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The “Boss” Suit is?

Michaels bids often cause problems for one side. Today it is for the side which opened the bidding. The problem is further complicated by the fact that we are playing Pairs where if you have a choice between playing in spades or clubs, we all know which we would choose. So, how do you feel with the following hand, modest in high card points for an opening bid but with rather good shape?

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South Deals
None Vul

 

N

W

 

E

S

   
 

A K 9 7 6 5 2

J

9 2

A 7 6

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

1 ♠

2 ♠

3 ♣

Pass

?

2Heart-small is hearts and a minor, either weak or strong and with at least 5 cards in both. 3Club-small is natural.

There are some system agreements useful to have here, like how forcing 3Club-small is. Is it forcing to say, 3Spade-small, or maybe to game? The answer may well affect our bid.

Stephen Blackstock “3Spade-small: North's 3Club-small is game-forcing, so it's hard to imagine bidding anything else. 4Spade-small wouldn't show extra strength. It shows a less slam suitable hand. It also takes away space we need to explore slam prospects.”

Wayne Burrows “3Spade-small: I think this should show six spades. Partner's 3Club-small is game forcing. I am forced to bid 3NT had I a minimum with stoppers. Both 4Spade-small and 4Club-small are too committal. We could easily be making 6Club-small and struggling in 4Spade-small or making 4Spade-small and getting a poor matchpoint score in 5Club-small. So I need to show both my extra spade length and my club support. 

My plan is to pull 3NT by partner to 4Club-small."

Anthony Ker “3Spade-small: to show the extra length. If partner rebids 3NT, I’ll follow up with 4Club-small, while if she repeats the clubs I’ll raise to 5. I will pass 4Spade-small.”

 

Peter Newell “3Spade-small: I believe 3Club-small is game forcing and that partner likely has some red cards given East couldn't bid 3Diamond-small or 3Heart-small. (perhaps more likely North has hearts as West is known to have that suit whereas, despite the 3Club-small bid, it may not be clear to East which minor their partner holds.)   As it is Pairs and clubs may not play that well if partner has only 5 clubs, I want to emphasise my spades first.  I expect partner will probably bid 3NT in which case I'll bid 4Club-small...”

That seems like a good plan as long as 3Club-small forces to game…but:

Bruce Anderson “4Spade-small: I have a 7- card suit headed by AK and with partner making a strong bid, this game will be unlucky to go down, albeit a bad break is possible after West’s bid. Possibly we can make a club slam but finding out is problematical and given that it is Pairs, I want to be in the strain that scores best. And partner is still there; if he/she is very strong and has spade support (Qx or xxx) they can make a move with RKCB.”

while Nigel takes a different route to game force:

Nigel Kearney “3Heart-small: I have enough for game and strain is in doubt. The way to express that is to cue bid 3Heart-small and follow with 4Spade-small. This will effectively communicate my hand type and partner can take it from there.”

I worry that that action shows your reasonable club holding. This seems clearer:

Andy Braithwaite and Michael Ware “4Heart-small: splinter agreeing clubs looks about right to me.”

That’s fine when we are heading to clubs…and indeed the sky is the limit if West’s bid was a weak Michaels. It does not prevent North bidding 4Spade-small which would have to be to play.

Also, if 3Club-small is game-forcing, then South could have bid 4Club-small but 4Heart-small shows the support and the singleton at the same time.

On this day, Andy and the Panel were heading in the right direction. The lure of Pairs encouraged some to play in spades but surprisingly not even 4Spade-small could be made while the small slam in clubs was unbeatable:

South Deals
None Vul

A 10 9 6 3

8

K Q J 9 5 4 3

Q 8

K Q 8 7 2

A K Q J 10

2

 

N

W

 

E

S

 

J 10 4 3

5 4

7 6 5 4 3

10 8

 

A K 9 7 6 5 2

J

9 2

A 7 6

 

West

North

East

South

 

 

 

1 ♠

2 ♠

3 ♣

Pass

?

In 6Club-small, 2 hearts can be ruffed while 2 more are discarded on high spades. Had West one spade and two clubs, declarer could ruff 3 hearts in dummy.  A forcing 3Spade-small seems a very good move but one needs to know that 3Club-small creates a game force.

As you can see, West had a very decent hand themselves and bidding on to 5Diamond-small as happened at some tables could prove expensive as declarer must lose two heart tricks (one to a ruff) as well as 3 black suit tricks. However, -500, even -800 would be a good result for East-West if the field had bid 6Club-small but they did not.

So, even playing Pairs, the trick was to avoid playing spades at all costs and play in the unlikely “boss” suit, clubs!

Richard Solomon

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