To Shoot or Not to Shoot?

To shoot or not to shoot, that is the problem:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outraged teammates
Or to take arms against a sea of IMPs
And by opposing, win them.

Today's Panelists: Kent Hartman, Barry Rigal, David Caprera, Chris Willenken, David Weiss, Fred Curtis, Josh Donn, JJ, Len Vishnevsky, Lynn Johannesen, Mike Shuster, Robb Gordon

IMPs, 12 boards to go, down 33, you hold

 S:QJxxx H:KQJx D:Qx C:Qx

Partner opens a 15-17 NT both red in 1st.

What's your plan?

There were three main camps: bid 3NT as a swinging action, bid normally (shooting is for the birds), and try for slam, possibly via a psych.

The 3NTers were the largest group:

3NT. Partner is also shooting. Specifically, he should not be opening 1NT with six-card minors, because that is a likely anti-minor slam position, and we need swings. We have 30 HCP max, no singletons, no extra length. I'm assuming that the opponents at the other table will look for a major suit fit and find it; I'm hoping that it goes down on sour breaks when 3NT makes on power. Besides, my usual partner hates when I bid 3NT with 5-4 either way in the majors when holding this HCP range, and this hand looks so notrump oriented that I can't resist.
3NT? Seems reasonable on a bridge basis, and probably won't be chosen in the other room.
I guess framing the problem as one where I need to shoot suggests doing something weird. But it is losing tactics to do something too weird, like bidding a slam. So my guess is to jump immediately to 3NT. That can win in a couple of ways. The normal major suit game might run aground on the rocks of distribution. Even better would be that a slow auction tips off the killing lead, but my leap elicits something favorable.
Chinese Poker. [And he didn't even know about all the matching spots! I laid down the dummy as four queens, threes full, and a pair of jacks. --Jeff]

I'd probably bid 3NT rather than Stayman.

The normal bidders:
Assuming I am playing Smolen, I bid 2C:, raise a major to game else bid 3H:. Not this hand.
2C:. I would have to be down twice this much before I would begin shooting somewhat drastically. I consider it extremely unlikely that 3NT makes when 4 of a major doesn't if we have a fit. Even if I thought we were shooting a little I would expect partner to know this too, for all I know it's the 1NT opener itself that was off-kilter. Maybe  S:Kxx H:Ax D:AKxxxx C:xx.
This doesn't tempt me at all. I bid Stayman followed by Smolen, but no slam try. Down 33, even, up 33, whatever, this isn't my cup of tea for a slam try. Too much of a reach. It's easier to comeback from down 33 with 11 boards to play than it is to come back from down 46 with 11 boards to play, which could easily occur if I bid too much. At matchpoints I'd certainly not bid Smolen , and possibly not even Stayman, just straight 3NT. [Odd that JJ didn't think of the matchpoint bid as a swinging action at IMPs. Swinging doesn't mean one has to bid probably hopeless slams. --Jeff]
Start with Stayan/Smolen. If I think my team is better than theirs, that's it. If I think I'm really outclassed, I might (well, not really) treat this as a 5-5 to see if I can get to a Moysian heart slam. In real life this just isn't the hand I'd try to swing.
The title suggests you are looking for something else, but I'll just bid Smolen. I wouldn't dump a partner who bid Stayman, planning to ignore spades unless we have a nine-card fit, but I don't see why partner can't have  S:AKx H:Axx D:Jx C:Kxxxx.

It seems to be that shooting when down 33 with 12 boards to go is losing bridge. In any case, I'd need better odds than this hand offers. [Just being down 33 with 12 boards to go is losing bridge! --Jeff]

The third group:
You could gain by playing 3NT with 4M going down. Or by playing slam; or by psyching your way to a normal (or abnormal contract).

Stayman then splintering (4C: looks best) or playing 3NT facing no major, gives you two chances for oddity.

That's my choice.... with the option of rejecting a heart fit if I find one as a second choice... no I've changed my mind. Stayman then 3NT over 2H:/D:, 4C: over 2S:.

Also ran, a direct 3NT. Hope he holds  S:10xx H:Axxx D:KJx C:AKx.

Basically, this hand is a marginal slam type as no shortage but requires fit opposite 15-17 NT to be good. I am concerned that partner may upgrade a hand rich in controls (and let us hope intermediates) to open 1NT given my hand. [Good prediction! --Jeff]

All the Q cannot be good: but good slams do exist.

It is a very good hand opposite a H: fit (hoping for 3-4 in Majors or even 2-4, where on favourable lead and forcing out S: Honour after drawing trumps, discard losing minor cards eg  S:KT H:Axxx D:Axxx C:Axx but still requires luck...). Also do partner's proclivities include 4H with 5m as we may be able to run 2 suits if we can find out...

If playing CONFI, I will still make a try (ie without 10 controls we stop in NT), if playing relay I will relay hand out for shape and number of controls, stopping in either case with less than 10 controls unless we are running 2 5cardsuits....

In so-called standard methods I am more inclined than ever to give up as only holding 1 control but all the Q is a really awful hand to describe to partner for slam purposes.

I hope that my opponents will think that they have to take aggressive action to protect the status quo.

I vacillated but probably 2C: followed by 2NT over 2D:, 4C: KC Gerber over 2M.
Normal. Partner had  S:A109x H:Axx D:Jx C:AJ10x. Nice call, Fred! 3NT went down 3. (They ran six diamonds and partner still had to guess which black hook to take.) 4S:, of course, made. On the other hand, there was no winning action. We lost 14 IMPs on this board and lost the match by 32. Winning 13 would have brought it within reach, but wouldn't have been good enough. For what it's worth, I didn't detect any other reasonable opportunities for shooting.
I'm starting to think that the best approach is to start with Stayman. If partner shows 4S:, we can play the 9-card fit. Otherwise, play 3NT. The downside of this is that we won't often get a major suit lead. But I think all the reasonable plans are close.

Unlike the five "normal" bidders, I think this is a great hand for shooting. Bidding 3NT directly loses very little expectation vs. a scientific route, and has a good chance of being in a different contract than the other table or of attracting a different lead. Either of those is about as likely to win as to lose. Same for routes like ignoring a 4-4 heart fit. Trying for slam seems like a very poor way to shoot; we rate to lose 13 IMPs much more often than gaining them. Wild gambles are not the way to shoot. Intelligent shooting is about finding a different contract with about the same odds of success but different winning layouts. Or getting to the normal contract from the abnormal side of the table or on an auction which will attract a different lead than at the other table. The goal is to increase variance but not spend much expected value to do so. I think 3NT here fits that bill, but psyching to a slam does not.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Apr 30, 2006