Sunday, September 30, 2012

Event 3 - Match 8 - Board 5

Board 5
Our side vulnerable

♠ A K J 10 2 6 4 Q ♣ A Q J 10 9

Partner opens one diamond, I respond one spade, and partner bids three diamonds.

Since we play Acol two-bids, this can be about half a trick lighter than a standard three diamonds. Still, it's highly unlikely we are off two fast heart tricks. It's probably less than 10%, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm more worried that we belong in a grand.

My first thought is to bid Blackwood and bid seven notrump if partner shows three key cards. All we need is to run two of our three suits. Diamonds should run if partner has the jack or seven of them and might run even if he doesn't. I would estimate the chance that diamonds run at about 75%. That may seem low. Indeed, partner will try to avoid three diamonds with a textureless suit like ace-king empty sixth. But sometimes he has no choice. The fact the we play weak notrumps helps somewhat. Since our one notrump rebid is strong, partner might bid it with, say, a 1-3-6-3 pattern and a sub-par diamond suit. But if he has a club singleton instead of a spade singleton and too many high cards for a minimum rebid, what else can he do but bid three diamonds?

If diamonds run, then I need partner to have one of the missing black-suit honors. The chance of that happening is pretty good, too. But it's not certain. Partner might have ace-king or ace-queen of hearts and no black honor.

I would be willing to bid a grand opposite three key cards if I needed just for diamonds to come home or just for partner to have a black-suit honor. But I need both of those things. And gambling on a parlay is usually not a good idea. I could bid Blackwood, then, if partner shows three keycards, follow with five notrump to find out if partner has the club king. But Jack doesn't show specific kings over five notrump, so that won't work.

I can't bid a grand with any confidence, so I'll turn my attention to finding the right small slam. It's not hard to envision hands where we belong in six notrump rather than six diamonds. Imagine, for example, we have all the high cards except the heart ace and the diamond king. It's harder to construct hands where six diamonds is better. I don't particularly want to play six notrump from my side, however. If I bid three spades, perhaps partner will bid three notrump. Then I can raise it to six. Unfortunately, this won't work if partner has three spades or queen doubleton. In either case, he will raise spades.

What if I bid three hearts? Partner is even less apt to bid three notrump now, since three hearts suggests club weakness. Over three spades, partner will have no qualms about bidding three notrump without a club stopper, since my failure to bid three hearts suggests I'm not worried about clubs.

I bid three spades, and partner bids four spades. At least I can rule out a grand now. Partner would cue-bid with the spade queen and ace, ace-king in the red suits. So where do I stand? Six diamonds still looks better than six spades. Even if doesn't matter which side we play it from, a heart lead could easily kill the only dummy entry. The clearest way to suggest playing in diamonds is to jump to six diamonds now. Since I bothered to rebid spades, partner will know I have doubts that diamonds is the right strain.

I bid six diamonds, everyone passes, and RHO leads the deuce of clubs.

♠ A K J 10 2
6 4
♣ A Q J 10 9

♠ 8 6
9 7 5 3 2
6 3 2
♣ 8 6 2

♠ 7 5 3
A K Q 10
8 7
♣ 7 5 4 3

♠ Q 9 4
J 8
A K J 10 9 5 4
♣ K

West North East South
Christian Phillip Floyd Jack
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 3
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
Pass 6 (All pass)

Making seven. So it was important to play this from the right side, but we couldn't know what the right side was without looking at the opponents' hands.

I sympathize with the opening lead. If West's objective was to establish a trick and hope his partner has a spade or diamond entry with which to cash it, then the club was correct. A second round club trick is more likely to hold up than a second-round heart trick.

Was I wrong in my assessment that partner was 90% to have a heart control? Maybe 90% was high. But I still think the chance of being off two heart tricks was too slim to worry about, especially since I had other problems to solve. Besides, as we see, sometimes you make slam even if you are off two cashing tricks provided you don't pinpoint the lead. In addition, I think partner's three diamond bid was a bit thin. I won't go so far as to say that he overbid, but I don't think I would choose it myself.

A few weeks ago, I posted my hand as a bidding problem, giving the auction up to three diamonds. By far the most popular action over three diamonds was four clubs. I don't see how that bid solves any of the problems this hand presents. The second most popular choice was four diamonds. I"m not sure what that bid accomplishes either. Three hearts, three spades, and four notrump are the only bids that make any sense to me and the only bids I even considered. Yet, combined, they received only 14% of the vote. I think most of the respondents were thinking about the wrong things. They were asking "How can I describe my hand?" rather than "How can I find out what I need to know?" Which question is appropriate depends on the hand. But this hand surely falls into the latter category.

One person suggested an initial response of two clubs rather than one spade. I did briefly consider that. I know there is school of thought that you should respond two clubs with equal length in the black suits when your hand is in the slam range. It's easier to get a force established after a two-over-one, and the auction frequently times out better. I agree with that approach when you are four-four in the black suits, but I'm not so sure about it when you are five-five. In my experience, the auction doesn't always go as planned, and sometimes it becomes awkward to show the fifth spade.

Still, I thought it was worth a try, so I rebid the hand to see what would happen after a two club response. Partner still bids three diamonds. (Now I fully agree with his choice. The king of clubs is a bigger card on this auction.) Already we are better placed. Three diamonds promises better diamonds after a two-over-one than after a one-over-one, since opener doesn't need to jump just to show extra high cards. So my stiff queen should now be adequate to solidify his suit. Over three diamonds, I bid three spades, and partner bids four spades. Partner wouldn't suggest a four-three spade fit unless he didn't have a heart stopper, so I can practically call his hand. I bid five spades, just in case partner has a singleton heart. Partner passes, and we are plus 650. How about that? Here I was worried about losing the fifth spade. Ironically, concealing the fifth spade and discovering that partner was willing to play a four-three spade fit was the key to the auction.

Our opponents also reached six diamonds, but they were down one. Whether they had a more descriptive auction or whether my teammate guessed better on opening lead I can't say.

Table 1: + 1390
Table 2: +100

Result on Board 5: +16 imps
Total: +31 imps


  1. Hi Phillip, you discuss bidding clubs first with 5/5 in the blacks. My partner and I had two hands yesterday where responder had a game forcing five-major SIX-minor hand.

    The first was AQ9xx, -, xx, AK9xxx and partner opens 1D (4+). A 2C response would be forcing to game, do you prefer that or 1S? Any difference after a 1H overcall (1S now shows 5 and 2C is F1, not GF)?

    The second was AKJxx, Jx, KQJxxx, -, partner opens 1C (2+). We play transfer style responses so the options are 1H (4+S, partner will show support in some fashion with any 3+S) or 2D (5+D, GF).

    On both hands we elected to show the major first, and both hands wondered if it would have been better to start with the minor!

    Thanks for your blog, much appreciated.


  2. I'm a firm believer in bidding the six-card suit first when you are six-five. Playing in your longer suit can mean the difference between maintaining control and getting tapped out. So I would have shown the minor first in all of your examples (with or without the one heart overcall).