Question of the Week - 16

 Hi All,

Only one question this week. A lot of pairs got to 4 Hearts and some make an overtrick. It also makes 6 Diamonds, but no one bid it. The only question was about the general approach to the hand.

W Dlr
N-S Vul


                     ª 109653

                     © 3

                     ¨ K5

                     § KQ976

West                                  East

ª K84                                 ª 2

© 98                                   © AKJ6542

¨ 9862                               ¨ AQJ3

§ A1052                             § 8


                     ª AQJ7

                     © Q107

                     ¨ 1074

                     § J43

At the writer's table, East opened 4 Hearts and all passed. At another table, East opened 1 Heart, West responded 1 No Trump and East jumped to 4 Hearts. Finally, the writer pondered a 2-Club Forcing Opening and asked for my thoughts.

1. I will start with the worst of these approaches and take them in order until I get to the best. East's hand has 19 points, 15 HCPs and 8 sure tricks. None of these meet any criteria for a 2-Club Forcing Opening. It would probably go 2 Clubs, 2 Diamonds, 2 Hearts, 3 Hearts (promising extra values) and East might try for slam, hopefully stopping at 5 Hearts. Even then, not everyone made 5 Hearts. More importantly, why lie to partner?

2. Next comes the opening 4 Hearts. It get's them there, but East has no idea what partner has. Opener's first responsibility is to describe his hand and East has told partner that he has 7 sure tricks when he has 8. He has not told partner that he has a second suit. He is way too strong for a preempt. West will always pass with his 7 points, but with a different 7 points, slam could be laydown. Again, why lie to partner?

3. At last, East opens 1 Heart. If West can't respond, game is unlikely. When West responds 1 No Trump, East jumps to 4 Hearts. Perfect? No! West has 6-10 points, but some 6-10 points are better than others. East hasn't really given partner any info to evaluate his hand and make decisions. Again, he hasn't even shown his second suit.

This jump would be excusable if he had no forcing bid and had to bid what he hoped he could make. That is not the case here. Why not give partner as much information as possible, so that he can contribute?

4. Finally, East opens 1 Heart, West responds 1 No Trump and East describes his hand with a jump-shift to 3 Diamonds. Now, West can see two suits and 19 or more points in partner's hand. They're forced to game and both can contribute. West has already told partner that he doesn't have 3 Hearts, so raises to 4 Diamonds to show the fit. Now they are in good position to find the best contract and their trust in each other is undamaged.


Question of the Week - 15

 Hi All,

Another question about basic bidding on the board shown below.



                     ª K 8 5 2

                     © K 10 5 3

                     ¨ K 5 3

                     § 7 3

West                                  East

ª                                       ª A Q J 9 7

© Q J 9 6 4                         © 8

¨ 9 8 7                               ¨ J 10

§ Q 10 9 5 2                       § A K J 8 6


                     ª 10 6 4 3

                     © A 7 2

                     ¨ A Q 6 4 2

                     § 4


West dealt and passed, North passed, East opened 1 Spade and all passed. East made 1 Spade for 80 points, but other E/Ws bid part scores in Clubs for 90-130 points. East had two questions:

1. Should he instead have opened 1 Club?

2. Should West have responded 2 Clubs over his 1 Spade?

1. No. Our Lesson 2 prescribes opening the higher ranking of two 5-card suits regardless of relative strength. To do otherwise makes it impossible for opener to properly describe his hand. Stick with that!

2. No. A response of 2 Clubs would be a gross overbid, promising 10 or more points. West can't take points for his void in partner's suit; Partner may just rebid it. If he does respond 2 Clubs anyway, East will see a good Club fit and 10 or more points opposite his 18-20 points. Any red-blooded East would describe his hand by jumping to game and would go down for an even worse score. 

Assuming that they wouldn't do either of those things, how did some pairs get to 2 Clubs? I can see only one somewhat reasonable sequence. West's pass is justified, but, if he is uncomfortable with his void in partner's suit, he may keep the bidding open with 1 No Trump. The rules most of us follow say that you must respond with 6 points, but they don't say that you can't respond with a reasonable 5 points.

This is risky and they will go down at 1 No Trump, but in this case East will surely rebid 2 Clubs. As long as they don't get carried away to game, they should make par.

Good luck and stay well, Dave

Describe Your Hand! - 14

Hi All,

I get a lot of questions about handling complex situations and I do the best I can. I still, however, get questions about very basic bidding. I have tried to present in Lesson 2 what I believe to be an exquisite system to open one of a suit and bid back and forth to reach the best contract. I have not done my best, apparently, to explain and sell it. Let's look at several examples.



                     ª A 10 8 6

                     © Q 10 6 5

                     ¨ A J 3 2

                     § K

South opens 1 Spade and North is excited. Even after downgrading the singleton Club King, he counts 14 points and has great Spade support. He wants to show his Spade support and extra values, so responds 3 Spades. He is disappointed when partner passes. What went wrong?

His response was a limit raise promising 4-card Spade support and 10-12 points. South has a minimum hand and must pass. North could clearly see game, so must not bid anything that partner can pass short of that. North could jump to 4 Spades, but that would be a close-out. He doesn't know enough about South's hand to discourage slam.

North must respond 2 Diamonds, a new suit at the 2-level promising 10 or more points and forcing partner to describe his hand. Whatever South rebids, North will know whether to just bid 4 Spades or to pursue slam. Exquisite!


West                                  East

ª 10 9                                ª A K 7 4 3

© A K Q 8 7 3                      © 8 5

¨ A 5 2                               ¨ Q J 10 9

§ K 9                                  § A 7

East opens 1 Spade, West responds 2 Hearts and East rebids 2 No Trump. West rebids 3 No Trump and they take all the tricks. What went wrong?

East's rebid promised 13-16 points and stoppers in the unbid suits. That's not wrong, but it's certainly discouraging. It says a lot about what he doesn't have and not much about what he does have. It says that he doesn't have 6 Spades, he doesn't have 3 Hearts, he doesn't have enough to jump to 3 No Trump and he can't bid another suit, either because he doesn't have one or he doesn't have enough points to reverse over partner's 10 or more points. West has a lovely hand, but with his 16 HCPs opposite a probable minimum, he bids a safe 3 No Trump.

Look at how this all changes if East rebids 3 Diamonds. He now shows two suits, 15-18 points and forces for at least one round. North is now definitely thinking slam. He has several paths to get there, but it's hard to see how he fails to get to 6 Hearts or 6 No Trump. Again Exquisite!


The Curse of the Forcing Bid - 13

 Hi All,

I've had several questions this week which illustrate this curse. Obviously some forcing bids come in handy. The most useful is the unlimited bid by responder to force opener to describe his hand. Another good force enables the Take-out Double. We used to have a lot of bids that forced to game, but most of these have been changed to be invitational, because they didn't do what we wanted. Jump rebids by opener or responder, jump-shifts by responder, jump overcalls, immediate cue bids have all become invitational or weak. The reason for this is that they didn't let partner tell us what we wanted to know.

My first illustration of this is the board shown below.                   


                     ª A J 10 8 2

                     © A

                     ¨ K 10 6 4 3

                     § A K

West                                  East

ª 9 4 3                               ª K Q 7 6 5

© Q J 7 4 2                          © K 9 5 3

¨ 9 2                                  ¨ Q J

§ 10 7 5                              § Q 6



                     © 10 8 6

                     ¨ A 8 7 5

                     § J 9 8 4 3 2

East opens a marginal 1 Spade, South passes, West raises to 2 Spades and North doubles (Big) for takeout. East raises a silly 3 Spades to try to obstruct and South passes. North doubles again and now South is forced to advance 4 Clubs. South has denied having enough for a free advance and may have nothing. North must pass, but when both minors run, they take 13 tricks.

If East had instead passed after North's double, South would have to advance 3 Clubs. He doesn't have enough for a jump advance and might have nothing. North's helpful bid however gives South a chance for a free advance showing 5-8 points and a decent suit. They surely get to game and DSS would find slam.

Another illustration of the curse is seen in this board.                    


                     ª J 9 8 6

                     © J 9 4 2

                     ¨ A 8 6

                     § A 3

West                                  East

ª A K Q                               ª 10 4 3 2

© A K 10 8 6                        © 7

¨ K 10 7 4 3                        ¨ 9 5

§                                       § 10 9 7 5 4 2


                     ª 7 5

                     © Q 5 3

                     ¨ Q.J 2

                     § K Q J 8 6

West really likes his hand and wants to force to game. He wants to open 2 Clubs to make an "in your face bid" that partner will know is a force to game (which is what the cool kids do). Partner responds 2 Diamonds, waiting, and West rebids 2 Hearts. East knows that he's forced to game, but isn't sure about the Hearts. He bids 3 Clubs to ask partner if he's sure about the Hearts and suggest a possible alternative. West rebids 3 Diamonds and East bids something, maybe 3 No Trump. West isn't sure, but may pass, rebid Diamonds or rebid Hearts. He's in a jam regardless. What went wrong?

To start with, his 2 heart bid should not be forcing. He needs help for game and the last thing he wants is for partner to raise to game with nothing. West must be free to pass when he has no help. Do you remember the razor's edge criteria from our lesson?

Next, West's hand doesn't qualify for a 2-Club bid anyway. He doesn't have the points to do that with a 5-card suit, nor is he only one trick short of game, nor does he even have 22 HCPs.

West should open 1 Heart. If partner can respond, he can jump-shift to force to game if he desires. If partner passes, he'll breathe a sigh of relief when dummy comes down. Don't curse yourself with uncalled-for forcing bids.

Multiple Questions on Strong Openings - 12

 Hi All,

I've had at least three recent questions concerning the Forcing Two-Club Opening. This has caused me to sit back and reminisce about my experience with strong openings. I have a childhood memory of opening 1 No Trump with a good hand, but missing stoppers. I was decidedly taught a lesson that day. Later I became an adherent to the teaching of Alfred Sheinwold which included the Strong Two Bid, which at that time was "25 or more points with a very strong suit. (may be reduced with a longer suit or two-suiter)".

In the sixties and seventies, Jean and I played the Neopolitan Club. All strong hands were opened 1 Club and it featured weak-twos, weak 1 No Trump and a host of other neat stuff. For a while I was too busy to play, but when I retired I started over. A lot of things had changed over the years, particularly the American Standard 5- Card Majors, Transfers, Weak Two Bids and the Forcing 2 Club.

At that time, the Forcing Two Club just replaced the Strong Suit Two Bids and was roughly the same, being generally described as a 6-card suit with 23 or more points, which could also be 21 points with a 7-card suit or 25 with a 5-card suit. It still required a very strong suit. This worked well since both partners knew that adequate support for the suit would normally be enough for game.

No Trump openings hadn't changed in all those years with 16-18 for 1 No Trump, 22-24 for 2 No Trump and 25-27 for 3 No Trump. Soon, however, a brilliant change took over to fold No Trump into the 2 Club system. This meant that 1 No Trump became a more useful 15-17, 2 No Trump became 20-21 and with more you would open 2 Clubs and rebid 2 No Trump or more with big hands.

As with all major developments, this sent ripples all through the game. Some players still have trouble with transfers, Florida may never recover from occasionally opening with only 3 Clubs or Diamonds and we are still a long way from deciding how to handle the expanded Forcing Two Club Opening. Many experts have decided that all hands with 22 HCPs or more should be opened 2 Clubs. Of these, many have hawked all sorts of ways for the responder to describe his hand and take over the auction. I think they are trying to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. 

I haven't seen anything yet that justifies evaluating a hand with a very strong 6 or 7-card suit as if it was the same as a balanced hand. When a player has a strong hand, he must first decide whether it is a No Trump or a suit opening and evaluate it appropriately.  If he has a very strong suit, he should evaluate his total points, including distribution, and open as described in paragraph three. If he has a balanced hand, he should count his HCPs and open as described in paragraph four. In almost all situations, responder should respond a waiting 2 Diamonds and not interfere until opener has described his hand.

The call to open 2 Clubs with all hands with 22 HCPs ignores a third type of hand that doesn't meet either of the above criteria. I wouldn't open 2 Clubs with 22 HCPs and a 4-1-4-4 distribution if you held a gun to my head. We need a different system for these kind of hands that allows us to bid back and forth to find the best contract. Fortunately, we have it described in detail in Lesson 2. I would open 1 Diamond. I would figure that we probably don't have game if partner can't respond and, if he can, I can force to game.

I intend to stick to the simple, consistent procedures that work, until the next brilliant idea revolutionizes the game. I certainly haven't seen it yet.

Stay well, Dave

No Questions This Week

 Hi All,

Way to go! Like anyone who aspires to teach, I'm happy to help, but even happier when you can work it out yourself. Keep up the good work.


Question of the Week - 11

Hi All,

I was sent the below board asking me how to use the Forcing 2 Club bid to get to slam. There is some disagreement as to what really happened, but they got to 4 No Trump and made 13 tricks.                                        


                     ª A 10 5 3

                     © A Q J 3

                     ¨ 10 4

                     § 10 5 2

West                                  East

ª 8                                    ª Q J 4 2

© 10 9 8 7 4                        © 6 5 2

¨ J 9                                  ¨ 7 5 3 2

§ J 8 7 6 4                          § Q 9


                     ª K 9 7 6

                     © K

                     ¨ A K Q 8 6

                     § A K 3


Let's suppose North passes and South opens 2 Clubs as the writer suggested. North responds 2 Diamonds, waiting, and South rebids 3 Diamonds. North stops to think. He knows that partner has 7 Diamonds with 21 points, 6 Diamonds with 23 points or 5 Diamonds with 25 points. He has adequate support in the first or second instance, but not in the third. 

North hesitates to rebid one of his 4-card majors or 3 No Trump lacking a Club stopper. He'll probably decide to bid 4 Diamonds, hoping that partner has a 6- or 7-card suit. He will probably figure that even a 5-2 fit is better than a possible 4-3 fit or worse in a major or No Trump lacking a stopper.

South figures partner for adequate support and extra values since he didn't go straight to game. He might use Blackwood and get to 6 Diamonds, but he may be cautious with his minimum values and uncertain singleton King. A difficult sequence to navigate.

Let's suppose that South instead opens 1 Diamond. If North can't respond, they probably don't have game anyway. In this case, North will respond 1 Heart and South will jump-shift to 2 Spades showing two suits, 19 or more points and forcing to game. North will stop to think. He sees a good fit, at least 30 points and his support may make partner stronger. He figures that if South has extra values the Aces will take care of themselves, so he jumps to 5 Spades to invite slam. 

South promised 19 points and now reevaluates to about 24 with the good fit, Heart support to bolster his singleton King and a good 5-card side suit. He goes happily to 6 Spades or maybe 6 No Trump. He needs careful play for 6 Spades, but takes them all in No Trump.

Some players like to open 2 Clubs any time they see 22 HCPs, but that is often unwise. In this case, I would call it misleading and awkward.

Keep playing and sending those questions. I can guarantee that I'll always do my best, but I can't guarantee that I'll always tell you what you want to hear. Stay well,  Dave