21 March 2011

Difficult to bid

Some hands have a quality to them that incites true hardship in their bidding. This is one such from a teams match I played recently. There are several problems to be avoided on this hand, lots of suboptimal contracts to fall into. If you step wrong setting the wrong strain you may not realise for several rounds of bidding.
A x x
A K Q J x
K x x x
A K Q J x x
8 x x
J T x x

I'll postulate a few auctions to demonstrate the problem then throw it open for anyone to suggest a better way. It's never the same when you can see both hands but do your best. If you want to bid it as a partnership I suggest the following: write down the hands, email one to your partner and forget about it. Later discover the email, wonder what it's about then see if your partner kept the other. Or give it to your friends then rat them out here!
1 1
2 3
3NT ???
That was the auction at my table, it's unclear how either hand actually goes on from there. A spade stop is surely a sign of wasted values. I bid 3 to try emphasize the heart quality rather than using fourth suit forcing. An expert pair I gave the hand to bid it like this:
1 1
2 2 4th suit
3 4 agrees clubs
4 4
4 5
5 5
5NT 6 Grand try!
Marks for effort. They found out a lot about the strength of the suits and the suitability for slam but the strain is wrong. Unfortunately when you jump on the cue bidding merry go round you can't change strain... it's always another cue. The trumps just aren't good enough for 6 and even if you can pick them a 4-1 diamond break might see you conceding a ruff. Here's a relay sequence:
1 1 4+ hearts
1NT 2 and 4+ clubs
2 2NT high shortage
3 3 0=6=3=4
4 4 3 controls
4 4NT AKQ in hearts*
West can count 12 tricks in hearts or NT if the hearts are 3-3 but can't make any further useful enquiries. Passing isn't an option as 4NT won't make if the hearts don't work so West may settle for 5. Or they might feel lucky.

I believe the perfect contract is 6NT by West failing only to unfavourable red suit splits. 6 by West is close but may go down to a club ruff and by East could fail on a club through the King. 6 might appear to be as good as 6NT but you'll lose your lunch on a heart lead.

*Normally AKQ or none but given the spade void and West's controls there's no ambiguity.

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