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                Too Obvious?

My comment to the Panel when giving them the problem that follows was that if anyone suggested that there would be a united panel in respect of their answer that they would be due to buy me an Easter Egg! I did not receive any chocolate, alas!

There is nothing usual or normal about the deal or the problem created. In fact, it creates a hugely unusual statistic…but more of that later. You have only two suits and with the vulnerability in your favour and control of the boss suit, it seems you are going to have an enjoyable deal:

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg


A 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2
K J 9 2
West North East South
2  ?    


The opponents open an Acol Game Forcing 2Club-small and it is your turn. Only East-West are vulnerable and you are playing Pairs.

Naively, I thought we might get a row of 4Spade-smallbids. If 50% equates to a row, then I was right:

Bruce Anderson “I can find no reason not to bid 4Spade-small: bidding at a lower level defeats the purpose of pre-empting. 5Spade-small may have some supporters, but could see West rightly double for penalties as slams are going down because of bad breaks. Over 4Spade-small, our opponents have to work out whether to defend, bid game, or try for greater things, and may get it wrong.”

While I agree with your bid, Bruce, or maybe I do, I would think the danger of 5Spade-small is pushing the opponents to the level they might want to be. Remember, West does have a rather strong hand. However, more of the middle ground.

Peter Newell 4Spade-small: every day of the week for me. It might not always work out as while 4Spade-small takes up heaps of room, it does help the opponents with the distribution even though 9/4 is rather freakish. However, taking away bidding room and offering them what might seem like a reasonable penalty (probably a disappointing small one if any) is far too appealing to do anything else.”

Matt Brown “4Spade-small: It’s not that easy to construct hands where 2Spade-small works better because our RHO almost certainly has a minor(s) and is going to bid at the 5 level anyway. You could possibly pre-empt higher too, but I think for now 4Spade-small and then we will bid again later.”

So to the higher pre-empt. This bid worries me, as stated above, but is fine for:

Pam Livingston “5Spade-small: There is a reason not to bid 4Spade-small.  I would bid 5Spade-small. This puts a lot of pressure on the opponents and is more helpful to partner in deciding whether to dive over whatever comes next.   I look forward to receiving my Easter Egg on Sunday!”

Talk about reverse signals! I was not expecting to be paying out Easter Eggs but I am a generous moderator and Pam received her egg! Poor partner. Will they really know when to bid 6Spade-small? It seems like you are prepared to defend 6 of a minor. Well, Nigel is:

Nigel Kearney “5Spade-small:  4Spade-small is not game unless you get to play there. They are likely to bid five of a minor over it and I am willing to go to 5Spade-small so I may as well do that immediately. This takes away 4NT if they have a minor two suiter and generally makes it much harder for them. If they guess to bid over 5Spade-small, I am willing to defend if partner chooses to.”

However, I am much more in favour of the following approach. We have, I repeat, heaps of spades. What’s the rush? How high do they want to go?

Michael Cornell “3Spade-small: You are right about about not getting a united panel. I think this could easily be our hand. 6Spade-small could be nearly frigid opposite as little as Spade-smallQxx and Heart-smallQ. So, what’s the hurry?

I choose between 2Spade-small and 3Spade-small and okay I will bid 3Spade-small to take away some room and then I will probably “dive” at some level and hopefully get doubled. If I was feeling frisky, how about 4NT for minors? Good luck to opponents finding their minor suit slam after that! They might even find a heart fit; they will enjoy that.”


Well, some of what Michael said was true. It is Pairs and the bidding after his 4NT would be very interesting! However, he was wrong in two aspects. It was not the opponents who had the heart fit. His side could not make a slam in spades but they could in hearts!


West Deals
E-W Vul
A 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2
K J 9 2
A 6
K 8 4
A K Q J 10 7 3
W   E
J 5
A Q J 10 9 5 3 2
6 5 2
Q 10 8 7 5 4 3
7 6
9 8 4
West North East South
2  ?    


4Spade-small would have received 5Diamond-small from East and 6 of one of the minors from West. North would be on their own but it would have been a very good idea to have bid spades once again. The 5Spade-small jump would have seen East try 6Diamond-small. Would Pam and Nigel have bid over that because they needed to?

And Michael’s 3Spade-small? Well, this time 2Spade-small would have worked even better as South might just have felt inclined to mention their heart suit over 3Diamond-small. Could North bear not to make their 9 card suit trumps at the 6 level?


 The board came just over a week ago at the Marlborough 5A Pairs. 3 North-South pairs “stole” the board at the game level in spades, once doubled. There were six successful minor suit slams, again once doubled. There were four sacrifices in 6Spade-small, a couple of Easts in 5Diamond-small, one pair who strangely failed in 6Heart-small and then this:


West              North            East                South


1Club-small 1                    2Club-small 2                   2Diamond-small                   2Heart-small


4Diamond-small3                       4Heart-small                5Club-small 4                    Pass


6Club-small                  Pass                6Diamond-small                   Pass


Pass                6Heart-small                  7Diamond-small                   All Pass


Is there something missing from the bidding? You might remember that someone had a 9-card spade suit!

 1 Precision style 16+ any shape

2 This was as near as we got to any reference to the spade suit. The bid was intended to show both majors. Under the rules, the strange alerting rules we have, this bid is not alertable being a cue-bid: crazy but true!

3 Roman Key Card Blackwood in diamonds

4 2 Key Cards and Diamond-smallQ  (maybe the diamond length or maybe the void heart added up to a second key card)


West’s 6Club-small was an attempt to play there though East was not convinced after that 2Club-small call. North made a very wise bid of 6Heart-small (well, it is always “wise” to bid a cold making slam. Right? Wrong!)


Who knows what East thought would happen when they bid 7Diamond-small? However, the spotlight fell on South. North might have tried to help them by doubling lightner style but although that might have said “do not lead a heart”, it must be a toss up whether North wanted the lead of West’s first bid suit, clubs, or the actually required spade lead. South guessed a heart was wrong but perhaps thinking their partner did hold clubs led one….and a rather relieved and bemused East took the first 16 tricks! Oh for 7Heart-small!

 There were two rather unusual happenings on this deal. Firstly, when was the last time you had bid a making slam after the opposition opened either a Precision 1Club-small or an Acol Game Force? Secondly, what’s the most unusual making contract, or slam on this board? Try 6NT by East or West. Nice spade blockage!


Back though to Easter Eggs. I have sympathy for 4Spade-small but just wonder whether pre-emption with such a hand as North held was right. Sure, your partner will not always hold a 7-card heart suit but by taking it slowly, you will see how high they want and you need to bid.



More Listening?




West Deals
Both Vul
A 7 6
J 5 3
A 7 5 4 2
6 4
W   E
9 8 2
A K Q 10 9 4 2
West North East South
3  Pass Pass 3 
Pass 4  Dbl All pass


Wednesday is “Jan’s Day” and in advance plan the play to this deal. The lead is the Diamond-smallK.

 Richard Solomon


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