Question of the Week 22

 Hi All,

Most everyone played in 3 No Trump and made overtricks on the board below. The only possible slam turned out to be 6 Clubs and no one bid it. The questions were how to get to slam and if a Forcing 2-Club bid would work.



                     ª Q 10

                     © J 7 5 3 2

                     ¨ J 10 9 6 5

                     § 8

West                                  East

ª A K 9 6                            ª J 5

©                                       © A K 10 9 8 6

¨ K Q 7 2                            ¨ 8

§ A K J 4 2                          § Q 10 9 3


                     ª 8 7 4 3 2

                     © Q 4

                     ¨ A 4 3

                     § 7 6 5


First, let's look at what happens when West opens 1 Club. Partner responds 1 Heart and West stops to think. Partner's new suit has forced him to describe his hand and he ponders 2 Spades or 2 No Trump (given East's bid).

A rebid of 2 Spades shows two of his suits, 19 or more points and forces to game. He would like to find a suit fit to make his void useful.

A rebid of 2 No Trump show values in the unbid suits and shows 18-19 HCPs. He actually has 20 HCPs and definitely wants to get to game after partner showed enough to respond. Partner would have made the same response with 6 points and 4 small Hearts and might pass 2 No Trump. This would have the danger of both missing a game and going down at 2 No Trump.

After you respond 2 Spades, East probably will rebid 4 Hearts to show his 6-card suit and 10-12 points. West now is faced with the scary choice of passing or correcting to 4 No Trump and hoping partner will know that's to play. If you haven't worked out with partner when 4 No Trump is Blackwood and when it 's to play, it's time to do so.

Second, let's consider a 2-Club opening. This has the great advantage on this hand that after 2 Clubs, 2 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, partner will know that your best suit is Clubs with at least a 5-card suit. You can both upgrade your hands and have a great chance from here to find the slam. The problem is whether that is a proper opening.

The requirements for a strong opening in No Trump or a suit were stable for many years. When the Forcing 2-Club was expanded to include both suits and No Trump, it was a great improvement for both. However it has yet to be stabilized again.

Some factions went for simplicity and required 22 HCPs to use it at all. Others included any hand that required only one trick from partner for game. These were okay but neglected distributional values. The old rules generally promised 23 points with a 6-card suit, 21 for a 7-card suit and 25 for a 5-card suit. I have felt and taught that we should use the HCPs when we have a balanced hand and expect to be in No Trump and distributional values when we expect to be in a suit.

To go back to this question, this board doesn't meet any of those criteria. Partner will expect either more Clubs or more points. As nicely as this works in this case, I would open 1 Club and jump-shift to 2 Spades. In the long term it's better to be consistent.