BBO Prime bidders challenge: August Panel Comments

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 21-8 – July-August 2021

Welcome to the eighth BBO Prime Bidding Challenge. Our guest panelist this month is again Peter Law, who won set 2021-6 with the first perfect score of the year by a competition entrant. He then also led the panel last month with 78/80 but, surprisingly, did not win the competition as we had another perfect 80/80.

We also welcome another new addition to our expert panel: Tim Cope was a key member of South African teams that reached the quarter-finals of the 1995 Bermuda Bowl in Beijing and were semi-finalists in the same event in Shanghai in 2007, the best ever performances by South African teams in World Championship events.

Hand 6 this month was sent in by Barbara Giesbrecht (BBO: BabsG) from Qualicum Beach BC, Canada. Thanks to her. Readers are encouraged to send problems that they would like to see discussed by the panel. Ideally, the best problems have three (or more) sensible answers, rather than being just a straight choice between only two obvious options.

On four deals this month, the most popular selection of the competition entrants collects top marks. However, only three of the hands produce a clear decision from the panel. On the other five, no action attracts the support of a majority of our experts, so the problem-setter keeps his job for another month. This has proved to be the toughest set so far this year, with only five panelists and two competition entrants breaking the 70 barrier. Half of the leaders in the annual competition also registered their lowest score so far. It sounds like the discussion should be lively, so let’s get to it…


5 :diamonds:10715
4 :spades:931
3 :spades:822
4 :diamonds:6215
3 :diamonds:4119
3 :hearts:0010
4 :clubs:0010
4 :hearts:001

A divided panel, with six different choices and only just over a third of the experts going for the most popular option. The competition entrants are even more split, with more choosing bids that scored zero than selected the top three scoring bids combined. Let’s start with those who try to get their hearts into the auction:

SONTAG: Dbl. The easiest problem in this set.
COHEN: Dbl. It’s unlikely partner will bid 4 and get to play there, but can it hurt much to try? If partner bids 3NT, I will give it a try. Who is to say we won’t make it opposite something like KJxx/xx/AKxx/Q10x? Worst case, I bid 5 later.
WANG: 3. I don’t want to give up on 3NT.

Knowing that the opponents have at least an eight-card spade fit, is that really the biggest issue?

KLUKOWSKI: 4. At any other vulnerability I’d bid 5, but here my heart belongs to 4. Of course, it might be wrong, but 5 may be a costly phantom sacrifice. A number of panelists explain why they are not concerned with hearts.
ZIA: 5. We can’t outbid spades with hearts, and the raise may trap North into an overbid.
MARSTON: 5. Not worried about the hearts. If we have a heart fit, we will be overbid in spades anyway.

Jill MEYERS: 4. I think double by me would show hearts and diamonds, but even if partner has four hearts we could be running into a very bad split. Also, spades are higher than hearts, so they can outbid us even if we have a heart fit. 4
shows a very distributional raise and I can’t double and show that at the same time, so I’m just letting partner know what I have.

Some are content to turn it into a poker game.

BROCK: 5. Let’s make everyone guess.

BRINK: 5. Nobody knows, but at least this forces the opponents to guess at the five-level.
DE WIJS: 5. This feels about right and also has the benefit of making life tough for the opponents.
SUNDELIN: 5. Having no method to find hearts and letting partner declare them and apart from that knowing nothing; 5.

David goes with the majority in favor of the constructive alternatives.

BIRD: 5. I usually take a middle-of-the-road option. Even though a slam is possible, I would be nervous of bidding 3♠ or 4♠ with so few HCP.

Others do not feel so constrained, and I confess this would have been my choice too.

LAW: 4♠. This should show a raise to 5 with a spade shortage and may help partner’s next decision if North joins in.
SHENKIN: 4♠. Splinter.
ROBSON: 4♠. This splinter will allow partner to judge the competitive auction, and may even lead to the odd making slam. Yes, it is an overbid (but that never stopped me before).

Our final pair attempt to bid the hand constructively, although I wonder how much help this will be to partner if North bids 4♠ next.

CHAGAS: 3♠. If partner bids 3NT, I will continue with 4.
COPE: 3♠. It is too tough to try to bring hearts into the picture realistically. Whether this systemically just shows a good hand for diamonds (as some might play a bid of 4♣ as game-forcing with hearts), or if it also shows a spade control too, this hand seems to fit the bill whichever way we play it.

Partner has Jx/K10xx/AKQxxx/A, so slam in either red suit is good. If you start with a negative double, trying to get hearts into the auction, finding the right level is much harder when North then jumps to 4♠: if partner bids 5, are you raising? Those who splinter will surely reach slam. Those who jump to 5 will need partner to take an optimistic view.


5 :clubs:101241
3 :spades:716
7 :clubs:710
4 :clubs:4131
6 :clubs:400
3 NT402
4 NT400
4 :diamonds:007
3 :hearts:001

This deal produced one of the month’s large majorities, but the panel also came up with a number of alternatives. Let’s hear what the majority has to say:

CHAGAS: 5♣. Just to make it a little harder for their exchange of info.
ROBSON: 5♣. Bounce North into guessing how many diamonds to bid.
ZIA: 5♣.
MARSTON: 5♣. Taking out their Key Card and their cuebid.
BROCK: 5♣. As above.

Sjoert earns ‘Comment of the Month’ honors…

BRINK: 5♣. Again, nobody knows. In the old days, I psyched 3NT, in the days after that, I psyched 4NT, and now, being an old man, playing only on the computer, I have no inspiration to bid brilliantly. So, a boring 5♣. I need to be back at the table. I don’t like to be boring…

I don’t think there’s much danger of that, Sjoert 😊

WANG: 5♣. I want to leave the difficult choices to the opponents.
MEYERS: 5♣. I don’t have other comments other than that I am furthering the preempt, but not furthering it to the six-level and suggesting to them that I think they have a slam.

It is rare that a panelist’s prediction is accurate, but David is spot on here…

BIRD: 5♣. Oddschecker is currently offering 50/1 against this being awarded the ‘Best Problem of the Set’ medal.

Michel is anticipating World Peace, an England victory in a major football tournament and…

KLUKOWSKI: 5♣. Hoping for 5-all pass.

Simon starts realistically enough, but then also finishes in fantasyland…

DE WIJS: 5♣. If they double and pass this, I might not be happy, but I am banking on the fact that North probably has a good diamond fit. By bidding 5♣ I take away his slam try, forcing him to guess. And who knows, maybe we will cash the first two clubs should he guess to bid slam.

This sounds like a man who has seen partner open 3♣ on 108xxx too often.

COHEN: 4♣. I am not willing to offer up maybe 500/800 in 5♣. This gentle raise could cause enough trouble. Sometimes they double and end in a 4-3 major.

There is some logic to the approach adopted by both Alan and PO.

SONTAG: Pass. Any club raise (4♣ or 5♣) will make it easier for the opponents.
SUNDELIN: Pass. I am gambling that Pass helps them the least, but any of 4♣, 5♣ or 6♣ might be right, depending on their methods and judgment. Clearly a hand where a little self-kibitzing should help.

I was surprised that only one panelist considered this option.

COPE: 3♠. The kneejerk reaction might be just to bid 5♣ at this vulnerability. We do not know if they can make 5 or 6 (or maybe nothing) but, by introducing the spade suit, we may be able to get partner to co-operate with a save at the appropriate level. There’s also nothing wrong with sowing some confusion in the oppositions’ minds as to what is going on.

Peter gives up on any chance for 80/80 and bids what he thinks is right. And at the table he might have gotten the best result of anyone, too…

Peter LAW: 7♣. It’s 100 guineas to a pinch of snuff that N/S can make 6♦, so 7♣ should be a cheap save. 7♣ puts pressure on leftie, who won’t always guess right. Could turn out to be a lead problem if it continues 7♦-Dbl-all pass. For the record I lead a heart.

Partner had Kxx/x/xx/J109xxxx. 5♣ is likely to cramp the opponents enough that they stop in 6, whereas 4♣ gives them room to find the grand. 3♠ may get you to the good save over 7, although it also risks pushing them into the cold 7NT. Peter’s 7♣ seems to have the best chance of buying it cheaply for 500/800.


4 :clubs: 7443
5 :clubs: 516
4 :hearts:206
3 :hearts:0010
3 NT006
4 :spades:002
3 :spades:002
6 :spades:001
3 :clubs: (insufficient) 001

Another clear majority from the panel, and with relatively few alternatives offered. Two-third of the competition entrants pick one of the panel’s top two choices, although plenty of non-scoring alternative were also suggested. We start with the majority…

ROBSON: 4. Choice of games. Partner will bid 4 only with five cards. If partner bids 4♠, I’ll pull to 5♣ as partner is bound to have at least four clubs (2434 or longer clubs).
BIRD: 4. “I have enough for game; you choose which game.” There is no point in wondering whether 4♣ would be forcing, because we could belong in 4.
COHEN: 4. Too much for only 4♣ or 3. If partner bids 4 now, even a 4-3 fit should play well.
LAW: 4. This commits us to game at least and partner can decide the correct strain, including the possibility of a Moysian fit in hearts.
SONTAG: 4. Uncomfortable overbid, but 4♣ is too timid.
SUNDELIN: 4. Trying to show my hand. Hope partner will understand
SHENKIN: 4. I will bid 5♣ over 4♠.
MEYERS: 4. I have slam interest, and I want partner to know or suspect I am short in diamonds.
CHAGAS: 4. We will bid at least in game in one of his suits, hopefully not 4 in a 4-3 fit…
ZIA: 4. Maybe 4♣ should be forcing?

Since partner has not actually promised clubs, it seems to me that it should be. However, perhaps those who chose that action will tell us…

DE WIJS: 4♣. Even though I am a little strong for this, alternatives are worse. Some people might play 4 as a choice of games here. That would be great. For me 4 would be a slam try with a heart fit, so that’s not possible.

It sounds like Simon thinks it is non-forcing.

BROCK: 4♣. I guess. With no special agreements. There is a case for a double of a three-level overcall to be game forcing. Then you can have the agreement either (a) 3 shows only three cards, and/or (b) 4 here would be this shape.

Whereas it seems both Wen Fei and Paul think it should be forcing…

WANG: 4♣. I hope my partner will bid something.
MARSTON: 4♣. Leaving partner plenty of room.

Tim presumably thinks 4♣ would not be forcing…

COPE: 5♣. There are dangers in every bid and it is true that partner has not promised a four-card club suit. To bid just 4♣ would put partner under too much pressure to raise if they had, say, AJxx in both rounded suits. Second choice would be 4♦, which should ostensibly agree hearts and the Moysian fit does have some appeal, particularly as partner may have a five-card heart suit that they were not strong enough to bid.

Partner had 10x/J10xx/KQ/AJxxx. On this occasion, the 4♣ bidders might manage to go plus if East thinks it is non-forcing, as ten tricks in clubs (and perhaps nine in spades) is about all you can make.


3 :spades:9672
3 NT410
4 :spades:001

The most emphatic vote for any action so far this year from the competitors, but the panel are far from convinced. The choices seem to be an overbid (3♠), an underbid (Pass) or something in the middle (Dbl). The doublers seem to me to have the best of the debate, so I have split the tie in their favor. Let’s hear from those going for the strongest option first:

WANG: 3♠. It’s a little overbid, but this is my choice.
SHENKIN: 3♠. I don’t much like any of the options, but this has the biggest reward if right.
SONTAG: 3♠. Double would work well if partner gets to respond 3.
DE WIJS: 3♠. More hoping than anything else. I cannot bring myself to double with this very one-sided hand. Sometimes that works out at a lower level (doubling and then bidding a suit to show a non-forcing hand), but here I feel it’s not practical

I guess it cannot be too much of an overbid if Mr Down-the-Middle is in this group.

BIRD: 3♠. With this shape and my points divided among the suits, I would start with a double (hoping to bid a non-forcing 3♠ next). The three top honors are beckoning me to follow a different path.

Zia sums up for this group of panelists:

Zia MAHMOOD: 3♠. Sick!

So, what do the doublers have to say?

LAW: Dbl. Not strong enough for a forcing 3♠, so a non-forcing 3♠ over 3 from partner.

COPE: Dbl. I do not have the courage to bid a game-forcing 3♠ and, if partner responds 3, I can now bid 3♠ to show this hand type. I have a feeling this hand is going to go very badly for us and the only winning action may have been to Pass, but I do have a potential source of tricks if partner wants to have a go at 3NT.
SUNDELIN: Dbl. I am hoping that partner will bid spades or NT, and that if I bid 3♠ over his 3/ then it is not forcing (although I am afraid it may be). 3♠ directly is game-forcing, but perhaps my delayed route to 3♠ may imply I have a more flexible hand, interested in more than one strain…
BROCK: Dbl. I so don’t want to be declarer! Again, unless my double is game-forcing, I can surely bid a non-forcing 3♠ over 3/.
MEYERS: Dbl. I intend to correct 3 or 3 to 3♠. I think that is what that sequence would show – not enough to force to game but enough to double and bid my suit.
CHAGAS: Dbl. For the lack of better bid. I can’t bid 3♠, but I can’t pass either.

That all seems quite reasonable, doesn’t it? So what about those at the meeker end of the scale?

MARSTON: Pass. This could look silly if partner has a doubleton club and does not act, but the risk is too high that 3♠ will drive us overboard.
COHEN: Pass. If everyone passes (partner isn’t short in clubs), we likely didn’t miss anything. Wrong shape/clubs to be aggressive here (compared to the previous problems in this set where we were short in their suit).

Andrew sums up the main problem with this route.

ROBSON: Pass. If partner can’t double, we’ll defend. If partner can double, we’ll bid 4♠. I’m afraid we can’t play in precisely 3♠, highlighting (yet) again, why pre-emptive jump overcalls are so potent.

There was only one real maverick, and I suppose his choice could be the winning option…

BRINK: 3NT. Much better, of course, would be 3 (transfer to spades, game-forcing), and after partner’s 3♠, 3NT to involve partner in the decision. As it is, I go with the old Hamman rule: when 3NT is an option, bid it.

And even when it isn’t a real option, apparently 😊 Partner had Jx/AKxx/K9xxxx/K. The honors were where you would expect (♣A-Q with the overcaller and the A onside). Although nine tricks is theoretically the limit in spade, some pairs were allowed to make eleven tricks when the defenders failed to attack dummy’s heart entries early enough. At the table, Pass gets you to 3♣ (+100/+150), Dbl to 3♠ (+140/+200), and 3♠ to 4♠ (-100/+650), so where you want to play depends on how kind the defenders are to you. Here on the panel, though, just about everyone scores fairly well.


3 :spades:10645
3 NT950
2 NT629
2 :spades:4132
3 :hearts:001
3 :diamonds:001
4 :diamonds:001
4 :spades:001

This is a strange one, with the largest group of both panelists and competitors agreeing. The second largest group of competition entrants, though, get little support from the panel, nor do the second-largest group of panelists attract a single reader. Let’s start with those who rebid their spades.

SUNDELIN: 2♠. Cowardly, but considering the poor quality of the heart bidder’s hearts, he/she probably has good minors. Hopefully, spades misbehave.

A bit more ambitious…

COPE: 3♠. Clearly a trick hand where we have to get to 3NT when partner has Qx in spades and the ♣K. Since I cannot invent a bid that determines those exact cards, I make the standard limit bid. Call me old-fashioned.
DE WIJS: 3♠. I want to give partner a way out with a singleton spade. It might not be easy for him to bid 3NT. Still, this feels like the least of all evils
MARSTON: 3♠. I expect partner to pass or bid 4♠. I suppose there are some hands where 3NT is best, but I don’t see a sensible way to investigate that.

Larry seems to prefer an alternative option.

COHEN: 3♠. If double is takeout/cards, I’d start with that. Otherwise, the straightforward value-showing bid seems best.

It does sounds as though that’s what double would be.

WANG: Dbl. I will probably bid 3♠ next.
KLUKOWSKI: Dbl. It looks like a 3♠ bid to me, but I might as well start with double. Nothing bad should happen to me. At most I will bid 3♠ later, over 3♣ from my partner.
ROBSON: Dbl. The more obvious jump to 3♠ is too unidirectional, and will often leave partner nowhere to go. If partner replies 3♣, then I can bid 3♠, but partner may do something else, helping us more.

Indeed, he would have, although quite how you would then advance is not so clear. The final significant group solve the problem of partner not having a heart stopper. Sally hits the problem on the head.

Sally BROCK: 3NT. I’m not keen to declare this hand either. The trouble with either double or 3♠ is that partner probably doesn’t have sufficient heart cards to ever bid notrumps again.

MEYERS: 3NT. If I bid 3♠, partner won’t know I have hearts double stopped and we may get to the wrong game.

Or, indeed, to no game!

LAW: 3NT. A reasonable gamble with flaws in all alternative actions.
BIRD: 3NT. Since 2NT would suggest 18 points or so, it seems that 3NT should indicate that my suit is good (as it would if I had opened 1♣ or 1).
CHAGAS: 2NT. 2♠ would be too little and 3♠ would leave partner without a place to go when I have the heart stoppers.
BRINK: 2NT. I hope I can bid 2NT, showing 6-4. If partner will take it as natural, that’s okay too as it also describes my hand almost perfectly. So, whatever 2NT is, I have my bid.

I had the hand at the table and bid 3♠ but, in retrospect, I don’t think it’s right. Partner passed and I made eleven tricks. Curiously, though we had missed a slam. Quite whether any other action would get you there is another question, but you have a chance if you double here, as partner would bid diamonds. He had x/xx/AQ10xxxx/J10x. With diamonds 1-1 (king onside), 6 is an easy make, as is 4♠ (Qxx onside) or 3NT (partner has a club stopper).

Is partner supposed to raise if you rebid 3♠? Is there a difference in terms of strength to doubling and bidding 3♠ over 3♣ rather than just bidding 3♠? If not, is that not clearly better…?


3 :hearts:5124
4 :hearts:300
3 :spades:001
2 :hearts: (insufficient)002

This hand produced the panel’s largest majority of the month, and nearly two-thirds of entrants also pick one of the top two awards. Let’s hear from the majority:

COHEN: Dbl. Too strong for any overcall (other than 3NT, but what’s the hurry?).
LAW: Dbl. Doubling and then continuing with 3 over 2NT or 3m expresses the hand better than an immediate 3. 3NT is still in the frame.
SONTAG: Dbl. Too strong to overcall 2NT or 3.
BROCK: Dbl. I secretly like 3NT, but I think that is perhaps a bit premature.
WANG: Dbl. I can probably bid 3 over whatever partner does.
MEYERS: Dbl. I have enough to double and then bid 3.
BIRD: Dbl. I am happy to be playing Lebensohl responses. Over 2NT I will bid 3, strong but non-forcing.
DE WIJS: Dbl. Too strong for either 2NT or 3, so I double and will bid hearts later.
CHAGAS: Dbl. Too strong for 3 and odd for 2NT. Later, I will show my hearts if I get the chance.
KLUKOWSKI: Dbl. No problem for me.
ZIA: Dbl. It’s too good for 2NT.

Andrew sums up for the majority.

Andrew ROBSON: Dbl. Too strong for anything else right now. Frankly, what choice do we have? Jumping to 3NT is so bucolic when a heart slam is likely if partner is 1-4 in the majors, which is entirely possible.

We did have a few dissenters.

COPE: 2NT. Maybe a gross underbid, but at least we have system available if partner wants to start making inquisitive noises. The only alternative would be to Double and break a Lebensohl 2NT bid to 3, which I think is more of an overstatement than my understatement.
SHENKIN: 2NT. A slight underbid.
BRINK: 2NT. I have to say that double, 3 and 2NT are all possible. I dislike 3 (too strong). 2NT solves all my problems, except of course that I may miss a game.
MARSTON: 3. True, partner will expect a slightly weaker hand with six hearts, but we keep all our options open.

Partner had xx/Jxx/109xx/KQJx, so 3NT and 4 are both good, but East would pass a 3 overcall, and would maybe pass 2NT too.


5 :clubs: 10613
6 :diamonds:831
4 :diamonds:6423
4 :hearts:4143
5 :diamonds:207
4 NT002
4 :spades:001

A tough deal for the competition entrants, with less than a quarter opting for one of the three top-scoring choices. We start with those panelists who supported one of the readers’ popular choices.

WANG: 4. I think 5 is safe. Maybe we can make 6, so it is important for me to support now.
SHENKIN: 4. Let’s play in our eight- or nine-card fit.
MARSTON: 4. Direct support gives us the best prospects of reaching a good slam.
ZIA: 4. This MUST be forcing.

They are all sure that 4 is forcing. The rest of the panel are not convinced of that. After all, 2 was not game-forcing, and would you not support now on a minimum opening bid with four diamonds? When ten tricks are the limit on your combined 22-23 count, why should you be forced to go minus by either bidding game or defending 4♣?

SONTAG: 5♣. I would prefer to have four-card support, but 4 is non-forcing and 4 is misguided.

With such distinguished luminaries on opposite sides of the fence on this question, it may be worth finding out if your regular partner thinks 4 is forcing in this sequence.

BIRD: 5♣. My first reading of the hand was ‘just a 12-count’. Then it began to grow in front of my eyes, like some exotic orchid. A slam is possible opposite many minimum 2 bids.
COHEN: 5♣. Continuing this month’s theme of being aggressive with shortness in their suit. The club void is HUGE. Yes, I’d prefer another diamond, but I have first-round control of everything and can hardly do less than this.
MEYERS: 5♣. I see no reason to bid my other five-card suit when I have such a good fit with partner. Although I think 5♣ may be a bit of an overbid, my void and major-suit controls are too good not to let partner know I am interested in slam.
BRINK: 5♣. Should how a void. I hope partner can fill in some spots and can jump to 6.

Simon sums up the case for the majority.

DE WIJS: 5♣. I have a great hand in support of diamonds, so I will give up on playing hearts in favor of a descriptive bid.

Some did not even consult partner.

COPE: 6. I won’t be playing it, so why should I be worried? There will not be room for me to show all my controls if there should be a grand slam available, so why bother with 5♣ or the like? There are too many hands that partner can have where 6 is an excellent contract, so I bid what I hope can be made and will apologize later if it’s wrong.

P-O SUNDELIN: 6♦. Maybe making on the lead, maybe missing seven. Maybe…

CHAGAS: 6. I know we could be cold for seven as easily as be down in six, but such is life and competitive bridge.

Only a few are not willing to commit to diamonds yet.

ROBSON: Dbl. Card-showing – take-out, and the only sensible call when neglecting a feature (eg 4 neglects the diamonds, 4 neglects the hearts).
BROCK: Dbl. Getting hearts and diamonds into the picture. It could be right to bid 4 (surely showing 5-5) but it is too likely that 6 is the right spot.
LAW: Dbl. Close between double and 5♣. 5♣ shows a slam try in diamonds with a club control.

Double has the advantage of bringing hearts into the game with the option of following up with 5♣ over 4, opposition permitting.
Only Michal thinks the fifth heart is worth showing at the risk of missing diamonds altogether.

KLUKOWSKI: 4. It might be a mistake, but I bid 4. It is unlikely to end the bidding, and over 4♠ from partner I can bid 5.

Partner held Qx/x/KQ10xxxx/KQx so 6D was excellent. At the table, one West bid 4 and passed 4♠, the other bid 5♣, over which partner bid the slam.


4 :hearts:10766
5 :hearts:848
4 :diamonds:5210
4 :clubs:412
4 :spades:008
4 NT001

Another massive vote from the competitors, and the largest faction on the panel agree with them this time. The majority of panelists opted for alternative actions, though, so let’s hear what they all have to say.

WANG: 4. Maybe we can make 6, but first I must be keeping contact safe.
SHENKIN: 5. No spade control. Let partner make the last mistake! It may be on a finesse, which rates to be right.
SUNDELIN: 4. Cowardly. A friend of mine uses 4♣/ in this situation to show different (positive) heart raises. Sadly, they are not included in my repertoire.
COPE: 5. I cannot just fold my tent and bid a meek 4, and I will be no better off in deciding what to do if I start with a negative double or bid a natural 4. So, let’s get this over with and ask for the spade control. If partner has the right hand with Kxx in spades, they will know to think about playing in NT, as I am showing two spade losers.
DE WIJS: 4. Playing 4♣ as a good hand for hearts would be a great idea here, but it sounds natural to me. Without that option, I think 4 is enough. ROBSON: 5. As the Sharples brothers used to ask when making a five-level venture, “Are you more likely to make six, or go down in five?”
KLUKOWSKI: 4. I would like to bid 4♣ as a slam try with hearts, but it would probably be taken as natural playing with an unknown expert without discussion.
ZIA: 5. I think most would play 4♣ as a good raise of hearts. Without that agreement, though, I would bid 5.
MARSTON: 4. The preempt has prevented us from showing a serious hand. I am not prepared to risk a certain game searching for a possible slam.
CHAGAS: Dbl. Then later support hearts. This shows a better hand than just bidding 4 now.
MEYERS: 4. I have just switched to playing 4 is a transfer to hearts, showing slam interest (and 4♣ shows either minor forcing), and this hand is the perfect example why. Absent that agreement, since I can’t show slam interest and we could possibly be in danger at the five-level, I will go low and bid 4.

David BIRD: Dbl. It is unclear whether 4♣ would be natural or a control-bid. It’s not a risk worth taking, when partner is unlikely to have a diamond control to show anyway. (Perhaps 4 would be Last Train with a spade control?) 4 by me is too timid and 5 would be a gamble. I will hope for something good to happen after my double.

COHEN: 4. Forever, Marty Bergen has preached that 4m here should not be natural. 4♣/4 should show varying degrees of heart raises and this problem illustrates why that is a good idea. Anyway, I won’t risk the five-level, fearing Qx/AQxxx/J10x/KJx or the like.
BROCK: Dbl. To show the values because my hearts are poor. In most of my partnerships, I play that all four-level bids agree hearts (most hands with a long minor would want to double to keep 3NT in the picture anyway). In which case I can choose between 4 (weak NT type values with support) or 4♣ (better than that). On this hand I would bid 4.

A number of the panelists mention using 4♣/4 as bids to agree hearts but accepted that, without discussion, those bids would be taken as natural. Knowing that it is natural, Peter sill bids 4, and there is logic to his reasoning.

LAW: 4. Another close one, between double and 4 IMHO. Too good for 4 but not good enough for 5, and what would that mean anyway? The problem with doubling is what do we do when partner bids 4♣, as he likely will? If 4 produces 4 then the trump suit should be reasonably solid, so now 5 can invite slam if partner has a spade control. If all partner does is raise to 5, omitting to cue 4♠, then I’ll pass.

Only a couple bid 4m hoping it would be taken as agreeing hearts.

SONTAG: 4. Artificial slam-try in hearts. It is important to play transfers over 3♠ overcalls.
BRINK: 4♣. In Switzerland, Netherlands and even in Poland, I know that 4♣ is a slam try in hearts (4 shows a spade splinter). Many top Americans are playing this also. So, everyone who isn’t playing this at the moment, now is a good time. I bid 4♣. Partner had Axxx/AJ9xx/—/KQxx. At the table, one West bid 4 and made +480. The other bid 4♣, intending it as a cue-bid agreeing hearts. East bid 4♠ and over Blackwood then showed three key cards assuming, correctly I think, that clubs were trumps. Result, 7-1 missing the KQ10x of trumps. In this feature, the assumption is that you are playing with an unknown expert without discussion of specific situations, and without agreement 4♣/4 should surely be assumed to be natural.

Simon de Wijs

Simon de Wijs leads the panel this month with an impressive 76/80, closely followed by Jill Meyers (her second consecutive podium finish) and David Bird, both with 75/80. Our thanks to all members of the panel for their time. I am sure that all of our readers appreciate the sharing of our experts’ insights.
Simon De WIJS5:diamonds:5:clubs:4:clubs:3:spades:3:spades:Dbl5:clubs:4:hearts:76
David BIRD5:diamonds:5:clubs:4:diamonds:3:spades:3NTDbl5:clubs:Dbl75
Jill MEYERS4:diamonds:5:clubs:4:diamonds:Dbl3NTDbl5:clubs:4:hearts:75
ZIA Mahmood5:diamonds:5:clubs:4:diamonds:3:spades:3NTDbl4:diamonds:5:hearts:72
Sally BROCK5:diamonds:5:clubs:4:clubs:Dbl3NTDblDblDbl70
Gabriel CHAGAS3:spades:5:clubs:4:diamonds:Dbl2NTDbl6:diamonds:Dbl69
Andrew ROBSON4:spades:5:clubs:4:diamonds:PassDblDblDbl5:hearts:69
Barnet SHENKIN4:spades:5:clubs:4:diamonds:3:spades:3:spades:2NT4:diamonds:4:diamonds:67
Pete LAW4:spades:7:clubs:4:diamonds:Dbl3NTDblDbl4:spades:69
P.O. SUNDELIN5:diamonds:Pass4:diamonds:Dbl2:spades:Dbl6:diamonds:4:hearts:67
Larry COHENDbl4:clubs:4:diamonds:Pass3:spades:Dbl5:clubs:4:hearts:66
Michael KLUKOWSKI4:diamonds:5:clubs:4:diamonds:PassDblDbl4:hearts:4:hearts:65
Paul MARSTON5:diamonds:5:clubs:4:clubs:Pass3:spades:3:hearts:4:diamonds:4:hearts:65
Alan SONTAGDblPass4:diamonds:3:spades:3:spades:Dbl5:clubs:4:diamonds:64
Wen Fei WANG3:diamonds: 5:clubs: 4:clubs: 3:spades:DblDbl4:diamonds:4:hearts:64
Tim COPE3:spades:3:spades: 5:clubs:Dbl 3:spades:2NT6:diamonds:5:hearts:63
Gabriel CHAGAS3NT3:hearts:2:diamonds:6:clubs:3NT3:spades:Pass2:diamonds:62
Andrew ROBSON5:diamonds: 5:clubs:4:diamonds:3NT2NT2NT5:clubs:4:clubs:61
TOP SCORES5:diamonds: 5:clubs:4:diamonds:Dbl3:spades:Dbl5:clubs:4:hearts: 


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