Options, Options, Options
Most bridge hands involve bidding choices – some more than others. Following is a hand from the Open Section played on Tuesday, August 31.
Sitting South, in the 4th seat, you pick up the following – nobody vulnerable:
If you are a newer or intermediate player - what should you be thinking about?
First, you should consider whether or not to open this 11-point hand in 4th seat should the other three players pass. I would vote yes – you have both majors, a void and three suits you can play in.
But the bidding proceeds this way:
W N E S
P 1H P ?
Even a beginning player would hopefully conclude that the hand should now be played in at least 4H. Using Standard American, what bids do you and your partner have available to force a game and even investigate whether a slam is possible?
Do not bid 3H – it could be passed. You could jump to 4H right off the bat – but, other than pass, that may be the worst bid of all. If your partner has the King of Hearts, Queen of Spades and Ace of Diamonds, 6H will have a very good play. You should bid 1S, with 2D an outside possibility. Your partner must respond to 1S, and that response will help you a lot. If you get a great rebid from North, like 2D or 3H, do you have a way to investigate slam with your void? There are too many possibilities to consider here, but it’s certainly worth discussing with your partner.
For advanced players, let’s look at the same hand and opening bid. What response do you like over partner’s 1 Heart opener?
There are quite a few possibilities – and the following list is not exhaustive.
- 1 Spade
- Jacoby 2NT (4 card trump support and an opening hand in response)
- 4 Clubs (splinter)
- 3 Clubs (Bergen – showing a limit raise and 4 Hearts)
- 2 Diamonds
- 1 NT forcing
- 5 Clubs - Exclusion Blackwood – asking for key cards minus the Ace of Clubs
I would eliminate options 4, 5, 6 and 7. The hand isn’t quite strong enough yet for Exclusion Blackwood. 3C Bergen and 1 NT forcing are underbids and 2 Diamonds uses up bidding room while assuring that your partner will never know that you have a very good 5-card Spade suit.
If you chose a response of 1S (which I would argue is the best bid - not that Jacoby or the splinter bid aren’t reasonable), partner will respond 2D! As they say on the British soccer telecasts, “that sets the fox amongst the chickens.” You should then bid 3 Clubs (4th suit forcing) and hopefully get to a heart slam.
When my partner and I played this hand, the bidding went 1H, 1S, 2D, 3C (Alert – 4th suit forcing to game) and then West doubled the 3C bid. After hearing that, the prospect of slam went way up. Partner passed the double and the completion of the bidding was 3H, 4H, 6H. Here is North’s hand:
North had a tough bid over 3H – should he cue-bid or not? I think an argument could be made either way. South could have 3-card trump support, a bunch of Spades and a couple of Clubs, in which case making a game could be challenge enough, so I have no problem with North’s bid of 4H.
The play of the hand was without drama - trump divided 2-2 and the QS dropped doubleton, so seven made. Few pairs, however, bid the Heart slam, which shows how hard it is to get to slam with 26 combined high card points, even though many of us use more than enough conventions.
There are some interesting side questions arising from this deal. If the bidding proceeds 1H, 2NT (Jacoby), does North rebid 3S showing a singleton even though it’s the singleton Ace? If South hears that partner has a singleton opposite his 5-card Spade suit will he be discouraged and sign off in 4 Hearts?
If the bidding is 1H, 4C (splinter) – should North bid 4D showing interest in slam? If North cue-bids 4D, what should South respond? I would opt for 5C showing first round control – 7H isn’t out of the question yet.
What about the opponent’s double of the 4th suit bid? I’ve made similar bids many times, but here it allowed North to pass the bidding around to South who then had a free bid at the 3-level to establish Hearts as the trump suit. Conversely, the double by West asking for a club lead could have lead to a great score for EW on a club lead.