January 7, 2015-Bridge is For Bidders
It has often been said that Bridge is a bidder’s game. Two hands from play this week reinforced that notion. First up, there was board five. As South, red-on-white, you pick up:
After two passes, you open 1H. 1S overcall, 3H by partner (typically a mixed raise), 3S on your right. Your call?
What would you do if, instead of 3S, righty bid four spades?
Then came board nine. This time, East-West were vulnerable, with North the dealer, and the layout was this:
Okay, who can make what? How should the auction go?
Let’s analyze board 9 first. This is a typical hand – both sides have a nine-card major suit fit, and East-West have slightly more than their share of high card points. Three spades could be set if the defenders find both diamond ruffs, but, in practice, that won’t happen, so East-West can make 140 in spades. Likewise, North-South would have an easy time making three hearts, but trump leads will set four. In a perfect world, East-West should compete to three spades, or sell out to four hearts.
Stopping in three spades will be quite easy if North-South are too quiet – after all, East has a dead minimum opening, and West holds a limit raise. A very conservative North-South pair will go -140.
Most North’s would open two (or three) hearts. Should East overcall? That is a pretty horrible hand, and bidding will certainly propel East-West too high. At the table, the auction went:
Overcalling worked out poorly, and led to a quick minus score. So, why do I say this is a bidder’s game? Well, suppose you prudently passed two hearts. How would four hearts fare? With clubs three-three, there is no defense. If we try to tap dummy, declarer can ruff both spades. If we draw trumps, South concedes a club, ruffs one spade, and discards the other.
Conservative North-South pairs would go -140, while timid East-West players would pay out -420! Bridge is for bidders!
Now we turn to board five. Holding:
South can hope to find a dummy with some play for ten tricks – as little as four trumps to the ace and a doubleton diamond will do. Eleven tricks, however, seems incredibly remote. So South should push up to four hearts, but defend a game. South does hold some defense, and, anyway, saving red-on-white is a hard way to earn a living. Our South bid four hearts over three spades – which seems right, and then sold out to four spades:
Well-judged, but I disagree with the calls, vehemently. I think South should bid four diamonds, not four hearts. Give partner some typical mixed raise, like xx AJ10x xx Qxxxx, and we can make four hearts (but not five), and we’ll set four spades. Of course, make that hand xx AJ10x Qxxxx xx, and we have no defense against four spades (and will make five hearts if the defenders don’t cash out in the right order). How can we possible tell? We can’t, but, if we bid four diamonds, partner will know.
Here was the full hand:
This time, it was right to bid up to the five-level, and North would certainly do that had you introduced diamonds.
What do you think of the East-West bidding? They judged the hand fairly well, but, once again, didn’t bid enough. I like this auction:
The slower East-West auction gave South a chance to save intelligently.
So, why didn’t South mention the diamonds? Perhaps that would sound like a stronger hand, and force partner to double or bid on. Wouldn’t South also bid four diamonds on a hand like x KQxxxx AKxx Kx? Does a call like four diamonds set up a forcing auction? Tricky question, and maybe it should at this vulnerability.
Years ago, I invented a gadget for these type of auctions, and this seems like a good place to plug my creation:
After 1H (1 or 2S) Raise (3S):
- Four of a minor is natural, and shapely. Does not create a force.
- Double = good hand with clubs on the side. Creates a forcing auction.
- 3NT = good hand with diamonds on the side, and sets up a force.
- 4H = wide-range, does not set up a force.