Problems from the San Bernardino Regional

All are at IMPs

Today's Panelists: David Weiss, Barry Rigal, Mike Shuster, David Caprera, John Jones, Ed Davis, Jeff Blond, Mark Bartusek, Dan Molochko

  1. both vul

    S: J9x
    H: Qx
    D: 42
    C: AJ98xx
    S: Q10xx
    H: A10x
    D: AKJ98x

    West Dummy East Declarer
    1NT Dbl*
    2D:* Pass 2H: 3D:
    Pass Pass 3H: Pass
    Pass 4D: All Pass

    Dbl showed a 4-card major and a longer minor
    2D: showed hearts

    T1: S:8-x-K-x
    T2: S:A-x-x-x
    T3: S:7-10-D:x-x
    T4: H:x-x-K-A
    T5: D:A-10-x-x
    T6: H:x-x-Q-x
    T7: C:A-x-H:10-x
    T8: D:x-x-?

    I think this one has a theoretically right answer. David and Barry saw it, but that wasn't the reason for their choice. Odd. Then again, it assumes that the opponents are good players. They aren't, of course, so ...

    Before discussing the play, I have to excoriate North for that atrocious 4D: call. Especially at IMPS, but even at match points, pass is much, much better. On this deal, 4D: has no chance but for the opponent's generosity, while 3H: is not close to making. [DOUBLE is better still, particularly at matchpoints. --Jeff]

    We have to ask why East directed a heart return. He knew that [Because he's an idiot? Because he knows his partner should know enough that his card is irrelevant? --Jeff] this was a dangerous play. It seems likely that if he held the club marriage, he would have requested a club. True, East can infer that declarer has at most one club, but still the heart is dangerous. Without the club K and Q, East needs the diamond queen to have his opening. So finesse and claim.

    On my construction, the hand can always be made. If West returns a club, South can win, pitching a heart, hook the diamond (drawing West's last trump) and pitch dummy's small heart on a spade. Then a heart ruff is the tenth trick. I might have followed this line even on a club return, because I couldn't be certain East had both honors.

    [Bingo! We have a winner. This is why you should finesse the D:Q. If the opposition had not been friendly enough to give you a heart trick, you'd've been forced to play on these lines. Why should you allow them to deflect you from making a hand you had made? That heart trick could have been a Greek gift. --Jeff]

    This hand took me at least ten minutes.

    Assuming West either has a 2-5-1-5 shape or a 2-5-2-4 shape with the D:Q doubleton. With the former hand would he not know that a club exit was safe? maybe not if you could be 5-6...

    And why did East signal with the S:7 for hearts not clubs — if he has  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:xxx C:KQx, he wants a club not a heart; he knows partner will cash the H:A if he has it; if not he wants a club through. There are so many wheels within wheels here that I am getting dizzy. After all, on a club back you might play to find West with a 2-5-1-5 by finessing in diamonds at once then pitching a heart on the spades and ruffing a heart to dummy.

    I am going to play to finesse; I'll trust East more than West and assume he is missing a club honor — thus has the D:Q. Against this; any West who plays a heart might not be up to the falsecard in diamonds!

    Some thought about the bidding and the lead, but figured the defense was just stupid. There are conflicting clues.

    East's competing to 3H: would look much more attractive with  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:xx C:KQxx than  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:Qxx C:K?x, so I go up with the D:A.
    Play for the drop. We know that East started with AK9x and Kxx in the majors. East's minor suits were therefore originally one of a) D:Qxx C:KQx or b) D:Qxx C:Kxxx or c) D:xx C:KQxx. East's 3H: bid is considerably more attractive when holding D:xx rather than D:Qxx. Not much can be made from West's actions except that his choice of a spade opening lead looks to me to be slightly more attractive holding D:Qxx rather than D:xx, i.e., if you are going to try to get a ruff in declarer's second suit, it is better to do so when you have a chance to stop declarer's pulling trumps to continue pursuit of the ruff. [Odd. I'd've thought the opposite. Why look for a risky ruff when you have a natural trump trick? --Jeff] I don't know what suit preference signal was given by East so I'll just ignore its implications.
    Diamond Jack...East's return of the higher of his 2 remaining spades is shocking. It's obvious to signal for clubs if he has KQx, and he really doesn't have his 3H: bid unless he has both honors. Given the random defense so far, I am willing to believe that he could have practically anything for his 3H: call. Thus, I go with the percentages based upon the auction placing the HCPs with East. Additionally, the desperation doubleton spade lead into declarer's known 4-bagger trying for a ruff seems crazy holding Q10x of trumps.
    Up King. Righty bid too much, then signalled for his partner to give away a trick. Lefty led into my known side suit when dummy rated to have very few entries. Since we're all on the same team here, I expect lefty to graciously deposit the D:Q. If not, I'll lead another diamond so he can revoke.

    RHO's spade suit preference signal indicates that he doesn't own C:K, let alone C:KQ, giving him the D:Q and  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:Qxx C:Qxx. That's a 14-count, and hardly a 3H: bid. So the signal was just noise.

    RHO's bidding indicates that he's not 4=3=3=3. That makes him  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:xx C:KQxx.

    LHO led a spade when (one would think) a heart or a trump would be preferable. Leading a spade is consistent with no D:Q, not leading a trump is consistent with holding the D:Q. More noise.

    Out of this morass, I pick the bidding inference as the most weighty. Righty's 4=3=2=4.

    By the way, next time please wake me up when it's my turn so I can double 3H:.

    Others wondered why East missignalled and why West listened to him, knowing that a heart can't be right.

    I finesse, assuming the opps are playing 15 - 17 NTs. This is a case of needing to guess what the opps have done. At the table we might know a little about their style, and would definately know how fast the 3H: bid was, how fast the opening lead was, how fast LHO played at trick 3, and which C: spots fell at trick 7. All this might not help much. The most telling clue on the hand looks to be that RHO signalled for a heart return when giving the trick 3 ruff. Although xx in D: is better for competing to 3H: than would be Qxx, it's unlikely that a hand holding C:KQxx would signal for a heart shift. RHO can tell that a heart at trick 4 isn't necessary if you are 4360 (the heart isn't going away), although it would be if you were 4270 and the opening leader has the H:A (then wouldn't his pard bid 3H: instead of passing 3D:?) Given this, I'll assume the C: honors are split and hook the diamond (RHO needs 1 of the minor Qs for his bid). This wasn't presented as a bidding problem, but the 4D: bid seems poorly judged.
    Hooking. Assume the no trump range was 15-17. I also wanted to know whether East was a strong player but I believe I have my answer. His S:7 looks like a clear error. I pondered whether there could be plays to give me a losing option I might not otherwise have. But to what effect? To Grovesnor me? Whoopie. So what would East do with  S:AK7x H:Kxx D:xx C:KQxx? Would he ever play the S:7? I don't think so. It's IMPs. If partner has the H:A, partner is cashing the H:A so East doesn't need a heart play. And unless he can't add to 15, he needs to have the C:K anyway. I am playing him for  S:AKxx H:Kxx D:Qxx C:Kxx. That's the psychological approach.

    The mathematical approach appears to be a flip a coin 50-50. We know spades to be 4-2 and assume hearts to be 3-5. But we also know all the small diamonds (assuming that the opponents can tell the 10 is a small card). That appears to be 9-9 and an equal shot at the D:Q in either hand. I believe the fact that East is known to have at least one club honor does not change the math. (I am interested in the thoughts other have on this mathematical approach. I don't claim this to be the strongest part of my game.)

    I've waffled on this problem at least four times. My initial gut feeling was to play East to have started with D:Qxx and take the hook. Having shown up with the S:AK and the H:K, East would have to have the C:KQ to make up his count without the D:Q. But if he had that, wouldn't he have returned his lower spade? I've decided he would rather than ask for a heart return. True the fact that this is posed and as a problem and the fact that West could have returned a trump but didnít — perhaps suggesting the D:Q — might merit playing for the drop, but ultimately I would take the hook.
    after a good ten minute tank (I split it into two five-minute tanks, the first before cashing the D:A, H:Q, and C:A, the second after), I judged to finesse. I played RHO for 4333 and LHO for having led a trump with 2524; it seemed unlikely she'd lead a spade with 2533 and a natural trump trick. But RHO might not bid 3H: with 4333. But ... Argh. I admit that I didn't give all that much consideration to why they misdefended. That was too hard to figure...LHO knows that a club can't hurt, must be right, just by counting. RHO knows LHO knows that, so maybe he signalled carelessly. Or sneakily. Or foolishly. I don't know. LHO knows that I might have no entry to dummy without a heart play by her...but was she intentionally Grosvenoring me to make me finesse? There was enough to think about without hurting my brain with that problem. Besides, I know the reason LHO led hearts was that my Orbital Mind Control Lasers were functioning effectively! I never figured out the right reason to finesse.
    drop the D:Q. LHO was  S:xx H:Jxxxx D:Q10x C:xxx. Real winning action: Double 3H:. So the reasoning about not giving up what you had didn't work. As far as the defense went, the opponents were just being stupid. They yelled at each other for misdefending.
    Let's say the bad guys returned a club. We wouldn't have any choice but to win the C:A, pitching a heart, take a trump hook, then cash the fourth spade, pitching a heart, H:A, H: ruff, club ruff, draw trumps and claim. So why should we let their idiotic defense cause us to go down when we had the hand made?

    Regardless, this is one of the few types of play problems in which a vote is reasonable. Lots of conflicting clues make a guess interesting. Only if the opponents are good players does the above idea demand attention, and, of course, Zia was elsewhere.

  2. Both vul

     S:AQ8x H:K10 D:xxx C:KJ10x

    1D: 2S: Dbl ?

    a) what do you bid at IMPs?
    b) what if it were matchpoints?

    The answers are all over the place. First the low road:

    redouble (good hand) then 3S:. Will sell out to 4H:, but maybe partner can act somewhere along the line? 4C: would be fit—as would 3C:? [4C:, yes. 3C:, no. --Jeff] Not the right hand anyway. I'd probably do the same at any form of scoring; mind you I don't think any action is at all clear-cut.
    My first reaction was to pass, but upon further reflection 3S: looks best. We know the opps have a heart fit, but at least one of them (maybe both if H: are 5-3) doesn't. 3S: might just give them a problem. Can they double us sucessfully, possibly but it will be difficult. They likely have 3 small spades combined, plus if I bid 3S: and opener doubles some experts play that double as TO (responsive over negative). It's a little riskier at matchpoints but I still try 3S:. What do I think our offensive potential is? I think will take between 6 tricks ( S:KJT9xx H:xx D:xxx C:xx and bad luck) and 11 tricks ( S:KJT9xx H:xx D:x C:Axxx and good luck) with 8 tricks being the most common. Is my hand worth a game try (2NT)? Only if pard is super conservative and would be likely to have much better hands than I expect.
    I bid 3S: at both forms of scoring. My trump support is simply too strong to avoid bidding altogether but I really don't like this hand that much in front of opener. True, pard could have a perfecto that makes game but he could just as easily have an ill-fitting hand that could go for 500 in 3S:. I don't like a cutesy 3C: either. I think 3S:, taking away a level of bidding from the opponents is best.
    I wasn't at the table. I pass. They haven't bid over 2S:x yet. If they do, I'll judge whether to compete to 3S: later. I am not bidding 4S: no matter what. Opposite my style of WJO, there is nearly zero chance to make 4S:. At matchpoints, I might not even compete to 3S:, as I might easily go for 200.

    The middle road:

    If the doubler has the H:A we may be on for game here. Looks like I'm worth at least a try, so I'll bid 3D:. Hopefully partner will realize that he can jump to 4S: with an appropriate max.

    Finally, the high road:

    I bid 4S: at any form of the game. Partner's hand can be as good as  S:KJ10xxx H:xx D:x C:Axxx, in which case my great guesser will make 4S:. But [You bid game because partner might have the perfect maximum and then it takes a finesse and a 3-2 break? Am I missing something? --Jeff] even if he has less, 4H: is likely to be good for the opponents. It is unlikely, albeit not impossible, that partner has enough bits and pieces in the red suits to beat 4H:. But no one can tell during the auction, and I certainly don't want to allow the opponents the room to find out how high they should go. So I reject the delicate 3D:, which might afford the bad guys a chance to work out whether they have a massive double fit. There are hands on which they can make a slam. [And bid one? --Jeff]
    I bid 4C: at both forms of scoring assuming 4C: is a fit bid. I am willing to play 4S: as a sacrifice over 4H: (we will have a play to make when partner has a stiff diamond). If we defend, I will hopefully get club lead if partner passes 4H:. If partner bids 4S:, fine with me. And if the opponents want to bid 5H: over 4S:, the club lead maximizes our chances of beating them.
    4S: at either. My best guess is we go 500 opposite 620/650 with the possible upside that they take the push and we go plus 100. Ten trump and all that. In a weaker matchpoint field I have some nervousness that I have too many high card points for all those "high card counting" opponents to be bidding their cold game, but I feel sufficiently confident about my prediction (and the increased chance of upside against those same weaker opponents, that I am bidding it anyway.)

    Some of each:

    a) Totally depends upon partner's preempting style. If partner will usually have KJ10xxxx then I will bid 4S:. [2S: with a 7-shooter? It'd better be 7222 if I bid it. --Jeff] If he can easily preempt with KJ10xxx and out then I bid only 3S: because we will go for either -500 or -800 in 4S: with little to gain at IMPs. If he often preempts with KJ10xxx and something outside then it is a very close decision. I would tend to bid 3S: at IMPs because we have some chances of setting 4H: if they bid it (and 4S: rates to go for -500 a good percentage of the time).

    b) The same considerations apply as above. The one difference is that I would be more likely to bid 4S: in the 3rd scenario due to the frequency of gain at matchpoints.

    a) 4S:. I'm choosing from a tactical Pass, 3S:, and 4S:. If they double, 4S: is 200 or 500 away. Don't think they'll bid on, as they don't have abundant HCP and the hearts are 4-4 or 4-5, but I'll be content to defend if they do. I think they rate to have ten tricks in hearts most of the time, so I can't let them rest in 4H:, and if I bid only 3S:, the opponent with the stiff spade will move (if LHO, by stretching to 4H:; if RHO, by doubling back in). I'm tempted to Pass and bid 4S: later only if they bid to 4H:, but I think that auction might help them define their fit to our detriment (they know to bid on over 4S: when it's right) and I think I'm more likely to get doubled in 4S: if I go there slowly ('course, that depends on the opponents).

    b) 3S:. At MPs, they're less likely to stretch to game, and more likely to double 4S:. Over 3S:, a significant portion of the time they will go wrong, and we get a good score. If they do bid game and make it, -620 (or -650) will be below average, but not a disaster. On the other hand, -200 or -500 is a disaster if they can't make game. Side note: partner's range for 2S: is quite a bit wider at MPs than at IMPs.

    Pass or redouble. It goes 3C:, pass, pass, to you, and you can win the board by either passing or doubling for +200 or +500. 3S: is down 1. Partner had  S:KJ10xxx H:Qxx D:Jxx C:x.
    Redouble. If I redouble, maybe we'll get to play 2S: rewound. That happens, particularly if one opponent thinks the other's pass is for penalties when it isn't. Even if partner isn't helpful, the opponents might be. This time, they tell us that 4S: is hopeless and even 3S: is too high when they sign off in 3C:. We then get a chance to pass or double as we see fit, but once we know partner has a stiff club, bidding even 3S: is out of the question. Let's say RHO bids 3D: and partner bids 3S:. Now partner probably has a stiff diamond and game should have a shot, so we can bid it.

    Second choice, 3S:. Problem is, we don't know what to do if they bid 4H:. 3S: therefore gives us the last guess, a bad plan.

    I think 4S: is off-the-wall aggressive. Why?

    • Do you frequently have side aces when you preempt? I don't. Without a side ace, 4S: is nearly certain to go down, often two or three.
    • Why should partner have a stiff diamond? Isn't it just as likely he has a stiff club? If he does, won't 4S: be a bloodbath?
    • Are you worried about the opponents? Why? You have 13 HCP. You are playing partner for 6-8, so the bad guys have half the deck. There's no reason to believe they have a big heart fit, and if they do, your H:K is not working on offense. You have half the deck and the spades. What are the bad guys going to do to you? Bid a slam?
    • Even if they have a game, you are playing for -500 vs. -620. An upside of 3 IMPs is not worth this sort of risk.
    • You have a weak NT. When partner bids 2S:, is he ever going to have a hand which would invite game vs. a weak NT? No, never. He may have a hand which wouldn't invite game vs. a strong NT. So what the heck are you doing bidding game?
    • Your hand is very strongly defensively-oriented. All your cards other than the S:Q look better for defense than offense. You might have a useful ruffing value, or you might not. In any case, it's one trick. Most likely, your hand is worth nearly as many tricks on defense as offense. So why are you bidding a lot?
    • Isn't it obvious that 4S: isn't making? You are missing three aces. If partner doesn't have a stiff diamond, is there any chance of making game? Nearly none, anyway. Why do you think he has that holding? If the opponents suggest he does, you can bid later.
    • If you bid 4S:, is there any chance the opponents will bid 5H:? Pretty much, no. They are going to pass if they think you might make it (they'll be wrong about that a lot) and they'll double you when they think you are wrong. Their bidding is easy enough. So you are taking the last guess yourself instead of giving it to them. That's bad competitive tactics.
    • At matchpoints, would it surprise you to go -200 in 3S:x? Or even 3S: unmolested? Would you ever expect to get out for less than 200 in 4S:? Maybe 5% of the time or less. With roughly 20 HCP, this is probably a part score hand, so -200 is an awful score. Even if they have a game, they are not bidding it at most tables. OK, maybe they'll make 5 and you can push the board at -200. Right.
    • Does your partner ever have only five spades to preempt? ...  S:KJ109x H:xx D:Qxxxx C:x or  S:KJ109x H:xx D:x C:Qxxxx? 4S: is gruesome on the first hand and likely to get creamed on the 2nd after a couple of club ruffs.
    • You have spades. The bidding is very unlikely to get out of hand, so why not sit back and find out what you need to know, which is, "where is partner's shortness?" If it turns out to be in clubs, are you still anxious to get to 4S:. Or even 3S:?
    • At IMPs, you'll make 4S: once in a long while. You'll win big on those hands. Most of the time, you'll go -200 or -500. -500 costs as much as +620 wins. Are those two outcomes about equally likely? Of course not. And -200 loses a couple of IMPs, so even if you had a reasonable shot at making game, the two IMP payout for -200 is enough to make the bid a long-term loser. And when you go -200 vs. your plus score on defense, you just lost 7 or 9 IMPs. Which do you think is more likely, that or bidding and making a game?
    • If partner made an intermediate jump overcall, you'd bid game. But would it be cold? Maybe not; it's easy to imagine game's going down. Say he has  S:KJ109xxx H:xx D:Qx C:AQ. That looks like a normal intermediate jump overcall. Game is not a favorite. His hand is nowhere near as good as that.
    • 2-level weak jump overcalls are typically 8-loser hands. Sometimes they are poor 7-loser hands, rarely better. You have two cover cards in spades and one in clubs. Probably. You are likely to have one more cover card, either the H:K or the C:J or a heart ruff. Optimistically, you have four covers. So if partner has a max, you are still in a marginal game.
    Wow. That's a lot of reasons.

    All in all, bidding 4S: seems insane to me. It's normal upside is lose 2 for -200 vs. -140. Once in awhile, it'll win 1 for -100 vs. -140. Once in a blue moon, it'll go +620 and win 9 vs. the +200 you likely had against 3H:. Sometimes you'll get out for -500 vs. -620, win 3. Most of the time, however, you will go for a number. That'll teach partner to stop trying to push the opponents around.

    I was clearly too hard on partner, though. Some very good players chose to bid 4S:. I think they overestimated the chance that the opponents would bid 4H:. And make it. Sometimes the opponents don't have a heart fit. Or already can't find it.

  3. S: xxx
    H: KQ10x
    D: Kx
    C: AKQx
    S: AQ9x
    H: x
    D: AQJxxx
    C: xx

    Dummy Declarer
    1NT 2C:
    2H: 3D: (doesn't promise spades)
    4C: 6D:

    Opening lead is the C:J. Plan the play.

    After looking at this for some while I think that while the chances for an offensive ruff are small, I can't see much better than to run five rounds of trumps, pitching spade, heart spade. That should extract five discards from the defence; presumably the player with three clubs will pitch two, and the other hand will have to let something go! Then all things being equal I will lead a heart to the king, and ruff a heart, (pass H:Q?) before playing two rounds of clubs and guessing what to do in the ending. (finesse/endplay) I can't say I have a definite plan in mind but I prefer this approach to an immediate heart to ten or king at trick three.
    Diamond to hand, lead a heart. From the auction, LHO cannot be sure that I have the spade ace. He pretty much has to grab the heart ace if he has it. If LHO doesn't play the ace, I finesse the heart 10. If that loses to the jack, they will return a black card. If it is a spade, I finesse the queen, go to the diamond king and play the heart king.

    A club return is more awkward. I win that and play the heart king. Assuming they cover, I ruff and play a diamond to the board. I have to hope the third club, as well as the heart winner, survive before I take the spade finesse to make the contract.

    This line wins if West has the heart jack, or if East has the heart ace and spade king and the distribution is friendly. If West worked out to duck the heart ace when the spade hook was on, I'll have to congratulate him.

    Win the club ace, cross to the D:J and lead the heart. If LHO plays low, insert the 10. If this loses to the H:J, I can win the club continuation in dummy and take a ruffing finesse in hearts... get back with the D:K, cash two round winners and try the spade hook.
    Hey, I know this hand. We stopped in 4NT after a D: slam try. I'll draw trumps and lead a H:, inserting the 10. [John was at the other table, so he knows what works. --Jeff]
    T1. C:A
    T2. D:Q
    T3. H:x to T if West ducks
    T4. if H:T loses to J, play S:Q on S: return, D:K, H:K for ruffing finesse.
    I am a simpleton. C:A, trump to the A, H: up. If LHO plays smooth, I put in the 10. If it blows to the J, I use my entries to take the ruffing finesse and the S: hook. I know this makes it hard to judge on paper, but I like this line at the table.
    I win the lead and pull trumps. Next I lead a heart. If West wins the H:A it is game over. If West plays low, I resist the temptation to insert the H:10 and I play the H:K. If East wins the H:A and returns a spade I will take the finesse. If he returns a club I will take my pitches and take the sapde finesse. Finally, if the H:K holds I will ruff a heart back to my hand and run the rest of the trumps. After cashing two clubs I will probably judge to end-play West with a heart to lead away from his (presumed) S:Kx.
    Club Ace
    Diamond Jack
    Heart to King and Ace
    Spade to Ace
    Diamond King
    Heart Queen
    Heart ruff in hand
    Run diamonds attempting a club-spade or club-heart squeeze
    [but what if RHO returned a club, not a spade...oops --Jeff]


    Club Ace
    Diamond Jack
    Heart to King winning
    Heart ruff
    Diamond King
    Heart ruff
    Run diamonds
    Club King
    Club Queen
    Decide whether to throw West in with Heart Ace, drop spade King offside, or take spade hook.

    Win the club, trump to hand, heart to the King. If they return a club, I have no choices: cash the D:K, take my pitches and the spade finesse. If they return a spade: win the ace, diamond to the King, cash the heart King and ruff a heart (high if trumps broke), then lead out all my trumps, squeezing (either opponent with the S:K and 4 clubs) or (LHO with H:J and 4 clubs).

    This is a fun hand. Draw trumps or don't? Heart to the King or ten? I know that the heart Ace is likely offside, but most of the time the H:J is onside I don't need to finesse for it, and I think RHO will return a spade most of the time. If you do draw trumps, lead five rounds before leading a heart. At the table, I would probably win the club and lead five rounds of trumps, then figure out what to do.

    drew four rounds of trumps pitching two spades. LHO pitched a heart and a spade without apparent effort. RHO pitched a spade. I led a heart to the king and ace and hooked the S:K on the way back, blowing to a (now) stiff king. I rejected an early heart play because it required 4-3 clubs and other good breaks, whereas a slow heart play might achieve the same end. If I'd run a couple more trumps, I'm sure I'd've made it.
    Early H: to the 103
    Early H: to the K3
    Late H: to the 101
    Late H: to the K3
    six rounds of trumps will likely put the hammer to LHO. Hooking the H:10 works. Even the early heart play works, as RHO has to follow to three rounds of each rounded suit. The whole hand was
    S: xxx
    H: KQ10x
    D: Kx
    C: AKQx
    S: Kx
    H: Jxxxx
    D: xx
    C: J109x
    S: J10xx
    H: Axx
    D: xxx
    C: xxx
    S: AQ9x
    H: x
    D: AQJxxx
    C: xx
    This is hard. One major issue is how good the defense is. The lines including an early heart to the King require RHO's continuing spades instead of clubs. Against most opposition, that's a likely occurrance.

    This is another play problem amenable to polling. Several general approaches are reasonable. Which to take depends on mostly psychological factors. Will an early heart up cause LHO to divulge the location of the H:A? Will he take it almost always? When RHO gets in, will he always shift to dummy's weakness, or is he good enough to kill the dummy entry? Do you think you can read the discards well enough to play for a squeeze if it's there? No answer is clearly right, which is not normally the case for play problems.

  4. West East
    1H: 2D:
    2H: 2NT
    3S: 3NT
    4D: ...

    System is 2/1 game forcing unless responder rebids his suit, so 2NT is artificial and game forcing. E/W play Flannery, which can be 4-6 with a minimum; they tend not to respond 1S: with only four cards in the suit.

    What are West's likely (possible?) shapes? Give an example hand.

    Only two diamonds in a good hand — can't have 3 else he'd bid 2S:/3D: the round before. Must have six hearts for the rebid 4 bad spades possible. Maybe 3-6-2-2.

     S:AKx H:KQxxxx D:Ax C:xx or  S:Axxx H:AQJxxx D:Ax C:x

    Another sequence I've never heard in almost 40 years of play. I guess that's the joy of playing with Marshall. I like to tell partner what the trump suit is as early as possible.

    From what I glean about the methods, West had to explore the possibility that East had 4 spades even though he bid 2NT. But West could have bid 2S: himself to do so. I infer that 2S: would have shown reversing strength. So maybe West has lots of hearts. A possible shape is 4-7-2-0, with excellent diamonds, something like  S:AQxx H:AJ9xxxx D:KQ C:. I guess 4-6-2-1 is also possible, with a slightly stronger hand, say  S:AQJx H:AQxxxx D:KQ C:x. [That looks like a 2S: call on the 2nd round, but with 7 hearts.... --Jeff]

    If West has 3D:, then he may have intended 3S: as an advance cue, knowing that he would always pull 3NT — something like  S:AQx H:AKxxxx D:KQx C:x. But I would have bid 3D: over 2NT with that. [Me, too. --Jeff]

    West must be slammish with a holding inappropriate to raise diamonds immediately or to immediately bid 2S:. Therefore, he is likely to hold a maximum with six good hearts and 4-6-2-1 shape. Something like...  S:AKxx H:AKJxxx D:Qx C:x. [Wouldn't we bid 2S: with that on the 2nd round? --Jeff] I don't think West should hold three diamonds (no 3D: bid over 2NT) so the only thing that makes sense is patterning out a slammish hand.
    Do you mean 2NT might be an offshape hand that wanted to bid 3D: if forcing, or that 2NT is really some artificial bid? [In 2/1 GF unless minor rebid, 2NT is used to show the game forcing single suiters in a minor. It's therefore artificial. --Jeff]

    In any case, how about  S:AKx H:AQTxxx D:KQ C:xx [3H: over 2D:? --Jeff] (a slam try in D: with S: locked up) or  S:KQxx H:AJ9xxxx D:Kx C: (pick the right game). It shouldn't be both — I'd opt for the slam try (the later hand could just bid 4H:). It's a rare sequence.

    2NT is artificial? Not in my playbook. West probably has something like  S:Kxxx H:AQxxxxx D:Kx C:. My guess is this problem came up because East has four spades, probably not very strong ones, and thought West shouldn't have four spades on this auction (if 4S: is the right contract on a 4-4 fit, I would tend to think East should have raised over 3S:). [Bad guess. I just felt like torturing Marshall. He does it to his partners often enough. --Jeff]
    The most obvious is 3=6=3=1. I don't think that West should have more than 1 club. I do think that West should have a concentration in spades (AKx, AQx, AJx, KQx, KJT; something like that). West can't have four diamonds, or even three good ones (not two of top three — no immediate D: raise). Could be 3=7=3=0, I guess, not buying a doubleton D: 3=7=2=1. And 5 card heart suits would imply doubleton club so I reject those. His hand is  S:AQx H:KQxxxx D:KTx C:x. That looks like a minimum for the sequence and could be a bit better. [Looks like a 3D: or 4C: call on the second round to me. --Jeff]
    I've decided that West probably has seven hearts. His possible shapes are 4-7-2-0 or 3-7-2-1. Perhaps he has  S:AJ10x H:AQ10xxxx D:Qx C: or  S:AKx H:AJ10xxxx D:Kx C:x. I don't think either of these suits is strong enough to rebid 3H: over 2D:, yet I believe both would make a move over the 3NT signoff.
     S:KQxx H:AKxxxx D:KJ C:x [Isn't that a 2S: bid on turn 2? --Jeff]

    Partner should be 4-6-2-1 with good diamonds and top honors in the majors. There is also a small chance he is 4-6-3-0 with 3 small diamonds (with reasonable diamonds he would bid 3D: directly over 2NT or bid 2S: followed by 3D:). I categorically reject the idea that this is a prepared sequence with decent diamond support (he would have to jump to 5D: over 3NT to show that hand). There would be no way to bid this type of hand otherwise.

    2=6=3=2 with a small doubleton in clubs and concentrated spades, like  S:AQ H:AKxxxx D:Qxx C:xx. Theoretically, the black suits could be reversed.

    What's 3S:? It can't be natural because East didn't bid 2S:. West isn't bidding around shortness because nobody does that anymore, what with Splinter bids and all. It must be an advance control bid, but why not just bid 3D: like a normal human being? Because the extraordinary disparity between the black suits is a story too complicated to tell in the normal way.

    The auction is not symmetric with regard to spades and clubs; West's 3C: over 2NT is natural, and therefore an entirely different animal from 3S:. At a deeper level, then, West could also bid 3S: followed by 4D: with weak spades and strong clubs, trusting that if a slam is in the cards East will be able to tell which hand West has. [I don't believe that for a second. If he had  S:xxx H:Q D:AKJ10xx C:Kxx, how would he know if 5D: is high enough (or maybe down) or if 6D: is very good? --Jeff]

    I had  S:AJxx H:KJ108xxx D:Jx C:. I ought to have bid 4H:, but I found 4D: a really interesting torture bid. If I had D:Kx instead of Jx, I think my choice might even have been theory. In practice, partners never read these bids, so 4H: is beyond obvious. But playing with Marshall...famous for over 40 years for finding these bids and explaining how his interpretation is the only "logical" one, I just couldn't resist. Sorry, Marshall! (He did bring 4NT home, even though 4H: was a much better contract.)
    4D: is clearly a torture bid. Some think it promises a good hand, is a try for slam. Some think it shows primary diamond support, making 3S: an advance cue. Some think it shows a weakish hand (no reverse) with very weak clubs. This is the sort of bid one ought never make at the table. Even if partner is on the same wavelength, he'll never know he is and will have to perpetrate a cater bid covering multiple possibilities.

    I have only one strong feeling about the hand and the possibilities offered: I think it cannot have three diamonds. With a good hand and diamond support, raise (somehow) immediately. With a crappy hand and diamond support, either bid 3D: or 3NT over 2NT. Don't wait until it's too late to let partner know what's trump. I'm not a big fan of advance cues; I think slam bidding is vastly improved by setting trump as early as possible.

  5. You be the judge. On each of the following hands, allocate the blame for reaching the wrong contract. Given the first two bids, how ought the hands be bid?

    S: AK
    H: AKxxx
    D: Qxx
    C: AQx
    S: x
    H: xx
    D: Axxx
    C: K109xxx

    West                  East
    2C: 3C: (Goren)
    4C: 4D:
    4H: 6C:
    7C: Pass

    (Goren: 5+ card suit, not necessarily to two of the top three honors, but not awful. Values worth an ace and a king.)

    West's 7C: bid violates partnership discipline on a hand where he has nothing to spare and to my mind knows a the D:K is missing and that he won't have any home for it. West 95%
    These hands are peculiar in that in both cases, West didn't notice how many high cards he had when he made the final decision for the partnership. In the first case, he was minimal for 2C:, yet chose to bid one more after partner had ostensibly closed the auction. In the second case, he had lots of extras, but closed things out.

    My auctions given the Goren responses (which don't seem to be defined very precisely given the examples — East's spade queen and club jack on the second hand are hardly equivalent to an ace). [Ace-seventh makes up for it. That's more than just an ace. --Jeff]
    3H: Gotta show your suit before committing to clubs!4C:

    Everything up to 4H: seems normal. I'd bid 5S: over that with the East hand and feel like I could comfortably leave the decision to partner, although 6C: is a pretty reasonable shot. From West's point of view, partner ought to have a stiff spade anyway (how else can he jump to slam?). The diamond problem seems obvious, as any hand that could bid 6C: and held the D:AK would cuebid 5D: along the way... so 7C: will require help in hearts. Yet, holding  S:x H:Qx D:Axxx C:Kxxxxx it would be clear to bid 5H: over 4H:, so 7C: is an error.

    West 95%, East 5%

    7C: is a clear error. Where does West think the D:K is? With East who wouldn't bid it opposite an unlimited partner? Or singleton in the opps hands? 4C: is not a clear choice (3H: would be better if matchpoints) but it's reasonable. All other bids seem clear, thus all of blame goes to the 7C: bid. Still H: might be 3-3 with no spade lead or 2-2 clubs (or stiff J). Thus, I'll give 65% to the 7C: bid and 35% (about the percentage the grand comes home) to the card god.
    East's bidding was fine. Even with the D:QJx rather than Qxx in West's hand it is only about 50% so West's bidding was too pushy.
    I can live with 4C:-4D:-4H: but then the trolley goes off the track. East needs to know about the S:A and D:KQ; bidding 6C: sure won't find that out. Furthermore, opener is still unlimited so a jump to 6C: is premature. However, East got to a good contract so I am tempted to say his bid "was not an abomination against God and man." West, was unlimited but really had a minimum (admittedly a control rich one). East wasn't asking West to proceed. I score it West 70, East 30 and 7C:'s being the worst bid. My suggested auction would be 2C:-3C:-4C:-4D:-4H:-4S:-5H:-6C:. Now East knows that West does not have the D:K and can sign off. West should respect East's decision having had a chance to show more of his hand (including denying the D:K). (Yes there are more elegant auctions involving Kickback to the same effect, but this is a pretty simple natural auction to the right spot.
    I give East 90% of the blame. I think the auction was fine until East's jump to 6C:. This bid should be reserved for something extra — in this case the H:Q or especially, a seventh club. Expecting this, I believe West was justified in bidding 7C:. He gets 10 per cent of the blame for not being a better mind reader. My auction would be the same except after East bids only 5C:, West has an easy raise to 6C: which would end the auction.
    West 75%, East 25%...West overbid with 7C: when he knew little about partner's hand, and he knew there was a likely diamond loser. Admittedly 6C: was somewhat aggressive when a 4S: cuebid would be more appropriate.
    West 100%. East bid perfectly: 3C: = clubs with a positive; 4D: = Ace of diamonds; 6C: = no more controls to show but good trumps. East's 6C: specifically denied the King of diamonds. West just bid one more because he had so many points, I guess.
    Everything was great until 7C:, which is a serious error. West 100%.

    S: AKx
    H: AKx
    D: KQx
    C: AQxx
    S: Q10x
    H: x
    D: A10xxxxx
    C: J10

    West                  East
    2C: 3D: (Goren)
    4D: 5D:
    6NT Pass

    What is wrong with Blackwood? 4NT over 3D: gets one ace, then maybe 7NT — after all if partner has to have a king equivalent... I admit I might bid 5NT — would East bid 7D:? I doubt it.

    [Blame: ] West 75% — that little since I think 25% of the time you'd miss the slam even on sensible bidding so onlyh 75% is up for grabs.

    2C: 3D:
    4D: 5D:
    6C: 7D:

    [Opener 100% each time.]

    Surely East should bid more than 5D: holding a seventh trump. It's close between 5H: and 6D:... I would again splinter, as it seems more descriptive. Once West jumps to 6NT, East must be able to visualize that his long diamonds are the magic tricks for the grand and bid 7D:. What could West do? Partner would bid the same way with  S:xxx H:xx D:AJ10xxx C:xx.

    Heck, 5D: wasn't even forcing!!

    East 100%

    I have a harder time picking a bid I don't like. No bid stands out as thoughtless. It would work well if opener rebid 4NT (Blackwood) and rebid 5NT (all the keycards), since responder would probably opt for the grand. You could also get there if responder with 7 D:s, a tad extra in HCP, and 3 tens jumped to 6D: instead of 5D:. None of this looks at all clear. It's a difficult deal for anything other than a relay club system (and might be difficult even then if the 7 card D: suit doesn't get shown fast enough). Call it 50/50 with no real bad bid.
    East should bid RKC over 4D:. My second choice would be 6D: rather than 5D: but it is a distant second choice. RKC provides too many answers not to use it when you don't need information about a specific suit.

    [That'll work most of the time. The one bad case is when partner has D:KJx and can't tell you have seven diamonds when you show all the key cards. But it'll get you to 6D: with no chance of reaching 7D: when a key card is missing and if partner has both the D:K and D:Q, he'll be able to count tricks after 5NT and bid the grand. Even with D:KJx, if partner has the S:K and one other side king, we can get to a grand, as responder can count 7D:+AK+A+S:AKQ for 13. So this only loses when partner has no D:Q and no S:K and the H:Q or the C:Q. Not bad. --Jeff]

    Again I can live with 2C:-3D:-4D: (I am a fan of setting the trump suit early). But why not 4H: by East (West is unlimited and this may be the key feature of the hand)? Then 4NT keycard, one keycard, Q ask?!, yes! (because of the extra length), K ask, no and a guess. If the contract is no worse than a hook and it is reasonable to expect more, then it is probably right to bid it. I think the possible bad bids are 5D:, 6NT and the final P. West's bid is probably the most precipitous. He has plenty of time to bid 6NT later. 5H: may have left him better placed (...5D:-5H:-5NT (better than 6D: but nothing to say)-6C:-6S:!-7D:/7NT). So, I guess I score it E=30, W=70 percent of blame. (Unlike the first hand which is silly, I think the second hand is harder and would expect company in 6NT.)
    This time I give East only 80% of the blame. I like his initial response but feel he wimped out when he only bid 5D:. With a key seventh diamond, I think he owed his partner a jump to 6D:. Then West would have an easy time raising to 7D: looking at his moose. [7NT. --Jeff] West gets more blame here because there was no real reason to jump to 6NT, he might have tried 5H: and given his partner another chance. [Why? Didn't West deny enough to make a grand by bidding 5D:? --Jeff]
    West 60%, East 40%...West has an easy 6C: grand slam try over 5D: guaranteeing all the first round controls (6NT?...what a wimp). East should have made the auction easier on partner by either raising 4D: to 6D: or cuebidding 4H:. What was he waiting for with his 7th diamond, stiff heart, and possibly useful side-suit texture (5D:?...what a wimp). I can see how West might self-destruct on hand 5a after seeing East's 5D: rebid on hand 5b (Did hand 5b precede hand 5a? Inquiring minds want to know!) [No. 5a preceded 5b. But the players were switched. --Jeff]
    West 100%. Sorry, West, but again East never had any alternatives. East should not make a positive response with only six diamonds and a Queen, but even that makes 7D: no worse than a finesse. West bid both of these hands thoughtlessly.
    Everything was great until 5D:, which was a serious error. East has two more tricks than he might have. He needs to tell partner about that by bidding 6D:. That would get a 7NT call from partner, who can now count 13 tricks. (7D:+5AK+1Q; partner must have seven diamonds and a queen to bid 6D: without the C:K.) This hand is hard playing normal methods, but for responder to think he has a minimum 3D: bid after catching primary support is really awful, worse than opener's 7C: on the previous hand.
    Playing normal modern methods, these hands will not be easy to bid. Hand a):
    2C:-2D:; 2NT-3S:; 3NT-4C:/D:; 4H:-5D:; 5S:-6C:?
    Each player is shooting in the dark. Hand b):
    2C:-2D:; 2H:-2S:; 2NT-3S:; 3NT-4C:/D:; ?
    I don't see a sensible way to get to 7NT now.

    Playing Goren, these hands should be easy. Every system has to win sometimes.

    These two hands were not grouped together randomly. The issue in each of them is "how does opener count 13 tricks?" Even in standard methods, opener doesn't have a way to find out about extra trump length in responder's hand. Normally, the 2C: opener should remain captain of these auctions, so there needs to be a way for responder to show extra length, which translates to extra tricks. I think a delayed jump in the trump suit should be just that. In the first problem, 6C: must show something extra, but nothing to cue. It doesn't mean "I'm lost. We can make a slam. Shut up." What can it be other than an extra club? With just  S:xx H:xx D:Axxx C:KJ109x, he just bid 5C:, having already done his all. In the second hand, responder bid 5D:, denying extra length or a side high card. Therefore, opener knows that they have at most six diamonds, three aces, and two kings off the top, with a queen in dummy supplying the 12th trick. If responder had jumped to 6D:, showing an extra trick, opener's count would come to 13, and he'd have an easy 7NT bid. Maybe I'm biased, but I think simple natural bidding would have worked wonders on these hands.

    There's another issue, of course, that I'm assuming. "How much extra does responder have given that he's made a positive response." These are Marshall's idiosyncratic methods, described to me as "a reasonable 5-card suit, not necessarily with two of the top three honors, and the equivalent values of an ace and a king." Of course, when you play someone else's system, he gets to decide what terms like "equivalent values" mean. Hah. Fortunately, that was almost exactly Goren's definition of a positive response to a strong two, so I defined the methods as "Goren" in this problem. As far as I'm concerned, that means KJ10xx and a side ace is plenty; still, responder doesn't have extras on the first hand until he catches support, at which point, his sixth club is a full trick and he needs to show it.  S:AJ10xx H:Q10xx D:Jxx C:x is less clear, but I think Goren would consider it a positive response. In that case, responder doesn't have extras on the second hand until he catches support. At which point, he has two spare tricks and must do something other than take a minimum action. I think responder's rebid on the 2nd hand is closer to 7D: than to 5D:.

    I don't have trouble with key card here; it's not unlikely that responder will be able to count 13 tricks afterward. Maybe that's best; one doesn't have to trust partner's judgment, which, as we can see from the first hand, might not work out. After a couple of weeks of reflection, despite the fact that I prefer good natural auctions, I think I'm with Ed on this one; key card by responder will solve the problem so often with minimal chance of disaster that it has to be better than to hope partner works out we have extra diamonds when we bid 6D:. He ought; there's no other reason to bid 6D:, but why count on it when you have nearly a sure thing by taking control?

Jeff Goldsmith,, Mar 7, 2003