June Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 2022-6

Welcome to the sixth set of the 2022 competition. I was greatly saddened to hear about the death of Eddie Kantar this month. Eddie was a most entertaining member of expert panels that I have conducted over the years and I did invite him to join this panel when we began the feature, but he had effectively retired by that time. Eddie wrote the forward for “25 Conventions You Should Know” in 1999 and he was one of the 25 stars featured in my 2000 book “World Class”. Perhaps the greatest player/writer/teacher the game has ever known, Eddie enriched the lives of everyone who knew him. RIP, my friend.

Eddie Kantar 1932-2022

Our guest panelist this month is Alexander Cook from Sydney, Australia. Alexander has been playing competitive bridge for around 20 years. He is a versatile bidder, playing four systems with four partners – Standard American, 2-over-1, a Strong Club variant based on the original Polish Club, and Standard Modern Precision. Last year, Alexander came fourth in the Australian Bridge Magazine bidding forum and made it into the Top 20 of the BBO annual competition despite posting only eight scores. His victory in April took him to the top of this year’s annual competition leader-board after four months.

We are delighted to welcome another multiple World Champion to our expert panel. Erik Saelensminde won the Mixed Teams at the 2009 European Transnational Championships and the Lyon Trophy for Transnational Teams playing four-handed as part of the GILLIS team at the 2017 World Championships in France. He first represented Norway at the 1996 Olympiad and a year later collected bronze medals from both the European Championships and the Bermuda Bowl. Silver medals followed from the same two events in 2001, and he climbed to the top of the podium with victory in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl in Shanghai.

A number of this month’s problems come from the recent World Championships in Salsomaggiore, so some of our panelist will be seeing them for the second time. Is that an advantage, though? A reminder that if you have a hand that you think would produce an interesting panel discussion, please send me details. Bear in mind that the best problems have three or more sensible actions rather than being a straight choice between two.

The panel produce a clear majority decision on only two of this month’s deals. I would expect this to mean that it is difficult to score in the high 70s, but that a number of fairly high-scoring alternatives increases the odds on the competitors’ most popular choice scoring well and also raises the average score. However, large numbers of competition entrants really struggled with some of this month’s hands (notably #2, #3 and #4) with the result that the average score was a very miserly 44.20. There should be plenty to be learned from our experts’ comments, so let’s get on with the show.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 6.47

The first question is do you play or defend? Then, if you chose to play, which game do you choose, or do you look for slam? The panel were widely divided on both questions, but the largest single group opted to take the sure plus score and I think they have the best of the debate too. The two largest factions amongst competitors score 10 and 7 respectively, so three-quarters are off to a decent start. Let’s start with the passers…

MARSTON: Pass. We are probably favorite to make a game, but it is not clear which game to choose. Taking the certain penalty looks like the best option. 
ZIA: Pass. They are speeding, but I don’t have sufficient outrage to bid 6♣. 500-800 is likely to be easy here, so I would be embarrassed to go down in 3NT, which will sometimes fail.

Hoping for 800 does seem a bit ambitious 😊

ROBSON: Pass. 5♣, 6♣ or 3NT could be right, but I may guess wrong too. It feels like I have a pretty safe 300 (or 500) against 3♠ doubled, so let’s take the money.

BRINK: Pass. For me, this is the easiest pass in history. It will not be par (likely 300/500) but I have no clue whether par is 3NT, 4, 5♣ or 6♣. I dislike going minus when I don’t need to, so I take the safe plus score.

COHEN: Pass. And lead a low trump. Let’s collect a nice penalty and hope this slows down the opponent’s aggression for the rest of the match. South could easily have only five spades at these colors facing a passed partner (I know I might).

HULT: Pass. I would have doubled 2♠ to tell partner I have something. Now I’m in trouble with a good hand and no space. My options are 4♠ or Pass. We could easy make 6♣ if partner has four clubs and a good hand. But, if partner has only three clubs, we might go down in 5♣. I’m also worried that partner might have doubled with six hearts and we belong in 4. If I am playing a pair that I know are solid, I bid. But, most pairs pre-emt like crazy non vul vs vul: they might be in a 5-3 or 6-2 fit, so I pass and lead low trump.

Surprisingly, perhaps, not one of the next group mentioned Bob Hamman.

BROCK: 3NT. It depends a bit on how aggressive partner is. Most of mine are very. I can’t see 3NT being a terrible game if partner passes, unlike 4 or 5♣. At the vulnerability, East probably won’t have an entry. I cannot really see a way of consulting partner at a low enough level.
COOK: 3NT. As we are vulnerable, I prefer to bid 3NT instead of passing. I have a lot of spade losers to ruff in a 5♣ contract, and partner doesn’t have to have four clubs. I wouldn’t be surprised if pass is best.

BIRD: 3NT. Partner has spade shortage, so our hand will potentially play well in a suit contract. My first thought was to jump to 5♣, but if partner has seven cards in the minors, they are more likely to be 4-3 than 3-4. I suppose I will have to fall back on a boring 3NT.

The next group prefer game in the minor.

MEYERS: 5♣. It is going to get too messy if I cue-bid.


COPE: 5♣. The ♠A is not a fully working card, so I am not quite worth a 4♠ bid, but this hand is much too good to even think of stopping out of game.

LARSSON: 5♣. I would have doubled 2♠ on the previous round. We could easily be making 6♣ now. 4NT feels like it should show both minors so maybe 4♠ should be a good raise somewhere, but who knows what partner would make of it, so I settle for bidding 5♣.

WANG: 5♣. Maybe we can make 6♣, but who knows?

Which brings us neatly to the next faction, who commit to the club game without ruling out slam. I think they have the best of the argument amongst those who choose to bid, hence the marking.

De WIJS: 4♠. I might as well bid this on the way to 5♣. Partner should know I have only one minor, as I would have bid 4NT with both.

Or, presumably, have doubled the 2♠ overcall.

RIMSTEDT: 4♠. This seems clear. I have a huge hand after my initial pass, and I have to show it at some point. Probably I should drive to slam, but I'll start with 4♠ and see where it's going from here.

SAELENSMINDE: 4♠. This should show one minor (I didn’t double 2♠). Over the expected 4NT from partner, I bid 5♣, and this sequence shows a hand too good for a direct jump to 5♣.

Norberto starts the month with an accurate prediction…

BOCCHI: 6♣. No one else will bid like me, but I think there will be many possibilities to make this contract.

Partner had x/AKxxx/KJ9x/KQ10. In the Alt, 3NT just made thanks to the 10 falling, but 5♣ failed when trumps broke 4-1. The passers collect an easy 300 and may get 500.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 3.42

You have just 2 HCP and you are vulnerable against NV opponents. Just how high does the knowledge that you have a double fit mean you should dare to bid? The experts are prepared to bid a whole lot more than many of the competition entrants: by contrast with Hand 1, the two largest groups of competitors score a disastrous 0 and paltry 4 on this deal, with barely 1-in-30 picking up top marks. A number of the minority choices also get some marks on this one, but it still returns the lowest average score for any hand so far this year.

Amongst the panel, we start with Simon, who is flying solo on the conservative end of the spectrum, although he does intend to take a second bid later…

De WIJS: 3. I will bid again, but I want to limit my strength so that partner doesn't double them or bid to slam voluntarily.

I’m not sure that I fully understand the logic behind the next option.

ZIA: 4♣. Pass or correct. Let’s start slowly because partner is likely to have a monster, as he seems to have some spades (unless they have a huge fit).

SAELENSMINDE: 4♣. ‘Pass or correct’. Partner knows I have a good hand for him and he can then bid on. Bidding 3 would not show much at all, and I am not sure that a jump to 4 would show interest in him bidding at the five-level. 

So, what of those who do jump to 4? Some think even this is pushing the boat out.

BIRD: 4. 3 would not achieve much, and even 4 could be expensive. Bidding any more hearts seems irresponsible.

COPE: 4. It is the wrong vulnerability to get too aggressive opposite a partner who may have KQxxx in both hearts and a random minor. At the same time, we must take away some bidding space from the opposition, who are possibly looking at a slam.

Whilst for others this is just a starting gambit.

RIMSTEDT: 4. I'm bidding to at least the five-level, but the lack of a top heart means I don't figure I'm strong enough to bid 4♠. Although, I might be a bit biased as I've played the board once already...

Some hope to encourage their partner…

HULT: 4. I don’t have much, but I do have support for both of partner’s suits and I expect my spade void to be very strong. They will never let us play here, but perhaps it’s enough to encourage partner to bid on with a good hand. 

Whilst for others it is a purely defensive move.

COHEN: 4. I know they are going to at least 4♠, so I want to take up any room for a potential slam try.

BOCCHI: 4. I remove bidding space.

But are you removing enough? No, say…

MEYERS: 5. They have a lot of spades and we have a double fit somewhere. Let them guess what to do.

COOK: 5. At unfavorable vulnerability, partner has a good hand and we have a huge double fit.  Both 3 and 4 seem futile, as North or South will definitely bid 4♠. I want to jam the auction as much as possible.

WANG: 5. I want to make things as difficult for the opponents as I dare.

Jessica makes a key point.

LARSSON: 5. At least this takes potential 4NT and 5 bids away from North.

BRINK: 5. This one is very difficult. I dislike Michaels (I prefer known suits), but we have a certain double fit, and that is for me enough reason to bid 5. Let’s put maximum pressure on the opponents.

And it’s not just the youngsters who are bidding the spots off the cards despite the vulnerability…

MARSTON: 5♥. I am not willing to defend 4♠. Giving them the least information.

SUNDELIN: 5. Hoping they guess wrong. This is a difficult decision when you don’t know if partner is old-fashioned or very junior…

ROBSON: 5. I'll take my one bid now. I imagine they'll bid more spades, as they have about 12 of them. Vulnerability will prevent any big sacrifice.

Sally also gets to the five-level, albeit via a different route.

BROCK: 4NT. Partner should have a pretty good hand at the vulnerability, and at the five-level all suits are equal. If I bid this to the five-level now, I can leave the rest to partner.

This was only the first step on the journey with this hand from the World Championships. The objective was to find the ‘red’ save at the seven-level if you could not talk N/S out of bidding 6♠. Partner had QJ/KJ9xxx/---/AK9xx and both sides could make twelve tricks in their major. There is a heart ruff if you save in 7♣ but, with the opponents’ clubs 3-1, it is still cheaper than defending 6♠.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.01

Oh dear! More than 40% of competitors collect a zero with a single diamond raise that did not even feature in any panelist’s thoughts. Indeed, I gave some token marks to the second most-popular of the competitors’ choices, a jump to 4, purely because it wasn’t as feeble as 3.

For the panel, it is a close-run decision between raising via a cue-bid and a jump to game, with a fit-showing jump and a splinter raise offered as minority choices. Let’s see what the various factions have to say.

COHEN: 5. Sorry to be so boring, but this just feels normal.

MEYERS: 3. I have a hand worth a cue bid, so this is automatic for me.

MARSTON: 5. It could be wrong, but at least it’s quick.
SAELENSMINDE: 3. I will pass 3NT, 4 or 5 from partner.

BOCCHI: 5. I am sure the opponents will be bidding 4♥, so let’s put them under pressure

BRINK: 3. My first impulse was a simple jump to 5 but, as Garozzo once observed, there is a long way between 2 and 5. So, I’ll try to make use of some of that space and start with a 3 cue-bid.

COOK: 5. Jamming the auction again. I prefer 5 rather than 4, which gives the opponents an extra round of bidding to exchange information and also tells them about the main feature of our hand. With an extra useful card, I would bid 4. 3 seems pointless as I am never stopping out of game.

De WIJS: 3. This shows a diamond raise with short hearts for me, so I will start there. I don't believe in 3NT so will remove to 4 even if partner bids it.

LARSSON: 5. 4 could be right, but it might also give North the chance to bid 4♠.

ROBSON: 3. There is no reason why 3NT couldn't be our only game, eg facing three small spades and the ace of hearts.

BROCK: 5. 4 is a good alternative, but I feel I don’t really have enough defense for that. It doesn’t look as if we’ll make a slam, but who knows?
HULT: 3. We play this as short hearts with diamond support. 2NT is a weak or strong raise to 3 for us.

SUNDELIN: 5. As I doubt that 3 or 4 conveys my massive trump support with several side losers, and therefore will not help partner’s decision over 4, I take the responsibility/blame directly.

BIRD: 3. The nature of partner’s hand is largely unknown, so I don’t think it is right to leap to 5. If North does go to 4, we can reconsider the matter.

WANG: 5. If the ♣K had been the ♣A, I would have raised via a 4 splinter.

A couple raised diamonds via a fit-jump.

ZIA: 4♣. If the system allows fit jumps, this seems to be the most descriptive option. Second choice 5.

COPE: 4♣. I know I should have a fifth club for this fit jump, but this is the best message I can convey on the hand given. The spade suit seems to have gone missing, which may mean that partner is short in clubs, and an over-aggressive action by me may prove costly. Time to let partner make the last mistake!

Ola is the only one to raise to game via a splinter.

RIMSTEDT: 4. Once again, I know the board, and at the table I held the hand and bid 5. But, I think 4 might be the right bid.

Partner had Axx/Axx/AJ10xxx/x. In the Lederer, raising via a 3 cue-bid resulted in North bidding 4 and partner doubling (-790 when West then passed the double). Raising via a 4 splinter tipped South off to the winning spade lead against 5 (-100), whereas those who jumped directly to 5 received a heart lead that allowed declarer to dispose of a spade loser when the ♣A was onside (+600).


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 4.59

Again, the largest group of competition entrants (more than one-quarter) scores zero for grossly underbidding their hand. The comments of some panelists have complicated the marking of this hand. The footnote said that this was a Lebensohl situation, so the way to bid an invitational 3♠ is to start with 2NT and continue with 3♠ over partner’s expected 3♣. A direct 3♠ would thus be forcing, and stronger than a jump to 4♠. However, a number of panelists bid 3♠ saying that they were inviting game. I have therefore given the same mark to 2NT as to 3♠, as the intention of 2NT bidders was likely to be the same as the stated intention of those panelists who bid 3♠ as an invitation. Those who end up scoring well for bidding 3♠ (over 20% of competitors) get lucky this time. As on the previous hand, 4♣ and 4 here score some marks simply for not being 2♠ or 3♣.

The real crux of the problem was whether to invite game in spades, to just bid game in spades, or to force to game via 3 in an attempt to get both black suits into play. Each of the three approaches had supporters. Let’s start with the inviters…

COHEN: 3♠. Not enough to insist on game over only a balancing double.

De WIJS: 3♠. An underbid, but partner can be light and at least this bid is clear. (You might have thought so 😊 MS.) In retrospect, as North didn’t support diamonds, partner is probably balanced and so probably not light. Oh well, maybe an even better reason to give partner some room to show his hand.

RIMSTEDT: 3♠. Probably an underbid, so I hope it's not going to end the auction. Partner is likely to have a strong hand here, and therefore I have one chance to make the most descriptive bid. Therefore, I choose 3♠.

SAELENSMINDE: 3♠. Keep it low. Looks like partner has a good hand with hearts. 

BIRD: 3♠. Even if partner is unsure how strong this bid is (multi-version Lebensohl misunderstandings are frequent), I will not be worried. So much will depend on the fit, anyway.

And the two panelists who did understand the Lebensohl implications…

COOK: 2NT. I plan to bid 2NT followed by an invitational 3♠. An immediate 4♠ seems too unilateral as partner is marked with quite a few red cards.

WANG: 2NT. I’ll show only an invitational spade bid. It looks likely that partner has a good hand and thus we may not have such a great fit, so I dare not bid too high.

The rest all committed to game.

ZIA: 4♠. Simple is best.

BROCK: 4♠. This is as good a guess as any.

MARSTON: 4♠. It is hard to see 5♣ being better.

SUNDELIN: 4♠. Reluctantly (but in the long run probably sensibly) abstaining from making a slam try.

Partner is still there, P-O.

ROBSON: 4♠. We could faff about to try to reach the perfecto 6♠ but it will be guessy. This is the obvious practical bid.

BRINK: 4♠. This all depends on agreements, but a jump to 4♠ is surely okay. If I was stronger, I could start with 3 intending to follow with 4♠.

Finally, those who start with a 3 cue-bid.

BOCCHI: 3.Let’s see what partner has to say.

MEYERS: 3. I am forcing to game in one of the black suits.

Or so you may think.

HULT: 3. I will bid game, but I am worried that partner has a big hand with hearts, so I give him the chance to tell his story. I don’t jump in spades now because, if he is strong, 6♣ might be the right spot.

COPE: 3. Although partner has only protected with a Double, and even though our point count is low, the cliché of “6/5 come alive” seems appropriate. We expect partner to bid 3, and we can then bid 3♠ to show spades and clubs.

At the table I saw in the Alt, West bid 3 and heard partner jump to 6 which, opposite AQx/AKQ10xx/AQ9x/--, was a fine contract on a diamond lead, although might have struggled had North opened with a trump (spades were Kxxx onside). East would, presumably, raise 4♠ to 6♠, which makes easily, just losing a trump. Expecting a weak hand with clubs, East would probably bid 4 over a Lebensohl 2NT but, as long as you then continue with 4♠, you will also get to slam.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 6.63

There is no majority vote for a single action from the panel, but there is a clear majority of intention, with eleven voting to make a slam try and only seven deciding not to do so. Over two-thirds of competition entrants (the largest vote for any single action so far this year) agree with that minority group of panelists who jump to 4♠. Although the overall view is that 4♠ is not enough on this hand, that large group of competitors score as high as 8/10 only because their choice also attracted a significant minority of the panel.

The decision for most of the panel was not whether to make a slam try, but which one to make. With the decision to look for slam predicated on partner holding a singleton heart, this first group clearly seem to have the best of the debate:

COPE: 4. There are plenty of minimum hands that partner can have where slam is possible, if they have singleton heart (eg. a 3-1-3-6 shape), so we should leave the door open to slam possibilities with this cue-bid.

COOK: 4. 4♠ would be far too pessimistic. Partner doesn’t need much to make twelve tricks and he likely has a singleton heart. I prefer to cue 4 rather than 4♣, as 4♣ could easily be taken as natural, showing good support for partner’s suit.

WANG: 4. This is clearly a cue bid, and keeps open the possibility of finding a good slam in spades if partner has a singleton heart.

ZIA: 4. Why can’t he have Kxx/x/Axxx/Axxxx?

Which is not far from what he did hold at the table in the Alt.

MARSTON: 4. Showing some interest in slam. Let’s see if he can find a heart cue-bid.
Only Simon has the specific agreement that 4♣ is a cue-bid in this auction.

De WIJS: 4♣. I play this as a cue-bid (double otherwise). 

This also seems to have the downside that if partner cue-bids in diamonds next you have still not confirmed whether he has heart shortage.

ROBSON: 4. A good 4♠ bid. We can all construct minimum openers for partner where slam is good, eg the pure Kxx/x/Axxx/Axxxx.

SAELENSMINDE: 4. Showing a good 4♠ bid. 

It seems that 4 makes it easy for partner to show the singleton heart. Are you sure he is going to do so over 4 with a minimum hand?

BRINK: 4. I think my hand is worth a good 4♠ bid, so I try 4...

LARSSON: 4. I can’t resist giving it a push.

HULT: 4. I am too good to just bid 4♠. With a takeout double to my left and the jump to 3 it feels like partner may have short hearts, in which case we don’t need much for slam. 

So, can those who simply raise to game make a compelling case?

BROCK: 4♠. A bit wimpy perhaps.
RIMSTEDT: 4♠. Maybe I'm a bit too strong, but considering how the opponents are bidding I suspect partner has got the normal 12-14 balanced and therefore 4♠ is likely to be the right contract most of the time.

You only need the right 11-count from him, though.
BIRD: 4♠. I am not particularly worried that this is an underbid. Partner may well be 12-14 balanced.

True, but isn’t the objective of bidding to find out what he has rather than guess what he might have?

SUNDELIN: 4♠. Yes, partner might easily have Kxx/x/AQxx/Axxxx but, as Hamman advised Kantar, don’t play me for the dream hand as I never have it, and most bids might be misunderstood.

Really? 4 could be misunderstood here?

COHEN: 4♠. Another KISS call. With this poor round-suit shape, I don’t feel like I am underbidding. It would have been tougher if I was 1-3 the other way.

BOCCHI: 4♠. The practical bid.

Well, as least Jill is emphatic about her choice (albeit perhaps misguided), and she earns the ‘Comment of the Month’ honors.

MEYERS: 4♠. My second and third choices are also 4♠.

Partner had Kxx/x/AJx/A10xxxx so 6♠ was excellent. (Even on a trump lead, you can establish the clubs as long as they break no worse than 4-2.)


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 6.27

This is the first of only two deals this month with a clear majority on the panel. When this hand bid 3 in the Alt, I thought it was too much of an overbid, but I bow to the weight of expert opinion. The largest group of competition entrants (not far short of half) also agree.

BOCCHI: 3. Describing my hand.

BROCK: 3. Sounds like some sort of natural game try.
WANG: 3. Natural and invitational.

COOK: 3. Making a game try. I am strong enough for a game try with J109 in partner’s suit.

BIRD: 3. Partner is unlikely to hold too much in clubs after this N/S bidding. I am therefore full value for a game-try in spades.

MARSTON: 3. Game is still in the picture.
Some point out that we may not even belong in spades.

ZIA: 3. Sort of what I’ve got. We might also belong in hearts.

MEYERS: 3. I am making a game try. Maybe partner will have four hearts and will raise.

SAELENSMINDE: 3. I try to show my hand as low as possible. We could easily belong in hearts and not spades. 

ROBSON: 3. Must try to reach the 5-4 heart fit game rather than the 5-3 spade fit. That ninth trump could make all the difference.

LARSSON: 3. Well, I messed this up.


COPE: 3. This tells partner where we live and also shows the fifth spade. We may be below par in points, but we make up for it with our distribution. I wonder what the next instalment will be, when the auction returns to us.

You don’t want to know!

RIMSTEDT: 3. Maybe a long way to make a game, but it's not far off. A descriptive 3 may also help partner make the right decision over the opponents’ 4♣.

A couple don’t even bother to consult partner.

BRINK: 4♠. As a passed hand, I can do all things without partner thinking I have lots of high cards. Either 3♣ or 3 as a game try are okay, but I jump to 4♠ and hope the opponents make a mistake. “Sorry. partner, if I am the one who has made the mistake.” PS. Bidding hearts makes no sense, as it is unlikely partner has four of them.

COHEN: 4♠. Partner could have passed with an embarrassing third-seat opener, so I am playing him for something resembling an opening bid. I am in love with the J109. On a great day, we can make slam opposite this plain 13-count: AKx/xx/AQxxx/xxx. More realistically, how about 4♠ opposite, say, KJx/Kx/Axxxx/QJx.

If 3 is an overbid, how about a slam try…

HULT: 4♣. I’m a passed hand, so partner will not expect too much in terms of extra HCP. We could easy have a slam if partner has the right cards, although maybe not in spades. Hopefully he can bid 5NT pick a slam at same point, or we will just play in 4♠.

Simon is flying solo in supporting my evaluation of the hand.

De WIJS: 3♠. Sort of mixed raise strength. Partner can do as he pleases.

East accepted the 3 game try with 9xx/QJ/KQxxx/AQx, but perhaps he shouldn’t despite the fitting heart cards. 3♠ went one down for -100 at the other table, but our 4♠ was doubled for -500.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 7.62

Not quite a majority on the panel, but heavy votes in favor of the two principal options. The 4 bid chosen at one table in the Bermuda Bowl match I watched seems to be wholly inadequate, and it attracted only a couple of supporters on our panel, but almost a third of competitors.

MARSTON: 4. We may have a slam, but I am not willing to risk a sure game.

A very conservative view from Paul, whilst Larry seems to have joined Pessimists Anonymous…
COHEN: 4. Both games might make opposite, say, J10xx/KQJx/QJxxx/--.

If you are going to take a unilateral decision, Tim seems to be much closer to the mark…

COPE: 5NT. Pick a slam, partner. Our LHO is definitely fooling around with a club fit, hoping to get away with it. If I Pass, we know that they will pull to 4♣, and then I will be back in the same position. All my cards are prime, and I will be happy to hear about any five-card suit partner may have. I do not wish to commit to hearts in case partner is 4-3-5-1, when 6 will be the best spot.

The rest all try to engage partner, but what is the best way to do so?

ZIA: 4♣. This seems easy and I predict unanimity.

Sorry, Z – barely even half the panel!

LARSSON: 4♣ Before they bid it.

It sounds as if Simon intends to pass if partner bids 4 next.

De WIJS: 4♣. At this vulnerability, I am not interested in defending and will look for my own game. We will probably end in 4, but partner doesn't have to have a perfect takeout shape, and 5-3-4-1 is possible.

Whilst David and Swedish Simon both intend to bid again.

BIRD: 4♣. Partner should hold at most one club, so our hand will be very useful. The best chance of finding a playable trump fit is 4♣ now. Six-card 3♣ bids are commonplace, so partner could have 5-3-4-1 or 4-3-5-1 shape. (If partner bids 4 next, I will raise to 5 as a general try.)       

HULT: 4♣. Someone is trying to be funny here. It looks like partner has a good hand with short clubs. If he bids 4 I will give it a try for slam.

WANG: 4♣. Partner has at most one club, so we are guaranteed a fit somewhere.

Andrew and P.O. both highlight the danger of the alternative approach.

ROBSON: 4♣. Choice of games at this point, but my best first move I think on what may be a perfecto 30-point pack 6 facing something like AJxx/KQxx/Axxxx/--. I could pass the double to smoke North out, but if North shoots pass and has a trick in the suit partner leads, the oppo could make an embarrassingly large number of tricks.

SUNDELIN: 4♣. Pass may be plus several hundred, an escape to 4♣, or the ♠A and seven club tricks if partner has JTxxx/KQx/AQxx/x, so I take our chances.

Ola and Alexander are both hoping to hear more from partner before having to make a decision.

RIMSTEDT: Pass. I'm not bidding four-card suits at the four-level unless I have to, and 4♣ is not descriptive at all. I'm in no rush to make a call over 3NT. Easier to make a call when the 3NT bidder runs to 4♣ and partner gets a second chance to describe his strength with a call over that.

COOK: Pass. North is fooling around with 3NT. I can’t bid 4♣ with 4-3 in the majors and 4 just shows any 13 cards with four of them hearts. The real question is what to do on the next round after North escapes to 4♣. Perhaps partner will help.

And Eric tells us what he plans

SAELENSMINDE: Pass. I expect 4♣ from North. If partner doubles again, I will bid 5♣, but if he passes I will settle for bidding 4.

So, what is the difference between bidding now and passing first?

BROCK: Pass. I’d be surprised if North passed. But I think by passing and then bidding I’ve implied a decent balanced hand.

BOCCHI: Pass. 3NT is bluff and North will run to 4♣, so I will then bid 4. If bid 4 now, it shows a weaker hand.

Always the comedian, Sjoert makes a bid for ‘Comment of the Month’.

BRINK: Pass. People who bid 4♣ are usually people who are smarter than me. My wife would bid 4♣ for sure. If West runs to 4♣, I will make a takeout double.

If you bid 4, partner passes, and if you bid 4♣ he bids 4. If you pass, North runs to 4♣ and partner bids 4 in front of you. A heart contract had 12 easy tricks opposite AJxx/KQJxx/Axx/x.


ACTIONMARKSPANEL VOTESCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrant Average Score: 5.06

This hand produced the largest majority on the panel this month. The competition entrants were just about split between 3 (3 marks and no panelists) and the panel’s overwhelming choice. About a quarter of competitors still managed to score zero, though, including a substantial group of doublers. Let’s find out why the panel’s choice was so popular.

SAELENSMINDE: 3NT. What else? 

BROCK: 3NT. Where there’s eight there’s nine!

WANG: 3NT. Eight tricks. Easy game.


MARSTON: 3NT. Should be a shot.

MEYERS: 3NT. Taking my shot.

HULT: 3NT. I have eight tricks if they lead a spade. Let’s hope partner has something.

COPE: 3NT. There are a lot of ways that I can bid strong hands, so this should be a gambling type with a solid minor. Let’s hope partner gives us a trick.

COHEN: 3NT. Really? I’ll make the dreaded prediction that this one is a dud (and look bad if I am wrong). Anyway, what if partner has just an ace? How else do we reach the nine-trick game opposite something like xxx/Axx/xxx/xxxx?

I’m afraid you are right, Larry, this problem does indeed win the ‘dud of the month’ award.

BOCCHI: 3NT. I think this will be the most popular bid.

A rarity indeed, two accurate predictions on one deal AND two accurate predictions in one month from a panelist, with Norberto finishing in the Nostradamus role that he began on Hand 1.

BIRD: 3NT. A good minor and a spade stopper is exactly what 3NT shows. With a strong balanced hand, I would bid 2NT or start with a double (glad to be playing Lebensohl responses).

LARSSON: 3NT. I remember this one from Salsomaggiore, but I still think it’s the best bid.

De WIJS: 3NT. In Salsomaggiore, I only went down with my 3NT overcalls, so let's see what will happen now.

Sorry, Simon, no change here either, but perhaps that’s no surprise as this is one of those hands from Italy.

COOK: 3NT. I am too strong for 2NT or 3 (I do have eight tricks in my hand), and double is seriously flawed. In 3NT I just need one ace from partner for nine tricks.

Well, partner did have an ace, but...

RIMSTEDT: 3NT. This could work wonders as a pre-emptive bid too. Anything could be right.

A small yet highly esteemed group took an alternative view.

ZIA: 2NT. Not 3NT, which would scare them into another lead. Someone will bid, trust me.

ROBSON: 2NT. My first thought was 3NT, but I am worried that partner may bid on thinking we have more. So, we'll underbid a bit.

BRINK: 2NT. I was thinking 3NT, but this will do the job....

At the table I watched in the Bermuda Bowl, West overcalled 3NT and dummy had the hoped-for trick: xxx/xx/xxxxx/AJx. Unfortunately, North had AKQxx, so he doubled and cashed the first five tricks. Not that 5 is any better, despite the eleven-card fit, as there are two hearts and a club to lose, although maybe you would avoid the double. Curiously, the 2NT bidders probably buy it for +120 and a 6-IMP gain.

Jessica Larsson

With so many close decisions, putting together a string of 10s was never going to be easy, so Jessica Larsson’s 76/80 is particularly commendable. What a year she is having – leading the BBO panel twice in six months and winning the Venice Cup too! Hot on the heels of one of our youngest panelists is another young star of the women’s game, Wen Fei Wang, and three players with a wealth of experience between them, Paul Marston, Andrew Robson and P-O Sundelin, all with a score of 75/80. A special mention too, for our guest panelist, Australia’s Alexander Cook, whose 74/80 just missed the podium but will surely keep him at or near the top of the annual competition leader-board.

The BBO Prime Expert Panel:

Jessica LARSSON5♣554♠434♣3NT76
Paul MARSTONPass554♠4343NT75
Andrew ROBSONPass534♠434♣2NT75
P.O. SUNDELIN5♣554♠4♠34♣3NT75
Wen Fei WANG5♣552NT434♣3NT75
Alexander COOK3NT552NT43Pass3NT74
Sally BROCK3NT4NT54♠4♠3Pass3NT73
Zia MAHMOODPass4♣4♣4♠434♣2NT72
Jill MEYERS5♣5334♠34♣3NT71
David BIRD3NT433♠4♠34♣3NT70
Sjoert BRINKPass534♠44♠Pass2NT70
Erik SAELENSMINDE4♠4♣33♠43Pass3NT70
Tim COPE5♣44♣3435NT3NT68
Ola RIMSTEDT4♠443♠4♠3Pass3NT68
Norberto BOCCHI6♣4534♠3Pass3NT67
Simon HULTPass43344♣4♣3NT67
Larry COHENPass453♠4♠4♠43NT65
Simon De WIJS4♠333♠4♣3♠4♣3NT63
TOP SCOREPass554♠434♣3NT 


HAND 1:   Pass 10, 4♠ 8, 5♣/3NT 7, 6♣ 5

HAND 2:        5 10, 4NT/5♣ 9, 4 8, 4♣ 7, 4/5 6, 4♠ 5, 3 4

HAND 3:        5 10, 3 9, 4♣ 8, 4 7, 4 4

HAND 4:        4♠ 10, 3♠/2NT 8, 3 7, 4♣/4 3

HAND 5:        4 10, 4♣/4 9, 4♠ 8, 4NT 4

HAND 6:        3 10, 4♠ 6, 3♠ 5, Pass/4♣ 4

HAND 7:        4♣ 10, Pass 9, 5NT 8, 4 5, 4NT 2

HAND 8:        3NT 10, 2NT 7, 3 3

                                                            AVERAGE SCORE:

HAND 1:                                6.47

HAND 2:                                3.42

HAND 3:                                4.01

HAND 4:                                4.59

HAND 5:                                6.63

HAND 6:                                6.27

HAND 7:                                7.62

HAND 8:                                5.06

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

19 comments on “June Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge”

  1. Thanks. Where can one see the leaderboard for June's challenge?
    Also, is it possible to see one's own score? Or are we supposed to note it down while answering and calculate our scores individually?

  2. Sigh, I scored 57 but with two zeros...hand 4 and 6. In hand 4, partner did a BALANCING double which made me think he can be weaker, so I merely bid 2S. In hand 6 I bid 3D...any 3D bidders?

  3. I strongly disagree with the scoring on Board 4.
    1. You are a passed hand
    2. You are playing Lebensohl.
    3. Since LHO did not raise diamonds and you have a heart singleton, partner is likely to have hearts and diamonds. Partner had AQx/AKQ10xx/AQ9x/--.
    4. 3C and 3S are both invitational and forcing for one round. They should be scored identically. Bidding 3C allows you to bid 3S when partner responds with 3H.
    5. What would your scoring be if the black suits were switched --/AKQ10xx/AQ9x/KQx ?

  4. Need to have the hands shown so we can interpret what the commentators are saying and judge our responses and reasoning.

    1. Hi Malcolm, sorry about that, they've been added back in. We had a technical issue; the hands were there when we posted the article but for some reason they were stripped out. We're looking into the bug.

  5. Chiming in. I love reading experts explain their thinking, but it is not useful, when the hand record (including bidding up to this point) is nowhere to be seen.

  6. agreed, zoo. it's a bit meaningless when you can't see the hand and you filled in the answers nearly a month ago.

  7. I scored 72 / 80 - Maybe they should two sets of scoring...a score for the panel and a score for the actual results...board1 for instance makes game in 3NT and score 600...but the panel score of pass only brings in 300 or 500...so how does that make sense?

Related Articles