BBO Prime bidders challenge: May Panel Comments

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 2022-5


Welcome to the fifth set of the 2022 competition. I am delighted to be able to report that, at the recent World Championships in Salsomaggiore, Italy, the winning team in both the Bermuda Bowl and the Venice Cup contained at least one member of our expert panel. Special commiserations must go to Simon de Wijs, who was a member of the Dutch team that lost by just 3 IMPs in the final of the Bermuda Bowl.

Our 2022 World Champions

Left to right; Sjoert Brink (Switzerland), Jessica Larsson (Sweden) and Michal Klukowski (Switzerland)



For none of the three was this their first victory in the world’s premier events. Now both playing for Switzerland, Sjoert Brink was a member of the Dutch team that won the 2011 Bermuda Bowl, whilst Michal Klukowski was in the Polish team that won the same event in 2015. Jessica Larsson was one of four members of the Swedish Womens’ team who retained the Venice Cup in Italy, having also won the last time the event was held, in Wuhan, China in 2019. Huge congratulations to all three, and we are very glad to have you as regular panellists.
Our two guest panellists this month, the co-winners of Set 2022-3, are Milko Slavov from Varna, Bulgaria and Wanfeng Mou from Sugarland TX, USA. Milko was a regular last year and finished in the Top 15 of the 2021 annual competition, but this is his first victory. A 60-year old from the major seaside resort on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, Milko has been playing for 35 years and is happy with a simple five-card Major system.
We are pleased to welcome a new panellist this month. Simon Hult won two European and three World championship titles as a junior. Whilst still a junior, he was a member of the Swedish team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Bermuda Bowl in Wuhan. Playing with Gunnar Hallberg, he is also an integral part of the BLACK team that dominated the latter part of the last ALT season.

There is more excellent news too: this month we smashed our previous record for participants in this competition by more than 300, with the entry exceeding 2,000 BBO members for the first time.

We have a clear majority from the panel on seven of the eight deals this month, so one might perhaps think that means this is an easy set with plenty of obvious answers. However, it did not turn out that way, and this is the lowest-scoring set of the year so far, with the average competitor’s score just 44.8/80. Remarkably, perhaps, the most popular choice of the competition entrants fails to agree with the panel’s action on any hand. Indeed, if you are a member of the largest group of competitors on every deal this month, you will score a disappointing 37/80. On six of the eight hands, one of the largest groups of competitors scores a ‘10’, but on two deals (Hands 4 and 6) only a small minority do so, and thus special congratulations to those breaking the 70/80 barrier this month (less than 30 out of 2,085 who tried).

I’m sure there is plenty to be learned from our experts’ comments, so let’s get on with the show.


HAND 1.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
3❤️10820.1
2❤️ 6125.0
3♣️449.1
2♣️3030.3
2♠️206.8
Pass002.7
1NT001.7
4❤️001.4
3♠️001.4
4♠️000.5
2NT000.4
4:diamonds:000.1
4♣️00<0.1
5♠️00<0.1
4NT00<0.1


Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.92

We start with a clear decision from the panel but a three-way split amongst competition entrants, with the largest faction scoring only 3/10. Just one-fifth of competitor collect top marks on this hand. Let’s hear from the majority first.

COHEN: 3. The major is where the money is. This hand is good enough to invite 4.
SLAVOV: 3. Invitational.
SHENKIN: 3.
BOCCHI: 3. Not easy. All options are flawed.
David chooses between 3 and 3♣.
BIRD: 3. The alternative is 3♣, but this could result in missing a 4-4 heart fit. Mind you, most players overcall 2 with five hearts, so East might rebid 3 over 3♣ with only four hearts.
Jessica between 3 and 4.
LARSSON:: 3, This hand I worth about 3.5 hearts. I take the low road, 3.
Whilst, for others, a 2♠ cue-bid was their second choice…
ROBSON: 3. This feels about right on values, although there is a case for forcing to game via 2♠.
COPE: 3. Not quite worth 2♠, as that would basically force us to game. Whilst I like my hand very much, South’s failure to raise spades may mean the hand is not quite as good as it looks, as partner may have three spades.
SUNDELIN: 3. Unfortunately, 2♠ followed by a correction over partner’s 3 to 3 probably forces to game.
Sjoert has a systemic solution to this type of problem.
BRINK: 3. I love my own agreement here, bidding a forcing 1NT with any 8-11. Unfortunately, without such agreements the normal bid is 3. Who am I not to bid it?
Wanfeng sums up the case for the majority.
MOU: 3. This is a small overbid. The compensation is that my high cards are concentrated in two suits. The reasonable alternatives, 2♣, 2 and 3♣, all have bigger flaws.
There were a few dissenters.
RIMSTEDT: 2. Close to 2♠ and 3, but not quite there.
WANG: 2. Is there another choice?
HULT: 2. I plan to compete with 3♣ over 2♠ from the opponents. Then partner should know I have longer clubs. If opener passes and partner finds another bid, I will force to game.
Our Antipodean friend had only one other supporter for responding in the minor.
MARSTON: 2♣. I will be bidding hearts at my next turn, if there is one.
MEYERS: 2♣. I will not be happy if it goes all pass, although perhaps we don’t have a game if it does. My intention is to bid my hearts next time around. It is tempting to bid 3 because I have game invitational values, but I don’t love jumping to 3 on a four-card suit.
It sounds like Jill plays a more-free-wheeling style of takeout doubles than suits me. If partner will have four hearts most of the time for a double of 1♠, then 3 is surely the right bid but, if the partnership style is to double on any old 13-count, then 2♣ is perhaps correct.

You may not agree with partner’s double of 1♠ on AKJ9/A10x/AQ109xx/–, although a 2 overcall probably ends the auction in 2. In the match where I watched, the Easts doubled and both West players responded 3. One East raised to 4 (+620) but at the other table the auction spiraled out of control, ending in 6. Responding 3♣ probably gets you to 3NT, which is likely to make. What happens after a 2♣ or 2 response is harder to predict.


HAND 2.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
2NT101119.7
3NT  725.9
Dbl5124.4
3♣️4127.3
Pass214.4
3❤️ 205.3
3:diamonds:201.6
5♣️200.9
4NT002.7
4❤️ 002.6
4♣️002.2
6❤️ 000.8
3♠️000.8
6♣️000.4
2♠️000.3
4♠️000.2
4:diamonds:00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.94

Similar to Hand 1, a clear majority choice from the panel and most competition entrants in a three-way split. Here too, though, the largest group of competitors score fairly poorly, just 4/10, with slightly less than one-fifth getting a ‘10’. For a number of the panel, the choice was obvious…

BRINK: 2NT. What else?
LARSSON: 2NT.
SHENKIN: 2NT.
MOU: 2NT. This shows a big hand without much interest in spades. With 5-6 HCP, partner will find a game contract for us.
RIMSTEDT: 2NT. No great options, but probably the best way to describe my hand in this situation.
WANG: 2NT. Perhaps not the best choice, but I’m sure this is what I would bid at the table.
MARSTON 2NT. Michael Rosenberg said on “Sorry, Partner” that when they preempt to the three-level, rebidding 3NT just works. I am hoping for the best with this near relative.


BIRD: 2NT. We might belong in clubs, so this is not ideal. I also considered a Double, but a partner with five or six spades might then insist on that suit.


COHEN 2NT. This shows 18-19 balanced, which is more or less what I have (a little extra in playing strength and a little off in shape).
MEYERS: 2NT. This shows a 2NT rebid. I trust they don’t have a lot of spades to run, or someone might have bid them.
Andrew sums up the argument for the majority choice:
ROBSON: 2NT. I can’t pass (too much risk of missing game – even slam if partner has a diamond suit), I can’t double (unable to control the auction if partner keeps on bidding spades), so here we are.
This time, there were a handful of dissenters. A couple didn’t think 2NT was enough.
BOCCHI: 3NT. The alternative is to double, but that is much too dangerous with only one spade.
HULT: 3NT. This should be 6+♣ with hearts stopped. It’s not perfect, but I don’t like my other options — I don’t like to double with stiff spade, and I am too good for 2NT (18-19).
And there were three solo artists.
COPE: Dbl. This is too good a hand at this vulnerability to pass and collect 50s, and it is not the right hand-type to bid 2NT, which might encourage partner to be more provocative in spades. Doubling does not rule out playing in NT later (eg. if partner bids 2♠ I can then bid 2NT). The Double may also bring diamonds into the picture, if partner has a hand such as xxxx/x/KJxxxx/xx.
SLAVOV: 3♣. If partner has something like Qxxxx/x/Kxx/Jxxx we will reach an easy 5♣.
SUNDELIN: Pass. Lots of points, but either a double or 2NT is likely to give partner the wrong impression.

Probably only Pass and 3♣ fail to get to the top spot. Partner had Qxxxx/QJ/xxx/J9x, so 3NT was an easy make. Only an opening heart lead lets through 5♣.

HAND 3.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES(%)
3:diamonds:101020.8
4♠️8118.7
3♣️7326.7
3♠️606.4
2NT527.6
3NT2011.6
4♣️001.9
Pass001.8
4NT001.7
6♠️000.6
5♣️000.4
3❤️ 000.2
4❤️ 000.2
4:diamonds:000.2
5:diamonds:000.2
6NT000.1
5♠️00<0.1
5NT00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 6.44

We have another clear majority vote from the panel. The competitors are again split three ways, but this time matching the three highest-scoring choices, making this the hand with the second-highest average score this month even though competition entrants offered 19 different options.

WANG: 3. The cue-bid is the only forcing bid available.
BOCCHI: 3. This keeps all options open.
BRINK: 3. What else?
Tim, Larry and David offer similar valuations.
COPE: 3. This should show a good hand with only three-card spade support. As a protective doubler, this hand is too good to just bid 3♣ but it would be too unilateral just to have a pot at 3NT.
BIRD: 3. Had my double been in the second seat, I might have risked 3♣, strong but non-forcing, just to mention the suit. Following a protective double, this would be too much of an underbid.
COHEN: 3. For now. I am too strong for a ‘strong but non-forcing’ 3♣ — this hand passes the “balanced yarborough test” in that you can make a game (on great layout) opposite xxxx/xxx/xxx/xxx. (The weak 2-bidder has, say, x/Jxxx/KQJ10xx/xx.)
MEYERS: 3. Partner only needs something like Jxxx/Qxx/Qxx/xxx to produce a game. If I bid 3♣ (my second choice), partner will likely pass with that hand. I think I have too much to bid 3♣ and not good enough clubs to bid 3NT.
Two members of the Swedish contingent have the same intentions…
HULT: 3. I think the most likely game is 4♠, so I am trying to figure out if partner has five. The alternative is 3♣, but I think we are a bit heavy for that.
RIMSTEDT: 3. I’m going to game no matter what, so I might as well go slowly and discover a potential 5-3 spade fit.
Do we actually find out if partner has five spades, though? What does he bid over 3 with 10xxx/xxx/xxxx/xx if not 3♠?
MARSTON: 3. Keeping 3NT in sight with six possible club tricks.
Some panellists want to keep game in their long suit in the picture.
LARSSON: 3♣. I tend to have a pretty strong hand when double first and then bid my own suit.
ROBSON: 3♣. Double-then-3♣ shows a big hand. Yes, I’m heavy, but going via the 3 waffle misses clubs and is an overbid facing potentially nothing.
SLAVOV: 3♣. This shows a strong hand with 20-24 total points. The probability of game is high, but which one: 3NT, 4♠ and 5♣ are all possible. If partner has absolutely nothing, 3♣ is likely to be a sensible place to play, otherwise he will help us with his next bid.
Whilst Wanfeng and Barnet both try to get to the best spade/NT contract.
SHENKIN: 2NT. I want to keep spades in picture.
MOU: 2NT. 2NT is better than 3♣ in term of encouraging a rebid from partner. It also seems that 3NT and 4♠ are more likely contracts than 5♣.
P.O. takes a practical approach and, although he is flying alone, he perhaps wins the debate



SUNDELIN: 4♠. I’m sure you will tell me that my partner has xxxx/Jxx/xxx/xxx, but if I bid 3 now he will bid 3♠ with that and I will be no further forward. The problem with the other alternative, 3, is that even if he has xxxx/JT9/JTx/Qxx, which would make us cold for 5, he won’t bid over 3. Nor will he rebid 3♠ with Jxxxx/xxx/xxx/Qx. So, I gamble on a jump to 4♠.



Partner had AJxx/xxx/xx/Qxxx so you can make 6♣, 6NT and, probably, 6♠. Anything you do seems likely to encourage partner sufficiently, although it is perhaps the 3♣ underbid that simplifies the auction most.

HAND 4.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES(%)
3NT10126.0
2:diamonds:817.6
4♣️618.6
5♣️6011.6
3♣️4248.7
2♣️0011.6
3:diamonds:001.5
4NT000.8
5♠️000.5
2❤️ 000.4
4♠️000.4
2NT000.4
3♠️000.3
6♣️000.3
Pass000.2
2♠️000.1
1NT000.1
4:diamonds:000.1
5:diamonds:00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.36

This hand produced the largest majority of the month from the panel, with 80% support, but for a choice selected by only 6% of competition entrants. It also attracted the largest single vote for any action this month by the competitors, with almost 50% choosing a bid viewed as wholly inadequate by the panel. This was by far the lowest-scoring hand of the month for the competitors and, with 19 different options suggested, this is a deal on which there may be plenty to be learned.

ROBSON: 3NT. Don’t we all? It wouldn’t surprise me to go about five down though – spade lead and diamond through etc. Second choice a pedestrian 3♣. Note, I’m not really too worried about my diamond holding as partner rates to have some diamonds given South didn’t support
RIMSTEDT: 3NT. Stiff king of diamonds with the overcaller on lead is enough of a stopper, and 3NT describes my hand the best.
BRINK: 3NT. What else?
SHENKIN: 3NT.
LARSSON: 3NT. This feels like the most descriptive bid.
WANG: 3NT. I hope I can win nine tricks quickly. Paul puts in a bid for ‘Comment of the Month’ honors.
MARSTON: 3NT. Who knows? Clearly not me.
SLAVOV: 3NT. Since South did not support his partner, I really hope to find some diamond help in dummy (Jxx/10xxx). Or perhaps North will not lead the A
SUNDELIN: 3NT. As 2 probably implies some spade support, I take a chance on 3NT.
COHEN: 3NT. Again, I am too strong for 3♣. Another game opposite a balanced Yarborough if they lead a 4th best diamond from, say, KJx/Kxx/AQ10xxx/x. Of course, partner won’t have a Yarborough this time, but he would still pass 3♣ with something useful like AJxx/xxx/Jxxx/xx.
COPE: 3NT. Ostensibly, this should show a solid club suit with a diamond stopper and some outside cards. Well, I nearly have a solid club suit and I nearly have a diamond stopper (besides which, partner may have some diamonds as the suit was not raised on my right).
Simon sums up the majority case.




HULT: 3NT. I will gamble 3NT and pray that they don’t lead the A. This shows a good hand with long clubs and some stoppers in diamonds and hearts, which is almost what I have.


There is only a single vote for the scientific approach.
BOCCHI: 2. You must have respect for an eight-card suit. This hand has so much playing strength even though it has only 15 points, so I start by showing a strong hand.
And a few who rebid their long suit at various levels.
MEYERS: 3♣. Although 3NT is very tempting.
MOU: 3♣. The extra club length compensates for the singleton king. 3NT is still possible.
BIRD: 4♣. Spare me any suggestion that this agrees spades as trumps; we have many other bids to agree spades. Since the chance of 5♣ making appears to be good, I don’t need to resort to 3NT now.
At the table, I bid 5♣ and my man raised with AQxx/10xx/Axx/Q9x. Over 3NT, I would expect him to advance with 4♣ and then drive to slam when the West hand cue-bids his heart control. Both 2 and 4♣ will also get you to slam, but 3♣ seems more likely to lead to 3NT.

HAND 5.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
Pass101124.3
Dbl6323.8
2:diamonds:528.0
1NT2036.3
2NT003.4
2♣️001.3
2♠️000.8
4NT000.5
3♣️000.3
3NT000.2
3:diamonds:000.1
4♣️000.1
3♠️000.1
4♠️000.1
5♠️00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.99

Another big majority from the panel, and almost a quarter of competition entrants agree with their choice. However, the largest group of competitors, more than a third, go for an option rejected completely by the panel. It also seems likely that a number of competitors misread the problem, thinking that it was partner, not RHO, who had opened 1♠.

SHENKIN: Pass. For now.
HULT: Pass. Partner is a passed hand and I have no good bid here. I guess I could start with double intending to bid 2♠ if partner bids 2, but I think I am a little bit too weak for that. I will pass and, hopefully, I will get another chance.
ROBSON: Pass. Partner is still there. I refuse to double with only two hearts.
P.O puts in a strong contender for ‘Comment of the Month’.
SUNDELIN: Pass. Who is dealing these hands?
RIMSTEDT: Pass. I’m in no hurry to get into the bidding. I’m strong, but this shape gives me no great options.
BIRD: Pass. Partner will hold fewer than 5 HCP, on average, probably fewer than six hearts also. Neither 1NT nor double appeals.
MOU: Pass. There are no good bids available.
MEYERS: Pass. I have values but no good bid.
LARSSON: Pass. 2 feels like the only other option.
SLAVOV: Pass. A difficult decision, but if partner does not have the strength to reopen it is unlikely we will miss a game. A two-level overcall in a four-card suit is not my style, and if I double I will not have no sensible bid if partner responds 2/3.
Tim fairly well echoes the panel’s view:



COPE: Pass. You surely can’t be asking me to overcall in NT and you surely cannot be asking me to make a take-out double when we are likely to hear a heart bid from partner. This hand looks defensive, not offensive. Am I allowed to predict a unanimous panel?



It was much closer to unanimous than when many make such predictions, but there were a few mavericks.
BOCCHI: Dbl. I don’t know if it is more dangerous to pass or to double 🙂
WANG: Dbl. If partner bid 2, I will pass.
BRINK: Dbl. I prefer to bid now, before I have to bid at a higher level. How much better placed will I be if I pass now, LHO raises to 2♠, and that is passed back to me?
And we have a couple truly out on a limb…
MARSTON: 2. This seems to represent the best chance of getting lucky. I will be hoping that it does not go Pass-Pass-Double.
Is Pass-Pass-Pass much better, though?
COHEN: 2. If I passed, it would be with the most HCP ever. I can’t get myself to do it. Nor can I double and hear 2 from partner. Please don’t show this four-card two-level overcall to my students.

This was a really tough combination. Partner had x/9xxxx/Qx/AJxxx, so 5♣ is an easy make, but how you might get there is far from obvious. I suspect a 1NT overcall lands you in 3NT-1 and double gets you to 4 needing a 3-3 trump split. That’s not to say that the passers are in a great position either, after 1♠-P-2♠-P-P-?. Perhaps the winning action would have been the weird-looking 2 overcall: if partner can find a responsive double, might you not at least have a chance of reaching the top spot after 1♠-2-2♠-Dbl-Pass-?

HAND 6.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
5❤️ 1077.4
Pass923.7
6♠️7320.9
5NT710.8
5♠️6247.2
Dbl4113.9
6♣️401.1
6:diamonds:004.3
6NT000.1
4❤️ 00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 6.03

Although this is the only deal this month with no majority on the panel, the key point is that the largest of the expert factions votes to consult partner, whereas the two largest groups of competitors make the decision (in one direction or the other) on their own. With most of the sensible choices garnering some support from the panel, almost everyone picks up some marks, which is why this is one of the month’s highest-scoring deals.
In the discussion, the first question to be answered is whether a pass is forcing. Our two Southern Hemisphere panellists think it is…


MARSTON: Pass. I expect partner holds minimum values with four spades. Still, slam could be good. I start with a forcing pass and then pull partner’s double as a clear invitation to slam.
COPE: Pass. Even though one normally only plays forcing passes when we have definitely shown game values, I am pretty confident that most expert partnerships at this specific vulnerability would play a Pass here as forcing. Provided that this Pass is understood as forcing, then the best way that we can make a slam try is to pass and then pull partner’s possible Double.
Only a couple of panellists disagreed, but Sjoert was alone in suggesting it was right to defend.
BRINK: Dbl. We are not in a force, and I hope this will go down. Slam is not likely, and the five-level belongs to opponents.
David offers a reason to prefer an alternative slam try.
BIRD: 5. Since partner’s values are likely to be in the three suits where I need them, I contemplated 6♠ now. Perhaps a slam-try is wiser, although I will be annoyed if 6♠ tops the poll. A forcing pass, intending to pull a double to invite a slam, seems less effective. What if partner bids 5♠ instead of doubling?
HULT: 5. Here I like to play that when they are non vul and we are vul, we are in a forcing pass situation. If I had that agreement, I would pass and bid 5♠ as a slam try. Without it, I try 5 as last train. The problem is that partner’s 3♠ here doesn’t need to be much more than a minimum opening bid. A hand like Kxxx/Ax/xxx/KJ10x has to bid 3♠ to tell partner about the support, otherwise we might miss a game opposite something like AQxxx/xxxx/x/Qxx.
MOU: 5. This is an invite to slam. I am not quite strong enough to commit to slam on my own.
MEYERS: 5. I have to make some move towards slam.
RIMSTEDT: 5. I could easily make a slam if partner holds the right cards.
ROBSON: 5. We could have a slam, and rate to get only 300 against 5-X.
After a couple of valiant efforts from others, Norberto definitely earns the ‘Comment of the Month’ award for this very Italian effort.



BOCCHI: 5. Like tomato, it is a good bid for all types of pasta.



The rest of the panel commit themselves in one direction or other. First, the doves…
SHENKIN: 5♠. Partner may have stretched to bid 3♠ under pressure.
SLAVOV: 5♠. Partner’s 3♠ bid was made under pressure and thus has quite a wide range. Our hand is strong but the bad thing is that we do not have a heart control to cue-bid. I’m sorry, partner, but the decision is up to you: pass with a minimum and to say 6♠ with some extras.
And now the hawks…
SUNDELIN: 6♠.
LARSSON: 6♠. I take a chance.
COHEN: 6♠. I’d pass if it were forcing, but I don’t think it is. Partner showed a strong hand and I have diamonds controlled, so let’s go for it. Partner rates to have enough for this to have play (I think missing seven is more likely than needing to stop in five). Opposite K10xx/A/xxx/AKxxx, we belong in a grand.
WANG: 5NT. If partner bids 6♣, I will pass.

Partner had K109x/xx/Qx/AKxxx, so you can get +500 from 5-X or +650 from playing in 5♠. He will, of course, reject any slam try, but if you committed your side to the six-level you would lose 13 IMPs.

HAND 7.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
4❤️ 101025.8
3❤️ 7437.2
Pass6233.0
2NT200.5
3♠️001.0
4♠️000.8
3:diamonds:000.5
4:diamonds:000.1
5♠️000.1
3NT000.1
6❤️ 00<0.1
3♣️00<0.1
4♣️00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 7.18

We have another clear decision from the panel, and the vast majority of competitors choosing one of the three most popular choices. Although it is the smallest of those three groups that claims the ‘10’, with 96% of competitors scoring at least 6/10 this is easily the highest-scoring deal this month. Many of the panel wondered why it had even been set as a problem…

BRINK: 4. What else?
LARSSON: 4.
BOCCHI: 4. No doubt about this one.
SHENKIN: 4.
MOU: 4. I think 4 should be a promising contract.
ROBSON: 4. The fifth heart is talking to me, as is ♣J-9.
Some commented on the viability of defending…
WANG: 4. The spade suit is not good enough to defend at this level. Anyway, I like my chances in 4.
COPE: 4. The spade pips do not look good enough to pass a Double, and my hand has great potential opposite a hand with hearts and clubs. Let the next guess be theirs.
SLAVOV: 4. +420 is much more likely than -300, -500. I’m almost certain that North has a diamond fit and we will not get to defend 2♠-X anyway.
Ola captures the mood…



RIMSTEDT: 4. I have great playing strength once partner makes a takeout double. Passing is out of the question.


Although, there were some who fancied their chances right here…
COHEN: Pass. I expect LHO to run to 3 and then we can reconsider, but why not try to kill them for now?
HULT: Pass. I don’t think 2♠-X is making, so I pass. In 4, we will have a lot of work to do with all our spades to dispose of.
And then there were those who tried to find the middle ground.
BIRD: 3. It seems likely that North will bid 3.
MARSTON: 3. It is too soon to blow the whistle.
MEYERS: 3. I hope we are playing Lebensohl, so this shows some values, but I have too many ill-placed spades to bid 4 myself.
SUNDELIN: 3. I could have used Lebensohl 2NT followed by 3, so this shows values. The enemy cards seem to be badly placed for us, so I tread cautiously.

You may suspect North of messing around with a diamond fit, but he actually had ♠KJ109xxx. Even so, 2♠-X was three down for +500. However, partner had —/KQJx/AJx/AKQxxx so he will bid the cold 6 over a jump to 4. If you bid 3 he’ll bid 3♠ and then bid slam if you do anything but retreat to 4 .

HAND 8.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCOMPETITORS’ ENTRIES (%)
Dbl10930.4
3:diamonds:859.0
4:diamonds:600.6
3❤️ 505.8
3NT4132.3
3♠️408.1
Pass2011.2
4♠️201.0
4♣️000.4
4❤️ 00<0.1
5:diamonds:00<0.1
6:diamonds:00<0.1

Competition Entrant Average Score: 5.94

The panel is split two ways, and over 30% of competitors agree with the experts’ preferred choice. However, the competitors’ most popular option garners little support from the panel. I admit, though, that I think they are all wrong. One problem with the double is that it seems to mean something different for each of those who chose it. Larry is quite happy with that…

COHEN: Dbl. However partner takes it, I’ve got it.
BOCCHI: Dbl. Takeout for me, but many will play this double as penalty.
WANG: Dbl. I will show points, but without a good fit.
ROBSON: Dbl. I think this shows a good hand without a fit for partner – which is what I have. If I had a pure penalty double, I think I’d pass and await partner’s re-opening double. So, this is just “cards”.
MARSTON: Dbl. I have no reason to think 3NT is close. This should produce be a decent penalty, especially if partner leads a trump.
Like there is much chance he will have one!
BIRD: Dble. Yes, 4 might be a good spot, but it is not for me to take control and assume that partner has a strong tripleton in the suit. Anyway, he can bid 3 now on something like KQx.
David alludes to what he called my ‘wild’ effort at the table – well, hearts was a ‘known’ seven-card fit and the reason for bidding the suit from our side is to protect the ♣K.
SUNDELIN: Dbl. As I think he could (should) hurry to bid already with AJ9xx/Kx/KJ9xx/x I should not hope for game. Even if KQxxxx/xx/KQxxx/– might be more than enough.
MEYERS: Dbl. I wish this were matchpoints. If partner has a non-defensive hand (like KQJxx/xxx/KQJxx?–), I expect a 3 bid from her.
BRINK: Dbl. Great problem. I double and hope for the best, but advancing with 3 and 3♠ are also possible options.
Milko sums up for the majority.


SLAVOV: Dbl. I have the full maximum for my 1NT bid and good controls too. Again, partner has to decide how to proceed, but I prefer to show what I have in my hand to make it easy for him.


The second faction preferred a constructive alternative.
RIMSTEDT: 3. We could make anything, and also nothing.
LARSSON: 3. I assume partner has 5-5 as he would double with only four diamonds.
SHENKIN: 3. Partner should be 5-5 not to double 2♣. A value double may work, but partner with a void may think you want to defend and our trumps are not really good enough for that.
HULT: 3. It looks like partner has a lot of shape and not so many points. He is at least 5-5, but I still think 3 is enough.
COPE: 3. This is definitely the toughest hand of the set, and I feel like a real wimp for bidding only 3, but I cannot place much value on my ♣K. The bidding tends to suggest that partner is 5-5 in the pointed suits, as they did not make a take-out double of 2♣, and we know that they are short in clubs. I cannot see nine tricks in NT, where my ♣K would have some value, so I’ll make the underbid and thereafter accept all invitations.
Only one was willing to take a shot at game, though.
MOU: 3NT. Partner has less than one club, so it is likely that he has five diamonds. However, a 3 bid is not very descriptive of your hand. Hopefully, we can run either one of his five-card suits and add four tricks from elsewhere.

How good is your hand? Partner had AKJ9x/KQx/109xxx/— so 5 makes, as does 4 played from your side (yes, hearts split 3-3). 4♠ goes down with ♠Qxxx offside, as does 3NT. You can get +300 from 3♣-X. For the record, I thought the choice was between 4 and 4.

Last month, Wen Fei Wang equaled Andrew Robson’s record as the only panelist to have topped the expert poll three times. This month, Robson retakes sole ownership of that record, recording his fourth victory with an excellent 77/80. The podium this month is completed by Ola Rimstedt on 74/80 and David Bird with 73/80. Many thanks to all members of our panel who took the time to share their knowledge and experience, particularly those who spent half of this month playing 48 or 64 boards a day at the world championships in Italy.

The BBO Prime Expert Panel:

 12345678TOTAL
Andrew ROBSON3❤️2NT3♣️3NTPass5❤️4❤️Dbl77
Ola RIMSTEDT2❤️2NT3:diamonds:3NTPass5❤️4❤️3:diamonds:74
David BIRD3❤️2NT3:diamonds:4♣️Pass5❤️3❤️Dbl73
Tim COPE3❤️Dbl3:diamonds:3NTPassPass4❤️3:diamonds:72
Jessica LARSSON3❤️2NT3♣️3NTPass6♠️4❤️3:diamonds:72
Norberto BOCCHI3❤️3NT3:diamonds:2:diamonds:Dbl5❤️4❤️Dbl71
Barnet SHENKIN3❤️2NT2NT3NTPass5♠️4❤️3:diamonds:69
Wen Fei WANG2❤️2NT3:diamonds:3NTDbl5NT4❤️Dbl69
Larry COHEN3❤️2NT3:diamonds:3NT2:diamonds:6♠️PassDbl68
Sjoert BRINK3❤️2NT3:diamonds:3NTDblDbl3❤️Dbl67
Simon HULT2❤️3NT3:diamonds:3NTPass5❤️Pass3:diamonds:67
Paul MARSTON2♣️2NT3:diamonds:3NT2:diamonds:Pass4❤️Dbl67
Milko SLAVOV3❤️3♣️3♣️3NTPass5♠️4❤️Dbl67
Jill MEYERS2♣️2NT3:diamonds:3♣️Pass5❤️3❤️Dbl64
P.O. SUNDELIN3❤️Pass4♠️3NTPass6♠️3❤️Dbl64
Wanfeng MOU3❤️2NT2NT3♣️Pass5❤️4❤️3NT63
TOP SCORE3❤️2NT3:diamonds:3NTPass5❤️4❤️Dbl 



MARKS:

HAND 1: 3 10, 2 6, 3♣ 4, 2♣ 3, 2♠ 2

HAND 2: 2NT 10, 3NT 7, DBL 5, 3♣ 4, 3/5/3 /Pass 2

HAND 3: 3 10, 4♠ 8, 3c 7, 3♠ 6, 2NT 5, 3NT 2

HAND 4: 3NT 10, 2 8, 4c/5♣ 6, 3♣ 4

HAND 5: Pass 10, Dbl 6, 2 5, 1NT 2

HAND 6: 5 10, Pass 9, 6♠/5NT 7, 5♠ 6, 6♣/Dbl 4

HAND 7: 4 10, 3 7, Pass 6, 2NT 2

HAND 8: Dbl 10, 3 8, 4 6, 3 5, 3♠/3NT 4, 4♠/Pass 2

AVERAGE SCORE:

HAND 1: 4.92

HAND 2: 4.94

HAND 3: 6.44

HAND 4: 4.36

HAND 5: 4.99

HAND 6: 6.03

HAND 7: 7.18

HAND 8: 5.94