (Lauren Bacall): "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

I've never understood this flirty line from Bacall to Bogart, but it must have worked somehow since they got married after making this movie.

 Action    Score    Votes  % Solvers
1NT 100 9 29
1H 80 4 26
Pass 70 3 26
DBL 60 0 19

6. IMPs, North-South Vulnerable

  West      North      East     South  
 --  --  1C  ?

 As South you hold:    K   AQJ6   A53   QJ754

What's your bid?

Ordinarily with a handful of opponent's suit we might want to lie in the weeds and await developments, but with all these HCPs as well, we might still be lying in those weeds when the auction ends in a contract of 1C. Still, the opponents could be heading for trouble and the risk might pay off.

POKORNY: "Pass. Intending to double 2S or 1NT."

To clarify, that's doubling 2S for takeout or doubling 1NT for penalty showing a good hand with clubs.

Most of the panel thought they were too good to pass and were willing to ignore the obvious problems with a 1NT bid.

VONGSVIVUT: "1NT. 15 to 17 HCP, with a stopper in the club suit, too good to pass. Okay to have a singleton King side suit."

KESSLER:"1NT. Looks like 2-4-3-4 to me."

WALKER:"1NT. Feels like a 'speak now, or forever pass' kind of hand."

Can't say I understand this, on Problem 1 you passed because, "... it's a perfect hand for doubling back in if they bid hearts", isn't this Problem the same for spades?

The 1NT bidders don't seem worried about the prospect of partner transferring us into spades or our missing a 4-4 heart fit. Maybe a different bid would deal with those problems.

MERRITT: "1H, Values ... check. Suit ... check. Any questions?"

LAMBERT: "1H. Unlike the alternatives (1NT, Double, Pass), I can't see anything nasty happening with this bid. If pard supports hearts, or shows any strength, I'm well placed to suggest notrump with extra values."


Most of the panel noticed that they had 15-17 HCP and so bid 1NT. Some of the panel also noticed that they had a singleton in one major and 4-cds in the other and bid 1H to try to solve those problems, and some passed with expectations of better things to come in the second round of bidding.

Thanks to all who sent in answers to this set. Congratulations to Tad Hofkin of Aurora IL, who scored a perfect 600, and to Babur Ozdal of Istanbul, who was close behind with 580. They're both invited to join the April panel. 

Special congratulations to Bob Lambert of Warsaw IN, who won the 2007 Solvers Contest by averaging more 586 for his best three submissions. He'll be sharing his wisdom with the panel for 2008. See Solvers Honor Roll in this issue for a list of the top runners-up in the 2007 contest. Thanks to 2006 winners George Klemic and Arbha Vongsvivut for their contributions to the panel during 2007.

The six new problems for April are below. This is the second of the six sets in the 2008 Solvers Contest, so there's still plenty of time to join in. Please submit your solutions by March 24 on the web form or by email to our April moderator:

   Scott Merritt -- merritt604@gmail.com 

 How the Panel voted   

1 2 3 4 5 6 Score

 Praveen Jayachandran, Champaign IL

Pass DBL 5C 4D Pass 1H 460

 Mark Kessler, Springfield IL

Pass 6S 4C 4H 2NT 1NT 550

 George Klemic, Bensonville IL

Pass 4S 4C 4H 3D 1NT 570

 Thomas Kniest, University City MO

1D 4S 3S 4C 4D 1NT 480

 Robert Lambert, Warsaw IN

Pass 4S 4C 4H 2NT 1H 560

 Bev Nelson, Fort Myers FL

Pass 4S 4C 4D 3D 1H 570

 Manuel Paulo, Lisbon, Portugal

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT Pass 570

 Dean Pokorny, Zagreb, Croatia

Pass 4S 3H 3S 3D Pass 500

 Larry Rabideau, St. Anne IL

1S 4S 4C 4D 4D 1NT 540

 Jack Spear, Kansas City, KS

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT 1NT 600

 Toby Strite, San Jose CA

Pass 4S 4C 4D 3D 1NT 590

 Arbha Vongsvivut, Godfrey, IL

Pass 4S 4C 3S 5D 1NT 540

 How the Staff voted

 Tom Dodd, Branchburg NJ

Dbl 4S 4C 4D Pass 1NT 520

 Kent Feiler, Harvard IL

1D 4S 4C 4H 2NT Pass 520

 Scott Merritt, Abuja, Nigeria

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT 1H 580

 Karen Walker, Champaign IL

Pass 4S 3H 4D 4D 1NT 550

 Top Solvers

 Tad Hofkin, Aurora IL

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT 1NT 600

 Babur Ozdal, Istanbul

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT 1H 580

 John R. Mayne, Riverbank CA

Pass 4S 4C 5C 2NT 1NT 570

 Nigel Guthrie, Reading UK

Pass 4S 4C 4D 3D 1H 570

 Bill Morgan, Rolla MO

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT Pass 570

 Steve Hakanson, St Louis MO

Pass 4S 4C 4C 2NT 1NT 570

 Linda Lubeck, Troy IL

Pass 4S 4C 4H 3D 1NT 570

 Alvan Bregman, Champaign IL

Pass 4S 4C 4D 2NT Pass 570

Solvers Forum -- April 2008 Problems

1. Matchpoints, EW vulnerable





Pass 2H * 2S ???

        * (Weak two-bid)

What is your call as South holding:
A5   K104   A5   AQJ974 ?

2. IMPs, NS vulnerable                                 





1S DBL Pass 2C
Pass 2H 2S ???

What is your call as South holding:

9652   75  K102   K984 ?

3. Matchpoints, both vulnerable                 





-- -- -- 1D
2D * Pass 2S ???

      * Michaels (both majors)

What is your call as South holding:

AK6   5   AKQ1074   K73  ?

4. IMPs, both vulnerable                        





-- -- -- 1S
Pass 1NT * Pass ???

      * (Forcing 1NT)

What is your call as South holding:

AQJ873   KQ43   A4   2 ?

5. IMPs, none vulnerable                             





-- 1C 1D 1H
Pass 1S Pass 2D
Pass 2S Pass ???

What is your call as South holding:
Q92   AKJ97  K98   A3 ?

6. Matchpoints, both vulnerable 





1D DBL Pass ???

 What is your call as South holding:

10654   KQ   KQ982   Q6 ?