Here is a hand from a recent EBU online knockout teams match, played on BBO, in which my partner and I (Jeff Orton) were playing with team-mates Bill Twedell and Michael Sherer. Fortunately we won the match, but we lost imps on this particular board.
Playing 15-17 NT and a short club, you hold:
♠ AQJ2 ♥ A63 ♦ AJ64 ♣ Q10
Partner opens 1♣, you reply 1♠ and partner rebids 1NT (12-14). Do you bid 3NT (to play) or 4NT (quantitative invite to slam)? As I had a flat hand, and our partnership had at most a combined 32 HCPs, I bid 3NT.
♠ 54 ♥ KJ2 ♦ Q53 ♣ AKJ85
Both K♠ and K♦ were onside and 12 tricks rolled in. Sadly the opposition bid 6NT and we lost 11 imps. Oh dear, perhaps I was to blame for not bidding the slam?
I had recently bought two excellent books on slam bidding (“Better slam bidding with Bergen” and “Slam bidding made easier”) from the website of the great bridge writer and 10-time North American national champion Marty Bergen (www.martybergen.com).
I noticed that he said on his website that he was prepared to discuss hands played on BBO for 1$ a minute. What better way to spend my recently acquired birthday cash than to email Marty and ask for his opinion? How did he rate my bidding? Within a couple of hours, I discovered the answer. He didn’t rate it at all!! Nor did he rate my partner’s bidding as being much better.
Here are the full details of Marty’s response (reproduced with his permission):
This was very bad hand evaluation by both players.
Relevant for both players.
I define any suit with 3+ honours and 4+ cards as a quality suit.
They are rare.
Any time you have a quality suit, add 1 HCP to the value of your hand
Add 1 HCP for his quality suit
He is also blessed with a five-card suit. Add 1 point for that.
It is OK for him to consider his ♦Q not worth 2 HCP.
If he wanted to subtract 1 point for that, it is sensible.
So, with 15-16 points, he should open 1NT.
Before the auction beganyou have 18 traditional HCP.
add 1 HCP for quality spade suit
add 1 HCP for 3 aces. Aces are underrated honours. Their real value is 4.5
Subtract 1 HCP for your dubious ♣ doubleton
So, your hand is worth 19 HCP before the auction began
Then, when partner opened 1♣, you immediately restore the 2 HCP for the ♣Q
(Note that here, your ♣Q was worth a lot, and even the ♣10 was potentially useful
if ♣s were 5-1)
So, you had 20 HCP. When partner showed 12-14, you definitely are worth a quantitative raise to 4NT. He obviously would accept.
Of course, after a 1NT opening, you would force to slam.
6NT is not cold, but it is a good contract, and would be helped by a lead of either unbid suit.
So there you have it. If you want to bid good slams (and games), don’t bid like I did and mechanically count up your traditional HCPs. Upgrade your hand on the basis of its quality features and take it from there.