Problems from the Torrance Regional, 10/2014
There was a strong consensus on each of these three
problems, but despite that, I think each of the three
were good problems. #3 was the weakest problem, I
think, and panelists chose three different answers
(and contestants chose two).
Today's panelists: Dave Caprera, Len Vishnevsky, Bob Thomson,
Mark Bartusek, Mike Shuster, David Weiss, David Grainger,
John Jones, Fred Curtis, Barry Rigal, Ed Davis, and
- IMPs, none vul, you hold
AJxxx KJxxx x 9x
CHO|| RHO|| You|| LHO|
1|| 2|| ?|
3 = limit raise+
3 = mixed raise
3 = preemptive raise
3NT = natural
4 = fitted
4 = splinter
4 = natural
4 = normal preempt
- JEFF AT THE TABLE
- 4. I didn't want to bid any number of
diamonds, because I didn't want to give LHO a double, and
I wanted to maximize the chances of our buying the hand.
My second choice was to make a mixed raise and then bid 4
if partner signed off. That might be best if partner can
guess what I'm doing. Undiscussed, however, I didn't think
it was worth trying. Amazingly enough, someone chose that
sequence; I had assumed that plan was idiosyncratic to me.
- WINNING ACTION
- 4 ought to have been it. Anything lower and
LHO can show diamond support, and RHO will bid 5. But
LHO found a double of 4 on no hand but some support, so
they bid 5 anyway. If he'll do that, all roads lead to 5,
so the only question is whether you chicken out and bid
5 or double and beat it. Partner actually held
K10xxx xx Kx AJ8x, so he has a heart guess to make 4.
5 is down at least one if you defend well, which is not
easy on a heart lead.
The splinter got most of the votes, but six different
actions were chosen.
- 2. Presumably you crafted the system this way (fit jump available in
clubs but not hearts) because you were willing to bid 2 with the majors
and these values). [Nope, just followed semi-standard methods. Of
course, if 3 (or 4) were fitted, this would be an utter non-problem.
- 4. It's a bit of an overbid, but I think it leaves partner best
placed if the next bid is 5.
- 4 (slight overbid). I'd wish I had a nice 3 "fit" bid available. I want to
prepare for the opponents' 5 sac and be able to provide enough information so
partner can bid a slam if necessary. I think I have too much defense for a 4 bid.
Partner will know I have 4+ trumps and diamond shortage which will facilitate his
- 3. Not really appropriate for a splinter, since I'm
disproportionately skewed toward hearts.
- [2.] It's great that we know what all of our bids mean. The peculiarity
in the structure is that I can show a fit jump in clubs, but not in
hearts. Given that constraint, nothing seems to fit very well.
I have excess values for 4, and if they bid on over that
partner's knowledge of our heart situation may be crucial. The splinter
(my second choice) is another possibility, but I am both one-sided and
light in high cards for that; partner may do the wrong thing. None of
the other presented options seems right either. So I am going to do
something unusual, something that is admittedly rather unilateral.
I will bid 2. My purpose is to avoid the inevitable guess if I
bid a lot and LHO bids 5 under the pressure. I hope 2 will
allow LHO to tell me what to do. He might think it is just a competitive
deal and bid 3. I do not believe 2 will be passed out. However, if LHO
does leap to 5, I will of course pull partner's double or bid 5 myself
if he passes. Ideally, the auction will be lower, and the opponents will
have expressed their values when I crawl into 4.
The feared scenario arises if LHO passes. If partner bids 4, I
will have to pass and hope we have not missed a slam. If he makes a game
try (which could of course be a slam try), I will cue-bid diamonds,
splintering if his try is 3.
- 4, mostly to help partner judge over 5 and no heart fit jump.
- 4. Having a fitted 3 bid available would have been nice. (You
could trustingly pass a 3 signoff.) [You'd really pass 3? What
does it take to make game, a non-fitting 7-count, Kxxxx x Axx xxxx? --Jeff]
Given that it's not that way in this partnership, I'll force to
game and show the diamond shortness.
- [3.] My preferred action would be a fitting 4, but that
is excluded by your options.
Under the circumstances, I will make a mixed 3 which may be
followed by 4 if provided the opportunity.
I think the limit+ bid is misleading CHO as to defensive strength,
the splinter is unfair as to the disparity between hearts and clubs
(also likely to mislead CHO as to defensive prospects)so that really
only leaves this...and it comes closest (in the absence of fit-showing
4) to giving partner some idea if the next bid is 5...at least then if
CHO passes that back to me I have an easy 5! If CHO doubles 5, I shall
pull it (and apologise whereas I would not need to so do if I had a
I might add that I see absolutely no upside to the treatment of direct
"4 natural to play" in this sequence. [It's the fault of a meta-
convention. In all auctions without expressly-defined agreements,
I play that jumps to game are natural. This is usually what we want;
for example, (1)-1-(Dbl)-4 should probably just be to play. The
default reared its ugly head here. In other words, 4 was natural
for system simplicity, not for system optimality. --Jeff]
- 4. No second choice when a minimum perfect fit makes slam good,
for example, Kxxxx Ax Axx Kxx.
No 2NT art? Wowza; musta been your opponents, not you!
- [4.] I'd like to make a 4 bid to show hearts and spades,
since I'd like partner know the Q is much more valuable
than the Q. Since I can't do that, 4 seems best.
- [4.] Seems the only choices are between a mixed raise
and a splinter. I like my hand, there are slam possibilities,
and the splinter seems the best way to get information across
to partner about it.
- JEFF UPON REFLECTION
- I considered 4, but I saw two flaws, that
LHO could double it when 4 might shut him out, and that it
puts us in a force, which I do not want. The panel is
strongly in favor of 4, and it might work out; if partner
has KQxxx Q10x Axx AQ, for example, he'll drive to a pretty
good slam. And we might even get to play it. If he bids
key card, however, he's going to be disappointed with one
and the queen.
There ought to be a sequence which replaces the heart fit
jump if you have a game force. Len's idea of 2 and (presumably)
a jump in spades might do that. But I am not letting LHO
bid 3. No way. What does 3 followed by 4 mean? Whatever
it is, I think I have it, but at the table, I was too chicken
to try it. Fred is convinced that 3 followed by 4 is a fit
bid for hearts. I'll buy that and start having that
discussion with partners.
For what it's worth, I asked people as followups what they
would do when 5 was bid. The splinterers passed and passed
partner's double; the others mostly bid. On this hand, it
is pretty clear that a plan which involves partner is better
than one which doesn't, with the exception of a direct 4,
after which we are not tempted to bid, though it might be
right to double to show extra defense. (Or extra offense
if you play that.)
The play of the hand is not without interest. I ended up
defending 5 undoubled after 1-(2)-4-(dbl)-Pass-(5)-All Pass.
It sounded as if declarer was void in spades, so I started
with a nearly disasterous heart lead.
Declarer won the Q, crossed to the A, drew trumps,
and exited with his spade. Fortunately, partner had
the 8, because I flew A and continued with the 9
to beat the contract one trick. After other leads,
there are variations where this play is necessary to
get down two, which is meaningful for the splinter
bidders, as they are playing 5 doubled.
- IMPs, red vs. white, you hold
Qxx Qx QJ9 AQ10xx
LHO|| CHO|| RHO|| You|
2*|| Pass||2|| Pass|
2 was Flannery.
- JEFF AT THE TABLE
- 3. Upon reflection, I think that was a
OK, 3NT looks to be pretty clear, though most said something
like, "I have no idea, so I'll take a shot at 3NT." I have
an idea I like; see below.
- WINNING ACTION
- 3NT or pass. Partner had A10 K9xx Kxx Kxxx.
3NT was easy, but 5 is down. (Maybe...they have to lead
something, and a spade is bad for them.) 2x is going for
- 3NT?? Yes I know these hands but you have to do more
than 3. I would have bid 3 last time.
- 3NT. Presumably you play the standard DAF ["Defense Against Flannery,"
I assume. --Jeff] without further discussion (e.g., any clarification
of pard's double of 2). That leaves the double as takeout-ish (minors)
but not good enough for a direct 2NT or double. If pard has something like
xx Kxx AKxx Kxxx, the auction makes sense. RHO probably doesn't have
room for any of AK, AK, A, so I won't be down off the top.
- 4. If we miss a good 3NT, so be it. If we miss a making 3, oh well.
Partner should have a sound balance at the vulnerability, and I think we
have a chance for game despite my quacks.
- 3NT. Partner is vulnerable at IMPs, so he shouldn't be balancing too light. I
assume that we don't have an immediate systemic bid available over 2 to show a
takeout double of spades. If we lose the first 4 spade tricks, we might still be
cold for 9 tricks.
- 3NT. Gotta try for a game. They might have only 8 spades (then they are
4-4), or the Q could be a stopper, or both.
- [3NT.] The first issue to resolve is the meaning of partner's double.
How come you didn't present a complete table like in the previous
problem? Oh, never mindI know the answer. Clearly, if the double were
defined as penalty, I would have an easy pass. Let's see, can partner
have a penalty double on this deal? LHO is 4=5=2=2; partner is 4=5=3=1;
RHO is 2=1=5=5. Maybe possible, but not likely. More likely is that
partner is simply "balancing." What does that mean here? He must have
reasonable high card values, because this could be a misfit auction and
the opponents could have 24 HCP.
Partner's gamble has succeeded here; I have high cards and a
source of tricks. I bid 3NT. As a bonus, as declarer I will be able to
place the opponent's cards. No second choice on this one (too easy a
problem?I suppose we could be missing a slam if LHO has a dubious
opener, but I can't accommodate that possibility).
- Depends on partner's tendencies, if you think he has a good hand with
something like 1444, you have to go big, otherwise, you are probably OK
bidding 3 and not hanging him with all your Qs.
- 3NT. I'll confidently quote Hamman's Rule, but what I really feel is,
"this is as clear as mud."
- [3NT.] The answer to this one depends on what my partnership
structure was directly over the opponents' Flannery 2 opening.
If the delayed double is penalties and they are in a real misfit,
I am not pulling it. (Although looking at my hand that seems unlikely.)
Assuming (huge assumption) that it is takeout of spades [It is. --Jeff] or
shows a penalty of hearts (!!) with something approaching strong NT values
[Not that much; strong NTs start with double the first time. --Jeff]
at these colours a shot at 3NT seems reasonable.
- 3NT. If partner has a stiff spade, 4 might be a better bid, but I
have no way of finding out unless 2NT by me were forcing. (I could
then follow with 3, and partner would not bid 3NT with a stiff spade;
unfortunately, I have no such agreement.) If my RHO has five spades,
he might have preempted in spades, so I'm guessing 3NT is better.
If we belong in a partscore, too bad. The game bonus is too enticing
to bid just 3. [I think 2NT is forcing. "Undefined 2NT bids in
competition are forcing" is one of my meta-conventions. --Jeff]
- 3NT. Hamman's Rule.
- 3. I have values that could help partner if he has the right hand,
but am too weak to take unilateral action.
- JEFF UPON REFLECTION
- Pretty much everyone bid/guessed 3NT.
I partly agree, however, with Grainger. If partner is
prone to balance on nothing but his good looks,
3 is best. If partner is a solid citizen, however,
we need to investigate game. Knowing thy partner,
therefore, is pretty helpful. The problem, of course,
is that no one except Ed came up with any approach
Upon reflection, I like 2NT. I assume that's a
scramble, not natural. Partner is limited, so
lebensohl isn't needed. Partner will bid 3, and
then comes another decision: Do I bid 3 to avoid
3NT vs. Ax xxxx AKx Kxxx, or do I bid 3 to avoid
3NT vs. x Axxx AKxx Kxxx (and reach 5)? It's a
tough choice, but 3 has the upside that we reach
a different making game. On the other hand, there
is a good chance 3NT makes vs. that hand anyway.
I think it's a near toss-up, but I like 3 a tad
more than 3. I do not know what it would mean if
partner bid 3 over 3. Any ideas? Ought I try this
without discussion? I don't know, but yet another
of my meta-conventions is that after we balance, 2NT
is not natural, so he ought not pass 2NT. As long as
he bids a minor, I have room to cue 3, and I like
that plan a lot.
- IMPs, both vul, you hold
Kxx AKxxx Qxx Jx
CHO|| RHO|| You|| LHO|
1|| Pass||2|| Pass|
4|| Dbl|| Pass||Pass|
2 was game forcing. 4 was a splinter.
What's your plan?
- JEFF AT THE TABLE
- 4. Partner bid 5, and I gave up.
- WINNING ACTION
- Driving to slam. I bid 4 and trusted
partner's signoff, which was ill-judged. (I won't
say whether that which was ill-judged was the trust
or the signoff.) He had AQ10xx QJxx Axx x, nothing
bad happened, and I rolled 12 tricks.
- Keycard. Second choice 4. Not hard to imagine
AQxxx Qxxx Axx x.
- 4. If pard has AQxxx Qxxx AKx x, he'll know everything is working. I
denied the A by passing 4x, so what else can I have to show interest? I
assume 4 is natural, non-forcing, and forward going (and not kickback).
[Not Kickback (or I'd've mentioned it), but a cue bid. --Jeff]
I think pard would splinter then control bid (over my encouraging pass) with
a lesser hand, like AQJTx QJxx Kxx x. Do we have a well defined range for
4? Would pard bid on with A instead of K in my last example? I don't
- 4NT, key card. If partner bids 5, I will pass. I'm just going to gamble that
he has the Q, or at least the jack, and bid 6 over 5.
- 4. Spade honor cuebid. I'll make one try for slam and leave it to partner.
My pass over 4 doubled already showed slam interest with little club wastage.
If partner bids RKC, he should be able to figure out where we belong.
- [4.] We make slam opposite AQJxx QJxx Axx x. We could go down in 5
opposite Axxxx QJxx AJx x. I'll risk a forward move with 4. Even the bad
constructions have play for 11 tricks and the good ones make slam pretty
cold. My main concern is that most of the ones that make really great
slams might not pass 4 if I bid it.
- [5.] My basic plan is to move forward. As little as AQxxx Qxxx Axx x
yields good play for slam; adding the J would make it
excellent. By the way, thanks to RHO for doubling and allowing partner
to show the diamond control cheaply. Of course, slam could be poor
opposite the wrong, stronger, hand ( A10xxx QJxx AKx x). Too bad I don't
have a doubleton spade.
So how should I move forward? Blackwood won't distinguish between
the two hand types, so that's out. I don't want to bid 4; that won't
help him decide. I think the best try is 5. If partner bids 5, I will
sign off at 5. He is not barred over that, and can bid on if he has
extraswhich will have to be in spades. If instead he bids 5, he
won't have the K and I will accept my own invitation by bidding 6.
Unfortunately, my route does not address directly whether he has
the heart queen. He could have a pretty good hand ( AQJxx (J)xxx AKJ x)
and may take the high road after 5-5-5. In that case, we may need
some luck in the trump suit. Usually, someone on the fence goes low with
Incidentally, my planned sequence foreshadows a difficulty a
committee might have to address. Suppose partner chooses 5 over my 5
slowly. I of course will accept with alacrity, since that was my plan.
The opponents will call for the cops, and then what? Should I write down
my plan when I bid 5? Otherwise, my brilliant sequence might end up
costing me the dinner break.
- Bid 4 and let partner do what he feels like. If he has the Q,
your showing the K will set him off to Blackwood; if he doesn't, you
may already be too high.
- [4.] I would have bid 4 on the previous round. If not, 4 now.
4 right away makes it clear I have a spade honor, not shortness.
Maybe I wouldn't cue bid spade shortness anyway, but
maybe I would if I had a hand with great trumps but no other control.
[I don't see how it matters to its meaning that you did not delay the
cue bid, but it is reasonable to have a distinction. I've just
never heard of one. Here, it just seems best not to reach the 5-level
off the minor-suit aces, which I why I passed. --Jeff]
- [4.] Initial assumption is how strong opposite a GF is a splinter
by opener: can it be minimum (which I think is a good treatment)?
[Yes. It is and, in fact, was. --Jeff]
Basically I have my values opposite club shortnesswith only a
stray jack of wastage, so I don't want to be regressive but the only
slightly more difficult value to describe in this hand is the Q,
which is unlikely to be crucial if both majors can be run. Accordingly,
it is a good hand to describe rather than ask, and I follow up with 4
to allow opener to take control (as he may have extras anyway and knows
of the double fit). [How? No one told him I have a spade fit. --Jeff]
- [4NT.] 4 shows the A and no first round club control. Keycard
and ask for the Q...preferably redwood 4.
- 4 (assuming that it is a cue bid in spades). If partner has
AQxxx Qxxx Axx x, he ought to be able to figure out what to do
when I subsequently show two keycards. If he instead has
Axxxx QJxx AJx x or Axxxx QJxx AKx x, he should bid 5 with the
former and 5 with the latter, and we can stop in 5.
- 4NT. This hand is strong enough to move forward, and I
don't see a better thing to do with it.
- JEFF UPON REFLECTION
- DavidW's idea is interesting, but will
partner be willing to cue 5 knowing that there is a club
loser and a hole in spades? I think he ought to; I might
have something like AKxxx QJxxx Qxx, and all I need to
find out about is the K.
The basic problem is to get to slam vs. AQ10xx QJxx Axx x,
the actual hand, and to avoid it vs. Axxxx QJxx AKx x. I
think 4 ought to do the trick. Partner will bid 5 with
the K and then I can bid 5. Partner should get the idea
that I need the Q. If all I need is high hearts, I
would have used key card. I'll be taking a chance on the
Q, but at least that starts at 40% (better with the J or
109). With partner's actual hand, if we are only off one
key card, he can probably count 12 tricks, so he should use
key card. Even if I have only two spades, I might have
three clubs (4+5+1+2 ruffs), or at worst, slam will
be on one of 3-3 spades, the J's dropping doubleton, or
4-2 spades and 2-2 hearts. That's more than good enough.
If I have the wrong dead minimum, Kx AKxxx Qxxx xx, slam
is still around 50%. And who's to say I don't have a sixth
heart or the J?
Jeff Goldsmith, Oct. 29, 2014