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Daily Bridge in New Zealand


If you could always refer to your bridge textbook and find the exact answer to a problem, then bridge in general, bidding in particular, would not be nearly so exciting and interesting. The fact that so many hands do not fit into a norm  creates hours of debate afterwards. So often we have to find the best solution, not the perfect one but the one we hope best describes our hand. Take yesterday’s problem:

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  You are South and hear the following sequence. What, if anything, do you bid?

South holds:

Spade-small A4

Heart-small AJ5

Diamond-small 973

Club-small J8642

Dealer North. All Vul. Pairs

West              North            East                South

                        1Diamond-small              2Spade-small1                        ?

1 Weak Jump

What system are we using? The answer is “yours” though we will dictate that 1Diamond-small promises at least 4 diamonds!

The Disaster that Occurred

South could not think of what to bid. They did not have four hearts and therefore did not think they could make a negative double. They did not have a very good spade hold to bid 2NT (Axx is so much better than Ax and there was no guarantee partner would even have a suit to run) and they did not feel that bidding their anemic club suit was a good idea. So, they passed, in tempo (the Stop Card was used) and awaited developments. West passed with North emerging with 3Diamond-small. “Not particularly encouraging” thought South as they passed once more. That ended the bidding.

You know the feeling? You have been a little conservative and inwardly you wish partner just a little bad luck so that they do not make too many overtricks. You cheer (quietly) every trick the defenders take and await partner’s “well judged” comment as they make little more than their contract.

North only made 3 overtricks! Ouch!

North Deals
Both Vul
8 3
K 9 8 3
A K Q 6 2
A 10
Q J 2
7 6 4 2
J 8 4
Q 7 3
W   E
K 10 9 7 6 5
Q 10
10 5
K 9 5
A 4
A J 5
9 7 3
J 8 6 4 2
West North East South
  1  2  Pass
Pass 3  All pass  


There’s a place for conservatism ..but not from both partners on the same board! We will look at what South might have bid shortly. However, let’s look at the  2 (in) actions after South's initial pass. You might say that North’s bid was not negative, though the action taken seems very wrong.

Firstly, North should double to show 4 hearts as well as their diamond suit and a decent hand. What can go wrong? Very little. If South were to bid 3Club-small, they can now bid 3Diamond-small. Yet, South may have 4 hearts and not enough strength to make a negative double of their own. So, North needs to show they hold a 4- card heart suit…or something like 4 hearts.

A Reopening Double shows 4 of the other major…except when it doesn’t!

Yet, as we know, that double does not always show 4 hearts. It often does but there is the added chance that their partner is waiting to penalize 2Spade-small. You must therefore re-open with a double if you can even if you only hold a 3 card (we will leave 2 card heart suits for a different day!) heart suit. Partner will appreciate the double with 4 or 5 decent spades.

Back to South…

The first pass may be excusable but not the second. South just had to take action with their partner making a free bid. 3NT may not feel lay-down but they cannot afford to pass once again as the result proved.

Bidding to slam is obviously not a great idea as it relies on a very favourable heart position. However, with a combined 27 hcp and at least 9 top tricks with a normal diamond break, it is not a winner to be in part-score.

But what should South bid initially?

That’s not so easy. There are some options though 11 high card points seems too many to pass. It is true you may be able to defeat 2Spade-small (fine in Teams as long as you are not missing a Game) but to get a reasonable score at Pairs, you must either score 7 tricks in the defence or not have a making 3 level contract….and you just cannot be sure.

So, what options?

You can pretend you have 4 hearts and make a negative double. On the actual hand, you would be rewarded with a jump to 4Heart-small. There’s 11 tricks to be made here, too, not as good as being in no-trumps but this bid could have been a big winner if the position of Heart-smallQ had not been so friendly. (Playing in 4Heart-small, there is a good case (“vacant spaces”) for playing West for long hearts. However, after cashing Heart-smallA and seeing the 10 fall from East, you just do not want that 10 to be a singleton. So, go for the drop! Wishing hard makes your wish come true (this time!).

Bidding 3Club-small may feel a bit of a distortion but if partner can only say 3Diamond-small, you can pass. 3Club-small would only be a 1 round force. On the actual hand, North would likely bid 3Heart-small or 3Spade-small and your 3NT would win the day.

You seem to have a little too much for 3Diamond-small though it is a valid option, more so if one’s opening 1NT would be weak, making it more likely North is distributional (5+ diamonds) or strong (15+ balanced). Partner would not want to be playing 3Diamond-small with just a 4- card trump suit and 12-14 high-card points.

This leaves 2NT which after a minor opening may well be natural, kind of what you have, but with a poor spade hold.

We asked a few of our best what they would bid as South after the 2Spade-small jump:

Michael Cornell: "X  Just a bit too much to pass especially as I am the one with the ‘shortage’.

A close 2nd choice is 3Diamond-small as partner often has 5+ diamonds and we will end up playing there if we double now."

Agreeing with Michael’s first choice are Michael Whibley and Peter Newell who says:

“I double. One cannot always have 4 hearts but it should play ok in a 4-3, and having a doubleton spade and reasonable values and some diamond support all point towards action (opponents sometimes raise to 3Spade-small which make it harder to judge and so is best get in now), particularly if playing weak NT, but would double play strong NT too, but with less enthusiasm as a weak no trump hand from partner might land us in a thin 4-3 diamond or heart fit."

Matthew Brown is another who doubles and explains why it is probably safe: “Not ideal having only 3 hearts but if partner bids those, he won't get forced off since we only have 2 spades.”

Nick Jacob agrees also with double if one opens and therefore on this hand will not have a weak no trump. However, were your opening 1NT be strong, he has a different view:

“If we play strong NT, 2NT is more dangerous. If partner could be a balanced 11 count, and the lead is coming through his positional stopper at trick 1. We are likely going down in 2NT, and sometimes by multiple tricks. Partner will also raise 2NT to 3NT with a flat 13 or 14 count and I'm sure that this will not be a success.

Here I think the decision is whether to make a heavy pass, a misdescriptive negative double, or a weird 3Diamond-small raise (even weirder in this context because partner can be a balanced weak NT). I would pass though I am sure this will be a minority position. I'm not even sure it's right when we have the shortish spade holding. However I'm not expecting partner to be caught with four spades and a good hand given the vulnerable 2Spade-small overcall. It could happen, of course, but it isn't so likely.”


So, there you have it. Most say South should double…though not all! So, we are back where we started, in the debating room. Isn’t bridge wonderful? No “right” answer. Maybe some answers are “righter” than others.We can only do what we think is right and hope it is on the day.

and now for a defensive problem for tomorrow:

South Deals
None Vul
K J 9 3
J 6 3
A Q 8 7 3
W   E
Q 8 2
A K 9 7
9 6 4
7 4 2
West North East South
  dummy You  
Pass 1  Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 NT
All pass      


1Club-small could be as short as 3 while 1NT rebid put South in the 12-14 hcp range.

West leads Heart-small8 with declarer playing low from dummy? Which card do you play to trick 1 and if you win the trick to trick 2?

See you all tomorrow.

Richard Solomon

ps. you are welcome to use/reuse these hands as you wish.

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