This is from Marshall Miles'
MSC-like column in the ALACBU
Bridge news. I think the panel
missed the point of this problem
(as did the moderator), and since
it's a pretty good panel, I was
wondering if I am up a tree
This hand is very similar if not identical to one also
used by Roth in his At the table column.
[It is indeed. That's where Marshall got it. --Jeff]
He advocates a pass, but I felt I had enough to bid on
to the five level, which caters for disasters en route, e.g.
4 being a cue bid. If I am going to do that surely 5 gets
the club control across and may be important to a man not
looking at a club control (is AQxxx AKxxx --- Qxx possible?)
So 5 it is.
Pass is 100%. Anyone who thinks 4 is a slam try should take
up another game. Where do you want to play opposite Axxxx AKxxx x xx?
There are three different meanings that you are likely to want for 4.
- non-forcing, looking for best fit, partner is not expected to bid 5 or 5
if they compete, e.g., AQJxx AKxx xx Qx
- non-forcing, distributional, informative, allowing partner to bid at the
five-level if they compete, e.g., AQxxx AKxxx x xx
- forcing, slam try, e.g., AQxxxx AK x KQxx
My guess is that most players would play #1 or #2, maybe without much
distinction between them. I think the most practical is #2 because it comes up
most often and the principle is the same one that is applied to other suits,
i.e., our suit is spades or hearts and they are competing in one of the other
suits and we bid a new suit on the way to game after a raise.
It would seem to me that my options are:
- pass (and have partner castrate me on the spot)
[Doesn't sound like an option to me! --Jeff]
- 4 (and return my Canadian passport)
- 4NT (check for aces just because, you know, you can)
- 5 (hmm, show partner your control in clubs and inform him you are interested)
Obviously, from my comments, I choose d. All I did was bid a simple 3
and partner is looking for slam. I can't imagine my hand could be much
better so I'm certainly game. About the only thing missing is a fourth
trump, but I never really promised one anyway. Blackwood seems silly,
bidding 4 way too wimpy. I guess I could make an esoteric jump to 5, but
I don't think that bid descibes this hand.
Over my 5, If partner cues 5, I guess I have a bit of a problem. Do I
lie with 5 or bid a gentle 5 and leave it to him. I think I'd bid 5
since I don't believe in deceiving partner if I can help it.
a) I think that 4 should be a cuebid, not a suit, as the
opponents have jammed the auction. We can no longer look
for strain; we are trying to determine a level. My diamond
holding is gross, but I have a max with primes. Options are
4 (aagh) 4N (huh?) 5 (cue) and 5, which I think is "I have
two key cards, probably one of them in trumps which makes
cuebidding it tough, something extra, and two diamond losers.
Bid what's right!"
b) I bid 5. [Hey, waitasec...that's two in a row
in which pass was an option and Kent chose something else. --Jeff]
In Dale's and my opinion, your only options here are pass or 4. The
4 bid is natural and nonforcing because it is a game bid in a major
suit. If partner bid 4 or 4 (obviously on some other auction), that
would also be natural, but forcing. In competitive auctions, these
bids show suits, in an effort to involve responder in the decision over
5. You have to give up something, and I think it's right to give up
slam tries other than a cue bid of the opponents' suit.
On the given hand, Dale thinks you should pass 4. I am not so sure.
Your hand is good enough to expect to make whatever you bid, so I
might bid 4 as a safety bid if I weren't sure what partner was doing.
If the opponents compete to 5, then I can bid 5. [In this forum,
you should bid what you think is right in general. --Jeff]
Obviously, if 4 is defined as a slam try, then you should bid 5. As
usual, you need an agreement. [Of course. The whole point of this
exercise is, "which is the best agreement?" --Jeff]
My impression is that the experts who are good friends of mine
(Stansby-Martel, Woolsey-Manfield) agree with Dale's and my
interpretation of the bid. I don't think that gives me enough evidence
to guess at what an unknown expert partner would be doing; that's why
I might bid 4 at the table as a safety bid. If suits are breaking
badly, it could easily matter a lot whether we play our 5-4 hearts fit
or our 5-3 spade fit, but I think on this hand, it's only likely to
matter for an overtrick, so I'll try to prevent the huge disaster that
I might have if I pass 4 and partner thought he was making a slam try
on some hand like AQxxxx Axx x KQx.
Another possibility is to raise 4 to 5, again as a safety bid. If
partner doesn't have hearts, he can retreat to spades. Still,
sometimes you will go down in 5 or 5 when the opponents weren't even
going to bid 5, so that appeals to me less. If I bid 4 now, I might
be able to bid 5 over 5, but partner will have a chance to X in
front of me then, so I can pass.
Preempts work, don't they?
(a) This auction probably needs an agreement. 4 is either (1) Last
Train or (2) Trying to help you out with a 5-level decision. I think (2)
is more valuable... and even if it was intended as Last train, I don't
think this hand is so wonderful for slam... even if partner does have a
stiff diamond, we may well be looking at a late club or heart loser. Only
3 trump and no long suit to set up does not encourage me (I know what I do
have is working, it just isn't enough).
I believe you aren't being asked to do anything other than bid 4, but a
force has been created at the 5-level and you will almost certainly have
captaincy in that force.
(b) 4. Nothing else is even remotely reasonable.
Wouldn't you bid 4 holding: AQJxxx AKx x Qxx... I don't think it can
be passed, so I guess I already don't think that it promises 4 or 5,
although having 4 is likely. All roads to playing in hearts would have
started by responder making a negative double or bidding hearts rather than
showing primary support for openers 5+ card major.
Jeff: No, I wouldn't. I'd bid 4 and hope that partner
did something over 5; when he didn't, I'd guess. I'd
probably guess to bid on in this case. I'd figure they
had ten trumps and we had 9-10. If there are 20 trumps,
5 over 5 is reasonable. If there are 19, 5 over 5 is
slightly below par.
But this means Mike is playing "last train captaincy
transfers." I think it is a good idea, if the last train bid
is a minor. If not, the vig of being able to strain correct
is too valuable. So, I propose 1-(3)-3-(4)-4! to
be artificial and captiancy transferring, setting up a
force, but the actual sequence to be natural.
I don't think Mike's last sentence is right. 3 shows a sound single
raise to a bad limit raise. To start with a negative double,
then bid 3 shows a slightly better hand. The reason is
that if advancer bids 4, you have to be prepared to bid 4,
since partner has been left in the dark about your fit and
can't make an intelligent choice. So you need at least
sufficient values for game to have a shot if you get blown
out trying for the better strain. Make the Q the K and
I might try that approach on this hand.
Mike: It is impractical to play that you are now searching for
strain in a competitive auction after you've already found a
fit that is known to be playable. 4 needs to be forcing,
because although it may initially just be to help partner out
if the opponents bid more (and isn't suggesting that partner
can bid past game), it may also be made on a hand such as
AQJxxx AKx Ax Qx which was always planing on driving to the 5-level
but was making an advance cuebid. So 4 must be forcing.
Jeff: I'd bid 5 with that hand. I think the bonus for playing
4 NF is bigger than the bonus for playing it forcing. In fact,
that's one of the theory questions given you are playing
shape-showing bids that I was asking with this problem; i.e.
is 4 forcing?
Partner may be doing one of two things:
a) with most of my partners I would play 4as a strong raise to 4
(setting up forcing passes - a 4 bid normally wouldn't, but after
they preempt maybe it should?). [I don't think so. After preempts, when
both sides have found a fit, it's often the case that both sides can make
lots of tricks. Only when the space is totally gone and we are very
likely to have the vast majority of the power should a force be on in
such auctions. Or if we set one. --Jeff] He is generally supposed to have heart
values/length for this bid, but he only had one bid available below 4,
so he may have shaded it somewhat to be able to get me into the later
auction. (he certainly does not have a spade-club 2-suiter, however)
b) with an old-fashioned partner, 4 is probably some sort of slam try.
If partner has a true major 2-suiter I have a great hand, but once
again partner had only one slam try below 4, so 4 may be
last-trainish. In that case I don't have such a great hand: no ruffing
value (it sounds like partner is short in diamonds too), only four
trumps, average high-card values. My honor location is pretty good, I
Everything considered, I am inclined to bid just 4, then compete if
they bid 5 (if playing a), partner is supposed to bid again over 4
with a real slam try - the idea is similar to choice-of-games cuebids:
just recognize that your slam bidding in competition will suck and use
the available bids to clarify decisions at the game level).
Note that in both cases, the fact that 4 was the only available bid
below 4 was significant.
a) what are your options?
5, 5, 5, and 4
b) what do you do now?
This is tough. You want to be in slam in hearts
if partner is 6412 or 5503 but not 5512 without the K.
If partner has 11 cards in the majors there is no problem.
5 would probably show the above hand with a 5th heart.
5 should show these high cards, but doesn't show the 4th heart.
I vote for 5 100;
I don't think I have any options.
I must bid 5.
I'm not entirely sure what standard methods says the
3 bid is here, but I think I have a better than average
hand for the call. (Presumably 3 would have been a limit
raise/generic game try, with a forcing heart hand starting
with a double - if I'm wrong about methods, please correct
me and I'll take another whack at the problem.) I dont' think
4 can be anything other than a cuebid. My 3 set trump,
4 can't be choice of games in a jammed auction, nor do I
think it can be choice of strain for a slam.
(With Kent I would bid 4NT showing either the A or K of
trump but not both).
I think the options are pass and 4. I'd choose pass.
I posted this as a problem because 2/3 of Marshall's panel
thought that 4 was a cue bid. A couple of members
(Eddie Kantar said that he "had been convinced")
thought that 4 was natural, choice of games, to reach
the 5-4 fit instead of the 5-3. Miles supported the
majority. As Barry noticed, this was originally an
Al Roth problem in which the point was to find the
right strain; 4 made and 4 went down.
I think 4 shows shape, sets up a force, and allows
partner to act at the five-level, preferably intelligently.
The natural/fit-showingish camp outvotes the
cue-bidders 6-4, but within each camp, there's
considerable variety about what to do.
- 5: Barry, JeffB
- 5: Kent
- 5: Walter
- NF: Chris, Ed, Lynn, Jeff
- F: Mike, Roberto
- WINNING ACTION
Pass. Partner was 5-5 in the majors and
spades broke badly, so 4 made and 4 went down.
- JEFF UPON REFLECTION
I think there are more ways to play this than Ed does.
- Natural, choice of games.
- Natural, helping partner at the 5-level
- cue bid
- Last train cue
- artificial force creation
(1) is what Roth had in mind and what Kantar was swayed to.
(2) is what I and the plurality of the panel think.
(3) is what Marshall Miles, 2/3 of his panel and 40%
of this panel think it is.
(4) is an improvement over (3); a general slam try.
(5) is what Mike and Roberto play, and is a possibly
good idea. It entends the idea of (2) so that one
can transfer captaincy and set up a force below
game before knowing that they are going to bid
beyond your game.
I think that (1) and (2) can combine, producing the
most valuable use of the bid. If that weren't so,
then either (5) or (4) would seem more useful to me.
I'd play (5) because it fits with the rest of my
normal competitive agreements better. Indeed, I
think that if our only bid below game in this sort
of sequence were a minor, I'd be quite willing to
play (5); if it's a playable major, I'd rather play
(1)/(2). Unlike Mike, I don't think you can combine
(3) and (2). Partner will bid 4S in that scenario
and you won't be much better off than if you'd made
a clear slam try earlier. Worse, however, if LHO
bids 5, you are now nailed. Partner will have to
decide without knowing what your intent was.
In Miles' article, he and 2/3 of his panel think that
4 is a cue bid. The other two think that it's a choice
of games. I still think they are all wrong, although
the choice of games minority isn't far off, and there
was surprisingly large support for the cue bid here.
The name of the problem, by the way (High-Level Bridge),
is that of a series of articles by Ed Manfield. In those
articles, he wrote that bids like 4 here should be
shape showing. He also described fit-showing jumps and
several other helpful competitive methods. He convinced me.
A final note: no one thought it mattered what the
vulnerability or scoring was. That surprises me.
June 29, 1997