itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 22, 2018

Matchpoints. No one vulnerable

♠ K Q 5 Q J 7 6 5 2 A ♣ K J 5
West North East South
Pass Pass 1
Pass 1♠ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♣ was named top bid.

Your hand can play in either major, but it’s difficult to show your strength. A 3♠ bid should contain a fourth trump and a 3bid should deliver a better suit. Because of this, the majority made the mark-time bid of 2♣.

“If you answer enough bidding-panel questions, you see this type of problem frequently,” said Larry Cohen. “You have the wrong majors for 3 or 3♠. If Al Roth were still with us, he’d consider this automatic.”

“2♣,” echoed Grant Baze. “I don’t like it, but I’m unwilling to commit to either major, so I have to hope partner can bid again.”

“I’m rooting for a second chance with 2♣,” said Mike Lawrence. “Rebidding 2 or 2♠ can result in playing in the wrong major, and either bid understates your values.”

“Everything is flawed here,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “3 is right on values, but the hearts are too weak and we may belong in spades. A 3♠ bid is short one spade and we may belong in hearts. If partner does not pass 2♣, we will be able to support spades next to show extras.”

Richard Freeman agreed with 2♣. “This is the usual, ‘If I get by this round, I’ll be in great shape.’ 3♠ is tempting, but this hand has a lot of flaws for that.”

“2♣,” agreed August Boehm. “The usual refrain for a mark-time bid is, ‘If we can get by this round, I’m well-placed.’ 3♠ is an attractive alternative.”

Steve Robinson selected the alternative, 3♠. “When partner bids 1♠ over 1, he should be prepared to play in a 4–3 fit, so here goes,” he said.

Other panelists avoided the “fancy” 2♣ bid. They saw a six-card heart suit and rebid it.

“2,” said Karen Walker. “I’m a queen heavy for this bid, but it’s match-points where there is a premium for going plus when partner is weak. If he can bid again, I’ll be able to show my holding in both majors.”

Jeff Meckstroth chose 3. “This is a real tough one, and anything could be right,” he said. “I hate having weak hearts and good spades, but 3 is my best guess.”

Other experts chose to raise spades.

“2♠,” said Jill Meyers. “I think the best shot to get to game is if partner has a five-card spade suit. Also, it is matchpoints, and playing spades might score better.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin agreed with a spade raise. “Partner is more likely to bid over 2♠ than 2,” they said.

“The popular bid of 2♣ gets the top score,” said Kay and Randy Joyce, “but it has its flaws. You have only a three-card suit, and this ‘get by’ bid may be passed out, landing us in an inferior strain. What would partner do but pass with:
♠A J 8 7 6 4 8 7 6 3 ♣Q 10 2?

“Because our hearts aren’t good enough to jump to 3, we would take the middle road and opt for 2♠. It’s at least encouraging partner by showing a fit.”

Problems similar to this one show up in bidding contests periodically, and there is no good answer. All bids are flawed, and, on any given day, any of your choices could be right. Experts hate to make a decision if they can postpone it and have more information at their next turn. As the Joyces point out, however, that is the problem with 2♣. You may not get another chance.

Awards

Call Score
2♣ 100
2♠l 80
2 50
3 30
3♠ 30
Pass 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 15, 2018

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable

♠ 7 K 9 Q J 10 9 8 7 ♣ A J 10 3
West North East South
4(1) ?

(1) Eight playing tricks in spades

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

You have a nice playing hand, but is it safe to enter the auction? Would a double show diamonds or be a takeout double of spades?

Four panelists doubled.

“Double,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “This gives me a chance to enter the auction without committing to the five level.”

“Double,” agreed Betty Ann Kennedy. “This shows a good hand with diamonds.”

“Playing Bridge Bulletin Standard bidding, let’s double and show the diamond suit,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Next, we can bid 4NT, if partner does not double 4♠, and we will have expressed the minors, but with unequal lengths. If playing our methods, however, we could not do this because we play double of 4 is a takeout double of spades.”

Yes, that’s the problem with double. Many of the experts who passed also play that it is a takeout double.

“Pass,” said Larry Cohen. “It is popular to play double as a light takeout. It is ‘on the house,’ as they say, because the opponents can’t play here. I have the wrong hand for double with only two hearts.”

“Pass,” agreed Jill Meyers. “Double would not show diamonds; it would be a takeout double of spades.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro, Allan Falk and Barry Rigal all agreed that double is takeout. If you pass, you have a chance to bid at your next turn.

Grant Baze voted for Pass. “Double would be a takeout double of spades, not showing diamonds,” he said. “The real problem may come on the next round.”

“Pass,” said Lew and JoAnna Stansby. “We plan to bid 5 over 4♠.”

Kerri Sanborn also passed. “I think bidding now is too early and would show more than I have. If double showed diamonds, I would do that, but it is a takeout of 4♠ with good values. Will probably try 5 when it gets back to me.”

“We pass and then bid after their 4♠ bid,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “That lets partner know we aren’t bidding it as a make.”

Two panelists bid 5 directly.

“I bid 5 because East–West refuse to put up with that kind of bid,” said Mike Lawrence. “They usually go ahead and bid their spades at the five level. In the meantime, I’ve swiped some bidding space from them.”

“5,” agreed Richard Freeman. “Let everybody guess.”

“Pass received the majority of the votes and is probably best,” said Kay and Randy Joyce. “We admire 5 because it puts maximum pressure on the opponents and may be a make or a good save.”

The majority of the panel felt that you should pass because bidding directly will overstate your hand. You know you will have a second chance to act.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
Dbl 50
5 40
4♠ 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 8, 2018

IMPs. E-W vulnerable

♠ Q 6 4 3 A J 5 3 A J 9 ♣ 8 7
West North East South
1
Pass 1 Pass 2
Pass 3♠ (1) Pass ?

(1) Splinter

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

After North’s 3♠ splinter bid, your hand has decreased in value because the ♠Q is no longer useful. Eight panelists decide, therefore, to sign off in 4.

“4,” said Grant Baze. “The first message is to tell partner that I have a bad hand.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro agreed. “Maybe we should do more, but we’re down to a 10-count.”

“This is not a mandatory cuebidding situation,” said Karen Walker. “If holding two aces is all partner needs for slam, he’ll be using Blackwood next.”

“I’ve only got a working 10-count for partner, and no source of tricks,” said Allan Falk. “If instead I held:
♠ Q 4 A J 5 3 A J 9 5 3 ♣8 7, then I would cuebid 4.”

“This does not seem to be a suitable hand for slam with a minimum and the ♠Q wasted,” said Barry Rigal. “If you play 3NT as a non-serious slam try, then that might be worth considering.”

Rigal referred to something that needs explaining. Eric Rodwell invented and popularized a treatment called serious 3NT. It depends on this principle: When one side, in an uncontested auction, has found an eight-card (or longer) major-suit fit, 3NT is never going to be the final contract. If you accept that this is the case, one can use the bid of 3NT to help differentiate between hands with extra values and those worth mild cooperation in a slam try. Here is an example:

North South
1 2
3 3
?

Playing 2/1 game-forcing methods, the partnership has agreed on a major suit in a game-forcing auction. 3NT is sufficiently unlikely to be the right contract that it can be discounted. Both hands are unlimited at this point in the bidding. Therefore, one hand might be suitable for cooperating in a slam probe, or it might contain extra values. It is unsatisfactory to have to make the same control bid with both hands. The solution would be to use a cuebid of 4♣, for example, as a bid showing willingness to cooperate in a slam try, but not enough values to make a serious slam try. Conversely, a call of 3NT would show extra values and suggests real slam interest.

Some experts reverse the meanings: A cuebid is a serious slam try and 3NT is the weaker, non-serious bid. This is the situation that Rigal referred to.

Half the experts disagreed with signing off in 4 — they felt a cuebid is justified.

“4,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Our style is to cuebid here unless we hate our hand. We have the serious 3NT treatment available, however, in our methods. We think the cuebid is important because sometimes partner cannot proceed without knowing about the diamond control.”

“4,” said Richard Freeman. “I would rather play 3NT as indicating slam interest, but I think standard practice says it shows wasted values in spades.”

“4,” said Jill Meyers. “I have a ruffing value in clubs and two aces. My hand seems worthy of slam interest.”

“You don’t have much, but what you do have is good,” said Mike Lawrence.

One expert bid 4NT. “Partner has made a slam try,” said Steve Robinson. “I have only two wasted high-card points (very good), two key cards (good) and four trumps with two honors (good).”

The experts were divided between whether they should cuebid or sign off. Which bid you choose might depend on what your other methods are (such as serious or non-serious 3NT).

Awards

Call Score
4 100
4 90
4NT 20
3NT 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 1, 2018

IMPs. N-S vulnerable

♠ K A Q J 6 A 5 3 ♣ Q J 7 5 4
West North East South
1♣ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 1NT was named top bid.

Do you pass or do you tell a lie? If you lie, which one?

“1” said Larry Cohen. “Okay, you got me. Although I dislike four-card overcalls, this feels closer to describing my hand than pass or 1NT. What can I say?”

“Too good a hand to pass and risk being shut out,” said Richard Freeman. “1 is more flexible than 1NT.”

“1,” said Barry Rigal. “No guarantees, however, but I hate to pass. I tried it and didn’t like it.”

“I have too much power to pass,” said Grant Baze. “I think 1NT is a bad bid. It’s a distortion and difficult to extricate myself from if I’m wrong. 1 gets the ball rolling and if it doesn’t roll very far, then it’s unlikely we belong much higher in the auction.”

Others didn’t agree that 1NT is a bad bid.

“It’s close between 1NT and 1,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “The advantage of 1NT is that we have bid our high-card strength, and can leave it to partner. The disadvantage is when partner transfers to spades.”

“This hand is too strong to pass,” said Allan Falk, “so the choices are 1NT and 1. The hand is near the top of the 1NT range, so if there is game (and it is IMP scoring where bidding games has a high reward), then we’re more likely to find it with a quantitative bid.”

“1NT,” echoed Betty Ann Kennedy. “Might as well get it out of my system now, as Barry Crane used to say.”

Karen Walker agreed. “It feels like a ‘speak now or forever pass’ kind of hand. This isn’t the safest of overcalls, but missing a vulnerable game could be just as costly.”

“1NT tells about our points, about our stopper, and lies only a little about our spades,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiros.

“We have too much not to compete,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We are only one low spade away from this being a unanimous choice.

“I’m not a big proponent of bidding notrump with singletons,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but this hand seems too warrant action, and nothing else fits the bill better.”

Bidding 1NT makes it easier to get to game if you have one. When you have a difficult choice, take the option with the highest payoff.

Awards

Call Score
1NT 100
1 70
Pass 10
Dbl 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 24, 2018

Matchpoints. None vulnerable

♠ J 8 5 4 3 A 10 4 K 8 2 ♣ 6 4
West North East South
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 2NT was named top bid.

The experts chose five different calls. You have a good hand in the context of the bidding. 2NT got the most votes. You’d like to have a better spade stopper, but 2NT isn’t final — it’s only a suggestion.

“2NT,” said Larry Cohen. Maybe partner’s singleton spade is useful (the 9 or higher). I am too strong for 3, so I’ll show some sign of life and regret my spades aren’t better. Tough problem.”

“2NT,” echoed Mike Lawrence. “I have a max for my auction. It is close between bidding 2NT and 3NT. I choose 2NT since I would not mind hearing another descriptive bid from North.”

“My spades are weak or I might try 3NT,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I might bid that with something like ♠ J 10 8 5 3 and the same hand.”

“2NT,” agreed Allan Falk. “I’ve got more values than I said with my preference to 2. I really wish I had the ♠10 for 2NT. I’m not sure of partner’s distribution, so I can’t go leaping to 4 quite yet.”

Four experts disagreed and bid 4.

“4,” said August Boehm. “I have a diamond fit, a ruffing value and not much wasted in spades. It warrants a move.”

“4,” echoed Grant Baze. “Two prime cards, a doubleton in clubs, and nothing wasted in spades means I cannot sign off. The ‘impossible’ 3♠ bid would be the strongest diamond raise, so 4 is limited.”

Karen Walker also chose 4. “Partner should have something like a three-suited hand with 17 HCP. I have two big cards for him. A fifth-round spade stopper isn’t enough for 3NT.”

Some experts disagreed and bid 3NT.

“Partner should be three-suited with about 17 points,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Our hands fit well and game is likely. Both 3NT and 5 are possible contracts. Because this is matchpoints, let’s play 3NT.”

Barry Rigal took a practical approach. “Partner has short spades and 17 points, or so,” he said. “I know what game to play, so I’ll bid it to avoid accidents.”

“3NT should be a big favorite,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. They admitted, however, that partner could have several hands where 5 is safer. “Over 3NT, partner will believe we have spade values and pass when we could possibly make slam. Thank goodness it’s matchpoints.”

Steve Robinson bid 3 and makes a good point.

“Partner did not bid 2NT, so his hearts are minimal. If he has:
♠ 2 Q 9 8 A Q 9 7 5 ♣ A K J 3, then 5 and 3NT are only fair contracts. I expect to be plus 130 in diamonds. Plus scores are good at matchpoints.”

Two panelists bid 2♠, but not as a natural bid.

“Partner knows I cannot want to play 2♠ because I did not rebid spades the previous round. I should be showing a good hand for partner, therefore, without four of either red suit.”

Lew and JoAnna Stansby agreed.

“2♠ is a constructive 3 bid,” they said. “If we wanted to play spades, we would have rebid them last round.”

Baze, Freeman and the Stansbys were correct. When you bid a suit that was not previously rebiddable, then that call must have a special meaning.

The scorer commented on this. “2♠ is the master bid,” said Falk. “The theory is that opposite a partner who has shown shortness, and given our failure to rebid 2♠, this cannot be to play. I agree. I think that 2♠ shows a suit that can be led through, however, say ♠J 10 9 4 3, and an effort to get partner to declare notrump. This is an intelligent solution to the problem, but one that requires an expert partner, and one that may yet demand more inventiveness on the next round of bidding.”

Any of the calls could work out. As Cohen says, it’s a tough problem.

Awards

Call Score
2NT 100
2♠ 60
4 60
3NT 50
3 20
3 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 17, 2018

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable

♠ Q 7 2 7 Q 10 4 ♣ A 108 7 4 3
West North East South
Pass Pass
Pass 1 1 2♣
2 3 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

Partner has made a forcing cuebid that announces a strong hand and asks you to further describe yours.

“4♣,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I don’t see any extras here.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin agreed. “We have nothing extra, so 4♣ seems enough. We stretched to bid 2♣.”

Seven experts supported diamonds.

“4,” said Richard Freeman. “Although I am minimum in high cards, this hand has been improved enormously by the auction.”

“In context, my hand has gotten much better,” said Larry Cohen, who agreed with 4. “Our heart singleton is huge — too much to only bid 4♣.”

“4 ,” agreed Betty Ann Kennedy. “We’re on our way to game or slam in clubs. My failure to bid 3♠ tells partner I have no control in that suit.”

Karen Walker also bid 4 . “It’s close to 5,” she says, “but I’ll give partner some space, just in case his game force was based on a club fit.”

“4,” agreed Grant Baze. “ Q 10 4 is good support. A club rebid would overstate my hand and focus too much on clubs. If partner can control bid 4♠, I’ll bid 5NT as a choice of slams.”

“4 ,” echoed Barry Rigal. “I’ve denied four-card diamond support, so I’ll get the three-card support across. Not strong enough to bid 4 .”

Six panelists do not agree — they bid 4 .

“4,” said Jill Meyers. “My hand has become huge.”

Steve Robinson agreed. “If partner can bid 3 , I want to force to game. We could even have a slam if North holds:
♠A 4
8 4
A K 9 8 3 2
♣K Q 6.”

“Six of either minor could be cold,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Partner sounds as if he has either a club fit, or good long diamonds and wants a heart stopper for 3NT. As a passed hand, we can now get excited.”

“2♣ was probably an overbid,” said Mike Lawrence, “but the auction has worked well for us — this hand is now worth something. 3 most likely was looking for 3NT, but it may have had slam interest. In either case, 4 now shows my willingness to cooperate.”

There was one vote for 3♠.

“3♠ is a punt,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “We didn’t make a negative double at our last bid, so this shouldn’t be confusing. The ‘punt’ bid gives partner room to tell us whether she has club support or long diamonds.”

Falk, this week’s scorer, didn’t agree. “3♠ got a minimal award because it should show the ♠A or ♠K, although probably the panelist who bid it thought it was a space-saving noise. (Editor’s note: The scorer sees the votes, but not the comments from the panel.) The problem is that North may not appreciate that as the auction progresses, so it is both misdirected and dangerous.”

Experts are able to reevaluate their hand as the bidding progresses — a skill that elevates them above the advancing player. On this deal, even though they made a 2/1 bid with 8 HCP (in competition), they don’t feel it’s a stretch to cuebid at their next turn.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
4 90
5♣ 40
4♣ 30
3♠ 20
4NT 20
5 10
3NT 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 10, 2018

IMPs. N-S vulnerable

♠ A K Q 7 6 4 A A J 7 ♣ A 5 2
West North East South
2♣
Pass 2(1) 4♣ ?

(1) Game forcing: At least one king or two queens.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

After partner makes a game-forcing bid, should you bid your suit or pass to try and get more information?

“Pass,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “This is forcing — we want to hear partner’s bid. This is a free opportunity to learn something with no risk. If we bid 4♠, partner has nothing to cuebid since we have all the controls.”

“I want to hear what partner will do,” said Jill Meyers. “If partner doubles, I will then bid 4♠.”

“Hey, I’ve got the boss suit,” said Allan Falk, who also passed. “I can pass and not worry about being embarrassed trying to show my suit later. If my majors were switched, I’d bid 4 now. If partner doubles, I’ll try 4♠, but if partner produces 4, I’ll be looking for a grand slam.”

“Pass,” agreed August Boehm. “If partner bids 4, the big upside of pass, a 5NT bid probes the question of 6 or 7.”

The 5NT bid is called the grand slam force. It asks partner to bid seven of his suit with two of the top three honors. (Many experts play it asks the responder to bid 7♣, not seven of your suit.) You have the A, so if partner bids seven, he would have the K Q and length.

Steve Robinson didn’t expect partner to have a suit such as K Q 6 5 4. If he did, Robinson said, he could have bid it directly over 2♣. This may depend on your agreements.

“I assume partner does not have a good five-card suit,” said Robinson. “Since I’m going to bid at least 6♠, I might as well see what partner has.”

“If partner doubles 4♣, that tells me he has a balanced hand, and, therefore, no shortness in spades,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “In that case, I’m going to get to slam in spades.”

Richard Freeman also passed, but he was willing to stop short of slam. “Let’s hear what partner has to say,” he said. “If partner doubles, I will settle for 4♠. If he bids something else, I can bid accordingly.”

Seven experts bid what they see in front of them — 4♠.

“If partner can’t move over 4♠, we can’t have slam,” said Grant Baze.

“4♠,” said Karen Walker. “Double should be the distributional takeout and pass the more balanced hand.”

“I need to clarify my 2♣ bid,” said Kerri Sanborn. “Passing would only confuse my partner as to my hand type. Double, whether meant as penalty or takeout, is a clear misstatement of this hand.”

The Bridge Baron was alone on the panel in doubling.

“What else is there to do besides bidding 4♠?” asked Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “If partner has a singleton club, something we may well need for slam, we’ll hear about it.”

The Colchamiros meant that over 4♠, partner can bid 5♣ with shortness and a suitable hand.

“4♠, even though it is surely an underbid,” said Larry Cohen. “Still, how high do we wish to force when partner could have:
♠ 2 K 7 6 4 3 Q 8 5 3 2 ♣7 6?”

One expert took direct action.

“6♠,” said Barry Rigal. “Without knowing our methods in detail, one can’t answer; so I’ll hit and hope. Meckstroth could explain how pass and double should be switched and which bids are weaker than passing. But unless we play all that, we will have to guess well anyway.”

Falk thought he knew the North hand. Cohen also mentioned that the deal looks familiar.

“As it happens,” Falk said, “on the actual deal, North held K 10 9 x x x x, and 7 was a cakewalk without regard as to whether North had spade support.”

The 2 bid creates a game force. Although every partnership doesn’t play that, it is the condition for this problem. That gives you a chance to pass over 4♣ and perhaps bid more accurately at your next turn — a direct 4♠ will often end the auction.

Until bridge partnerships define their methods more clearly, the opponents’ preempts will cause many headaches.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
4♠ 50
Dbl 20
6♠ 10
4NT 00
5♣ 0
5♠ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 3, 2018

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable

♠ 9 4 2 A Q 7 6 4 8 3 ♣ Q 6 3
West North East South
1 Pass 1
Pass 1♠ Pass 1NT
Pass 2♣ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♠ was named top bid.

The problems this month were scored by Karen Walker. She summed up how the experts voted.

“An interesting split on this problem,” she said. “Just under half the panelists thought the best chance for a plus score was in the suit where they had the strongest support. The rest — the ‘Misfit, who cares?’ contingent — were confident enough of a plus score that they went for the higher-scoring strains.”

Walker’s vote was for pass. “I’d say take the plus score, but I’m thinking a small minus might be in our future.”

“Pass,” agreed Jo Anna and Lou Stansby. “Let’s try and go plus in our strongest seven-card fit. Notrump won’t play well with little help in partner’s suits.”

Mike Lawrence and Kerri Sanborn pointed out that it is likely partner has a five-card suit. It can’t be spades, but it could be clubs.

“Pass,” said Lawrence. “North ought to be 4=0=5=4. If he has 4=0=4=5, then passing is a winner, of course.”

“Partner is describing a three-suiter with non-invitational values,” said Sanborn. “I would expect 4=0=5=4 or 4=0=4=5. In any case, there is no reason to bid again, because we are in a seven-card fit as a minimum.”

“Give partner some random hand and 2♣ is quite high enough,” said Allan Falk. “Even if 2♣ shows extra, which I don’t believe, 2♣ rates to be about as good as anything.”

“Pass,” agreed Jeff Meckstroth. “2♠ just doesn’t look very appealing.”

Other panelists disagreed.

“2♠,” said August Boehm. “Pass could work nicely, but 2♠ seems to go with the matchpoint odds.”

“At matchpoints, I will go for a major-suit partscore,” agreed Jill Meyers.

“If we are going to play in a seven-card fit,” said Steve Robinson, “it might as well be in a major.”

“We may take as many tricks in spades as in a minor,” said Grant Baze. “Even a trick less in spades might break even.”

Baze meant that 2♠ making two, scores plus 110, as does 2♣ making three.

Larry Cohen also bid 2♠. “I could swear I’ve seen this problem in the Bridge World Master Solvers’ Club,” he said. “I think I voted for the same thing then, but I can’t say I am confident!”

“2NT,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “This might be an overbid. If there were a good alternative, we might try that.”

The Colchamiros said they thought that 2*C* is “forward-going,” but also admit that partner could have:
♠A 8 7 6 A J 7 6 5 ♣K J 7 4,
in which case 2NT is a horrible contract.

The Bridge Baron bid 3♠. This can’t be a good bid. Playing spades is a known 4–3 fit, and your hand is not very useful.

These were the two factors the experts considered. In matchpoints, you prefer to play in a major in preference to a minor. This suggests bidding 2♠. When faced with a misfit, you take the action that is most likely to render a plus score. This suggests passing 2♣. When you are faced with a close decision, you have to weigh these two, and the panel had differing opinions.

Awards

Call Score
2♠ 100
Pass 80
2NT 50
2 40
3♠ 30
3♣ 30
2 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

March 27, 2018

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable

♠ — J 9 8 5 A Q 9 7 6 4 ♣ J 7 6
West North East South
1♠ Pass
Pass Dbl 2♠ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

When bidding, players are taught to look for a major-suit fit first and to look for a notrump contract next. Minor-suit contracts are the last choice. Despite this, six experts bid 3.

“3,” said Larry Cohen. “Partner might have a strong balanced hand, so he could have only two or three hearts — thus, no rush to bid hearts. Maybe I can introduce hearts later.”

“A heart bid is a big gamble that partner holds four hearts,” said Karen Walker, who also bid 3. “If he doesn’t, the 4–3 heart fit rates to be a disaster. The opponents’ tepid interest in spades is a clue that partner may hold the strong balanced hand.”

“I expect North to have a big balanced hand,” agreed Mike Lawrence who bid 3. “If partner bids 3NT, I will pass. I have useful values. If partner cuebids 3♠, then I will bid 4.”

“Where are all the spades?” asked Allan Falk, who also bid 3. “Partner seems to have some spade length, so he probably has a pretty good hand.”

“If partner can’t bid over 3,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin, “we don’t rate to have a game.”

Five panelists bid 3. Partner made a takeout double, so they bid their major suit.

“3,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “Our best game chance is in hearts. I’ll follow by bidding diamonds next.”

“3,” said Steve Robinson. “Partner made a takeout double, and there is no reason to believe that he doesn’t have four hearts. Because I’m void in spades, I expect further bidding, and will then bid my diamond suit.”

“The spade void suggests that partner may not have a classic takeout double, so 3 is enough,” said Jo Anna and Lou Stansby. “We will compete to 4 over 3♠, or pass 3NT if partner bids it.”

Three panelists said they would have bid the first time.

“We can’t understand the previous pass when favorable at matchpoints,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “It is really puzzling. We think 2 or 3, depending on your style, is much better.”

“Not sure we would have passed initially,” agreed Kitty and Steve Cooper.

“I’m not sure why I didn’t bid the first time,” said Kerri Sanborn.

All three cuebid 3♠* now. You have limited your hand by not acting at your first turn. A 3♠ bid keeps the heart suit in play.

“My guess is that partner has a strong notrump,” said Sanborn. “Either that, or a good heart holding. In either case, the cuebid should clarify. The tricky bid is what to do over 4♣ — whether to bid 4 or 4. I think 4since that is a safety zone facing a reopening double with less than full values.”

“3♠,” agreed Richard Freeman. “I’ll pass 3NT or 4, and bid 4 over 4♣.”

“3♠ is the most flexible bid,” said Jill Meyers. “Over 4♣, I will bid 4. Partner should play me for long diamonds (and not enough strength to overcall) and four hearts.”

August Boehm calls 3♠ “a slight overbid in order to determine our best strain.”

“I cannot commit to hearts unless partner has four — otherwise, I commit to diamonds,” said Grant Baze. “Over 3NT or 4♣, a 4 bid is not forcing because I could not overcall 2.”

What about doubling 2♠ as takeout?

“Double is penalty, no matter how handy it might be to change it for this deal” said Karen Walker.

Barry Rigal agreed. “I play double as penalties. Old-fashioned, I know, but people take liberties, so one needs to (be able to) punish them.”

The panel was divided into three groups. One group bid their long suit, one bid their major suit, and one cuebid to find out more information.

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
3 90
3 70
4 40
4 30
5 30
Pass 20
Dbl 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

March 20, 2018

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable

♠ A J 10 7 4 6 4 ♣ A 10 9 8 5 4
West North East South
1♠ 2♠ (1) Pass ?

(1) Michael’s Cuebid

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Feb. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♣ was named top bid.

Partner’s Michaels cuebid shows hearts and a minor, usually 5–5. Partner is a big favorite to hold diamonds as his second suit. What to bid now depends on your agreements. Does your partner bid Michaels with a bad hand or a good hand, but not a middle-strength hand? If you bid 2NT, that asks for partner’s minor, but is it forward going? Is 3♣ pass or correct, or does it show clubs?

Almost half the panel bid 2NT. There was no agreement, however, about what to do if partner replies 3, as expected.

“I assume that (vulnerable) partner doesn’t have a bad hand,” said Jill Meyers. “I’m going to bid 2NT and then 3NT over the expected 3.”

“We bid 2NT and pass 3,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “With the misfit, we go quietly.”

Jo Anna and Lou Stansby agreed. “We bid 2NT, and pass the likely 3 response,” they said.

“2NT,” Larry Cohen said. “Presumably, 3♣ would show ‘my own clubs’ for which I should have a better suit than this. So, I’ll wait for the expected 3 and play there. If partner bids 3♣, this will be a very good year!”

Bidding over a Michaels cuebid is not covered in IYC Standard bidding — this is in the agreement arena. Kitty and Steve Cooper referred to one method.

“We would bid 2NT asking for partner’s minor,” said the Coopers. “We expect 3 to be safe enough. It would be nice to be playing the method where 2NT has invitational overtones and 3♣ is pass or correct.”

Barry Rigal bid 3♣. “What I play is that 3♣ is pass or correct,” he said, “and 2NT asks for the minors and promises invitational values. 3 is a raise in hearts, and this covers all the normal hands. It does not let me play 3♣., when I have long clubs, but who’s to say 3♣ will be better than 3?”

Others agreed with 3♣, and most of them believed it was to play.

“In SAYC, there’s probably no known default here,” said Allan Falk. “2NT might be ‘What’s your minor?’ or ‘I have at least invitational values for one of your suits.’ Both methods are playable. It would be nice if 3♣ were to play if partner could stand it.”

“3♣,” said August Boehm. “My clubs may have as much texture as partner’s diamond, and they’re probably longer.”

“I hope 3♣ is natural and non-forcing,” said Steve Robinson.

“I play 3♣ as non-forcing,” said Mike Lawrence. “I could bid 2NT and then clubs with a forcing hand.”

“Not sure how partner will take this,” said Jeff Meckstroth.

One expert bid something besides 2NT or 3♣.

“4♣,” said Richard Freeman. “In my methods, that is to play.”

A 4♣ contract may not play well. The dummy may not be very useful to you. A 3 contract is a known 5–2 fit (or 6–2 on a lucky day) and one level lower. You have two aces for partner and may be able to negotiate a heart ruff.

The difference between 2NT or 3♣ is a matter of agreement, and even top experts didn’t agree. Most of the 2NT bidders were willing to pass 3. When the deal is a misfit, they preferred to play the conservative contract.

Awards

Call Score
3♣ 100
2NT 90
3 40
4♣ 30

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

March 13, 2018

IMPs. Both vulnerable

♠ A 9 5 3 2 K Q 10 9 5 4 ♣ A Q
West North East South
1♠ 2
Dbl (1) 3 3 ?

(1) Negative

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Feb. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

Twelve experts cuebid — they weren’t willing to settle for game. With first round control in all three side suits, however, there is a choice of cuebids.

“3♠,” said Larry Cohen. “I could see a blast in diamonds working, but I have a partner. I’ll tell him I have a big hand and explore for slam. At the same time, I’ll clue him in so he can help make the decision if and when the opponents bid 5.”

August Boehm agreed with 3♠. “I intend to tie an indoor record for most consecutive control bids,” he said. “Of course, the auction may not develop as planned, but the sky’s the limit.”

“Let’s bid 3♠ and see if partner can show any signs of life,” said Jo Anna and Lou Stansby. “There are a lot of hands with no losers, but not enough winners on a trump lead. If they bid 4 and partner doubles, we will defend.”

“3♠ is a game try, but it shows some defense,” said Grant Baze. “I want to encourage partner to double 4 if he has a couple of trumps tricks and little else.”

Two panelists preferred 4♣.

“4♣,” said Kerri Sanborn. “Let’s slow this auction down a little, but not lose the war. This allows my left-hand opponent to bid 4. Then I hope to compete to 5 and buy it there. If they compete to 5, I can respect a double from partner and not worry about missing a slam.”

Richard Freeman also bid 4♣ with the intention of cuebidding more on the next round.

Three experts bid 4.

“4,” said Mike Lawrence. “I’m hoping to hear 4♠ from North if he has a stiff spade and suitable values. This hand is good enough that we might make a lucky grand slam. In practice, however, I’m hoping to reach 6.”

Jill Meyers also bid 4. “My initial reaction was to bid 3♠,” she said, “but one of my partners convinced me that 3♠ looks too much like a grope for 3NT, when I really have slam interest.”

“4 sets up a force if the opponents compete to 5, and lets partner know we have interest in slam,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Leaping to 5 leaves partner in the dark if the opponents compete to 5.”

Five panelists did jump to 5.

“We bid what we think we can make,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper, “and put pressure on LHO. It’s too difficult to explore for slam.”

“Bidding what I think I can make,” echoed Jeff Meckstroth.

“It’s not the right time for subtlety,” said Barry Rigal. “I’m bidding to make.”

“5 seems about right,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiros. “Slam is possible, but we’re not getting greedy.”

Jumping to 5 gives up on slam and fails to keep partner in the picture. If the opponents compete to 5, partner doesn’t know much about your hand. You could jump to 5 with more playing strength and less defense.

One panelist bid slam.

“A heart or spade cuebid won’t drag anything helpful out of partner,” said Karen Walker. “I’ll just bid 6 — what I think (and hope) I can make. As little as a singleton spade and A J 8 7 might be enough.”

Even with a trump lead, you can still manage six diamond tricks in your hand, the ace of spades, three spade ruffs in dummy, and two clubs (assuming the finesse works). Without a trump lead, 6 might make, even if North has a doubleton spade.

Twelve panelists were willing to cuebid — you can always bid 6 later, and on some hands partner can cooperate.

Kitty and Steve Cooper scored the problems this month. “We upgraded 4♣ and 4,” they said, “because there is a large majority of panelists who found some sort of a cuebid.”

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
4 90
5 80
4♣ 70
6 60

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

March 6, 2018

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable

♠ J A K 10 9 6 5 7 4 ♣ A Q J 6
West North East South
1 Pass 1
Pass 3NT Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Feb. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

Partner’s rebid shows a solid six- or seven-card diamond suit and extra values. You know that you are a heavy favorite to make at least a small slam, and perhaps even a grand. You know you can play in diamonds, but, since it’s matchpoints, what about notrump? How do you explore which strain and how high?

Half the panel bid 4. What were their reasons?

“4,” said Jo Anna and Lou Stansby. “The issue here is how does one bid Blackwood? A direct raise of the natural 3NT to 4NT would be quantitative. We hope (over 4) partner will cuebid 4♠ and we can follow with 4NT as Roman Key Card for diamonds.”

Karen Walker agreed. “Partner is showing a good hand with six or seven solid diamonds, often with shortness in my suit. I’ll set diamonds as trumps. Partner will either ask for keycards or cuebid. If the latter, then I’ll bid RKC.”

Steve Robinson, Betty Ann Kennedy, Richard Freeman, August Boehm, Janet and Mel Colchamiro, Jeff Meckstroth and Grant Baze all bid 4 and gave similar reasons. They didn’t believe that you have a clear ask for keycards. Because it isn’t clear how to do so over 3NT, they bid 4 to mark time.

Five panelists bid 4♣, but not as an offer to play in clubs.

“This is an easy problem,” said Allan Falk. “4♣ is a cuebid in support of partner’s long, solid diamonds and side stoppers. If partner can give me 4♠, I’ll bid 7. I can’t risk 4NT. That might be taken as something other than Blackwood, and I don’t want to risk stopping below 6 or 6NT, even opposite a minimum.”

“4♣ is a cuebid for diamonds,” said Jill Meyers. “Because partner has shown a long and solid diamond suit, bids by me are support for diamonds. If I were certain what RKC for diamonds was over 3NT, I would do that. Since I’m not, I’ll cuebid and then use RKC (4NT).”

“4♣,” echoed Larry Cohen. “If I had to make one bid for my life, it would be 7, but who is to say partner has the ♠A and the A K Q for sure? I’d like to use RKC in diamonds, but 4NT here is probably quantitative. The correct call is probably 5♣, Super Gerber, intending to drive to seven over two aces.”

Two panelists agreed with Cohen about bidding 5♣.

“In my style,” said Kerri Sanborn, “5♣ is asking for aces. If I find two aces, I will bid 7. I expect something like:
♠A 6 3 3 A K Q 9 8 3 2 ♣K 2.
That said, maybe I should bid 7NT facing two aces.”

“We would bid 5♣,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We are on our way to at least 6. If he has the ♠A and the ♣K, we are in 7NT.”

Kitty and Steve Cooper voted for 5NT. “This is pick a slam,” they said. “Partner will usually have a gambling hand, in which case 6 could be right. Whatever he picks, we will pass.”

“4NT is Blackwood,” stated Mike Lawrence. “North’s 3NT bid shows solid diamonds and some other value. If he has seven solid diamonds and the ♠A, I am bidding 7.”

Most experts played 5♣ as Super Gerber over 3NT. But that is when 3NT is bid with high-card points, and this auction is different — partner is bidding 3NT with tricks, and has defined his hand fairly closely. Lawrence was the lone 4NT bidder, but perhaps he was right — in this situation it probably should be Blackwood.

Nine members of the panel simply raised partner to 4. This sets trumps and is forcing. Because it is not clear what bid is ace-asking, it is a practical approach.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
4♣ 80
5NT 60
5♣ 50
4NT 20
6 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Feb. 27, 2018

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable

♠ Q 6 Q 8 7 6 Q J 9 6 ♣ 10 9 7
West North East South
Pass Pass
1♠ 2 Pass Pass
2♠ Dbl Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 3 was named top bid.

“We hate passing the previous round,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Now we have to guess and so bid 3 — go for the plus score.”

“3,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I would rather have raised the first time. I own a bunch of secondary values and ♠Q 6 doesn’t thrill me.”

“3,” agreed Jeff Meckstroth. “If I didn’t raise the first time, I’m not going to punish my partner for competing.”

“3,” echoed Karen Walker. “I have good trumps, but not much outside. At IMPs, I’d bid 4.”

Allan Falk agreed. “At IMPs, I would have to bid 4,” he said, “but at matchpoints, I can’t bury partner for competing.”

“3,” said Larry Cohen. “Some experienced partnerships play that 2NT is takeout, followed by a pull to 3 to show more (or less, depending on their agreement) than a direct 3bid. Since I don’t know whether the delayed-raise shows extra, I’ll not risk any accidents.”

One panelist was willing to risk it.

“I would have raised to 3 directly,” said Jill Meyers. “Now I really have a problem. I guess I would bid 2NT, followed by 3. That is better than bidding 3 over the double.”

Cohen was correct to say that some players reverse the meanings. They play it is weaker to bid 2NT then raise, than it is to bid 3 at this point in the auction.

“3,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “This shows values in our system because 2NT would be better-minor lebensohl, so 2NT, followed by 3 is the weak raise.”

Several experts bid 4. They all pointed out that they would have raised at their first chance, and so are playing catchup.

“I would have bid 3 over 2,” said Barry Rigal, “as indeed would any member of homo sapiens, so I better make up for lost time.”

“Our first choice would have been to bid 3over 2,” said Kay and Randy Joyce, “so now we have to choose 4 to make up for lost time.”

“Why didn’t I raise earlier?” asked Mike Lawrence. “This hand is way better than partner will ever expect if I bid just 3.”

“Too much to bid only 3,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin.

“4, what else?” asked August Boehm.

Once you chose not to raise the first time, 3 is an underbid. The panel majority, however, was not willing to push to game at matchpoints. Minus scores at matchpoints are the kiss of death.

Awards

Call Score
3 100
4 90
2NT 10
Pass 0
3♠ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Feb. 20, 2018

Matchpoints. None vulnerable

♠ A K 10 5 4 3 A K 6 5 ♣ K Q 6
West North East South
Pass Pass 4 ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 4♠ was named top bid.

Half the panel made the straightforward bid of 4♠, even though South has a monster hand.

“4♠,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I know this is a huge underbid, but maybe I can catch up if the opponents compete. The trouble with double is that it is likely to go all pass.”

“4♠,” agreed Karen Walker. “They’ve preempted me out of a more intelligent auction, so I’ll stay fixed and take the ‘sure’ plus.”

“You have a very good hand,” said Kay and Randy Joyce, “but your spades are not quite good enough for more than a 4♠ bid. These hands are why people preempt.”

“This is an easy 4♠ bid for me,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I don’t mind being plus 680 if we have a slam, but I hate to go minus in 5♠ or 6♠.”

Larry Cohen, August Boehm, Paul Soloway and Barry Rigal all agreed with Meckstroth that 4♠ is an underbid, but they weren’t willing to bid higher. Some panel members, however, weren’t content to bid 4♠.

“4NT,” said Jill Meyers. “I am going to follow by bidding 5♠. This is a slam try, although I wish my spades were better.”

“5,” said Richard Freeman. “I’m too good for 4♠.”

Steve Robinson agreed with 5. “This shows a good hand with spades and a minor. If I double, partner is too likely to pass when we can make something.”

Other panelists mentioned the same issue.

“Double would torture partner,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “What would he bid with:
♠J 9 2 J 7 5 3 Q 4 3 ♣J 8 7
and similar hands?”

“I can’t bring myself to double,” said Cohen. “A leave-in could be ridiculous.”

“5♠,” said Allan Falk. “We’ve all seen some random 2=3=4=4 hand that North passes 4 doubled, hoping for a plus. I’m way too good for 4♠, even if that turns out to be all we can make. I must invite slam by making a very aggressive move immediately, even if I’m risking playing in the wrong suit at the wrong level.”

Some panelists were willing to double and live with the consequences.

“Double,” said Grant Baze. “I won’t put all my eggs in the 4♠ basket when it could be right to defend or play a minor.”

Mike Lawrence also doubled. “I will raise anything partner bids to slam. He does not have to bid, so if he does, he rates to have at least a five-card suit and a willingness to declare.”

“Double,” echoed Kitty and Steve Cooper. “At least we won’t miss a slam. If there is no slam, down three will be better than our slam.”

Even though 4♠ is an underbid, that was what half the panel did. When the opponents preempt, sometimes you are fixed.

“Let’s see,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “If partner has:
♠2 J 7 5 3 8 4 3 ♣10 9 7 3 2, we may be set two or three tricks. If partner has
♠Q 9 6 2 10 7 5 4 2 ♣A 10 7 4, we may make 7♠. In both cases, partner will pass 4♠. This is why opponents preempt.”

Awards

Call Score
4♠ 100
5 70
Dbl 50
4NT 40
5♠ 30

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Feb. 13 2018

Matchpoints. None vulnerable.

♠ A Q 5 4 A K 8 6 4 3 7 6 ♣ A
West North East South
1
Pass 1NT Pass 2♠
Pass 3 Pass 3NT
Pass 4 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5 was named top bid.

More than half the panel raised partner to 5. Your hand is rich in controls and you have some trump support.

“5,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “We can make a game if partner has little else besides diamonds.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “I’m picturing:
♠K 2 7 Q J 10 8 4 3 2 ♣7 4 3.
With better diamonds, partner may have jumped to 5 over 3NT.”

Others agreed with 5.

“Too many fast tricks to pass,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin.

“Should have some play,” said Paul Soloway.

“I am close to cuebidding 5♣,” said Jill Meyers, “but I don’t think I quite have it.”

Four experts thought they did.

“5♣,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I will cuebid for my partner and let him out in 5 if he wants.”

Barry Rigal agreed. “Not sure what to expect from partner,” he said, “but in context I’m pretty good, and I can show it. Is 3 forcing? If not, 5♣ is an overbid.”

“5♣,” echoed Grant Baze. “Partner may have six or seven near-solid diamonds, so I have to suggest slam. 5 may be too high, but stopping on a dime in four of a minor when slam is possible makes no sense at all.”

“The 3NT call is the worst bid I’ve even seen imposed in a bidding problem,” said Larry Cohen. “It’s not clear now what strength partner has (sign-off, invitational or forcing), but I’m not passing, so I might as well make a clear-cut 5♣ control bid on the way (to 5) just in case.”

Other panelists agreed with Cohen’s evaluation of the 3NT bid.

“I assume my fingers slipped when I pulled that 3NT card out of the bidding box,” said Karen Walker. “I’ll try 4 now and hope to find the doubleton heart that I refused to look for on the last round. The only good thing about this problem is that it’s matchpoints, which means I’ll have to explain the auction to only one partner instead of three.”

“5,” said Richard Freeman. “I would have bid 3over 3 — 3NT was a terrible bid.”

“5,” agreed Steve Robinson. “I would have bid 3 over 3.”

“5,” agreed Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “We hate the 3NT call earlier, and would have bid the obvious 3. Now all we can do is try to end the auction in a sensible contract.”

August Boehm bid 4. “This could be an overbid,” he said. “I think 4 is non-forcing.”

Steve and Kitty Cooper bid 6. “We don’t know what this auction means in standard,” they said. “If 3 is weak, then we would pass 4, but we play that 2NT would have been the negative bid, and 3 is forcing. In that case, 4 is a slam try, so we raise to slam.”

Because it’s not clear what partner’s hand is, the majority made the practical bid and raised to 5.

Awards

Call Score
5 100
5♣ 60
4 20
6 10
4NT 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Feb. 6 2018

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠ A J 3 2 A K 9 3 ♣ A Q 8 7 5
West North East South
1♠ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♣ was named top bid.

Because your other choices are flawed, the majority made a 2♣ overcall, even with so much strength.

“2♣,” said Robinson. “I can’t make a takeout double with a void in hearts, and 2♣ avoids being shut out of the auction.”

Jill Meyers agreed. “I am not crazy about overcalling a five-card suit at the two level,” she said, “but my hand is too good to pass. If I double and partner bids hearts, I don’t have enough clubs to remove 2 to 3♣. Also, I would really hate it if partner jumped to 3 or 4.”

Karen Walker echoed the vote for 2♣. “The wait-and-see approach (pass) could work,” she said, “but I would be on my own. There is no way to convince partner I have a four-loser hand.”

“We hate 2♣,” said Steve and Kitty Cooper, “but neither double nor 1NT is acceptable with a heart void. The problem is that it often goes all pass, and that is not usually best.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin, on the other hand, said, “2♣ is probably a reasonable spot if everyone passes. We have too much to trap pass.”

Four panelists didn’t agree that they have too much to pass.

“Pass,” said Larry Cohen. “I’m a big proponent of taking initial actions, but nothing fits. There’s a much better chance I can show my hand later (by doubling hearts). This sounds like the late (and great) Al Roth.”

Roth was famous for saying that if he survives one round of bidding, he would have a better idea what to do at his next turn.

“Pass is a brave bid,” said Barry Rigal, “and could go badly wrong, but I can’t think of any bid that comes close to describing the hand.”

“Pass,” echoed Allan Falk. “My answers this month must make me look like the world’s biggest wimp, but I have nothing to say right now.”

Jeff Meckstroth went a different route than the other panelists. “1NT,” he said. “I need to express the values, even with a void.”

Meckstroth didn’t say what to do if partner transfers to hearts, but he must have some agreements in his partnerships to deal with that problem.

Two panelists bid an unusual 2NT, even though that is usually 5–5 distribution.

“I plan to follow with 3♠ over partner’s 3♣ or 3 bid,” said August Boehm. “This shows the big hand.”

“I can’t bid 2♣,” said Grant Baze, “as I may never get a sensible chance to introduce diamonds. Over 2NT, if partner can preempt in one of the minors, I can take a shot at slam.”

The majority of the experts bid 2♣. It’s not a perfect bid, but at least gets your side into the auction.

Some may be tempted to double with this strong hand. Note, however, that none of the panelists chose that — to double with a void in the other major is too dangerous.

Awards

Call Score
2♣ 100
Pass 70
2NT 30
2 20
1NT 10
Dbl 00

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Jan. 30, 2018

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠ — A J 10 8 3 6 5 4 2 ♣ Q J 9 2
West North East South
1♠ Dbl ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

You may be nervous about passing 1♠ doubled because it may be passed out. Your alternatives, however, are not good.

“I pass because I don’t know what to bid,” admitted Richard Freeman.

“Pass,” said Larry Cohen. “Let’s let them get into trouble. Why redouble and warn them?”

“Pass,” agreed Paul Soloway. “Let’s see what happens.”

August Boehm agreed with pass. “I’m ready to pounce,” he said.

Steve and Kitty Cooper also passed. “Our plan is to pass and then double,” they said. “We play that as cooperative. Some play that pass and then double is a unilateral penalty double, but we never seem to hold that hand.”

Betty Ann Kennedy echoed pass. “This is the wrong hand to bid 1NT,” she said.

Karen Walker agreed. “I pass,” she said. “The hand is too skinny for redouble and too dangerous for 1NT. Both rate to elicit a spade rebid from partner. If 1♠ doubled gets passed out, I may have enough in high cards to prevent a total disaster.”

Barry Rigal didn’t agree with Kennedy and Walker. He voted for 1NT.

“I could pass and hope to back in or guess well,” he said. “1NT seems to define my hand well enough.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin also voted for 1NT. “This describes a hand with about 8 high-card points,” they said, “and gives us our best chance to have a cooperative non-forcing auction.”

The Coopers didn’t agree with 1NT. “We prefer not to bid 1NT, the value bid here, with (extreme) shortness in partner’s suit,” they said.

“2,” said Grant Baze. “It is rarely wrong to bid your best suit. It lays a solid foundation for the rest of the bidding. Pass and then double is speculative.”

The problem with 2 is that partner might rebid 2♠. If so, that is when the speculation begins. Do you pass? Do you bid again, and if so, what?

“We have a split vote in our household,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Janet likes 2. Mel hates everything, so he goes along with the Boss.”

Three panelists redoubled. They play that redouble and then double is a non-cooperative penalty double. Jill Meyers was one of them.

“I have only 8 HCP,” she said, “but I want to double them.”

“This is a good hand to start doubling them,” echoed Steve Robinson, who also redoubled.

Kerri Sanborn voted for redouble and offered another reason. “If my left-hand opponent has a penalty pass,” she said, “the doubler may not be able to stand the heat when it is passed back to him.”

A redouble is a good way to try and double them for penalties. Allan Falk pointed out, however, a problem with this approach. “Over redouble,” he said, “North may rebid 2♠ to show a weak, shapely hand with six spades.”

Because you don’t have a descriptive bid, the panel majority passed, and planned to double at their next turn.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
Redbl 60
2 30
1NT 20

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Jan. 23, 2018

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠ J 9 8 5 4 7 4 3 ♣ A J 10 5 4
West North East South
1 (1) 1♠ 3 Pass
Pass Dbl Pass ?

(1) Four or more diamonds.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Nov. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4♣ was named top bid.

When partner reopens with a takeout double, do you bid your four-card major or your five-card minor? Half the panel were afraid partner only has three-card heart support and bid 4♣.

“4♣,” said Steve Robinson. “Unless partner has four very good hearts, playing 3 could be a disaster. I would not be happy in 3 if partner held:
♠A K Q 4 3 Q 7 3 5 ♣K Q 8 3.”

“4♣,” agreed Karen Walker. “I’m going for safety at IMPs. In hearts, I’ll be forced to ruff with partner’s trump honors and could easily lose control.”

Barry Rigal also agreed. “I think we are most likely to play clubs because of the ruffs coming with trump honors in 4.”

“I don’t want to be in hearts,” said Jeff Meckstroth, “unless partner has four, and I don’t see any guarantee of that.”

Mike Lawrence bid 4♣ and called it a “safety play.” He said, “Pass, 4 and 4♣ are all possible, but 4♣ gives the best chance of a plus score even if it’s a small plus.”

“Pass is out of the question at IMPs,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Partner is slightly more likely to have three hearts than four since he did not double initially. 4♣ is enough.”

Three panelists were willing to bid 3.

“3,” said Larry Cohen. “In my heart, I know that pass is the long-run winner, but I can’t stand minus 470 at IMPs. I’ll bail out here and try to win the match on some other deal.”

Steve and Kitty Cooper bid 3 and called it a “tough problem.” Allan Falk also bid 3 with the comment, “Blecch!”

The panelists knew that 3 or 4♣ will likely end the auction. Six were not willing to give up and so cuebid 4.

“I am asking partner to choose between hearts and clubs,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “My hand is good enough to play game in the right strain.”

“I’m willing to play 4 if partner bids it,” said Richard Freeman, “but otherwise 5♣.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro also bid 4. “We are trying to get to the right suit, but might end up at the wrong level,” they said.

“I’m going to take the chance that partner has four hearts,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but I won’t bet the farm on it. If not, maybe 5♣ will make. The hard situation is when partner is 6=3=1=3 and we belong in 4♠.”

Paul Soloway also bid 4 and hoped partner can rebid their spades with a 6=3=1=3 shape hand. “My ♠J might be a big card. Give partner:
♠K Q 10 7 6 4 A K 2 2 ♣K 7 6.
This won’t be the popular answer.”

Grant Baze bid 4 and said, “This denies three spades, denies five hearts, and therefore suggests five clubs.”

Walker scored the problems this month. “This is the most interesting and challenging problem of the set,” she said. “The exuberant 4 bid is difficult to score without seeing the bidders’ comments about what they’re trying to accomplish. If it asks for a choice of unbid suits, will (and should) partner bid 5♣ with 3–3 in the round suits? It’s been demoted in the scoring because two-thirds of the panel chose to forgo any move toward game.”

Lawrence’s advice summed up the thinking of the nine who bid 4♣: When faced with a difficult choice, make a “safety play” in the bidding.

Awards

Call Score
4♣ 100
4 60
3 50
4 20
5♣ 20
3♠ 10
Pass 00

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Jan. 16, 2018

Board-a-match. Both vulnerable.

♠ A K Q 7 4 A Q 9 5 ♣ Q J 8 6
West North East South
Pass 1 Dbl
Pass 1 2 ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Nov. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

It’s an interesting problem when you have a hand that might make game, slam or just a partscore. What would partner need to make 4? HoldingK 8 3 2 would likely be enough. With that heart holding and a high club, slam could make. If partner has a complete bust, a partscore is the limit.

Grant Baze took the direct route. “4,” he said. “It will make most of the time, so bid it. Anything else tortures partner and accomplishes nothing.”

Some panelists didn’t mind a little torture.

“3,” said Larry Cohen. “Let’s torture partner and see how much fun he has with some 3=3=4=3 piece of junk. Seriously, though, I think it is premature to jump in hearts as he could be 3–3 in the majors.”

“3,” agreed Betty Ann Kennedy. “I have a small concern that left-hand opponent is silent, which leads me to suspect that partner may have 3=3=4=3 shape. Over partner’s 3response, I will bid 3♠.”

Kennedy’s approach had the advantage of getting to 4♠ if that is the best fit.

“3,” said Richard Freeman. “Slam is possible, but so is landing in a 4–3 heart fit.”

August Boehm echoed 3. “I’m driving to game, and this hand is too strong to splinter. I prefer to investigate slam, rather than transfer captaincy with 4.”

What Boehm meant was that if you splinter, and partner signs off in 4, it will end the auction because you are supposed to respect that decision.

Half the panel, however, chose the 4 splinter bid.

“4,” said Kerri Sanborn. “This should be a slam try facing a 1 response. Partner could easily have theK and a high club. Slam is within reach.”

Steve Robinson agreed with 4. “No reason why partner can’t have two kings,” he said. “Actually, slam would have a play if he had:
♠8 J 10 8 4 3 7 4 2 ♣K 5 3 2.”

“4,” said Jill Meyers. “I am a little worried that partner may have length in diamonds and only three hearts. On the other hand, partner could have the K and ♣A or ♣K, and we can make a slam.”

Mike Lawrence made the 4 splinter bid for a reason other than slam search.

“I fully expect West to bid 5, so my splinter bid should bring North into the picture,” he said.

“4 eats up a lot of space,” said Karen Walker, “but a second double or a 3 cuebid suggests doubt about the trump suit. The splinter seems the best way to confirm hearts and get information about the possibility of slam. I expect him to cuebid the ♣A or ♣K.”

“4is an overbid,” said Barry Rigal, “but it’s the best way to announce ownership of the deal and set up forcing passes. Slam is conceivable, if unlikely.”

Steve and Kitty Cooper gave partner some latitude.

“3,” they said. “This is the value bid. If partner is 3–3 in the majors, too bad.”

Allan Falk tried to get more information. “Double,” he said. “This is tough. A heart raise, a spade bid or a cuebid could all be right. There is a substantial chance that partner has been forced to bid a three-card suit with a bust. I want to try to learn more about partner’s hand, without getting higher than necessary.”

The panel chose five different calls, and all of them have good reasons on this interesting deal. Most panelists intended to insist on game and didn’t want to give up on slam.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
3 70
3 60
Dbl 50
4 50
2 20
2♠ 20
3♠ 0
4NT 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Jan. 9, 2018

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable.

♠ A Q 7 6 5 4 A 10 9 5 4 3 ♣ 10
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 1♠ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Oct. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♠ was named top bid.

One of the rules of bidding, is not to raise partner’s second suit with three-card support. The panel majority didn’t agree with this.

“2♠,” said Steve Robinson. “Even though you’re not supposed to raise partner’s second suit without four, playing in spades will get a higher score than playing in diamonds.”

“It’s close between 2♠ and 3,” said Jill Meyers, “but I am going to lie and raise spades. If we have a game, it is likelier in spades. If we don’t have a game, I would rather play the major than the minor at matchpoints.”

“This is a classic problem with no good answer,” said Larry Cohen. “Since it is matchpoints, I’ll go with 2♠. It’s not IMPs, so I won’t worry that I have extra values and that we might miss a decent game.”

“2♠,” agreed Grant Baze. “Taking the low road to ensure the highest-scoring partscore — it is matchpoints, after all.”

Other 2♠ bidders made similar comments.

“We are short a spade and long an ace — reasonably compensatory values,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin.

“A slight underbid,” said Steve and Kitty Cooper, “but we have only three spades to make up for that.”

“Yes, I’m a spade short,” said Allan Falk, “but I have to do something with two aces and a 10-count.”

“I had a similar hand last week,” said Barry Rigal, “and it worked out poorly to raise. So on the theory of ‘swings,’ it must work today!”

Karen Walker bid 2. “If it’s a partscore deal, I’ll take the plus score playing at matchpoints. If partner has extras and can bid again, it is critical to choose the right game. Alternative bids of 2♠ or 3♠ make it impossible to get to 3NT if that’s our spot.

“I’d like to have better diamonds to bid 3. If partner passes and the opponents balance, I can give an accurate description by bidding 2♠ then.”

Four panelists bid 3. This is invitational with a six-card (or longer) suit.

“I don’t like it (3) much, but nothing else is better,” said Kerri Sanborn.

“I won’t try for the 4–3 fit unless partner bids again,” said Richard Freeman.

“Over 3,” said August Boehm, “if partner continues with 3, I can then show the three-card spade support.”

Mike Lawrence agreed. “We may still get back to spades,” he said. “I don’t want to jump directly to 3♠ with only three-card support if any other bid is possible. Partners have long memories if it turns out poorly.”

The experts who raised spades realized they were breaking a cardinal rule of bidding. They justified it, however, because they had extra values, because no other bid was perfect, and because of the form of scoring (matchpoints). The diamond bidders weren’t willing to raise spades with three-card support, and hope to be able to bid again.

Awards

Call Score
2♠ 100
3 60
2 40
3♠ 10
1NT 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Jan. 2, 2018

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠ A 10 7 6 4 J 7 4 2 A 7 ♣ K 4
West North East South
1♣ 1 1♠
2 3♣ 3 ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Oct. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

When 18 experts vote for six different calls, it must be a good problem.

Is 3♣ competitive, or does it show extra values? This depends on the partnership style, and the answer determines how aggressive the South hand should be.

The most votes were for the 4 cuebid — a probe for slam.

“4,” said Jill Meyers. “I don’t know partner’s style to freely bid 3♣, but I think we have a slam. I have a ruffing value, the trump king and two aces. My heart length means partner has one or none.”

Larry Cohen echoed 4. “I will take the high road,” he said, “as I can envision slam opposite short hearts and a hand such as:
♠K 2 3 K Q 8 3 ♣A Q J 10 6 5. The freely bid 3♣ shows something.”

“I’m bidding 4on the way to 5♣,” said Grant Baze, “If partner is on the top end of his bid, 6♣ will have a play and may be cold.”

“4tells partner it is our hand, and we have an interest in slam,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin.

“4 sets trump and lets partner investigate for slam,” said Steve and Kitty Cooper.

“I’m tempted to just bid 6♣,” said Allan Falk, who also bid 4. “I can probably make 3NT, but I have my eye on bigger fish. Partner rates to have only two spades, one heart, three diamonds and seven clubs, and my hand is gold. I picture: ♠K 2 3 K 6 4 ♣A Q 10 7 6 3 2, for example.”

August Boehm doubled and called it a “tough problem.” He said, “If partner pulls the double with a heart void, we should reach our best contract. If we defend, I’ll lead trumps and go plus.”

You may have trouble reaching your best spot after a double. Partner might envision your ♣K as the K instead, and with fewer offensive values than you have.

Three panelists opted for 3NT.

“3NT looks like the most likely game to make,” said Barry Rigal. “Hearts should be blocked.”

Mike Lawrence and Paul Soloway agreed, with similar reasoning.

Betty Ann Kennedy bid 4♣. “3NT has practically no chance,” she said.

Most of the panelists believed this was pessimistic. Although there’s no guarantee 3NT will make, 5♣ should have play. Meckstroth agreed with this.

“5♣,” he said. “I would probably survive 3NT, but sometimes clubs don’t run, or partner could be void in hearts.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed with 5♣. “I rate to make 3NT facing a singleton heart,” she said, “but there are no promises that partner has even one heart, and I can’t depend on him to pull when he is void. It’s hard to construct a hand where 5♣ isn’t a good contract, given that partner has at most two spades (no support double) and at most one heart. Even 6♣ is a good bet, but is too hard to investigate.”

Karen Walker took the direct route. “6’♣” she said. “With partner’s extreme heart shortness, this has to have a play. If it’s on a finesse, it’s through the stronger hand. I could torture partner with 4, but since he has no aces to cuebid (outside of clubs), that seems pointless.”

This would be a tougher problem at matchpoints because you want to play 3NT if you don’t have a slam. At IMPs, however, you can always play 5♣ so the 4 cuebid is “free.”

“We downgraded 4♣ in the scoring because it is not forcing,” said the Coopers. “We also downgraded the 3NT bid, which seems to be a poor gamble, especially at IMPs.”.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
5♣ 40
3NT 30
6♣ 20
4♣ 15
3♠ 0
4NT 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Dec. 19, 2017

Matchpoints. None vulnerable.

♠ A K 9 5 2 10 5 4 K ♣ 10 7 4 3
West North East South
Pass 1 1♠ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Oct. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♠ was named top bid.

The panel was divided into two groups — those who raised and those who wanted to defend. The experts who raised were also divided. There were those who made a simple raise and others who chose a limit raise.

“2♠,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I’m not sure I want to defend at the one level. There are so many variations if I pass for penalties. We might not beat 1♠ doubled. They could find a diamond fit. We could have game in hearts. They could compete even higher, letting me double that.”

Larry Cohen agreed with 2♠. “I prefer to get my hand off my chest by showing the limit heart raise at once. The opponents are likely to be able to run to diamonds.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro were also worried about the opponents finding a diamond fit. Even if partner can double that contract, they felt you would be uncomfortable if you had not supported hearts.

Richard Freeman bid 2♠ but considered pass and called it “close.”

Mike Lawrence doubled. “That’s a negative double, but I intend to raise hearts on my next turn.”

Steve and Kitty Cooper, who scored the problem, commented that the negative double as the beginning of a limit raise “is quite sensible.”

Four panelists didn’t think the hand was strong enough to cuebid to invite game.

“2,” said Grant Baze. “I will not make a penalty pass at the one level with three-card support for partner. I will not make a limit raise with a 10 count in which the K is suspect and the ♠K is not pulling full weight.”

“2,” echoed August Boehm. “I’m choosing the underbid to make it easier for the opponents to reach 2♠ doubled.”

“I need more useful values to bid 2♠ at matchpoints” said Allan Falk, who also bid 2. “Also, my hearts are poor.”

“2is plenty with this hand, especially at matchpoints,” agreed Karen Walker. “Even the most aggressive counters can’t value this to more than 10 support points. Passing for penalties feels like plus 100 at best.”

“Pass,” said Barry Rigal. “Of course, they may run to 2, and then I’ll come out of the woodwork with my heart support.”

“Pass and go for the penalty,” agreed Paul Soloway. “We can always support hearts later.”

“Pass,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “When partner reopens with a double, we can try for a number. When he reopens by bidding a suit, we will move towards game.”

Steve Robinson doesn’t agree with the Sutherlins about trying for game. “Pass,” he said. “This hand is not as good as it looks, especially if partner has short spades. Passing allows you to see who has what.”

“Even though pass was our choice, we downgraded it in the scoring because most panelists bid something,” the Coopers explained.

It’s tempting to go for a penalty, but the opponents are only at the one level. Also, pass violates the “support with support” principle. The majority raised hearts, therefore, either directly or indirectly.

Awards

Call Score
2♠ 100
2 80
Pass 70
Dbl 60
1NT 10
2♣ 0
3 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Dec. 19, 2017

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠ A Q 7 6 3 9 5 2 ♣ J 7 6 4 2
West North East South
1 1 1♠
2 3 3 Pass
Pass 3NT Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Oct. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

Most of the panel feels 3NT is an offer to play and half of them pass.

“Pass,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We probably have what partner needs to make 3NT — an ace, clubs under control, and two diamonds to increase the chance the suit is running.”

“Pass,” echoed Jill Meyers. “If partner has as little asA K Q 8 7 6 and the ace or king of hearts, we are on a finesse for 3NT and the finesse is through the overcaller.”

“My two low diamonds, club stopper and an ace are just what partner needs,” said Larry Cohen.

Mike Lawrence also passed. “I have two diamonds, so partner’s suit rates to run. I have an ace. Partner can stop hearts and I can stop clubs. Why run when 3NT rates to be successful?”

One panelist thought that because North had previously made a non-forcing 3 bid, 3NT showed minors.

“5♣,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Isn’t partner showing 6–4 or even 7–4 in the minors?”

Some panelists didn’t agree.

“Pass,” said Kerri Sanborn. “There is no reason to think the 3NT is a minor-suit takeout, because partner could bid 4♣ with 6–4. This is an attempt to play 3NT, which needs a little help. I hope I have enough. Partner could have: ♠8 Q J 3 A K Q 9 8 7 3 ♣Q 3. That could produce game, and is worth a stab at 3NT.”

“Pass,” said Steve and Kitty Cooper. “Partner has a heart stopper and has bid 3NT on the way to 4 in case we have enough values to pass. If partner had clubs with his diamonds, he would bid 4♣.”

Another panelist thought 3NT was an offer to play, but took out some insurance.

“4♣,” said Steve Robinson. “Because 3 is non-forcing, I don’t see how 3NT can make. I’m bidding 4♣ just in case partner is bidding 3NT for the minors.”

Because he expected 4♣ to be corrected, it is an equivalent bid to 4. The player or players who score the problems each month do not get to see the voters’ comments. If they had (in this case), then 4♣ would have received a higher score.

Paul Soloway bid 5. “I think he needs heart help for 3NT or he would have bid it on his previous turn. I would have raised to 4 the last round.”

The rest of the panel voted for 4.

“Partner’s message is pretty clear,” said Karen Walker. “Because he is willing to play just 3, but is now suggesting 3NT, he’s communicating doubt about notrump, with enough playing strength to compete to 4.”

“3NT is unusual in that it is natural,” said Grant Baze.” If partner had clubs he would bid them. If he had a real shot at 3NT, he would have bid it over 2. Partner is saying, therefore, that he wants to play notrump if you can fill a couple of gaps for him. The spade ace is not enough.”

“Easy to pull to 4,” said August Boehm. “3NT was only a mild suggestion.”

“If partner could not bid 3NT the first time,” said Richard Freeman, “there’s a flaw somewhere.”

“Obviously most of the panel thinks that 3NT is an offer to play with a heart stop,” say the Coopers. “Whether this hand is good enough to pass probably depends on the spade finesse, so we promoted 4 a bit in the scoring.”

Whether you pass 3NT depends on how strong partner could be to bid 3. Some pairs play that 3 is a strong bid. To compete to 3 with a weaker holding, they bid an artificial 2NT — a treatment called the good/bad 2NT. That’s not part of Bridge Bulletin standard bidding, however, so the 3bid is not clearly defined, and you cannot be sure how strong your partner is.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
4 80
4♣ 40
5♣ 20
5 10
4♠ 0
4NT 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Dec. 12, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠ — K 8 7 6 4 Q 9 8 6 4 2 ♣ K 3
West North East South
3♠ Pass
4♠ 4NT (1) Pass ?

(1) Two-suiter (any two suits)

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Oct. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5♠ was named top bid.

Your partner has forced you to bid at the five level, and you have a terrific supporting hand. The majority of the panel didn’t want to stop short of slam and so cuebid 5♠.

“5♠,” said Karen Walker. “Whichever two suits partner has, I have a mountain for him.”

“What a hand I have on this sequence,” said Kerri Sanborn, who also bid 5♠. “I will cooperate fully here and guess what to do on the next round.”

“We have to let partner know that a grand slam is possible,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “He could easily have three aces (but not the ♠A) and the K.”

“5♠ suggests first round control,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “I will remove 6♣ to 6.”

“5♠,” agreed Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Not to force to slam strikes us as quite wimpy.”

“Sorry to bury you, partner,” said Larry Cohen, “but slam will have play opposite most hands. My initial reaction was 5NT (pick a slam), but why not bid 5♠ and show the first-round spade control? When partner bids the expected 6♣ and I correct to 6, he will know I have red suits and interest in seven.”

“5♠,” echoed Grant Baze. “On our way to whichever red suit we are going to play, I should tell partner I have first-round spade control — perhaps he can bid seven. I think 5NT should deny first-round spade control.”

“Let’s play six of a red suit,” said Steve and Kitty Cooper who agreed with 5♠. “The question is what is the difference between 5♠ and 5NT. Do they both suggest two places to play? Does 5♠ show the spade control?”

Two panelists bid 5NT, but don’t say why that call is better than 5♠.

“5NT,” said August Boehm. “What’s the differentiation between 5♠ and 5NT?” he asked.

“5NT,” agreed Allan Falk. “I have two suits of my own and one has to fit partner. Over 6♣, I’ll bid 6, which means pass or bid 6.”

Five panelists bid a cautious 5. What are their reasons?

“5,” said Steve Robinson. “Usually it’s right to be conservative in this situation. Couldn’t partner have: ♠ —    2    K J 10 7 5 3    ♣A Q J 8 7 4?”
he asked. “You could be off two aces.”

“5,” said Richard Freeman. “I don’t want to commit to slam, but if partner now bids 5, showing hearts and clubs, I’ll raise to six.”

“Just 5,” said Mike Lawrence. “I don’t want to hang partner. It is likely the bidding will continue, and I may get a second chance.”

Jeff Meckstroth presented another reason to bid “only” 5.

“We may have slam, but if so, they likely have a cheap save,” he said. “I’m just happy to get to play it in game.”

The Coopers scored this month’s problems. “We promoted 5NT,” they said, “because it is very similar to 5♠.”

When the opponents preempt and your side has to bid the first time at a high level, bridge can become a guessing game. Your side could make game, a small slam or even a grand slam, depending on what partner’s hand is.

Awards

Call Score
5♠ 100
5NT 70
5 60
6 40
5 10

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Dec. 5, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠7 6 4 3 A 5 2 ♣ A K J 10 4 2
West North East South
1♣
Pass 1♠ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Sept. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

Even though you only have 12 high-card points, you have a nice playing hand. Should you make a minimum rebid, invite or force to game? The majority take the middle road and bid 3♠.

“3♠,” said August Boehm. “I don’t have enough to force to game and too much for 2♠.”

“3♠,” agreed Barry Rigal. “It’s not perfect, but if I bid 2♠ and partner passes with:
♠A K Q 8   8 7 3   9 8 3    ♣8 7 3,
I’ll have some ‘splaining to do.”

“3♠” said Paul Soloway. “Weak trumps make 3♠ more correct than stronger actions.”

Richard Freeman reasoned similarly. “Although the hand is worth a stronger bid based on playing strength, I don’t want to encourage slam thoughts with such weak trumps.”

“3♠,” echoed Kerri Sanborn. “If playing 3 was a mini-splinter, I would do that. This is a good hand, but I tend to be conservative with bad trumps.”

“3♠ is a straight value bid,” said Karen Walker. “No matter how you count it, this hand isn’t worth more than 15–16 support points. 4♣ and splinter bids show power hands, and that is too much — this hand has ultra-weak trumps and a non-solid side suit.”

Steve Robinson bid 4♣. “This shows six good clubs and four spades, and game-forcing values,” he said. “I would like to have better spades.”

“4♣ is a little bid of an overbid,” admitted Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “3♠ is our second choice. The hand is too thin for a splinter.”

Bidding 4♣ can get you to slam when you belong there. If partner signs off in 4♠, you haven’t told the opponents what to lead. It’s matchpoints, so let them guess which red suit to lead.

Several panelists commented that they would like to bid 3, showing heart shortness, spade support and invitational strength — some call it a two and one-half spade raise with shortness. Unfortunately, this is not part of Bridge Bulletin Standard. Two panelists bid it anyway.

“3 if playing this as a mini-splinter,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “With some partners I would bid 4♣ instead, showing a 6–4 pattern.”

“3,” agreed Grant Baze. “Given the opponents’ silence, partner has a good hand — maybe the perfect hand. I have to start the ball rolling (for slam), but not ridiculously.”

Baze meant that this hand is not strong enough for a 4 splinter bid.

Three members of the panel make the conservative 2♠ call — they don’t like the weak spade holding.

“This is the best 2♠ bid I will ever have,” said Mike Lawrence. “If someone bid 3♠, I would respect that, and might do so with ♠10 9 8 7 instead of four low ones.”

“The choice is to underbid with 2♠ or overbid with 3♠,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Given the bad spades and the fact that opponents will surely balance with 3, we will get a chance to show our two and one-half spade bid later.”

Bridge Buff also bid only 2♠. (“If I were playing it, I would bid more than 2♠. With my human partner as declarer, I’m taking the conservative route.”)

Kay and Randy Joyce summed up their reasons for how they scored this problem.

“You have lots of controls and a great side suit,” they said, “and you might make 2♠ or you might make 7♠. We would vote to show where our tricks are coming from, and thus the promotion for 4♣. Some people would not recognize 3 as a splinter bid, so the promotion for 4. Most players would bid more than 2♠.”

The August Bridge Bulletin was Randi Montin’s last month on the panel.

“I’m not playing much tournament bridge lately,” Montin said. “Because of that, I want to give someone else a chance.”

Her thoughtful answers and commentary will be missed.

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
4♣ 80
3 60
4 60
2♠ 20
4♠ 10
2♣ 0
3♣ 00

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Nov. 28, 2017

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable.

♠A 9 8 7 5 4 2 K J 4 A 3 ♣ 5
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1♠ 2♠ (1)
Pass 3 3NT ?

(1) Natural.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Sept. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

This is a strange auction. Partner did not overcall 1, but now bids 3. You have a good hand, yet the opponents roll into 3NT. Many of the panelists were also confused.

Kerri Sanborn bid 4. “What can partner have?” she asked. “It sounds like partner has long, bad hearts. There is a potential game for us, and for their side as well.”

“4,” said Mike Lawrence. “This is an impossible auction. I cannot come up with a sane meaning for 3. Whatever my partner’s intentions, this hand is good enough for action.”

Kitty and Steve Cooper agreed with 4. “The only explanation for this auction is that partner has long, bad hearts,” they said, “and did not make an undisciplined vulnerable preempt. If partner has a seven-card suit, we will probably make. If he has six, we will probably be able to get out for down two when 3NT is making.”

“I’ll bid 4just in case,” said Barry Rigal. “This hand will play very well if 3shows heart cards and spade tolerance, or if he just has hearts.”

“Partner figures to have seven bad hearts,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “He is short in spades, and thus has some diamonds — so diamond ruffs should get us to 10 tricks.”

“4,” said Karen Walker. “I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out what partner could possibly have for this BOON (Bid Out Of Nowhere). The watchword in these situations is: ‘If it could be natural, it is.’”

Two panelists doubled.

“I double and lead hearts,” said Paul Soloway. “If they run to 4♣, then I’ll bid 4.”

“I double,” said Jill Meyers. “I think partner is inviting me to bid 4♠ and showing heart values, something like: ♠K 3 and A Q 8 7 — with that, I don’t rate to make 4♠.”

Three panelists passed. Steve Robinson was one and offered a very plausible explanation for the 3 bid.

“Pass,” he said. “Partner couldn’t bid 1 over 1♣, so we don’t belong in 4. I think partner must have thought my 2♠ was a Michaels cuebid.”

Bridge Buff agreed with pass. (“3♥ doesn’t compute — it’s making my circuits overload. My human partner probably misunderstood my 2♠ bid and took it for Michaels. If I bid 4, that contract could be a 4–3 or even a 3–3 fit. I’m passing and playing it safe.”)

Larry Cohen bid 4♣. None of the other panelists thought of this bid, but it covers several bases.

“It’s a bit strange that partner couldn’t overcall 1,” he said, “but can bid 3 on this sequence. In any event, I will show my good hand (which has gotten quite good), and let him choose a major.”

There is a maxim in bridge: Support with support. Even though most panelists are confused by partner’s bidding, they follow that advice, and 4 is the popular choice.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
Dbl 50
Pass 40
4♣ 10
4♠ 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Nov. 21, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠6 4 J 7 2 A Q 6 5 2 ♣ 8 7 4
West North East South
1♣ Dbl Pass 1
1 1♠ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Sept. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2 was named top bid.

Partner doubled and bid 1♠ showing a good hand. You bid 1, but that didn’t promise any values, and you have a useful hand. Seven of the experts rebid 2.

“2,” said Allan Falk. “I could pass with nothing, so I need to say I have a little something. At IMPs, I have to keep the bidding open in case we have a game.”

“We need to show some values,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper, “and 2 is about what this hand is worth.”

“2 shows some values,” said Paul Soloway, “and there’s no need to raise spades on two low ones.”

“2,” agreed Karen Walker. “I’d bid 2♠ even with the doubleton if I had a ruffing value. Bidding again should suggest some values.”

“I could have passed 1♠ with a worse hand,” said Larry Cohen, “so 2♦ should show something. Still, I have a lingering doubt that I haven’t done enough.”

Others agreed with Cohen that 2 is an action that is not strong enough. Five experts cuebid.

“2♣,” said Richard Freeman. “I’m too good for 2♦, and this is the wrong hand for 2♠ or 3. I would like to find out whether partner has a big one-suited hand with long spades or a balanced 18-plus points with only a five-card suit. If he bids 2♠ or 2NT, I’ll raise.”

“2♣,” echoed Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “In context, we have an enormous hand.”

A jump to 2♦ at your first turn would have shown 9–11 points. By “in context,” the Colchamiros meant that since you bid only 1 the first time, partner can’t play you for more values than you have. Two panelists agree with this, but choose the 2 cuebid instead of 2♣.

“2,” said Jill Meyers. “Partner has shown a very good hand and I want to show interest.”

Mike Lawrence agreed with 2. “This is a good hand,” he said, “and it deserves a strong approach.”

Other panelists agreed that 2was not a strong enough action with this hand, and chose to emphasize the diamonds by jumping to 3.

“I can afford to be aggressive after limiting my hand on the previous round,” said Kerri Sanborn. “No other bid makes sense to me.”

“3,” agreed Steve Robinson. “This shows my hand — five diamonds with some values. I am limited by my 1♦ response the first time.”

Four panelists chose to raise to 2♠ with a low doubleton. What are their reasons?

“I owe partner a forward-going bid,” said Grant Baze. “The sensible one is 2♠.”

“I’m short one spade, but my values warrant another bid,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “This should enable partner to bid game in notrump if he has outside cards in hearts and clubs.”

“It sounds as if partner has an independent spade suit,” said August Boehm, who also raised to 2♠. “Bidding 2 sounds like a six-card suit with no spade support.”

“2♠ gets my general values across without confusing the issue about club or heart stoppers,” said Barry Rigal.

The panel was unanimous in saying that you need to bid again over partner’s 1♠ bid. They are divided, however, on the best way to advance.

Awards

Call Score
2 100
2♠ 80
2♣ 60
2 60
3 40
Pass 10
3♠ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Nov. 14, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠Q 6 5 7 6 5 3 A 8 6 2 ♣ 7 3
West North East South
Pass Pass
1 Dbl 1NT (1) Pass
4♣ 4♠ 5♣ ?

(1) Transfer to clubs.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Aug. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5♦ was named top bid.

Partner doubled and bid 4♠ on his own. The panel majority raised spades either directly or indirectly. Eleven choose to raise by cuebidding 5♦. North has shown enough spade length and strength that South cannot be looking for a new strain at this point in the auction. In context, South has a super hand for partner so he needs to do more than raise to 5♠.

“5♦,” said August Boehm. “This cuebid seems better than 5♠ in case partner has:
♠A K 10 9 7 4 3A Q 8 K J 3 ♣–.
Partner will understand my call because I would have shown long diamonds a round earlier.”

In Boehm’s example hand, the diamond finesse rates to work. If not, perhaps the diamond suit will split 3–3 and provide a discard for the 8.

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “I couldn’t have a much better hand,” she said. “5 must be a cuebid for spades. I have golden cards and owe partner a try for slam.”

“I have to bid,” said Grant Baze, “and there is no reason not to cuebid. Partner may have:
♠A K J 10 9 7 4 A 4 K Q 7 3 ♣–
or countless other hands where slam is cold.”

“5,” said Karen Walker. “The cuebid is ‘free’ and impossible to misinterpret. I might as well show a diamond control on the way to 5♠. Slam may be unlikely, but it’s not impossible.”

“Two gilt-edged cards make this too good just to bid 5♠,” said Allan Falk. Partner could have:
♠A K 10 9 7 4 3 A Q K Q 3 ♣2
or other hands where 6♠ is gin. I did pass the first time, so how much can partner expect?”

“5 is a cuebid for spades,” said Barry Rigal. “This auction is unambiguous, as I will explain to partner in the postmortem.”

Seven experts bid 5♠. None of them explained why they rejected the 5 cuebid.

“This is a huge hand for spades,” said Mike Lawrence.

“An ace and the ♠Q make it worth bidding,” said Paul Soloway.

“I hate to get pushed around,” said Jeff Meckstroth, “but we should be close to making.”

“5♠,” said Larry Cohen. “They are really pushing me around this set.”

The Bridge Baron was the lone panelist that passed. It wasn’t possible to program in the 1NT bid as showing a 2♣ bid. When Baron was asked for explanations, it indicated that 1NT showed 8-plus HCP, 4♣ showed 17+ HCP and 4♠ also showed 17+ HCP. That is 42 HCP and the Baron has 6 HCP in his own hand. Humans are good at re-evaluating things as more information is received. Once the Baron couldn’t make the auction “compute,” he passed. Apparently when the auction is confusing, taking the safest option (pass, in this case) is the default bid.

All the human experts chose to bid. Since the 5 cuebid is “free,” the majority chose that.

Awards

Call Score
5 100
5♠ 70
Pass 10
6♠ 10
5 10
Dbl 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Nov. 7, 2017

Matchpoints. None vulnerable.

♠A 7 6 5 2 Q 8 5 ♣ J 6 5 4 2
West North East South
1 1NT 3 (1) ?

(1) Weak

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Aug. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

In a perfect world, the opponents would pass at each turn and you and your partner could explore. It’s a jungle out there, however, and sometimes the opponents use the skip-bid warning. On this deal, pass seems too timid, but 3♠ is a forcing bid with a hand that contains only 7 high-card points.

“Pass,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Double would be for takeout, but partner might bid 4 — what would we do then? The hand values or the suit quality are not good enough to bid 3♠.”

The Bridge Baron agreed with pass. (“I hate it when humans push me around, but I’m not comfortable bidding anything else.”)

Ten experts were comfortable bidding 3♠.

“3♠,” said Kerri Sanborn. “Sometimes you have to overbid. There’s no perfect solution.”

Steve Robinson agreed with 3♠. “I have more offense than defense,” he said.

“Maybe something good will happen if I bid 3♠,” said Grant Baze. “Nothing good is likely if I pass or double.”

“I’ve got to get into action with 5–5 distribution,” said Paul Soloway, who also bid 3♠.

“I know 3♠ is forcing,” said Jeff Meckstroth, “but even if I get too high and go down two, that’s better than minus 140.”

Larry Cohen bid 3♠ and called it “pushy.”

Allan Falk rejected 3♠ and called it “a gross overbid with these tram tickets.”

Other panelists preferred double. When opponents bid and raise a suit, double is takeout, but partner can pass if he thinks that’s best.

“Double,” said Mike Lawrence. “This is more takeout than penalty, but is often left in. I can only hope that the Q turns out to have some value.”

“Double,” agreed Jill Meyers. “If my spades were better, I would bid 3♠.”

“Double,” echoed Randi Montin. “This is responsive as I’m marked with short hearts. If partner passes, my Q could be a good defensive card. I hope I don’t hear 4, but it’s just too hard to let them play 3when we can probably make something.”

Allan Falk also doubled. “This is responsive and gives us a chance to stop in 3♠ or 4♣, whereas 3♠ would be forcing and we’d be off in the ozone. Pass is too timid and 3♠ too aggressive. Goldilocks says double is ‘just right.’”

August Boehm also doubled. “If partner bids either black suit or passes, where my Q has value, we rate to score well,” he said.

“We have trump tricks and more than half the deck,” said Karen Walker who also doubled. “I’m not willing to bid 3♠ and force us into a short-point game at matchpoints.”

Most of the panel chose to bid something because their side has more than half the points. Spades offers the highest reward if partner can raise. Double is more flexible. Sometimes you have to choose between less-than-perfect alternatives.

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
Dbl 90
Pass 50
4 20
4♠ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Oct. 31, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠4 A K J 10 9 7 K 10 4 ♣ J 10 2
West North East South
Pass 1♣ Pass 1
1♠ Pass Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Aug. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

A near majority saw the powerful suit and bid 4.

“4,” said Steve Robinson. “Double would be takeout, but I don’t want to defend 1♠ doubled. My hearts are good enough to play opposite a void.”

“4,” agreed Paul Soloway. “Why look for anything else? Double might lead to playing 1♠ doubled.”

Grant Baze said that 4 is “the bid that is under my nose.”

Richard Freeman described 4 as “bidding the logical game.”

“We don’t like the delicate cuebid,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Our heart suit is self-sufficient, so we bid what we think we can make.”

Some of the panelists chose the 2♠ bid.

“2♠ is the easiest way to investigate several game possibilities,” said August Boehm.

“I don’t want to risk a double,” said Larry Cohen, “because it could go all pass. I am too strong to invite, so I will set up a game force and try to reach the correct game. I am bidding 3 next and passing 3NT should partner choose to bid it.”

Randi Montin agreed. “2♠,” she said. “I can rebid hearts after partner’s next bid.”

Kitty and Steve Cooper chose to double. “Playing support doubles, we must make partner’s penalty double,” they said. “Even though the opponents have eight spades, partner may have three or four trump tricks.”

“3,” said Allan Falk. “Double is too dangerous — partner will be tempted to pass for penalties when the opponents have eight spades. An invitational bid showing my excellent heart suit seems like the better description of my hand.”

The panel vote indicated they think that inviting with this hand is pessimistic. Sixteen of the 19 chose paths that will lead to game.

Most of the experts, like Falk, don’t like double. The problem with it is that you have more offense and less defense than partner might expect and only a singleton low spade.

Two experts bid 3♠.

“3♠,” said the Sutherlins. “The self-splinter is the most descriptive bid we can make and should get us to the right game which is probably 4.

Some panelists indicated that it wasn’t clear if 3♠ is a splinter for your suit (hearts) or partner’s suit (clubs).

The most frequent bid other than 4 was 2♠. Suppose you cuebid 2♠ and rebid 3 over partner’s bid? He may have a singleton low heart and then bid 3NT on deals where 4 is the better contract. As Robinson pointed out, your suit can play opposite a void. Bidding 2♠ and then insisting on hearts shows a slam try because you could have bid game directly at your second turn. Choosing the 4 rebid avoids these problems, and that’s the call nine experts made.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
3 60
2♠ 50
Dbl 40
3♠ 30
2 10
2♦ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Oct. 24, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠A Q J 10 7 4 A 7 ♣ J 8 6 5 3
West North East South
1♣
Pass 1♠ Pass 1NT
Pass 2♣ (1) Pass 2 (2)
Pass 3♠ Pass 4
Pass 4 Pass ?

(1) Checkback
(2) Minimum without spade support.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from July 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4♠ was named top bid.

Partner is bidding strongly, and we have the A–Q of trumps. Bidding 4♠ seems like an underbid, but anything else seems like an overbid. “4♠,” said Karen Walker. “I’ve already bid the limit (and then some) with this hand. If partner can’t bid on, we’re high enough.”

“4♠,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I have done all my cuebidding and am at peace with my auction.”

Paul Soloway agreed. “I made a move, and now it’s up to partner. If he bids 5♣, I will accept (the slam try).”

Randi Montin also bid 4♠. “My spades are great, but I think one cuebid is enough. Partner can bid on.”

“One slam try below game is all I’m worth,” said Grant Baze, who also bid 4♠. “If partner bids 5♣, I will make my last cooperative effort by bidding 5.”

“I love my spade holding,” said Jill Meyers, “but I don’t have another bid.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro raised a good point.

“It all depends on whether 4 was a mandatory cuebid,” they said. “If it wasn’t (we don’t think it was), then we’ve done enough.”

Since 4 was a bid below game, and since partner is unlimited, some partnerships play that South must cuebid 4 “along the way.” That is what the Colchamiros meant by a “mandatory” cuebid. The difference is that in one case you’ve made a cooperative try, and in the other, you made a bid that wasn’t necessarily forward-going.

Another group felt 4♠ isn’t a strong enough action.

“5♠,” said August Boehm. “The golden spades, plus the chance to focus on the club control, make this bid worth the risk.”

“5♠,” agreed Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Let’s show our good spades with no club control. When partner makes slam tries and you have very good trump support, you must be aggressive.”

“This little hand has grown,” said Mike Lawrence. “5♠ should give the message that I have nothing more to cuebid, so I must have something like this.”

“Over 2♣, why would I bid 2 instead of 2♥?” asked Barry Rigal. “That said, 5♠ suggests trump cards and nothing to cuebid. I’m obviously way too good for 4♠.”

Three panelists bid slam or checked on key cards.

“6♠,” said Larry Cohen. “I have three spectacularly useful cards. Maybe there is some other move to keep 7♠ in the picture, but I’ll make the practical call.”

Steve Robinson and Jeff Meckstroth bid 4NT.

“4NT. I showed a minimum,” said Robinson, “and partner is still interested.”

“4NT,” said Meckstroth. “With great spades and another ace, I need to drive this one into slam.”

Half the panel signed off and waited for partner to make another move. Seven of the panelists felt that when you have stronger trumps than partner can expect, you should be aggressive.

Awards

Call Score
4♠ 100
5♠ 80
4NT 60
6♠ 30

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Oct.17, 2017

IMPs. E-W vulnerable.

♠A K J 6 4 2 A 9 5 Q 4 ♣ K Q
West North East South
1 Dbl
2(1) Pass 2♠ ?

(1) Can be bid with a weak hand

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from July 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

You doubled 1, intending to bid spades next. The bidding has taken a strange turn, however, so what do you do now?

“Pass,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “Even though the spade bid may be a psych. If left-hand opponent bids 2NT and gets raised to 3NT, I’ll double for a spade lead.”

“Pass,” agreed Steve Robinson. “Double would be takeout, and I don’t want partner bidding clubs or hearts. 2♠ is forcing, so I can pass and listen to the auction and maybe bid 3♠ later.”

“Pass,” echoed Richard Freeman. “This hand is not as good as it looks, especially if East is being honest. Even if he is not, partner needs more than I can expect to make a game. I will have another chance over the expected 3 bid by West, and I can decide about competing then.”

If your LHO bids 3, as expected, and it is passed back to you, what new information do you have to help you decide whether to bid or not?

“Pass,” said Grant Baze. “When partner is unable to bid over 2, we are in defensive mode and not expecting to play the hand, even more so after East bids 2♠.”

“Pass,” said August Boehm. “If they stop in 3, I’ll pass unless my RHO looks tricky. I’d prefer a slightly heavy 1♠ overcall, leaving a flexible double for the second round.”

Kitty and Steve Cooper agreed with 1♠ at your first turn to call.

“If they stop in 3, we can decide whether to bid,” they said. “We would have bid 1♠ the first time and saved ourselves all this grief. You can overcall quite heavily at the one level because modern bidders almost never leave you there.”

Other panelists passed with the intention of bidding 3♠ next.

“Pass,” said Jill Meyers, “and then, right or wrong, I’m going to bid 3♠ if they sign off in 3.”

“Pass,” agreed Karen Walker. “The only way to bid spades naturally here is to wait for the retreat to 3, then bid 3♠.”

Paul Soloway agreed with Walker. He passed saying a 3♠ bid is “ambiguous.” Allan Falk and Peggy and John Sutherlin, however, bid 3♠ directly.

“We need to let partner know we have a good hand and long spades,” said the Sutherlins. “Pass and 3♠, when the 3♦ bid comes back to us, sounds like lesser values.”

“Only 3♠ removes ambiguity,” said Falk. “I have to compete at least this high, although my Q may be worthless.”

“2NT,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “This is a tricky one. I feel I should show my strength in case we have a game.”

The panel majority passed. When the bidding takes a turn for the worse, experts become conservative.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
Dbl 60
3♠ 50
2NT 50
3 50
3NT 20
4♠ 20

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Oct.10, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠A 4 A Q 6 5 4 4 3 ♣ J 10 9 4
West North East South
1 Pass 1
2♣ Pass Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from July 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Dbl was named top bid. For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from July 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Dbl was named top bid.

When you have an awkward hand that indicates you should bid again, a double is a popular choice. In the passout seat, it is not penalty, yet 11 experts chose that bid.

“Double,” said Grant Baze. “It is takeout, unfortunately. If partner bids 2 or 2♠, I will bid the obvious 2NT.”

“It would be nice if double was penalty,” said Larry Cohen, “but it shows values. I can always bid notrump later. On a great day, partner leaves this in.”

Jeff Meckstroth also doubled. “I don’t expect partner to pass because double just shows values, but just in case.”

The other panelists who doubled gave similar reasons. If partner left in the double, the opponent is in trouble. You have a convenient 2NT rebid if partner takes it out.

“Double,” said Barry Rigal. “My plan is to rebid 2NT. I’m unlikely to hear anything good from partner, but you never know. I have a sneaking admiration for pass — it might be our last chance for a plus score.”

Two panelists did pass.

“I could double, but what would that gain me?” asked Steve Robinson. “Partner doesn’t have three hearts or six diamonds, so our chances of making game are slim.”

“Pass,” agreed Allan Falk. “I don’t think we have game, but we are going plus against 2♣, perhaps plus 200.”

Some panelists bid 2NT directly. Why not double and bid 2NT if partner takes it out?

“2NT,” said Kerri Sanborn. “This shows about 11 points. A double of 2♣ may lead to confusion.”

“I have a great deal of sympathy with pass,” she said, “but it could be plus 200 instead of plus 600. A penalty double would be the ideal choice, but in today’s bidding style, double by me is more action or takeout. The person sitting in front of the bidder can almost never make a penalty double.”

“2NT,” echoed Karen Walker. “Close to 3NT, but the lack of a red-suit fit slows me down. Even if we don’t play support doubles here, partner might have stretched to bid 2. Too bad a double isn’t penalty.”

The Bridge Baron did bid 3NT. Humans are such wimps sometimes.

A support double (through 2) is part of Bridge Bulletin Standard. If you were not playing it, the double by you would be a way to get partner to raise to 2 with three-card support. You might also reopen with a double if you were 4–4 in the majors and had less than game-forcing values. With that, you can’t bid 2♠ because it creates a game force, so you have to reopen and let partner bid the spade suit. Despite having neither a 5–3 heart fit (no support double) or a 4–4 spade fit, the majority of the panel double, even though they concede that partner is unlikely to pass.

Walker scored this month’s problems and she added this comment.

“Pass was demoted,” she said, “because the vast majority of the panel voted to make some move toward game. Pass may have justification at matchpoints, but vulnerable at IMPs, it’s a deep position.”

Awards

Call Score
Dbl 100
2NT 70
3NT 60
Pass 50
3♣ 30
2♠ 30
2 20

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Oct.3, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠K Q 5 2 A K 8 7 K 8 6 ♣ A Q
West North East South
1♠ Dbl
Pass 2 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from July 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4 was named top bid.

You have a strong hand, but partner could be broke. Eight panelists took a shot at 4 anyway. Partner may not have much, but it won’t take much opposite your monster hand.

“4,” said Mike Lawrence. “Bidding 3 puts too much pressure on partner. If he has J 9 5 4 2, game has a good play.”

“4,” echoed Kerri Sanborn. “I can’t expect partner to be able to cooperate.”

Karen Walker also bid 4. “The right spot could be 2 or 6 or 3NT, but there’s no accurate way to find out. I’ll settle for the contract I think they’ll be in at the other table, and look for IMPs on the next deal.”

“Yes, 4 is an overbid,” said Barry Rigal, “but since game does have play facing
♠7 4 9 6 4 3 2 7 4 ♣8 7 5 3,
I think I have to give it a shot.”

Jill Meyers agreed. “Partner could have a Yarborough with five low hearts, and we could be cold for 4, especially with the strong hand on lead.”

“4,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “This may not make, but we will bid it anyway. The possibility of slam is too unlikely to confuse the issue with a cuebid.”

Some of the panelists chose the 2♠ cuebid. They are not trying for slam, but looking for help in how high to bid or whether to try 3NT.

“2♠,” said Grant Baze. “4 is too much, and 3 is too little. 2♠ followed by 3 is the strongest game try I can make. Goldilocks will be proud.”

“2♠,” said Larry Cohen. “We could easily belong in notrump if partner has three low spades, but I don’t have enough information to make a final decision.”

“2♠,” echoed Jeff Meckstroth. “I’ll see what partner has to say. We could easily belong in 3NT.”

“I hope to get a little more information,” said August Boehm, who also bid 2♠.

“I’m just postponing my agony,” said Allan Falk, who also bid 2♠. “This is a monstrous hand, but so much of my strength is in spades, I’ll have to suggest notrump by later bidding 3NT, showing some doubt as to the right game. Partner might have:
♠8 6 3 6 5 3 2 Q J 5 2 ♣K 7 5, in which case 4 is terrible and 3NT is a claimer.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin summed up the arguments for 2♠.

“It’s uncertain whether we can play game in notrump or hearts. 2♠ is a no-risk bid. Let’s see what partner can do. He might surprise us and bid 2NT or 4. We aren’t worse off than if we bid an immediate game after 2.”

The 2♠ cuebid may help you know what to do after partner rebids. With a weak hand, however, partner will be forced to rebid 3 — this doesn’t show extra length, but rather is the weakest rebid. When this happens, the 2♠ bid won’t gain anything. You still won’t know what to do.

Other panelists ignore the heart fit and bid notrump.

“2NT,” said Paul Soloway. “This shows the value of the hand and lets us stop if partner is broke. 3is an underbid, 4 is an overbid, and a cuebid is ambiguous.”

“I’m worried about spade ruffs if we play in hearts,” said Betty Ann Kennedy, who also bid 2NT.

“2NT. Nine tricks might be easier than 10,” said Richard Freeman. “Partner will move with any values.”

“3NT,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “This won’t get many votes, but may win us 10 IMPs. Is
♠7 6 4 Q 10 5 4 3 7 4 ♣8 7 4 too much to ask for?”

With this example hand, 3NT may prove awkward after a diamond lead or a spade lead and the instance where East withholds the ace.

When a hand is difficult to bid, you should try and make a practical bid. In this case, 4, 2♠ or 2NT were all practical bids and received votes. It’s interesting that no panelist bid 3— a bid that some readers at home may have made.

Awards

Call Score
4 100
2♠ 90
2NT 60
3NT 50
3 30

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Sept. 26, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠- A J 9 K 10 9 8 2 ♣ A K 9 4 2
West North East South
1 Pass 2♦
Pass 2 Pass 3♠ (1)
Pass 4 Pass ?

(1) Splinter raise of hearts (shortness in spades).

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from June 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5♣ was named top bid.

You have a monster hand, but partner seems to be weak. Six panelists decided to pass.

“Pass,” said Randi Montin. “My lack of a fourth heart is a negative. Partner did not cuebid 4 and so likely does not have the A.”

Grant Baze agreed with pass. “I asked partner to cast his vote, and he has. A bid by me guarantees we are safe at the five level — I can’t make that guarantee.”

“Pass,” said Steve Robinson. “Partner can’t have the A. For slam to be good, he needs the K Q and the Q. I don’t see what bidding 4♠ or 5♣ is going to gain you, so you should either bid 6 or pass. Give partner:
♠A K Q K 7 6 5 3 6 4 ♣10 6 3
and you will be lucky to make four.”

“Pass,” agreed August Boehm. “The five level need not be safe opposite:
♠A K J K 7 6 5 3 2 6 4 ♣J 8.”

In these two examples, partner has wasted points in spades. Is that reasonable? When you made the 3♠ splinter bid, you were asking partner to evaluate his hand, knowing you had shortness there. He did and signed off in 4. Should we have made the splinter bid? You usually splinter with four-card support. You only have three-card support making the void less valuable.

“Pass,” said Larry Cohen. “Not sure I like the early auction, but once I have gone this route, I respect partner’s decision. You shouldn’t splinter if you are in doubt over partner’s signoff.”

Both Cohen and Robinson made the point that it would be helpful to know if 2 promised a six-card suit, or if that was the default bid. Robinson said he would take another bid if it showed six.

Allan Falk agreed. “I think 3♠ was a very poor bid — it endplayed poor partner, who is probably looking at wasted spades values and can’t imagine I have this good a hand.”

“What was the point of 3♠?” asked Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “A splinter bid is a limited bid — one where if partner signs off, you are supposed to respect it.”

The rest of the panel continued on.

“5♣,” said Mike Lawrence. “Since North needs very little to make (even) a grand slam, I am soldiering on. If he bids 5, I will respect it and pass.”

“Bidding again is automatic,” said Kerri Sanborn, who also bid 5♣. “Three first-round controls and trick sources are too much to pass. Bidding 4♠ to show the void leaves partner stranded if he has no club control. If he bids 5♥ over that, I’ll give up.”

“This hand is worth one more try,” said Karen Walker. “It’s important to bid 5♣ because 4♠ would sound like I need a club control. I’ll pass 5.”

Paul Soloway also bid 5♣. “It’s worth another move, but four could be the limit,” he conceded.

Jill Meyers agreed with 5♣. “I am tempted to pass because I have only three trumps, and trump leads could kill slam chances,” she said, “but my hand is just a little too good.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro bid 6♣. “We could have a 5–4 or even a 5–5 fit in clubs and only a 5–3 fit in hearts. This gives partner a choice.”

Betty Ann Kennedy took the bull by the horns and bid 6. “We should have a good play for it. At worst, it may depend on where the A is when partner doesn’t have the Q.”

“We demoted pass because 12 people bid” said Kitty and Steve Cooper. “Since partner may have had no cuebid, another move is called for.”

The feeling of the panel was that the 3♠ splinter bid was ill-advised. Once you went that route, however, you should bid again. Bidding 5♣ helps you get to slam but still stop in 5 when that is indicated.

Awards

Call Score
5♣ 100
4♠ 90
6♣ 80
6 60
Pass 50
5 10
4NT 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Sept. 19, 2017

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠K 10 8 7 5 4 3 2 2 6 5 4 2 ♣ –
West North East South
?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from June 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4♠ was named top bid.

Half of the panel opened 4♠. You have an eight-card suit which argues for that. The other group bid only 3♠. The arguments for that are that your suit is moth-eaten, and you are vulnerable at IMPs.

“3♠,” said Larry Cohen. “Usually eight-card suits are for the four level, but I fear minus 800 or possibly 1100. Must you publish my wimpy answer for all to see?”

Many others were also wimps.

“3♠,” said Allan Falk. “Yes, I’m old and I’m a wimp, but 4♠ is so committal. North won’t anticipate two or three trump losers, or zero defense. When I’m vulnerable, I pull in my horns, but not so much as to pass.”

“3♠,” echoed Barry Rigal. “With hearts, I would open 4♥, but 4♠ often endplays the opponents into doubling.”

“3♠,” agreed Steve Robinson. “Even though I have eight spades, one can’t go bonkers.”

Nine of the panelists were of the “bonkers” school.

“4♠,” said August Boehm. “Half-measures like 3♠ never work well for me.”

Karen Walker agreed with 4♠. “This is pushy,” she said, “but the 8–4 distribution makes the hand worth at least 3.5♠, so I’ll round up.”

“Who knows?” asked Paul Soloway, who also bid 4♠. “Try to put maximum pressure on the opponents.”

“4♠,” agreed Jeff Meckstroth. “Let’s roll the dice here.”

“My suit should be better,” conceded Randi Montin, “but I want to bid as high as possible to make things difficult for the opponents.”

“4♠,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Should we make the 4♠ overbid or the 3♠ underbid?” they asked. “The opponents put pressure on us on problem number one, now it’s our turn.”

That’s the advantage of the 4♠ bid. A big preempt such as this really puts the pressure on the opponents. Even if you are headed for a minus score, the opponents may misjudge. Suppose it goes double, pass and the other opponent holds a hand such as the first problem. On a slightly different auction, 10 panelists bid 5♣ in that case.

Kitty and Steve Cooper commented, “There is no point opening 3♠ if you are going to be unhappy when it goes 4♥ passed back to you. The extra distribution compensates for the lack of HCPs.”

One panelist bid other than 3♠ or 4♠. He got a score of only 10, but won the good-humor bonus points.

“Pass,” said Grant Baze. “What is the hurry to mis-describe my hand? I can always do that later.”

His point was well taken. This is not exactly a 3♠ or a 4♠ bid. There are so many benefits to a preempt, however, that the rest of the panelists chose one or the other depending on their style.

Awards

Call Score
4♠ 100
3♠ 80
Pass 10
2♠ 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Sept. 12, 2017

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠K 10 9 7 Q 10 9 4 7 6 ♣ J 10 5
West North East South
1 2♣ Pass
Pass Dbl Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from June 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2 was named top bid.

You should have at least 6 HCP to make a negative double at the one level. Conventional wisdom says you need a little more to do so at the two level — perhaps a queen better. Seven of the panelists didn’t agree with this.

“We disagree (with the pass),” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “It would have been better to make an aggressive double to show the majors.”

“I agree (with the pass),” said Richard Freeman. “You should have a little more for a two-level negative double.”

“Strongly agree with a pass,” said Barry Rigal. “The double should show at least a queen more.”

“I can live with pass,” said Larry Cohen. “If my minors were reversed, I would have doubled.”

Randi Montin called a negative double “a little light.” Allan Falk described it as “marginal.” Kitty and Steve Cooper said they prefer 8 or more points to double, but call it “a matter of style.” Grant Baze agreed that you don’t have enough to double.

A pass was certainly reasonable, and partner has reopened with a double. What next? There were eight votes each for 2 and 2♠.

“2,” said Paul Soloway. “Since I chose to start low (pass the first time), I will bid the same now. Partner has to bid again for us to have a game.”

Montin agreed with 2. “Partner can bid 2♠ if he has them,” she said. “Partner does not need extra to reopen, so I don’t want to bid higher.”
“2 leaves partner room to bid 2♠,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “Partner does not guarantee four-card support for both majors.”

“2 gives us a chance to get to either major,” said Freeman.

“I bid 2,” said Rigal. “I’m not sure where I’m going. Yes, I see the case for 2♠ and then bidding 3if the opponents compete, but I’m going to sell out to 3♣.”

“2” agreed Falk. “That leaves room for 2♠ from partner. Bidding 3♣ to get North to pick a major is fatuous. North might well have 3=3=5=2 distribution.”

Even though 2leaves room for partner to bid 2♠, he may not be strong enough to bid again. If he is 4=3=4=2 with a minimum, he will have to pass 2. The panelists who bid 2♠ were willing to compete again and wanted to be able to show both majors.

“I bid spades first because I intend to bid again,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I can get to hearts later and get to the right strain. Having passed already, I have enough to bid twice if there is any more bidding.”

You may not get to the right strain if partner is 3–3 in the majors.

“2♠,” said August Boehm. “I’m prepared to bid 3over a club raise or partner’s 2NT.”

Jeff Meckstroth agreed. “In case I have to bid again, I can comfortably follow with 3.”

“2♠,” echoed Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “We’ll continue with 3 if given the chance.”

“I evaluated this hand as not worth a response (on the last round), so I’ll stay low for now,” said Karen Walker. “I plan to compete with 3, if the opponents give me the chance.”

Yes, 2♠ may give you a chance to bid 3♥, but not if it passed out there. Either 2or 2♠ could land you in the wrong strain. Two panelists bid 3♣. They felt that since you passed on the first round, you are not overstating your values. They hoped partner has a major and this allows you to find the best fit.

“3♣,” said Baze. “The specific message is: I’m 4–4 in the majors with some values. Partner, you decide.”

“After 3♣, we may be too high,” said the Sutherlins, “but at least we’ll be in the right suit.”

If you make a negative double on the first round, you are gambling that partner has a four-card major. If partner rebids 2 or 2NT, that could be a poor contract. On the other hand, while passing has the advantage of not overstating your values, you have a nasty decision after you pass and partner reopens with a double. You could end up in the wrong suit or miss a game. Either could be right, and the panel’s split vote indicated this.

Awards

Call Score
2 50
2♠ 45
3♣ 25
2 10
Pass 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Sept. 5, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠3 7 3 2 10 7 4 ♣ J 9 8 6 5 4
West North East South
3♠ Pass
4♠ Dbl Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from June 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5♣ was named top bid.

When your partner doubles after an auction such as this one, you are supposed to pass unless you think you can make whatever you bid. Your hand, however, has no defense. If partner has ♣A K Q 3, those 9 high-card points may not take any tricks.

“5♣,” said August Boehm. “Could be a double game swing if partner has ♣A K 10 3 or ♣K Q 10 3 where my club length undermines partner’s defensive potential.”

“I believe the vulnerable opponents,” said Jill Meyer, who also bid 5♣. “If partner has ♣A K 10 3, a lot of his points are wasted.”

“5♣,” said Barry Rigal. “I can’t say I feel happy with my choice. Others will pass and wait for partner to produce four tricks — I’ll take my chances bidding.”

Betty Ann Kennedy bid 5♣ and said she is “taking out insurance.” Mike Lawrence bids 5♣ “with angst,” and hoped the opponents bid on to 5♠. Richard Freeman agreed with 5♣ and called it “automatic.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin bid 5♣ and said, “We hope to push the board since our counterpart at the other table has the same hopeless choice.”

“I can’t imagine risking minus 790 or 990,” said Karen Walker. “I have zero defense and the offensive safety of a six-card suit.”

“This could be a double game swing,” said Kerri Sanborn who also bid 5♣. “I can’t imagine passing.”

Eight panelists did imagine passing. They felt that bidding was accepting a minus score.

“Pass,” said Steve Robinson. “It’s easier to take four tricks than 11. I hope partner doesn’t have ♣A K Q 3 2.”

Randi Montin agreed with pass. “They may make it, but we could go set many tricks vulnerable and doubled when, in fact, they are going set.”

“I don’t think I am making 5♣,” said Jeff Meckstroth, “so I have to pass and hope we can beat them.”

“Pass and pray,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “This is a dangerous situation!”

“Pass,” agreed Grant Baze. “Double says bid if you think you might make it, but otherwise pass.”

Allan Falk also passed and addressed an issue that some of the 5♣ bidders didn’t comment on.

“If by some miracle we can make 5♣,” he said, “North would likely be strong enough to raise to 6♣ or even to 7♣. Even minus 790 might be better than minus 800 (or worse).”

Kitty and Steve Cooper scored the problems this month. What did they think?

“Who knows what’s right?” they asked. “It’s easier to take four tricks than 11, so we upgraded the pass.”

Awards

Call Score
5♣ 100
Pass 90
other 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Aug. 29, 2017

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠K Q 4 A J 2 A J 10 3 ♣ Q 7 3
West North East South
3♠ Dbl Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3NT was named top bid.

There were votes for 3NT, 4NT, 5NT and 6NT, as well as a vote for pass. What a problem! 3NT is a practical bid.

“3NT,” said Steve Robinson. “I can’t show an invitational to 6NT type hand, so I will bid what usually works after a preempt.”

Jill Meyers agreed. “If 4NT was quantitative, that would be my choice,” she said, “but I am afraid 4NT is either minors or Blackwood. Good thing to discuss with partner.”

“3NT,” said Barry Rigal. “I play 4NT as minors with no slam interest, and 4♠ shows minors with slam interest. I have no way to invite, so I’ll guess that we can’t make slam.”

“3NT,” said Karen Walker, “or 4NT if that is quantitative in Bulletin Standard. I think 4NT is probably Blackwood, so I’ll settle for the sure thing.”

Even though 3NT is a practical bid, you have 17 high-card points. You would bid 3NT with an ace less, so you could miss a slam. In fact, five experts bid 6NT.

“6NT,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “No real way to invite, so I’ll bid what I think I can make.”

“I bid 6NT,” said Mike Lawrence. “Knowing where the missing values are should help us in the play.”

“6NT kind of just jumps out at you,” said Larry Cohen. “I don’t want to just invite, because partner, with the ♣A and three kings, will pass 4NT and opposite that (super) minimum, I have a play.”

Four panelists bid 4NT. Is it clear what that means? Some of the panelists thought so.

“4NT,” said Randi Montin. “This is quantitative. I have no room to do anything else.”

“4NT should show a strong notrump hand,” said Kerri Sanborn. “Slam chances are good.”

“4NT,” said Allan Falk. “This is ugly! I’d really like to just invite slam, but 4NT is Blackwood, so I’ll just make sure we’re not off two aces and head for 6NT.”

Richard Freeman bid 5NT.

“Absent discussion,” he said, “partner might take 4NT as minors.”

“3NT got the most votes,” said Kay and Randy Joyce, “but we think it is way too conservative. A quantitative 4NT seems about right with 17 HCPs. We admire pass because it might beat game scores.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin were the only contestants to pass.

“When we make 3NT,” they said, “we can probably get 500 or 800. If we can make 6NT, we should collect 800 or more. Pass wins many IMPs when our counterparts at the other table go down in notrump, and lets us stay even or average the rest of the time.”

It was slightly surprising that there were not more votes for pass. If declarer has seven spades to the A–J–10, you may be able to limit his winners to five spades tricks. It is unlikely declarer could reach dummy to lead through you. In that case, you would score 800 — beating your counterparts who are not in slam (or who go set in slam).

Playing 4NT as quantitative would be convenient on this hand. With different hands, however, using it as Blackwood or to show minors could be better. The crux of the problem is this: Do you and your partner have a clear definition of what 4NT means in this sequence?

Awards

Call Score
3NT 100
4NT 90
5NT 80
Pass 70
6NT 70
4♠ 20
6 10
5 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Aug. 22, 2017

Matchpoints. None vulnerable.

♠A 6 4 3 J 5 A 10 9 3 ♣ J 9 3
West North East South
Pass
1♠ 2 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2♠ was named top bid.

A cuebid after partner overcalls promises a hand with limit-raise values or better. This hand has the values but only two trumps. Regardless, seven of the panelists opted for the cuebid.

“2♠,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “We owe partner a trump, but we like this hand. Spades spots warn against 2NT. Bidding 3is not out of the question.”

Grant Baze agreed. “Jack-doubleton in support of a long suit is the one time a jack carries more than full weight. The aces and minor-suit spot cards speak for themselves. If partner gives me a chance, I will get 3NT into the picture.”

“Jack-low,” said Richard Freeman, “is surely sufficient support for a two-level overcall. My hand is better suited to hearts than notrump.”

“It’s close between 2♠ and 3,” said Jill Meyers, “but I like my aces.”

“Partner has a good suit to overcall at the two level,” said Randi Montin. “I would like to have a third heart, but my spade spots are not good for notrump.”

Not everyone agreed with the cuebid.

“Only two hearts for a cuebid?” asked Kay and Randy Joyce. “The prime values (two aces) argue for a raise with a doubleton heart.”

Six of the experts concurred. With only the doubleton J, they didn’t want to cuebid. The hand has some values, however, so they didn’t want to pass. They compromised by making a simple raise.

“Jack-doubleton is fair support for a two-level overcall,” pointed out Steve Robinson.

“3,” said Karen Walker. “Too much to pass and this is not an attractive spade holding for a 2NT advance.”

Paul Soloway agreed. “This hand looks suit oriented,” he said, “and the spade spots make 2NT unattractive.”

“3,” said Rigal. “It’s not perfect — we might miss 3NT.”

Larry Cohen also raised to 3. “My aces and heart jack are such good cards that I am worth an invitation,” he said.

Peggy and John Sutherlin summed up the case for 3. “We need to make a forward-going bid,” they said, “and 2♠ and 2NT feels wrong. A raise is all that is left.”

Bidding 2NT is right on values and heart length, and three panelists chose that call. Kerri Sanborn summarized the reasons for this choice.

“I would prefer to have better spade intermediates,” she said, “but I haven’t committed us to notrump — just offered it up. Value-wise, this is the right bid. I hate to raise on a doubleton when I have a reasonable alternative.”

Allan Falk didn’t like any of his choices and passed.

“At IMPs I’d bid something,” he said, “but at matchpoints I have to protect our plus score. If my spades and diamonds were reversed, I’d bid 2NT.”

When no call is clear, you try and make the one that will work out best most often. Even using that guideline, it is not clear what to do. Most panelists felt the hand is too strong to pass. The cuebid is right on values, but wrong on trump length. 2NT is right on values, but you have only one spade stopper. 3 is a compromise bid. As the Sutherlins said, no bid feels right.

Awards

Call Score
2♠ 100
3 90
2NT 70
Pass 40
4 10
3NT 0

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Aug. 15, 2017

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable.

♠5 4 K 9 7 5 4 3 10 3 2 ♣ Q 5
West North East South
1 1♠ Pass
Pass 2NT Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from May 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3NT was named top bid.

Does partner have a strong balanced hand? Or does he have a hand with a source of tricks, such as a running diamond suit and a spade stopper?

“If North held a balanced 18–19 points,” said Allan Falk, “he would rebid 1NT. Opposite a passing partner, that shows a strong balanced hand — too good for an initial 1NT. 2NT shows a hand with tricks from a long suit.”

Most of the panelists agree that 2NT shows a long diamond suit with a spade stopper, and, therefore, they chose a simple raise to 3NT.

“3NT,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “1NT would have shown 18-19 balanced, so we assume partner has long diamonds. Our hand tells us the diamonds are going to run, and we’ve got a little something. We wouldn’t be surprised if partner has a singleton heart.”

“Sounds like partner has a big diamond suit,” said Richard Freeman, “I should be able to contribute a trick or two.”

“3NT,” echoed Jeff Meckstroth. “Partner should have long diamonds for this bid.”

“3NT,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We have enough values and diamonds to suggest 3NT will make.”

Grant Baze agreed. “3NT is the game most likely to make, with or without a heart fit,” he said.

Randi Montin and Mike Lawrence chose 3♦, but for different reasons.

“I think partner is showing a hand worth seven or eight playing tricks with long diamonds,” said Montin. “We could make 3NT or not, depending on which honors partner holds in clubs and hearts. If he has only one spade stopper, we would need to take the rest of the (nine) tricks immediately.”

“3if a transfer,” said Lawrence. “If this does not exist, then 4should be interpreted as Texas (transfer). Surely I have some transfer bid available here.”

“4,” said Larry Cohen. “Not the way to score points in a bidding panel. How can I have a hand strong enough for 4now that I couldn’t bid 3on the first round? I can’t, so this must be a transfer. I am desperate to avoid the spade lead through partner.”

Others didn’t agree that a diamond bid would be a transfer.

Paul Soloway bid 3NT and said, “How to introduce hearts and create a force is not clear, so I bid a simple 3NT.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “Unfortunately I can’t transfer to hearts and then bid 3NT,” she said. “But it seems likely he is trying to avoid hearts anyway, and needs a trick or so for game. That being the case, I should have enough.”

Four panelists couldn’t resist bidding their six-card major.

“3,” said August Boehm. “Systemically, we’re badly placed with no standard transfer mechanism.”

“3,” said Steve Robinson. “I expect partner to bid 3NT, but I bid 3just in case he has hearts. Partner may have a 4=1=4=4 hand.”

Kay and Randy Joyce said, “A six-card suit is worth mentioning! We think there should be no doubt that 3is forcing, but it is unclear whether the 3and 4bids are intended as transfers. Most partnerships probably don’t have a specific understanding about transfers here, but it would be nice to right-side (the contract) playing in hearts.”

The key to this hand is that if partner rebid 1NT, it would show a hand too good to open 1NT. The jump to 2NT, therefore, shows a different type of hand than one that is strong and balanced. Your diamond holding means partner’s suit should run, and you have a smattering of values. Introducing your heart suit only muddies the water and possibly gets the contract played from the side that is weak. For these reasons, the majority of the panel raised to 3NT — the practical bid.

Awards

Call Score
3NT 100
3 90
4 50
4 50
3 30
3♠ 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Aug. 8, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠A Q J 8 4 2 10 9 6 4 2 Q ♣ J
West North East South
1♣ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 1♠ was named top bid.

This hand presents several options. A Michaels cuebid shows both majors, but your spade suit is longer and stronger than your heart suit. If you choose to overcall in spades, to what level do you bid?

Richard Freeman bid 2♣, Michaels. “I will bid 2♠ over partner’s expected heart call. I would rather just overcall, but I don’t know whether to bid 1♠, 2♠ or 3♠.”

“2♣,” said August Boehm. “It describes the hand type, leaving an option to rebid spades.”

Randi Montin agreed with 2♣. “If partner bids hearts at the two level, I will correct to spades. If left-hand opponent buys the contract, I will have wished I bid spades for the lead.”

The strength of making a Michaels cuebid is that it shows both suits with one bid. The downside of bidding Michaels is that partner can’t know your spades are so much stronger (and longer). When you bid Michaels, then bid again, you should have a stronger hand than this one. For these reasons most of the panel bid some number of spades.

“1♠,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “The spade suit is so much better than hearts that I’ll forgo Michaels and perhaps bid hearts later.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “1♠. I can bid hearts later possibly. I hate for partner to be leading blind against 3NT after I bid Michaels. Surely I have a strong preference.”

“No Michaels with these two suits,” said Paul Soloway, who also bid 1♠. “I will emphasize spades.”

Steve Robinson agreed. “I bid Michaels with all 5–5 hands, but this is more of a 6–4 hand,” he said.

Peggy and John Sutherlin agreed with 1♠. “Too much of a difference in suits for Michaels. Definitely want a spade lead. We plan to bid hearts next.”

“1♠,” said Karen Walker. “It’s tempting to preempt in spades, but this could be our hand, so I’ll take it slow and plan to keep bidding as long as the opponents let me.”

Yes, that’s the problem with preempting in spades — you may lose the heart suit. Nevertheless, several experts did just that.

“2♠,” said Allan Falk. “The question should not be, ‘What do you bid now?’ but rather, ‘What is your plan?’ My plan is to bid 2♠ immediately and then hearts later. This is not the right hand at all for a Michaels cuebid.”

“3♠,” said Jill Meyers. “This hand is not good enough to bid Michaels and then bid spades if partner bids hearts. I want to preempt, so the three-level it is.”

Larry Cohen agreed. “This looks more like a one-suiter, and I have enough shape to comfortably preempt this high. My only concern is that I have too much strength and we miss a good game.”

“4♠,” said Barry Rigal. “Don’t show this answer to any of my regular partners — I’d like to keep them for a while longer. Hearts? What hearts?”

The majority bid spades, although they disagreed as to how many. Scorer Falk demoted 2♣ in the scoring. He looked at the direction the majority of the panel were heading and in this case, it was to bid spades (although they disagreed as to what level). That’s why 2♠ scored higher than 2♣, even though both received four votes.

Awards

Call Score
1♠ 100
2♠ 70
2♣ 50
3♠ 30
4♠ 40
Pass 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Aug. 1, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠A 7 3 2 10 6 A J 8 6 5 ♣ K 10
West North East South
3♠ Dbl Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from April 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3NT was named top bid.

When an opponent preempts, you usually have a choice of actions, and your foe is hoping you will have to guess what to do. This problem is a good example. You could belong in 3NT, 5, 6 or it could be right to pass and take your plus score.

The panel majority made the practical bid of 3NT. You should be able to make a vulnerable game, and playing in diamonds would be a guess as to what level. This group can be called the pragmatists.

“3NT,” said Steve Robinson. “I expect to make 3NT. When in doubt, play 3NT after a preempt.”

“3NT is the practical call,” said Barry Rigal. “Yes, you might make 6 and go down in 3NT, but 3NT might be the last making game facing a moderate hand.”

“IMPs or not,” said Kerri Sanborn, “nine tricks may prove easier than 11. Passing could work, but we don’t have any trump surprises for declarer.”

None of the panelists voted for pass, although several considered it.

“3NT,” said Larry Cohen, “although I could be talked into pass or 5. All three actions have pros and cons.”

“3NT is our most likely game,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We are favorites to isolate West. Slam is a possibility when partner has a big hand, but then he rates to make another bid.”

August Boehm agreed. “Maybe partner can make a move (if we can make slam). My call is constructive.”

“There’s no safe or very accurate way to search for 6, so I’ll settle for nine tricks,” said Karen Walker.

Other panelists were not content to bid 3NT. One of them can be termed the compromiser.

“5,” said Mike Lawrence. “There are some hands that will make 6 and not 3NT. This bid is a compromise. Passing is a viable alternative that will get a lot of 500 scores but not that many 800s.”

Another group can be called the scientists.

4♠,” said Grant Baze. “When I next bid 5, partner will know I have a spade control and that I expect to make 5. He will then be able to raise with most hands that make slam. 3NT could go down, and 6*D* makes when partner has:
♠4 A K 8 4 Q 10 9 3 ♣A 9 7 3.”

“4♠,” agreed Jill Meyers. “If partner bids 5♣, I will bid 5. I feel this hand is worth one slam try. I hope 4♠ doesn’t show a two-suited hand.”

The final group can be called the no-nonsense bidders.

“6,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “There is no way to find out partner’s exact holdings in any of the suits, so I’ll bid what I think I can make.”

Allan Falk also bid 6. “The knee-jerk reaction is 4♠, but that suggests two places to play, and if I later bid 6, partner will think I’m looking for seven. Six surely has a decent play opposite any hand with a stiff spade.”

None of the experts passed 3♠. The 3♠ bidder rates to take six spade tricks, and if he can take one more somewhere else, you will set him only 500, which does not make up for the vulnerable game you expect to make.

After the opponents preempt, bid 3NT if it seems reasonable. If you don’t have room to search safely for slam, settle for a nine-trick contract.

Note from the scorer: This marks the first time members can submit their votes online, so we have added some calls that received no votes among panelists. On this problem, Pass scores a 60. 4 gets a zero because it is non-forcing and is the same bid you would make with:
♠8 7 3 2 10 6 J 8 6 5 4 ♣10 9.

Other problems in this set that did not get votes may or may not receive awards. If your call is not listed, however, assume that it is a zero. If this happens, try and decide why no expert chose that call. This kind of objective reflection may help you to improve your game.

Awards

Call Score
3NT 100
6 70
Pass 60
4♠ 50
5 40
4 0

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

July 25, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠A K 9 8 6 J 10 9 6 3 9 8 ♣ 2
West North East South
1NT (1) Dbl (2) ?

(1) 15-17
(2) One minor or both majors

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2 was named top bid.

When an opponent intervenes over partner’s 1NT opening, it can cause problems. When it is not clear which suit(s) he has, that can be even stickier.

The majority of the panel transferred to spades — the bid they were going to make anyway.

“We play system on,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin, who bid 2. “We intend to continue with 3 forcing to show a 5–5 hand.”

“2,” said Allan Falk. “I’m not sure if SAYC defines how our bids change against this auction. Most experts play system on, so I’ll transfer to spades, then bid hearts.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “It is best to keep one’s system intact with this type interference. Will follow with 3 showing 5–5 and forcing.”

“2, transferring to spades,” echoed Betty Ann Kennedy. “I will follow with hearts at my next call. With my regular partners, I would bid 3 immediately which shows both majors invitational.”

2,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro, “and followed by 3 — we like this hand and will force to game.”

Other panelists agreed. They thought it was best to ignore the double and bid as you would if it had not occurred. The double has, however, created some bidding options, and some of the panelists took advantage of that.

“Pass,” said August Boehm, “planning to cuebid their minor and bid again if partner bids 3NT. A major-suit game is a reasonable goal.”

Richard Freeman agreed with pass and then cuebid. “Redouble is tempting,” he said, “but I would not plan to sit for a double.”

Two panelists didn’t agree.

“Redouble,” said Steve Robinson. “This is just in case East has both majors. If he runs to 2♣, I will bid 3♣. If he runs to 2, I will pass. Redouble is forcing to at least 2NT.”

Jeff Meckstroth agreed with redouble. “Time to go headhunting,” he said.

Two other panelists took a different approach.

“2♣,” said Grant Baze. “We are on our way to four of a major, and Stayman is our best chance to play it from partner’s side.”

Stayman will get it played from partner’s side if he as four of either major. If not, follow-ups may be awkward. A Jacoby transfer has a 50% chance of getting partner to be declarer.

Randi Montin bid 2 as a transfer to hearts. “I will then bid 2♠ as invitational 5–5. I don’t know the sequence for 5–5 invitational with major suits that we use on the panel, so I am giving my own.”

“This problem was difficult to score,” said Karen Walker. “The merits of 2♣, pass and redouble depend on what the bidders have in mind for their follow-ups. 2 was promoted slightly in the scoring because the majority of the panel voted to start showing long majors.”

The majority felt that when an opponent makes a conventional double of your partner’s 1NT opener, ignore it and make your normal bid.

Awards

Call Score
2 100
2 70
Pass 60
Redbl 60
2♣ 60
3♠ 20
3 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

July 18, 2017

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable.

♠10 4 A K Q 9 6 K Q 6 3 ♣ A 6
West North East South
3 ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3NT was named top bid.

When the opponents preempt, you are under pressure with a hand like this. You may belong in hearts, you may belong in 3NT or you may belong somewhere else. The panel was nearly evenly split.

Steve Robinson voted for 3. “This hand is not as good as it looks. If partner passes 3, you could be high enough.”

Grant Baze agreed. “3NT is unilateral, misdirected, too often final and almost certainly loses the heart suit. 3 allows for 3NT and is our best step towards slam, if it exists.”

Mike Lawrence reasoned similarly. “3 keeps open 3, 3NT and 4. This is on the heavy side,” he admitted.

“3 is heavy,” said Larry Cohen, “but partner will probably bid on with short diamonds. A three-level vulnerable overcall shows a very good hand.”

Cohen, Paul Soloway and Randi Montin said that if partner passes, 3 is high enough.

The rest of the panel overcalled 3NT.

“Nine tricks are easier than 10,” said Jill Meyers.

“3NT,” agreed Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We have too much to overcall 3. Double risks having partner bid 4♣ or even 4♠, which leaves us poorly placed. 3NT is a favorite if partner has a few cards.”

“Way too much to pass,” said Karen Walker, “and a bit heavy for 3, so 3NT wins by default. Even if we have a heart fit, 3NT could play better.”

Allan Falk, Barry Rigal and Kerri Sanborn agreed with the point that a heart contract may play poorly. They pointed out that there is a danger of overruffs.

August Boehm summed up this point. “Maybe the preemptor did us a favor,” he said, “steering us clear of hearts, which could go down on diamond overruffs, or bad breaks. Or maybe the preempt has nailed us to the wall. We’ll find out soon enough,” he said.

Players who think that double is the correct call should note that none of the experts chose that action. When you have a doubleton in an unbid major, a call other than double is preferred.

Awards

Call Score
3NT 100
3 90
4 30
Dbl 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

July 11, 2017

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable.

♠K Q 10 8 6 4 K 8 9 ♣ 9 4 3 2
West North East South
Pass 1 Pass 1♠
Pass 2NT Pass 3♠ (1)
Pass 4♣ Pass ?

(1) Forcing

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 4♠ was named top bid.

Your partner has 18 or 19 high-card points, a spade fit and the ♣A. Is your hand worth a cuebid? Half the panel thought so.

“4,” sayiid Richard Freeman. “Could make slam opposite a perfecto. Partner should give me some leeway for a below-game slam try.”

Allan Falk also bid 4. “If partner signs off in 4♠, I’ll be content. If partner bids higher, my hand won’t be a disappointment.”

“4,” agreed Larry Cohen. “I don’t have enough to drive to slam, but I have too much to sign off in 4♠.”

Why cuebid 4instead of 4?

“Usually you cuebid your lowest control,” said Grant Baze, “but making the bid you think partner wants to hear takes precedence.”

Also, you usually cuebid high cards before shortness. You would cuebid an ace before cuebidding a void, for example.

August Boehm didn’t agree with this. He bid 4first because he is going to make two tries.

“Control sequences are fun to plan,” he said. “Facing:
♠ A 3 2 A Q 5 A J 5 3 2 ♣A 5,
partner will continue 4*H*, and I’ll take over. If partner holds:
♠A 3 2 Q J 5 A K 5 3 2 ♣A 5,
he will sign off in 4*S* missing a heart control, and that’s high enough on a club lead.”

Kerri Sanborn also intended to make two slam tries.

“I want to make two slam tries,” said Sanborn. “I will cuebid 4then 5.”

The other half of the panel signed off in 4♠.

“At first we thought a move towards slam was wise,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro, “but most hands we constructed, even those with a doubleton club, did not offer great slam chances. This is a good hand to illustrate caution when holding a singleton in partner’s longest suit.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin agreed. “There are very few 18 or 19 HCP hands that partner can have that will make slam better than 50%,” they explained.

Steve Robinson also signed off with 4♠. “Partner may have the perfect cards. Because you shouldn’t play partner for the perfect cards, however, you must sign off.”

“I need total magic to want to be in slam here,” echoed Jeff Meckstroth.

Barry Rigal also bid 4♠. “It is possible to construct a few hands where slam is good,” he said, “but I’m not biting. Worrying about problem No. 2 and being thought to be a coward has sapped my strength temporarily,” he joked.

What is the difference between bidding 3♠ or 4♠ over 2NT?

“I’m not sure why I didn’t bid 4♠ at my last turn,” said Karen Walker. “Bidding 3♠ implies that I either planned to pass 3NT or that I have slam-try values and want to hear a cuebid. Partner’s 4♣ bid, therefore, is cooperating with the slam try and not initiating it. Partner needs a perfect hand with a strong club holding and little or no wasted values in diamonds to make 6♠. A 4bid will encourage him to plow into it with far too many of the imperfect hands.”

The issue raised by Walker is a good one for partnerships to discuss. What is the difference between a 4♠ bid over 2NT or first bidding 3♠ and then following up with 4♠?

The message by the 4bidders was that the hand is worth one try since that doesn’t take you past game.

The message by the 4♠ bidders was don’t play partner for the perfect hand — he usually doesn’t have it.

Awards

Call Score
4♠ 100
4 90
4 50
4NT 30
5♠ 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

July 4, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠K J J A 9 5 4 ♣ A Q 9 8 7 3
West North East South
Pass Pass 1 2♣
3 (1) Pass Pass ?

(1) Weak

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from March 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3NT was named top bid.

Should you compete again? If so, which call is best? Those were the questions facing the panel. Half the experts said that bidding 3NT in this auction shows minors with your first suit (clubs in this case) at least two cards longer.

“3NT,” said Barry Rigal. “This is for the minors, not to play. Once you overcall, you can’t bid notrump naturally, and this typically shows a 4–6 pattern.”

Betty Ann Kennedy agreed. “3NT is a classic bid for the shape I have in the minors.”

“3NT,” echoed Allan Falk. “I can’t double with only two spades, and selling out to 3 when I have no idea what to lead has to be a losing proposition.”

“Of course I bid not vulnerable at matchpoints,” said Grant Baze, who also preferred 3NT. “This shows a two-card discrepancy between the minors. If partner has six or more cards in the minors, I’ve struck gold.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed with Baze. “There is almost no hand where we don’t have at least an eight-card fit. I can’t let them play 3 — only when partner has four hearts is it wrong not to balance with a double.”

“I don’t want to sell out,” said Richard Freeman, “and I would like a third spade to double.”

“3NT shows the minors with longer clubs,” said Randi Montin. “This is not to play when they have bid and jump raised. Partner doesn’t need much. I think a reopening double should have at least three cards in the remaining suits.”

Four of the panelists do double, however, even though they hold a doubleton in the unbid major.

“Double,” said Paul Soloway. “I will follow with 4♣ over 3♠. The hand is too good to sell out to 3.”

Steve Robinson agreed. “If partner bids 3♠ and I correct to 4♣, partner should know I have the minors.”

Some panelists were afraid that 3NT would be an ambiguous call.

“We don’t expect partner to jump to 4♠ over our double,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “He didn’t take any action over 3, nor did he open 2♠. 3NT for the minors is a scary bid.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro also doubled. “We would like to bid 3NT for takeout, but we know that not everyone would read it that way. Over 3♠, we’re planning to bid 4♣ showing long clubs and secondary diamonds. Pass could be a winner, but seems too conservative.”

Five panelists did pass.

“Pass,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “Perhaps I should risk balancing, but it seems too dangerous.”

Mike Lawrence agreed. “Trying to bring diamonds into the picture is a bit much.”

“Pass, but reluctantly,” said Larry Cohen. “If I were sure he would read 3NT as takeout, I might try it. I can’t double because partner will surely bid spades (you know how partners are). There is an excellent chance that 3 is down, and that we can’t make anything above 3.”

Karen Walker also passed. She summed up her reasons in three words: “Sometimes preempts work.”

At matchpoints, experts are often conservative and try for any plus score, not necessarily the best plus score. With this hand, you can’t be sure of setting 3, so there may be no plus score by passing. Because of this, the majority bid again and hoped for the best.

Awards

Call Score
3NT 100
Pass 80
Dbl 70
4♣ 40
4 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

June 27, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠A Q 8 4 Q 6 K Q 7 5 4 ♣ 5 4
West North East South
Pass Pass 2♣(1) 2
Pass 3♣ Pass ?

(1) Precision; natural, limited opening bid

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Feb. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

After an overcall, a cuebid by partner shows a fit, announces at least limit-raise strength and asks you what strength overcall you have. Holding a minimum overcall, you repeat your suit. That’s the call that eight of the panelists chose.

“3,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “We are minimum, this is easy.”

Mike Lawrence agreed. “This is a minimum overcall. His cuebid is temporarily just a good diamond raise.”

Paul Soloway also agreed. “I was just barely worth 2 as it was,” he said.

“I certainly have nothing extra for my overcall,” echoed Karen Walker.

“I have a minimum overcall with only a five-card suit,” said Jill Meyers.

“If I bid 3♠,” said Allan Falk, “we are forced to game. Bidding 3 is my last chance to give North an opportunity to play a partscore. I have the wrong number of clubs to be thinking about (bidding higher) unless North bids again.”

The majority, however, bid 3♠. It pays to bid games aggressively when vulnerable at IMPs, but is this pushing it?

“3♠,” said Richard Freeman. “An overbid, but it’s important to find a spade fit.”

“3♠,” agreed Larry Cohen. “I don’t really have extras, but I will go the overbidding route in hopes of reaching a making game. At any other situation (vulnerability or form of scoring), I would have been content to bid 3.”

“On one hand, I have no extra values,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but on the other, we could belong in notrump or spades. My overcall is not that bad.”

“My hand isn’t that good,” said Jeff Meckstroth, “but it’s not that bad either. I don’t want to miss a spade fit.”

August Boehm agreed with 3♠, calling it a “tad light.”

If you rebid 3 and partner passes, what have you missed? If you can make game, he may be able to bid again.

When involved in a bidding dialogue, part of the time you can determine what to do. Often this is not true, however, so when that is the case, you try and describe your hand and allow partner to make the decision. On this hand, the 3♠ bid overstates your values, and partner will likely get your side too high.

The majority didn’t agree with this. They know the IMP reward of bidding a vulnerable game, so they risk the minus score to find a spade fit.

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
3 80

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

June 20, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠A J 2 A Q 6 2 ♣ K J 9 8 7 6
West North East South
1♣
4 Dbl (1) 5 Pass (2)
Pass Dbl Pass ?

(1) Negative
(2) Forcing

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Feb. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 5 was named top bid.

You could have bid 5 after right-hand opponent bid 5, but you made a forcing pass and then pulled partner’s double to 5. This shows a stronger hand than bidding 5 directly over 5. Most of the panel felt this is a strong enough action.

(A note about the forcing pass: in the given auction, the opponents are clearly sacrificing, so at the very least a double is in order. When South passes, North must act. He must double or bid something. Pass is not one of North’s options.)

“5,” said Paul Soloway. “This shows slam interest, as pass and pull is the strongest action.”

“5,” echoed August Boehm. “Isn’t this why I passed, to create a slam try with the pass-and-pull sequence?”

“5,” said Larry Cohen. “I passed, planning a pass-and-pull auction to show extras.”

Randi Montin agreed with 5. “This is stronger than a direct 5. Partner may have two or three low clubs, which makes slam iffy. The preemptor may have shortness somewhere. Playing a 4–4 fit may be difficult if suits don’t split.”

“I have a nice hand,” said Allan Falk. “Pass and pull is stronger, so there’s no reason to do more. Hearts may be awkward to play, but I can’t settle for a non-vulnerable penalty when we could have a cold vulnerable small slam or even a grand slam.”

Two panelists passed.

“Bidding on could be right,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but there is no guarantee of a plus score if I do. Bad breaks could doom a slam or five-level major contract.”

“I have nothing more to add,” agreed Maike Lawrence.

Six panelists insisted on slam.

“Anything could be right here,” said Shawn Quinn, who bid 6♣. “It feels like we have a slam, but who knows.”

“6♣,” said Karen Walker. “Doubles at this level are just values and shouldn’t promise perfect negative-double distribution. We may or may not have a heart fit, and I want to take the pressure off partner. 6♣ does that.”

Because a negative double at the four level doesn’t promise at least four in each major, partner may not have four or more hearts. Three panelists, therefore, bid 5NT asking partner to pick a slam.

“5NT,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I want to keep 6♣ in the picture. Partner will tend to bid hearts if he is 4–4 in the majors. I don’t expect to collect enough by passing and defending.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin and Jill Meyers agreed with 5NT and gave the same reasons as Meckstroth.

“We promoted 5NT in the scoring,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper, “because we think it is a reasonable way to get partner to choose.”

When you are in a forcing auction, passing and pulling shows a better hand than the direct bid. The panel majority felt that this action is strong enough with this hand. Partner then can make the final decision.

Awards

Call Score
5 100
5NT 80
6 40
6♣ 30
Pass 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

June 13, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠A J 8 3 2 A J 7 5 4 ♣ 10 7 2
West North East South
1 2
4♣(1) 4♠ 5♣ ?

(1) Clubs and diamond fit

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Dbl was named top bid.

The panel was divided into three groups. One thought South has more defense than shown and so should double. A second group thought they’ve found the magic fit and bid on. The third group wasn’t sure what to do and so doesn’t want to act before partner has a chance to offer his opinion, and therefore they passed.

“5♠,” said Randi Montin. “When they bid and raised clubs, it improved my hand. I would like to pass if it were forcing, showed interest in bidding on, and left the decision to partner. But we are not in a forcing auction as neither of us has shown a strong hand.”

Two other panelists wanted to compete to 5♠, but bid 5♦ along the way to be sure and get that lead if the opponents compete to 6♣.

“5♦,” said Richard Freeman. “Should be a magic fit.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro agreed. “In case they bid 6♣, we want partner to know what to lead. If West has no spades, they might make 6♣ without the diamond lead. If partner has the right hand, we might make 6♠.”

The middle-of-the-road group passed.

“Yes, it sounds like we have a double fit,” said Karen Walker, “but partner is the only one who can be certain of that. I have what I promised for a vulnerable Michaels call, so partner should make the final decision.”

“Pass,” agreed Larry Cohen. “I have lots of nice features, but not enough shape to bid again, and I don’t want to double since I wouldn’t mind at all if partner bids again.”

“If partner wants to bid again,” said Shawn Quinn, “I’m delighted. I don’t want to discourage that by doubling.”

Jeff Meckstroth and Betty Ann Kennedy gave similar reasons. They wanted to involve partner in the decision.

The majority of the panel doubled. They felt they have more defense than partner might expect.

“Double,” said Kerri Sanborn. “It is tempting to bid 5♠ since partner is short in clubs. I hate to be unilateral when my partner can have a hand such as:
♠K Q 9 6 *H*8 5 3 ♦J 8 7 5 4 ♣3.”

“Double,” agreed Paul Soloway. “In case they play 5♣, I want the diamond lead. With two aces, I have good defense if partner wants to double 5♦.”

Several panelists agreed with Soloway that double should show a void and be lead directional.

“Double ought to be a Lightner type double,” said Allan Falk. “With a diamond lead, we might slaughter 5♣. North might have bid 4♠ on a variety of hands where 10 tricks, or less, is our limit.”

A Lightner Double calls for an unusual lead against a slam and often shows a void. Since you bid hearts and spades (by making a Michaels cuebid), the unusual suit would be diamonds. Even though 5♣ is not slam, a Michaels cuebid generally shows offensive strength and may be weak defensively, so some panelists see this as a parallel situation to doubling a freely bid slam.

“A double has Lightner implications,” agreed August Boehm. “With a big Michaels hand, I would bid 5♠ or cuebid.”

“Surely a diamond lead is our best chance to beat this,” said Grant Baze.

Mike Lawrence also doubled. “It is possible that my partner has five diamonds,” he said, “which means the opponents have nowhere to run. It intrigues me that so many other doubles are alerts and this one is not. Should it be?”

Steve Robinson summed up the case for double. “I have learned that you should double the opponents at the five level when you have two aces and partner has bid.”

What you bid with this hand might depend on your style for making a Michaels cuebid. If your partnership makes one with light values, then a double clarifies that you have defense. If you promise values, however, especially vulnerable against not vulnerable at IMPs, then pass might work out better — it involves partner in the decision.

Awards

Call Score
Dbl 100
Pass 80
5 60
5♠ 30

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

June 6, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠ A 10 8 6 2 K 10 8 6 5 4 ♣ 7 2
West North East South
1♠ Pass 2♠ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), 2NT was named top bid.

Do you compete or not? If you were in the passout seat, balancing would be pretty much automatic. Bidding here is called a pre-balance. You are the member of your partnership who is short in spades. If you don’t act, it is unlikely that your partner can. If you do act, do you overcall diamonds or try and introduce both of your suits?

Two panelists bid 3♠ as a Michaels cuebid.

“This is a bidders’ game,” said Steve Robinson, “and 3♠ shows hearts and a minor, which is what I have.”

“If partner fits us,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin, “then 10 points may be enough to make game, or even slam. This is a big risk/reward situation. Our style is to take the positive approach and bid.”

While 3♠ shows two suits, forcing partner to bid at the four level shows a strong hand. Most of the panelists were not willing to do this. Instead, overcalling 3 was the choice of six experts.

“3,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “Not clear what to do, but I don’t think I’m good enough for Michaels.”

“Not willing to commit to the four level via 3♠, although that could be a big winner,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro, who also bid 3. “We’ll decide what to do over 3♠, if that comes back to us,” they added.

It could go Pass–Pass–Pass, and there won’t be a next time.

“3,” said Grant Baze. “Partner will give me a little slack since he knows I am very short in spades. Yes, I’m worried about partner getting too involved, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.”

“I’ll bid my long suit,” said Allan Falk, “and see what happens.”

The majority of the panel bid 2NT. It shows two suits, but they were hoping to be able to convert a club bid by partner to diamonds, thus showing the red suits.

“2NT,” said Paul Soloway, “planning to correct clubs to diamonds. I think you need to get in.”

Richard Freeman agreed. “I will correct to diamonds over partner’s expected club bid. Not good enough for 3♠.”

“2NT,” echoed Mike Lawrence. “Partner has to be aware that my call is not necessarily minors. I hope his hand will offer him a hint.”

“2NT is generally minors,” said Shawn Quinn, “but many play it as a flexible two-suiter.”

“2NT should show a two-suiter,” said Karen Walker. “Even if SAYC says this is for the minors, I can get the message across by converting partner’s 3♣ to 3.”

Editor’s note: The SAYC notes that are used for the It’s Your Call forum do not address this issue — it’s a treatment, rather than a convention.

“2NT is another non-standard bid that should become standard,” said Larry Cohen. “It should show any two suits, not specifically the minors. This hand illustrates the need for this treatment. The idea is just to bump them out of 2♠.

“Partner will bid the cheapest suit he can stand. When he chooses clubs, my conversion to diamonds will show red suits. Do you have to publish my score this month?” he asked.

Actually, Cohen had a good score of 470.

Three panelists passed.

“Too dangerous with adverse vulnerability,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “I might bid 2NT if playing matchpoints.”

“Partner will play me for a better hand,” said Jill Meyers.

Kay and Randy Joyce agreed with Meyers. “This hand has limited values,” they said. “What if partner thinks we have a real hand?” they asked.

“Tempting to bid,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but I am vulnerable against not at IMPs. I could be creating a disaster.”

The majority of the panel opted to do something besides pass. They were divided, however, as to which call to make.

Bidding 3 offers the safety of bidding your longest suit and avoiding confusion. Bidding 2NT to show any two suits would no doubt be the overwhelming choice if it were clearly defined in standard bidding as having that meaning rather than showing both minors.

Awards

Call Score
2NT 100
Pass 90
3 70
3♠ 50

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 30, 2017

IMPs. N-S vulnerable.

♠Q 9 7 6 J 9 8 5 A K 10 9 ♣ 6
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 1NT Pass Pass
2♣ Pass Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Pass was named top bid.

You have the values to bid, but have no convenient call. This hand is a classic for a bidding contest. It’s not surprising that the panel was divided. Pass received the most votes. What were the arguments for that call?

“Pass,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I hate letting them have it, but it doesn’t seem like we have a fit.”

August Boehm agreed with Pass. “I’m guessing that we have no eight-card fit on the assumption that partner would open 1♦ with 4–4 in the minors. At IMPs, I’ll hope for a small plus.”

“Partner is most likely 3=3=3=4,” said Karen Walker, “which means they’ve found their eight-card fit, and we don’t have one of our own. Even if we can make something, this won’t be a big swing, so I’ll go quietly at IMPs.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro gave their reasons for Pass. “When we passed 1NT, we were making this a partscore hand, so we’ll go quietly. Double will only torture partner, even if he knows it isn’t penalty. Double should show at least two clubs. If we double and partner removes to 2, we wouldn’t be thrilled.”

Paul Soloway agreed that a double should promise at least two clubs. He called Pass “a little conservative” and added, “I expect to beat it. I would play double as values with at least two clubs.”

Kay and Randy Joyce agreed with Pass. “Vulnerable at IMPs is not the time to make an experimental double,” they said.

Others refused to give up. They were divided into those who doubled and those who bid 2. If you decide to compete further, which of these calls is better?

“2 ,” said Steve Robinson. “I can’t pass with a singleton club. 2♦ will give partner a headache, but maybe he will figure out that I’m 4=4=4=1.”

“2 ,” agreed Peggy and John Sutherlin. “We have the balance of power and should be able to make a two-level partial. Some play double for takeout, but that seems like a special agreement. The 2 bid is more practical.”

“2,” echoed Grant Baze. “I think we can make a two-level contract, but I’m not sure we can beat 2♣, particularly after a heart lead.”

That pointed out a problem with defending. You’ve bid a weak heart suit and partner may not get off to the most effective opening lead for the defense.

What were the doublers hoping for?

“Double tells partner you are maximum for the bidding,” said Shawn Quinn. “He can decide whether to defend or declare.”

“Double shows general values,” agreed Randi Montin. “The worst that could happen is that partner bids 2.”

“Double shows I have a maximum for my bidding,” said Allan Falk. “West is known to have six or seven decent clubs, so I am not doubling on club length or strength. I don’t want to sell out to 2♣.”

“The world is not ready to treat this double as takeout,” said Larry Cohen. “Partner will probably leave it in, but I don’t mind. The downside is minus 180 and no big deal at IMPs.”

This hand shows both the beauty and the frustration of bridge. Some problems just don’t have a clear-cut answer, and even experts are divided.

Awards

Call Score
Pass 100
Dbl 90
3 40

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 23, 2017

IMPs. E-W vulnerable.

♠A K 7 6 4 K 10 3 10 ♣ A 6 4 2
West North East South
1♠
Pass 1NT 2 ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Jan. 2007’s Bridge Bulletin), Dbl was named top bid.

You would like to do something that asks partner to bid. Most experts play that a double in this bidding sequence is takeout. In Standard American bidding, however, double is penalty.

“Pass,” said Karen Walker. “I like to play a double to show this hand, but I don’t think it’s part of Standard American bidding.”

Kerri Sanborn agreed. “With most of my partners, I would double to show shortness, but I don’t believe that applies in Standard American.”

“I play double is takeout,” said Steve Robinson, “but that is not standard. Therefore, I have to pass.”

“This is a great spot for a modern takeout double,” said August Boehm. “Absent this agreement, I must pass.”

Some panelists considered bidding 3♣ but rejected that. Your hand lacks the strength or distribution to do so.

“I have good values,” said Grant Baze, “but not good enough to act.”

“Not strong enough to bid 3♣,” said Robinson, “something I would do if I were 5–5.”

The other group of panelists doubled for takeout. They felt that without the modern treatment (double being takeout), this hand is impossible to bid.

“Double,” said Allan Falk. “Every expert I know recognizes this double must be played as takeout as no other bid is remotely sensible.”

“I think just about everyone plays this as takeout,” added Jeff Meckstroth.

“Isn’t double for takeout pretty standard these days?” asked Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “It should be unanimous.”

“Double for takeout,” agreed Barry Rigal. “These days everyone does this, don’t they? If not, maybe they should.”

There was one surprise vote. The computer bridge program Bridge Buff doubled. Usually computer software sticks to standard bidding methods when there is a choice between that and modern ways.

Larry Cohen summed up the case for double being a takeout bid.

“I double,” he said. “I don’t care if I get zero points if this is not part of ‘ACBL Standard.’ This, and all low-level doubles should be takeout, something that comes up much more often than penalty. My vote should call attention to this area of bidding.

“Eighty years ago, if your right-hand opponent opened 1 and you doubled, it was penalty. Sanity soon prevailed and the meaning of double became takeout. Soon, it will here, too. Think how much more likely this hand type is than having length in right-hand opponent’s suit — especially when partner also tends to have some length when he responds 1NT.”

If you held the hand shown in the problem, you’d like double to be takeout.

Suppose, however, you held:
♠A K 8 7 3 K 10 7 A 10 9 4 ♣5.

With this hand, you’d like to double for penalty.

You and your partner can decide the method you prefer. Which hand do you think would occur more frequently? What do you give up playing it one way or the other?

Awards

Call Score
Dbl 100
Pass 90
3♣ 70

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 16, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠K 9 7 4 A K 10 9 3 ♣ J 6 4 2
West North East South
1♠ Pass 1NT
Pass 2♣ (1) Pass ?

(1) Three or more clubs.

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

All bids are flawed. You are too strong for a 2♠ preference. Bidding 2NT with two low hearts is dangerous. Bidding 3♠ shows a three-card limit raise, and you have only two spades. Bidding 2
or
will likely end the auction and may be facing shortness.

The panel majority chose to pretend to have a club mixed in with their spades and jump to 3♠. What were their reasons?

“3♠,” said Grant Baze, “is the only sensible invitational bid available.”

Richard Freeman agreed. “Least of evils,” he said. “I would have bid 2
initially.”

“Raising a likely three-card club suit is silly,” said Allan Falk. “Bidding 2NT with two low ones in an unbid major is even sillier. I’ll try 3♠ since I have extra high cards and am only short the ♠2.”

“3♠,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I need to try for game and I think 4♠ is our best chance.”

Janet and Mel Colchamiro agreed with 3♠. “At least it gets our values right,” they said.

“Looks closer to a three-card limit raise than anything else,” said Steve Robinson.

“I hate all my options,” said Kerri Sanborn, “but I have a good hand so must do something positive. Other choices appeal to me less.”

“Some kind of Bart would help on hands like this,” said Paul Soloway. “2♠ is too much of an underbid.”

The Bart convention is used when the auction begins: 1♠–1NT; 2♣–?

2
is artificial. Opener has various rebids to clarify his hand. Responder can next raise spades to show 8–10 points. This isn’t precisely your holding, but is closer than a 2♠ bid (over 2♣) and doesn’t promise a third card in spades.

“Without any conventions, such as Bart, I’ll just make a natural invitation and bid 3♠,” agreed Larry Cohen.

“Some kind of relay is probably best, but not available in the IYC bidding system,” noted Mike Lawrence.

Other panelists decided to raise clubs.

“3♣ describes my values,” said Shawn Quinn. “I would like to have better clubs, but life is imperfect. 2♠ is too much of an underbid and 2NT is wrong with two low hearts.”

“A hard hand to bid,” said Randi Montin who reluctantly chose 3♣. “I don’t have a heart stopper although I don’t relish a 4–3 club fit at the three level.”

“3♣ is forward going,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “It keeps spades and notrump in the loop. Perhaps partner will bid 3
, then I can bid 3NT.”

Falk summarized.

“It’s hard to believe that 3♠ is the majority choice,” he said. “Many players wouldn’t think of that bid, but here’s where experience (that experts have) helps so much. Given the purity of our values — the ♠K, the ♣J and an A–K combination — rather than a bunch of scattered values, we need to be aggressive.”

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
3♣ 50
3 20
2NT 10
2♠ 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 9, 2017

Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.

♠10 6 4 Q 9 6 5 3 J 10 2 ♣ A 5
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 2♠ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♣ was named top bid.

Your partner has opened the bidding and followed up with a jump shift, so you are forced to game. You don’t have a clear-cut bid. You should have four-card support to raise spades. Fourth Suit Forcing does not apply, since you are already in a forcing auction, and so, therefore, you should have at least four diamonds to bid 3. You should have at least six hearts, or better quality than Q 9 6 5 3 to rebid them.

The majority marked time by bidding 3♣. They wanted to let partner make the next move.

“3♣,” said August Boehm. “Prefer not to cloud the diamond stopper issue with 2NT. Since we’re in a game force, partner’s next call is likely to be clarifying.”

Jill Meyers agreed with 3♣ and said, “If partner has A x, I want 3NT played from his side.”

Paul Soloway also bid 3♣. “I don’t like 2NT with no diamond stopper.”

Randi Montin also bid 3♣, calling it a “preference bid.” She added, “If we play in notrump, it should be from his side in case he has the A.”

“3♣,” agreed Barry Rigal. “After a jump shift, my first responsibility will be to support the first suit.”

“Is this a poll on the prevalence of the Kokish style?” asked Allan Falk, who chose a 3♣ rebid. “That style is that a bid that returns to partner’s first suit after a strong jump shift does not promise anything. I suspect that most experts have adopted this.”

Other panelists believed that 3not 3♣, is marking time.

“3,” said Steve Robinson. “Let partner finish describing his hand.”

“Waiting to hear what partner can bid next,” agreed Shawn Quinn, who also voted for 3.

“3 is the default bid,” echoed Jeff Meckstroth. “Anything else is a distortion.”

“3, marking time, gives North a chance to bid 3NT, or raise hearts with three,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin.

Other panelists preferred a 2NT rebid.

“2NT just shows the nature of my hand,” said Karen Walker. “At this point in the auction, I don’t think it guarantees a full stopper.”

“2NT saves space,” said Larry Cohen. “It allows partner to further describe his hand.”

“2NT is the closest thing to a descriptive bid that I have,” agreed Kerri Sanborn.

You are in a forcing auction and have no clear action. The panel wanted to mark time, therefore, and was in agreement about that. The panel was not in agreement, however, as to which bid best accomplishes that.

Awards

Call Score
3♣ 100
3 40
2NT 20
3 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

May 2, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable

♠K 7 6 5 4 A 10 7 3 2 ♣ 9 8 4
West North East South
1♠ 2 Pass
Pass 3♣ Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 3was named top bid.

What is partner’s shape? Is he 6–5 or even 6–6 in the black suits? Could he be 5–5? How strong is he? The panel wasn’t sure, and so the majority bid 3to tell partner they had some values.

“3,” said Steve Robinson. “This will let partner finish describing his hand.”

August Boehm, Jill Meyers, Paul Soloway and Mike Lawrence all mentioned that it’s not clear where they want to play this hand. They want to show values, but have no clear direction where to go in the auction.

“3,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “North could have a very good hand. We need to let him know we have some values. We may have a difficult call on the next round.”

Yes, that’s the problem with bidding 3. The cuebidders hoped partner can take charge and bid the best game, or try for slam if he is very strong.

Since 3is a vague bid, partner may not know what to do either. Larry Cohen bid 3but agreed with this.

“Not sure I’m worth it,” he said, “and not sure partner will know what to do, but I have to make some sort of forward-going noise with two prime cards.”

Other experts bid 3♠.

“3♠,” said Randi Montin. “Partner does not need extras to bid 3♣, just a hand that was inappropriate for a reopening double.”

“3♠,” agreed Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Partner’s failure to double makes us believe he has more shape than high cards, so we’ll try and go plus.”

Shawn Quinn agreed with 3♠. “I can’t really do more, but at least the false preference leaves the auction open for partner.”

The problem with bidding 3♠ is that it could be made with no values, a hand such as:
♠7 5 2 6 5 Q 10 7 3 2 ♣9 8 4.

There are many hands that partner could hold that would make game opposite the A and ♠K, yet won’t be able to bid again, fearing that partner has a hand similar to this example. The 3♠ bidders felt, on the other hand, that partner would reopen with a double if he were stronger than a minimum opening bid — even with inappropriate distribution. Therefore they made the weak-sounding bid.

Other panelists chose to make the direct game bid of 4♠.

“4♠,” said Karen Walker. “Too much to pass or retreat to 3♠. Although partner may have a diamond void, the ace isn’t necessarily worthless — it may provide a discard for a heart loser.”

The A could also be a stopper to prevent the defenders from tapping declarer’s trumps at trick one.

Barry Rigal agreed with 4♠. “If partner can go to 3♣ on his own, my two tricks may be enough,” he said.

Allan Falk echoed the 4♠ choice. “I have too much to bid 3♠, and 3NT is absurd. Opposite most of North’s likely distributions, I want to be in game.”

Falk went on to argue against the panel’s plurality 3cuebid. “3should say that for a passed hand, I suddenly have marvelous cards for you — but you do not. The 3bid would be right with:
♠K 9 6 5 4 7 3 2 ♣A 9 8 4 2.
We have nothing resembling this hand; how can partner act intelligently when we misbid?”

The 3bidders didn’t agree with Falk. They interpreted the cuebid as merely an attempt to get to the best contract.

Awards

Call Score
3 100
3♠ 90
4♠ 80
4♣ 40
Pass 30

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 25, 2017

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable.

♠8 2 Q 7 3 A ♣ Q J 10 9 7 4 3
West North East South
2♣ 2 3♣
4 Pass Pass 5♣
Pass 5 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Dec. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 6 was named top bid.

Does partner have a heart suit and a strong hand — one too strong to bid only 4which can be passed? Does he have club support and is cuebidding to try and reach a grand slam? Or does he have a strong two-suited hand with both majors? The panel wasn’t sure, but 6seemed to cater to any of these meanings.

“6,” said Karen Walker. “It’s possible 5is a cuebid for clubs, but more likely, partner has hearts and was setting up a pass-and-pull auction to show a monster hand. Whatever he has, I’m cooperating.”

“Pass-and-pull” refers to the situation in which (in a forcing auction), a player can bid immediately, or he can pass, then bid over partner’s forced action. Passing and then bidding is stronger than bidding immediately.

“6,” agreed Barry Rigal. “I’m not sure what is going on, but I expect my partner to have both majors and a very good hand. I think the first-round control is worth showing.”

“Not clear what partner is doing,” said Larry Cohen, “but I feel that I have lots of good cards and will show my first-round diamond control.”

“6,” echoed August Boehm. “Partner’s bidding suggests that either he is too strong for a non-forcing call, or that he is improvising a control bid in support of clubs. In any case, my hand is terrific.”

“If partner is willing to force to a small slam,” said Richard Freeman, “I should be willing to try for a grand.”

Other experts bid 5NT. Some intended it as a choice of slams, and others intended it as Grand Slam Force (asking partner to bid 7♣ with two of the top three club honors).

“5NT,” said Jeff Mechstroth, “asking partner to pick a slam.”

Steve Robinson also bid 5NT and agreed with Meckstroth. “Don’t know what partner’s 5 is, but 5NT should get him to choose between hearts and clubs.”

“5 has to be a cuebid for clubs,” said Shawn Quinn. “Hope partner will read 5NT as Grand Slam Force.”

Other panelists simply raised to 6.

“North rates to have both major suits,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Over 4 he didn’t want to cuebid diamonds (which would imply clubs), or bid 4 and risk getting passed. We bid 6to clarify that we have real support — 6 might confuse the issue.”

Two panelists bid a grand slam.

“7NT,” said Grant Baze. “If partner doesn’t have the A–K in every suit but diamonds, we are not on the same wavelength.”

“Hope we are on the same wavelength,” agreed Randi Montin. “Partner must have club support and was going to bid a slam once I bid 3♣. He is bringing the heart suit into the picture, and I have the queen.”

The panel seemed to agree that 5 shows extra strength in some fashion. But does it show hearts, or is it a cuebid for clubs? What would an immediate 5 bid mean over 4? Since that would be a fuzzy area for most players, the delayed 5 bid is undefined.

One conclusion may be safely drawn — 2♣ auctions can be a mystery, even for experts. Corollary: If you are in doubt whether to interfere with the opponent’s 2♣ auction, take the plunge! Who knows when the wheels may come off for the opponents?

Awards

Call Score
6 100
5NT 90
6 50
7NT 20
6♣ 10

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This Week’s Expert Opinion

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April 18, 2017

IMPs. None vulnerable.

♠Q 10 7 6 3 J 5 4 10 2 ♣ A 6 3
West North East South
Pass
Pass 1♠ 2♣ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Nov. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 3♠ was named top bid.

This hand falls outside the conveniently biddable area. 2♠ seems timid with five-card support. Bidding 3♣ as a limit raise overstates the strength. A 3♠ bid is preemptive, when in fact you have a nice hand with a side ace. A 4♠ bid shows five trumps, but usually has more distribution (such as a singleton), and might get you too high and a minus score for no reason.

“2♠,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “I would like to make a mixed raise, but don’t know what that is in IYC bidding methods. Too much for 3♠ and not enough playing strength for 4♠.”

A mixed raise shows 6–10 support points and four or more trumps.

Steve Robinson agreed. “Too good for 3♠,” he says, “and not distributional enough for 4♠.”

“Having five spades is nice,” said Jill Meyers, “but 5–3–3–2 is not exciting distribution.”

“No matter how you count it,” said Karen Walker, “ this hand isn’t worth more than 9 or 10 support points. If partner has a balanced minimum, eight tricks may be a challenge.”

“We hate 5–3–3–2 hands,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro, “so we take the low road. Will compete to as high as 3♠. This is a good hand for those who play 3♠ as a mixed raise.”

Betty Ann Kennedy and Peggy and John Sutherlin all bid 3♣ as a limit raise. They admitted it is a little light, but like their trump holding.

Others were not content to bid 2♠, but realize that 4♠ may be too high. Partner may have a four-card suit in third seat, and that makes 4♠ less attractive, so they settle for 3♠. This has preemptive value without the risk of 4♠.

“3♠,” said Kerri Sanborn. “I have too much in high cards for 3♠, but too little shape to bid 4♠.”

“I don’t expect to buy it for 2♠,” said August Boehm, “so might as well make a reasonably descriptive call.”

“3♠,” agreed Paul Soloway. “That bid is plenty. 2♠ is okay, but 4♠ is just too much.”

Randi Montin, Boehm, and Grant Baze agreed with Soloway — this hand is too balanced to bid 4♠.

“4♠,” said Barry Rigal. “They can’t double me for penalty since I hold five trumps. I believe in occupying maximum space.”

Shawn Quinn agreed. “It’s an overbid, but I really want to take away their bidding room.”

By a margin of one vote, the panel liked the 3♠ bid. It has the advantage of advancing the bidding to a safe level, but not getting too high. The opponents could have a game, and 3♠ makes it harder for them to compete.

The 2♠ bidders thought that it was more likely that they can get a plus score there, and planned to take the push to 3♠ if necessary. Further, it leaves room for partner to make a game try if he has a good hand.

The experts also made the point that you should think twice about raising to 4♠ with 5–3–3–2 distribution. You need better distribution for your trump length to carry full value.

Comment from the scorer, Karen Walker: “A simple problem that seems to require nothing more exotic than counting high-card points, but the panel came up with four different evaluations from a preempt to a game invitation. Bridge is a complicated game!”

Awards

Call Score
3♠ 100
2♠ 90
3♣ 60
4♠ 50

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itsyourcall

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

April 11, 2017

IMPs. Both vulnerable.

♠ K Q 9 8 7 A 10 9 6 A ♣ K Q 7
West North East South
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 3 Pass ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Nov. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 4NT was named top bid.

The panel members had widely varying opinions on the correct way to bid this hand. There were votes for five different bids. Some wanted to play 4 as Roman Key Card Blackwood for diamonds, but realized that it is not part of It’s Your Call bidding. Some thought 4NT is key card, while others thought it should be a quantitative raise. What a mess.

“I vote for 3NT,” said Richard Freeman. “I would like to play 4 as Blackwood and 4NT as invitational.”

Jeff Meckstroth also bid 3NT. “I would like to bid 4NT if that were quantitative. Since it’s not, I’ll guess to give up on slam.”

“I don’t have enough to commit past 3NT,” said Barry Rigal. “That may be the limit of the deal.”

“4♣ is the only slam try I can make on this auction,” said Kerri Sanborn. “Many of us (experts) would play 4NT as quantitative, but I’m not sure about that. It is likely our only slam is in diamonds, so I want partner to know that I am trying for slam (with the 4&clubs bid) when I bid 5later.”

Grant Baze also bid 4&cubs;. “Any game should be cold. The issue is whether 6is cold. It could be, and if partner drives to slam over 4♣, it should be.”

Peggy and John Sutherlin had similar reasoning. “4♣ and will continue with 5 next. This auction suggests we are interested in reaching a slam, but need more than a minimum from partner. Partner could have close to a 3 rebid (after our 1♠ response), or he may have a real dog, in which case he will pass 5.”

Other panelists bid 4 to set trumps and see what partner has to say.

“4 sets trumps,” said Steve Robinson, “and we can see what (and if) partner cuebids.”

Randi Montin agreed. “The singleton A is adequate support when partner has bid the suit three times. This deal may not play well in notrump.”

“I have way too much to settle for 3NT,” said Allan Falk, who also bid 4. “North can have all kinds of hands that are cold for slam but not worth a 3 rebid, as well as hands that give no play for slam. Raising should put us in position to explore slam safely.”

The largest group bid 4NT. There were differences of opinion, however, as to what exactly that bid means.

“4NT,” said Betty Ann Kennedy. “If partner shows three controls, I’ll ask for the Q on the way to seven.”

August Boehm agreed. “Presumably key card for diamonds.”

“4NT,” said Larry Cohen. “Should be quantitative.”

Jill Meyers also bid 4NT. “Quantitative. My second choice is to bid 4♣ and then 5.”

Karen Walker bid 4NT as key card. “I’ll gamble on 6 if partner has the appropriate number of key cards.”

The last group took the direct route and bid 6.

“This is a shot,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “Opposite many hands, we can make 6, so that’s what we’ll bid. Is 4NT quantitative? What is kickback? (Editor’s note: “Kickback” is a specialized form of Blackwood when a minor suit has been agreed as trumps. It uses a bid other than 4NT to ask for aces or key cards.) We don’t know and are not willing to find out partner’s view.”

A direct 6 bid has the advantage of avoiding a misunderstanding. In that sense, it’s a practical bid, but there should be some safe way to check on key cards first. Suppose partner held:
♠4 K Q 6 Q J 10 7 6 5 3 ♣A 10?

The panel is limited by the IYC system. That is done so that the participants have a standard platform for bidding — one that is understood by the Bridge Bulletin readers. This problem points out the importance of having firm agreements.

Awards

Call Score
4NT 100
3NT 60
4♣ 60
4 60
6 50

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itsyourcall

April 4, 2017

This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?

Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable.

♠ 10 A J 6 3 A Q 10 3 2 ♣ A J 7
West North East South
Pass Pass 1
1 Dbl (1) Pass ?

(1) Negative

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Nov. 2006’s Bridge Bulletin), 2NT was named top bid.

You have no good bid on this hand, and the panelists admitted it. They were divided into three camps. There were the pushers who jumped to 2NT. There were the conservatives who bid 1NT. They felt it was more important to get a plus score at matchpoints. The third group was willing to lie about the length of their club suit and thus be able to show their extra values if partner can bid over 2♣.

“I’m not good enough for 2NT, and I’m too good for 1NT, so I’ll punt with 2♣,” said Allan Falk. “This will probably give me a chance to show extra values. For example, if North corrects to 2, I can bid 2NT.”

Betty Ann Kennedy agreed with 2♣. “1NT is an underbid, and 2NT an overbid. My hand is more suit oriented.”

“I want to keep the auction open,” said Shawn Quinn. “If partner corrects to 2, I can take another call — that should show about what I have.”

Grant Baze agreed with 2♣. “This was a great hand when I picked it up, but every bid has made it worse. If partner can’t bid again, we’ll play 2♣.”

Paul Soloway chose 2NT and called it “a slight overbid.”

Jill Meyers agreed. “I have the values for 2NT by upgrading my five-card suit and two 10s,” she pointed out.

Mike Lawrence also stretched to 2NT. “You should have a slight edge in the play, given you have learned something about West’s hand. The ♠10 is a plus.”

“Very good problem,” said Janet and Mel Colchamiro. “There are no good answers. Despite the lack of high-card points, 2NT feels right.”

“An awful predicament,” said Larry Cohen who agreed with 2NT. “No bid fits, of course. I’ll count one point for the fifth diamond, one point for the three aces, and a little for the two 10s. Have I made enough adjustments?”

The third group of bidders took the conservative route and rebid 1NT. What were their reasons?

“We are heavy for this bid,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin, “but there is no need to be overly aggressive playing matchpoints.”

“At matchpoints, I will underbid,” echoed Steve Robinson.

“No bid shows my strength accurately,” said Randi Montin. “I will take the low road at matchpoints.”

Jeff Meckstroth called this “a very difficult problem,” and said he would bid 2NT at IMPs.

Karen Walker summed up the case for 1NT. “At matchpoints, it’s important to get to notrump and to get a plus score. 2NT is an overbid, and with the hearts (and probably other high cards) behind me, 1NT isn’t that much of an underbid.”

Since the panel majority believes the hand should be played in a notrump contract, the scorer gave 1NT a slight scoring boost over 2♣.

Awards

Call Score
2NT 100
1NT 90
2♣ 80
Pass 50
2 40

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