Hand of the Week, Vol. 2 No. 27

This deal from the Friday 16 October pairs game tested how well North-South knew their own bidding system.

Dealer North
Both vul
S A J T 8 5
H K 8 2
C J 8 6
S K 7 6 2
D Q J 4
C A Q T 3
[table marker] S 9 4
H T 9 7 5 4
D 8 3
C K 9 4 2
S Q 3
H A 6 3
D T 9 7 6 5 2
C 7 5

Responder needs a way to show a weak hand with long diamonds. But first, North has to choose an opening bid. Personally, I always open 1NT with a balanced 16-count, even with a 5-card major suit. But some Norths will choose 1S instead. Let's look at South's decision after both possible openings.

If North opens 1S, South has to start with 1NT (6-9HCP, no support for spades.) North will now either underbid with a pass, or slightly overbid by raising to 2NT, telling South "go on to 3NT with 8 or 9, stop in a partscore if you are minimum." South is minimum. Rather than passing 2NT, he can sign off with 3D. This shows the 6-point hand with at least six diamonds -- a hand worth many more tricks in diamonds than in notrump. North must pass 3D even with a singleton diamond; game is out of the question and South said he would much rather play diamonds than notrump.

If North opens 1NT, it's a system question: what bid shows this hand? You really need three ways to to bid diamonds in response to 1NT -- one demanding that opener passes, one that invites him to go on to game, and one that forces to game and looks for slam. 1NT-pass-3D can have only one of these meanings. Which one is it in your system?

Fifty years ago, the three ways were responding 2D (drop dead), responding 3D, and using Stayman first and rebidding 3D. Almost everyone uses 2D as a transfer to hearts now. Some pairs use 3C as a transfer to diamonds (responder passes 3D if he is weak and bids again if strong); others use an artificial 2S or 2NT response.

Playing in diamonds, you'll take at least 10 tricks (more if the opening lead isn't a club.) Playing in notrump, you deserve 8 tricks if you set up spades, but will finish with only 7 if you attempt the impossible, setting up and then trying to reach the long diamonds. 130 or 150 beats 90 or 120 (and really beats minus 100 or 200 if you have a bidding accident and reach 3NT.)

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This page last updated 21.10.09
©2009 Gordon Bower