Here's a hand from a recent County Plate match. The first interesting
decision is what to open the South cards. Having very little strength
outside your suit suggests a pre-empt, while the solidity of the suit and
a four card major on the side suggests that a game may be possible, so you
should open at the one level to avoid missing it, especially at the
vulnerability. On balance, I think a 3 pre-empt suggests something close to your values, and has pre-emptive merit, so would be my choice.
Anyway, John chose, not unreasonably, to open 1. Ralph now found a 3 weak jump overcall. This is not a good idea because:
However, on this hand, the points are evenly split, so game is not missed, and opponents have difficulty bidding over 3. Jonathan passed, hoping for John to make a protective takeout double, which he could convert. Unfortunately, John's hand was unsuitable, so he protected with his diamonds. As there is no other way to bid with a strong hand, this suggests slightly more strength, but it is clearly right to compete, especially with such good diamonds. Jonathan tried 3NT with his undisclosed values and club guard. Alas, with 6 top losers, this didn't work well.
- the hand is too strong, and with the 4 card major, the chances of game are too high
- the suit isn't good enough for a three-level pre-empt—it's barely good enough to bid at the twolevel, and some purists [surely "pussies"? – Ed] would even dispute bidding such a suit at the two level.
At the other table, Paul Russell elected to open the South cards 2. This is a massive underbid, quite likely to miss a vulnerable game, and a 3 pre-empt would improve your chances of finding games, while also pre-empting opponents more effectively, so is clearly better. Rob's hand is a clear 3 bid - there is a danger that 3 will be too high, but you can't let opponents keep you out of the auction with an openning hand and some shape.
Now, from my point of view, I knew Rob might have a hand like the one he held, when 3 is the best spot, but he might also have something like A x, Q x x x, x, A Q x x x x, when 4 is clearly the best spot. So I try 3. When Rob replies 3, I have a strong suspicion things will go badly - he will get
forced in the long hand, and possibly lose trump control. On the other
hand, I have game-forced, so I would feel uncomfortable passing in this
situation - I must just hope Rob has a good hand and the cards lie well:
with something like:A K x x, x x, x, A K Q x x x, 4 will make on a 3–3 trump
split, or a 4–2 split in the hand with short diamonds. An alternative is
looking for a heart fit again - a 4–3 heart fit will play better than a
4–3 spade fit, as the short hand is the one ruffing to control diamonds.
However, if Rob had 3 hearts, he would probably have started with a
double, so the best I could hope for is a sub-moyesian (4–2) heart fit.
(I'm still tempted to try this, as if Rob has A J x x, Q x, x, A Q x x x x, then 4 might well be the only making game. However, the chances of such a hand are slim, and there are a lot of difficulties in 4. If my hearts were
better, I might investigate 4.) So I take my medicine and bid 4.
Needless to say, this doesn't play well, but we wouldn't have fared much
better in 3.
I still think all our team's bids were reasonable, but at one table we
played in 3NT, while at the other, we played in 4 on a Moyesian fit ...