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Viva “The Law”

Many pairs use cue-bids of the opponents’ suits to make serious game tries when our partner makes an overcall. This enables a jump raise, or in certain circumstances, even a simple raise to be of a pre-emptive make them guess nature. Sometimes, they will guess right. This does not diminish the worth of such bidding.

Here are three pre-emptive raises for you to untangle from this week’s play at Akarana.

  1. Dealer West, All Vul.

North holds: Spade-small K984          Heart-small J       Diamond-small KT2             Club-small A6543

West              North                        East                South

Pass                1Club-small                           1Heart-small                   2Heart-small

3Heart-small                   ?

1Club-small promises as few as you like while 2Heart-small should show club support.

  1. Dealer North, N/S Vul.

South holds: Spade-small AQJ92      Heart-small 43   Diamond-smallT87 Club-small KQ8

West              North                        East                South

                        Pass                         Pass                1Spade-small

2Heart-small                  x                                3Heart-small                  ?

As in the previous example, 3Heart-smallwas not invitational.


  1. Dealer West. Nil Vul.

West holds: Spade-smallHeart-smallAQ954  Diamond-smallQT943  Club-small KQ

West              North                        East                South

1Heart-small                  1Spade-small                          2NT 1              4Spade-small


1 Jacoby, game force with heart support.

So, to the four hands. On the first question, if you chose to bid 4Club-small, you will find yourself in the club game which is a somewhat fortunate make. If your choice was 3Spade-small, partner will again raise to game, in that suit. Passing, allowing your partner to bid 4Club-small (if they know you have clubs) or try an action double if they do not, will often be the right decision with 10 tricks in clubs often being the limit. Passing out 3Heart-small,whether doubled or not, would not be a good idea:

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
K 9 8 4
K 10 2
A 6 5 4 3
6 5 3 2
A 10 8 6
Q 7
J 10 2
W   E
Q 10
K 9 7 5 4 2
A 9 8 5
A J 7
Q 3
J 6 4 3
K Q 9 7


At at least three tables East-West won the auction  in a heart partial with only one table playing the board in clubs, in game. The heart raise makes it hard for North-South to gauge the right level. “Viva The Law”.

The second question is perhaps easier as the South hand is rather flat. There’s plenty of red suit losers while you have good but only five trumps. Defending seems right but you do have to take your five tricks. That looks easy but cashing top winners can be strangely tough at times:

Board 5
North Deals
N-S Vul
8 6
7 2
A 9 5 4 2
A J 9 4
K 7
A K J 10 8
K Q 3
10 7 5
W   E
10 5 4 3
Q 9 6 5
J 6
6 3 2
A Q J 9 2
4 3
10 8 7
K Q 8


Even 2Spade-small looks tough to make. 3Spade-smallseems impossible. What was strange was that at only one table did the bidding reach the 3 level. 2Heart-small was the common contract…and there was no way to beat that.

On then to the decision over 4Spade-small. Surely it is correct to move with 10 cards in the red suits? The question is should one be satisfied with a competitive 5Heart-small or seek a higher level, either by ace asking or by cueing? Most chose the conservative action, 5Heart-small. For slam to be good, partner needs four out of five specific cards: Spade-smallA, Heart-smallK, Diamond-smallAK and Club-smallA. That’s a minimum 14 count which is quite possible but unless you are in catch-up mode in a match, the down side seems a big risk as partner does not always have “the perfect cards”:

Board 8
West Deals
None Vul
K Q 10 5 2
8 3
K 8 7 6
9 8
A Q 9 5 4
Q 10 9 4 3
W   E
A 3
K 10 7 6
A J 2
J 10 4 2
9 8 7 6 4
J 2
A 7 6 5 3


Without that Diamond-smallJ, even 5Heart-small would not be certain. As it happened, slam was 50% with the aggressive bidders in the minority but winning the day. What was certain was that North-South had done well to bid quickly to their limit in spades. Next time, East will have “the perfect cards” and most will still be in 5Heart-small.

Three boards which showed there can be lots of imps won or lost with pre-emption, even at a modest level. Viva the Law!

Richard Solomon





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