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Being Competitive.

One of the skills of bidding is, when the opponents open the bidding, of knowing to compete when an auction is about to end. This is called "balancing" or "being competitive".  If you do not, you will find you will get poor scores in part-score hands (where neither side can make game) if you have to defend a contract at too low a level.

This does not mean being reckless but do what more experienced players do and that is listen to the bidding. The following South hand is a good example:

     
West Deals
Both Vul
 
N
W   E
S
   
 
J 10 9 6 3
A Q 9
K 6 2
K 6
West North East South
1 NT Pass 2  Pass
2  Pass Pass ?

 

West’s 1NT showed 12-14 with a balanced hand. 2Diamond-small was a transfer bid showing a 5+ card heart suit. They could hold 0 high card points or maybe enough to press on to game. South did not know at that point how strong East was. Thus, because they had a poor five-card suit and only a moderate number of high-card points (hcp), South decided to wait a round before even thinking about bidding. 2Diamond-small was forcing. Thus, South could wait and see how high East wanted to bid.

The bidding proceeded as follows:

West              North            East                South

1NT                Pass                2Diamond-small                   Pass

2Heart-small                   Pass                Pass                ?

West had to bid 2Heart-small and then East passed. They did not have enough strength to even invite game. So, what should South do now?

"Even Stephen"

South knows West has a maximum 14 hcp.   South has 13. There is therefore a minimum 13 hcp spread between North and East. Being very pessimistic, North must have at least 3 hcp assuming West has 14 and East 10. East would have invited with 11. What is more realistic is to say West has 13 and East about 6 or 7 hcp giving North 7 or 8 hcp. In other words, the high cards are probably roughly evenly divided between the two partnerships.

In such a situation, it is often better to be the declaring side if you could play at the 2 level or even with a fit at the 3 level. South can here bid 2Spade-small and there are a number of good things that could happen:

  • 2Spade-small makes for 110 while 2Heart-small would either make or go one down for a worse score to our side.
  • We push the opposition into bidding 3Heart-small, which fails by 1 trick.
  • 2Heart-small makes for -110 while 2Spade-small is one down which as we are vulnerable is -100. Playing Pairs, that 10 point difference is very significant.

Of course, there are some bad things that can happen, too. Little is certain in bridge. 2Spade-small might go 2 down for -200, a terrible score for our side when neither side can make game. However, bidding 2Spade-small, even with a poorish trump suit is a reasonable action in what we call “the pass out seat”. (No, it does not mean that you “pass out” when you see partner’s terrible dummy!)

pass out.jpg    table 2.png

Note that we can bid a little more aggressively in this position when we are not vulnerable than when we are vulnerable. 2 down not vulnerable is only -100 while the opponents may be making 110 or 140 from their contract.

However, in this “pass-out” position, we might bid with only 9 or 10 hcp. The less we have the more our partner should have as the opponents have less values than to invite game.

(It does pay to learn basic scoring for this kind of deal.)

Thus, South bid 2Spade-small and that bid ended the bidding. West led Heart-smallJ and we awaited dummy with both interest and perhaps a touch of nervousness. This one did not look too bad:

West Deals
Both Vul
A 5 2
K 3
J 10 5 4 3
7 5 3
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
J 10 9 6 3
A Q 9
K 6 2
K 6
West North East South
1 NT Pass 2  Pass
2  Pass Pass 2 
All pass      

 

3 trumps and 8 hcp are about the average expectation. Note that North knows that their partner is just trying to win the contract. It would be rare after the above bidding sequence for North to raise to 3Spade-small even if the opponents competed in hearts. North would only bid if they really hated spades and had a good long suit of their own.

So, you had better do a bit of planning,  loser counting and see how you plan to make at least 8 tricks (or at least 7 to avoid a disastrous -200) and to stop the opponents getting too many tricks.

At the very least, decide where you will win the first trick and which card you will play to trick 2. See you with all 4 hands and the result on Sunday.

You will sometimes get your fingers burnt by balancing in this pass-out seat. Without a 5- card suit, you could make a take-out double as long as you could stand partner’s response. It is not compulsory to take action but failure to do so can often lead to a poor result.

Richard Solomon

 

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