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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Take the money?

Transfer responses to a 1C opening bid are becoming quite popular. Although today’s deal does feature this method, the problem is as much about judgement and reading the opponents’ bidding as it is about this method. Even if you may not play transfer responses, you will certainly have faced opponents’ pre-emptive bidding as below and thus how to cope with that becomes relevant to all. We are playing Teams.

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South Deals
N-S Vul

 

N

W

 

E

S

   
 

Q 5 2

K J 8

A K 9

10 6 4 2

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

1 ♣

Pass

1 

Pass

1 

1 ♠

2 ♠

3 ♠

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

?

1Club-small  promises at least 3 clubs and 1Diamond-small showed at least 4 hearts. 1Heart-small showed exactly 3 hearts.  Then, the opponents intervened with partner forcing with 2Spade-small. You showed little desire to bid over 3Spade-small but partner kept the bidding alive by doubling. What now?

Our Panel have different interpretations of the auction so far:

Nigel Kearney “4Club-small: Hard to answer without knowing the methods. If partner had a take-out double of spades (e.g. 1444), they would have doubled 1Spade-small so they don't have that.

I think 2Spade-small should be a hand that knows where it wants to play and wants to set up a force and maybe investigate slam. Since partner didn't bid 4Heart-small, it sounds like they have club support and are doubling to keep open the possibility of 3Spade-smallx or 3NT. Maybe something like Spade-smallx Heart-smallAxxx Diamond-smallQxx Club-smallAKxxx. It could be right to pass but given the level of uncertainty about the meaning of the auction, it seems more prudent to bid 4Club-small. If I am right partner will probably bid 5Club-small and I will have a decent chance of making that.”

The description given to the Panel of 2Spade-small was “ forcing and perhaps looking for a spade hold".

That bid came in for a bit of criticism:

Wayne Burrows “3NT: Firstly, I don't like the methods. Not so much the transfer response although I don't think that 1hHeart-small showing three hearts is the best use for completing the transfer. The bigger problems as I see them are with the 2Spade-small cue-bid which took up a whole level of bidding without any precise definition and no partnership description of pass. I think 2Spade-small should be showing some sort of fit for hearts or maybe clubs. I think that is what North has but it would be good for the partnership to know that.  The problem hands are hands with five hearts and too strong for 4Heart-small or a hand with club support and too strong for game. 

 

Hands that don't know where they are going can make a take-out double on the second round. What is opener going to do with a reasonably balanced hand with a spade stopper after 1Spade-small is doubled? Why bid 1NT of course (if it is available) so double and not 2Spade-small should be used as the directional ask and 2Spade-small should be reserved for something more specific.

 

It appears partner has one spade, only four hearts otherwise some attempt to show the heart fit directly for example with a 3Spade-small splinter on the second round. I don't think partner should have five diamonds and game values as then there should be a bid to show diamonds first. That means that responder has five clubs at least unless 1=4=4=4.

I suppose I bid 3NT now which will show a poor stopper as otherwise 3NT on the previous round. Partner can pull with a hand unsuitable to play 3NT opposite Spade-smallQxx and partner can't expect more than this.”

Heading for our major is:

Andy Braithwaite “4Heart-small: partner must have 5 hearts to bid 2Spade-small. Playing transfer responses most play “xyz” where you would bid 2Club-small or 2Diamond-small artificial to clarify the hand so 2Spade-small would be an unnecessary bid hence avoiding this problem. But double is surely take-out giving an option to pass with good spades.”
Bringing up a very good point about West’s bidding is :

Leon Meier “3NT: partner's double is just action/values trying to go for 3NT or 4Heart-small in a 4-3 fit. Our heart values are good for 4Heart-small but the spades will be being ruffed in the long hand, so unless we have enough tricks outside to just discard instead of trumping, and lose the first 3 spade tricks then take the rest, then 4Heart-small will not be good. The fact West passed then bid 1Spade-small probably means their suit quality is poor which makes me think the AK could be on-side for 3NT, or partner could have singleton honour. Those factors combined make me bid 3NT but 4Heart-small could be the place.”

West has something other than a standard overcall or else they would have bid directly over 1Spade-small. If that “something other” is AKxx or Kxxxx is unclear. In the first case, 3NT may be best while in the second, you may lose the first 5 tricks there very quickly.

This uncertainty about our making any game makes “taking the money”  more attractive:

 

    Stephen Blackstock “Pass: Not a popular choice I imagine, but I am far from sure that either 4Heart-small or 3NT will be a good contract. On the face of it North is balanced, typically 2443 or 2434, as he has not bid 4Heart-small , made a take-out double of 1Spade-small, or bid a second suit. Unless he has a spade honour, 3NT is likely down on top, and 4Heart-small will be no fun getting tapped in the long trump hand. If he does have a top spade, their 5-3 fit won't be a picnic for declarer, and regardless 3Spade-smallx doesn't start a favourite to make from what we know.

 

Of course I may misunderstand these methods entirely. On the face of it, 2Spade-small as simply "forcing" is a waste of space - in which case I take it all back.

You do have support, Stephen:

 

Bruce Anderson “Pass: 3NT is the alternative, particularly given that we are playing Teams, but there is the risk partner, who must have game going values, has nothing in spades. My pass of 3Spade-small means I am unlikely to be unbalanced, and with something like Spade-smallAx Heart-smallAQxx Diamond-smallJxx Club-smallKQxx, partner might have either bid 3NT or cue bid again; then I would bid 3NT, played from the right side. Partner is aware I have 3 hearts so he/she must only hold 4 or they would have bid the heart game.

So with some trepidation, I am passing partner’s double for penalties, rather than risk being off the spade suit in 3NT.”

 

Peter Newell “Pass: At Pairs, I would bid 3NT. Partner’s 2Spade-small bid is strong and either a NT probe or possibly a good hand with hearts. While my spade stopper is tenuous, I passed over 3Spade-small  when with a good spade stopper I would have bid 3NT, and my hand pattern lends itself to 3NT. 

However, the opponents' bidding is weak. West did not bid 1Spade-small at favourable at their first opportunity usually a sign of a weak hand/suit. East couldn't bid over 1Diamond-small. So, I do not think the opponents have got great hands, but they could have enough to defeat 3NT and I expect we will get a reasonable penalty.  At Teams, I'll take the money as +500 is not much of a loss to 600, and we will go down sometimes in 3NT.

On this particular occasion, 3NT could be made while the penalty from passing 3Spade-smallx should be +500 but I agree with the passers. Take a sure plus, even a small one.

South Deals
N-S Vul

10 8

A Q 10 3

8 7 5 4

A K J

A K J 4

9 7 5 2

J 10 6

9 3

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

9 7 6 3

6 4

Q 3 2

Q 8 7 5

 

Q 5 2

K J 8

A K 9

10 6 4 2

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

1 ♣

Pass

1 

Pass

1 

1 ♠

2 ♠

3 ♠

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

?

There are 6 top tricks for the defence in 3Spade-smallx and there is a case for West to play North for Spade-smallQx, in view of North’s reluctance to bid 3NT. Also, if North starts with a slightly unusual defence of Club-smallAKJ, declarer cannot stop North getting a club ruff with Spade-small10. If they draw 2 rounds of trumps via a successful finesse, South will win a red suit trick to play a third round of trumps…and the defence will take 3 heart tricks.

Meanwhile, after a high spade lead and club switch, against 3NT, declarer can duck a diamond to West and will thus make the 13th diamond as their 9th trick.

To succeed, 4Heart-small needs West to hold Club-smallQxx or misdefence to make. Neither occurred in that contract.

The "money" may have been insufficient but the loss would have been less than going down in game. 

Richard Solomon

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