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South deals  S J 9 8 7 
 H Q T x 
 D T x 
 C K Q x x 
 S A K x x 
 H x x 
 D
 C A T x x x x 
NS vul  S Q 9 x 
 H A K x x 
 D 9 x x x 
 C J x 
 S x x 
 H J x x x 
 D A K Q J x x 
 C

West
Ralph


3C
pass

North
Currencyboy


pass
3NT


East
Paul G


pass
all pass

South
Campboy

1D
3D
West
Rob M


3C
3S
North
James L


pass
pass
East
Toby


3H
4S
South
Paul R

2D¹
pass
all pass

¹ not playing Benji :-)


Game bidding
by Toby

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 3D 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 1D. Ralph now found a 3C weak jump overcall. This is not a good idea because:

  1. the hand is too strong, and with the 4 card major, the chances of game are too high
  2. 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.
However, on this hand, the points are evenly split, so game is not missed, and opponents have difficulty bidding over 3C. 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.

At the other table, Paul Russell elected to open the South cards 2D. This is a massive underbid, quite likely to miss a vulnerable game, and a 3D 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 3C bid - there is a danger that 3C 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 3C is the best spot, but he might also have something like SA x, HQ x x x, Dx, CA Q x x x x, when 4H is clearly the best spot. So I try 3H. When Rob replies 3S, 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:SA K x x, Hx x, Dx, CA K Q x x x, 4S 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 SA J x x, HQ x, Dx, CA Q x x x x, then 4H might well be the only making game. However, the chances of such a hand are slim, and there are a lot of difficulties in 4S. If my hearts were better, I might investigate 4H.) So I take my medicine and bid 4S. Needless to say, this doesn't play well, but we wouldn't have fared much better in 3S.

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 4S on a Moyesian fit ...