Some problems from the Long Beach nationals: Answers

Today's Panelists: Barry Rigal, Robb Gordon, David Weiss, Kent Hartman, Len Vishnevsky, Lynn Johannesen, Mike Shuster, David Caprera, Mark Bartusek, Joel Wooldridge, Marshall Miles
  1. MPs, both vul

     S:Q98 H:xx D:98xxx C:xxx

    LHO CHO RHO You
    2H: Dbl 4H: Pass
    PassDbl Pass?


    BARRY
    5D:. Elsewhere I've gone in print to say that removing [takeout] doubles of 4H: has been my best IMP-gainer ever. I'll stick with that!
    ROBB
    5D:. I have saved a lot of partnership stress over the years by letting partner know I always bid with these hands. Would pass (of course) with <4 spades and no 5 card minor.
    DAVIDW
    5D:, following Kaplan's rule. This hand appears more likely to have value on offense than on defense.
    KENT
    [5D:.] What's partner supposed to do with the moose of all time and 4054 distribution? If he has that hand, we should be beating 4H: a couple of tricks while cold for 7D:. This is not a fun hand. Partner said to bid something. I'll try 5D: and hope for the best.
    LEN
    Pass. Pard has a good hand and we should set 4H:x. If I knew pard pard held 4=1=5=3, bidding 5D: still wouldn't be clear, and 4S: might fall apart after heart forces.
    LYNN
    I'd pass, with no confidence. The right action depends on partner's relative minor suit holdings, and I don't have a crystal ball.
    MIKE
    5D:. I've come around to bidding when holding a 5 card suit even with a bad hand when partner makes a takeout double at the four level. 4S: is reasonable, since I can pitch on the second round of hearts and then take the tap in the short hand, but it has other dangers. If something goes wrong in 4S: (especially a 5-1 trump break), it is easy to imagine losing control and going off several tricks, whereas we rate to have enough trumps to maintain control in 5D:. Additionally, since we only have seven spades, I don't expect that either opponent will take the push to 5H: over 4S:, but it is easy to imagine that the 4H: bidder, holding something like  S:K10xxx H:KJxx D:x C:xxx would make a mistake and save in 5H: if we bid diamonds, thinking it a 2-way shot.
    DAVIDC
    Unless 2H: was a strong two bid, I would pass at any form of the game and any vulnerability. I don't even think it is close. As someone would undoubtedly say in [the Master Solvers Club], "a unanimous panel". [And, as typical of such predictions in the MSC, is very far off. --Jeff] I am guessing this is here because I lose a double game swing by passing. So what.
    MARK
    Pass. I can't imagine anyone's pulling with this flat hand. [Another prognosticator...they never learn. --Jeff] Admittedly 10% of the time, it will be wrong to pass. We might have been better off in some of those situations if partner had bid a forcing 4C:/4D: Roman jump instead of doubling. [Partner was 4144...it'd be a very off-beat Roman jump. --Jeff]
    JOEL
    Pass. I hope partner has some defense, 'cause I got a lotta nada.
    MARSHALL
    Pass. Iíd pass at IMPs also, but with less confidence.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    5D:
    WINNING ACTION
    5D:. Partner has  S:AJ10x H:x D:AKQx C:A10xx. 4H: is cold.
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    5D:6
    Pass6
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I've learned to take out partner's takeout doubles. I am surprised so many of the panelists choose to do it on this balanced garbage. I was pretty surprised my choice worked out at the table; it would not have taken much tinkering to make it a disaster. 2-2 diamonds with the S:K off means both contracts go down. Switch partner's minors and they are getting creamed and if diamonds are 3-1, we are getting doubled for 200-500.

  2. IMPs, unfav

     S:A10 H:x D:QJ107x C:KQ98x

    RHO You LHO CHO
    Pass1D: 4S: Dbl
    5S: ?


    BARRY
    Pass. Would I be surprised if 5S: were laydown or we had a slam making here? No. Yes partner might misjudge with a void in spades—but the opponents have not passed out 6D: yet.
    ROBB
    Pass. Forcing, I hope. Close to a double anyway as my spade ace may be wasted. [I don't think it's forcing, but maybe it should be. RHO obviously thinks you can make something and is saving. --Jeff]
    DAVIDW
    6C:. We might make it, or they might take the push to 6S:. Two plausible ways to win, so worth the risk.
    KENT
    6C:. I think they're stealing. [I don't know about that, but it's clear that they think they're stealing! --Jeff]
    LEN
    Double. Pard set up a forcing situation and my hand isn't good enough to invite a slam. We might miss 6C:, but that's unlucky.
    LYNN
    If partner's double is defined as penalties, I'd pass. I think I have slightly subminimum defense, given the opponents' likely secondary fit in hearts. If we should be defending, partner will double again, and I'll pass. He might, however, bid 5NT with minor suit length.

    [It's negative, but there's really no difference at this level. --Jeff]

    If partner's double is defined as negative, so he rates to have at least four hearts, I'll double, which shows some convertible values. I just don't have enough controls to venture to the six level myself. He can still bid 5NT on the right hands—I hope.

    MIKE
    Pass. Seems we are playing poker. RHO thinks we can make a slam, but LHO may still have some defense. For slam to be good, partner needs excellent controls, and even if slam is normally a good bet, a ruff may be lurking (against that, the opponents may fail to lead a spade when it is necessary, if they are going for a ruff). I'd just pass (forcing) and let partner judge. Surely I'd double with a balanced hand, so partner will be able to bid with some hands where we want to be in slam.
    DAVIDC
    First issue. Is a pass by me forcing? Several thoughts. Not because RHO is a passed hand, not because we are vul vs. not. Kantar says "forcing passes after negative doubles at the five level or higher". I confess that I did not have that agreement in my regular partnership. Our forcing passes required invitational strength bids, negative doubles were not so defined. Admittedly there is a difference in the strength of the double between 1D:-(1S:)-x-(5S:) and the auction given, but I never got that sophisticated for such a low frequency situation. (Kantar doesn't even address it until three pages from the end of his book.) Does that mean we are likely to sell out? No, I doubt we ever will. I have an opening hand and partner was willing to commit to a five level contract or play 4S: doubled. (I know that sounds inconsistent with whether a pass is agreed as forcing, it is just that I have a limited number of defined forcing pass situations and "sound of the auction" isn't really one of them.) So, the question for me becomes "do I have an offensive or defensive hand?" In spite of the 5-5, I think that I have the latter. I am doubling. Partner could have, for example,  S:x H:KQJxx D:xxx C:AJxx, a reasonable double in my view, and four of a minor is in jeopardy! Even if partner has the hoped for AAK, there is still no guaranty of 6. Partner could have a doubleton spade (beware of a doubleton in the opponent's suit at the five level). Take the money.
    MARK
    Double. Although Pass would clearly be forcing in this auction, I have too many losers to invite partner to bid on. There are a lot of hands partner can hold where getting to the 6-level would be a disaster.
    JOEL
    Pass (forcing). My opponents are retarded for bidding 5S:.
    MARSHALL
    Dbl. Surely I canít gamble that partner will have D:AK and C:A (rather than wasted strength in hearts). A pass would be too encouraging.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    6C:
    WINNING ACTION
    6C:. Maybe. Partner had  S:x H:Kxxxx D:A9x C:AJxx. The D:K was onside.
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    6C:3
    Double5
    Pass4
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Well, is pass forcing or not? It seems obvious that it is, but careful consideration suggests otherwise to me. First, let's answer, "does partner's double of 4S: create a force at all levels?" I think the answer is "no." This auction
    RHO You LHO CHO
    Pass1D: 4S: Dbl
    Pass5D: PassPass
    5S:
    should not create a force. There is no reason to believe it's our hand; you've shown a very offensive hand and partner's needn't be very defensive. No one has any clue who can make what, so we generally don't want a force on. Also, since we've shown little interest in slam, forcing us to bid it or double them can't be right. Assuming this result, then the actual auction oughtn't be a force, because RHO chose it instead of the possible auction above. I don't believe we should allow our opponents' bidding strategy to determine whether or not we are in a force. Therefore, we still are not. On the other hand, suggesting we are is that RHO seems to think we can make something. He's unlikely to be bluffing, but I'm just not willing to let a clever opponent create a force for us. Despite this argument, I can't imagine ever letting them play undoubled, so while theoretically we may not be in a force, practically we are.

    Regardless of whether we are or aren't in a force, passing, bidding, and doubling are all reasonable options anyway. I have no idea which will be right on balance, but it's a bidder's game, so I bid, which was lucky this time. With a balanced vote, it's a close guess.


  3. Playing a notrump contract, you get the opening lead of the 2 in this unbid suit. They lead fourth best.

    Dummy
    KQ9x
    Declarer
    Axx

    How do you play the suit?


    [This is what I think is the right answer: --Jeff]
    MIKE
    Low at trick one. If RHO plays the 8, then cash another high honor hoping to drop the ten or jack. If RHO plays the 6, it is probably from 6-7, so finesse the 9. If RHO plays the 7, guess well. This suggests playing the 8 from 7-8 doubleton is a good falsecard. If so, they got me.
    BARRY
    I'll assume we do not have as much as the 7 between us— you'd have given us that! Depends on my opponents. Since even a world class opponent with J3 may not know when I duck in dummy that his partner has 10872 as opposed to A872 I'll play small smoothly.

    My subsequent percentage calculations suggest that RHO has xx as opposed to Jx/10x 6 times in 15. Might I play low from dummy and double-finesse the next time? I'd need to see the spots before deciding.

    [RHO puts up the 8.]

    Lead to the 9. We are measuring 108 (J8) against 3 small doubletons.

    ROBB
    I play low. Obviously if an honor comes up, I can cash one of dummy's honors and then finesse. If not, I double hook the second time.

    People are reluctant to lead from Jxxx and sometimes lead high from Txxx.

    DAVIDW
    Jxxx or 10xxx is more likely than J10xx, so I win the first trick wherever I would like to be and eventually take a third-round finesse if RHO drops an honor. I suppose they get me if the lead was from xxx, but otherwise I am taking what I was dealt rather than hoping for a gift.
    KENT
    Play low from the dummy at trick one and if nothing higher than the 7 appears on the right, to play LHO for JTxx. Otherwise, play RHO for honor doubleton.
    LEN
    K, then A, then low to dummy and cover. This picks up [RHO's] xxx, Jxx, Txx, J, T, Jx, Tx, and JT. If LHO plays 2,T,3 you still play for the drop.
    LYNN
    Well, you play low at trick one, and see what happens. If RHO plays the jack, I'll finesse the nine later (he's very likely to play the J from Jx, possibly even J8, because he thinks he might win the trick). If RHO plays the 8, I guess it's right to play him for honor-8 doubleton. If he plays low without a problem, I think I'd also finesse the nine next, unless he is an expert. Isn't the technical play low from dummy at trick one, then cash a high honor, then finesse the nine? That is, isn't Jx or 10x very slightly more likely than xx in RHO's hand? [Yes, in a vacuum. --Jeff]

    Dale says it is silly to ask about this suit in a vacuum. You almost always can draw inferences from the play in other suits, and make your decision later.

    DAVIDC
    I think this question was way too open-ended. The "x's" are extremely important. Also, is the contract 1NT, 3NT or 6NT? Could opening leader have Ahxx(x)? How strong a player is RHO? Did he play in tempo? Can declarer have a doubleton? I went round and round on this one. The simplest situation to analyze was when all cards are known, that is LHO leads the 5 and between dummy and declarer you hold A, 2, 3, and 4. In that situation, RHO is 7 to 3 to hold the J or T. I believe the proper play is to duck from dummy (RHO has a problem if LHO can hold Ahxx and if his second spot is "small", e.g., the 6 or 7), win A, but to play K second round.
    MARK
    Hx with RHO if LHO is a weak player.
    xx with RHO if LHO is a strong player.
    Obviously you should have given us more information. [I suspect that if a statement is prefaced by "obviously," it's wrong over 75% of the time! --Jeff] The contract level and the specific auction are important (not to mention the strength of the opponents). I will assume a contract and an auction where opening leader would not lead from honor third (i.e. he has chosen an unbid suit to "attack" holding exactly 4 cards in the suit). Clearly I will play low from dummy in case RHO makes a mistake at trick 1. Obviously the specific card RHO plays will give me added information (the 6 or 7 from RHO is relevant missing the J108762). Thereafter, one's first impression is that it is 4-3 in favor of honor doubleton on the right; but, these odds change based upon the strength of LHO. I have found that weak players often lead 4th best from bad suits; thus, I will play for Hx with RHO. A strong LHO will usually lead 2nd highest from a weak holdings like 10872 (and possibly 10862 and J872...depends upon the auction and HCPs distributed between the opponent's hands). This changes the odds in favor of RHO's holding xx.
    JOEL
    Assuming I don't have the 7 in either hand, I'll insert the 9 at trick 1.
    MARSHALL
    I assume the question is how to take 4 tricks in the suit. [Even I can take three tricks in that suit on a good day! --Jeff] Take 2 top cards and finesse 3rd round (playing RHO for a doubleton honor.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    small, then cash a winner from dummy playing RHO for Jx or 10x after RHO inserted the 8. I planned to hook if RHO played a lower card in reasonable tempo.
    WINNING ACTION
    insert the 9. This lead was from J1072.
    CONSENSUS
    PlanVotes
    Low then cash an honor5
    Depends on RHO's spot3
    Low and hook the 92
    Look Left1
    Insert the 9 1
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Without any information from the opponents' plays, the suit is straightforward. Cash K and A and finesse if RHO drops an honor. That's in a vacuum. Here we know the suit is probably 4-2. What about RHO's card? They have between them J108762. If RHO plays the 6, he has 76 doubleton, so hook the 9 with confidence. If he plays the 7, judge how good he is. It's an easy play from 87 tight, but tough from 107 or J7. If he plays the 8, he has either 86, 108, or J8, none of which are particularly hard plays. Therefore, it's 2-1 in favor of dropping a doubleton honor. Except that they can falsecard. It is a completely new falsecard situation for me. Anyone ever heard of it before?

    I spent about 3 minutes thinking about this suit when it was just an overtrick in a KO match. OK, I admit I'm twisted, but I found it interesting.


  4. MPs, none vul

    S: xxx
    H: 10x
    D: AJ109xxx
    C: J
    S: A10
    H: AKQ
    D: KQxx
    C: 10xxx

    You LHO CHO RHO
    1D: Pass1H: 1S:
    Dbl 4S: PassPass
    Dbl All Pass

    T1: H:A-x-2-x
    Plan the defense


    BARRY
    I'd have led the S:A—and certainly would not have led the H:A—king for count!! I shift to the S:A and see what happens. I plan to try to cash a second H: and continue spades.
    ROBB
    S:10. I don't like the lead of the ace. How can partner ever know how to signal? Should not play a from ak in partner's suit. Even if you do, lead q from akq.
    DAVIDW
    I cash the heart queen before the mice get at it. If partner plays high on this, I will lead the diamond king for a ruff. Otherwise I will try to kill dummy by playing a third heart. I do not want to risk blowing a trump trick or a tempo by playing a trump. I don't think I have to beat this hand a lot — 4H: doesn't look like a favorite, so I want to take the best chance for a set.
    KENT
    Ace and another trump. This will probably drop partner's stiff king.
    LEN
    Was X a 3 cards raise? [Yes. --Jeff] There's no alert, so I assume it's cards. I would have led the H:Q, since now pard's H:2 just denies H:K, more or less. I hope pard has something like  S:Jx H:Jxxx D:x C:Axxxxx, so I play hearts and hope to get a promotion on the fourth round, after putting pard in with a club.
    LYNN
    It must be wrong or this problem wouldn't be here, but I'd play trump, trump. When declarer later leads a diamond from hand, I won't split. I think partner is supposed to do something exciting at trick one if he has a diamond void, so I expect declarer to have only one, if any. Partner also has to have something good in clubs, so I think declarer is unlikely to find more than nine tricks on the trump shift. [My reasoning exactly and very wrong at the table. --Jeff]

    I can see some holdings on which it's right to continue hearts to tap the dummy, but I think they are much less likely.

    Any other defense strikes me as weird, whether it would work or not.

    MIKE
    There isn't a specific rush to play two rounds of trump, and it could be a disaster if we need an uppercut on the second round of diamonds. I would be a little worried about declarer's pitching a heart on a club (surely partner has something though... I know he doesn't) but it may still be tough to handle. I'll try the D:K and hope something good happens. It's tempting to cash the H:K first, but I'm just not sure.
    DAVIDC
    I need a little explanation. The first double was 3 trump or a strong NT? [Yes. --Jeff] What is the H:A? I assume the H:2 was "negative". I am just going to take the tricks the gods dealt. Second H: and switch to D:K. I am guessing down 2 but I don't think I was making 5H:.
    MARK
    I will play the H:K next expecting a signal from partner. If he signals for clubs then I will play Ace and another trump. If he signals for diamonds then I will shift to a small diamond (if declarer tries to crossruff, then partner can uppercut twice on diamond leads).
    JOEL
    I'll play the H:Q and attempt to interpret partner's signal in the suit. If partner plays the lowest heart spot, I'll shift to trumps. If partner plays the highest heart spot, I'll shift to diamonds, and if partner plays a middle heart spot, I'll shift to diamonds again. [He plays the H:J. --Jeff]
    MARSHALL
    Donít I need to know whether we are playing UDCA? [One can infer that standard signals are in use, since obviously partner is discouraging, right? What would he have have to say anyway? --Jeff] Probably cash another top heart (I would have led the queen originally) and shift to the D:K.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    S:A.
    WINNING ACTION
    cash a heart and play anything but a spade. Partner has  S:Jxx H:Jxx D:xx C:Qxxxx.
    CONSENSUS
    (S: = spade shift at T2 or T3)
    ActionVotes
    S:5
    H:6
    D:1
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    It never occurred to me that declarer would have a club pitch for dummy's heart. Partner probably has nothing in spades, and we know he has nothing in the red suits. That means he has to have something in clubs. Therefore, where is the heart going? On the other hand, we have to win the 2nd heart, so is there any reason not to cash it before playing ace and another spade? I don't see one. I don't see why partner's cards should be in spades instead of clubs; rather the opposite seems more likely. A spade still looks right. It could have been worse. Partner's spades might have been Q98. Managing to take one trump trick with that holding is quite impressive. Eddie Kantar, move over!

  5. IMPs, both vulnerable

     S:J9xx H:AKJ87x D:Jxx C:

    LHO CHO RHO You
    3D: Pass5D: ?


    BARRY
    Pass; don't have to be a hero on every deal.
    ROBB
    Pass.
    DAVIDW
    Now that I'm a senior, I pass. If RHO bid this with diamonds, then partner, who is short in their suit, didn't have enough to come in. On the other hand, if RHO bid this with high cards, we may get killed if I bid. The most likely location of partner's values is the club suit.
    KENT
    5H:. On a good day, partner is short in diamonds and isn't 6-1 in the majors.
    LEN
    Pass. It wouldn't surprise me if 5H: were right. If you've discussed that X is Lightner here, that would be nice. [It's not. It's takeout. --Jeff]
    LYNN
    This time you got me—I'll try 5H:. I can make a game opposite a perfect 6 count ( S:AQx H:xxxx D:x C:xxxxx), so I can't resist.

    My second choice is double, hoping partner is brilliant enough to find the club lead.

    MIKE
    5H:. Partner is short in diamonds and didn't act, ergo also short in HCP. So RHO thinks he is making. Yet he didn't bid 3NT, so he must have a flaw in his hand — that is obviously in hearts. 5H: has some chance to make but rates to go down one or two tricks, depending on RHO's club holding. 5D: may or may not make, depending on the converse (if RHO is bidding 5D: on...  S:Ax H:x D:Kxx C:AKQJxxx then both sides might have a game... [Only 5D:? Not 4C: key card? --Jeff] that would leave partner with  S:KQxxx H:Qxx D:x C:xxxx or such. If RHO is pure power — say  S:AKJ H:x D:Kxx C:AQ10xxx — then we rate to be down 2 with them making, win 3)
    DAVIDC
    You gave this one to me. I am going for a number. But I said "5H: was ok." If you tell me that RHO was Hamman and he tanked before bidding 5D:, then 5H: isn't so clear. But in the abstract, I rely on the strength of my suit and the good pattern to bid.
    MARK
    Pass. Partner passed with diamond shortness, and we have at most half the deck. Sure it could be right to bid some percentage of the time, but I would expect to go for a number more often than not. It seems that we have a decent chance to defeat 5D: (possibly with a club ruff). I think it is a clear-cut Pass.
    JOEL
    Double. Hopefully partner won't come up with the horrid 6C: call. [He does, of course. Partners can be trusted about that sort of thing! --Jeff]
    MARSHALL
    5H:.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    5H:
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    5H:6
    Pass5
    Double1
    WINNING ACTION
    Hard to say. Partner has  S:Kxxx H:109x D:x C:KJ9xx. If he finds a club lead vs. 5D:, you beat it one. Otherwise, it makes. If you bid 5H:, you have lots of guesswork to go down 1, 2, or 3 doubled.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    DavidW's reasoning convinces me. Either partner is short in diamonds, in which case he has no hand and 5H: could get creamed, or he's not short in diamonds, in which case, RHO has a very good hand and is itching for me to bid. Then again, Mike's construction makes 5H: even when partner has no hand. OK, I don't know what to do. Yes, LHO was Soloway and RHO was Hamman. The panel vote sure didn't clear anything up!

  6. IMP Pairs, unfavorable

     S:Ax H:QJx D:x C:AKQ9xxx

    You LHO CHO RHO
    1C: Pass1H: Dbl
    Pass2D: 2H: 5D:
    ?

    a) what would you have done on your 2nd turn?


    BARRY
    3C:—support xx or no. Then raise hearts.
    ROBB
    I would have redoubled to show support. Lacking that I would have redoubled to show a good hand. Wouldn't bid 3C: as I don't want to shut out hearts. But I would never pass. How do I catch up?
    DAVIDW
    I would have redoubled, as forced by system. If my system didn't call for that, I would have rebid clubs since mine are pretty good. [I don't like systems which force me to do something like that. --Jeff]
    KENT
    Even I wouldn't pass. 3C: seems about right.
    LEN
    Redouble.
    LYNN
    Probably would have tried 3C:, planning to support hearts later at the 3 or 4 level (I don't know about 5).
    MIKE
    Passing seems a little twisted, but it worked great.
    DAVIDC
    3D: auto-splinter? I don't think so but it would be nice for this hand. [It's heart support, of course. --Jeff] Rothian passes are not for me. My Goren for Beginners says "16-18 HCP and a good suit rebids at the three level". That sounds about right. I bid 3C:. I don't think redouble is this hand (and I don't play it to be a three card raise). On this hand 3C: would have the effect of shutting out LHO's D: bid.
    MARK
    I would Redouble showing 3 hearts. Then I would have an easy double this round. ["Easy" isn't the same as "effective," having buried a solid seven-card suit! --Jeff]
    JOEL
    Support redouble.
    MARSHALL
    Redouble. Arenít we playing support doubles and redoubles?
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    Pass
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    Pass1
    Rdbl7
    3C:4
    WINNING ACTION
    hard to say
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I think pass is clearly best. Your hand is too complex to describe to partner, and a redouble isn't starting in the right direction. On the other hand, finding out if he has self-sufficient hearts or club support or the like rates to be very good. We are, of course, planning to force game (5C: is on a hook vs. H:A10xx and out), so finding out a little more about partner's hand seems more useful than letting him know something. In essence, the only way to find out which suit is trump is to pass and let partner bid naturally. Since that's of primary importance, I think it's the way to go.

    Of the alternatives, 3C: is an underbid, perhaps a severe one. If RHO had overcalled 1S:, I surely would have tried 3NT. If 2D: and 2S: were stopper-showing, I might try 2S:, but they aren't. Nor are 3D: and 3S:; those are splinters. Since one basic plan on the hand is to see if partner has a diamond stopper, passing also allows LHO to bid spades. If it comes around to you, you can then jump to 3NT and partner will maybe guess you don't have diamonds well stopped. Or if LHO bids diamonds, you can cue bid them and get partner to bid 3NT with a diamond stopper. None of this works if you start with a redouble.

    Even ignoring 3NT issues, redouble still seems poorly-judged. You are going to have to overrule partner's trump choice (presumably hearts) at least once. Since a cue bid will sound like a game force in hearts, you'll end up making him choose between 5C: and 5H: without ever really getting a firm grip on the auction.

    Twisted or not, I think pass is the best call. I don't think it's even remotely close. And it worked out great this time, too. If we had redoubled, (b) would be a total guess.


    b) what now?
    BARRY
    5H:...no idea but this guess seems as good as anything.
    ROBB
    I just bid 5H:. They will probably have to push me to 6.
    DAVIDW
    5H:. I must admit that my reticence has not left me badly placed. Partner's voluntary 2H: bid suggests that 5H: will be a playable spot, probably a good save. Since RHO didn't know that I have a massive offensive hand, his 5D: bid was intended as a make. So no slam for me; I expect to lose a diamond on the opening lead, and to watch them cash a spade when they win their heart trick. Down one will be OK, and I suppose it is possible that I've misjudged and we'll make 5H:.
    KENT
    Now that I have found the extra ace and queen I concealed at my second turn, I'll bid 6H:.
    LEN
    6H:. I play RHO for something like  S:KQJx H:x D:KQJxxxx C:x and pard for  S:xxxx H:AKxxxx D:x C:xx, so 6H: might be cold. In a non-forcing pass situation, X shows extra values and does not discourage partner from bidding, but my hand seems too offensive for that. I would not try 5NT (pick a slam), because RHO might have a heart ruff coming and be too sly to make a Lightner double.
    LYNN
    I think I can make 6H:, so I'll bid it. 6C: probably should show this hand, and thus would be a superior bid, but experience tells me that these bids are never as clear to partner as they are to me. The pass over the X seems to have worked brilliantly here. [Thanks! --Jeff]
    MIKE
    Now 6H:. If course, I already know the point of the hand. It is remarkable that you worked that out at the table.
    DAVIDC
    I guess to bid 5H: with no real conviction. Too much offense but I am not blasting 6 — all partner did was rebid 2.
    MARK
    [Double.] Who knows? It's a guess. You've screwed yourself by not redoubling or bidding 3C: the 2nd round. RHO sounds like 4261 distribution. Partner could have H:AKxxxx or H:A10xxxx with the King onside. Alternately, we could have 3 losers after a spade lead. Probably double is percentage.
    JOEL
    I trust my opponents about as far as I can throw them. However, I still bid 5H:.
    MARSHALL
    6H:. It seems inconsistent, and this is just a guess.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    6H:
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    5H:5
    6H:6
    Double1
    WINNING ACTION
    double. Partner had  S:xxxx H:A109xxx D:xx C:x. The H:K was offside. But bidding 6H: and 5H: is the same. Most who were in similar situations bid 5H:, got doubled, and went -200. 6H: didn't get doubled.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I like my choice. Against a heart contract, RHO will lead a diamond and shift to spades. Unless partner has a spade honor, he'll need to avoid a trump loser to make 11 tricks. If he does that, he'll probably make 12 tricks, so this is probably a 4 or 6 hand. Also, a confident jump to 6H: is less likely to be doubled than a 5H: "save." As an added bonus, a possible heart finesse is into the takeout doubler, who, since he's short in hearts, is not too likely to have the H:K. Also, since partner is obviously pretty weak, for him to volunteer a second call suggests that most of his cards are in his suit. Why can't he have H:AK10xxx and out?

    I'm amazed that the panel supported 6H: at all. No one considered it when I showed the problem around at the tournament. Most thought I was nuts even to discuss it.


  7. MPs, both vul

     S:97xx H:Ax D:Kxxxx C:K9

    RHO You LHO CHO
    1NT PassPass2C: (majors)
    Pass2S: 2NT Pass
    Pass?


    BARRY
    Pass and lead spades. Pushing them up a level may be all we need to do to score ave+.
    ROBB
    Pass. If they are going down at all, they are probably going down 2. Don't need to double.
    DAVIDW
    Pass. I expect to beat the vulnerable opponents in 2NT, perhaps a couple on a spade lead. 200 or more on a part-score hand will be fine, and a fitting reward for partner's brave balance. I do not double, because I expect they have a suitable escape hatch in clubs, which I do not dare to double. It's even possible that LHO intended his bid as minor-suit takeout, so let's not give him another chance.
    KENT
    Pass. I think they belong in 3C:, and I don't want to let them get there. My first response was to double, but upon reflecting what my options were over 3C:, I'll pass and hope for plus 200. Partner's call appears to get us off to a better lead than a diamond, the opponents are a level higher than they wanted to be—this looks like the time to defend.
    LEN
    3S:. Both partscores might make.
    LYNN
    The longer I look at this, the more I think it's right to pass, LOTT or not. LHO has minors, RHO has good spades, and the axe is ready to fall if bidding is wrong. If partner shares my philosophy, he'd bid 2C: on trash like  S:Qxxxx H:J10xxx D:J C:Ax, and I don't want to hang him.

    My second choice is X, which ought to suggest that I have a good hand for both offense and defense. On this auction, though, I think we have little chance of getting out for -100—if we are down, they are going to X us.

    MIKE
    Pass. Something weird is going on here, but I'm not prepared to double them. If partner has agressively balanced, great, that ought to help the defense and they are one level higher. If they did something strange, then we are getting 200 or more and that's all we need.

    I would have bid 2D: over 2C:, intending to bid 2S: over 2H: or 3S: over 2S: to show a good hand with game interest. However, once I start on the low road, the opponents showing values does not make me re-evaluate.

    DAVIDC
    Pass. Assuming that the 1NT bid was strong, partner did not promise values. (If 1NT was weak, then I am smashing 2NT because we have more than half the deck; but then again I would have bid 3S: the first time.) Partner bounced them out of their comfortable 1NT. My monkey could be  S:Qxxx H:Qxxxx D:x C:Qxx or some such. Don't punish partner for balancing at matchpoints. He may have just done a good thing. My LHO should be looking at a 7 or 8 count. We aren't going to kill 2NT but we may go plus, and I don't think we are making 3S:.
    MARK
    Pass. Assuming a strong 1NT and partner's possibly having 4-5 in the majors, I would pass since the opponents are vulnerable. One of my Kings is probably wasted on offense, but a trick on defense. A natural 2NT by LHO makes it more likely that partner has only 4 spades on this auction. Additionally, the opponents might be having a misunderstanding in regards to lebensohl.
    JOEL
    Pass. I'm no hero.
    MARSHALL
    Pass.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    3S:
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    Pass10
    3S:2
    WINNING ACTION
    Double. Partner held  S:KJ86 H:KJ9x D:x C:J1087. RHO has S:AQ10 and two aces and doubles for 200. They can't make anything. They won't stay in 2NT, but they don't have an 8-card fit anywhere.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Bidding 3S: was a blunder. LHO's 2NT was takeout for the minors. RHO passed it, so unless he's a madman (in real life, he is known to be one) either they have no fit or he's done something foolish. If they have no fit, ours isn't wonderful, so we should defend. If he's done something foolish, we should defend.

    On the other hand, red/red is the vulnerability in which partner is LEAST likely to perpetrate a "brave" balance. If they double and nip us one, it's a disaster. If they don't and just beat it, and we were holding 1NT to one, it's -100 vs. -90. That's still bad. If we are making, they are sometimes going down two, so even then when the operation succeeds, sometimes the patient dies anyway. Since partner rates to have something, we should be making 3S:, probably doubled. Upon reflection, I probably ought to have made a game try directly via 2D:...2S:. We'd've probably bought it there.


  8. MPs, unfavorable

     S:xxx H:AKQxxx D:J10x C:x

    RHO You LHO CHO
    1C: 1H: 1NT Dbl
    3NT ?


    BARRY
    Pass. Will beat 3NT and might not beat 4C:.

    [On defense...] Win H:Q and shift to D:J, playing declarer to hold  S:Qxx H:Jxxx D:Qxx C:Axx. Partner has  S:KJxx H:xx D:A9xx C:xxx. Don't know who has the C:J...

    ROBB
    Is double not penalty? If it is penalty, I certainly double. If not, I pass. [I have no idea what double was, but given partner's hand, it wasn't penalty. I think he missaw the auction. --Jeff]

    [On defense,] I duck and hope partner has the club ace. I guess the alternative is to win and switch to the diamond jack.

    DAVIDW
    Pass, for reasons similar to the last hand. I think we'll beat 3NT on a heart lead, which I may have to duck. If I double, then RHO, who must have bid 3NT on a string of clubs, will probably run successfully to 4C:, which neither of us will be able to double with assurance. Any plus ought to be good since I can't see us making a game. It's possible we have to score more than 110 or 140 to protect our partial, but that's cutting things awfully fine.
    KENT
    Pass. Partner has a call coming, and I have my original call. [On defense,] I duck, encouraging. I've been wrong more times cashing than ducking.
    LEN
    Is X responsive? I would assume penalty, but then 3NT is weird. I assume 3NT shows running clubs, but how can partner have a penalty double of 1NT given my hand?

    I pass, unless Zia is on my right, fooling around favorable, and my partner is too starstruck to double again when it's right.

    [On defense,] I play a small heart (encouraging) and wait for pard to put me in. I pitch black cards, and split diamond honors if a small diamond is led from dummy.

    LYNN
    Did this really happen at the table? [Yes. All of these did. It was a very strange nationals. --Jeff] Do I have any clue about my RHO's abilities? His tendency toward trickery? [Nope. --Jeff] Or did partner's double show support? [Nope. --Jeff] (I usually don't play support doubles, so I have no idea whether they'd apply here.) [Nope. --Jeff]

    Well, after all that, I will assume that partner just had some values, RHO has a lot of solid clubs (probably seven). I don't feel confident about beating 3NT (unless I think my LHO is the joker, and I'd expect to know that at the table), so I'll try 4H:. I might make that anyway, if I was collecting a number.

    MIKE
    Pass. Partner was a passed hand, which I believe is important information (it puts his double in context, otherwise we are playing with a pinochle deck — moreso!) LHO has advertised a heart stopper, but may not have one. We aren't making 4H:, but if partner thought we were beating 1NT, we ought to have a good shot at beating 3NT.

    The defense seems clear to put your highest x at trick 1 and hope that we get in before they take nine tricks (partner has a club stopper or the D:A and flies).

    DAVIDC
    What was double? (I play it would be S:+D:'s but not without some cards). By the way, I would have bid 2H: the first time. Pretty likely that RHO is a bullet plus running clubs, LHO is JTxx plus a card. I believe the "standard rule" is that when only one suit has been bid, double says "don't do anything stupid, lead my suit." That's what I want to have happen so I double. Minus 550 won't surprise me, but in that case I bet I wasn't getting many matchpoints anyway.

    [On defense:] I am going with my initial assumption that partner has the pointed suits. I hope that declarer has only four hearts. Let's play partner for something like  S:KJxx H:Tx D:A9xxx C:xx (he can have more but shouldn't have much less). That gives declarer  S:Qxx H:JTxx D:Qx C:AJxx. (Opener was nuts with his rebid but everyone else has their bid in my book). So, I win the H:Q and play back the D:J.

    MARK
    Pass. I assume that double is responsive for the pointed suits. At any other vulnerability I would bid 4C: for take-out. With a running club suit in RHO I believe they're making 3NT, but the vulnerability stops me from sacrificing. I fear too many handling charges to get out for -200.
    JOEL
    Pass. Maybe partner won't let them make an overtrick on the lead. [Dreamer! --Jeff]
    MARSHALL
    Pass. It is possible, but very unlikely, that LHO has a heart stopper. I think partner will probably lead a heart. LHO may gamble on a pass, even with H:Jxx, but not if I double. Iíd rather defend 3NT undoubled than 4C: or 5C:. [Presumably, Marshall cashes the top hearts. He almost found a way to go -400. On the 3rd heart, partner encourages spades rather strongly, and now a spade shift nets five tricks. --Jeff]
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    4H:
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    Pass9
    4H:2
    Double1

    DefenseVotes
    Duck 1st Heart5
    Win and play D:J2
    Cash Hearts1

    WINNING ACTION
    hard to say. Partner leads the H:10 and you see this dummy (!):  S:A10x H:x D:Kxx C:KQxxxx. If you win and shift to a spade, you beat 3NT one. If you duck the 1st heart, you beat it two. If you do anything else, the defense gets tricky. It's a fast pairs, so you never know who'll do what, but you should get +50. 4H: is down 1 undoubled.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    It sure sounds as if dummy has seven club tricks and an ace or two. Partner should have secondary values in my fragments; I assume he thought he was making some sort of responsive double, so 4H: shouldn't go down two and is likely not to be doubled. On the other hand, partner may have misread the auction and may think my 4H: is some sort of cue bid. That could be really bad. I think, however, he simply didn't notice the 1C: opening bid and had enough to double a 1NT overcall. That sort of thing happens a lot in the fast pairs. If so, 4H: looks like a reasonable choice. If I knew he had two hearts and couldn't be squeezed out of one of them, I'd defend. There's no way I'm doubling; I'm not hitting 4C:.


Jeff Goldsmith, jeff@gg.caltech.edu, Aug 13, 2003