February 2023 Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 2023-2

Welcome to the second round of the 2023 competition, and I am delighted to report that we have had another amazing, record-breaking month, with more than 7,800 different BBO members submitting an entry, a remarkable increase of more than 3,000 on last month.

Can we break 10,000 by the end of this year? The downside to the increasing entry means that it is becoming harder to make it onto the monthly leader-board, so our congratulations to all of those who do so this month.

This month’s two guest panelists, Hanoi Rondon from Santiago, Chile and Bob Boudreau from USA, both scored an impressive 79/80 to lead the field in Round 1. Hanoi is a bridge teacher who has been in love with the game from the moment he discovered his first bridge article in a newspaper some 27 years ago. Originally from Venezuela, he currently lives in Chile. He teaches bridge online and has a YouTube channel called ‘Bridge Entretenido’. He has finished 2nd and 7th in the two BBO annual competitions. Originally from Providence RI of Canadian heritage, Bob Boudreau is a long-time Massachusetts resident, although he has spent the last decade in Edina MN. He has been an ACBL member since 1965 and his days at Stonehill College in Easton MA.

Hand 5 this month comes from one of our regular panelists, David Bird, and what a doozie it turned out to be. Keep them coming - if you have a hand that you think would produce an interesting panel discussion, please send me details. Remember that the best problems offer three or more sensible actions rather than being a straight choice between two.

The panel produces a clear majority choice on only two of the eight deals this month, and there are plenty of very divided panels. After last month, when the popular choice of competition entrants did not score ‘10’ on any hand, this month it does so emphatically on one hand (Hand 2). However, the most popular choice gets the support of none or very few panelists on a number of deals and, as we have seen in previous months, it is because that action is a serious underbid. Indeed, voting with the largest group of competition entrants on all eight deals this month would score only a meagre 35/80. This was obviously a difficult set as the average score is the lowest of any month since we started recording them, 39.01 (down from 44.70 last month).

One technical observation for those of you who did not realize how the alerting system works on BBO. When you go to submit your entry, any bids in the bidding boxes that are highlighted in yellow are conventional, and you can see an explanation by clicking on the bid. It would seem that a number of competitors, perhaps new to the competition, seem to have not understood the auction on Hand 1 this month. South’s 1 bid was alerted, and described as a transfer showing at least four spades. However, the number of votes for both 1NT and Pass suggests that many thought 1 was natural. I apologize if this has not been explained before but, hopefully, it is a problem that should not now recur. You should still pick up something useful from the panel’s discussion of what proved to be a contentious hand.

Note: All hands this month are at IMPs scoring.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 2.53

This is the lowest-scoring hand since we began calculating the average score, with only a tad over a quarter of competition entrants scoring. This seems to be because many appear not to have understood that South’s 1 bid was a transfer, as mentioned above.
The panel is so closely split that everyone choosing one of the actions supported by any of our experts scores fairly well. The panel addresses two main questions. Firstly, is this hand worth 2 or 3? Secondly, should you try to make partner declarer (by starting with a double or a 2♣ cue-bid) in order to protect partner’s spade holding. As you can see from the voting, each course of action attracted a similar number of supporters, so let’s get to the debate, starting with the conservatives.

WANG: 2. It’s the normal bid.
BROCK: 2. I’m a bit good, but not excessively so.
HULT: 2. It’s worth 2.5, but I go low with 5332 shape.
S. BALDYSZ: 2. I think double would show four hearts and 2 would be five here. In that case…

MEYERS: 2. Had RHO not bid, I might have jumped to 3 but, with 5332 shape and three little spades, I am going low.

SUNDELIN: 2. Cowardly, but I am concerned about the spades.
LARSSON: 2. I will downgrade my distribution, but I will not start with a double as I believe that indicates exactly four hearts, unless I am planning on bidding at the three-level later, which I think is too pushy.
The next faction thought the hand worth a three-level bid.
COPE: 3. This is close between 2 and 3 (double would be pusillanimous). We have one downgrade, as our three-card spade holding is fragile, but we have two upgrades, for our two aces and our fifth heart, so I opt for the more aggressive action.
BOCCHI: 3. Five cards, limit, perfect.
SAELENSMINDE: 3. Natural and invitational.
MARSTON: 3. This is about the value of the hand.
COHEN: 3. With two aces and five trumps, I am too strong to bid only 2. It is not clear what bidding either black suit would mean, so I will keep things simple.
BIRD: 3. The text-book description of this bid is 'The same as a jump to 2 (without South's bid) but with five trumps'. That's good enough for me.
The next group were concerned with right-siding the contract.
ROBSON: Dbl. I want to get partner to declare a heart contract, as a spade lead through his strength won't be a good start for us.
ZIA: Dbl. I would like to play from partner’s side. What's is double? What would 2♣ be?
Don’t we pay you the big bucks to tell us exactly those things?
BOUDREAU: Dbl. This looks like the most flexible option. I’ll compete in hearts later.
PSZCZOLA: Dbl. Showing hearts.
RONDON: Dbl. I show hearts at a very low level and, although I give them some space, it's clear what my main suit is. I can later raise partner to show my strength.
KLUKOWSKI: Dbl. I start with a double to show hearts, then I will bid them again to show an invitational hand.
The final group have similar intentions but try a different route, although I am not convinced that, in an unfamiliar partnership, 2♣ would specifically show hearts, as suggested by….
BRINK: 2♣. I don't think there is a problem here. 2♣ shows five hearts and a good hand. With four hearts you double 1. The book bid is 3, but then 4 is wrong-sided and goes down on a spade lead when partner has something like K10xx/AKxx/xx/Kxx.
DE WIJS: 2♣. For me, this shows a limit+ hand with hearts, and that is what this hand is worth IMO. It also serves to get partner play the contract, which cannot hurt with these spades.
BERGEN: 2♣. I'm not ready to force us to the three-level. In my expert partnerships, this cue bid shows an invitational hand in the unshown major, On this auction, it surely must be right to have partner declare.

Plenty there for serious partnerships to discuss, for sure. This hand comes from the European Champions Cup. One West bid 2, ending the auction (+140). Another West doubled, showing hearts, East bid 1NT and West advanced to 2: +140 again. When Sjoert Brink held the West cards, he started with 2♣ and then raised his partner’s 2NT to 3NT, which made easily opposite Axx/KQx/Kxxx/Kxx – an impressive +400.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 8.01

One of only two hands this month with a big majority on the panel and, for once, an enormous group of competition entrants agreeing with them, hence the huge average score. Perhaps it is because, on this occasion, most of the panel think the underbid is the prudent action…

WANG: 4. A little underbid, but 5 may not be safe.
BOCCHI: 4. It’s unlikely to be easy to make slam.
PSZCZOLA: 4. I'm not looking for slam with this hand.
BERGEN: 4. We could have a slam, but I have no way to suggest it, and I am definitely unwilling to go past 4.
MARSTON: 4. We could have a slam, but I have no sensible way to find out and the five-level could be too high.
LARSSON: 4. It is possible that we can make slam, of course, but we could also be going down at the five-level. Partner might well have stretched with a singleton/void spade.

BOUDREAU: 4. I have the wrong black ace to do more.

ZIA: 4. I’d prefer the ♣A to the ♠A. This hand is not as good as it looks. Even a monster like x/AKxxxx/xxx/AKx opposite is not enough for slam.
BROCK: 4. Same answer as on Hand 1! Also, we are non-vulnerable on both hands, so it’s not such a big swing out if I underbid.
A number of panelists mentioned using 4♣ conventionally here.
HULT: 4. I like to play 4♣ as good raise here. But, without that agreement, I just bid game.
DE WIJS: 4. 4♣ should be a general slam try for hearts. That then allows partner to show some interest with 4, and allows me to bid 4 to show only mild interest. Without that agreement, I go slow, as I am not prepared to commit to the five-level on this hand.
KLUKOWSKI: 4. I simply bid 4, going for a plus score. Unfortunately, I don't play 4♣ here as a slam try for hearts, as some people I know do.
Whilst The Three Stooges all mention 4.
COHEN: 4. Definitely an underbid, but I don't know that we have five-level safety and 4 does not show this hand.
SUNDELIN: 4. As 3♠ was already taken, 4♠ might be too optimistic, and 4 might not mean what I would like it to show, I settle for the simple action.
BIRD: 4. 4 would be obvious, if understood as a cue-bid for hearts. Probably that is a sensible agreement on grounds of frequency, but I won't risk it here.
Sjoert forgot that he is playing with an ‘unknown expert without specific agreements’…
BRINK: 4♣. In modern bridge, this is a slam-try in hearts. Everyone bidding something else is either very old (I think he must mean you, David. MS), very stubborn, or just not interested in modern bridge.
A couple tried an alternative way of showing extra values below game.
ROBSON: Dbl. I am too strong for 4, so I'll hedge. Naturally 4♣ should probably be a good heart raise, but it's not an agreement we have.
RONDON: Dbl. I'm planning to support hearts later, showing a hand too strong for an immediate 4. 4♠ is the alternative, but that commits us to the five-level, which may not be safe.
A small faction is willing to venture beyond the safety of the four-level…
MEYERS: 4♠. My hand is too strong to sign off in 4.
S. BALDYSZ: 4♠. In some cases, 5 might go down, but I wouldn't like to see slam go to waste if partner has A-K A-K in the rounded suits and a better distribution than 1-6-3-3.
Whilst Tim was off on his own in another direction.
COPE: 3NT. We have enough spades to be able to hold up the ace to cut communications, and enough values to make this bid.

Partner had x/AK109xx/QJx/J10x, so the consensus that the five-level was not safe proved accurate. This hand would be much easier if 4 was a cue-bid agreeing hearts. However, the majority of the panel said that 4m would be natural in their answers to Set 2022-12 Hand 2 after the same auction.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.66

Not quite a majority, and the panel is split between two main choices, although there is support for a total of seven different actions. All but one or two at least look for slam, and there are even some thoughts of a grand, which is why the ultra-conservative pass that was the choice of over a third of competitors scores poorly. All singing from the same hymn sheet are...

WANG: 5. Slam try.
KLUKOWSKI: 5. I am certainly worth a try for slam.
PSZCZOLA: 5. I think my hand is worth one slam try.
S. BALDYSZ: 5. I'd like to search for slam.
BOCCHI: 5. Showing my void. 100% slam try.
BOUDREAU: 5. I am worth one more try for slam.
BIRD: 5. I am worth this try, with the void diamond and any black-suit finesses likely to be winning.
RONDON: 5. I like hearts and my hand is quite good. We need very little for a grand slam.
HULT: 5. Looks like 6 to me.
DE WIJS: 5. A general try, showing a void in diamonds. I think I am worth this because partner can judge his hand perfectly, and he doesn't need much, just the right values.

SAELENSMINDE: 5. I Would have preferred 5 rather than 4 on the previous round. Now 6 is Exclusion I guess, but I don’t have enough for that. I’ll try 5 and see what happens.

The second-largest faction on the panel simply bid what they think partner can make.
BROCK: 6. I am not quite sure how partner will be able to evaluate what little he has, so I will do it for him.
ZIA: 6. Who knows? Not me.
MARSTON: 6. Worth a go, especially with any finesse going through the 8-12 HCP hand.
COPE: 6. I bid what I think we can make. Any black suit finesse, if needed, rates to be right and, opposite as little as Kxx/Qxxx/Qx/Qxxxx, I am happy to give slam a shot.
COHEN: 6. 8-12... Wow! Anyway, I'm giving up on a grand slam and on finding other strains with 5NT, and just jumping to our probable final destination.
There were a surprising number of solo efforts too, each with their own logic…
MEYERS: 6. I am letting partner know that I am void. (I would have bid 5 if that were exclusion, but it is probably just a slam try.)
LARSSON: 5NT. Pick a slam.
Andrew takes a page out of Zia’s book on imaginative bidding…
ROBSON: 4NT. I am going to drive to slam, but I’ll muddy the waters with 4NT so that the opponents won't expect a diamond void.
Whilst Marty is still concerned about strain.
BERGEN: 4♠. Once again, we could have a slam, but I'm still unsure of our correct trump suit. Partner could have 4-4 in majors or even 3-3, Kxx/Axx/Jxx/xxxx, for example. (BTW, I sure wish I was allowed to play an 8-12 1NT!)
Whilst Sjoert is the lone voice for conservatism.
BRINK: Pass. Although double of 2 is ‘take out’, it is more just showing a few points. Kxx/xxxx/Axx/Qxx is more than enough. I already bid game (by bidding 4), so, if partner had a really good hand, he would bid more than 4. If this is not the winning bid, it proves that the majority of people aren’t that good at hand evaluation.

This was a deal from the final of the Australian Bermuda Bowl trials. Partner held KQx/Axxx/Qxx/xxx so 6 was very good and 7 makeable too. The Pass made at the table was not the winning option, particularly with teammates conceding 1400 saving in 7-X.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 4.67

I thought this was the most difficult problem this month. That is reflected in the indecision on the panel, and only 1-in-11 competition entrants pick up one of the top two marks. In the end, there was a majority of 15-7 in favor of bidding game, which is why 4 scores better than 3♠. The dividing issue for those committing to game was whether you should just bid 4♠ or offer partner a choice of majors. As we have come to expect, the two largest groups of competitors (over 70% combined) opted for one of the two possible underbids. The third-largest group think they should pass partner’s takeout double, and thus score zero! Let’s see what the experts have to say.

KLUKOWSKI: 4♠. A maximum hand with five spades. What could go wrong with this bid?
HULT: 4♠. I almost had a double of 3. Now I have to bid game.
MARSTON: 4♠. I am worth a shot at game, and I have a clear preference for spades.
BROCK: 4♠. I have to show that I have something.
ZIA: 4♠. A bit of a stretch, but that’s good for my old bones.
BIRD: 4♠. It's an overbid, but 3♠ would be an underbid. Much as I like to preserve my reputation as a cautious wimp, I think I should be allowed one bold bid per set.
COPE: 4♠. Partner should have a hand that will give us play for game. Something like KQx/AKxxx/xx/ Kxx should be the minimum we can expect for partner's bidding.

PSZCZOLA: 4♠. I think my hand is worth 3.5♠, but I'm taking the optimistic view.

P.O. points out a problem with the primary alternative.
SUNDELIN: 4♠. If I offer a choice of major with 4, he might misjudge with something like Qxx/AKxxx/x/Kxxx, so I’ll just choose what rates to be the right major for him. 
The next group also committed to game.
SAELENSMINDE: 4. Choice of games, showing a doubleton heart and five spades.
BOCCHI: 4. Offering partner a choice of 4 or 4♠.
DE WIJS: 4. Offering partner a choice of games. I could blast 4♠, but I am willing to play 4 opposite six good hearts. Who knows, maybe I will get to discard one of partner’s spades on a club. Of course, the four-level could be too high, but I cannot bid only 3/3♠ with this hand.
S. BALDYSZ: 4. I got creative with this bid, intending it as "pick a game". Partner could still perhaps have a 2-6-1-4 shape, and I wouldn't want to be in spades on a 5-2 fit.
BRINK: 4. Great problem. My first inclination was 4♠, but partner is likely to be 3-6-1-3, when 4 could easily be the better contract. By bidding 4 (choice of games) you guarantee that partner will bid 4♠ with a four-card suit. His only problem will be when he is 3-5-1-4, and hopefully he is then smart enough to bid 4♠.
This decision was a close one, so the conservative action also garnered considerable support.
BERGEN: 3♠. It's possible to do more, but I don't want to hang partner. His balancing double may have resulted in our not being -110.
MEYERS: 3♠. Partner only overcalled 2, so I think he is probably 3-5-2-3 and too much to go meekly. I don't want to hang partner for competing.
COHEN: 3♠. Giving partner leeway. Opposite 3-6-1-3 shape, it is not clear I need to push to a white game.
WANG: 3♠. I don't think we can make game. Partner only overcalled 2 on the first round.
RONDON: 3♠. My partner didn't double previously so his hand is not that good.
BOUDREAU: 3♠. I have too many losers to do more.
ROBSON: 3♠. This is really close, and part of me wanted to have doubled last time to avoid this guess (swap my reds so I have a working jack and I would have). Now my choice is 3♠, 4 choice of games and 4♠. I think 3♠ can be raised to 4♠ some of the time, and the hand doesn't quite warrant a game bid.

Partner had about what you would expect: KQx/AKJxxx/xx/Kx, so 4♠ was a reasonable proposition and 4 not without play either.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 3.69

Only 1-in-9 competitors opt for one of the three highest-scoring actions on another low-scoring hand that was widely undervalued by competition entrants. More than half simply bid game, whilst half of the rest, unbelievably, were prepared to settle for a partscore! However, all but two members of the panel thought the hand worth at least some move towards slam.
Only a few panelists consider whether to make a slam try. The real question is how to do so and, on that, there are contrasting views from our experts...

S. BALDYSZ: Dbl. Bidding 4♠ directly would be pessimistic. I'll double first, and then bid spades on the next round. Hopefully, I won't be forced by the opponents to do it at the six-level.
BIRD: Dbl. I would bid 4♠ without one of the big honors, I hope to convey extra values by inserting a double before bidding 4♠ on the next round.
BOUDREAU: 4. Showing a control and interest in slam.
WANG: 4. Showing a good hand with spades.
Some begin the explanation of how to do so.
BOCCHI: 4. Over 4, I bid 4♠, showing a slam try in spades
LARSSON: 4. I will settle for a slam try with 4♠ over partner’s presumed 4 bid.
That seems clear enough, doesn’t it? Jacek and Michal even address the alternative…
PSZCZOLA: 4. When I correct 4 to 4♠, I'm showing a mild slam try in spades. With four spades and longer clubs I would start with a double.
KLUKOWSKI: 4. I bid 4 and, over 4, continue with 4♠ to show a slam try with spades. With clubs and spades I would double first.
However, both Jill and Marty take exactly the opposite view.
MEYERS: Dbl. When I then correct my partner's heart bid to 4♠, I hope he will play me for something like this.

BERGEN: Dbl. I'd love to bid 4 then 4♠ to show a one-suited slam try. But that definitely, definitely should be choice of games with four spades and five or more clubs. So, I'm going to try to get my one-suited slam try across with double then, after 3, a jump to 4♠. There are two advantages of the economical double. Firstly, that if partner has a strong hand, he will do more than bid just 3. Secondly, he might bid 3♠, and then I can cue-bid 4.

Larry recognizes the problem but makes the Humpty-Dumpty bid anyway.
COHEN: 4. I have been underbidding too much this set, so I don't want to do it again by jumping to only 4♠. However, when I correct 4 to 4♠, it won't be clear that this is a spade slam try as opposed to a choice of black-suit games, even though I want it to mean the former.
Clearly, there are two possible sequences, double then 4♠ or 4 then 4♠, and two hand types you want to describe: a slam try with just spades, and a choice of games with four spades and five clubs. Which way round you play them perhaps doesn’t matter, but regular partnership should check that they are on the same wavelength.
There were also two alternative routes that clearly showed the single-suited nature of our hand but, again, there were dissenting views on exactly what each showed. This perhaps seems straightforward...
ROBSON: 5♠. General slam invite. Any other route eg via 4 or double will only murk things.
RONDON: 5♠. I hope partner takes this as an invitation to slam.
MARSTON: 5♠. Letting partner have the final say.
DE WIJS: 5♠.If partner has short diamonds, we don't need much, so I will make a natural invitational bid
But some of our Swedish contingent begged to differ…
HULT: 4. 4 followed by 5♠ should be a slam try with a diamond control. An immediate 5♠ here should ask for a diamond control.
SUNDELIN: 4. It may become tricky to clarify I have only one suit, but an immediate jump to 5♠ might show worry about diamond control.
A couple are taking matter into their own hands.
COPE: 4. I am not going to stop short of 6♠ on this hand and, whilst initially, 4 would tend to show two places to play, I can jump to 6♠ over partner's expected 4 continuation. This will give us a chance to get to 7♠ if partner has the right cards. Effectively, I am bidding 6♠ and showing first-round diamond control enroute.
ZIA: 6♠. Happy New Year, partner.
There were also a couple of pessimists...
BROCK: 4♠. Again, I have a bit in hand, but I like to go for the plus score.
BRINK: 4♠. This is difficult. If partner has something like KQxx/Kxxx/xx/AQx, you will likely still lose a diamond and a spade. Against French players, you know partner is short in diamonds, but opponents who bid to 3 at white in modern bridge are more likely to have eight diamonds rather than nine. Bidding 4 and then 4♠ (over partner’s 4) is usually showing four spades and five or more clubs, rather than a good 4♠ bid. Perhaps you can double with this hand, and then bid 4♠ next to how a mild slam try, but that is something for partnerships to agree.

Partner had AKxx/KJxxx/xx/Ax, so 6♠ was an easy make. At the table, the West who heard this auction bid 4♠, which ended the auction, and undeservedly gained IMPs when 7♠ went down (because the Q did not come down) at the other table. Thanks to David for a very interesting problem.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 4.52

More than half of competition entrants make the minimum bid, an action supported by not a single panelist. The panel were split between those who bid slam and whose who made a grand slam try. Unbelievably, we also have more than 400 competitors who think it is right to pass partner’s five-level cue-bid of the opponents’ suit! Let’s start with the majority.

WANG: 6♠. Partner has spades and a minor, so this feels about right.
BOUDREAU: 6♠. This hand is too good to do any less.
Some worried they were underbidding….
BROCK: 6♠. Maybe I should bid more. I seem to be making similar judgements on nearly all the hands this month.
LARSSON: 6♠. This hand looks familiar 🙂 Anyway, this is a guessing game: seven could easily be right, but lacking an ace or king in one of partner’s presumed suits takes one off for me.
RONDON: 6♠. A Michael's cue-bid at the five-level shows a very good hand. I have four-card support, A-K in a minor, and the jack in what is likely to be his second suit. I'm a little worried about a grand, but I think any more than 6♠ is too much.
Whilst Paul thinks he is pushing the boat out at this level.
MARSTON: 6♠. Gambling on slam. We may need a black-suit finesse to work.

Some wise words from Sjoert...

BRINK: 6♠. This kind of hand is a pure guess. When you bid seven, you go down, when you bid six, you likely make seven. My rule is that when the opponents have pre-empted, go for the plus score and don't try to bid magic grand slams. Even if partner’s hand is AKQxxx/---/x/AKxxxx, a grand still needs clubs 2-2, and even breaks are against the odds when the opponents have pre-empted.

Michal sums up well for the majority.
KLUKOWSKI: 6♠. Partner has a very big hand with spades and a minor, clearly clubs. I have something for him, but not too much in the black suits, so I go for slam, but I don't make any grand slam try
Others were more bullish. One option is…
DE WIJS: 5NT. Partner is showing a huge two-suited hand and I want to know his minor. If that turns out to be diamonds, I will bid a grand slam, otherwise I will bid 6♠.
PSZCZOLA: 5NT. If partner shows clubs with 6♣, I continue with 6, showing the A and spade support. If he responds 6, I bid 7♠.
COHEN: 5NT. I must drive to a small slam with these values, but I will let partner choose the suit.
ZIA: 5NT. Then 6♠, showing a try.
MEYERS: 5NT. And correct partner's bid to 6♠.
HULT: 5NT. I have a great hand, so I need to make a move.
SAELENSMINDE: 5NT. Then 6♠ next.
Whilst others just showed an invite…
S. BALDYSZ: 6. For sure I'm looking for slam. I think 5NT would be pick a slam rather than an invitation to bid a grand. The opponents might still have only nine hearts but, if partner has a void, a grand is looking quite good. I'll bid 6, hoping he will understand it as a grand slam try in spades.
ROBSON: 6. This is a grand slam try in spades. I think the "impossible" 6 bid should be control-showing and agreeing spades, but I wouldn't try it at the table.
BERGEN: 6. My best guess is that partner has an awesome hand with 6-6 in the blacks and a heart void. I'd like to bid 6 to show the A, but I suppose he could have something like AKQ10xx/---/QJ10xxx/A. I'm wimping out of 6 or 5NT then 6, but I am sure that 6 is invitational to 7♠.
BOCCHI: 6. Better than 5NT.
BIRD: 6. If partner has a singleton diamond, we are worth this rather ambitious try. If he is void in both red suits, he will surely have at least a king-sized hole in one of his black suits. Perhaps 6♠ by me would be wiser.
Tim is flying solo in shooting directly for the stars.
COPE: 7♠. Partner must have a monster two-suiter to be bidding this way. The bidding suggests that partner must have a heart void, and I cannot see him having anything less than AKQxx in both black suits. Take away any of these high cards (even if he has the Q), would partner be bidding as much as 5? The one danger is that partner might have AKxxxx/--/x/AKxxxx, and we may have to pick up the club suit to make the grand. I will take my chances – there, I have talked myself into it.

It was the same auction at both tables in the Soloway KO Teams. One West bid 6 and the other 6♠. Both Easts then bid the bad 7♠ holding AQ109xx/--/--/AQ109xxx. Although both black-suit kings were onside, the contract was no play on a heart lead, but made at one table when a diamond lead gave declarer an entry to take the finesses.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.42

Not quite a majority from the panel, although all but two opted for one of two forward-going bids. As we have seen regularly in recent months, the largest group of competition entrants (over 50% here) are less optimistic, settling for game. There was some debate about which suit was trumps…

COPE: 5. As we would be playing strong jump overcalls over a pre-empt, 4♠ must be a cue agreeing hearts. I am worth one slam try, by showing my diamond control, and then I will leave the rest to partner.
MARSTON: 5. I assume partner's 4♠ is a control bid for hearts. I want to show some interest without taking control.
Everyone from the Northern Hemisphere took the opposite view…
ROBSON: 5. I must make a try facing a partner who was too strong for a natural spade overcall. I am close to a Blackwood bid, as it's hard to construct a hand for partner without a club control.
DE WIJS: 5. Tough. Maybe we should have started with a double instead of 4. Now, I think we need to take one more bid because of our huge spade fit.

RONDON: 5: Another cue-bid to show a good hand. I have five-card support for partner's best suit, a decent suit of my own, and a singleton that might be valuable. Well worth a slam try.

KLUKOWSKI: 5. This hand is too good to pass, thanks to the source of tricks and five-card support.
BIRD: 5. Partner's sequence is strong and it would be feeble for me to pass.
BOCCHI: 5. Cue.
S. BALDYSZ: 5. I'll try and look for slam.
MEYERS: 5. I know I am missing a lot of key cards, but I have too much to pass. I think 4NT is a reasonable option, but I am going to bid 5. Partner will then know that I don’t have a club card and that I do have a diamond control, and he can make the decision.
The other major faction on the panel chose to take control.
PSZCZOLA: 4NT. I think it's time to take control of the hand. 4NT without special discussion should be RKCB for spades.
COHEN: 4NT. I don't see why this shouldn't be RKC in spades, which is exactly what I want here.
ZIA: 4NT. Doesn't this 4♠ show extras?
Indeed, it does.
HULT: 4NT. Blackwood.
LARSSON: 4NT. Blackwood.
WANG: 4NT. Keycard agreeing spades.
BOUDREAU: 4NT. Slam likely depends on partner’s answer.
Sjoert may be getting only 9/10 on the scoreboard, but he offers some valuable advice and earns “Comment of the Month” honors.
BRINK: 4NT. Asking for key-cards. With three, we are in 5♠, with four in 6♠, and with five in 7♠. Life can be simple. A message for people who bid 5.... Next time, “Think like a Brink!”
I’m not sure I understand this, as would 5♠ not ask for a diamond control?
BROCK: 5♠. Who knows?
Marty finds himself, unusually, as the lone member of the conservative club.
BERGEN: Pass. Partner has a big one-suiter. But, I did force to game, so he could have done more, such as 5♠. Since the high-card-value of my two pointed-suits honors is questionable, and I am aceless, I will follow the good general principle of not pushing for slam after being pre-empted.

Partner had AK10xxx/x/Ax/AQxx, so 6♠ was an excellent spot, and any move will get you there.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 4.50

We finish with what was a tough hand for competitors, although the panel thought it was the easiest problem of the month, with a big majority. This was also the only hand this month on which a single action did not attract a group of more than 40% of competitors. The largest group, though, almost a third, chose a bid (4♠) supported by only one panelist. 10% of competitors get lucky by choosing another action selected by only one panelist although, I am sure, for completely different reasons….

ZIA: 2♠. The five-level beckons. Let's try this old chestnut.
Zia’s strategy assumes that any high bid (4♣ or 4♠) will get a 5♣ bid from North, and we will then have to guess at the five-level. By allowing West to support clubs at a lower level, we can then be ‘pushed’ to 4♠. He hopes that by ‘walking the dog’, not only will he be allowed to buy the auction in 4♠ but, perhaps, to even get doubled. An imaginative answer to the problem, and an insight into a true genius at work!

Most of the rest simply bid what they thought the hand was worth…
COPE: 4♣. I cannot bid more, and I cannot bid less. I may be a couple of points short for a splinter bid, but I do have a void rather than a singleton. A splinter merely shows the values to want to be in game and is, therefore, a limited bid.
DE WIJS: 4♣. Very light, but the descriptive value wins out
LARSSON: 4♣. Yeah, yeah, pushy.
HULT: 4♣. I don’t have much, but what I have is good
KLUKOWSKI: 4♣. A splinter in a competitive auction has lower HCP requirements. Also, this hand has a lot of potential, and that's why 4♣ is my choice.
RONDON: 4♣. I really don't see an alternative to the splinter.
BOUDREAU: 4♣. The big fit and K is a plus, so I show my control.
BIRD: 4♣. Splinter bids are limited, and my void in a suit bid by the opponents is worth a bundle. I will need some convincing that this is wrong.
BROCK: 4♣. Maybe too much this time. If partner bids 4, I will bid 4♠ rather than 4, hopefully putting him off.

When all else fail, Think Like a Brink...
BRINK: 4♣. When you have a void, show it!! After this, Bas and I play 4 (best hand) and 4 (ok hand) for slam. After either, I have an easy 4♠ bid on this hand.
COHEN: 4♣. There are enough good things about this hand to warrant this high road bid. Besides, I have some catching up to do from my generally pessimistic views overall in the first seven problems.
A number made the descriptive bid with a view to helping partner make the decision mentioned in the introduction above.
ROBSON: 4♣. A slight overbid, but it will help partner to judge over North’s 5♣.
BOCCHI: 4♣. Normally a void but with more points, but if the opponents bid 5♣ my partner can choose.......
MARSTON: 4♣. Showing the shortage and trump support. Partner will now know what to do if the opponents bid again.
There were a handful of dissenters.
BERGEN: 2NT. With my magical void, and our 9+ card fit, once partner opened, I was always forcing to game and had interest in slam. The problem is that if I overbid with the non-economical jump to 4♣, we will often get to bad slams. If my major-suit honors were ♠K and A, I might consider it, but here I'm content for now to show a good four-card raise. As stated, I will not stop short of game.
WANG: 3♣. Invitational or better. I would like to bid 4♣, but I think partner might expect more.
PSZCZOLA: 3♣. I'm a little too weak for a splinter.
MEYERS: 4♠. Clean and simple.
S. BALDYSZ: 4♠. For me, this is too weak a hand to show a splinter. Sure, with some perfect points in partner's hand, you might even make seven, but in some cases even game could be in jeopardy.

Although we have only a combined 18 HCP, 4♠ is a fine contract opposite Q10xxx/Axx/J/Axxx.  North does not have enough clubs to compete to the five-level, so all actions (except 3♣ and pass 3♠) will likely lead to +420. Will Zia manage to talk the opponents into doubling him for +590? Maybe and, if so, it would surely be a well-deserved 5 IMPs gained.

With an impressive 79/80, the irrepressible P.O. Sundelin and the brilliant Michal Klukowski share the lead atop the panel this month. In a good month for the Swedes, they are trailed by Simon Hult with 77/80, and Jessica Larsson and Paul Marston, both with 76/80. A special mention also to our two guest panelists, who both scored in the 70s.

Our thanks, as always, to members of the panel for taking the time to share their knowledge and experience with our readers. On a really tough set, congratulations to all competitors who make the leader-board this month, for which you will need a score of 69/80 or more.

The Expert Panel

Michal KLUKOWSKIDbl454♠46♠54♣79
P.O. SUNDELIN2464♠46♠54♣79
Simon HULT2454♠45NT4NT4♣77
Jessica LARSSON245NT4♠46♠4NT4♣76
Paul MARSTON3464♠5♠6♠54♣76
Norberto BOCCHI34544654♣75
Bob BOUDREAUDbl453♠46♠4NT4♣75
David BIRD3454♠Dbl654♣74
Larry COHEN3463♠45NT4NT4♣72
Simon DE WIJS2♣4545♠5NT54♣72
Jacek PSZCZOLADbl454♠45NT4NT3♣72
Wen Fei WANG2453♠46♠4NT3♣72
Hanoi RONDONDblDbl53♠5♠6♠54♣71
Sally BROCK2464♠4♠6♠5♠4♣69
Zia MAHMOODDbl464♠6♠5NT4NT2♠68
Erik SAELENSMINDE34♠545♠5NT4NT4♣68
Tim COPE33NT64♠47♠54♣66
Andrew ROBSONDblDbl4NT3♠5♠654♣65
Sophia BALDYSZ24♠54Dbl654♠63
Jill MEYERS24♠63♠Dbl5NT54♠60
Sjoert BRINK2♣4♣Pass44♠6♠4NT4♣58
Marty BERGEN2♣44♠3♠Dbl6Pass2NT55
TOP SCORE2454♠46♠54♣


HAND 1:                    2 10, 3/Dbl 9, 2♣ 7
HAND 2:                    4 10, Dbl 7, 4♣/4/4♠ 5, 3NT 4, 5 2
HAND 3:                    5 10, 6 9, 6 8, 4NT/5NT 7, 4♠/5 5, 7 4, Pass 3
HAND 4:                    4♠ 10, 4 9, 3♠ 7, 4 3, 3 2
HAND 5:                    4 10, Dbl/5♠ 8, 4♠/6♠ 5
HAND 6:                    6♠ 10, 5NT 8, 6 7, 7♠ 5, 5♠ 3
HAND 7:                    5 10, 4NT 9, 6♠ 6, 5♠ 5, Pass 4
HAND 8:                    4♣ 10, 2♠ 8, 2NT 7, 3♣ 6, 4♠ 4


HAND 1:                                2.53
HAND 2:                                8.01
HAND 3:                                5.66
HAND 4:                                4.67
HAND 5:                                3.69
HAND 6:                                4.52
HAND 7:                                5.42
HAND 8:                                4.50

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21 comments on “February 2023 Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge”

  1. My bids were not included in the email. would really help to see how I did compared to all others and experts.

      1. I didn't receive any email, checked the website today and just saw the results, and I have to count my score myself. I hope it's an accident...I do receive my answer email previously, but not the results, don't know why

        1. hello Cherry - I checked our email system and it seems that there was an issue with your mailbox. It was either down or your inbox was full. I've just tried to resend your scores email. Hope you receive the emails in future.

  2. I see my bids were emailed and I see my total score was emailed, but can I see somewhere how I scored on each hand and where my score stands relative to other competitors, both on each hand and in total?

  3. Not convinced with the comments on 8 saying 3c would not lead to plus 420... My was 3c followed by 4s as I thought this was the best way to approach it - I was definitely getting to game after 3c - which was dismissed in the commentary.

    1. Hello - your answers are sent to you by email immediately after you submit your answers. Check your emails and then you'll be able to see how you went.

      1. For some reason answers reply comes out with 8 no. empty rectangles, no doubt the bid is in there somewhere. As bridge is an ethical game however we can answer again when we see the hand in the results sheet, at the beginning of each month, keeping away from the results logic, and the results if possible.

      2. I am glad I printed my answers from the earlier email..very helpful to have the hands and answers together to make notes.

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