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Daily Bridge in New Zealand


You have only a 12 count. You opened the bidding and partner responds with a change of suit in which you have a doubleton.. You have a decent looking 6 card suit, indeed one which will often play for just one loser opposite a singleton. What do you bid next? Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Or does it?

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A K 10 9 8 3
K 4
Q 7 6 3
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass ?    


 You are playing a natural system where partner's 2Diamond-small is just a one round force. It does not matter whether you are playing 4 or 5 card majors. What bid would you make now?

A beginner’s textbook would have no problems: 2Heart-small. What’s the problem? Oops, I had better not put words into our Panel’s mouths:

Nigel Kearney “2Heart-small. Can't imagine bidding anything except 2Heart-small.”

Matt Brown “2Heart-small. Seems reasonable whether or not we are playing 2/1.”

We will come back to Matt’s last two words later. For now, we are playing 2Diamond-small as a one round force.

Kris Wooles “2Heart-small. Not good enough to bid 3Heart-small or 3Club-small so slowly does it. That’s a pretty nice suit which I’d like to get across.  No problems so far!  I’d be a little wary if partner now bids 2NT but would probably then bid 3Club-small.

Wanting to go part way to the next level was:

Peter Newell 2.5Heart-small for me….Most of the time I would bid 2Heart-small rather than 3Heart-small but more likely to bid 3Heart-small at Teams and when vulnerable.  Am I more worried about missing game by bidding 2Heart-small versus getting too high by bidding 3Heart-small?

Sometimes by bidding 3Heart-small the fact that I have cramped the auction means that it is harder to get to the right contract, e.g. clubs, or 3NT. So, I’m more a 2Heart-small bidder….more flexible, and prefer a slight underbid to an overbid.

Clubs..oh, we do have four of them..but is that in issue?

No “half” measures for Bruce:

Bruce Anderson “3Heart-small. It is a stretch but the very strong suit and the Diamond-small Kx in partner’s suit makes 2Heart-small an underbid in my view.”

That Diamond-smallK is certainly a great asset but if, for instance, the defence took three club tricks in your 4Heart-small game in the first three tricks, then it is a wasted asset. The deep heart loser would confirm your negative score.

Negative talk, you may say but 3Heart-small does seem to overstate the strength of your hand and could cause your partner to drive on to a possibly unmakeable slam. If you cannot bear to risk 2Heart-small being passed out, then I think 4Heart-small is a better action than 3Heart-small as it promises no more high cards than you actually hold. It would, though, usually promise a 7-card suit.

A number of players did bid 3Heart-small on the above hand and were greeted by 3NT from their partner. I believe they should have retreated to 4Heart-small after that though there were many 3NT contracts played with varying degrees of success.

Michael Cornell 3Heart-small reluctantly!  “Not playing 2/1 we have 3 unpalatable choices: 3Club-small a giant overbid which I discard immediately ,2Heart-small an underbid (could be a motley 11 count with 5 hearts ) or 3Heart-small 6+card suit invitational ( the Diamond-smallK figures to be a very good card ) - the least of the evils.

If partner has  eg.Spade-smallJxx  Heart-smallx  Diamond-smallAQxxx  Club-smallAKJx, we will miss a great 6Club-small."
Note Michael's view that 3Heart-small here is invitational after a "2 over 1 sequence", not what the original textbook said.


Did North forget that it was not all about their hand? Had they just bid 2Heart-small, their partner would have made an interesting second bid:

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


3Club-small! Oh, yes, we have four to the queen. They were still in our hand. All we had to do on this board was to bid 2Heart-small and raise 3Club-small to the 4 level. With a singleton spade, 3NT was becoming less and less likely as a good contract. Note that the raise to 4Club-small did not preclude 4Heart-small from being the final contract if South wished. They did not so wish this time.

With a void in hearts and a decent hand, our partner would close the auction swiftly in a contract far superior to 3NT or even 4Heart-small. Matt Brown (and by inference Michael Cornell) mentioned how the auction might go if one was playing “2 over 1 game force”. North must bid 2Heart-small. There is no pressure to bid otherwise. Yet, the bidding should go the same way under other systems where 2Diamond-small had only been a limit bid. Just occasionally, you might miss game by bidding 2Heart-small, though partner is allowed to make a game try after your 2 level response. Any bid other than 2Heart-small would have caused the excellent slam to be missed.     3Club-small by North would not be an option unless one was playing Precision where the North hand is limited to under 16 hcp.

The play

So, a sensible bid reaped its reward. 6Club-small is no worse than one of 2 good things happening. Declarer can win the likely spade lead, ruff a spade and drop a spade on the Heart-smallA (or cross to dummy with Diamond-smallK and throw 2 spades on the top hearts). When the club finesse works, the slam is cold…also pretty cold with clubs 2-2 and even when they are 3-1 as long as that potentially dangerous Club-small9 is not still in a defender’s hand.

Even a low club lead from East should not threaten 4Heart-small, making normally with an overtrick. However, those in 3NT would not feel that good on a spade lead. Playing Teams, they would certainly duck a couple rounds of spades before winning the ace. A couple of high diamonds might precede the then inevitable club finesse. If the Diamond-smallQ dropped, they would have 9 tricks without need of the club finesse, though losing out playing Pairs to those who made 10 or 11 tricks in hearts or 12 tricks in 5Club-small.

Some were not even that lucky when they took a diamond finesse. Even if they took it the right way, they would still need the club finesse for nine tricks. A diamond finesse through East spelt immediate defeat.

All that pressure could have been avoided if North had rebid 2Heart-small and supported their partner’s second suit. They would then be dummy and could watch their partner wrap up the slam.  

"Tomorrow is another problem..."

West Deals
N-S Vul
4 3
J 2
Q J 8 7
A Q J T 8
W   E
A K Q 10 5
A 9 6 4
5 4 3
West North East South
Pass Pass 2  2 
Dbl Pass 3  Pass
Pass 3  All pass  


A competitive auction sees you reach 3Spade-small. East’s 2Diamond-small was either weak in a major or 20-22 balanced. After your overcall, West’s double was competitive asking their partner what they held. It looked like the opponents were about to declare in 3Heart-small when your partner finally emerged from their silence, perhaps feeling that thy owed you a bid!

“Great trump support, partner” you thought when you saw dummy. West led the Heart-small3 to East’s king. East followed with the Heart-smallA which you ruff. Which card do you play to trick 3?

See you tomorrow…

Richard Solomon

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