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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Bid, by Jim Kaplan

Sitting South, with North dealing and East-West vulnerable, you hold these cards in a duplicate game:

S 8 5 2
H 5 3
D 10 9 6
C A J 9 8 5

North opens 2D, a weak bid showing a six-card suit, 5-10 high-card points and no four-card major. East doubles. What do you bid?

Before answering, ask yourself some questions:
• How many HCP do your opponents have?
• Will East-West find an eight-card fit in a major suit?
• Can East-West bid a game?
• Can you support diamonds?
• Is there another, less obvious bid you can make?

Based on your five HCP and partner’s maximum of 10, East-West have 25-30 HCP, enough for game. And since North can’t hold more than three hearts, East-West also have the eight-card “magical fit” to bid 4H.

With nine diamonds in your partnership, you can certainly compete. Using the law of Total Tricks — bid to a level of tricks equal to your total trump — you can raise to the nine-trick level by bidding 3D. Another option is 3C, an alertable bid that shows diamond support while asking for a club lead. If West passes, North should bid 3D.

Unfortunately, neither 3D nor 3C is likely to deter East-West’s progression to 4H. So let’s think outside the box.

Why not bid 5D? Partner’s 2D typically promises about five tricks, and you may supply three more with a heart ruff, the club ace and another club trick. The North hand might also make six tricks holding nothing more than a diamond suit like A K x x x x.

You’ll go down, but I trust you’ve noted the favorable vulnerability. If you’re doubled and set three, your -500 score beats the -620 or -650 you’ll incur defending 4H. Maybe East-West won’t double, and you’ll get a top-board -150. Maybe East-West will compete to 5H and go down! Or, granted, maybe you’ll be doubled and set four for a low-board -800.

All these thoughts should reverberate through your mind if you take the time to consider your seemingly worthless hand. Wonder no more why experts spend long minutes pondering “obvious” bids.

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