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SCBA County League 2022 Round Five

Some difficult to bid contracts, a play problem and a novel bid from Jack. Update: See Julian Pottage's opinion at the end of this blog.

The bidding problems start with board 6.

Six spades can be made on this hand by taking two club ruffs and a long club but it proved a difficult slam to bid. If East opened their 11 point 7 loser hand with one heart then the pairs trying for a slam played in 6 NT which is doomed to failure.

If East passed, then no Acol pair bid a slam, the auction frequently being pass – 1S – 2H – 3C – 4S. After the high reverse, East should not jump to 4S, however, since their hand has improved immensely after partner's 1S bid. West has shown 5+ spades and a strong unbalanced hand by bidding a game forcing 3C. East should bid 3 spades at this point, going slowly in a forcing situation to show a maximum for his initial pass. This costs nothing and could let partner investigate the slam.

Easts who bid 3NT over partners 3C should remember that they are playing teams and there is no pressure to play in NT. You have an 8 card major fit with ruffing values in the short trumps hand. Why not tell partner about it?

Board 7 produced a wide range of auctions with nearly half the field failing to find the spade game.

Some Wests started with a pre-emptive 3S but personally, in second seat where you are as likely to disrupt partner as the opposition, I prefer to pass with this hand. You are vulnerable with fewer than 5 points and no high honour in your suit. Not surprisingly, the 3 Wests who did start with 3S all played in game.

West's next decsion is what to do over partner's one heart. Pass is technically an option but surely we will do better playing in spades. If you bid 1S, you do so intending to bid 2S over partner’s likely 2H rebid. 2S here shows a weak hand with spades, not extra values. On this hand, however, partner would actually rebid 2NT (18-19) over your 1S response and you would then bid 4S.

Eight Wests, presumably playing weak jump responses, bid 2S over partner’s 1H. Only two of these pairs continued to 4S which is not surprising since many play them as weak as 2-5 points with a 6 card suit. This is not a good description of this hand with a 7 card suit, 4 high card points and a void.

Two Souths, presumably playing Lucas or Muiderberg twos (weak 5:4 hand), opened two hearts which was not a success since this produced either 2NT or double from East which encouraged West to bid to 4S. Despite their failure on this hand, Lucas twos are worth investigation since weak 5:4 hands are about three times as frequent as those containing a 6 card suit. They therefore give you more chances to disrupt the opposition. If you don’t play Benji then you can combine them with a multi 2D to be able to show weak 6 card suits as well giving you the best of both worlds.

Board 8 was a tight 4S contract which should fail against best defence.

We received the 8 of diamonds lead, however, which allows the contract to be made with careful play. After the queen is covered by the king and ace then you have a diamond and a heart to lose so you can't afford to lose more than one spade trick. If the spades split 3:2 then you have no problems but what about a 4:1 split?

You are missing the ten and the nine so if you lose the queen or jack to the king you will also lose the fourth round of spades. If you play the ace and drop the king you will be OK but this will only happen in 1/5 of the 4:1 splits. 80% of the time you won’t drop the king but you will lose the queen or jack to the king and then lose to the long ten or nine.

Your best chance is to lead small to the QJx and hope East has the king. If he doesn’t play it then return to the North hand and lead to the remaining honour. This will let you lose only one trick on all 3:2 splits and 50% of the 4:1 splits and works on this hand.

Finally, a board where Jack disagrees with thirteen unanimous bidders!

There were a number of different auctions on this hand. Three Souths opened 2H, another example of the Lucas weak two bid discussed above, but the more usual auction started with two passes round to North who, third in hand, can open 1 club or 3 clubs. My choice, opposite a passed partner, would be 3 clubs but most Norths elected to bid 1 club and most Easts doubled for takeout. South then bids one heart and we get to the crux of this article. Every one of 13 Wests who arrived at this point in the auction decided to pass.

In summary, the auction has gone S pass - W pass - N 1C - E X - S 1H - W pass. Jack, as West playing Acol, bids 1NT rather than passing, however.

Thinking about it, this makes some sense. Until their bidding shows otherwise, we assume that East’s double denies clubs and shows a willingness to play in one of the other suits. West has 7 points, a good stop in clubs and no more than 3 cards in any other suit. Surely their most descriptive bid is 1NT? So why does no one bid it?

Clearly, the problem is South’s 1H bid. West does not have a heart stop and clearly people think that they need a heart stop to bid 1NT here. 1NT would clearly be right if our queen and jack of spades were hearts but they aren't. Is it still better to bid 1NT than to pass? Partner has implied heart support after all. It is the only bid you have to tell partner that you have some values and it may be where you want to play since it looks like the points are reasonably equally split.

As a member of Bernard Magee Bridge I have asked Julian Pottage what he thinks of biding 1NT. He writes: 'You would have bid 1NT without the 1H bid and you mention that neither side is vulnerable, which is the ideal vulnerability for declaring. You do not need a heart stopper yourself as you expect partner to have some hearts, often four of them. I am surprised that nobody else bid 1NT.' So it looks like Jack is right!

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