A Difficult Hand to Bid

By: Kevin Wilson & Jim Plank

Tuesday September 23, 2003. Sequoyah DBC, Board #10, Both Vulnerable, E deals

Kevin: You are in 1st seat holding:
H ---
D AQ9x
C AQ8xxxxx
How do you approach these hands, and what are your agreements?

It seems like there are at least 3 choices to start with, and I'll examine each of them. 1C, 2C, & 5C all seem like potential bids.

1C is the slow approach and hopefully you will have time to jump in clubs and then maybe bid diamonds later. 2C is the forcing approach, letting partner know you have a very strong hand but making it perhaps difficult for partner to correctly evaluate his hand and his high cards. 5C is the "best guess" approach. It gets the hand off your chest, bids to the level you are eventually going to bid to anyway, and makes the opponents guess last as to whether or not it is right to bid over 5C.

Is there any science to help you, or is it always a guess?

Jim: I think another consideration is what possible contracts you are willing to entertain. Is 3N going to be an option? Is defending a part score an option? Or is it instead the choice between five or six clubs? Do you even care about the diamond suit?

Kevin: I did discard the diamond suit because I have NO way of finding out if partner is specifically 5-1 in the minors. What I don't want is for him to be 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, or 4-2 and preference back to diamonds in the long run. If you play in diamonds then you are likely to get tapped out. This is a point that must not be lost!

If he has a club void then I am probably going to get tapped out anyway and my clubs will be worth only 1 trick. If he is 5-1 specifically then maybe I will get lucky and clubs will come home and I'll get to pitch my stiff spade on the long diamond. I would also never stop at less then 5C and while I will admit that 3N will occasionally score the most, I want to bid the game that is most likely to make, which I believe is 5C.

I discarded 5C as an opening because it is unilateral and partner will NEVER have a clue as to what high cards he needs to bid further. Sure he can evaluate the king of clubs if he has it, but that would be the only card. He will have no clue that king of diamonds is huge.

I discarded 1C, because I thought the auction might get preempted quickly, and that I wouldn't be able to jump in clubs and still have room to bid diamonds.

I tried to employ science. I knew that I had this agreement with my partner -- if I open 2C and then jump in a suit then that sets trump and demands cue bids, usually Aces first and then Kings. Also, I hoped that by opening 2C, I could shut the opponents up a little and have room to develop my plan. I envisioned the auction going:

2C	2D
I hoped that partner could cue bid 4D and then I would jump to 6C. (The DK would provide an entry for a finesse in clubs if I chose to take it, and by partner bidding diamonds he would probably deny a major suit Ace). If partner cue bid 4H or 4S then I would "sign off" in 5C and hope he could better evaluate his cards (If the suit he cue bid turned me off, then it must be another suit I cared about ... maybe he could figure that it was diamonds).

To a point my plan worked. The auction did go:

2C	2D
4C	4NT
This 4N bid should deny any Aces (and in my thinking concentrated values) but show interest in going higher than 5C. I guessed that he had at least the king of clubs and some other card for this bid so I tried for the slam and went down one when the king of diamonds was offside. Too bad it was the king of spades and not the king of diamonds he held for his 4N bid.

The whole hand:

K1086           J
QJ1053          ---
107             AQ93
K9              AQ876543
Jim: After thinking about this hand for a while, I like your plan, but it seems a bit unilateral. In particular, opposite something like xxx,xxxx,KJTxx,x, a diamond slam is a clear favorite to make. Add the ace of spades, and 7 can only be beaten by a club ruff. I think opening 1C gives you the best chance of finding your nine or more card diamond fit. Yes, it allows the opponents to get into the auction, but you'll probably have a chance to show your hand. Take the above cards. I'm guessing that the auction would progress:
1C	1H	X	2H
3D	P	3N	P
At this point, it's hard to get too excited about slam, but if you don't pass, 5C describes your hand pretty well, and you'll be at a good contract. With these cards, 3N turns out to be the best contract, as there are 10 tricks available (not to say that you'll actually get them -- a heart lead by north and a spade switch will likely result in just +600).

Kevin: What I'd like is for you to give me an auction where partner holds xxx, xxxx, KJTxx, x that gets you to a diamond slam. You never gave me any plan for what you were going to do at your second turn. While I agree that the diamond slam is a huge favorite, I will still get to at least a club slam and use the diamond for a club finesse. So I am in a slam that has at least some play opposite those cards.

Of course you can dream up hands that will make a diamond slam and not a club slam but I'll be happy to play against anyone that reverses into a 4 card suit when their 1st suit is a lower rank and has 8 cards. I believe that's foolish. When my partner opens 1 club and then reverses into diamonds I think to myself, "Oh ok. I bet he is 4-8 in these 2 suits"

Jim: Interestingly, the south hand is the one you wanted your partner to have. If I'm your partner, and the auction has gone:

2C	2D
4C	4S
Will I bid 6C on the basis of my two red kings? I have no idea. Although my hand is awfully strong opposite a 2C opener, I may worry that you have a dead, red doubleton and are missing one of the KQ of clubs. I'd probably pass uneasily...

Kevin: Sure if partner is able to bid diamonds naturally over 1 club then you might get to diamonds, but any time you reverse into diamonds, partner is going to correct with a 2 card discrepancy. Is that ever worth the risk? I agree that it will play better in diamonds when partner has a 4 card discrepancy and a singleton club (the hand you showed exactly 5-1 or 6-1 in the minors). The chances of the enemy overcalling 1 of a major is huge and then partner will be highly unlikely to name a natural diamond suit and unlikely to ever evaluate his hand correctly. With your cards you must DEMAND cue bids ... how often during all the hands you've ever played have you thought to yourself, wow I bet partner is 1-0-4-8 on this hand? I bet never.

I thought a rule of thumb was that if partner opened 2 clubs and rebid a natural suit that you bid a slam with 10 points ... if I cared about the KQ of clubs wouldn't I invoke RKC (Blackwood)? I mean I didn't rebid 3 clubs and then bid 4N! I demanded cuebids and you have an Ace and two Kings! I bid 2C and then 4C and you don't think you have enough?

The scores:

1 - +620
6 - +600
1 - +170
1 - +150
1 - +130
1 - -100
1 - -200