Hand of the Week #4

After a week off after returning from the Anchorage sectional, Hand of the Week is back on track. Here is a deal from the Friday evening game, 01 February 2008:

You are in fourth seat, and you hold

S 5 4
H A Q T 7 5
D A Q 8
C A K 9

You have high hopes of an uncontested auction to game for your side, and you are afraid that somebody is going to open three spades before it gets to you. Surprisingly, something else happens: it goes

Pass Pass 1NT

and it's your call. Most of the people holding this hand settled for a 2H overcall. There are two problems with a 2H bid here -- one, your hand is much stronger than your partner may expect it to be, and secondly, with 5-3-3-2 shape, you will almost never do better declaring in your 5-card suit than you would do defending 1NT.. With such a strong balanced hand, your textbook call is Double; with only 14 points instead of 19, you should pass.

This is not a "takeout double for all four suits"; doubles of notrump bids are for penalty. Your partner should leave the double in with a scattering of points. Only if your partner is hopelessly weak will he run to a long suit.

The whole deal (East dealer):

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

If South trusts North to have his double, he should pass, and 1NTX will go down three. I am embarrassed to admit that I was South, and I didn't trust my partner to have his bid. I got lucky -- I ran to spades, he ran back to notrump, and we took enough tricks to beat the pairs in hearts -- but we missed out on an easy 500. Pairs playing in hearts are getting only 140 or 170.

I mentioned above that bidding over 1NT on a 5-3-3-2 hand is almost always worse than defending. Look at what the score would be if North-South could take fewer tricks: one trick weaker, 1NTx is worth 300, beating 110 or 140 in hearts; two tricks weaker, 1NT goes down and 2H may also go down; three tricks weaker, and 1NT may make but 2H is likely to be doubled and suffer a big penalty.

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This page last updated 16.06.08
©2008 Gordon Bower