Matchpoints. E-W vulnerable.
♠K 6 5 4 3 ♥K ♦A J ♣Q 10 9 6 3
What’s your call?
Bridge players hate to shoot past 3NT unless they have a major-suit fit or are trying for slam. If South had a heart stopper, he could bid 3NT. A 3♥ bid, therefore, is a stab to see if partner can bid the notrump game.
“3♥,” says Walker. “This is one last attempt to find a heart stopper and drag partner kicking and screaming into a notrump rebid.”
“3♥ is a last try for 3NT,” agrees Falk. “If partner doesn’t bid 3NT, then we can play diamonds. I’m not sure I would have forced to game with this collection, but here we are.”
“I can’t give up on playing 3NT when we probably have an easy nine tricks if we have a heart stopper,” says Stack. “If partner can’t bid 3NT, we’ll probably end up in 5♦.”
“It looks like we are headed for 3NT, but I want to make sure we have hearts stopped,” says Giragosian.
“3♥ — how about some help in hearts?” asks Sanborn. “How would partner bid:
♠Q ♥A 4 ♦K Q 8 7 5 4 3 ♣7 4 2,
Four experts took the direct approach.
“3NT,” says Meckstroth. “Partner frequently has something like ♥J 5 3.” “It’s easier to take nine tricks than 11,” say the Joyces. “We think we want the lead coming up to the South hand.”
“Partner is short in spades, so is likely to have some length in hearts,” says Lawrence. “I don’t like bidding 3♥ here for too many reasons to mention.”
“Do you feel the ions flying through the air?” asks Bridge Buff. “That was my simulation model working, and it tells me that 3NT will be the best contract 74.2% of the time. Why bid 3♥ and allow my human partner to make a mistake? Will he know to bid 3NT with ♥Q 3 or ♥J 5 4? Did I already mention that I play contracts better than humans?”
Computer software that will bid 3NT with a singleton king is impressive.
The rest of the panel was divided among 4♦, 5♦ and pass.
“Pass,” say the Sutherlins. “Even when partner has a heart stopper, we may be going down in 3NT. Bidding skinny games at matchpoints is unnecessary.”
Cohen agrees. “I like to open light at these colors,” he says. “My ♥K could easily be wasted in a diamond contract. We are a long way from making 5♦, and 3NT might not make, even if we have hearts stopped. Could partner have:
♠Q ♥Q 4 3 ♦K Q 10 9 5 4 3 ♣K 2?
Partner could have bid 3NT himself with a better hand and hearts stopped.”
“I recognize this deal from a pairs game in an NABC event a year or so ago,” says Rigal. “At the time, I didn’t have enough nerve to pass, though I knew it was right. I apologize to partner again, and this time I’ll be a good boy and pass.”
“4♦ and I hope I didn’t just waltz by the last makeable contract of 3NT,” says Meyers.
“4♦,” agrees Robinson. “Support partner. If partner doesn’t have values in hearts, we probably belong in 5♦.”
“This is a difficult problem,” say the Gordons. “There are times one wants to pass in a forcing situation and here it could be right. We could bid 3♥ or 3NT, but we choose the middle ground of 4♦. Is it forcing? We don’t mind if partner passes.”
Surely it’s forcing.
“5♦ should have plays,” says Boehm.
“5♦,” agrees Colchamiro. “If I bid 4 and partner cuebids 4♥ or 4♠, then 5 by me sounds like a slam try, and this hand isn’t worth that. In my youth, I might have tried 3NT. If I needed a good board, I still might do that.”
When there’s one unbid suit just below 3NT, bid 3NT with a stopper or bid the suit to see if partner can. This is not a slam try. Looking for the best game comes first.
Want to receive the retro “It’s Your Call” by email?
Click here to subscribe.