BBO Prime bidders challenge: the Panel Comments – January

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 21-1 – January 2021

Welcome one and all to the inaugural edition of the BBO Prime Bidding Challenge. I would like to start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year: one surely does not need 2020 vision to predict that 2021 will be an improvement on its predecessor, nor that this will be the last prediction made in this article. Many thanks to the members of our expert panel who shared their wisdom with us this month, and to everyone who entered our first monthly competition. In addition to the monthly prize, entrants’ best nine scores over the course of the year will be aggregated so that we can crown an annual winner in December. So, don’t forget to email your entries each month: the hands for Set 21-2 are already posted here.

Enough waffle from me: on with the hands:

HAND 1.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
3 NT101047
2 :hearts:735
3 :clubs:636
2 NT2023
3 :diamonds:0011
4 :diamonds:003
4 NT002
2 :diamonds:001
4 :clubs:001
5:diamonds:001

A sizeable majority, with two-thirds of the panel choosing 3NT, showing a hand too strong for a non-forcing jump to 3. Some were content with their choice:

BRINK: 3NT. Usually this shows long diamonds and a hand like this.
BOCCHI:
3NT. Normally shows these cards, perhaps with the additional J.
CHAGAS: 3NT. Maybe my diamonds could be a little bit better, but I can find no other bid to describe my length and strength.

Whilst a couple had misgivings about the choice of opening bid:

VERBEEK: 3NT. I wish I had opened the hand with a strong 2♣. Now I am hoping we do not miss slam. Such a nice hand.
COHEN: 3NT. Way too strong for only 3, so it is this (which would typically be more in diamonds, less on the side), or a phony reverse or jump-shift. I think a 2♣ opening then 3 would have been more comfortable.

Some settle for the majority choice as they like the alternatives less:

ROBSON: 3NT. It’s either this or fabricate 3♣, which is not my style. I like to play Gazzilli here, so 2♣ showing any 16+. 3NT is not ideal: we may miss a slam, and my spades are better than partner may expect, but that may work to my advantage if West leads a studious ♠K from ♠Kxx, dummy tabling ♠Qxxxx
DE WIJS: 3NT. Feels like a good hand to play a strong club system because of the good slam potential. I hate fake 2/3♣ bids, so I am stuck with 3NT for now.
BIRD: 3NT. I don’t see how bidding a false 2 or 3♣ is any better than this. Indeed, both those efforts look risky to me. I considered 2NT, but it’s surely better to advertise the good diamonds. 

David is the only panellist to mention 2NT, although that was the choice of nearly a quarter of competition entrants. Of course, it shows the general high-card strength, so I have awarded it some marks, but it does not get across the extra playing strength afforded by the long diamonds. Partner will just raise to game, never thinking about a diamond slam with two low cards in the suit. So, what of those much-despised alternatives?

BROCK: 3♣. I have the agreement that if partner raises and I go back to diamonds, then I don’t really have a club suit. I want to make a forcing bid that leaves me as much room as possible. Second choice 3NT.
WANG: 3♣. I like 3NT to show a singleton or two small spades, and the diamond suit needs to be a bit stronger.

Zia also wouldn’t have started from here.

ZIA: 3♣. I would have opened 2♣ and rebid 3NT showing a long minor. I now bid 3♣ as I am too strong for 3NT. (In my system 3 shows a forcing jump in diamonds.)

Brad offers an observation often proposed in these forums.

MOSS: 2. The least of all evils. When in doubt, make the cheapest bid.

Thomas also makes a very valid point.

BESSIS: 2. I am too strong for a 3NT rebid, so I have to “invent” a second suit to start a forcing process. 2 leaves us way more room than 3♣, so that’s my bid.

Eric delves deeper into the options.

KOKISH: 2. 3NT shows solid diamonds and a stiff spade for many (most) of us, and whether one prefers the “safer” 3♣ to the cheaper force of 2 is a personal choice. A heart raise would confirm 5+♠ and so would not be tragic, but this complex hand needs room to grow and that risk is worth taking. 3♣ often forces a strain choice on responder when his diamond support is modest. If 3 were the default continuation with no clear direction and strain issues, I’d like 3♣ a bit better.


Make of the debate what you may, but we have a clear majority for 3NT amongst our experts. When the hand occurred at the table, partner held Kxxxx/xx/xx/Axxx so 6 was a better contract than 3NT (2-2 diamonds or 3-3 spades in 6, whereas you need diamonds 2-2 in 3NT). Diamonds were 2-2, so 3NT and 6 were both making. If you were going to stop in game, though, you wanted to be in 5, but I suspect that 3NT would probably have ended the auction most of the time. Whether the alternatives would have fared any better is not clear, although perhaps 3♣ would have highlighted the heart weakness. Readers’ options which failed to score include 3, which is clearly not enough on this hand, and 4, which usually shows primary spade support, something like AKxx/Qx/AKQJx/xx, so not this hand at all.

HAND 2.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
5 :clubs:10943
4 :spades:831
6 :clubs:610
6 :hearts:511
4 :hearts:3240
4 NT0012
5 :diamonds:002
6:diamonds:001

Readers were almost equally split between two choices, whilst our expert panel produced a decisive majority for advancing beyond game. In addition to the majority choice, the panel also came up with three other alternative moves towards slam. Although it was the choice of 40% of competition entrants, only two member of the panel were sufficiently depressed by news of partner’s singleton opposite their second suit to stop in game, hence the low mark:

BROCK: 4. For me, the splinter denies opening values. I can’t underwrite the five-level so I’ll take the low road. Second choice 4♠, a psychic cue-bid.
BESSIS: 4. I play not very strong direct splinters (about 7-10 HCP), so I could easily find partner with something like Jxx/Qxxxx/x/AQxx, or so many other hands opposite which I could be in grave danger at the five-level. I could also hit a perfecto, with partner having most of his values in spades, but as I don’t have room to investigate safely, I prefer to go low.

Brad prefers his splinters to show more…

MOSS: 5♣. I like to play a splinter with no room to cue-bid as showing a good hand, although I certainly understand playing the opposite. 

I think, for most, a splinter is limited to around 9-12 HCP. Even so, everyone else still likes their hand enough to commit beyond game with various degrees of enthusiasm.

FREDIN: 5♣. I feel like I am bidding too much, though.
BIRD: 5♣. At least this is a descriptive try, denying a spade control. If most of the panel signs off in 4, I will have to agree with them.

At the other end of the scale, Wen Fei has much loftier ambitions…

WANG: 5♣. Maybe I am telling the opponents to lead a spade, but maybe we can also make a grand slam, so I want to bid 5♣.

A number of the 5♣ bidders mentioned an alternative possible cue-bid.

BOCCHI: 5♣. A lot depends on whether he has five hearts. Perhaps I should make a spade cue bid: it is very risky, but the world is for brave people.

Norberto Bocchi

ZIA: 5♣. Although, in real life a 4♠ bid may slip out.
VERBEEK: 5♣. Telling them what to lead, but I guess they will probably know that anyhow. Now partner can make the right decision. The alternative would be to lie and bid 4♠.
CHAGAS: 5♣. The honest bid. In my youth I’d probably have bid 4♠…

Although only a sprinkling of panellists, of various ages, did choose the alternative, it received enough mentions from those in the majority to get upgraded in the marking…

BRINK: 4♠. We could make anywhere from ten to thirteen tricks. I know I don’t want a spade lead, so I’ll take a shot at 6 but, on the way, I’ll make a 4♠ cue bid. With a club lead I surely have more chances. 
DE WIJS: 4♠. My hand is good enough for slam and the only worry is my spade suit. Fake cue-bidding seems like the best practical way to a making slam. I will bid slam over partner’s next bid (or respond to keycards). Sometimes I suppose I might miss a grand, but at least Zia will like this!

Simon is not the last panelist this month to make a bid with the mercurial Pakistani in mind.

KOKISH: 4♠. Tempting to give up on seven and shoot out 6h, but there is no reason we can’t make seven, or only four, depending on partner’s view of what a one-under splinter should deliver in the side suits. I want partner to like spade honors and I hate to make my first slam try in a short suit without agreement to that effect. If they double 4♠, partner will redouble with the ace and I might know enough soon to help us do the right thing. Besides, if we can blow off the spade lead, how can that be bad? It would be useful to know more about our splinter ranges, especially when the splinter is directly below the trump suit.

Larry has a flight to catch, perhaps. After all, if you are going to blast the slam, can it be wrong to try to deflect the lead with 4♠ first?

COHEN: 6. Science might tip the opening lead. I’d rather blast and live with the occasional loss of the first two or three spade tricks.

Andrew is also plowing a lone furrow, although I am unclear how using up an extra level is an improvement.

ROBSON: 6♣. If you can splinter, partner, so can I. I can hardly stop out of slam given my powerhouse (outside spades). Partner will know AKQx/xxxxx/x/Kxx is a grand. Naturally, this is a bit pushy but when guessing we may as well aim high.

It sounds as it Andrew would cue-bid a singleton at the five-level but intends his jump cue-bid as void-showing. Although heavily outgunned, the conservative bidders were likely to have been right at the table as partner held Axx/98xx/x/AJxxx, so slam was worse than 2-2 trumps as you also needed some luck in diamonds.

HAND 3.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
5 :hearts:1079
4 :diamonds:9740
3 :clubs:711
4 :spades:4119
5 :diamonds:104
3 :spades:0017
3 :hearts:005
2 :hearts:001
4 :clubs:001
3 :diamonds:001
PASS001

Although no single action attracted a majority, most panelists score highly as it turned out to be almost a straight two-way bun fight. Do we agree partner’s spade suit via a 4 splinter bid or jump to game in our own seven-card suit and ignore the support for partner? Let’s hear from the optimists first…

WANG: 4. I do not have a bid to show 7+4♠, so 4 is my first choice.

A couple do not sound overly convinced by their choice…

BROCK: 4. With misgivings. I’d much prefer not to lock us into spades but I’m not sure how to avoid doing so.
FREDIN: 4. I feel like I am bidding too much here as well. It might also play much better in hearts. 
ROBSON: 4. Yes, the hand may play better in hearts; but it may not. ♠AK9x is a very powerful holding indeed, control-wise.

But, it was the allure of a possible slam bonus that tipped the scales for some.

BRINK: 4. We might have a slam. There is something to be said for bidding 4: if my hand is forced to ruff early, you might be short of tricks in 4♠, whereas 4 is very likely to make. Despite this, I don’t want to give up on slam so I have to start with a splinter.

Zia sums up the dilemma succinctly…

ZIA: 4. An impossible problem. If it is a game hand, 4 will be best, but if we belong in slam then 4 is more likely to get us there. As I always think of grand slams, I have to start with a splinter. Unfortunately, we may belong in hearts even in slam.

For a change, an accurate prediction. Do the 4 bidders make a more convincing argument for their choice?

DE WIJS: 4. Granted, this looks weird. However, with silent opponents at this vulnerability, I think partner is likely to have diamond length/strength. Therefore I’m not entertaining slam possibilities and 4 will often be a better contract than 4♠.
CHAGAS: 4: Even if partner has five spades, getting to dummy to cash our heart winners could be very awkward if they lead diamonds early.

Larry Cohen

COHEN: 4. Since partner is a passed hand, slam is unlikely. Let’s play the game that rates to handle easier. Even a 7-0 heart fit might be better than a 4-4 spade fit. Imagine QJxx/–/Qxxx/Axxxx opposite, for example. You just lose a couple of high trumps and perhaps a spade ruff in hearts, but ten tricks in spades will be a struggle.

A couple of our elder statesmen recall how we used to bid these hands.

BIRD: 4. Ancient text-books told us that this sequence must show some spade support, since otherwise you would have opened with a Strong 2. That inference is no longer valid with everyone playing weak two openings, of course. Even so, Reese had strong views on playing in the long suit with 7-4 shape. Who am I to disagree with him?
KOKISH: 4. I used to play a 3NT rebid to indicate 4s and 6+ strong hearts, usually with no side-suit honours, but this hand doesn’t quite meet the requirements for a pet treatment of that ilk. Indeed it’s popular these days to use the 3NT rebid as 3♠ and 6/7. As the hearts may be of no value if trumps are 4-1 in spades, particularly if the ♣K is not an entry, I’ll settle for the bid that best offers the chance to keep control. In old-fashioned Acol 4 implies a spade fit, FWIW.

Thomas sums up for this group.

BESSIS: 4. I am aware that I may even be able to make a spade grand slam opposite as little as, say, QJxxxx/–/Jxxxx/Ax. However, I think 4 will very often be a better contract than 4♠, and this is probably my last and only chance to play in hearts. As partner is a passed hand, I believe my chances to win a swing by playing 4 rather than 4♠ are higher than the odds of reaching a good slam.

The top score always goes to the bid chosen by most members of the panel. With seven panellists choosing each of the two popular options on this deal, the 10 marks goes to the faction with the stronger argument and the other group will have to settle for 9/10. High marks for most of the panel then, but not so for many readers. This option, chosen by a significant minority of readers, but only one panellist, seems to get the worst of both worlds

BOCCHI: 4♠.  Perhaps 4 is an alternative, but it depends on the style of play

One of our Dutch world champions tries to keep all of her options open…

VERBEEK: 3♣. Probably it is better to play in hearts than in spades. To try to find out, I start with a fantasy bid.

Indeed, perhaps partner will tell you something useful such as showing some heart support, for example? Now you may think that is a fantasy when you hold this hand, but he might well have done exactly that as he held 10xxx/Qx/xxx/AQJx. Reaching the best contract (6) is very tough, but even game in spades had to be carefully handled on repeated diamond leads (South was 1-2-5-5 shape with the A, so there was no spade ruff against hearts). Close to half of the readers scored 9/10 on this deal, but there were a remarkable twelve different actions chosen, many of them huge underbids. Very few considered the top-scoring bid, so perhaps there is something to be learned from the discussion.

HAND 4.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
4 NT10810
6 :clubs:857
5 :clubs:5368
PASS005
Dbl008
5 :spades:001
5 :diamonds:001

This hand is primarily a matter of valuation and whilst over two-thirds of readers chose to settle for game, only three panelists did so. With no panelist opting to defend, the rest all either bid slam or made a move towards one. Let’s start with the minority this time:

VERBEEK: 5♣. I am not going to guess 6♣ as I don’t like my two small hearts. LARSSON: 5♣.
ROBSON: 5♣. We may have a perfecto slam if partner is short in both majors, but this action seems middle-of-the-road. In fact, what other choice is there? I predict unanimity.

Andrew wins the prize for the month’s least accurate prediction. Regular readers of this type of feature will recognize that predictions of unanimous panels are rarely correct, and are often a long way off, as here. A substantial minority simply took the bull by the horns…

BIRD: 6♣. I spent 25 years or so on the
Bridge Magazine panel, carefully fostering my reputation as a timid under-bidder. As I approach near-senility, perhaps the time has come to try a different style.
ZIA: 6♣. A make … a bluff ? Only the shadow knows. WANG: 6♣!
MOSS: 6♣. We could go down in five or make seven.

Not overly convincing, are they? Larry sums up the problem nicely…

COHEN: 6♣. If 4NT meant a good 5♣ bid (as many experts play), that would be my choice, but in a bidding panel it is probably Blackwood. I won’t bid 5 for two reasons (one, it may help them on lead and, two, I doubt we can scientifically reach a good grand slam anyway). My ♣KQx are beyond huge and we likely have a slam if we don’t lose the first two tricks. This would be easier if our suit were a major as I could then raise to 5M to ask for control of their suit.

The majority went for 4NT, although both Simon and Sjoert are realistic about how things might develop…

DE WIJS: 4NT. This really should be a good 5♣ bid, which I will explain to partner when/if he responds with keycards.
BRINK: 4NT. This should be a slam try in clubs. I am too strong for 5♣, so if partner takes it as RKCB then I hope his answers are 1430 so that we can pass 5♣ when we are missing too many key cards.
BOCCHI: 4NT. It’s very Italian style to play 4NT as an invitational 5♣ bid.

And English…

BROCK: 4NT. For me this is a good 5♣ bid.

And Brazilian too.

CHAGAS: 4NT: This should show a better 5♣ bid.

In fact, just about everywhere…

BESSIS: 4NT. Partner should understand that I am inviting slam in clubs.
FREDIN: 4NT. I hope partner will understand this as a good 5♣ bid. I have too much in clubs to settle for game.

Eric sums up for the plurality…

KOKISH: 4NT. A strong raise in clubs in the ‘Last Train’ family, but this is a huge hand and might well be worth driving to slam anyway. East may be worried about his trump suit, having already volunteered a rebid at the four-level, so I have reservations about putting too much pressure on him.

Partner had AK/ —/J10xx/AJ10xxxx so a grand slam was on the (losing) diamond finesse, but you certainly want to get to 6♣. With Blackwood not particularly helpful when our suit is a minor (as the response often commits you to slam anyway), 4NT is better used as a stronger (or weaker) 5♣ bid, and readers might benefit from discussing this type of auction with their regular partners

HAND 5.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
PASS10531
1 :spades:8433
2 :spades:8436
3 :spades:630

Marks for everyone on this deal! You are in second seat after a pass on your right with neither side vulnerable, so what, if anything, do you open? This should be a straightforward everyday problem, surely. And yet, this turned out to be by far the most contentious problem of the set, with the panel split almost evenly in four directions, and an equally tight, although only three-way battle, amongst the readers. This time, we start with the largest group and, for Thomas and Peter, it would seem that the other option is a weak two:

BESSIS: Pass. It wouldn’t cross my mind to open a preempt with such a suit as AQ10xx on the side

Thomas Bessis

FREDIN: Pass. That’s my style. One opponent has passed, so I don’t need to make an off-shape preempt.
LARSSON: Pass

Sally is prepared to consider a couple of alternatives

BROCK: Pass. Not sure that I’d say the same on a different day! I would not open 2♠. Either 1♠ or 3♠, but today I’m going to pass and await developments.

Whilst Norberto seems to think that 1is the second choice, although make what you will of his somewhat cryptic comment:

BOCCHI: Pass. I don’t like to open with eight points. I think it’s easier to shake hands while passing.

Brad, Simon and Wen Fei go for the maximum pre-empt.

MOSS: 3♠. Any number of spades could be right.
WANG: 3♠.
DE WIJS: 3♠. Opening 2♠ with the idea of trying to get your clubs in also is possible. I think that’s unlikely to work, so I’m opting for more pressure.

I confess that I am in the next camp…

ROBSON: 1♠. Much too much playing strength for 2♠ and, indeed, for 3♠
VERBEEK:1♠. Second hand, so I don’t want to preempt against partner.
BRINK: 1♠. Usually I open 3♠ or 4♠. But in second seat I can go for 1♠. 
KOKISH: 1♠. Second seat pre-empts should be near classic IMO, but neither 2♠ nor 3♠ really fits. Opening 1♠ on this hand is relatively safe and should be a good start if partner has either game-forcing strength or a fit.

David thinks his choice is the ‘middle-of-the-road’ option:

BIRD: 2♠. I realize that the Director will mark up generously any panelist who advocates 1♠.

(Another off-target prediction. MS)

I don’t like that, nor any higher pre-empt in spades. Of course, I can see the downsides of 2♠, but everything else, including a Pass, looks more risky.

Gabriel even has a system for this hand, it seems.

CHAGAS: 2♠. Over 2NT, I jump in clubs. Old timers might open 1♠.

I assume he means you, David, so another missed prediction.

COHEN: 2♠. Zia will like this.

An accurate prediction this time…
ZIA: 2♠. And bid freely again.

Zia has highlighted a major flaw with 2♠. At the table, one player did open 2♠ and the auction continued 3-4♠-5 back to him. With such good playing strength for a weak two, he now felt obliged to bid again. Partner had AKJ/Kxxx/A10xx/xx, so ten tricks was the limit in spades but doubling 5 would have brought in +300 or +500.

HAND 6.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
PASS10837
4 NT744
5 :hearts:5220
5 :diamonds:4233
6 :diamonds:003
6 :hearts:003
5 :spades:001

At last, a hand on which the majority of both panelists and readers agree. North’s 4♠ bid is a fairly extreme action facing his partner’s non-invitational sign-off at the two-level. The first question is, should we overrule partner’s decision to defend? Exactly half of the panelists say ‘no’, as do just over a third of the competition entrants. The second question is, if we decide to bid on, how should we do so? Let’s start with those who are willing to accept partner’s verdict.

Sjoert Brink

FREDIN: Pass. Looks like 300-500.

Norberto is even more optimistic.

BOCCHI: Pass, My partner has doubled after my pre-emptive bid. Four down, or more 🙂

Eric makes an excellent point (as usual).

KOKISH: Pass. I believe this combination of bids has created a force for us over 4♠, so double is a pretty firm opinion.

And there is also some good theoretical advice from Sally…

BROCK: Pass. I choose to defend. My general rule is that if we hustle them into something then doubles are penalties but, if they get there under their own steam, a double is more just cards. Here I have bid 4 at unfavorable, so I must have a good hand and a good suit, and partner knows I have short spades. 

Larry sums up the case for the passers.

COHEN: Pass. Partner might have them killed, with tons of black cards. My 4 bid didn’t promise defense and I have lots of it. Besides, I couldn’t stand the thump of the QJ109 (maybe even another) of spades being snapped down in dummy in five of a red suit. Their auction limited their hands, so they could be in big trouble.

They’ve convinced me, but half of the panel disagrees. So, if we are going to remove the double, how should we do so? We should bid our second suit…

BIRD: 5. I have little idea how helpful partner’s hand will be for me, since he would double this N/S bidding on a wide variety of hands. I chose Pass at first, but our game/slam expectations must be worth more than 300 or so.
ZIA: 5. Partner will have a penalty double, but Qxxx/xx/Kx/Axxxx IS a penalty double and we might still make a lot of tricks in a red suit. 7/5 come alive!

We should rebid our hearts…

DE WIJS: 5. Defending 4♠ on this hand tends to disappoint. I’m not bidding diamonds because I don’t ever want to play there and I also don’t want to spoil the surprise.
MOSS: 5. Whichever is the stronger 5 bid (directly or 4NT first). For me, that would be a direct 5. The only way playing in diamonds could be right is if partner has a heart void and righty has four. We are more likely to pitch losing diamonds away. We could go down at the five-level, but that is not so likely and the chance of bidding slam is a huge payoff for bidding.

The final group start with 4NT, but their intentions thereafter are not all the same…

LARSSON: 4NT. I intend to follow with 5 next. I am hoping this sequence shows slam interest, although it might also be taken as differentiating 7-4 shape from a direct 5 showing 6-5 or 7-5.
ROBSON: 4NT. I will pull 5♣ to 5, implying this sort of suit disparity. I’ll apologize if partner is full of black stuff, but it could be a double game swing if partner has, for example, KQxx.
WANG: 4NT. I will then bid 5, I hope my partner will know, I am holding 7+5

Martine is always planning to play in hearts, but goes via 4NT to show slam interest.

VERBEEK:4NT. I will bid 5 next to show a slam invite in hearts.

Partner had QJxx/x/K/KJxxxxxx. The ♣A is onside, but ten tricks is still the limit in hearts on a trump lead. Defending 4♠-X gets +500.

HAND 7.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
3 NT101229
PASS6129
4 :diamonds:5235
5 :diamonds:004
3 :spades:003

Another everyday decision, with three fairly clearcut options from which to choose: do we pass for penalties, retreat to Four Diamonds or go for all the marbles in 3NT. Remarkably, not a single panelist mentioned Hamman’s Law, but the largest majority this month (75% of the panel) followed it anyway…

ROBSON: 3NT. I may as well aim for the vulnerable game bonus. The principle is that when you have to guess, choose the most lucrative target if you are right.
VERBEEK: 3NT. Not good enough hearts for penalty. Maybe there will be nine tricks in notrumps.

And another off-center prediction from a panelist…

BIRD: 3NT. This is the most difficult one so far. I predict a three-way split between Pass, 4x and my own humble suggestion.

In contrast…

BESSIS: 3NT. Not much alternative.
BOCCHI: 3NT. Easy bid. No choice.
LARSSON: 3NT
BRINK: 3NT. What else?
COHEN: 3NT. Let’s try for 600 with needing only nine tricks. Picture, say, Axxx/x/KJxx/AKxx.

A number of the 3NT bidders mentioned passing as their second choice, so I have elevated that option in the marking despite its meager support.

DE WIJS: 3NT. The good diamond suit is enough potential to make 3NT. Passing is the ‘safe’ plus score, but it’s very hard to get to more than 600 that way.
CHAGAS: 3NT. I would bid 3NT and if doubled run to 4. I would rather pass 3-X than bid 4 without getting a shot at 3NT first.
BROCK: 3NT. Second choice pass, but I am worried about too good a diamond fit.

Zia Mahmood

ZIA: 3NT. But I would pass against someone who pre-empts like I do!

Doesn’t almost everyone these days? There was a small minority for the most conservative action.

KOKISH: 4. This feels soft, but East is obliged to act with different hands, some of which would make 5, 3NT or Pass poor choices. The doubler plays advancer for something like 6-8 HCP when he intervenes, so we won’t miss some of our good games, one of which might well be 4♠.
WANG: 4.

Peter wins the prize for ‘fantasy of the month’…

FREDIN: 4. I can’t really decide if I should bid 3NT or 4. 4 has the upside that it may occasionally get us to a slam.

Only one panelist, but more than a third of the readers, chose what would have been the winning action at the table…

MOSS: Pass. Pretty clear for me.

Partner had AJxx/xx/Jx/AK10xx. Passing gets you +500. 4 and 3NT are both two down, although 3NT was allowed to make at one table.

HAND 8.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS ENTRIES (%)
4 NT1095
5 :clubs:8311
Dbl614
5 :hearts:5027
PASS3353

We finish this month with another high-level competitive decision, and a wide difference of opinion between the readers and our experts. Many readers may be surprised to see that a large majority of the panel ignore the age-old concept that, having pre-empted, you do not then bid again. Passing was the choice of more than half of readers, yet only three panelists. Because most panelists chose action over inaction, passing is downgraded in the marking. I have also awarded marks to a 5 bid, even though no panelist chose that option. Let’s start with the majority choice…

WANG: 4NT. If pass is not forcing, I will bid 4NT.
BRINK: 4NT, Inviting partner to choose between 5♣ and 5.
BROCK: 4NT. Allowing partner to prefer clubs now we have to play at the five-level.
LARSSON: 4NT. This should show 7♣/2 with good clubs
MOSS: 4NT. I can’t see passing with a stiff spade, and either strain could be right so I offer him the choice.
BIRD: 4NT. This choice, asking partner to choose between clubs and hearts, came at the end of a long journey via Pass and Double. I rejected doubling because, after a pre-empt, it might be read as Lightner. 

More than one panelist had an issue with the opening bid…

ZIA: 4NT. Please choose, partner. This is more like a 2♣ opener than a three-bid! 
ROBSON: 4NT. Take-out (clubs or hearts). However, I am much too strong for a non-vul 3♣ opening. Is partner really expected to bid 3NT with xxxxx/Axx/Axx/Qx?

I agree that you might be much weaker, but you would really open this 1♣ instead? Thomas sums up the case for the majority…

BESSIS: 4NT. Not clear, but I choose to compete with the singleton spades and those nice clubs. I bid 4NT to offer a choice (I would rather bid 5♣ with something like ♣KQJ10xxx, and I would often bid 5 with three of them). I hope partner won’t think I have a good 5 bid, but I don’t think that should apply here.

Other panelists had similar intentions, but chose a different way of expressing them…

CHAGAS: 5♣. Showing that I can also play 5, this strongly suggests a doubleton heart and a singleton spade. The main question is not what to bid, but whether to go to the five-level? I think yes.

Norberto erroneously questions the generosity of the conductor…

BOCCHI: 5♣. I think I don’t get many points, but for me 5♣ means I have a heart fit but I have nice clubs. DE WIJS: 5♣. This should imply heart tolerance. Another option would be 4NT, but with two low hearts and great clubs I feel 5♣ sends the better message. Also, 4NT gives the opponents some extra options. Obviously it could be right to pass 4♠. 

Eric offers yet another way of achieving the same goal.

KOKISH: Double. This just says that I believe our side should not be defending 4♠ undoubled, with the emphasis on offense. This is a very sound 3♣ even in second seat at neither vul, and the major suit shape suggests we belong in 5 or 5♣ if we should not be defending 4♠-X.

Finally, the small group who agree with the majority of the competition entrants…

COHEN: Pass. Who sent for me? Yes, I see that I am 1-2 in the majors the right way round, but I don’t think that is enough reason to take action.
VERBEEK: Pass, I told partner my hand with my 3♣ opening. 4 can be all kind of hands, even hands without any defense.

Not sure about his own choice…

FREDIN: Pass, I don’t like this bid either but!

And quite right he was too! Partner had xx/AKQJxxx/AK/Qx and, if you pass 4♠ he will soldier on to 5, leaving you with the decision whether to raise. The top clubs and singleton spade are all partner needs, and he will bid the slam if you take any positive action over 4♠. Many thanks to our panelists for their time and effort this month, and congratulations to the Brazilian legend Gabriel Chagas, whose score of 76/80 leads the pack. Sjoert Brink (75), Norberto Bocchi (72) and Jessica Larson (71) all returned excellent scores on what was a tough set of hands.

Gabriel Chagas
12345678TOTAL
Gabriel
CHAGAS
3 NT5:clubs:4:hearts:4 NT2:spades:PASS3 NT5:clubs:76
Sjoert
BRINK
3 NT4:spades:4:diamonds:4 NT1:spades:PASS3 NT4 NT75
Norberto
BOCCHI
3 NT5:clubs:4:spades:4 NTPASSPASS3 NT5:clubs:72
Jessica
LARSSON
3 NT5:clubs:4:diamonds:5:clubs:PASS4 NT3 NT4 NT71
Thomas
BESSIS
2:hearts:4:hearts:4:hearts:4 NTPASSPASS3 NT4 NT70
David
BIRD
3 NT5:clubs:4:hearts:6:clubs:2:spades:5:diamonds:3 NT4 NT70
Sally
BROCK
3:clubs:4:hearts:4:diamonds:4 NTPASSPASS3 NT4 NT68
Simon
DE WIJS
3 NT4:spades:4:hearts:4 NT3:spades:5:hearts:3 NT5:clubs:67
Peter
FREDIN
3 NT5:clubs:4:diamonds:4 NTPASSPASS4:diamonds:PASS67
Zia
MAHMOOD
3:clubs:5:clubs:4:diamonds:6:clubs:2:spades:5:diamonds:3 NT4 NT65
Andrew
ROBSON
3 NT6:clubs:4:diamonds:5:clubs:1:spades:4 NT3 NT4 NT65
Larry
COHEN
3 NT6:hearts:4:hearts:6:clubs:2:spades:PASS3 NTPASS64
Eric
KOKISH
2:hearts:4:spades:4:hearts:4 NT1:spades:PASS4:diamonds:Dbl64
Brad
MOSS
2:hearts:5:clubs:4:hearts:6:clubs:3:spades:4 NT4:diamonds:4 NT61
Martine
VERBEEK
3 NT5:clubs:3:clubs:5:clubs:1:spades:4 NT3 NTPASS60

MARKS:

HAND 1:  3NT 10, 2 7, 3♣ 6, 2NT 2
HAND 2: 5♣ 10, 4♠ 8, 6♣ 6, 6 5, 4 3
HAND 3: 4 10, 4 9, 3♣ 7, 4♠ 4, 5 1
HAND 4: 4NT 10, 6♣ 8, 5♣ 5
HAND 5: Pass 10, 1♠ 8, 2♠ 8, 3♠ 6
HAND 6: Pass 10, 4NT 7, 5 5, 5 4
HAND 7: 3NT 10, Pass 6, 4 5
HAND 8: 4NT 10, 5♣ 8, Dbl 6, 5 5, Pass 3