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|Problem 1||Matchpoints||Vul: None|
|  South Holds
|What is your plan?|
|D1. Dbl, then over 3 or 3, Pass|
|D2. Dbl, then over 3 or 3, 3NT|
|D3. Dbl, then Pass over 3, 3NT over 3|
|D4. Dbl, then 3NT over 3, Pass over 3|
When in doubt, bid when short in the opponent's suit, pass when long. This has always been good advice. Since I consider two or fewer shortness, I bid. My plan is to double and then pass whichever bid partner makes. This way we can compete for the part score. I'm not worried about going for a number, since partner promises at least six HCPs. (This six HCP rule is what I and other experts expect partner to have whenever we compete against a preempt). For every one hand when you go for a number, there will be at least ten hands where bidding works out well. If the cards are bad for you and you go down one or two, they will be good for the opponents and they could make 3. If partner has a long major and close to an opening bid, we could even have a game.
Six experts agree with me and double. Five of them pass partner's minimum bid.
Woolsey: "D1---Double, and pass any three-level call. Seems right. We have support for all the suits and adequate strength for a takeout double, but no particular reason to think there is a game if partner can't bid one. This could be just an old-fashioned competitive part-score battle."
Warren: "D1---My partner is a passed hand. All I want to do is land in the best possible part score. If he has ten HCPs and a five-card major, he'll jump to game. If he has a stopper in clubs, he could bid 3NT."
Schwartz: "D1---Then pass all. Not nearly good enough diamonds to bid them. With three-card club length I would pass, but with two clubs partner probably won't be short enough to reopen. Not enough values for 3NT and can't even hold up twice on clubs with only two."
Hopkins: "D1---A reopening double is best because 1) partner might pass, either with alacrity or a prayer, or bid something, hopefully a five-card suit, where we will play. Normally I play partner for moderate values, say about eight HCPs, in responding situations such as these so I would pass 3 and 3. It is up to partner to move with more substantial values."
One expert really likes his hand. The higher you are, the more likely you will be doubled if this is a trouble hand. The best you can hope for is 25 HCPs between you.
Cole: "D3---Over 3 bid 3NT and give partner a choice of games. Over 3 pass. If partner has eight HCPs and club stopper he would bid 3NT. Doubling and passing is definitely wrong."
This hand is not strong enough to force to game.
One expert puts all his eggs in the diamond basket.
Kerns: "3---It is possible that East-West can make 3NT on this hand, then I make a lead directing 3 bid. I want to make sure we knock out West's diamond stopper before they set up their club suit. This seems to be an easy problem. Most answers have 3NT in them, which loses to four club tricks and a side Ace when they set me. Partner knows I have about 15 HCPs to bid at the three-level and he knows if I was 4-4 or maybe 4-3 in the majors I would have doubled instead. He can place me with no better than 3-3 in the majors also. By not doubling, I tell my partner something."
Two experts give up the ship. What if partner has a five-card suit and only six HCPs? He will pass 3 and you will probably end up with a bad matchpoint score. This could be the hand where the only lead to beat 3 is a low diamond and East-West have to defend double dummy to beat 3.
Parker: "Pass---If partner was not a passed hand I would bid 3NT to show my hand. It is too much of a hope that partner has the fillers to make 3NT. Double and passing partner's bid is the other option but that is a pure guess. Partner can still reopen with a long suit."
This is not a bid game or pass hand. You could play in a part score.
King: "Pass---The first goal here should be to go plus. I think it is close between passing and going for five defensive tricks and doubling and then passing whatever partner responds in. I lean towards pass because partner can still reopen if he is short in clubs."
Doubleton club and 15 HCPs says bid. What more is there to say?
|  South Holds
What is this hand worth in support of hearts? Forcing raise? Limit raise? Simple raise? Since partner figures to be short in spades, the King of spades is going to be wasted. If partner has at least two spades, you either have to draw trumps or lose the king to a ruff. The king of clubs might not be worth anything. Something to consider is what if LHO raises spades. The last thing you want to happen is for partner to bid 4 based on his spade void.
Three experts agree with me and don't think this hand is worth a limit raise. Two experts don't even raise hearts.
King: "2---Again it is important to protect a plus score. The King of spades is probably not pulling its weight on offense and my trumps are bad. Underbid now and then if partner makes a move towards game you can be happy to cooperate. I don't want to defend at the one-level with eight hearts between us."
One expert goes for the throat.
Hopkins: "Pass---I intend to pass a reopening double (of maybe even 2). If partner reopens with a suit, including rebidding hearts, I intend to raise hearts."
One expert takes a strange view but it could work out.
Cole: "1NT---It's not right to play for penalties with eight hearts. The problem with raising hearts is how much to bid. If over 1NT partner passes, you may survive. If partner bid 2 showing six, you have a great hand. If partner bids 2, bid 3. The club King is working. Over 2, you have the wrong kind of two-suited fit and just bid 2. When counting points the AK of spades is worth only six HCPs. You would rather have an AK in partner's long suit. Singleton King is worth two HCPs, not three and singleton in eight-card fit is worth only one point."
Six experts overbid.
Parker: "2---I never get rich at the one-level. I believe in showing a fit as early as possible. We can never catch up if they bid clubs and partner doesn't double."
I agree strongly about showing a fit. What I don't agree with is that this hand is a limit raise.
Kerns: "2---Cuebid. I still want to give a ten-point limit raise, and prevent West from bidding 2 or 2. It seems that anything that East leads through my dummy should help partner. Also, if spades are breaking this bad, so are other suits. Plus, when partner bids 3 with a minimum, East would need to bid 4 at the four-level if he has that suit. My bid makes it difficult for opponents to bid and compete."
Woolsey: "2---As always, the first order of business is to establish a trump suit and give partner an idea about our strength. After that, we are in better shape to get to the right contract or deal with enemy competition."
Warren: "2---Showing a limit raise. My partner will only have one or two spades in this auction. I will wait to see what his response is to my limit raise. If he just bids 3, I pass, but if he bids a new suit, I'll take him to game."
Schwartz: "2---Don't like to pass for penalties with trump support. Just 2 could be right since either your spade values are wasted or the opponents could threaten a ruff, but have to try to outscore the not unlikely +300's."
This problem is hand evaluation. How can this hand be worth any more than a six to nine single raise?
|  South Holds
I was very surprised at how many solvers passed 4 doubled. Wouldn't partner double 4 holding xxx/Qx/Axx/AKxxx? 7 is a good contract, but if West takes ten tricks in diamonds and spades he will make 4 doubled. True, you have a weak hand. However, what is the void in spades worth? It also helps to know what types of hands partner will have for his double. If partner could double 4 holding KQJx of spades and out, you must pass the double. Only if partner's double shows convertible values could you possibly remove the double. Since most four-level overcalls are made on strong suits, I have found that playing doubles in this situation as strictly for penalties loses in the long run. If you always remove partner's double with a void, you will be ahead in the long run.
Three experts agree with me and pull partner's double.
Schwartz: "4NT---Play double is cards, not penalty. We could have a big fit in a minor."
Partner could also have a good hand with three hearts.
Hopkins: "4NT---I believe the modern style is for the double to show cards with at least one and 1/2 quick tricks. It specifically denies a trump stack. Still this is a very close call. I'm hoping partner has at least one good minor suit of four cards or more to allow us to make +400 versus +100/+300 at 4 doubled."
Cole: "4NT---Take out with void. Partner's double shows around ten working HCPs for offense and defense. When opponents make a jump overcall to the four-level, it is almost always right to bid with a void. Partner should not double with just spades."
Six experts pass.
Parker: "Pass---I play this for penalty. I have some defense and very limited offense. Even if the bid shows cards why try and guess what we can make at the five-level."
Kerns: "Pass---No one called Rescue 911, I PASS. I have a six loser count. The only thing that beats a 500+ penalty is a slam and if we had a slam, partner may have bid 4NT or a minor. If partner had the hand to take care of five of my non-spade losers he might have bid something else. I'll pass and try for an average plus. He KNOWS I could have a minimum like this and yet he only doubled."
Woolsey: "Pass---North's double is basically penalties at this level; he isn't expecting us to pull unless we have very unusual shape. 0-5-4-4 doesn't qualify."
Does this mean that partner has to bid 5 with xxx/Qx/Axx/AKxxx in order to get a plus score?
Warren: "Pass---I have described my hand. Partner is doubling for penalties. My partner would have bid something else if he couldn't set 4."
King: "Pass---I have a minimum opening, but it is still an opening bid and while partner's double should show convertible values, I don't want to go looking for a fit at the five-level."
Partner is going to double 4, anytime he has a good hand.
|  South Holds
This is a tough hand. A doubleton diamond and nine HCPs indicates that you can't comfortably pass. When short in the opponent's suit, and doubleton is shortness, you make every effort to bid. However, what do you bid? You don't have three spades so you can't comfortably raise spades. You don't have four hearts so you can't comfortably make a negative double. You don't have enough points to comfortably make a free bid at the three-level. So which uncomfortable bid do you make? I like 2 as a least of evils bid. 2 is a limited bid and I have a maximum. Being at the top of the range can make up for lack of a third spade.
Four experts agree with me and raise spades.
Kerns: "2---Best of all ugly bids. If partner bids 2NT, I raise to 3NT or bid 3. If he bids 3, I cuebid 3. If he does a help suit game try or short suit game try, I'll decide later how to continue."
Schwartz: "2---Double is out with three hearts. Can't force to game with 3. Should be able to make at least 2 if partner passes. Plus we are in higher scoring partial."
Cole: "2---If partner bids game you're in the right spot. 5-2 or 6-2 plays well. The negative double is too likely to get partner overboard with 4. If partner gets overboard in spades with six spades, it should play well. It's not good enough to force to game."
What's best about 2 is that if partner has a 5-4-2-2 minimum, he won't bid again.
Four experts double and show four hearts. The negative double is an unlimited bid. Partner does not know whether you have six or 20 HCPs. What if it goes 4 and partner has four hearts?. Wouldn't he bid 4 on most hands? If partner has 16 HCPs and four hearts, he might even make a slam try. If you raise spades and it goes 4, he will bid 4 only if he expects to make it. I hope partner isn't 5-3-3-2 and decides to bid his three-card heart suit.
Woolsey: "Double---Not ideal, but other bids are worse. Too strong to pass with a doubleton diamond, not strong enough for 3, and I avoid raising on a doubleton if at all possible. When I convert partner's heart bid back to spades he will play me for a hand something like this, since if I had four hearts I would not be going back to spades and if I had three spades and not three hearts I would probably have raised spades to the appropriate level."
Parker: "Double---I will correct hearts to spades and be thrilled if partner bids clubs! If it goes 3 -- pass -- pass, I will risk 3."
King: "Double---I don't like to pass with this many points and I am not strong enough to bid 3 forcing. Hands like this is why I like to play negative free bids."
Would you really bid 3 if it wasn't forcing?
Hopkins: "Double---I had a club in with my hearts. I have enough HCPs so that partner should have good chances in a 4-3 heart fit or 6-2 spade fit. My only real fear is that partner will do something silly like bidding a three-card heart suit but this is not usual at the two-level."
If partner is 5-3-3-2 with bad spades and good hearts, he should bid a three-card heart suit.
One expert passes. Could be right if this is a misfit hand.
Warren: "Pass---My clubs are not good enough to bid on the three-level. Wait and see what partner does. Now if partner doubles and I bid clubs, he'll have a better picture of my hand."
Making a negative double with only three hearts is like freely bidding a three-card suit and that should be avoided at all cost.
|  South Holds
It makes sense to me, and five experts agree, that this hand should be played in game. But which game? 4? 3NT? Even 4 could be right if partner has at least five hearts. So how do you make sure that you get to the best game? Make a flexible bid. I suggest that you invent a jump shift into clubs, the lowest suit, and allow partner to describe his hand. If partner bids 3 or 3, you raise to four. If partner bids 3NT you have a decision to make. You can either pass 3NT or correct to 4. You should take into account that partner will bid 3NT with the red suits well stopped. If partner raises clubs, you can always go back to spades. Since a jump to can be made on a short suit, partner is barred from insisting on playing in clubs.
One expert agrees with me.
Schwartz: "3---Have to force to game, but can't bid a game outright(3NT,4) since game is quite likely elsewhere(even 4 is possible). 3 leaves the most space and if partner raises, have an easy 4 bid. In standard 3 can be short."
Four experts jump to 4. The trouble with 4 is that it puts all your eggs in one basket. Partner could have seven hearts and zero spades.
Kerns:"4---With a prayer. Perhaps he has five HCPs. QxQxxJT9xxxxx and I would be no worse off than 50% on my game. I might make game opposite this four-HCP hand xx/xxx/xxxx/Axxx, with spade Qx on-side. 4 tells him I want game opposite any decent six HCPs. He could have one spade and more HCPs also. Hand also plays better with lead coming to me as opposed to notrump."
Woolsey: "4---A bit too much playing strength to bid only 3. We might belong in notrump but it is difficult to find out. I suppose I could try 3, planning on bidding 4 over 4, but that is scary business."
King: "4---I want to be in game, so I must make a forcing bid or bid game. My hand is more oriented to a suit contract than notrump, but partner could have soft values making nine tricks our best shot. He also could have Qxxxx(x) of Hearts, making that the best strain, but I hate to jump to 3 and then guess over his rebid. I know some people who play 2NT as forcing in this sequence, allowing a better exploration without distorting one's hand pattern so much. Without the nine of spades I would explore alternative contracts more."
If you're not sure you want to be in 4, why bid it?
One expert raises to 2NT and one expert jumps to 3NT. Bidding notrump will cause you to miss your 6-2 spade fit. How well will notrump play if partner has three little in one of the minors?
Parker: "2NT---This allows us to find hearts if partner has five and bids over 2NT. Partner can bid a weak six-card minor or take a spade preference. Any other jump, 3NT or 3, greatly reduces our options. I would like to bid 2 forcing."
2 is not forcing but 3 is.
Hopkins:"3NT---Very close. 2NT and 3 are underbids. Both 4 and 3NT are reasonable. I bid 3NT because it needs fewer tricks."
If you have to set up the spade suit in order to make 3NT, the opponents could very easily take five tricks first.
The following bid is dangerous. If partner raises to 4, do you pass and play a possible 4-3 fit or do you correct to 4?
Warren: "3---To show 18 points. A jump to 3 is not enough, 2NT doesn't describe the hand, 3NT is a bit ambitious. Partner with seven HCPs or more will bid again."
Only if I was desperate, would I ever bid a three-card major.
The following expert invites. Could be right but in this problem a minority opinion.
Cole: "3---3 won't get you to the right game. 2NT loses the 6-2 fit. 3 loses 5-3 heart fit. With such prime values the first priority should be the 6-2 spade fit. It is right to bid 2NT if looking for a board to take a mild swing."
3 allows you to get to 4 when that is right and 4 when that is right. 3 also allows you to get to 3NT but only when you don't belong in four-of-a-major.
|Expert / Problem||1||2||3||4||5||Score|
Don Berman, Web Master.