BBO Prime bidders challenge: May Panel Comments

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 21-5 – April-May 2021

Welcome to the fifth BBO Prime Bidding Challenge. Our guest panelist this month is Alper Daldal from Istanbul, Turkey, the winner of Set 2021-3. 52 years old, Alper has been playing bridge for 30 years. He also enjoys solving bridge problems and discussing interesting bridge hands. Like most players, he has not been able to play live due to Covid, but thanks to his bridge club and BBO he has enjoyed playing online bridge for the past year.

A slightly smaller panel this month, but we seem to have another set of hands from which a fair number of readers can learn plenty from our experts. The panel fails to produce a majority on only two hands, and we even have one almost unanimous panel. On none of the three hands on which the experts are most in agreement, though, did they choose the same action as the largest group of competition entrants.

Before we get started, just a quick word of advice for people entering the competition. On most hands, there are at least two and usually three sensible answers. When I set the problems, I often do not know which answer the panel will vote for, but I could tell you which answers the panelists will mostly choose from. If you identify the sensible bids and then choose from one of them, you will find yourself scoring well, as you will pick up 6, 7, 8 points even if you do not hit the top mark. On this set, there are a total of 48 bids (on 8 deals) that score at least some points. And, in that 48, there are some bids that I wouldn’t consider at all sensible, but were at least more so than some of the alternatives. Competition entrants came up a total of 71 choices – ie 23 selections that scored zero. Just avoiding those zeros will markedly improve your score. And, those 71 do NOT include at least a half dozen illegal bids – such as bidding 1NT over partner’s 2♠, or other insufficient bids. On Hand 6 alone, at least 15 people doubled their partner’s 3♣ opening, and thus scored zero for a hand on which most competitors picked up one of the top three marks. We all come across hands on which we do not know what to bid, and identifying the reasonable options should be the first step in making a decision.

Enough of my waffle, let’s get on with the show…


3 :hearts:10816
3 :spades:9111
4 :spades:7312
3 :clubs:001
The panel’s verdict is clear, with a majority choosing to make a cue-bid raise, intending to let partner play 3♠ if that’s all they can muster. For the readers, more than 40% opted to Pass 2♠, whilst 22% bid game (4♠ or 3NT), which suggests that the middle action is not far off the mark. I’ve rewarded other sensible game tries too, and even 3NT, although it received no votes from the panel, scores some marks as it is not an unreasonable shot. Let’s hear first from those panelists who agree with the largest group of competition entrants:

DE WIJS: Pass. I am taking the vulnerable opponents seriously and don’t want to punish partner for a light balance.
KOKISH: Pass. Nice dummy. Thank me, partner. With a super-conservative partner, a game try might barely be justifiable.
ZIA: Pass. Even thinking of bidding is an overbid. I hope he can make eight tricks.

I had the hand at the table, and I concurred with the opinion of those three wise men. Let’s see if those who make a game try can persuade us that we are mistaken.

BIRD: 3. I am close to a Pass. When 1NT is forcing, though, partner may feel entitled to pass (and enter later) on some hands that would bid 2♠ otherwise. I will risk going one level higher, just in case.
ROBSON: 3. Let’s punish partner with a vulnerable game at stake. I’ll pass 3♠ of course, and apologize.
BRINK: 3: Good raise in spades. I think my hand is too good to pass and I don’t want to go down in game because of a good balance by my partner.
WANG: 3. Showing a good opening hand and support. Maybe 3♠ will be down one, but I want to make one try for game.

I confess that I am surprised that as many as three panellists took issue with our original pass, but I suppose it is a matter of style…

KLUKOWSKI: 3. I’d likely not pass over 1. Now 3 is my strongest bid with spade support. I could bid 4♠, but I don’t want to punish partner for his competitive 2♠. Also, it would mean I’ve made a mistake by passing over 1.
SONTAG: 3. Stronger raise then 3♠. Why didn’t West double the 1 opening?
LARSSON: 3. I would have doubled the first time. Now I bid 3 to show a good raise.

DALDAL: 3. Shows a fit and some hope for playing game. Partner is in balancing position, so I cannot expect too much. On the other hand, because of vulnerability, I don’t expect an ultra-weak hand. If partner has some extra values, he can bid 4♠. If he bids only 3♠, though, I will pass.

Gabriel is ploughing a lone furrow, but he is effectively in the same camp as the majority.

CHAGAS: 3♠. Partner could have more due to the forcing notrump situation. Finally, let’s see if the optimists can persuade us.
COHEN: 4♠. I don’t like to punish partner for balancing, but this is the time for punishment. We are vulnerable at IMPs and the opponents could so easily be stealing. All I need is AKxxxx and out to have play, and how would partner know to accept an invite with that?

He does have a point.

BROCK: 4♠. I don’t think there is any point consulting partner. We all know that if we bid 3 partner will bid 3♠ in a microsecond! So, my choices are Pass and 4♠, and it seems to be a guess. He could have many pretty crap hands where game is on. Although the oppo are in a non-fit auction, he has reason to believe that neither of them has four spades, so he will feel reasonably safe. So, I’m just going to close my eyes, bid game and prepare to apologise.
LAVEE: 4♠. Partner could have many hands that could not make a vulnerable two-level overcall directly, but can balance with 2♠ and still make game opposite this hand. Vulnerable at IMPs, I bid game. With something like xxxxxx/xx/Axx/KJ, even 5♠ might make, and partner would sign off in 3♠ if I only make a game try.

There is certainly merit to their argument. Partner has about what you would expect, AQ9xxx/Jxx/Jx/xx. So nine tricks is the limit in spades. However, 3NT will make if North gives you your ninth trick on the likely diamond (from Jx/x/AQ98xx/Qxxx).


2 :clubs:003
2 :diamonds:002
We have a degree of agreement, with a clear preference from the panel, who offered only three choices, and from the largest group of competition entrants. However, close to a third of competitors think this hand is a takeout double: surely not, though, as even Michal Klukowski, who seems to double of all types of hand that no one else would, disagrees with them. With not a single member of the expert panel supporting that choice, I have probably been overly generous in awarding the Double 2 marks (but it is marginally more reasonable than some of the other options put forward). Let’s start with the majority.

ZIA: Pass. A good hand to come in later.
ROBSON: Pass. I will be bidding later.
KLUKOWSKI: Pass. For now.
DALDAL: Pass. If North passes and partner doubles, I will be happy to play 1♣-X. Otherwise I will hope to bid on the next round, when it may be easier to express my hand.
LAVEE: Pass. Passing seems fairly normal and I’d like to see how the auction progresses. If responder bids hearts, I can double on my next bid.
BIRD: Pass. I am fairly happy to pass when they are vulnerable. In any case, there is no good positive action to take.

Well, there was one alternative that attracted a few panelists, and even a couple of the passers alluded to it.

CHAGAS: Pass. 1NT could be an option for a lucky and inspired day.
BRINK: Pass. A lot of people will overcall 1NT. I’m of the old school (never thought I’d say that), so I pass and hopefully will double later.

Let’s see if they can persuade us.

WANG: 1NT. I don’t like to pass with this hand. At least 1NT shows my point range.
COHEN: 1NT. I must have had a club in with my hearts. Best to get in now with this slightly imperfect solution than to try to describe this some other way later. LARSSON: 1NT. With no great conviction, but at least I get to show my range.

Simon highlights the flaw in the passers’ argument.

DE WIJS: 1NT. Heavily flawed, but the alternative is to pass and hope to double a heart bid by the opponents. First of all, I am not perfect for that either as I don’t hold four spades. Secondly, more often than not the bidding will take an unexpected turn. So, I take my chances here and now and at least provide partner with an accurate view of my strength.

DE WIJS: 1NT. Heavily flawed, but the alternative is to pass and hope to double a heart bid by the opponents. First of all, I am not perfect for that either as I don’t hold four spades. Secondly, more often than not the bidding will take an unexpected turn. So, I take my chances here and now and at least provide partner with an accurate view of my strength.

Eric raises the spectre of the third option.

KOKISH: 1NT. Gives up on +300 or so defending 1♣, but it doesn’t often go 1♣-All Pass, and our game chances have not yet been dissipated. We might shut out hearts or find a good 4♠. 1 with those spot cards is not much of an alternative. 1NT is not lovely but probably essential.

I think the 1NT bidders have the best of the debate, but weight of numbers means that the Passers get top mark. And, finally…

BROCK: 1. I hate passing with lots of points. I’m too likely to get shut out entirely.
SONTAG: 1. I am not a fan of a 1NT overcall with a small singleton.

In our match, one West overcalled 1NT (+120). The other passed and then got to double for takeout when 1-Pass-2 came back to him. His partner jumped to 3♠ so he raised to game (-100). East had Jxxx/xxx/Kx/Kxxx so he was right in one respect: we can make game. The problem is that the game is 5♣ (which just needs the opening bidder to hold the ♣Q). It’s hard to see how to get there unless you play a 2♣ overcall as natural (we don’t). And, even if you did, would you bid it on this hand? Methinks not.


4 :clubs:821
4 :diamonds:602
3 :hearts:610
3 :clubs:603
4 :spades:5356
5 :spades:202
3 :spades:0012
4 :hearts:001

On this deal, there is a striking difference between the opinion of the experts and that of the competition entrants, and it all comes down to hand evaluation. Whilst more than two-thirds of competitors raised only to game (or bid even less – ie. Pass or 3♠), 80% of the panel start with a move designed to investigate slam possibilities before settling for game. Clearly, one group has seriously mis-valued this hand. Let’s hear first from the substantial majority:

SONTAG: 2NT. Q-bid. We could still have slam.
ROBSON: 2NT. An unassuming cue bid. We could easily have slam.
ZIA: 2NT. System required. I usually play 3♣ is a cue-bid for spades and 2NT as constructive but non-forcing. As this feature assumes I am playing with an unknown expert with no discussed methods, I would bid 2NT, as that is most commonly played as the cue-bid in this auction.
COHEN: 2NT. If 2NT is available as natural and forcing (it should be), then that is my call. Otherwise, without methods, there is no way to show a strong spade raise. Although I like to play that 2♠ is fairly limited (better hands start with double), this hand is still too good for a simple raise to game.
CHAGAS: 2NT. This should be forcing, as we could have a slam. Otherwise just a simple 4♠.
DE WIJS: 2NT. Even though slam is unlikely now that partner did not start with double and with one of the opponents holding around 10 points, it can’t hurt to probe a bit.

Only Eric is concerned about finding the right game.

KOKISH: 2NT. A straightforward 4♠ could simplify matters, but 3NT might be the only game opposite, say, ♠AKJ10xx-2-2-3 with three low clubs. Lest I have been unclear, 2NT is forcing in my cell block (I have the shiv scars to confirm that). If this feature’s conditions prevent me from bidding 2NT, I would bid 4♠, with 3NT a very close second.

Michal also starts with 2NT but also references an alternative move towards slam.

KLUKOWSKI: 2NT. For now, even without any agreements, I think it should be forcing. Could try 4♣ also, as some sort of control-showing move agreeing spades.

And David points out the advantage of being able to make a strong raise with 2NT.

BIRD: 2NT. By playing this response as a sound spade raise, I can reserve jumps to 4♣ and 4 as splinter bids. It is not satisfactory to bid 4♣ as ‘control-bid or splinter’.

Some settled for the clear slam try, unsure how partner would take 2NT.

BRINK: 4♣. Obviously 2NT should be forcing, but I guess no agreements. My hand is too good to just bid game, so 4♣ (cue bid) should at least say that I have some slam interest.

LARSSON: 4♣. The most flexible bid I can think of. I’m afraid anything else is non-forcing.

Surely a change of suit is forcing, even if it doesn’t specifically agree spades…

DALDAL: 3. This hand is too good to just bid game. 3 is forcing and, if partner shows a minimum hand by bidding only 3♠, I will just raise to game. If he does anything else, I will look for slam.

Only a small group of panelists settled for a raise to game.

WANG: 4♠. Obviously should bid game.
BROCK: 4♠. I guess slam could be on, but I have no real way forward so will just bid game.
LAVEE: 4♠. If partner cannot double 1NT, he does not have a strong hand, so reaching slam is unlikely and jamming to 4♠ prevents NS from finding a potential sacrifice in diamonds.

I’m sure no one would think partner should start with a double, and yet 6S was excellent and 7S makeable opposite his shapely 10-count: AK10xxx/xx/K10xxx/–.


6 :diamonds:101416
6 :clubs:805
5 :spades:1015
6 :spades:002

With the exception of this month’s guest, the panel is unanimous in their decision to bid 6, although with various degrees of expectation. Some even think they should have jumped to slam on the previous round. Yet, 61% of competition entrants chose to defend 5, either by passing or doubling. This makes me think that they have looked at their own hand without really thinking about what partner is likely to hold for his vulnerable excursion to the five-level. Let’s hear from the panel:

DE WIJS: 6. The upside is so big that I can’t resist. Partner not doubling 5 means that we are not getting rich there. I don’t think 6 is a favorite to make. Nevertheless, stranger things have happened and also 5 isn’t necessarily down. They might have some spade tricks to go with their hearts.
ROBSON: 6. I am wondering whether to bid 6♣ in case we need a club lead to give partner a spade ruff. But I’m not going to disappear down that rabbit hole. It is clear to bid, though.
BIRD: 6. A vulnerable 4NT bidder, with shortage in my suit, will have two good minor suits. If we have a club loser, perhaps he will be void in spades. These arguments applied equally well on the previous round, of course, and I should perhaps have bid 6 then.
ZIA: 6. To hell with them.
BRINK: 6. What a bizarre auction. I will just bid 6 and hear later why I shouldn’t have. I think it far more likely that you would hear why you should have bid 6 if you don’t.
WANG: 6. It’s too difficult. Maybe 5 down one, and 6 also down one, who knows?

Quite. Surely the worst case is that both 5 and 6 are going one down, but if either makes then defending is a disaster.

CHAGAS: 6. Insurance that could work out.
KLUKOWSKI: 6. I’d have bid 6 earlier, so I am thankful I got another chance to do it.
LAVEE: 6. It sounds like partner has 6-5 or 6-6 in the minors. It also sounds like North has eight hearts for his 5 bid. Bidding 6 might make and if it doesn’t, it seems like a good hedge against 5 as I don’t have much defense.
LARSSON: 6. One off is good bridge?
KOKISH: 6. I hate to get pushed without more evidence, but South’s double apparently meant that he bid 4 to make and invited further action from North, so 5 figures to be a close thing. East will be at least six-five and both contracts might make or be only one down. It feels like the money odds favor bidding one for the road. Of course, this trip might not be over as they might bid 6.
BROCK: 6. OK, I’ll fall for it. Surely must be pretty cheap, and if partner can’t double 5

Larry sums up the view of the panel.

COHEN: 6. Might make, might be a good save. Picture –/xx/A10xxxx/Kxxxx, and I don’t think that is even enough for partner’s 4NT call. I might have been tempted to bid 6 on the previous round!

Indeed. Larry’s example hand is surely the minimum (or sub-minimum) that partner can hold for his vulnerable, solo excursion to the five-level. I’m afraid Alper is on his own here, although he has plenty of support from the other competition entrants…

DALDAL: Pass. I have passed 4 and not doubled. So, I will not double 5 because now I am more suspicious about my defensive points at minors. On the other hand, partner has possibly 4-7 points and a 6 sacrifice can cost us much.

Really? For 6 to be expensive, partner would have to hold something like xx/x/Jxxxx/Qxxxx. If he did, then it is surely unlikely that we would ever refer to him as ‘partner’ again! At the table, East held the expected void/x/Axxxxx/K10xxxx and when clubs broke 2-2 there were 13 tricks in either minor. How many were going to bid on if the opponents bid 6, I wonder? I suspect we’d have had far more defenders then. It is also worth noting that getting ‘pushed’ to 6 improves the odds that we will be allowed to play there. Had we jumped to 6 on the previous round, it is surely much more likely that an opponent would bid 6, something we clearly do not want (unless we intend to bid our making grand slam, of course).

Here, the passers get +200, the doublers +500 and the bidders +1390. I strongly suspect that those who bid spades mistakenly thought 4NT was Blackwood, although that is clearly wrong after his initial pass. However, even the 5♠ bidders would probably escape with a good score at the table as partner, after your previous 5 bid, would surely mentally shrug his shoulders and bid 6 anyway.


2 :spades:101017
3 :clubs:714
1 :spades:718
4 :clubs:516
3 :diamonds:3134
4 :hearts:207
2 :diamonds:003
4 :diamonds:003
1 :hearts:001
3 :hearts:001
5 :diamonds:002

When answers began coming in from panelists, I feared we were in for another unanimous decision as the first eight respondents all opted for 2♠ on this deal. Fortunately, some variations arrived later in the month and the panel eventually offered six different choice.

Amongst the readers, consensus there was not, as they set a new record by voting for an amazing 14 different bids: diamonds at four different levels, hearts and notrumps at three levels, and both black suits at two different levels. By far the most popular choice, though, was a non-forcing 3, a bid almost universally rejected by the experts as totally insufficient for the strength of this hand. Let’s find out why.

COHEN: 2♠. I have too much not to force to game.
CHAGAS: 2♠. The simplest way to reach a game-forcing situation
WANG: 2♠. It’s game-forcing and I think this is the only option.
SONTAG: 2♠. No second choice.

They all seem very clear

KLUKOWSKI: 2♠. I do not have a lot of experience with natural systems, but I assume 2♠ is what I have to do…
ZIA: 2♠. Another hand for which system is needed, so it should provide an educational discussion from the panel.
ROBSON: 2♠. These problems are old chestnuts and top partnerships have methods (I play 2NT here as a good 3/6).
LARSSON: 2♠. We really need a conventional method for this hand. Without anything specific, I have to improvise, so I hope I get a partner without four spades.

Eric alludes to one of the alternatives…

KOKISH: 2♠. Not without risk, and 1♠ has a certain appeal to some residents of Peterborough, Ontario (Beverly gave this one ten seconds and bid 1♠). I need a bit more than standard bidders to jump shift, so if I’m willing to try 2♠ it can’t be an overbid. Well, not much of one. …and David to another.
BIRD: 2♠. 3 is totally inadequate and 3NT to show the good diamonds would be absurd with these hearts and a singleton club, as partner will pass far too often when it is wrong. So, we must choose between 2♠ and 3♣. I prefer 2♠, because I will hint at a singleton club when I support hearts subsequently.

So, let’s hear from those who tried another route.

DE WIJS: 4♣. You really need some complicated system for this kind of hand. Lacking that, I go with a splinter. Should partner cooperate with 4, I will take control and bid 6/7 based on his keycard response.
BRINK: 2NT: In my system, I can bid 2♠ to show a game-force in diamonds. Without specific methods, nothing is ideal, but I hope I can somehow show my three-card heart support after 2NT.
LAVEE: 3♣. Many play that this jump shift may not be a genuine suit.
BROCK: 1♠. Horrible hand. Oh, for 2NT to show 3/6! I think the alternatives are worse: 3 (too strong, but my second choice, and also difficult to get back to hearts on some layouts), 3NT (about right in terms of strength but could be down with 6/6 cold), or 2♠ (too likely to lock us into spades when partner has four).

Only our guest panellist was prepared to make a bid below game that partner might pass…

DALDAL: 3. I prefer an underbid rather than lying about my shape.

Partner has xxx/KJxxx/—/AKxxx, so 6 is a good contract despite the poor fit in the minors. How would one get there after the popular 3 rebid? Perhaps we will investigate that in a future month.


5 :clubs:714
3 :spades:4025
4 :spades:002
4 :clubs:002

The competition entrants were more certain than the panel on this one, with over half of them opting for 3NT, whilst the panel were split 7-6 between their two primary options. However, we also had a quarter of competitors choosing a bid (3♠) for which the panel offered no support at all. Indeed, a lot of them consciously rejected it…

LAVEE: 3NT. A vulnerable 3♣ preempt should be the real deal. Bidding 3NT seems straightforward. Partner could raise 3♠ to 4♠ with two small spades and I’d rather be in 3NT.
COHEN: 3NT. Another hand on which we really need methods. Many use 3 here to look for a three-card major from opener. If I bid 3♠, I endplay us past 3NT opposite something like x/xxx/xx/AQJ10xxx.

My partnership has a solution to the problem raised by Larry, in that 3M here only promises a five-card suit but partner is not allowed to bypass 3NT. True, you may wrong-side 3NT when your suit is spades, but over 3 opener can bid 3♠ (waiting) with an unsuitable hand. Simon rejects 3♠ for an entirely different, and quite legitimate, reason.

DE WIJS: 3NT. Even opposite three-card support, 4♠ seems too high. Not trying for game seems too passive, so I will try the most likely one.

Not everyone was convincingly behind their choice.

CHAGAS: 3NT. For lack of a better bid.
KLUKOWSKI: 3NT. Tough, but 3NT is my choice
BIRD: 3NT. Very much a guess, and could be expensive if it fails. As I have mentioned previously, I usually score poorly on bidding panels whenever I take a conservative action (pass, here).

This time it would only have cost you a couple of marks (but with them first place).

WANG: 3NT. If partner’s 3♣ opening was non-vulnerable, I would pass.

Are the second major group of panelists any more convincing?

ROBSON: Pass. I can’t decide between 3NT and 5♣, so I am flunking out. I don’t want the agony of ♣AQJ10xxx in 3NT after a first club is ducked, whether to repeat the finesse (you probably would though, as would they duck from a doubleton king for fear I have a third club)? But my partners never hold ♣AQJ10xxx.
DALDAL: Pass. Neither 3NT nor 4♠ looks that promising.
BROCK: Pass. Who knows?

Sjoert knows his partner’s style well…

BRINK: Pass. If we can make game on this board, I cannot be sitting opposite Drijver

There were two lone wolfs on this one.

ZIA: 3. In my methods, this forces 3 and I can then jump to 4♠ next to ask for proper trump support. If he doesn’t have three spades, he can convert to 5♣.
KOKISH: 5♣. Sure, 3NT might be roughly on a finesse but, when East lacks the ♣A, it will often be a silly contract. The problem with 3♠ is that it will be raised with two-card support when clubs is much better. As there is no genuine trial bid available, passing 3♣ is just a different gamble, although possibly the winner.

It was this time, but for an unexpected reason. Partner had xx/J/K109x/KJ109xx and, although 5♣ was unbeatable as the defensive cards lie, the best result still came from passing as you then got to defend 4-X for +1100. If you start with 3, it goes either (-3)-4, and you back into 5♣ by default, or (-3) back to you for +800. 3♠ and 3NT both lead to minus scores.


5 :clubs:1067
6 :clubs:510
5 :spades:002
6 :spades:002

The panel and the competition entrants were both evenly split between two choices. Only one action, though, was common to both groups. With 9/15 of the panel choosing action over inaction, I have split the tie in that direction, but let’s hear from the passers first.

COHEN: Pass. My good partners have five of them. My really good partners are skilled at playing 4-3 fits.
ZIA: Pass. We could miss a slam, but who knows?
KLUKOWSKI: Pass. A no-brainer, even though I know the hand.
BIRD: Pass. North is more likely than East to hold the important ♣A. I don’t see that I should punish partner if his bid was a borderline two-way venture.

The positive action of choice amongst our experts attracted only a small percentage of competitors, so let’s see what they have to say.

WANG: 5♣. Maybe passing 4♠ is the right choice, but on a good day partner will be able to raise to 6♣.
BRINK: 5♣. I guess this is strong with clubs? Pass is my alternative.
DALDAL: 5♣. I am clearly explaining my hand to partner by first doubling and then bidding 5♣. Let partner decide for possible slam opportunities.

Eric and Andrew are on the same wavelengthe

ROBSON: 5♣. This has lots of ways to win, including reaching 6♣ or avoiding a non-making 4♠. It also shows this hand-type for me (ie. it doesn’t show only clubs).
KOKISH: 5♣. I am not an alumnus of the school that considers 5♣ a hand too strong to bid clubs earlier. For me, it shows something like this shape (three-card spade support) and a serious hand. Spades could be the wrong trump suit and slam is not impossible opposite Queen-fifth of spades and the ♣A, although there is no reason East must hold much more than a bunch of spades and, say, the K.

Sally sums up the feeling of this faction which, I think, has the best of the debate.

BROCK: 5♣. This could be wrong, but partner might easily have only four spades. 5♣ could be safer and/or allow partner to bid a slam when he has significant extras.

The competition entrants’ other major choice did garner the support of a couple of panelists.

CHAGAS: 4NT. Key cards.
DE WIJS: 4NT. I think I recognize this hand. Anyway, partner only needs Queen-fifth and an ace, so I will give it a go. And there was one soloist.
LAVEE: 6♣. It sounds like it’s a 30-point deck. A grand slam is possible, but unlikely. I want to make sure I get to the best slam contract. If I don’t jump to 6♣ now, I will have trouble suggesting slam in clubs later. I can think of a few 4♠ bids that make 6♣, but not 6♠: xxxxx/xx/KQJx/Ax, Qxxxx/xx/Kx/Axxx or Qxxx/xx/QJ10xx/Ax

At the table, partner had QJ10xx/xx/xxx/Axx so 6♠ and 6♣ were both easy makes.


3 :clubs:10740
3 :spades:7114
3 :hearts:620
4 :spades:527
3 :diamonds:204
4 :diamonds:002
4 :clubs:001

The competitors were mostly divided between two choices and, whilst the panel went for five different options, there was a clear favorite even if no majority choice. Some of us are old enough to remember when South’s 1♠ bid in this auction would have been psychic more often than not, but that is something that seems to have died out over the past 20 years. Indeed, I don’t even remember the last time someone bid 1♠ on Jxx against me. Only a couple of the panel were not to be deterred, Zia without comment and Gabriel…

CHAGAS: 4♠. Hopefully, South was psyching.

Alan Sontag raised to 3♠ and a couple of panelists opted for a cue-bid invite.

COHEN: 3. It is tempting to cue-bid 3 instead to leave more room, but might partner not think I have something in diamonds for such a call? Too much to pass 2♠, especially as 1♠ is possibly a psyche.
DALDAL: 3. Trial bid for 4♠. Partner may have an unbalanced hand, like 5341, and despite a possible 4-0 trump break, we may still be able to make 4♠.

The largest faction chose a natural game-try.

WANG: 3♣. This shows 5♣/4♠ and is an invitation to 4♠.
BROCK: 3♣. This would seem like a non-forcing game try as I am a passed hand.
KOKISH: 3♣. East would need a good reason not to introduce spades with four, so I can’t just blast into 4♠ when trumps will not break well. But neither can I pass with this much strength. The heart holding looks bad, but East will sometimes have a useful holding like Kx.
BIRD: 3♣. The chance that South has psyched is near-zero nowadays. So, any advance towards 4♠ should be made on the assumption of a bad spade break. A pass could be right, and 3♣ looks easily the best game-try on offer.
ROBSON: 3♣. We don’t know South is psyching, so I don’t want to play 4♠ which looks good looking at just our 26 cards, but not when it’s doubled by South holding QJ98x of trumps.

Panelists are starting to learn the danger of making predictions.

BRINK: 3♣. I think my partner would now know my hand. I don’t see any alternative, but I am too afraid to say that there won’t be any other vote than 3♣. The main reason is that Klukowski will always find something else anyway (I guess 4♠).

No, Sjoert, this time Michal was at the opposite end of the spectrum, in conservative mode.

KLUKOWSKI: Pass. My spade spots and three hearts discourage me from bidding higher even though I nearly have an opening hand. It depends perhaps who I am playing against. French people very often have five spades for this sequence, so against them I’d pass quickly, but some other people like to have only two or three spades for 1♠, so against them I bid on.
DE WIJS: Pass. It doesn’t rate to play well with spades 4-1. Congrats to the psyching opponent if spades split 3-2 after all. Daniel sums up the case for conservatism.
LAVEE: Pass. Partner’s 2♠ bid should be about 12-14 points. Yes, 1♠ could be a psych, but if it’s not then even 3♠ might be too high. My earlier double showed spades and some values, so I’ve told my story. My Q is not good and I have zero spot cards in trumps.

Partner had a fairly minimum double, Kxxx/x/Axxxx/KQx, which I think is about what his 2♠ shows. Spades were 5-0, so nine tricks were the limit in either black suit.

A tie at the top of the experts’ table this month, Andrew Robson and David Bird (with his second win) sharing the honors with an impressive 78/80. Michal Klukowski was close behind on 76/80, with Eric Kokish and Wen Fei Wang tied on 73/80. We have two Englishmen topping the expert table, and another two at the top of the competition entrants’ winners list. Both Alan Sontag and Eric Kokish have headed our expert panel but, after five months, we are still waiting for the first outright competition winner from North America. After a record high number of entries for this month’s competition, let’s have a bumper entry from Canada and the USA next month to try to produce the first North American champion.

Our thanks as always to out expert panelists for their time. See you all again next month.

David BIRD3:hearts:Pass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3NTPass3:clubs:78
Andrew ROBSON3:hearts:Pass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:Pass5:clubs:3:clubs:78
Michal KLUKOWSKI3:hearts:Pass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3NTPassPass76
Eric KOKISHPass1NT2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:5:clubs:5:clubs:3:clubs:73
Wen Fei WANG3:hearts:1NT4:spades:6:diamonds:2:spades:3NT5:clubs:3:clubs:73
Jessica LARSSON3:hearts:1NT4:clubs:6:diamonds:2:spades:PassPass3:clubs:72
Gabriel CHAGAS3:spades:Pass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3NT4NT4:spades:71
Sjoert BRINK3:hearts:Pass4:clubs:6:diamonds:2NTPass5:clubs:3:clubs:70
Larry COHEN4:spades:1NT2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3NTPass3:hearts:69
Alan SONTAG3:hearts:1:diamonds:2NT  6:diamonds:2:spades:PassPass3:spades:68
Zia MAHMOODPassPass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3:diamonds:Pass4:spades:67
Simon De WIJSPass1NT2NT6:diamonds:4:clubs:3NT4NTPass66
Sally BROCK4:spades:1:diamonds:4:spades:6:diamonds:1:spades:Pass5:clubs:3:clubs:62
Daniel LAVEE4:spades:Pass4:spades:6:diamonds:3:clubs:3NT6:clubs:Pass62
Alper DALDAL3:hearts:Pass3:hearts:Pass3:diamonds:Pass5:clubs:3:hearts:55
TOP SCORES3:hearts:Pass2NT6:diamonds:2:spades:3NT5:clubs:3:clubs: 


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