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Washington Bridge League Solver's Club

March/April 1998

Moderator: Steve Robinson

    Congratulations to Kevin Avery who came in first with a score of 470. He wins a free entry to the Unit Game and will be invited to be on a future panel. Second was Walter Kerns with 460. Tied for third were Fred Steinberg, Ben Laden, Jeffrey Kosnett and Craig Olson with 440. Tied for seventh were Lynn and Burt Hall and Jim Creech with 410. Tied for ninth were Kathy Kruskal, Ted Ying, Rossi Lindstrom, Larry Kahn, Art Hayes and Mark Dahl with a score of 400. The average solver's score was 348. The average score of the experts was 425.

    All readers are encouraged to send answers and/or new problems to Steve Robinson, 2891 S. Abingdon St. #A2 Arlington, Va, 22206. In addition to the winner receiving a free play at the WBL Unit Game, Steve will play with anyone who gets a perfect score or who exactly matches all five of his answers. If you send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the above address along with your answers, Steve will send you a copy of the problems to ensure that you can meet his next deadline. You can also pick up a copy of the problems at the WBL Unit Game in Maryland or the Bridge Aces bridge club in Virginia. You can also send a request to to get a copy of the problems or send answers. WBL Solvers Club uses Washington Standard as published July 1996.

    Washington Standard, the book, is out. If you are a serious bridge player, this book is a must. You can purchase a copy from Steve for $19.95 at the Unit Game or at tournaments or can send him a check for $22.95 which includes $3.00 for priority mail.

  Problem 1    Matchpoints    Vul: NS 
  South Holds 
  The Bidding Thus Far 
  South    West    North    East  
  1 NT     Pass     2     Dbl  
  2*     2     Pass     Pass  

  * Guarantees at least 3 hearts  
  The Panel's Votes 
  Action    Score    Expert's 
  3     100     5     22   
  Pass     80     1     16   
  3     70     2     25   
  2NT     20     0     1   
  Dbl     20     0     1   
  What is your bid? 

About the auction. In Washington Standard, if a transfer to two-of-a-major gets doubled, we pass the double with two-card support and accept the transfer with three or four-card support. In competitive auctions, where following the Law is important, it is mandatory to know how many trumps you have.

What does the Law say about what we should do? We have exactly eight hearts and they have seven spades. If this is true then the correct Law bid is to pass 2. Why do I think that they have only seven spades? I trust my partner. Partner, with only two spades would not pass 2 unless he is completely broke. For Law purposes, Partner assumes that I have exactly three spades. If partner has only two spades but is completely broke, xx/Jxxxx/xxx/xxx for instance, we could very likely go for 200. If partner has xxx/Jxxxx/xxx/xx, they don't have to double to get 200. If the opponents are awake, they will work out that partner is broke and will double on the auction.

Five experts break the Law and bid 3.

Parker: "3---We may have a double fit and partner can always go back to hearts. The fact he didn't double means he has fewer then three spades."

I guess that if partner has three spades and seven HCPs he could double expecting you to pull with a doubleton spade. If he had four spades and a weak hand he would have bid Stayman.

Woolsey: "3---Passing is probably correct in theory, but it won't get any matchpoints. As long as I've already shown my heart support, I might as well bid my clubs in case that is helpful to partner."

Lublin: "3---Only way to 3."

King:"3---While it is dangerous to act at this vulnerability and form of scoring, selling out to 2 is also losing tactics. Partner knows I have three hearts, why not show him good clubs in case he has four of them?"

Schwartz: "3---With so much offense VS defense it makes sense to compete. I might as well tell partner where my stuff is so he can make the next decision if they bid on. If partner had bid 2NT over 2, is that Lebensohl? It should be."

2NT should be invitational with five or six hearts, 3 should be competitive and 4 should be a signoff. Remember, you have a guaranteed eight-card heart fit.

Two experts break the Law and bid 3.

Pies: "3---Law says pass, but pure and very hard for them to double when they have no idea what strength they have."

They might not know what strength they have but they do know that your partner was willing to sell out to 2 knowing that you have an eight-card heart fit.

Hopkins: "3---Even if this is theoretically wrong, it could turn out right. Partner could have real trash and we would still have a play. Also even if we are fated to go down one, the opponents probably have to double us to get a score to compensate for their +110 or +140. My heart strength suggests there is not likely to be a trump stack so any double by the opponents would be speculative. They are much likely to be happy to have pushed us to the three-level vulnerable. If they had been red, I wold have bid 3 to describe my hand to partner and set the stage for possible doubling on out part."

How can you fault anyone who bids 3? Good three-card heart support, no wasted values in the opponent's suits and a solid side suit are very strong temptations. However, if you are a strict Law follower, you must put aside these temptations and pass.

  Problem 2    Matchpoints    Vul: Both 
  South Holds 
  The Bidding Thus Far 
  South    West    North    East  
  -     -     -     1  
  Pass     2     2     Pass   
  Pass     3     Dbl     Pass   
  The Panel's Votes 
  Action    Score    Expert's 
  Pass     100     4     33   
  4     90     0     8   
  3     60     4     23   
  3NT     20     0     1   
  What is your bid? 

What is partner's hand? Since 2 could end the auction, partner has to be allowed some leeway when he bids 2. Some players have the understanding that partner's 2 is a balancing call. AKQxx and out. Any hand with five spades and short hearts qualifies. Partner's 2 is his attempt to make sure the opponents, with their eight-card heart fit do not play at the two-level. Partner's subsequent double of 3 says that he has a very good 2 overcall and he wants you to do something intelligent. This includes passing 3 doubled, supporting spades or even bidding a long minor.

At matchpoints, I think that there are two possible answers. Bid 4 and hope to score +620 or pass 3 doubled and hope to score +200. 3 is a wimpy bid, a call that you would make at IMPs or one that you would make if the opponents were non-vul. You don't want to go -730 at IMPs or be only +100 when you are cold for 3.

Three experts agree with me and go for +200.

Parker: "Pass---I don't intend to bid game once I passed 2. Partner has a good 5431 and I have at least two tricks. Lets get 200-500 and a good score. I would have raised spades originally in this auction. It is mandatory with three. Second choice is to just bid 4 now and thumb my nose at the opponents."

Since partner could have a weak overcall, raising to 3 should be made on sound values.

Woolsey: "Pass---We aren't getting to 4 even if it happens to make. This isn't a Law question, since +200 will beat any spade part score. If we think we are favorites to defeat 3, we pass. If not, we bid 3. I think we are favorites to defeat 3."

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you think you can beat them, you pass for penalties.

Hopkins: "Pass---I am going to play for +200. The fact that all my HCPs are in the opponent's suits makes game our way a remote proposition. Even if I have two heart stoppers in notrump, we might not have enough tricks before the opponents cash. I expect two or three tricks from my hand and hope partner can match that. I hope partner has Aces for his double. We will need them if declarer is 6-5."

Four experts are wimps.

Lublin: "3---Cards are useless and they have nine trumps."

Heart Jack is probably useless in spades but it probably a trick in hearts. It means that there could be fewer total tricks then total trumps.

Pies: "3---I think partner has six spades; so there are eighteen trumps. Otherwise he has no safety."

Why do you need safety at matchpoints?

King: "3---It is tempting to go for the plus 200 and defend, but partner is likely to be 6133 and the Law suggests bidding."

Schwartz: "3---Too chicken to pass as one heart honor rates to be on my left. They should have nine trumps and we have eight or nine clubs and a double fit."

We might have a double fit but all of our honors are in their suits.

This is matchpoints where if given a chance you go for the brass ring.

  Problem 3    Match Points    Vul: None 
  South Holds 
  The Bidding Thus Far 
  South    West    North    East  
  -     -     1     2  
  The Panel's Votes 
  Action    Score    Expert's 
  2     100     1     1   
  2     70     3     19   
  3     70     2     23   
  4     70     2     16   
  3     70     0     5   
  3     20     0     1   
  What is your bid? 

Is this our hand or is this the opponent's hand? If its our hand, we want to try for 3NT. If its the opponent's hand we might want to take a save. What's good about this hand is that we can listen to the auction and decide what to do later. Since the opponents are very likely to double five diamonds -- good opponents don't bid five over five -- you have to be able to take at least nine tricks. With nobody vulnerable, you can't afford to go down more than two. Holding seven losers, you need partner to take care of at least three of your losers. AKQx/xxx/Axxx/xx takes care of three of your losers but what can they make? The worst case is partner holding KQJ/Kxx/xxxx/QJx. You go for 1100 in 5, not good against 4 making five. I am very hesitant with this hand, so I bid only 2 and I might not take another call. If partner does not have extra distribution or extra strength, it makes good bridge sense to let them play the hand.

Two experts cuebid. Cuebidding works well if partner has 18- 19 balanced and also works well if West has both majors. Cuebidding denies him a chance to show both majors since double and 3 shows clubs. The problem with cuebidding is that if partner doubles the opponents, we won't know whether to sit or not. He has a right to expect at least one defensive trick from us.

Parker: "3---I will gamble out three notrump if partner can bid it. If not we will get to 3 or 4. My cuebid may keep the opponents silent. A bash to 5 may take partner out of the picture with values for three notrump."

Woolsey: "3---Since I'm willing to drive this hand to 5 anyway, I'll risk letting West get a major suit in. Might as well give partner a chance to bid 3NT."

Two experts preempt. 4 preempts partner out of 3NT if he has the 18-19 balanced and allows LHO to make a responsive double if its their hand. At least if LHO bids a four-of-a-major and partner doubles we can sit. We haven't promised any defensive tricks. We can also sell out knowing that partner does not have extra distribution.

Lublin: "4---To preempt auction."

Hopkins: "4---This expresses my values well - long diamonds and not much else and I would guess this is about what we can make. This puts pressure on the opponents. If they are contemplating bidding a major, partner might have the 4432 hand type and be ready to double."

Three experts assume its the opponent's hand. Doesn't your seven losers worry you? You need partner to have three winners for you with a hand that doesn't have four defensive tricks.

Pies: "5---They could have a slam. Let them guess."

King: "5---It might be nice to bid only 4, but I can't really sellout to 4 if they bid it, given their major suit fits. Thus I bid to the level I plan on right away."

Schwartz: "5---It might not be right but the 2| bid increases the odds of club shortness and with 2-1 in majors I have to make it tougher for LHO."

Preempting makes more sense if RHO made a takeout double or if the opponents were vulnerable.

  Problem 4    Imps    Vul: EW 
  South Holds 
  The Bidding Thus Far 
  South    West    North    East  
  -     -     -     1   
  2     3     4     4   
  The Panel's Votes 
  Action    Score    Expert's 
  Pass     100     5     18   
  Dbl     90     1     3   
  5     30     2     43   
  5     20     0     1   
  What is your bid? 

Again, whose hand is this? We have at least three tricks. Since partner should have something outside of diamonds for his 4 call, 4 should go down. If one believes the opponents are too high, one makes that known by doubling. Let me point out that East bids 4 no matter how bad his hand is. QJxxx/AQxx/x/Jxx is a 4 bid. Since two experts and forty- three solvers bid 5, 4 is a winning bid even though 4 has very little chance of making opposite a limit raise. Why should we let East get away with this?

Five experts think that they have good defense against 4.

Parker: "Pass---In competitive sequences like this with this vulnerability, partner must bid three notrump with hand that says for you to save if you want to. His raise in this sequence should show some defense. You have two + tricks and should beat them, unless partner wants to save."

If you should beat them, double.

Woolsey: "Pass---Doubling is tempting, since opponents often push at unfavorable vulnerability in order to induce a save. However, West probably has his bid, which means we aren't going to do big damage to 4. Also I don't want to discourage partner from saving if he has no defense at all."

Pies: "Pass---Really pretty clear. Way too much defense to bid."

Schwartz: "Pass---4 invites a sacrifice but with 2 1/2 quicks and balanced distribution, I'll defend."

Hopkins: "Pass---I read partner's 4 as not good enough for a cuebid and not enough distribution for 5. I therefore would expect between -300 and -500 in 5 doubled. So I pass and hope for +100."

The following answer is losing IMP tactics. If partner has nothing, you'll lose two spades, two hearts and one club for -500. Not good if the heartsJ in partner's hand is all you need to defeat 4.

Lublin: "5---Always take the non vulnerable save."

King: "5---This could be a phantom as I probably have three defensive tricks in my hand, but at this vulnerability and this form of scoring, I think I need to bid on just as insurance."

At the table, insurance cost twelve IMPs. A lead beats 4 two for plus 200 undoubled and any lead beats 4 one. 5 doubled went down three for -500.

What this hand points out is that partner should bid 3NT with KQxx of diamonds and out. 4 should be constructive showing some defense.

  Problem 5    Matchpoints    Vul: None 
  South Holds 
  The Bidding Thus Far 
  South    West    North    East  
  -     -     1     4   
  Pass     Pass     Dbl     Pass  
  The Panel's Votes 
  Action    Score    Expert's 
  4     100     4     12   
  Pass     70     3     30   
  4     40     1     11   
  4     40     0     11   
  5     20     0     1   
  What is your bid? 

Partner has made a high-level takeout double and now we have to make a decision. We want to make a call which in the long run figures to work out. I don't like to pass takeout doubles unless I have a penalty pass or unless I don't have anything clear to bid. Qx is not a penalty pass. The only question is whether to bid 4, 4, or 4. Since I expect partner to hold four spades fewer than 50% of the time, bidding 4 will lose in the long run. Supporting hearts works out if partner has good hearts but what if he has Qxxxx? He will assume that you have three-card support with not enough strength to make a free bid. I like bidding a five-card suit that partner has support for. Seems simple.

Three experts agree with me and bid their longest suit.

Woolsey: "4---Why shouldn't I bid my longest suit, as partner has requested. He is just as likely to have diamonds as anything else, and if he doesn't he can bid over 4."

Schwartz: "4---I have about the values partner expects so I don't need to make a big bid. With the expected bad breaks, I need to play in an 8+ trump fit and at matchpoints, a small plus could score well. If partner happens to be able to bid again, I'll be happy with whatever he does. With RHO likely to have a eight- card suit or a lot of distribution, 4| doubled shouldn't go down more than one"

Hopkins: "4---I am trying to take my best shot for a plus score. We might miss 4 when partner is 4540 or 4531 but are much more likely to go plus if partner has only three spades. Further, 4 is less likely to get doubled than 4. And if partner now bids 4 over 4, I will treat that as similar to equal level conversion and bid 4 with the expectation that partner is 45, 46 or 56 in the majors."

The following expert supports partner but with only two-card support. Would make more sense with a stronger hand.

Lublin: "4---Maybe last making contract."

Three experts pass for penalties. Passing a takeout double with Qx is not my cup of tea. Give partner Axx/QJ109x/AKQxx/-, you make at least 5 and they will make 4.

Pies: "Pass---Really hard problem. Four tricks are easier than ten. I think partner has two clubs."

King: "Pass---We might have a better spot, but any bid would be a guess and I think I can go plus by defending."

Parker: "Pass---I have no reason to think we can make anything at this level and have some defense. If I bid I guess I would try 4 but that could be a disaster."

Passing takeout doubles on a hope, might make partner hesitant to make future doubles. I like my partner knowing that when he makes a light takeout double, I will take it out.

Simple, partner asks you to bid a suit, 4 is a suit, so what's the problem?

How the Experts Voted:
  Expert / Problem     1   2   3   4   5   Score
  Kit Woolsey    3   Pass   3   Pass   4   470
  Steve Robinson    Pass   Pass   2   Dbl   4   440
  Steve Parker    3   Pass   3   Pass   Pass   440
  Robbie Hopkins   3   Pass   4   Pass   4   440
  Alan Schwartz    3   3   5   Pass   4   430
  Roger Pies    3   3   5   Pass   Pass   370
  Fred King    3   3   5   5   Pass   330
  Glen Lublin    3   3   4   5   4   300

Don Berman, Web Master.