BBO Prime bidders challenge: July Panel Comments

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 21-7 – June-July 2021

Welcome to the seventh BBO Prime Bidding Challenge. Our guest panelist this month is Peter Law, who earned his place by winning Set 2021-5. He then doubled down in last month’s competition by becoming the first player to score a perfect 80/80, so he will be back as a guest again next month too. Peter has played bridge for over 50 years, in congresses and national knockouts, also representing his county (Kent) regularly. He recently discovered online bridge thanks to lockdown. He the co-pioneer of the strong club system that he plays with Patrick Collins, where opening one diamond promises a four-card major.

We are also delighted to welcome some esteemed new experts to our panel this month. Janice Seamon-Molson, currently the #7 Womens player in the WBF world rankings, has reached the final of the Venice Cup four times, winning in 2003 and 2013. She won the McConnell Cup (the Womens Teams) at the 2006 World Bridge Games, the Womens Teams and the Womens Individual at the 2011 World Mind Games, and the Women Teams at the 2016 Olympiad. Barnet Shenkin, a Scot by birth, was a member of the British team that won bronze medals at the 1974 European Youth Championships. He represented Great Britain many times before moving to the USA in the 1990s. Jill Meyers won the 1998 World Womens Pairs and she has finished in all three medal places at the McConnell Cup, winning it in 2002. She won the Mixed Teams at the 2000 Olympiad and has played in five Venice Cup finals, winning in 1993, 1997, 2007 and 2013. Most recently, she was a member of the American Mixed Team that collected silver medals in Wuhan in 2019. Paul Marston collected a bronze medal at the 1986 World Pairs. A native Kiwi, he made his international debut at the 1974 Bermuda Bowl as a member of the New Zealand team. He first represented Australia at the 1984 Olympiad and was a member of the team that reached the semi-finals of the 1989 Bermuda Bowl on home soil in Perth, the best performance ever by an Australian team. Welcome to all of the newcomers and our thanks to all members of the panel for their time and effort.

A clear decision from the panel on most hands this month, although that’s not to say that the voting wasn’t very close on some of them, so the debates should make interesting reading. The experts’ choice was also one of the two most popular selections by competition entrants on six of the eight hands, so there may be some high scores this month. Let’s hear what our experts had to say…


2 :spades:10511
4 :clubs:724
3 :clubs:4129
5 :clubs:205

This is the most contentious deal this month, with the panel offering seven different solutions. Although a third of competitors claimed one of the top two marks, the biggest group of readers chose an action considered a huge underbid by most of the panel.

The obvious question to be answered regards the meaning of 2. Some will claim that 2 is natural, and that 2♠ should be the cue-bid in this auction, although the panel almost-universally dismiss this argument. After all, does East have either to bid 1♠ on the first round or remain silent throughout with J10xxxxx/xxx/x/xx?
Assuming it is not natural, though, there are still two types of hand partner could have for 2 – a good hand that was going to pass a reopening double of 1, or a hand significantly improved by your 2♣ bid. It seems to me that the first two groups of panelists cater for both options by giving partner a chance to bid 3♣ with the hand that was too strong for 3♣ on the previous round and to do something more dynamic with a strong hand with long hearts.

SONTAG: 2♠. Automatic. Let’s see what partner has to say.
ROBSON: 2♠. For me, partner is showing a good pass, perhaps with length and no strength in hearts. I must do more than merely repeat clubs, and think my 2♠ is likely to be this sort of shape, as I would have reopened with a double if I was 3154 (although I could be 3055).
MOLSON: 2♠. One could argue that 2 should be natural but, without that specific agreement, it’s a cue-bid. If partner has clubs with me, I have a great hand. Not sure why I didn’t reopen with a double, but I clearly can’t have 3♠ so I tread with that.
BIRD: 2♠. I have six points there, and it is an economical bid.

Jill sums up the argument put forward by the largest faction on the panel.

Jill MEYERS: 2♠. I keep wavering between 2♠ and 3NT. I think partner has a penalty double of 1, in which case I want to declare 3NT from my side. However, if partner has a club fit with me along with a penalty double of hearts (xxx/AQxxx/x/AQxx, I want to play in clubs, potentially 6♣. I think 2♠ is a grope (I can’t have three or I would have doubled at my second turn) to find out what partner has.

The 2NT bidders have similar intentions.

LARSSON: 2NT. This should be forcing, as I don’t know if partner has club support yet.
LAW: 2NT. Is partner bidding naturally with a heart stack or perhaps come to life with a club fit on a hand, say 9 or 10 points, which had no good bid over 1? I’ll sit on the fence with 2NT and hope to find out which.

There was also some support for a return cue-bid.

KLUKOWSKI: 3. I bid 3 now to show a good hand. I am not sure if I would have bid 2♣: it might have been better to double.
DE WIJS: 3: I know some people used to play 2 as natural and to play, but that’s not for me. This shows a general good hand, possibly a penalty pass. I have to commit to game now, so cannot bid 3♣. Other bids are misleading as well, so I’ll settle for a return cue-bid.

Larry is hedging his bets

COHEN: 3. Caters to 2 being natural (scary, but partner would want it to be natural with, say, xxxx/QJ987xx/x/x) and for it being a good club raise (xxx/xxxx/x/AQxxx).

Something also considered by Zia…

ZIA: 4♣. Some play 2 as natural. I don’t and I would bid 4♣ if I knew partner was on same wavelength. However, I’d have to bid 3 with an uninformed scmucko, to give him a chance to pass.
SUNDELIN: 4♣. If 2 shows Kxx/KJ98765/xx/x we should probably play there, but that may be too unusual an agreement. Let us instead hope for something like Kxx/xxxx/x/KQxxx, or no ♠K, and try 4♣.

The problem with 4♣, as I see it, is that it does not cater for partner just having a penalty double of hearts, although perhaps he would have just bid 3NT over 2♣ with that hand?

Whereas, Gabriel seems to err in the other direction:

CHAGAS: 3NT. Partner clearly has a penalty pass of hearts.

Does he?

WANG: 3NT. Showing 14-16, unbalanced hand.

Daniel thinks he knows what partner holds, but the rest of the panel clearly do not think 3♣ would be forcing now.

LAVEE: 3♣. 2 shows a game forcing trap pass. Bidding 3♣ patterns out and leaves room to find the best contract.

Paul is as far from the other panellists as Australia is from what the rest of the world think of as civilization.

MARSTON: Pass. 2 could easily be our best contract and there is only one way to get there. 3 would show a good trap pass.

Partner had xxx/Axxx/x/Q10xxx and intended 2 to show a hand much improved by our 2♣ bid. One would expect that those who bid 2♠, 2NT or 4♣ will all reach the excellent 5♣. The 3 and 3NT bidders may end up in the doomed notrump game. Meanwhile, Paul’s partner should perhaps start burrowing, in the hope of reaching the 21st century.


2 :spades:1088
4 :clubs:8317
5 :clubs:503
3 :clubs:4151

This hand produced the month’s largest vote for any action from the readers. Unfortunately, it was for a choice that attracted only a single panelist and was otherwise derided as inadequate by the rest of our experts. This was also the hand on which least competition entrants collected 10 marks, with less than 10% selecting the experts’ choice. This was also one of four hands on which the readers went for 10 different choices, so some there were a few zeros to go around.

Although not quite an overall majority, the largest group of panelists opted to start with fourth-suit, although I wonder if all of those who said it was game-forcing noticed that they were a passed hand. Let’s start with that group.

LARSSON: 2. I play this as game-forcing.
LAVEE: 2. My values are huge and worth a game force.

Some certainly had noticed…

SUNDELIN: 2. This probably establishes a game-force, even by a passed hand. Let’s give partner Ax/QJxxx/Jx/AQxx to make it easy, or AQ/Jxxxx/Jx/AQxx for a tougher decision. Stalling may certainly take us too high but it could perhaps also help find the dream hand of x/QJxxxx/Ax/Axxx.
KLUKOWSKI: 2. I start by showing a maximum for my original pass with the fourth suit.
BIRD: 2. Yes, fourth-suit forcing on a passed hand. Why not? I would not be happy bidding either 3♣ or 4♣ instead.
ZIA: 2. This will separate the point-counters from the bridge players. This hand is around 15 + in the Paki point count system after this bidding.

Peter sums up succinctly…
LAW: 2. I am too good for an immediate 3♣. 4 could be best game if partner has six hearts, or even QJxxx, so let’s try to find out. Of the rest, some just raised clubs.
WANG: 4♣. Strong invitation and good controls.
MARSTON: 4♣. A calculated underbid that leaves partner with all options. 4 from partner and we are on a roll. Or 4NT – 2 keys – 5NT – 7♣!

Whilst others tried to invite whilst keeping the prospects of playing the major-suit game alive too.

CHAGAS: 3. I didn’t Drury so he should read me for clubs and two good hearts.
MOLSON: 3. I can’t have a three-card fit as I didn’t Drury, so I should have this hand. It might be right to bid 4 but I will not bury partner just because they couldn’t stand to pass 1♠.
MEYERS: 3. I have to lie about my length in order to bid my strength. My high cards are all in partner’s suits. It may be tempting to bid 4♣, but then we have gotten beyond 3NT in a situation where we may not make 5♣.

Some went the whole hog and just offered East a choice of games.

ROBSON: 4. Not sure how partner will read this (in terms of whether or not I’ve denied three hearts by my 1♠ bid), but I can’t be too far out and will love it if it’s a ten-trick game deal.

Simon DE WIJS: 4♥. I don’t expect to get many supporters for this. For sure partner won’t expect this hand. The alternative is to start with 2♦ fourth suit forcing and then try to let partner choose between 4♥ and 5♣. That is very complicated and my hand is too extreme for that. I feel that 4♥ is very often the right spot, so let’s keep it simple.

There was only one loner who did not like his hand.

COHEN: 3♣. Because fourth-suit game-forcing is not on by a passed hand. This is an underbid for sure, but we aren’t vulnerable and partner could be quite light in third seat.

I’m not sure I understand this: even though fourth-suit may not be game forcing by a passed hand, surely it is still fourth suit, with all the implications that brings, isn’t it? Partner had x/Q108xx/Axx/AQxx so 5♣ was an easy make. With trumps breaking 4-2, 4 is likely to fail, whether the defenders switch to diamonds or force declarer. Whether partner will venture beyond 4♣ opposite an invite (4♣ or 3) is doubtful, but 2 and 4 (with poor hearts he will surely correct to clubs) are both likely to propel him to the making game.



Apologies from the question-setter for posing a two-answer problem, although the vote could not have been closer. It also means that the more than 75% of competition entrants who opted for one of the obvious choices score well on this problem. For most, it was just a question of whether to pull partner’s penalty double. Let’s hear from the experts…

LAVEE: Pass. I think partner’s double is penalty. I’ve shown exactly two suits and my partner can pick one if they like.
WANG: 2. Although this is a penalty double, but I will bid 2 anyway.
ROBSON: Pass. I think partner is salivating.
CHAGAS: 2: This is not a good hand with which to defend clubs.
BIRD: Pass. If I take out partner’s double, he may injure himself when he falls off his chair.
MARSTON: 2. This could be wrong, but I don’t like the club void or the weak spade holding.
COHEN: Pass. I wish I had a club or two, but -180 isn’t the end of the world, and maybe partner has them killed for 800 or 1100.

Not that everyone agreed that double was for penalties.

ZIA: 2. I would only trust myself and a couple of others to pass this. I actually play this double as responsive!
SUNDELIN: Pass. Hopefully, at least eight tricks for us. I must admit that I would not know what a redouble would mean, or what East’s double was.
DE WIJS: 2. Double by partner is not for penalties. At least, not in my partnership. In response I will bid 2 since, after doubling 1♠, the responsibility for bidding hearts is now with partner.

Janice MOLSON: Pass. Who am I playing with? Most Europeans I partner play this double as responsive, while most Americans play it as penalties. I think whatever your agreement is dictates the answer, regardless of the club holding. Since I am American, I will pass.

KLUKOWSKI: 2. Partner’s double just shows points, so bidding 2 seems clear.

Pete sums up and also wins “Comment of the Month” plaudits.

LAW: 2. Even if playing with the apocryphal retired colonel whose mantra is: “Under no circumstances whatsoever should my penalty doubles be removed!” Partner’s double shows extras with a club holding suggesting penalties, but a pass feels wrong with a club void and minimum values.

As Andrew suggested, partner probably was ‘salivating’ when he doubled on Jx/Qx/KQx/AQxxxx. When you pull to 2, East probably bids a grumpy 2♠ and then raises your 2NT to game. Although partner’s trump pips are insufficient to stop North making eight tricks in 2♣-X (North is 2-2-2-7), your spade spots are just good enough to make 3NT unbeatable. It is hard to be critical of East for doubling 2♣ at equal vulnerability. Well done to those with the judgement to rescue him 😊


5 :clubs:0020
4 :hearts:0010
4 :spades:001

A clear majority from the panel, with over a third of competition entrants scoring a ‘10’ too. Every panelist either made a move towards slam or just bid one, so those who sign off in game, the second-largest group of readers, score zero. Those who bid 4 thinking it is a cue-bid also fail to score as it should non-forcing and natural, showing 5-5 or 6-5 in the majors.

The main question is “What does 4NT mean?” If it is RKCB, which most of the panel think it is, surely it must be best as we can both stop in 5♣ when partner has only one key-card and investigate the grand when he has three. Not everyone agrees about its meaning, though, and if 4NT is an invitational 5♣ bid (which I think it should be in this type of situation) then it is surely not enough. Let’s start with those who think they know:

WANG: 4NT. Keycard asking for clubs.
ZIA: 4NT. This should be RKC for clubs. If not, I would have to bid 5, but we could have a grand opposite something like Ax/xx/xx/AKQJxxx.
SUNDELIN: 4NT. If he shows three key cards, I hope partner will then consider eight trumps as having the queen so we can reach the grand opposite Ax/xx/x/AKxxxxxx.
LAVEE: 4NT. Hopefully, this is Blackwood for the partnership. I have a monster hand and if missing the ♠A or K, they are likely onside.
MARSTON: 4NT. We are on our way partner.
SONTAG: 4NT. This is RKC for me. Seven is still in the game.

Simon doesn’t mind what it is:

DE WIJS: 4NT. This should be a slam try in clubs. But if I am limited to 4NT being RKC, I will do that anyway.

Peter has all bases covered.

LAW: 4NT. I can pass 5♣ if partner has one ace, drive for a grand over 5 and bid 6♣ over 5 or 5♠. Admittedly 6♣ could prove to be a bit thin over 5.
MEYERS: 4NT. RKCB. I am not stopping short of 6♣ and, if partner has three keys and the ♣Q, I am bidding seven.

You may think that now, Jill, but I assume you will stop short when he shows only one key card! The rest all commit to as least the six-level.

COHEN: 5. Driving to at least 6♣, but we belong in a grand opposite, say, Ax/Kx/xx/AKQxxxx. (Partner should bid 7♣ over my 5 with that.)

MOLSON: 5. Looking for grand in clubs over 5♠.

The next group think they know where they want to play.

KLUKOWSKI: 6♣. Looks like a reasonable bid.
CHAGAS: 6♣: For lack of precise info, I will temporarily not bid a grand, but I will bid 6NT over 6 by the opponents.
BIRD: 6♣. I don’t like to bid such as 5 with only 10x in partner’s suit. I’ll let Andrew speak for himself.

Andrew ROBSON: 6NT. Random punt, reckless gamble, or brilliant judgement. Only time will tell.
With everyone planning on how to reach the grand, perhaps the panel think that East should not bid 4♣ with his hand: QJ/10xx/—/AQJ9xxxx. South had both rounded-suit kings, so eleven tricks were the limit. At one table, East passed 3♦ and then bid 5♣ over West’s double of 4♦, which certainly worked better, as most pairs got too high after the auction we had.


3 :spades:101019
4 :spades:003
4 :hearts:002
5 :hearts:002
Dbl (illegal)001
3:clubs: (illegal)001

A good deal for competitors, with more than three-quarters choosing one of the high-scoring options. The panel expressed a clear preference, with various concerns being expressed about the obvious alternative. Let’s start with those in favor of that action…

WANG: 3♠. I hope my partner can bid 3NT.

Wen Fei’s wish was one echoed by a number of panelists…

COHEN: 3♠. Maybe (unlikely as it is) partner bids 3NT, which I will happily pass.
KLUKOWSKI: 3♠. I dislike bidding 3NT with my hand. I would try 3♠, to transfer notrumps to partner’s hand.

Quite a few thought it was just obvious…

ZIA: 3♠. Let’s open the box.
MARSTON: 3♠. In search of the best strain.
DE WIJS: 3♠. I desperately want partner to play. Also, 3NT doesn’t have to be the right spot. Peter sums up the case for the majority…

Peter LAW: 3♠. Boy this one’s a toughie! 3NT looks the most likely game, assuming we have a club stopper, but bidding it now could wrong-side 3NT if partner has, say, Qx(x) in spades. Not sure how 3♠ should be interpreted here, but it keeps our options open, including the possibility of finding some diamond support opposite.

However, there was a significant faction for simply making a decision.

LAVEE: 3NT. Stoppers in both suits and no fit for a partner. Hearts and diamonds are both likely to split poorly.

Andrew and Gabriel are on the same page…

ROBSON: 3NT. Robert Hamman may be quoted here.
CHAGAS: 3NT. Hamman’s rule, whenever possible…

…whilst our new ladies both highlight sound reasons for ignoring the popular choice.

MEYERS: 3NT. I don’t love it, but I am afraid if I bid 3♠ partner will think I can stand for her to bid 4.

MOLSON: 3NT. I hate wrong-siding 3NT, but if I bid 3♠ and partner doesn’t have a club stopper we are in trouble, so I will bid game then worry about how to make it.

I am surprised to find so few players opting for this third choice, but they would surely have reached the only making game.

BIRD: 4. I thought of 3♠, but I think I must bid my excellent diamonds once more.

SUNDELIN: 4. I might bid 3NT if I really knew the opponents, but 4 looks like the right way forward.

Partner had x/AKQxx/xx/KJxxx so the objective was to get to 5, which just loses a trick in each minor (South was 6-1-1-5). 3NT goes down on the fairly obvious spade lead. So, does 3♠ ask partner to bid 3NT with help in spades (as most of the panel imply) or does it show spades and ask for a club stopper (as Janice suggests)? East’s opinion on that question will, presumably, determine whether the 3♠ bidders get to the right game or not. It is also a question we will return to very soon.


4 :clubs:101139
3 :spades:648
3 :hearts:311
4 :hearts:002
3:diamonds: (illegal)001

The panel’s most decisive vote this month, and fairly widespread agreement from the competition entrants too. This auction poses a number of questions: does 3♠ here show a spade stopper or ask for one? (Does that question sound familiar?) Does 4♣ deny a spade control? Perhaps the panel will enlighten us. Let’s hear from the majority…

MEYERS: 4♣. This hand is worth a cue bid.
MOLSON: 4♣. I can come up with 13-counts where a grand slam is cold, so I cue-bid my ace.

LARSSON: 4♣. With no specific agreements, this is a cue-bid denying spade control.
COHEN: 4♣. Going slamming in diamonds (willing to miss 3NT and stop in 5 at IMPs), so bid controls up the line (3 would be natural, so this denies a spade control).
LAVEE: 4♣. Playing IMPs, I don’t mind bypassing 3NT trying for a slam and falling back into 5 if partner does not cooperate with the slam try
DE WIJS: 4♣. Cue-bid. At matchpoints, I would give some consideration to 3NT, but the odds for slam are too favorable, so I’ll risk committing to playing diamonds.
WANG: 4♣. Slam try.

Peter puts in a bid for my job as class comedian.

LAW: 4♣. A slight risk this will bypass the only making game of 3NT, but slam prospects are excellent so it’s probably no riskier than holidaying in an Amber destination.

David sums up the case for the majority, whilst also expressing his opinion on one of the alternatives.

BIRD: 4♣. I am not worried about 3NT being the only game. With at best jack-high support, I would expect four diamonds from partner, so slam prospects are excellent. To bid 3♠ (“showing my shape, partner”) would be misguided on a jack-high suit.

So, let’s hear from those misguided souls…

ZIA: 3♠. I hope to stop the lead or describe something. Pretty standard.
ROBSON: 3♠. Naturalish. Will follow with control 4♣ over 3NT. I expect to have to make all the running given my fabulous trumps. I think 3♠ has the edge over 4♣ (the plurality choice?) as I’ll learn more. Andrew bids 3♠ intending to hit the road to slam later, although it is unclear exactly what he has learned on the way.

Gabriel, though, will be content if the journey comes to an end.

CHAGAS: 3♠. I think 3NT should be played from his side.

Michal takes an alternative Stairway to Heaven.

KLUKOWSKI: 4. Good hand, forward going, usually no good second suit

Whereas Paul seems have taken a diversion onto the Highway to Hell

Paul MARSTON: 3♥. If partner wants to play 4♥, that’s ok by me. Let’s see where it goes.

Partner had x/AKxxx/Jxxx/Kxx, so 6 was excellent and 3NT loses the first five spade tricks. All but Michal expect 4♣ to show a control rather than a second suit, and the inference is that we are missing a spade control. As to the nature of 3♠, I’m not sure we have yet found out whether East bids 3NT with spade help or a club stopper, despite two consecutive problems with the same situation present. Maybe we’ll try one from the other side of the table in a future month.


2 :spades:001
4 :spades:002

There seemed to be three obvious options here, two of which I think are bonkers (but more of that later). I expected the panel to be fairly evenly split between the three, so I am very surprised to find only two of the choices attracting significant support. I suppose it was to be expected that our resident ‘madman’ would be in this camp:

ZIA: Pass. Let’s pass and smile. No guarantees, though.
DE WIJS: Pass. Not with great confidence, but let’s try it anyway. Defense is often disappointing, but my spades look perfect for this.
LAW: Pass. At these colours. there is a possible upside of +500. 3 seems pushy with the spade suit potentially wasted. 1NT is the other alternative but is rather wet.

Some were attracted by the vulnerability

WANG: Pass. Because of NS vulnerability.
MEYERS: Pass. The opponents are vul/non-vul. There is no guarantee partner has four hearts and I think I am beating 1♠. If they do make 1♠-X, the damage won’t be so bad.

And for some it was a lack of attractiveness from the other options that tipped the balance.

MARSTON: Pass. Could work out great. None of the alternatives appeal.
COHEN: Pass. Since I’m not sure how many hearts to bid (or even bidding notrump), I’ll defend instead.
CHAGAS: Pass. At this vulnerability I cannot resist the temptation, and we are not sure about our game either. Well, not sure of anything…

So, what of those alternatives?

ROBSON: 2. Staking my claim for “feeble bid of the year” award. But passing without the nine of spades is very rich, while jumping to 3 is a clear overbid. 1NT is possible as it shows values (unlike 2) but it’s such a distortion.
LARSSON: 2. I’ve seen my partner’s takeout doubles before.
KLUKOWSKI: 2. My choice is a soft 2. My spades are too weak to pass, and my hand is not good enough to bid 3.
MOLSON: 2. Pass could be right, but I bid.

Only P-O can actually make a descriptive bid, because he has some weird method where the values normally shown by 1NT and 2 are reversed

SUNDELIN: 2. Pass is tempting, but I play 2 here as showing 6-9 hcp so that seems a reasonable description. I play 1NT as negative, with practically any weak hand, so that is not an option for me.

Now let’s get to the only member of the panel with whom I agree (and that does not happen often). David makes a good case for why 1NT is obviously the right bid. Sadly, though, I feel I must bow to the weight of expert opinion when it comes to the marking.

BIRD: 1NT. Some will pass, I suppose, but I don’t want to effectively play in a 5-1 fit with a horrible trump break against me. Bidding 2 instead would not show any values, and I can hardly bid 3.

Daniel is, perhaps, just too ambitious.

LAVEE: 2NT. This shows about 11-12 HCP, but that is made up for with super spades and excellent spot cards. I’m not interested in hearts on this hand because of the strong spade suit and the potential to be over-ruffed playing in a suit contract.

Partner did not have the best of doubles (I wouldn’t but I know many would): Kx/Jxx/AQ9x/K9xx. You beat 1♠-X by a trick for +200, come to 7/8 tricks in 1NT for +90/+120, but make only seven tricks in hearts (trumps break 5-1), so the heart bidders would have gone minus at the table.


3 :spades:8220
4 :spades:6334
4 :clubs:002
6 :spades:004
2 :spades:001

Another clear consensus from the panel, although exactly how far the 2 cue-bid is forcing is unclear, with a number of panelists telling us their intentions for the next round of the auction. Exactly how an invitation via 2 differs from an immediate 3♠ is also unclear, so I have upgraded the direct action as many of the 2 bidders intend to invite next. Those readers who splintered, bid Blackwood or just bid slam should appreciate that partner has so far shown xxxx/xxx/xxx/xxx.

We begin with those who commit themselves right away: David and Andrew both think the choice of contract is 3♠ or 4♠

ROBSON: 3♠. Strong invite.
BIRD: 3♠. This shows a great hand, so I am not worried in the slightest that it is an underbid. Whereas Simon suggests it is 3NT or 4♠.
DE WIJS: 4♠. Sure, I can imagine a world where 3NT is the best contract, but my life is too short to waste time investigating this…
SUNDELIN: 4♠. There is little hope of getting any useful info with a 2 force. Any soft diamond values opposite will come in handy.

A number of panelists start with a cue-bid but don’t tell us exactly why.

WANG: 2. To me it seems obvious to cue-bid first and then bid 3♠ or 4♠.

How is this different from an immediate 3♠ or 4♠?

KLUKOWSKI: 2. This seems like the best place to start.

CHAGAS: 2. Then we will see up to what extent he can take the suffering of my pressure… Both Peter and Paul (what happened to Mary, BTW?) cue-bid with similar intentions…

LAW: 2. I need to get partner’s cooperation with their minimum hand. Over 2, 4♠ looks like a good punt, but 3NT could be the best game if partner bids 2NT. Will raise 2♠ to 3♠ invitationally.

MARSTON: 2. Followed by a 3♠ invitation. 3NT is a contender if he bids 2NT (which would show some values).

Jessica also plans to invite at her next turn if partner shows no enthusiasm.

LARSSON: 2. I will raise 2♠ to 3♠.

Whereas Daniel intends to bid game come what may.

LAVEE: 2. I have a monster and will take my chances in game opposite a lousy hand. Partner’s 1♠ bid shows 0-8 points and slam is still possible. Give partner Jxxxx/xxxx/QJ10/x and slam is a decent contract given that South will have most of the opponents’ points.

At the other extreme, Larry uses the cue-bid as a route to stopping in 2♠…

COHEN: 2. 3♠ is an unnecessary overbid. If partner can bid only 2♠ over this, why get even higher opposite, say, Jxxx/xxx/Jxx/Jxx?

Jill offers an alternative way of putting on the brakes…

MEYERS: 2. This is a perfect hand for playing Herbert, which would ask partner to bid 2 with a miserable hand and to bid something else otherwise.

Even without that particular convention, should 2♠ not show the worst possible hand and anything else something better? Janice and Zia both mention an alternative way of describing this hand.

MOLSON: 2. My strength leads me to 3, which I play as the strongest raise in spades. However, it feels like 3NT might be my only game, so I will force with 2 instead.
ZIA: 2. I play 3 here as offering a choice between 4♠ and 3NT, so we could get to the right game opposite xxxx/Qxx/Qxx/Qxx.

And Alan does exactly that.

Alan SONTAG: 3. The jump cue-bid should show a very strong balanced raise (not a splinter).

It is a shame that Peter Fredin is not here this month, as he had the hand at the table, and advanced with 1NT, showing his balanced hand and approximate strength. When his partner raised to 3NT he decided that sounded like the right contract. Partner had xxxx/Ax/Q10/J8xxx so going down in 3NT was certainly unlucky (yes, spades were 4-0 offside). 4♠ from the East seat still makes as long as declarer plays the first club from hand (North has a low singleton): declarer can then set up clubs for diamond discards in time, losing just two clubs and a trump.

Congratulations to Peter Law, who just fails to repeat the perfect 80/80 that he managed last month. With a very creditable 78/80, though, he still becomes the first guest to top the panel. I was expecting Peter to win the competition for the third month in a row, but we had another perfect 80/80 from a competitor. The panel’s podium this month is completed by two world champion ladies, Jessica Larsson with 77/80 and Jull Meyers with 75/80.

Pete LAW2NT2:diamonds:2:diamonds:4NT3:spades:4:clubs:Pass2:diamonds:78
Jessica LARSSON2NT2:diamonds:Pass4NT3:spades:4:clubs:2:hearts:2:diamonds:77
Jill MEYERS2:spades:3:hearts:Pass4NT3NT4:clubs:Pass2:diamonds:75
Alan SONTAG2:spades:4:clubs:Pass4NT3:spades:4:clubs:2:hearts:3:diamonds:74
Zia MAHMOOD4:clubs:2:diamonds:2:diamonds:4NT3:spades:3:spades:Pass2:diamonds:72
Wen Fei WANG3NT4:clubs:2:diamonds:4NT3:spades:4:clubs:Dbl2:diamonds:72
Janice MOLSON2:spades:3:hearts:Pass5:diamonds:3NT4:clubs:2:hearts:2:diamonds:71
Larry COHEN3:hearts:3:clubs:Pass5:diamonds:3:spades:4:clubs:Pass2:diamonds:69
Simon DE WIJS3:hearts:4:hearts:2:diamonds:4NT3:spades:4:clubs:Pass4:spades:69
Barnet SHENKIN2NT2:diamonds:2:diamonds:6:clubs:3:spades:4:clubs:2:hearts:4:spades:69
Michal KLUKOWSKI3:hearts:2:diamonds:2:diamonds:6:clubs:3:spades:4:diamonds:2:hearts:2:diamonds:68
David BIRD2:spades:2:diamonds:Pass6:clubs:4:diamonds:4:clubs:1NT3:spades:67
Daniel LAVEE3:clubs:2:diamonds:Pass4NT3NT4:clubs:2NT2:diamonds:65
Daniel LAVEE4:hearts:Pass1:diamonds:4NT1:hearts:2NT2:hearts:Dbl65
Paul MARSTONPass 4:clubs:2:diamonds: 4NT3:spades:3:hearts: Pass2:diamonds:64
P.O. SUNDELIN4:clubs:2:diamonds:Pass4NT4:diamonds:3:spades:2:hearts:3:spades:63
Gabriel CHAGAS3NT3:hearts:2:diamonds:6:clubs:3NT3:spades:Pass2:diamonds:62
Andrew ROBSON2:spades:4:hearts:Pass6NT3NT3:spades:2:hearts:3:spades:61
TOP SCORES2:spades:2:diamonds:Pass4NT3:spades: 4:clubs:Pass2:diamonds: 


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