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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Out of this World.

It started as a “will I/won’t I” double a pre-emptive opening. It ended as a rather amazing auction.

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South Deals
None Vul
A 10 9
A K 7 6
Q J 8 3
J 3
W   E
West North East South


A simple bidding situation. Would you double or pass? There seem to be no other options.

We have all faced awkward problems like the one above. We have a strong no-trump (just) and on many days have enough with just a little help from partner to beat their contract. On another day when Heart-smallA is ruffed at trick 1, we will struggle to hold the contract to one overtrick! So, do we double, for partner surely cannot with their solitary king and their queen? Or do we pass quietly to collect +50 or +100?

Stephen BlackstockPass: I don’t feel strongly, as I’d say that double is also sensible. If one worked out and the other didn’t, that doesn’t prove a lot.

I won’t normally double at this level with a weak no trump (especially with length in opener’s suit), and this hand is only a doubleton jack better. The reason is that partner will expect a better playing hand, and we may end up declaring, perhaps doubled, when defending would have been more successful. My second consideration is that pass doesn’t end the auction: if partner has shape or a long suit, he may choose to act in 4th seat. He is likely to hold short(ish) spades on this auction, which will make re-opening more attractive. And if he doesn’t have short spades, we are better off out of it. The strike against pass is that it will be harder to reach 4Spade-smallx when it is right – you can’t have everything!"


Double here is not of the penalty but more of the values style. “I’ve got some high cards, partner. What do you think”? It does not promise two or three trump tricks.

 Kris Wooles “Double: suggesting penalties but can be taken out as I would hardly have a trump stack.”


Pam Livingston “Double: 4NT directly over 4Spade-small is for take-out. Therefore, double is less shape specific and more penalty orientated i.e. convertible values.”


Correct. 4NT is any two-suited take-out, not just for the minors.


Peter Newell “Double: it’s certainly close to pass.  I double because I think 4Spade-small will often be going down and partner will often pass. Yes, I’ll write down -590 from time to time but that’s only an extra 170 from doubling, whereas I’ll get an extra 50,200 and 350 at times.  While it is not a great hand for partner if he takes the double out, it isn’t terrible – Spade-smallA opposite shortage, 4/4 in reds. It Is thin on values but ok.


 I would not expect partner to bid 5Club-small without a 6- card suit. More common would be a 4NT bid showing 2 suits so we will end up playing in an 8+ card fit.  This  could be uncomfortable and doubled, but overall I lean towards double now particularly when partner is not a passed hand.”


Bruce Anderson “Double: I am not confident this will work out but passing seems too timid. I am trying to send the message I have good defence and that partner should not bid unless they have a distributional hand. Where this could go wrong is that partner will probably expect greater high card strength. So, we may go down at the 5 level while 4Spade-small is going down. On the other hand, if we make a game, that is likely to be a very good result.

Partner will take into account that with a strong distributional hand and a singleton or void in spades, I would have bid 4NT for take-out.”


I would not think your partner would be too disappointed with your dummy, Spade-smallA and a nice AK.


Nigel Kearney “Double: Partner can pass this with a balanced hand, but given my three spades, he will most likely have short spades and bid something. He'll probably go down in a five-level contract when 4Spade-small would also have failed. So, I wouldn't do this at Pairs, but at IMPs with nobody vulnerable, the cost is only 3-4 IMPs when wrong and the gain is greater when right.”


While one cannot and should not bid super-quickly after such an opening, there is the question of a very slow double, or its cousin, the slow pass:

 Michael Cornell “Good problem but it’s PASS from me! I play X as high card T/O and this is a very close decision. When I double, I expect partner to pass unless he has a long suit or is strong offensively. Here if he has long clubs, we will usually be converting a small plus into a minus.

I guess it’s not likely but if I don’t take too long to pass, partner may sometimes find a bid.”


Finally, to one who had the problem at the table for this occurred at the recent Kelly Peirse Memorial Teams at Rotorua at a time when most bridge players were still having breakfast, very early on! I knew Matt passed and wondered why:

 Matt Brown “At the table I passed. I think double in this spot should be values/take-out. Since we have 3 spades, partner is guaranteed to be short and will be pulling our double a fair amount, probably more than we want them to. They of course can double themselves if it does go 4Spade-small pass pass to them, and if they cannot muster a double then, I don't think we have lost much; we don't even know if 4Spade-small is going down or not with our hand, and if it isn't, then we almost certainly don't want to be at the 5-level!”

 So, partner is alive, well, and maybe just able to bid. They were and they did! Matt’s partner, Michael Ware, emerged in the pass-out seat with the two- suited take-out 4NT. What would you do now?


Here is Matt and Michael’s auction:


West              North            East                South


Matt                                      Michael                   




Pass                Pass                4NT                Pass


5NT                Pass                7Club-small                   Pass


7Diamond-small                   All Pass


Searching for a suit at the seven level! Unusual but then Michael’s hand was pretty unusual and special, too. Oh, I suppose you want to see it!


South Deals
None Vul
5 4
Q J 8 5 3 2
10 7
Q 8 4
A 10 9
A K 7 6
Q J 8 3
J 3
W   E
A K 6 5 4 2
A K 10 9 6 2
K Q J 8 7 6 3 2
9 4
7 5


Matt had a little catching up to do after his initial pass. Hence, he asked his partner to “pick a slam” with 5NT. Michael guessed, hoped, maybe even grabbed the Heart-smallA out of North’s hand! It was where it should be!

It was even easier where West had started with a double. Our opponents were in unchartered waters but East was never stopping below the 7-level:


West              North            East                South




X                    Pass                5Spade-small                   Pass


6Heart-small                   Pass               6Spade-small                   Pass


6NT                Pass                7Club-small                   Pass


7Diamond-small                   All Pass


Three guesses as to what partner is up to!


“If you do not succeed at first, try, try and try again”. West was not sure of the meaning of 5Spade-small (passing would have meant an early dip in a very hot local pool!) and was not quite sure where to head when the unusual 6Spade-small appeared. Finally, only when the bidding reached the grand level did they show their second suit.


Only four of the 30 East-West pairs reached grand slam while ten failed to reach small slam.

The above deal does not prove a lot with respect to the passing or doubling of 4Spade-small. Double would have made it easier for East to bid to the grand. However, Matt and Michael showed that grand could be reached even after West’s initial pass.


We will cover more action from this pair later in the week. They had an excellent day and along with teammates Anthony Ker-Alan Grant, won the 30-team event by 7 vps. That’s 4 10A or greater successes for Michael since late January. He has already passed the 100 A Point mark this year. It is not as though he needs more in a hurry!


Calling Sherlock


East Deals
None Vul
K 6 3 2
5 4 2
A 8 3
A 7 5
W   E
A Q J 10 8 7
J 7 6
Q 9 8 4
West North East South
    Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 4 
All pass      


Tomorrow is Jan’s Day and in preparation you have to decide how to make 10 tricks on the above deal. West leads Diamond-smallK and you elect to duck that. Well, you are looking at maybe two diamond, two club and maybe a trump loser. You are not in a position to claim, yet!


West switches to Spade-smallJ, the trick going Spade-small2 in dummy, Spade-small9 from East (high encourage) and ruffed by you in the South hand. Well, what now?

Richard Solomon

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