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Daily Bridge in New Zealand


How good is our hand? Not many high-card points but trump support and some good shape. So, do we bid it up or just on the basis of our high card points?

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Q 10 4 2
J 6 5 4
A 10 9 8
West North East South
Pass ?    


This is a question of Hand Evaluation and to a lesser extent system. We will assume 1Spade-small promises at least 5 spades..and we are playing Teams. What would you bid?

I hate counting losers until one finds a trump fit. Here, we have found one and therefore we can legitimately count and using Losing Trick Count, we have an 8-loser hand. Assuming the opening bid is a 7-loser, we take our losers away from 18 and the answer is “3”, the level to which we should bid:

Kris Wooles “3Spade-small: (not Bergen) Close to 4Spade-small with those key features. If the shape was 5431 with same key cards would bid 4Spade-small.”

We will come to Bergen shortly but agreeing with Kris is:

Bruce Anderson “3Spade-small: Pushing the boat out, so to speak, but the fair quality of the trumps, the singleton, and the quality of the club suit (very good chance of losing one trick only if partner holds Jxx) means the hand is too good for a single raise. I would be bidding 3Spade-small using 2/1, Acol with a 5-card spade suit, or Symmetric Relay! “

 Kris Wooles mentioned the big difference between a 5431 and a 4441 shape hand. Pam has a colourful way of describing the latter, so much so that she bids the hand down:

Pam Livingston “2Spade-small: Playing invite or better splinters with 4+ spades, I am on the light side for 3Diamond-small. I have a bit extra in hand for my 2Spade-small and partner knows there is a bonus for bidding game and will make a try with a good hand.  There are plusses and minuses to my hand - singleton diamond, good club pips, poor heart pips.  Am wary too of 4441 - what did two bridge playing brothers I know call it?  Kournikova - doesn't perform as good as it looks - can't believe I am sharing that. laughing

Agreeing with Pam but having a different range for his choice of bid is:

Stephen Blackstock “3Spade-small: This is a classical pre-emptive raise.

A mini splinter or the like might help constructively, but would also help the opponents and give them more space. Usually, partner has a clear- cut pass or raise, and to me the balance of advantage lies with the full-blooded pre-empt. 4Spade-small is possible but looks too much, and unnecessary when we have the boss suit.”

I asked Stephen about what value his 3Spade-small showed.

Stephen Blackstock “Range would normally be 4-7 say. A good 8 with some shape requires an invitational sequence. Less than 4 is possible, but at the partnership’s risk – a strong opener may then bid too much.

This hand is clearly a good one in the pre-emptive range, and I am marginally concerned that the Club-smallA and spots will provide more defence that partner will allow for. But it is a losing philosophy to wait for perfect hands as one so seldom holds them!”

Stephen describes anything not constructive as pre-emptive. However, time to move onto Bergen where most players have 2 bids to describe constructive raises with 4 card support below game values, 6-9 hcp or 10-11hcp. Our hand seems to sit nicely between the two!

Matt Brown “3Club-small. Just simple Bergen 6-9 raise. I guess mini-splinters are useful for these hands but lacking that option, I don't really see anything else. If partner shows interest in game, we will be accepting but for now 3Club-small should do.”

Michael Cornell “3Diamond-small: (10-11 hcp) I expect my partner to bid a 4th unless he is minimum 5-3-3-2 and we will usually make game. My 7-hcp hand has 3 good features, good trumps, an ace and a shortage. So, I would never even consider bidding less.”

Another description of our hand is a mini-splinter and some incorporate a bid showing a mini-splinter into their Bergen structure. To do so means you must sacrifice the 10-11 hcp 3-card raise. Nigel evaluates as Michael above and covers all options:

Nigel Kearney “2NT – mini-splinter. It's an invitational hand. There are eight losers if you count that way, or ten points if you count three for a singleton when raising partner and holding enough trumps for ruffing. The intermediate cards are good too. I would mini-splinter if possible. I prefer 2NT as any mini-splinter and 3Club-small as the strong raise. Otherwise 1Spade-small-3Spade-small if that's an invite, or the 10-11 Bergen option.”

Another mini-splinter fan is:

Peter Newell “2NT: For me it is a mini splinter, 3 level invite if we have the mechanisms. We use 2NT for this type of hand, but our system is unusual. If a mini splinter is not available, this is a sound invite so if playing Bergen with 2 different 4 card ranges, this is the more encouraging one, or without Bergen then a 3-level invite.  Having a 9+ fit, with shortage, an ace and good intermediates in clubs are all good features.”

So, Bergen players can use the first step, here 2NT, as a mini-splinter in any suit. The next 3 steps show a game-force hand, 6-9 and 10-11, all with 4+ card support.

 Optimist 3.jpg

The optimist

The majority view is that our hand is one of potential and most bid the hand up, whichever method they use. A mini-splinter in diamonds or showing 10-11 hcp ought to arouse our partner’s interest as the problem was not in reaching game but small slam:

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


That singleton diamond looks mighty good opposite the South hand above, as does the Club-smallA. A mini-splinter sequence might go:

                        North                        South


                        2NT                              3Club-small  (where is your singleton?)

                        3Diamond-small                               3Heart-small  cue

                        4Club-small cue                        4NT

                        5Club-small 1 key card             5NT  king ask (with 10 trumps, not concerned re missing Spade-smallQ)

                        6 Spade-small no outside king

though those who describe their hand in the 10-11 range should get there by cue-bidding, even if South might think their partner is showing the Diamond-smallK when they co-operate with a 4Diamond-small cue.

The working heart finesse and 2-1 trump break help in making all 13 tricks but bidding grand-slam should not be on anyone’s agenda. A nice sequence to small slam should and indeed would create a 13-imp swing in many matches. 

Jan's Day problem



A 10 9
A 10 7
A 10 8 7 5
Q 10
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 1 NT
Pass ?    

 1NT is in the 8-10 hcp range. Would you bid and if so, what?

Richard Solomon

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