Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Board 92

Board 92
Our side vulnerable

♠ 7 3 A K J 9 4 Q J 4 ♣ 10 6 3

Partner opens one club in second seat, I bid one heart, and partner bids two spades. My choices are three clubs, two notrump, and three notrump.

With five hearts and a single diamond stopper, I doubt most experts today would even consider three notrump. But it does have the advantage of getting the strength of your hand across, something that can be hard to do in a slow, tortuous auction, where no one is sure what any bid means.  I'm going to reject three notrump, because I would feel pretty silly playing there opposite three hearts and a singleton diamond.  But I do think the bid has more going for it than many would acknowledge.

Three clubs is possible, but it may leave me poorly placed on the next round. Say, for example, partner continues with three diamonds. My hand is too good to be content with three notrump. But what else can I bid? Three hearts would suggest I don't have a diamond stopper. Four notrump would be about right if that were natural. And in some of my partnerships, it would be (since Blackwood is arguably illogical over fourth suit). But I seriously doubt Jack would take it that way.

Two notrump gets the message about the diamond stopper out of the way, giving me more flexibility in later rounds. It also leaves partner room to show a sixth club. It seems like the best choice.

I bid two notrump, and partner bids three clubs. I continue with three hearts. Since we are below three notrump, this doesn't promise the ace.  It simply shows good hearts and suggests that my diamond stopper is weak. Over three hearts, partner bids three notrump.  My three heart bid did not dissuade him from playing notrump. So, if he is missing a club honor, he probably has the ace or king of diamonds.  If his clubs are solid, however, he might well have two small diamonds.  Three notrump will look like a better game than five clubs with such a hand.

Opener's jump shift is typically a four-loser hand. I have three potential cover cards: the ace and king of hearts and a doubleton spade, so I'm worth another move. I bid four clubs. Partner raises to five.

I'm a little uncomfortable passing. But I can certainly construct hands where slam is poor. For example,

♠ A K Q x x K x ♣ A K x x x x

That's even a three-loser hand. But two of my cover-cards are wasted. In fact, I can even construct hands where we're off two top tricks:

♠ A K Q x Q K x ♣ K Q J x x x
♠ A K Q x x x x ♣ A K Q J x x

And, since I know Jack jump shifts with hands I wouldn't, there are probably other examples as well. It's hard for the weak hand to do the constructing, so this may be a waste of time. Usually when you hold the weak hand you're better off asking yourself whether you have anything in reserve for your auction and not worrying too much about what partner might have. I think I have pretty much what I've shown: good hearts, a diamond stopper, and moderate club support. Partner doesn't know I have the heart ace, but, if he cared, he could have bid four diamonds over four clubs to give me a chance to cue-bid it. If partner can't show any interest over four clubs, I don't see how I can bid any more. Add the club queen or even the spade queen to my hand, and I would bid six.

I pass, and East leads the ten of diamonds. There's nothing to the play, so I'll show you all four hands.

♠ 7 3
A K J 9 4
Q J 4
♣ 10 6 3

♠ A J 8 6 4
8 3
10 9 8 2
♣ 9 2

♠ 9 2
7 6 5 2
K 7 6 5 3
♣ Q 4

♠ K Q 10 5
Q 10
♣ A K J 8 7 5

West North East South
Pass 1 ♣
Pass 1 Pass 2 ♠
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 ♣
Pass 3 Pass 3 NT
Pass 4 ♣ Pass 5 ♣
(All pass)

Clubs split, and East holds the diamond king, so I make seven.

It's a percentage slam, but just barely. I once asked Vic Mitchell how my partner and I should have bid to reach a slam much like this one.  His response was, "If you'd bid it and it had gone down, we'd be talking about how you could stay out of it."  I think he had the right attitude. If a slam is somewhere around fifty percent, you shouldn't care too much whether you bid it or you don't.  If either of us held the club queen and we failed to bid it, we'd need to figure out what went wrong.  As I said earlier, I would bid slam if you add the club queen to my hand. I assume the same is true of partner.
I do think, however, that my four club bid might have been a poor choice. Perhaps four hearts would have painted a better picture of my hand, assuming partner understood this to agree clubs.

At the other table, my teammate overcalls one club with one spade. I approve. North bids two hearts. South bids three notrump and buys it. West leads the ten of diamonds. Declarer takes his ace, crosses in hearts, and plays a club to the jack. Making six.

Me: +640
Jack: +690

Score on Board 92: -2 IMPs
Total: -91 IMPs


  1. Philip, you didn't comment on partner's 3NT bid. You've bid hearts twice. I would think 5 hearts would be more descriptive, if that still means "bid 6 if your suit is good." Looking at his hand, it doesn't take much to make a slam in hearts, with Q-10H and a singleton A-D undescribed so far.

    What are your thoughts?


  2. I don't think my 3H bid promises slam interest. I could just be worried that my diamond stopper is shaky and that 5C is the right game. So I don't think 5H by partner is allowed. I'm not even sure 3H shows five hearts. I doubt many partnerships could say with any confidence what the bid means. In practice, everyone seems to think it means whatever the hand they happen to hold at the time suggests would be a useful meaning, which is why auctions like this make me nervous.