An Interesting Question

Today's panelists: JoAnna Stansby, David Weiss, Jeff Blond, Mike Shuster, Ed Davis, David Caprera, Kent Hartman, David Milton, and Barry Rigal

Both red, IMPs. The bidding has gone


What do you need to bid here?

The answers are all over the map, from "it's not possible"...
With slam interest, partner would bid 4NT (takeout) followed by 5H:. [I agree, although I might do the same with clubs and hearts. --Jeff]

On the given auction, I can't think of a hand consistent with my pass of 2S: that will bid over 5H:.

Realistically, there is no hand. If you want CHO to continue to be bold, just accept his guess. Oh, I suppose  S:xxx H:xxx D:AKxx C:Axx would tempt me, but it is not hard to envision how giving in to that temptation could work out badly.
Personally, I pass, because without seeing any of my cards, I think it's best to play it safe.
...through "with a surprise fit, enough to make slam even if partner was saving in 5H:"...
A surprise... You could have  S:xxxx H:xxxxx D:C:AKJx, for example.
...through "with a good enough hand that the odds are in your favor," which roughly works out to two or three keys and a fit...
A lot... something like AAK and three trumps would be my suggestion. At least that is what would make sense if partner's minimum 5H: bid could be along the lines of  S:x H:KQxxxx D:AQJx C:xx or  S:x H:AQJxxxx D:KJxx C:x and maximum 5H: bid something like  S:x H:AKQJxx D:AQJx C:Qx or  S:x H:AKQxxxx D:KQx C:xx. With better hands than those maximums, e.g.,  S:x H:AKQxxx D:AQJx C:Ax, partner could bid 4NT and correct partner's bid to 5H:. Some might say this shows clubs and hearts when partner's response is 5D:. I don't disagree with that so I suppose I am suggesting using 4N-P-5D:-P, 5H: to be either C: + H: or big H:. There is so little room that I don't want to exclude either one since the problem won't arise unless partner responds 5D: (this probably means partner should respond 5C: when possible).

[Could partner be saving? --Jeff] Yes, partner could be saving. That is why we need a fit and three useful primary cards to raise. Holding a fit and AAK, we may not be able to make a slam if partner has a minimum and we might make a grand if partner has a maximum. I'd like to take the position of erring on the conservative side. I'd be willing to accept a 50% chance of underbidding by passing in order to incur no more than a 20% chance of overbidding by bidding a slam. If that means we need more than a fit and AAK, then so be it. We could add that we should have something slightly more than AAK and a trump fit... maybe a useful queen or a likely ruffing value, e.g.,  S:xx H:KT9 D:Ax C:Axxxxx. But we should not need much more as I think we are best off with partner's passing 4S: with holdings like  S:x H:KJxxxxx D:Kxxx C:x or  S:x H:AQJxxx D:Jxxx C:Kx. a prime fitting opening hand:
You are obviously guessing, but I would say on the order of an opening hand with spades controlled (or an inference from spade length that partner has them controlled, xxxx would be a good holding), good trump H:Hx or 4+, but a hand not suitable for bidding over 2S:. What would you do with  S:xxxx H:KQxx D:AKxx C:x. That one looks so good, I might try 5S: but from the "stay fixed" school, something like this. Your question implies "what are the minimum requirements?"; that seems too hard to articulate.
Aces, kings, and non-heart voids.

Some of this has to do with style, and whether bidding five over four red on red opposite a passed partner is inviting any action. I'll raise to six with a pair of aces, an ace and two kings, or an ace, a king, and a spade void. I'll play that partner is expecting me to hold about a scattered eight count.

I would say you need Aces and a fit, or less likely trump honors and an Ace, or lacking those, a need for a swing.
When I had this problem in the BAM I passed with what I recall to be a ten-count including four trump and a spade control and partner made it on the nose. I'd bid on with an opening bid and a spade control. Or slightly less with a source of tricks and an 'appropriate' spade holding.

The object is to go plus—so you have to be fairly sure slam is making not just hopeful.

wasn't there. One of my teammates held this hand in the BAM finals and raised with something like  S:x H:KQx D:Axxxx C:xxxx. It cost a full board, as Marshall (my partner) found the 5S: save and was -500 vs. -650. Said teammate asked, "do you think I should bid?" I answered, "no, I don't think so. Might not partner be saving in 5H:?" Upon reflection, I decided the question was more complicated than my off-the-cuff answer.

Yes, there's a difference between IMPs and BAM. The issue seems more interesting at IMPs.

I'm somewhere between Mike and Ed. I'd raise with Mike's hand. Ed's argument that you have to go down in slam sometimes in order to avoid missing far more slams seems reasonable. I tend to be conservative about these decisions, though, so any negative factor would make me pass.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Dec. 12, 2002