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Interesting Bidding


That’s with an emphasis on “cracking good hands”. You know the type of hands you always claim never to hold. “10, 11, maybe 14 counts are my usual limit”. If you say that , then you are suffering a little touch of amnesia or could it be that you have had bad experiences from high point-count hands?

These all occurred in the last three months and while, if I was pressed to take a lie detector, I would have to admit that they did not all come my way, I saw the way they were abused by many.

What these hands, therefore, have in common, is the possession of 25 or more hcp.

big hands.png

"big hands"

Exhibit 1.

                   West                             East

                   Spade-small AK                              Spade-small QJ943

                   Heart-small Q5                              Heart-small K87

                   Diamond-small AKQ5                         Diamond-small JT2

                   Club-small AKQ82                       Club-small 53

Dealer West. All Vul.

This one should really have been a breeze. I remember a textbook which said a positive response to 2Club-small should be “an ace and a king or the equivalent”. A queen, two jacks, a 10 and a reasonable 5 card suit add up for me to “equivalent” and the bidding could flow comfortably:

                   West                             East

                   2Club-small                                  2Spade-small

                   2NT                               3NT

                   6NT                               Pass

2NT sought any other suits, more information but 3NT said there was none beyond five spades. Note that the Diamond-smallJ provided a certain entry to dummy’s spades. Good cards, sometimes, are these jacks.

If East had gone all shy and bid just 2Diamond-small first time round, slam should still have been reached, though it would be a lot easy with one little agreement:

                   West                             East

                    2Club-small                                 2Diamond-small

                   2NT                                 3Heart-small (transfer)

                   3Spade-small                                 3NT

                   4NT                                6NT


The agreement is that the 2NT rebid shows 23+ unlimited, if that is your minimum point-count for the rebid. Therefore, the 2NT rebid after a 2Club-small opener forces to game.  Very occasionally, you will get too high when the responder has no more than a jack but developing powerful hands is much easier if you can keep the bidding as low as possible.

East was happy to just bid 3NT opposite 23-24 balanced but when West showed more (shall we say 25-26 with the raise to 4NT..quantitative), East owned up to their extra strength.

Exhibit 2.

                   West                             East

                   Spade-small AQ2                            Spade-small K654

                   Heart-small AKQ53                       Heart-small J94

                   Diamond-small A3                              Diamond-small K986

                   Club-small AKT                             Club-small Q8

Dealer West. All Vul.

When this board was played, at one of the strongest club sessions in the country, all 14 pairs reached slam but half of the pairs played in a small slam..and claimed an overtrick very quickly.

Surely 9 hcp is enough for a positive response to 2Club-small after which the auction could proceed:

                   West                             East

                    2Club-small                                 2NT

                    3Heart-small                                 4Heart-small

                   4NT                               5Club-small  (0 or 3 key cards)

                   5NT                               6Heart-small  2 kings outside hearts

                   7Heart-small/7NT                         Pass

2 kings with nothing outside and a flat hand are not enough for 2NT. If East had just the Heart-smallJ extra, then 7Heart-small is safer (ruff the club loser) though at Pairs, 7NT scores better and without the Club-smallQ from partner,requires an even spade break. It was easy for West to drive on to grand-slam. Yet, if you insist on responding 2Diamond-small with the East hand (‘waiting”), the certainty of raising to grand slam would be gone:

                   West                             East

                   2Club-small                                  2Diamond-small

                   2Heart-small                                 3Heart-small (“slow arrival”)

                   4NT                               5Club-small (0 or 3 key cards)            

                   5 NT                              6Heart-small (2 kings)


But would West now have the confidence to expect extras? I doubt it. Alternatively, West could bid 2NT over 2Diamond-small intending to show a balanced hand with 5 hearts. That would probably see East doing the ace-ask, a 5 key card response (5NT) not being the easiest to check for kings and extras. Again, however, 2NT with 23+ balanced as a rebid is preferable to 3NT no matter how strong the 2Club-small opener is.

Exhibit 3.  We have had a flat 25 count, a nearly flat 26 count and finally, in case counting is not your strongest point, try a flat 28 count with a bit of shape:

                   West                    East

                   Spade-small AKQ8                Spade-small J964

                   Heart-small AKQ2                Heart-small 97543

                   Diamond-small AQ3                  Diamond-small 4

                   Club-small A2                     Club-small 765

Dealer East. All Vul.

OK, so you usually hold hands the East hand. Take a look at the other side of the table. It really is quite an easy deal with our one piece of system:

                   West                    East


                   2Club-small                        2Diamond-small (definitely correct, this time!)

                   2NT                       3Diamond-small (Transfer)

                   3Heart-small                        3Spade-small

                   7Spade-small                         Pass

Note that where you are in a game-forcing auction, there are sometimes hands even too strong to jump to game as a super-accept. Had West bid 4Heart-small over 3Diamond-small, East would certainly have shut up shop! Yet, if 2NT and hence 3Heart-small were not game-forcing, West would have had to make-up a bid…and the great grand-slam would likely be missed.  As it was, East had a very few seconds to prepare themselves to be declarer in the grand slam. East could have been weaker and the grand would still have made!

Not one pair in the National Teams in New Plymouth bid to 7Spade-small while 20 out of the 28 pairs who held these cards missed slam altogether.

Maybe we do not get such “cracker” hands that often but when we do, we certainly want to bid them to the correct spot. Happy Christmas to you all..and we will have some more bidding issues to look at in the New Year.

Richard Solomon

Ps Those who play against me may know I try to grab the West seat. The above three West hands may indicate why..well, shh, but West did not hold them all at the table!

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