note that I'm not admitting what I
bid at the table, but I can say for certain that in this
partnership I had no idea what 3 would have meant. I didn't
know if partner could have two or three hearts, either. Given
that this is obviously a situation in which there is no common
agreement about what anything means, and knowing that we weren't
on solid ground, anything I did was a crapshoot. My solution
made sure that nothing really goofy happened. I'll leave
it at that.
Can you get to the laydown grand intelligently? Ed's
auction will get you there vs. the actual hand, but what
will happen if opener only has two hearts? Might we play
6 vs. xx Kx AQJxxx AKQ? Maybe opener will try 6 and
we can pass. Or is that a grand slam try in hearts?
Given that we don't know what our early bids mean, to
feel confident that we know what our later ones specify
to a great deal of precision is expecting a lot.
Can we stop short of slam when it's bad? I don't see
how. The two who chose a non-forcing 4 assumed that
3 had set hearts as trump. Robb stopped because he
thought partner had denied the A; he was in the throes
of a misunderstanding. As, most likely, would we all be.
So all but two simply drove to slam. That's probably the
right valuation; most of the time, slam will have play.
The important issue, then, is getting to the right slam.
Then maybe Chris' 5NT is best; if we can't come up with
an intelligent way to stay out of slam when it is bad,
and we can't find a grand with confidence, then why not
simply focus on strain at the six-level right now? After
all, 3 will simply muddy the waters, and if we are going
to guess to bid a slam and not have an intelligent auction
on the way, this might get us the best result possibly
achievable with confidence.
I was surprised during early discussion of the problem
how many different opinions there are about a fairly
simple sequence. Looks like this is one for partnership
Personally, I think 3 should not promise
three. What else can opener bid with xx Kx AQJxx AKQx?
He can't go past 3NT when that's the most likely game,
and is partner really going to rebid his hearts with,
say, Qxx QJ10xx Kxx xx? I suspect that those who say
that 3 promises three would bid 3 anyway with this
I think 3 doesn't confirm anything; it expresses
doubt about strain. For the moment, the most important
issue is getting to 3NT. If that's not one of the
games responder has in mind, he'll bid the cheapest
strain he thinks playable on the next round. Whether
or not this is mainstream, I cannot say, but I think
it's the most valuable meaning of 3. We need some
bid to avoid committing when we don't have enough
information, and 3 is it.
As would DavidW, I'd've bid 4 with partner's actual
hand. With direct support, I try to show it immediately,
so with the putative x KQxx AKJxx AKx hand, "too
strong to splinter," I'd just splinter anyway. My
partners will have Last Train available, so if we have
a slam, we'll have a shot at getting there, and I won't
have to bid past game to find partner's Yarborough and
go down at the 5-level. Besides, I'm tired of coming
up with elaborate prepared sequences and having partner
cross me up. I have a partner who happily passes 3
on this auction from time to time; perpetrating the
jump shift with a huge splinter is insanity playing
with him. Even more normal partners sometimes raise
clubs or jump to 4, making our prepared sequence
as clear as mud.
Fortunately, much of the time, I'll have two
splinters available, e.g. 1-1; 3 or 4. I like
to play that 3 is either game invitational or a
monster hand, and 4 is just a normal game force.
Then if partner signs off over 3, I bid game and
didn't feel any reason to bid to the 5-level.
With a true monster, I can make yet another slam try.
If partner accepts the game invite, the five-level
should be safe. Note that this approach is pretty
much appeal-proof. If I bid on over partner's slow
sign-off, I can't have anything resembling a marginal
game force. Those who play that 4 shows a void diamond
have to miss a game sometimes when partner slowly
judges to play a partscore.
After 1-1, I only have one spade splinter, and
it looks like a good place to use Frivolous 3NT,
but my rules say 3NT is natural. After all, I could
have had KQJ10 Jxxx xx Qxx. 4 is probably fine, but
3NT looks completely laydown. Perhaps adding Frivolous
3NT over spade splinters even when we have only a 4-4
fit makes sense. For now, I play that 4 there is
Last Train, not a real cue. Yeah, 3NT as Last Train
seems more effective.
Overall, this hand is a minefield for any but the most
solid partnerships. It's probably a minefield for most
of them, too.