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Two Bidding Problems from the Tolle
by Mike Orriel

The first bidding problem

Dealer North.
N/S Game.
     
     
  spade A 10 5
heart 7 5 3
diamond Q J 9
club Q 6 5 2
 
WestNorthEastSouth
-
Pass
1diamond
2heart(1)
Pass
Pass
1NT
?
(1) A reverse, showing 16+ points


You have enough for game but what should you bid?

You could bid a direct 3NT, but this could be wrong - North has shown at least five diamonds and four hearts. So he has four (or fewer) black cards - if he has a singleton spade you have only one stop in spades, and opponents will surely lead spades with nine between them. If North has a singleton club, then you may lose the first four (or five) club tricks. So you need more information about the North hand to determine your final contract. I suggest you should bid three clubs - yes I know it implies you have five clubs, but it is forcing North to bid. If North has a single spade then he will bid either three hearts which you raise to four, three diamonds which you will raise to five diamonds, or four clubs showing three-card support - in this case you know North’s shape to be 1-4-5-3, so your Ace of spades looks good opposite a singleton and you can bid five diamonds.

The North hand was:

 
spade 2
heart K Q J 10
diamond A 10 8 7 3
club A K 7
 
     
     


So the right contract is five diamonds - you lose the Ace of hearts and the King of diamonds, which is offside. In 3NT you also lose these two tricks plus four spade tricks when the King of spades is led, so you are two down - a swing of 800.

Try to think about the distribution of a hand that has bid two suits, if there is a singleton in the unbid suits, 3NT may well be the wrong contract.


The second bidding problem

Dealer West. N/S Game.
     
     
  spade Q J
heart A K 8 4
diamond K 8 4
club A 9 7 4
 
WestNorthEastSouth
2spade(1)
Pass
Pass
3heart
Pass
3spade
Dbl
?
(1)Weak


Should you bid four hearts? Although you have 17 points, three of them are the Q-J of spades which are almost certainly losers. Why? Well if East had four spades opposite West’s six-card suit he would have raised spades on the first round, so East has only three-card spade support and therefore North has two spades.

The South hand is only really a 14 count and rather flat, you don’t know the strength of North’s hand (and he still has a bid) and so I don’t think you should bid four hearts. At our table South did bid four hearts and this would have been two down; luckily West came to the rescue and ‘saved’ in four spades - this was doubled and went two down. Into the valley of death rode the -300; a swing of 500.

The full hand:

Dealer West. N/S Game.
  spade 8 5
heart 6 5 3 2
diamond A 6 5 2
club K J 6
 
spade K 10 9 7 4 2
heart J
diamond Q 10 7 3
club Q 2
  spade A 6 3
heart Q 10 9 7
diamond J 9
club 10 8 5 3
  spade Q J
heart A K 8 4
diamond K 8 4
club A 9 7 4
 


Key points:
Q-J doubleton in a suit the opponents have bid is usually bad news, remember you have a partner sitting opposite you and if you do pre-empt, take care when sacrificing - it might be a phantom.