Playing in a Grand National Teams Club Qualifying game, we
are in danger (!) of not qualifying when I pick up this hand
in third seat, vulnerable:
Q863 QJ73 AJ AK6
Partner passes as dealer and RHO twitches for a second, but
passes. We play a 15-17 1NT, so I have no problems on this
round. The opponents remain silent (and fail to twitch anymore)
and the auction continues:
2 was Stayman, but since we use 1NT-2NT artificial,
partner might have to bid 2 with an invitational hand and
no four-card major, so 2 shows an invitational hand with
four spades and fewer than four hearts.
Three contracts see worthy of consideration now. I can play a
partscore in spades, bid game in spades, or bid 3NT. I think
stopping in 2NT is probably wrong; 2 is likely to play
about as well.
I have 17 HCP, and on that basis, I should bid a game. Having
found a 4-4 spade fit, 4 seems obvious, but is it right?
This hand does not evaluate to 17 points in my book. I
have a computer program that evaluates hands by such features
as high-card concentration in long suits, losing trick count, and
so on. It is adapted from an article by Jeff Rubens in The Bridge World
called The Four C's, which stands for Caution! Complex Computer
Count. The computer claims this hand is worth 15.10 points, which
seems a trifle low to me, but is not too far off base. At matchpoints,
I would seriously consider passing, but vulnerable at IMPs, one cannot
cut these decisions too fine. I think the conditions make bidding game
too lucrative to stop in a partscore.
Which game? With very soft cards (all those queens and jacks) I think
3NT might be much better than 4. I can easily see losing four
top tricks opposite a nine-count. A heart ruff is quite possible, too.
The danger in 3NT is two-fold: partner will never trust me again if I
did not at least consider spades, and diamonds might be a weakness.
Still, the doubleton diamond is AJ, and vs. Kxx or KQx, no ruff would
be available. If I had to decide now, I think I'd bid 3NT rather
than 4. Can I find out anything helpful?
I think so. I need to find some bid that will let partner identify where
his high cards lie, in particular, whether or not he has the K.
3 seems to fit the bill perfectly. If partner
bids 3, 3NT must be right, while if he bids 3 or 3,
the major suit fit rates to be best. If he bids 3, I can give further
consideration to passing, though I think I shall bid 4 in that case.
Perhaps if they double something I can reconsider.
This partner is not a scientific bidder, and since we have not
expressly discussed any continuations after this start, I have to
worry that he might not interpret 3 as a probe for the best
game. Worse, he might even pass, thinking that I have 2-4-2-5
distribution. Let's see if that should happen. With 2-4-2-5
and a maximum, I would open 1 and reverse unless a lot
of my strength were in the short suits. In that case, I'd rebid 3NT
here. If I had a minimum hand, I'd sign off rather than introducing
a dubious suit at the three-level without any known fit. It seems to
me that the inference that I must have a maximum to venture to the three-level
is sufficiently sound that partner, even if he were to misinterpret my intentions,
would not pass 3. I might not be able to trust his response,
but at least I shall have something on which to decide between 3NT and
4. So I bid 3, though not without some reservations that
I have just made a ``torture bid.''
Woe! Partner goes into a huddle, as I expected he might, but after only
about two seconds, shrugs and flips the pass card on the table. Not feeling
very good about this contract, I wish he had thought about it a little more.
All's well that ends well, however, since partner quickly makes four on a
3-3 club break and some sloppy defense. (They think we are in a silly
contract.) At the other table, my hand just bid 4 and declarer
went down when he allowed the defense to break up a heart-club squeeze
in the endposition. We won six IMPs on the hand and the match by six.
What a way to win a match!
Copyright © 1993 Jeff Goldsmith