Sometimes partner makes a bid that I have never encountered before. In
most of my partnerships, I try to make a few rules about undefined
sequences, ``meta-treatments'' if you will. Some examples are ``ASBAF,'' (All Strange
Bids are Forcing) or ``If you don't know what it is, it's natural.''
...But what if I don't know what it is and I know it's not natural....
The best rule for at-the-table actions is to choose a safe action if
possible unless the Torture Bid yields only one logical interpretation. Of
course, what is logical to one partner is usually nonsense to the other.
Playing in a cash prize tournament in Las Vegas, we are vying for the
top prize when partner decides to test me. With both vulnerable, I
AKQJ63 AQ97 86 10
I open 1 LHO overcalls 2, and partner makes a negative
double. RHO passes and I happily bid 3NT. Partner thinks for a little
while and emerges with 6. Clearly, this action does not fall under
the aegis of partnership agreement, so I have to try to interpret his bid
and do the best I can.
First off, is it natural revealing a psych? I have 16 HCP and partner is
bidding a slam, so that overcall seems somewhat dubious. The action at
the table does not seem right for this interpretation, though. RHO looks
Yarborough-bored and everyone seems surprised by partner's last call. More
importantly, if he really had enough to bid a slam in hearts, he would not
choose to double on the last round. He'd either pass or bid notrump himself.
He is not the type to double for penalties when the double is takeout.
He is more the sandbagging sort.
If 6 is not natural, then what is it? He must want me to make some
choice between slams. From his perspective, it is possible that we
should play any strain. We play that bids of 5NT in slam auctions are
usually ``pick a slam,'' but that doesn't apply here, since I would assume
that 5NT is a natural quantitative raise without express agreement otherwise.
Can he be asking me to pick a minor suit grand? I doubt it; he'd try 4 or
four of a minor first. We play that four of a minor is forcing if 3NT is
playable, which it obviously is, so he could start with 4. And if
he really had a monster minor two-suiter, wouldn't he begin with 3
over 2, rather than the ambiguous negative double that I might even pass?
No, he cannot be looking for a minor suit grand.
How about a grand slam? Maybe he has a void heart and wants to know if
I have stuff outside of hearts? 5 should probably be Exclusion Roman Key Card
Blackwood on this auction, but we have never considered it before, so he might
well be afraid to try it. That's a possibility, but I doubt he'd risk a negative
double with a good hand and a heart void.
Should 6 here replace the 5NT ``pick a slam'' convention? Maybe, but without
discussion, I cannot assume so. He must have some express meaning that he cannot
communicate in any other way.
Oh, well, the round is ending and we have not even played the hand yet. I have
to make a decision now. I have no idea what he is doing, so I'll try 6
because that ought to be a making contract. I cannot imagine that it will be a
bad score and I give up trying to get the best score.
Dummy appears with
542 4 KQJ3 AKQJ7
They lead the A and continue the suit. When no ruff occurs,
I claim and we end up finishing the round on time after all.
Looking at his hand, I am still puzzled as to the meaning of 6.
He explains that he wanted me to make a choice between 6 and
6NT by looking at my heart holding. If I had something like QJ10x,
he wanted to play 6, but on the actual holding was hoping I'd bid
6NT. Maybe he is right, but I do not think I would ever have the confidence
to bid 6NT at the table on this sequence. At least no harm was done.
A week later I'm still thinking about this hand. I think my action at
the table was clear-cut because I knew that he didn't know that I'd know
what his bid meant. Therefore, safety first. But what should 6
Let's consider his alternatives. 5NT is not ``pick a slam'' on this auction;
I think that is clear. Since this is non-suit-agreement auction, a ``pick
a slam'' bid is needed. I think that should be 5, or, in general,
a jump cue or a jump to an impossible suit at the five level. To force a
choice between spades and notrump, the 5 bidder corrects six of
a minor to 6. (Wrong choice, partner.) Correcting to 6
would suggest that the choice was between the other minor and spades.
Indicating the further choice must suggest notrump.
So should 6 be an immediate choice of grands question? I don't know;
partner can ask for a choice of smalls and raise. But sometimes the
choice of which grand is different from the choice of smalls, in particular
when partner has a heart void. With KQx, I'd pick 6NT, but not
7NT. So, 6 must be a choice of grands with a heart void. Probably.
Copyright © 1994 Jeff Goldsmith