Hand of the Week, Vol. 3 No. 9

Beginners often start out by memorizing rules about how many points they need to bid. Eventually, you have to move beyond that, and get comfortable with the idea that different situations can call for drastically different standards. In particular, a minimal balanced hand that's a perfectly good 1C or 1D opening bid is often not worth a bid if your opponents start bidding in front of you, while a weakish distributional hand often is.

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

This deal from the Friday 09 April game illustrates this nicely:


South, with only 8 HCP and a 5-card suit, isn't close to having an opening bid as dealer. After West opens 1H, North's balanced 13-count no longer looks so hot. He doesn't have a 5-card suit; he would need a stronger hand to bid 1NT; and a takeout double would be a horrendous error, showing shortness in hearts and length in all three other suits.

After East raises to 2H, South is now in a completely different position than he was in on the first round. He knows his opponents have found an 8-card heart fit, so his side almost certainly has a fit somewhere too, and he knows that his partner could have had quite a good balanced hand and been unable to bid. With a singleton heart and modest values, South needs to act, especially at this vulnerability. South might double 2H for takeout with as little as SAxxx Hx DQxxx Cxxxx.

Doubling and overcalling are both reasonable actions. With a 5-card spade suit I prefer a 2S bid; with 4-1-5-3 or 4-1-3-5 shape, doubling would be better than bidding a 5-card minor at the 3-level. On the actual cards, if South bids 2S he will probably play it there, taking 9 tricks after getting a lucky break in trumps. If South doubles, 3D by North will also make. Either 110 or 140 is better than collecting only 100 for setting 2H (or misdefending and letting 2H make!)

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This page last updated 27.04.10
©2009 Gordon Bower