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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Cracking an old chestnut?

Can we? We want to show a long strong suit in a good hand by jumping but that tends to hide our good holding in the other major, responder’s suit. There again, how good is our long suit? Can we solve that problem, a bid that keeps both options open?

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A K 10
A J 6 5 3 2
5 4
A 7
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass ?    


Not long enough to support partner's suit but too much in the suit to ignore. What should you bid?

Some of the Panel are resigned to take what seems the obvious action:

Julie Atkinson "3Heart-small: I am going for the simple rebid of 3Heart-small."


Pam Livingston “3Heart-small: Have to bid something and with no other agreement I will pick 3h.  Partner could raise hearts, rebid spades (yay) or bid 3NT and I don't mind any of those.

I used to play a great system that described this kind of hands very accurately but it was complicated and hard work on the memory in a long event.  That's the payoff.”


There is no problem when partner has heart support or is strong enough and has a 6- card spade suit. It is the 5-3 spade fits we will miss.

Michael Cornell “3Heart-small: very reluctantly with such poor hearts. Just too good for either 2Heart-small or 2Spade-small. I now wish I had opened a 15/17 1NT. (it would be automatic if the hearts were a minor – is this so different?)

The way around this problem is some version of Gazzilli where a 2Club-small rebid is either16+ or natural. It is quite complicated and of course one can’t play in 2Club-small!”


 Our next Panellist does make that bid and hopes he does not play there:


Nigel Kearney “2Club-small: Natural and not forcing. I just hope there is more bidding. Getting to the right game is worth the risk of occasionally playing a silly part score.

 Maybe forgetting we have 6 hearts are:


Michael Ware “2NT: Is there any way around this perennial problem? Yes, there is! 2NT. Allows finding both major fits via simple checkback. If your hearts were a minor, it would be unanimous.

 In normal methods you can't specifically show a six-card major. Here, over 3Club-small checkback, you can bid 3Heart-small to show good 5 card suit and partner can then bid 3Spade-small with 5 spades.”


Matt Brown “2NT: Michael Ware posed to me a few weeks ago that rebidding NT on these hands would be best. It keeps both majors in play, and we do not have to emphasise our hearts too strongly. Assuming our opening 1NT is 15-17 and we cannot rebid it, that leaves upgrading to 2NT which isn't such a horrendous bid anyway. If partner raises to 3NT, our hearts may come pretty useful and we will really have not lost much. I guess we play 3NT sometimes with a 6-2 heart fit, but at least we were able to keep spades in the picture (partner can checkback to see about our spades).”


I would prefer to be in 3NT much of the time than a potential 4-3 spade fit which may result from Bruce’s choice of bids:


Bruce Anderson “3Spade-small: This kind of hand is a quandary: 3Heart-small is misrepresentation; the heart suit is not that good and the strong support for spades is suppressed. There is a case for 2Spade-small, which is the bid I would make at Pairs; if partner has only 4 spades and a weak responding hand, we could go down at the 3 level.

 But at Teams I assess these hands differently: if partner has length in spades and/or a distributional hand without the high card strength to bid over 2Spade-small, then game will be good, or cold. Team mates are unlikely to be sympathetic when we suffer a game swing because of my ‘dry’ view.”


And finally, a well-reasoned and conservative view:


Stephen Blackstock “2Heart-small:  Apart perhaps from playing Gazzilli (which introduces its own issues), there is no good answer and never has been. Even harder here since we are not told the methods: 1NT is available if playing a weak NT, but not in a strong NT system. And, of course, it is relevant whether 1Heart-small is four or five cards: with such a weak suit, a 5-card opening is close to describing the suit. Not perfect, as this suit may play better opposite xx than a stronger five, but close. As we are without important information about context, the value of the Panel’s answers is to that extent limited.


The obvious options are 1NT, 3Heart-small and 3Spade-small. All have major flaws. The suit is very weak for 3Heart-small, and we could play 3Heart-small in a 6-1 fit with 3Spade-small/4Spade-small much easier and unlikely to be reached if South has nothing extra. 3Spade-small is short a critical 4th trump. 1NT (if in range) at least describes a balanced hand with these values, but the texture screams for a trump suit. From where we sit, it seems the defence may be having a meal on one or both minors before we can get the hearts going. Two days a week each of these alternatives will work out, on the seventh day all will fail. Pessimistic, from years of experience with this gap in standard methods!


My preference is the feeble looking 2Heart-small. It shows six, and leaves room for partner to try 2Spade-small if he hates hearts. I expect a raise with 8-9+ HCP and heart tolerance, 2NT on say 10+. On the face of it, if partner passes, game will be marginal at best. At this vulnerability, we only lose from missing game about the same amount we may gain from not getting too high or in the wrong strain, as is so likely to happen with the value-showing alternatives. Vulnerable I wouldn’t risk it, but non-vul it seems the percentage action.”


So, we can risk the 3-level and limit our options, risk the 2-level and miss an easy game, seek out a complex Gazzilli convention or try an off-beat 1NT or 2NT. I rather like the last of these which could have worked well on the actual deal:


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


Hearts were best avoided as was 3NT, the other realistic option after the 3Heart-small response. 4Spade-small is makeable via the spade finesse and by playing on hearts (three heart's hoping you won the opening club lead in the South hand to preserve entries to dummy. Let’s hope South bothered to checkback after their partner’s 2NT response.

keep an open mind.jpg

Maybe by bidding no trumps?


However, this time, the dry 2-level, maybe even 1NT response if it shows 15-17 will work quite well, certainly matched against those in at least 2 of the 3 possible game contracts.


No easy answer, certainly without a complex system. Maybe next time, our heart suit will be just a little bit stronger and our third spade is not the 10. With the actual hand, conservatism or at least keeping your options open would have likely paid.  


 Spades is the game this time


No choice of game. We are in 4Spade-small and we need to make at least 10 tricks.



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


A little bit of aggression as you “upped” your nice 19- count to 20-22 (hence the 2Diamond-small “Multi” opening). Partner transferred (3Heart-small) and then offered you a choice of games. West led Diamond-small9. Plan the play. Both opponents have at least 3 diamonds.


Richard Solomon





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