BBO Prime bidders challenge: April Panel Comments

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 21-4 – March-April 2021

Welcome to the fourth BBO Prime Bidding Challenge. This month’s guest panelist is Kresten Sandager Kristensen (BBO; kesse) from Copenhagen, Denmark, the winner of Set 21-2. Kresten is 66 years old and has been playing for nearly 40 years. He says that he once played just under the top level in Denmark but now plays only for fun and amusement. He used to watch the big tournaments on BBO VuGraph and started playing online when his local club closed due to corona.

The panel produced majorities on three of this month’s problems and clear favorites on the other five. However, there was often a wide discrepancy between the panel’s view and that of competition entrants, and the much sought after 10s were hard to come by on some hands. On only two of the eight hands did the readers’ most popular choice coincide with that of the panel. So, once again, I hope that readers will learn something from the insight of our experts. Enough from me, let’s get on with the action…


3 :hearts:101215
4 :hearts:7624
4 :spades:2020
3 :spades:003
4 :clubs:003
5 :spades:001
7 :spades:001

Just three choices from our experts, with one of those garnering a substantial majority. Our competition entrants, however, came up with a remarkable twelve alternatives, with less than 40% matching either of the panel’s top two choice. Let’s hear first from the majority…

BOCCHI: 3. Good hand. Easy.
DE WIJS: 3: It seems obvious to show longer hearts and extra strength.
SONTAG: 3. Shows a good hand with five spades and six hearts.
BRINK: 3. To be honest, I would have overcalled 4. But now, having showed majors already, 3 is the bid. It describes your hand beautifully! 
SENIOR: 3. Showing extras with longer hearts than spades. Seems obvious.

Kresten is alone in thinking that 3 is forcing…

KRISTENSEN: 3. Strong hand with a strong suit and game forcing. Slam is in the picture, and hopefully partner can cue in clubs.

…but the rest were happy that it isn’t…

FREDIN: 3. I am going to pass if partner can only bid 3♠.

Andrew ROBSON: 3. Pretty clear for me. Not 100% forcing either, which is fine as partner may have two low spades and a singleton heart.

KOKISH: 3. This hand is not as good as it might appear. Imagine partner with a 2155 shape with, some values in diamonds and no high club.
BROCK: 3. Partner should be able to evaluate spade cards.
LAVEE: 3. Partner may only have two spades, one heart, and a weak hand. Bidding 3 shows 6+ and interest in game.

Zia sums up for the majority with the month’s most accurate prediction…

ZIA: 3. Pretty ideal description of my hand. I would be surprised if the learned members didn’t duplicate this perfect bid! 

Most of them did exactly that, although a few were slightly more optimistic…

KLUKOWSKI: 4. I would like to show partner that my preference to play hearts is really big. Is my hand good enough to be in a game? I hope so!
WANG: 4. I hope partner has some points and some fit.
LARSSON: 4. 3 is the alternative, so naturally I go for 4.
BIRD: 4.3 would show a good hand with 5-6 shape, yes, but I see no reason why it should be forcing.

Most agree with you, David.

COHEN: 4. If I bid only 3, I doubt partner would know that the ♣K or ♠Q10x is enough to bid game

Kate hits the nail fairly firmly on the head.

McCALLUM: 4. Important to strongly emphasize the hearts as partner may have something like ♠Qx and xx. 4 is a bit of an overbid, but partner won’t know what to do over 3 with, say, Kx/xx/xxxx/JTxxx or xx/xx/xxxx/AKxxx. 4 has some appeal as we can make slam facing Kx/xx/xxxx/KJTxx. The problem is that we may well end up in spades, so it’s not worth the risk looking for the perfecto.  

There you have it: some fairly emphatic reasons why more than half of the competition entrants are scoring poorly on this hand. We had just one maverick on the panel (and he is used to it).

CHAGAS: 4. Partner should read as doubleton club plus virtually everything else.Gabriel was correct in that it was a slam hand that needed partner to evaluate his club holding. However, he risks ending in the wrong slam, so the rest of the panel were quite right in emphasizing their hearts, as you can make slam only in that suit. Partner held Kxx/x/Qxx/KJ10xxx. Would he make a move towards slam over 3? Perhaps we’ll find out in a few months.


2 :clubs:10716
2 :spades:824
3 :diamonds:810
3 :spades:510
2 :diamonds:002
3 :hearts:001

No majority from the panel, but still a clear preference on a hand with a whole host of flawed options. Whilst 7/19 panelists chose to force to game with a fourth-suit 2, a similar number opted for minimum actions (1NT/2). What is clear from the comments, though, is that members of both groups were united in their dislike of 2NT, which is why the choice of close to 50% of competition entrants has been marked down marginally. I’ll leave you to listen to the debate.

COHEN: 1NT. A slight underbid, but have you seen the hands people open these days?
McCALLUM: 1NT. I hate it with no stopper, but it’s right on values and I see nothing else even remotely sensible.
WANG: 1NT. I want to bid 2NT, but positionally it does not look good with only four small cards in the unbid suit.
KLUKOWSKI: 1NT. No idea! I’d probably bid 1NT, although I’d prefer 2♣ as a fourth suit bid if it was not game forcing.

That was how we played fourth suit when I started in the 1980s, to cater for exactly this sort of hand. However, it has now become almost universally-played as game-forcing, which simplifies numerous other auctions.

BIRD: 2♠. 2♣ is forcing to game. On a hand with no fit and no stopper in the unbid suit, there is no reason to overbid. I will subtract a point or two and choose between the lower bids.
CHAGAS: 2♠. An underbid, but it feels like the suit to play. Maybe 3♠…?

Although a few mentioned it, only Sjoert was adventurous enough to take that action…

BRINK: 3♠. If 1 is unbalanced, my hand looks like 3♠. If it can be 4243 as well, though, then 2♠ is enough. 

Yes, we rebid notrumps on balanced hands if not raising partner, and systemically open 1§ with 4-1-4-4 shape, so 1-1 -1♠ promises at least 4-5 in the two suits. Perhaps, therefore, more might have taken the same route as Brian had they thought of it…

SENIOR: 3. There is no good answer to this and there never has been since everyone started to play fourth suit as game forcing. I assume that partner has shown an unbalanced hand so will usually have 5+. Having an invitational-range hand, I make the least bad invitational bid available to me.

Let’s hear from the largest faction on the panel…

DE WIJS: 2♣. Ok, I bite. My value bid is 2NT, but I hate doing that with these clubs, so I go big and force to game, hoping partner will be able to bid notrumps. If not, then partner will have to show his declaring skills in the 4-3 spade fit.
ZIA: 2♣. This would be normal with the ♣J more. Second choice 3♠. Does this auction show an unbalanced hand? (Yes. MS)
BROCK: 2♣. I know it’s an overbid but I like my spade/diamond holdings and it should get us to the best denomination (even if too high).
SONTAG: 2♣. An overbid but perhaps partner’s rebid will enlighten me. I am not a fan of jumping to 3♠ with only three-card support. 
KOKISH: 2♣. As I understand the method, partner’s 1♠ promises at least 4-5. In a system where 1♠ could still be 4-2-4-3, 2NT would be slightly more attractive, but it still runs the risk of wrong-siding 3NT. Raising to 3♠ risks a silly contract when East passes. 2♣ is GF, so it’s a slight overbid, even opposite a sound opener, and where do they grow those these days? Even so, it still seems the best bet since all of the alternatives also have flaws.
LAVEE: 2♣. I don’t know if XYZ is in the system. (Only after a 1NT rebid. MS) I would like to rebid 2NT showing 11-12 points and a stopper in the unbid suit, but this club holding is a problem. It’s way too unilateral to potentially wrong-side the notrump contract. I’d prefer to invite with this hand, but to what? Vulnerable and IMPs, I think it’s best to just force to game and probe for more information from the opener.

Norberto sums up for the plurality…

Norberto BOCCHI: 2. If we are going to get to 3NT, I want to play from the right side.

So, what did the readers’ supporters on the panel have to say?

LARSSON: 2NT. 1NT is the alternative, so naturally I bid too much.
KRISTENSEN: 2NT. Inviting to game with an equal distribution
ROBSON: 2NT. The ♠10 swings it (and I wouldn’t even countenance it without the ♣9). Hoping to hear partner shape out to 3, which I’ll happily raise. 

Not that convincing, are they? On this occasion, partner held AKQx/Qx/J109xxx/J so you would make a partscore in diamonds or spades, but the opponents cash the first seven against notrumps. Partner would correct to 2 over 1NT, so only those who made minimum bids (and Brian) would go plus on this occasion,


3 :clubs:101318
3 :diamonds:7516
3 :hearts:519
4 :clubs:509
3 :spades:203
4 :spades:0017
5 :clubs:0014
4 :diamonds:002
6 :clubs:001
5 :diamonds:001

This panel produce their largest majority of the month for a single action and only three choices in all, whilst the competition entrants make twelve different bids. The largest faction (just) agree with the panel’s choice, but still less than35% collect either of the top two marks. And yet, this hand seems very straightforward. For a start, we have so far promised only minimal length in a suit where we have a strong seven-card holding. Furthermore, having already shown a very strong hand (with our cue-bid on the previous round), there is no rush to guess the contract, so I am afraid you score zero if you jumped to any game or bid Blackwood. What is wrong with simply describing your hand now? Not a lot, say the panel…

BROCK: 3♣. For me, 2 creates a game force, so I don’t think this is really a problem.
BRINK: 3♣. I assume 2 is game forcing, so now I can bid 3♣.
SENIOR: 3♣. 2 set up a force. Now it is time to describe my hand a bit more.
LARSSON: 3♣. In my book this is completely forcing now. I could have jumped to 3♣ on the previous round, so this sequence shows an even stronger hand.SONTAG: 3♣. Clearly forcing
ZIA: 3♣. The Force is with us! 2set the scene for this.

It’s starting to sound repetitive, isn’t it? Oh, well, here are some more…

WANG: 3♣. Obviously, 3♣ is forcing.
BIRD: 3♣. Having forced to game with 2, I can reap the benefits by making the low bid of 3♣.
LAVEE: 3♣. 2 is game forcing so I have already shown a monster. Now I can show my long clubs. 

A couple of panelists at least acknowledged the alternatives…

KOKISH: 3. Forcing, because it was preceded by the 2 cue-bid. 3 is a subtly interesting alternative, as East cannot have four (else 2 last turn), but 3♣ leaves more room and describes a big suit. We might belong in 4♠ but that seems a narrow target to aim for, and 4♠ on a 6-2 fit might not be our best contrast regardless. 4♣ is certainly a sensible alternative, but we might need the room to see whether the weak hand has a few of the cards we’d like him to have.
KLUKOWSKI: 3♣. Forcing. I don’t think I am going to bid again if partner bids 3NT, so that’s why I don’t bid 4♣.

Andrew was alone in entertaining the possibility that 3 might end the auction…

ROBSON: 3♣. Surely 2 sets up a game force. If partner puts down the dummy, though, I doubt there’s a making game.

Simon sums up for the large majority.

Simon DE WIJS: 3♣. First things first. We forced to game with 2, so we now have to show our hand type. After that we will see if we belong in 4♠, 3NT or 6♣. 

There were a few who went for a different option, although their motives were not always the same…

COHEN: 3. Let’s torture partner some more and beg him to bid 3NT with diamonds stopped. I am not going to lose another vulnerable game swing at IMPs after stopping too low on Deal 2: picture Q10xxx/xx/Kxxx/xx opposite.
CHAGAS: 3. Should be asking for a stopper.

Neither Norberto nor Kate think 3 would be forcing…

BOCCHI: 3. I force and ask for a stop.
McCALLUM: 3. We can’t afford to give up on 3NT when 5♣ is not guaranteed. Second choice, 4♣ (forcing); 3♣ would be passable. 4 is somewhat tempting as it gets us to slam facing the A and the K. However, 4 will also lead to 4 when we belong in 5♣, or perhaps 5♣ when we belong in 4.

And one who opted for one of Eric’s other possibilities.

KRISTENSEN: 3. Showing heart values, in case partner can bid 3NT.

Partner had Q109xxx/Axx/J10xx/— so 3NT (losing 1§/4¨) and 5 (1/1/1 to lose) both go down when clubs do not run, but 4 loses just 1 and 1-2 trumps or 2 and one trump (depending on whether you ruff a diamond). After 3 you will, presumably, bid 3 over 3 or 3 and raise 3 to game.


5 :hearts:10726
6 :clubs:8412
5 :clubs:5113
4 :spades:0013
5 :spades:002
6 :spades:001
5 :diamonds:001

Something of a guessy situation, so perhaps it is no surprise that the panel failed to agree on a single action. They did have a clear frontrunner nonetheless, whilst readers offered eleven choices, the most popular matching the panel’s favorite. With a large majority of the panel opting for committal direct action, I have marginally downgraded the negative double in the marking. We start with the largest faction although, as you will see, there is not universal agreement as to the meaning of 5

COHEN: 5. I can’t see stopping short of 6♣, and I doubt this will get us to seven, so it is likely a waste of time.

You never know, Larry, although on this occasion you are right.

DE WIJS: 5. I give up on spades and will commit to playing clubs. Sure, opposite the dreaded 4-4-3-2 this is wrong. I just happen to think it is the most practical approach here and with the odds. 5 should show first-round control and a raise to 6♣ at least. 

Larry and Simon clearly think 5 agrees clubs. As do…

FREDIN: 5. I’ve seen this problem before. If partner cue-bids 5♠, I will bid 7♣.
LAVEE: 5. This is a grand slam try in clubs. Hopefully partner does not have only two clubs. Slam might go down, but 7♣ is a real possibility if partner has the right hand.

Michal and Wen Fie have different ideas, though…

KLUKOWSKI: 5. With my own agreements, I’d bid 5 as a good hand with ♠+m. Failing that, I’d bid 5NT pick a slam, hoping that partner knows spades is one of my suits (if I had both minors, I would start with 4NT). Of course, double might be a winning option, but I am not really considering it. 
WANG: 5. It’s too difficult, but I hope my partner understands that 5= ♠+m.

Some of the panelists recognized the hand from a recent Alt tournament…

ROBSON: 5. What I bid at the table. I thought this was clear. But next over partner’s 5♠, I probably should have bid 6♣, but in practice I went hunting for gold via 6: end result 7♠ down three!
ZIA:6♣. I’m not sure, but I think I know the hand and, if so, this bid didn’t work. 

You’re right, Zia, it didn’t, but nor did most of the other choices either.

SONTAG: 6♣. Best guess.
BIRD: 6♣. After South’s overcall, partner’s values are likely to fill most of the gaps in spades and diamonds. Whatever imperfections 6♣ may have, Double, 4♠ and 5♣ are poor alternatives.
CHAGAS: 6♣. If they double, I will run to 6♠…

Nice try, Gabriel, but they’d have doubled that too, sad to say. Norberto is hedging his bets in a slightly different way.And for the macho brigade…

BOCCHI: 5NT. Pick a slam. I hope that my partner, with 4/2♣ opens 1. (He certainly does! MS)

Sjoert was the only one to take the low road, and even he may have gone minus too.

BRINK: 5♣. Super difficult bid. I like to bid 5♣ and if they bid 5 then I bid 6♣. Then they might not sacrifice. Ok, I’ll take a minority view, but I strongly believe in my style. Mess with opponents. 5♣ is my bid…

Sorry Sjoert, but on this deal you wanted them to sacrifice (even at the four-level). I’m not sure I follow the logic here…

McCALLUM: 4NT. Takeout, presumably minors, but will follow with 5♠ over 5 to show spades and clubs, slammish. My first thought was 5, Exclusion. (A third possible meaning for 5? MS) But we could easily end up in a silly contract. Partner is not unlikely to have a balanced hand, and 4432 would not be a shock on this auction. Still… chances are good that clubs is a playable spot, but I still need to worry about two inescapable spade losers, so don’t think driving to slam is odds on. 

It sounds like you will end up in 5, and save the same couple of undertrick IMPs as Sjoert. Jessica also starts with 4NT but probably ends up with everyone else.

LARSSON: 4NT. The most difficult one of all. Double could be right, but I think he will pass too many times when slam is good. I bid 4NT, planning to continue with 5 over 5♣ and 6♣ over 5. Hopefully partner then gets it that I have ♣+♠.

These were the only members of the panel to get a plus score…

Brian SENIOR: Double. Everything else is very committal. I suppose that when I Double he will bid a four-card spade suit, in which case I will bid on. Unless he also has good hearts, when we will have to hope the penalty is adequate. Yes, we could miss even a grand slam in clubs, but what can we do? Don’t anyone tell me that the 4 bid means that partner cannot still be 4-4-3-2.

Not at all – close, in fact, he was 3-4-3-3.

KOKISH: Double. I’m an official hater of the 2+1♣ and here, where a bash at 6♣ is attractive, we may have nine spades and seven clubs. At the same time, West can’t very well bid his spades here, so what’s left is some sort of club raise and a negative double, which may not be so great when East passes with 4-4-3-2 shape and an indifferent hand. I am not sure that 5 does anything but delay the problem.
KRISTENSEN: Double. Take out. A grand slam could be possible if partner has a strong hand or no wastage in hearts. So I have to find out which black suit we should play in, and double seems the best way of doing that.
BROCK: Double. Probably idiotic, but if I don’t Double, I don’t know what suit to bid or at what level. So, let’s consult partner. I expect him to bid 4♠ with four, and otherwise look at his hand, but the double is mainly takeout. 

Partner had KJx/QJxx/Axx/Jxx so six of either black suit was a decent contact. Spades just needs any 3-2 trump break (ruff the heart lead, cash the top spades, cash clubs throwing a diamond and a heart, and ruff a diamond in the East hand). Clubs may go down with ♠Q wrong if trumps are 4-1, as you get forced at trick one and again when the opponents win their spade trick. At the table, spades were 4-1 offside (yes, ♠Q10xx with the heart overcaller) and of course clubs were 5-0, so your best result was doubling 4 for +500/800 (or playing 4♠ for +620).


5 :clubs:101321
4 :spades:8310
6 :hearts:834
5 :hearts:401
6 :clubs:001

I must have been in a benevolent mood when I marked this hand: although every panel member at least makes a slam try, I still awarded two more marks than it perhaps deserves to the Pass chosen by almost half of the competition entrants. Let’s see if our experts can explain why so many readers score poorly on this hand. We start with the majority…

ROBSON: 5♣. Partner must have a good hand, rather than merely a correctional one (with which they would simply have bid 3 over 3♣). I have some great cards and feel duty-bound to co-operate.
ZIA: 5♣. Seems pretty normal, as my cards are sexy.SENIOR: 5♣. For me partner has a good hand with hearts. I have support and no wasted values so I am worth a slam try.
COHEN: 5♣. I’ll save some typing; use my comment from #4 but with 6/7 instead of 6♣/7♣.
KOKISH: 5♣. I can’t think of a legitimate alternative.
BRINK: 5♣. cue bid… Over 5 I’ll bid 5. I guess everybody will bid 5♣.

Not quite everyone, but not far out as predictions by panelists go…

SONTAG: 5♣. Automatic.
McCALLUM: 5♣. I can pretty much drive to slam on values, but I don’t want to play 6 off two top diamonds, facing, say, ATxx/AKxxxx/QJ/x, when partner was only looking for the best game. And the other side of the coin… I have the best if partner has serious extras: with Axx/AKJxxx/AKx/x, he’ll be happy to hear about my ♣A and slam interest.
WANG: 5♣. Slam try.
CHAGAS: 5♣. I have much more than I promised.

Kresten sums up the panel’s view of this problem.

Kresten Sandager KRISTENSEN: 5. Cue and slam try. Partner could have something like Axxx/AKxxxx/Ax/x

BOCCHI: 5♣. Some people play this as showing 5+/4♠, but not me.

Norberto highlights the crux of the problem as I see it: the vast majority would see partner’s sequence as showing a one-suited hand that is too strong for a direct overcall. I therefore wonder if the rest of the panel are suffering from the same affliction articulated by David…

BIRD: 5. Whether or not I remembered to take my heart pills this morning, I am unwilling to risk 4 being passed out now. Partner has a strong hand and may realize why I would be unwilling to cue-bid in spades.

Despite the comments above, my feeling is that it is the two small factions on the panel who have got this one right. Indeed, I was tempted to award 10/10 to all three answers given by the panel.

FREDIN: 4. Cue bid

Simon highlights one reason why his choice is preferable.

DE WIJS: 4. This has to be a cue-bid. If unsure I would bid 5, but I trust partner to figure this one out as I want to give partner room to ask for key cards.

And Daniel hits on the other major reason for not bidding 5.

LAVEE: 4♠. This should be a cue bid for hearts. All of my values are working so I’m interested in 6 or 7.I think that 5♣ instead of 4♠ would deny a spade control.

And, proving that science is no substitute for good judgement…

BROCK: 6. For me, this is a good hand opposite and my values look huge.
LARSSON: 6. I can’t see that we make grand and/or figure out if it’s good. The small slam should be playable.
KLUKOWSKI: 6. I have four tricks for my partner, so 6 seems to be more or less where we belong. Of course, we might easily miss the grand (something like Axxx/AKxxxx/AK/x), but I have no idea how to get there anyway. Maybe if I bid 5♣,and 5♠ over partner’s 5? On the other hand, it might then be difficult to stop partner who has Ax/AKxxxx/AK10x/x, so, I just bid 6.

Perhaps I am doing the majority a disservice, and they all intend to carry on with 5♠ over partner’s signoff in 5, but I suspect not. East held 9xx/AKJxxx/AKx/K and, at both tables where I watched world class players bid these hands, West did advance with 5♣. With 5♣ ostensibly denying a spade control, 5 from partner would surely guarantee one, so East’s retreat to 5 seems clear. Down came dummy and declarer scored an easy +480. I’ll leave you to judge who had the best of the debate.


2 :clubs:855
3 :spades:002
2 :spades:001

What appears to be a fairly simple problem produced an amazing eleven different bids from the competition entrants. Meanwhile, the panel were split between the four most sensible options, one of which emerged as a clear favorite. So, what are those options? You have a choice of two underbids, an overbid or a risky fourth option. The two underbids are either a simple raise of partner’s suit on three or a minimum rebid of our own six-card suit? A large portion of competition entrants preferred the overbid, even though that choice may make it difficult to find a fit in the suit that is our most likely game. The fourth option is a risky waiting bid that may see us end up in a silly contract, but has the potential to unravel the conundrum of which red suit we should play, and also gets across our extra strength. Let’s start with those who rebid diamonds…

SENIOR: 3. A borderline jump rebid, which I upgrade because of the heart fit. He can check for a 5-3 heart fit readily enough if he is bidding on.

He can? He is supposed to advance with 3 with Jxxxx?

BRINK: 3. I’m happy as, in my own methods, I can bid 3 to show (6/3). But, in this case, I think 3 is the correct bid anyway. I guess Zia will bid 3 and say, what else? He might be right….
DE WIJS: 3. A mild overbid, but justified because of the secondary heart fit.  

In itself, upgrading your hand because of the fit with partner is okay, but how do you then get to play in hearts when it is right? Suppose he bids 3NT. Do you bid again and find a 4-4-1-4 shape opposite, or pass only to discover that game in one or both red suits is far superior?

CHAGAS: 2. No need to support hearts with three with a good six-card suit.
LARSSON: 2. Please bid again, partner.
BOCCHI: 2. With my regular partner I play that 2♠ shows a good hand with 3+. Playing natural methods, this bid is very hard.

Convinced? Neither am I. Since we have extra values, should we not prefer the bid that is most likely to encourage partner? Surely that is a raise of his suit rather than a rebid of our own.

ROBSON: 2. Heavy but, absent methods, what else?
ZIA: 2. A perennial problem with no pretty answer.
KLUKOWSKI: 2. In my own agreements I can bid 2♠, showing 15-17 with 6 and 3! Finally, I can use my brilliant agreement, because it never comes up in real life. Without this beautiful toy, I would have to bid 2.
BROCK: 2. It’s either this or 2/3. This is likely to encourage partner more than 2. And, if partner bids again, I should be able to describe the hand. Oh, for a 2NT rebid to show 6-3!

Both David and Larry mention that fourth alternative…

BIRD: 2. Chestnuts go mouldy after a while, and this is a very old one. I am willing to contemplate 2 or 3 instead, but not 2♣ (which some rate as a clever move). 
COHEN: 2. Great advertisement for a strong club system. There is no solution to this, so it’s just a question of which lie you are in the mood for. Will anyone bid 2♣? If you survive that, you get to raise hearts next.
ROBSON: 3♣. And 3NT over anything from partner, offering a choice.
PSZCZOLA: 3♣. If partner bids 3NT, that’s good. This also might help up reach slam,

Wen Fei sums up the feeling of the largest faction on the panel.

Wen Fei WANG: 2. I think 2 is better than 2,and 3 is an overbid.

So, what about those willing to end up with egg on their face?

FREDIN: 2. I will follow up with a heart bid showing 1-3-5-4 shape and 15-16 HCP.

Kresten hopes 2 is forcing, so I am sorry to disappoint him that it is not, otherwise I suspect many more would have opted for that choice.

KRISTENSEN: 2♣. Forcing for a round, to find out more about partner’s hand. The alternative is 2, but I think that is an underbid.
KOKISH: 2♣. Or 2. Or 3. 2♣ is a hopeful bid that often buys the time to find the best strain. I am always hopeful. I expect the inevitable derision from the British sector and probably others, but I remain unabashed.

No derision from this corner of the British sector.

LAVEE: 2♣. Rebidding 3 creates a very awkward auction. 2♣ is a simple solution, but not perfect. I plan to rebid 2♣ and then bid hearts on the third round of the auction to show 15-17 with a likely 1-3-5-4 distribution. 

Kate makes an accurate prediction, and persuades me to give marks to 3. Even though no panelist opted for that choice, a few mentioned it as a possibility…

McCALLUM: 2♣. Is anyone else tired of this hand? There is no perfect solution in standard bidding. You guess. 2♣? 3? 3? I’ve done well at the table with 2♣, unless clubs is the short suit, in which case I just raise hearts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 work out better at the table this time. I confess I might do it. It’s a fine hand for a 4-3 heart fit, and some days partner is dealt five hearts.

I confess that I am in the 2♣ camp (in my world it is between 2♣ and 2 with any diamond bid scoring zero). East had 10xxx/Kxxxx/x/KQJ, so 4 doesn’t need much more than a 3-2 trump break. Partner probably isn’t quite worth a try over 2 but he would surely pass 2. Over 3 he might pass, or perhaps try 3NT? Of course, partner has an obvious raise of 3. However, over 2♣, might he not just put down dummy? Yuk! Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men…



This hand generated the only overall majority vote from competition entrants, with comfortably more than half collecting top marks. It is also the third of this month’s hands on which both the panel and readers agree. I have to say, though, that I think they are both wrong. There are only three sensible options: do you make a negative double without four spades, support hearts with only a doubleton, or pass and hope that you don’t have to guess what to do when partner reopens with a Double? Let’s start with the most popular choice:

COHEN: Pass. In tempo. The real problem comes when partner reopens with double. If partner passes, we are fine right here.
ROBSON: Pass. The standard question: will I be happy if it goes “all pass”. Answer: yes. Now if partner reopens with double, I have a problem, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pass now.
ZIA: Pass. For now.
KLUKOWSKI: Pass. For now. Will see later on!
BROCK: Pass. 
KRISTENSEN: Pass. There is no good bid here. 2NT or 2 are possible, but could send the wrong message. So I take the low road, and hope to get a second chance to show my 9 points.
McCALLUM: Pass. Partner is unlikely to pass it out, and maybe someone will do something to alleviate my problem if I stay quiet for now. If not, and I have to bid over 2-P-P-Dbl, I’m no worse off than I am now. At least we have Lebensohl then.

Daniel sums up the case for the largest faction on the panel.

Daniel LAVEE: Pass. Double and 2 are imperfect. I don’t want to give my partner the wrong idea about my distribution and we could easily be best defending on this hand. The auction is unlikely to die in 2. If it does, I’m happy because my partner will likely have three diamonds. 

So, what of the alternatives?

FREDIN: 2. If I Pass, I will have a problem when partner re-opens.
BRINK: 2. I have some support, some points and otherwise I can’t bid my hand. I guess, people who don’t bid 2 just aren’t smart enough 🙂

I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but I agree with Sjoert.

KOKISH: 2. Passing requires a reasoned plan, but I am planless. With useful cards, the missing trump may not matter.
BIRD: 2. So much better than a pass, as I see it. If you pass instead and East re-opens with a double, you will have to bid 2 then. Partner may then place you with this shape and only one or two points.
CHAGAS: 2.If I pass and partner doubles, my eventual 2 would then show a much weaker hand.

The ladies did not even consider Pass…

WANG: 2. I have to do something.
LARSSON: 2. Hearts will always play better then spades, and if I Double of course partner will bid lots of them.

And if you don’t like 2, perhaps…

SENIOR: Double. I would double despite the missing spade. If I Pass, I will not have a sensible way to show this hand later in the auction, and I have too many values to just go quietly.
DE WIJS: Double. Yes, I am a spade shy for this, but I prefer that over trying to play catchup by passing a good 9-count here. 
BOCCHI: Double. Not a perfect double, but the world is not perfect 😊

Well, the passers were right on this one. At the table, I bid 2 playing four-card majors, which was not a success when partner had AKxx/Axxx/xx/Jxx, particularly when trumps broke 6-1. Playing 2/1 you can imagine partner holding AKxx/Axxxx/xx/Jx and your best result is still defending 2 for -110, as you are at least two down in any contract your way.


4 :clubs:8520
3 :spades:7513
4 :diamonds:514
3 :hearts:005

Once again, the largest group of readers has opted for a bid that gains no support at all from the panel. Indeed, a point made by many panelists is that 3NT is clearly not the right contract. To see why, first ask yourself why partner has bid 3. Either he wants to suggest diamonds as a trump suit or he has diamond values and spade weakness. If the latter, do you really want to play in 3NT? Let’s start with those who keep 3NT in play by advancing with a fourth-suit 3♠…

ROBSON: 3♠. Tricky as we don’t know whether partner’s 3 is a proper suit, or just some values. A waffling 3♠ may elicit more information.
SONTAG: 3♠. Perhaps partner will bid 4♣.
CHAGAS: 3♠. Shows diamond support and an opening for 3NT in the air.

It sounds like they all intend to pass 3NT but, if partner has KQxxxxx (which is about what 3NT would seem to need), will 5 not be an equally good contract?

DE WIJS: 3♠. Temporizing with fourth suit because all of the natural bids (4♣/4) fall short in describing my hand. Over partner’s 4♣/ I will cuebid 4♠. Over his 3NT, I will bid 4

I’m not 100% clear to me how 3 describes the hand either, so let’s see what those who rebid their second suit have to say.

LAVEE: 4♣. For many partnerships, the 3♣ rebid may not be genuine clubs. The 3¨ bid implies concern about spades for a 3NT contract. 1NT showed less than four spades, so 3NT doesn’t seem right with a stiff ace. Instead, it’s time to pattern out and show 5+♣.
WANG: 4♣. Shows 5-5 in my two suits. I don’t like to play 3NT with this hand.
COHEN: 4♣. Might as well pattern out. I don’t get a 3NT-kind-of-feeling here.
McCALLUM: 4♣. If partner doesn’t want to play 3NT, I don’t think I do either. So, I may as well bid my hand. If he knows what I have, maybe he’ll do the right thing. 
SENIOR: 4♣. The fact that I go past 3NT gives some clue that I may have tolerance for diamonds (or, of course, I am REALLY two-suited). I’m not sure how many diamonds partner has. Is it six or seven, or was 3¨ natural but just suggesting that there might be a gap in spades for NT? I’m hoping that he might rebid the diamonds if they are a viable trump suit.

That makes some sense, but I think the majority win the argument…

BOCCHI: 4. No 4♠, No 3, No 4♣ = 94% 6+.

A remarkably accurate calculation 😊

FREDIN: 4. I would have bid 4♠ with 0535 so hopefully partner will understand what I have.
BRINK: 4. Showing support. I have no other bid. 
ZIA: 4. This shouldn’t show three. It also gives partner a chance to bid 5♣ if he wants to offer a choice.
KOKISH: 4. Depicts short spades in theory and feels much cleaner than 4♣, which too often buries diamonds. We may still finish in clubs. With those hearts and the actual honor placement, perhaps 2♣ would have been enough on the previous round.
BIRD: 4. Partner may hold six diamonds, or five good diamonds, so I like this better than 4♣.

Michal sums up the view of the majority.

Michal KLUKOWSKI: 4. A jump shift to 3♣ should show ten cards in my two suits. As I would bid 3 with a six-card suit, raising to 4 surely carries a strong implication that I have five clubs, so there is no need for me to rebid them.

We have a couple of lone wolfs too…

KRISTENSEN: 5. Must be the best chance to make game.

I do not see how this is better than 4, though. I wonder how widespread Sally’s interpretation of 4NT would be…

BROCK: 4NT. I think this asks him to choose between 5♣ and 5. What do we think 3 shows? For me it is just values in diamonds, not particularly length there. Otherwise, partner will just bid 3NT every time I bid 3♣ in this situation. 

Partner held xxx/A/Qxxxxxx/xx. 3NT was hopeless but 5 was decent and made easily with the club finesse onside and diamonds 2-2. I suspect that most roads lead to 5 opposite this hand, except perhaps the 3NT bid that so many competition entrants chose.

The hot competition on the panel continues with our fourth different winner in four months, as Zia leads to field home with a splendid 78/80. Close behind are Daniel Lavee on 74, followed by Michal Klukowski and Andrew Robson, tied on 73.

Zia MAHMOOD3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:6 :clubs:5 :clubs:2:hearts:Pass4:diamonds:78
Daniel LAVEE3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:5:hearts:4:spades:2 :clubs:Pass4 :clubs:74
Michal KLUKOWSKI4:hearts:1NT3 :clubs:5:hearts:6:hearts:2:hearts:Pass3:spades:73
Andrew ROBSON3:hearts:2NT3 :clubs:5:hearts:5 :clubs:2:hearts:Pass3:spades:73
Eric KOKISH3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:Dbl5 :clubs:2 :clubs:2:hearts:4:diamonds:72
David BIRD4:hearts:2:spades:3 :clubs:6 :clubs:5 :clubs:2:hearts:2:hearts:4:diamonds:71
Wen Fei WANG4:hearts:1NT3 :clubs:5:hearts:5 :clubs:2:hearts:2:hearts:4 :clubs:71
Larry COHEN4:hearts:1NT3:diamonds:5:hearts:5 :clubs:2:hearts:Pass4 :clubs:70
Alan SONTAG3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:6 :clubs:5 :clubs:2:diamonds:Pass3:spades:70
Sally BROCK3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:Dbl6:hearts:2:hearts:Pass4NT68
Sjoert BRINK3:hearts:3 :spades:3 :clubs:5 :clubs:5 :clubs:2 :clubs:2:hearts:4:diamonds:66
Simon DE WIJS3:hearts:2 :clubs:3 :clubs:5:hearts:4:spades:3:diamonds:Dbl3:spades:66
Peter FREDIN3:hearts:2NT3:diamonds:5:hearts:4:spades:3:diamonds:2:hearts:4:diamonds:65
Norberto BOCCHI3:hearts:2 :clubs:3:diamonds:5NT5 :clubs:2:diamonds:Dbl4:diamonds:64
Kate McCALLUM4:hearts:1NT3:diamonds:4NT5 :clubs:2 :clubs:Pass4 :clubs:63
Brian SENIOR3:hearts:3:diamonds:3 :clubs:Dbl5 :clubs:3:diamonds:Dbl4 :clubs:63
Kresten KRISTENSEN3:hearts:2NT3:hearts:Dbl5 :clubs:2 :clubs:Pass5:diamonds:60
Jessica LARSSON4:hearts:2NT3 :clubs:4NT6:hearts:2:diamonds:2:hearts:3:spades:58
Gabriel CHAGAS4:diamonds:2:spades:3:diamonds:6 :clubs:5 :clubs:2:diamonds:2:hearts:3:spades:57


Hand 1: 4 32, 4♠ 27, 3 21, 321, 4d 4, 3♠ 3, 4♣ 3, 4NT 3, 2NT 2, 5 2, 5♠ 1, 7♠ 1
Hand 2: 2NT 59, 1NT 38, 2cx 21, 3NT 5, 2♠ 5, 2 3, Pass 1, 3 1
Hand 3: 3d 22, 3♣ 24, 4♠ 23, 5♣ 19, 4NT 12, 312, 4♣ 12, 3♠ 3, 4 2, 6♣ 1, 5 1, 2NT 1
Hand 4: 5 34, Dbl 24, 5♣ 17, 6♣ 16, 4♠ 17, 4NT 14, Pass 3, 5♠ 2, 6♠ 1, 5 1
Hand 5: Pass 59, 5♣ 28, 4NT 22, 4♠ 13, 66, 5♠ 1, Dbl 1, 5 1
Hand 6: 3 49, 2d22, 220, 3 14, 4 4, 2♣ 6, 2NT 4, 1NT 2, 3♠ 2, 42, 2♠ 1, 1♠ 1
Hand 7: Pass 69, 2 20, Dbl 17, 2NT 15, 3 2, 3 1
Hand 8: 3NT 56, 4♣ 25, 3♠ 17, 4 13, 3 7, 5 5, Pass 4, 4NT 1