March 2023 Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 2023-3

Welcome to the third set of the 2023 competition. We almost reached last month’s record entry with 7,727 submissions this month - it's great to see so many people enjoying the competition. Keep encouraging your friends and partners to submit their entries. Compare your scores with those achieved by your teammates to claim bragging rights for a month.

Our guest panelist this month was the solo winner of the difficult January set with a score of 77/80. John Lusky is a retired lawyer who lives in Portland, Oregon. His career bridge highlights include reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 Vanderbilt, and finishing second in the 2022 Transatlantic Seniors online competition. As the only player averaging in excess of 75/80 over the first three months this year, he also leads the field in the 2023 annual competition.

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.

After two really difficult sets to start the year, we perhaps get some respite this month. There is a majority on the panel for all but one of the eight hands. However, as also happened last month too, the most popular choice of competitors scores top marks on only one hand (#7). Voting with the largest group of competition entrants this month scores 44/80 (up from the meagre 38 last month) and the average score is 40.81 (again, up, from 39.01 on Set 2023-2). There will be plenty to be learned from our experts’ comments, so let’s hit the road and see what they make of the first hand…

Note: All hands this month are at IMPs scoring.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.53

All five conceivable possibilities received at least a modicum of support on the panel, but there is no doubting the clear choice. The two most popular selections of competition entrants (with more than 60% support) attracted only a combined total of three panel members. Nearly a quarter of competitors passed partner’s forcing jump to 3♣ – yes, taking a unilateral decision to pass a forcing bid might be right on this one hand, but it is also the fastest way to destroy partnership confidence, so it is something best avoided. Let’s start with the majority…

MEYERS: 3. I think this is clear.
BERGEN: 3. I love economical bids.
PSZCZOLA: 3. Slowing down the action.
BOCCHI: 3. I hope my partner can bid 3NT.
ROBSON: 3. I want to keep all balls in the air, including 3NT. No one can argue against 3 being the most economical way of doing that.

LUSKY: 3. We might belong in NT, clubs or spades, so I will make a cheap bid to let partner clarify his holding.

BIRD: 3. The best contract could be in spades, clubs or no-trumps. It is too early for me to decide.
BROCK: 3. Then I can bid 3NT over 3♠ to express doubt. Partner needs to show more enthusiasm for clubs before I am interested in that strain.
S.BALDYSZ: 3. In Polish Club, 3♣ promises 5-5, but I'm assuming that in Western methods this can still be 5-4. And, I also assume 3♣ is forcing. If partner has a 5-3-1-4 shape, NT might be a best option. I'll bid 3 to give partner a chance to select the better game (clubs or NT). This hand looks vaguely familiar: from some championship, I think.
COPE: 3. 3♣ is forcing to game, so I do not think we can pass, even if it might be right on this deal. There is also a big problem that partner may not have a 100% genuine club suit (i.e. perhaps six moderate spades and 18/19 points). So, I try and find out more about partner’s hand and see where that leads us.
COHEN: 3. It is tempting to bid 3NT to try to end things, but how would partner know to pull with, say, AKQxx/x/Kx/AQxxx? Better to show my long/decent diamonds for now, and more intelligently reach the right game.
MOULD: 3. Partners often do not have four clubs when they bid this way and, anyway, raising is rash. I have a heap of garbage and, if we are going to make a game (which, despite partner's strong bidding, does not look terribly promising), 3NT is far and away the most likely.
Sjoert provides the most complete answer…
BRINK: 3. So many tens. When people give me those details, they are usually hoping I'll bid.  What are my options? What is partner’s hand? AKQxx/x/xx/AKQxx, now 4♠ is on clubs 2-2 and spades 4-3 (if partner also has the ♠10, 4♠ is much better), but 3NT is on some jacks onside. How about, Axxxx/AKx/K/KQxx, 3NT is the most likely contract, but both 5♣ and 3NT are touch and go. Having said all this, I still have no clue where we belong. A naturalish 3, keeping the bidding alive, therefore seems right. Usually, it turns out that I had to go with my gut feeling and pass 3♣, but forcing, must be forcing...
A couple thought they knew where they wanted to play.
WANG: 3NT. Nothing is very attractive, but 3NT is likely to be the easiest to make.
DE WIJS: 3NT. I don’t want to take any positive action with this hand (but I don't want to pass and punish partner either).
A couple did consider it, but only Simon is willing to break discipline and pass what everyone clearly considers a forcing bid.
HULT: Pass. I take my plus score.
The rest raise clubs. As we are in a game-forcing auction, though, is this not more encouraging than a jump to game?
ZIA: 4♣. Reluctant obligation (like some marriages)!
MARSTON: 4♣. Support with support. This is not the time to mastermind.
Yes, says Erik.

Partner had AKQxx/Kx/K/KQxxx, so 3NT was a comfortable make but there were three aces off a club contract. Both the 3 and the 3NT bidders end in the best contract.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 3.87

Another clear majority from the panel. With all but one panelist looking for a grand slam, the two most popular choices of the competitors score poorly (6) and zero (5). I also bow to the prediction skills of Mr Bird, who told me that not one member of the panel would make the same wild (his word, not mine) bid that I made at the table, 7. I still think it is more likely to be right than 6, but I award them both the same consolation mark. There is little doubt that the majority win the debate…

HULT: 5♠. I will try for the grand.
BERGEN: 5♠. The sky's the limit.
C.BALDYSZ: 5♠. Cue-bid.
MOULD: 5♠. If partner has the ♣A and A-K, he will know what to do!
S.BALDYSZ: 5♠. If partner has A-K and ♣AQxxx or AQJx, 13 tricks will be laydown, so I'm still going in search of the grand.

David has a plan.
BIRD: 5♠. With partner unlikely to hold much in diamonds, there are reasons to be ambitious. If he bids 6♣ next, we have an obvious 6 continuation.

LUSKY: 5♠. Trying for the grand. If partner bids 6♣, I will bid 6.
BROCK: 5♠. A grand slam is looking quite likely. I plan to continue with 6 over 6♣ and then leave the rest to partner.
MEYERS: 5♠. If partner bids 6♣, I will continue with 6 and hope he does the right thing. If partner bids 6, I will settle for 6.
COPE: 5♠. A cue looking for the grand. Partner has bid a free 4 so, hopefully, over 5♠, we may hear 6♣, and then we can bid 6, and partner should know to bid seven with A-K.
MARSTON: 5♠. Showing the spade control. There could easily be a grand on.
Andrew explains the flaw with one of the panel’s alternative choices.
ROBSON: 5♠. The knee jerk 6 may induce a 6 sign off when partner is worried about not having ♠A. So, let's show it, together with grand slam interest. I will bid 7 over 6♣.
Sjoert puts forward a strong case for an alternative…
BRINK: Pass. We are vulnerable, so we are in a forcing pass situation. What is the difference between passing, partner doubles, and then 5♠ or a direct 5♠? Most play pass and pull as showing extra strength. I think this hand is worth the strongest grand slam try, so pass followed by 5♠ is the way I go....
Some preferred an alternative cue-bid.
BOCCHI: 6. This looks like the normal bid.
COHEN: 6. Partner insisted on game when I could have had a 6-count. It must be right to show this first-round control so that partner can bid seven with A-K-A in hearts/clubs. How can I do less? Always it risks looking bad to make predictions, but I predict this will be fairly routine (for the panelists).
Well, for three out of 21 of them, it was 😊
ZIA: 6. Let's dance… or fall flat. Partner has a wide range, but we easily could make a lot.
Another group chose to focus partner attention on his trump holding…
WANG: 5NT. Asking partner to bid 7 with two heart honors.
SUNDELIN: 5NT. Asking for two top trumps.
PSZCZOLA: 5NT. RKCB for hearts.
Simon was alone in settling for the small slam.
DE WIJS: 6. I feel I am a little too light for 6. Apart from AK+A, I need some filling in the black suits. Partner will bid the grand too often over 6.

Partner had Q10xx/AKxx/x/AJxx so 7 is not quite cold, but you certainly want to get there. The 5♠-6♣-6 sequence widely suggested above should make things clear enough for partner to get this right.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.02

Another clear favorite from the panel, but fewer than 1-in-12 competitors agreed with them. There was also some support for the two primary contenders, which were also the two most popular bids with competition entrants, attracting more than 50% of the vote. Competitors set a new record on this hand, with a total of 27 different choices selected. We start with the majority.

SAELENSMINDE: 3. Splinter.
ZIA: 3. Splinter.
WANG: 3. A splinter and showing a strong hand too.
BERGEN: 3. I wish I had a source of tricks, but partner needs very little for a diamond slam.
LUSKY: 3. Showing my shortness, so I can respect partner's decision.
PSZCZOLA: 3. Splinter. I think this is better than bidding 2♠ and then supporting diamonds later. Let's go straight to the point: if we belong in slam, agreeing diamonds quickly will probably make things easier.

Alan makes the point that partner is unlikely to have spades.
MOULD: 3. Yes, I know that splintering with a stiff ace is verboten, but I cannot think of anything better. A plague on people who bid 2♠ and do not show the four-card support immediately, particularly in the modern game, when partner will only have four spades if he has a game force.

HULT: 3. Splinter with diamonds. Partner does not have four spades unless game-forcing.
BROCK: 3. Partner is pretty unlikely to have a four-card major, so I’m happy to agree diamonds. I don’t really like doing this with a singleton ace, but it seems to be the closest thing I can do to describe my hand.
Sjoert starts with a prediction that couldn’t be more wrong, but sums up the case admirably.
BRINK: 3. I guess the majority will bid 2NT, but I super dislike that. Your hand is so good for a suit contract that bidding no trump is a big no for me. So, what are the possibilities? 1♠, just showing your major, always important. 2♠, making it game-forcing, but then it may be hard to show such good diamond support later. 3, an underbid, but showing your support. 3, splinter, only wrong when partner has a spade fit. Although nothing is perfect, 3 seems like clearly the best option to me.
So, if you are going to bid spades, how many do you bid?
DE WIJS: 1♠. I am not jumping with 4-4, so it will have to be 1♠. With partners who skip diamonds unless GF, I can bid a 3 splinter but, without that agreement, I am not willing to forget about spades.
S.BALDYSZ: 1♠. I'm used to opening 1 with this hand in Polish Club, so I am not entirely sure what my options are now... 1♠ seems forcing to me, as partner can still have game-going values and even four spades sometimes.
BIRD: 1♠. When we support diamonds enthusiastically, partner will know about the heart shortage. So, there is no need for 3 now. My route will let partner value filling honors in spades.
ROBSON: 1♠. I assume we're playing Walsh, in which case it's unlikely partner has four spades. I want to tease out as many bids as possible from partner, so I prefer this slower approach to the unsubtle and flawed 3 splinter.
COHEN: 1♠. It is unlikely that partner passes and, if he does, who is to say we missed a game? Picture Qxx/Qxx/Jxxx/Qxx, for example. This will make it easy to continue (with a diamond raise).
Others prefer to make sure we get to game.
BOCCHI: 2♠. And after, I will bid diamond, diamonds and diamonds.
MARSTON: 2♠. I expect partner has five diamonds. Any sign of life from partner and we are in slam.
MEYERS: 2♠. I don't know where I want to be on this hand, so I am jump shifting to force to game and will then support diamonds at my next opportunity.
COPE: 2♠. It does not look right to splinter with 3 on the bare ace, but we need to create a force. I hope we can continue to describe our hand later.
Only P.O. was willing to play a diamond partscore.
SUNDELIN: 3. An underbid, but 4 would (should) show a more shapely hand, and I actually have several losers. Besides, I would have opened 1.
Cathy has been playing Polish Club (where 2 in this sequence shows any 18+) for too long.

Partner did not have much, but enough to make 5 easy with trumps 3-2. He had xx/109x/KJxx/KJxx, so even 6 was playable, needing declarer to find the ♣Q. Probably only Cathy and perhaps P.O. would miss game.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 4.99

This would have been a record-breaker before Hand 3, with 25 different options chosen by competition entrants. The primary question is “Do you support partner’s spades, or insist on playing in your eight-card suit?” The panel are split 11-9 in favor of the latter, with one trying to get the best of both worlds. We start with the majority.

PSZCZOLA: 4. Too many options here, so I go for the simple bid.
WANG: 4. Although I have four spades, I don’t like to support with this hand.
LUSKY: 4. Hearts is likely to play better, even if partner is short.
BIRD: 4. Reese often discussed hands with 7-4 shape, saying you should be wary of playing in the 4-4 fit. His words of wisdom are no doubt even wiser on 8-4 hands.
BRINK: 4. It is always curious how the people playing in spades will explain why they went down, while I just claim my easy game opposite something like 10xxx/Q/Axxx/Axxx.
Zia comes up with an idea that is too deep for us mere mortals.
ZIA: 4. The correct bid is probably 2 with the opponents silent, as partner probably has a good hand, and jumping to 4 will pre-empt him. I hope he doesn't have AQxxx/void/xxxxx/Axx, but I don't want to be dummy if his spades are Jxxx.
ROBSON: 4. Surely, we want to play in hearts, not spades. I am slightly worried that we may miss a slam opposite ♠AQxxx and two low hearts but, as all wizened experts know, partner never has the perfecto.
COHEN: 4. If anything, this is an underbid with my 11 HCP. Still, I don't want to do anything (like a splinter) that will lock us into a silly spade contract opposite something like Jxxx/x/Kxxx/Kxxx. 4 doesn't show a bad hand, so partner might bid on!
HULT: 4. I focus on playing in hearts and not spades, although we could be cold for 6♠ here.
Alan reminds us of a good general rule.
MOULD: 4. I follow the old adage about what do you call eight-card suits? Answer: “Trumps”. This hand will play a lot better in hearts than spades, unless partner has about six of them. If I support spades, I can never get back to hearts, so I will just hog. Incidentally, despite what the purists think, it is my long-held belief that it is impractical to open this sort of hand anything other than 4. Opening 1 never solves any problems, except those for the opponents when you have not opened 4.
Only P.O. suggests that jumping to 4 implies any sort of spade fit.
SUNDELIN: 4. Pessimistically hoping for xxxx/Q/Axxx/Axxx. My bid promises three-card support for spades, so if he removes to spades….
Most of the rest support spades. Some splinter in their void…
BERGEN: 4. I confess I've never had or seen a situation like this one.
BOCCHI: 4. It's hard to resist showing the spade fit.
DE WIJS: 4. Ideally, I want to investigate slam and sign off in 4, but that’s impossible. Rebidding 4 might be the percentage action, but it is just too easy to envision slam after 1♠, so I will splinter.
COPE: 4. Partner needs so little to make slam, and I will never be able to bring myself to play beneath 4♠. I will have to weigh up my options after partner’s next bid. Unfortunately, I cannot bid 5 Exclusion immediately, as a 1-KC response will not leave me space to ask for the ♠Q.
Sophia goes looking for all the marbles.
S.BALDYSZ: 5. A bit of a shot in the dark but, with just ♠A-Q and the ♣A, a spade grand would have high chances of making. I'll just bid Voidwood.

Jill comes up with a good reason why splintering in clubs may be a better option.
MEYERS: 4♣. This is tough, but I think it is right to start with 4♣. If partner shows interest with a 4 cue-bid, I will key-card (with the knowledge that partner probably has the wasted A). If partner signs off in 4♠, I can still continue with RKCB as I will know he doesn’t have the ace facing my void.

BROCK: 4♣. There was a hand in Cyprus where Zia splintered and then used Exclusion in a different suit. Maybe I can do that here!
Paul also commits to spades, but he does so by asking partner for good trumps.
MARSTON: 5♠. Not wishing to offend Burn's Law 2 (raise with support). With both black aces, partner might bid 6♣.
Cathy is again flying solo. There are two ways to play a jump to 3NT. One is a hand too good for a non-forcing 3, the other is to show both majors, as Cathy suggests.
C.BALDYSZ: 3NT. My partner and I play 3NT in this sequence to show a distributional raise with at least 6-4 shape.
The problem on this hand is that, if partner is 4-1 in the majors, he is going to choose spades, but you will still probably be better off in hearts.

Partner had Axxx/xx/Axxx/AKx, so you could make 7 (on a 2-1 trump split) but even a small slam in spades would fail on a 4-1 trump break. Here, partner can count 13 tricks (eight trumps and five outside winners) if he can find out that you hold A-K and another king.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 3.11

This deal provides a perfect illustration of the wide difference between the view of our expert panel and the majority of competition entrants. Every single panelist bids a slam. The only question is which suit to play, and they are divided between just two options. By contrast, less than 15% of competition entrants choose one of the two bids selected by the whole panel. and barely 1-in-40 score the magic '10'
Let’s look at the two most popular choices of the competitors. More than a third choose Blackwood, presumably agreeing spades, even though that is very likely the one suit you do not want to play. Imagine that partner shows one key card. You presumably then ask for the trump queen, and he jumps to 6♠ with KQxx/x/KQx/J10xxx. Yes, you want to be in slam, but in one of the minors, rather than spades, where you will need to find the trumps 3-3 to make. The next largest group choose to pass 4♠, which will surely have the benefit of producing a plus score, but that’s about all it has going for it.
Okay, let’s now get to the real crux of the problem. The panel all saw the problem as trying to find the right suit at the six-level, and only a couple even mentioned the possibility of a grand. Let’s hear what each of the two groups of panellists have to say to support their choice.

WANG: 5NT. Choice of contract.
C.BALDYSZ: 5NT. Pick a slam.
HULT: 5NT. Pick a slam.
BIRD: 5NT. Partner does not necessarily hold five clubs. My pick-a-slam 5NT will warn him that I do not hold four spades.
MOULD: 5NT. Pick a slam. Just in case pard is 4-1-4-4 or the like!
S.BALDYSZ: 5NT. I'll be an optimist. Partner is likely to have five clubs, and I'm hoping that the opponents are not bidding their hearts on Jxxxxxx opposite xx. I'll let partner decide by asking him to pick a slam.
DE WIJS: 5NT. We could belong in clubs or diamonds or even spades. Too many possibilities, so I give up on the grand and aim to find the best strain with a pick-a-slam 5NT.
PSZCZOLA: 5NT. It is very important is to know opponent’s style: what kind of hands do they jump and raise with? If they are solid citizens, then I'd say 5NT as slam in a minor looks best.
BERGEN: 5NT. This hand illustrates why doubles of three-level jump overcalls MUST be THRUMP rather than purely Negative.
MARSTON: 5NT. Trying to reach the best slam. Not willing to gamble on the grand.
COHEN: 5NT. Dreaming that partner chooses diamonds. Also, 6♣ would be fine too opposite some minimum like AKxx/x/KQx/J109xx.

I usually pick a “Comment of the Month”, but I want to highlight all of Sjoert’s answers this month, which are a combination of instructive, analytical and entertaining. Thanks, Brinky.
BRINK: 5NT. I can't believe I doubled (showing 4+ spades), instead of bidding 3♠ (good hand without four spades). What? We don’t play that? Anyway, I think my hand is a slam try in clubs now, so I bid 4NT. Oh no, wait, you will think I am asking for aces. Pffff, bridge, so difficult on a different level. Okay, I'll adapt. I bid 5NT, pick a slam. At least we will make sure to play in the right suit.

The primary danger with the pick-a-slam option is that are you sure partner will happily choose what we know is at best a jack-high suit? The rest of the panel all simply bid what they think partner can make.
ROBSON: 6♣. We need to get out of spades and I expect to make about a 12-trick contract. Need I say more?
MEYERS: 6♣. I have no interest in playing spades and I DO have interest in playing a slam.  Partner must have five or more clubs.
LUSKY: 6♣. Trying to get out of spades if partner has only four of them. It seems very likely that partner has 5+ clubs.
BOCCHI: 6♣. I hope to make it.
ZIA: 6♣. He figures to have the right hand, but I hope it's the right shape!!! Put this down as the worst bid of the month (make that year).
SUNDELIN: 6♣. I am hoping for something like AKQx/x/KJx/J10xxx.
COPE: 6♣. We can make the assumption that partner has a stiff heart and therefore 5♣/4♠. Can I find out if partner has the goods for 7♣? I think not, so I will settle for a safe slam.
BROCK: 6♣. Maybe there are other clever things to do, but I’ll settle for the simple approach here. We’ll probably miss a grand – unless I punt one, of course, when it will never make. When they do all this bidding it is much more likely suits will break badly.

Sometimes, you just have to accept that it is too difficult to reach the top spot. At the table, my man bid 6♣, so we missed a 13-top trick grand but, as you can see above, so did an awful lot of very good players. My hand was AKQ10x/--/x/J10xxxxx. Worth a raise of 6♣ to 7, perhaps???


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 4.62

I thought this was the most difficult hand this month, so I was surprised to find the panel producing its largest majority. Far less surprising is that barely 1-in-20 competitors collect top marks. This is the type of situation in which most expert partnerships have developed methods but where average players have to rely much more on guesswork. As is so often the case, the panel also value the hand more highly than most of the competitors. The majority of panellists at least try for game and some bid one, but more than 75% of the competitors settle for either 1♠, 2 or 2♠. Let’s hear what the experts have to say.

MOULD: 2. Then raise spades.
BOCCHI: 2. If partner bid 2♠, I will have to decide whether to raise to 3♠ or 4♠.
PSZCZOLA: 2. I start with a cue bid, and will then raise 2♠ to 3♠ to show only an invitational hand.
LUSKY: 2. A bit pushy but, unless partner can bid 2♠, I don't think we belong in spades. I will raise 2♠ to 3♠, which I think is invitational but not forcing.
MARSTON: 2. Hopefully partner will bid spades, and we can then raise to game.
COPE: 2. I am expecting this hand to go to game in spades, but there are hands where partner may have doubled on strength with only three spades. The pass on my right tends to deny heart support (no support redouble), so partner may have a strong hand without a club stopper. Let us see if he bids 2♠.
MEYERS: 2. If partner bids 2♠, I will raise. If he does something else, my continuation will depend on what that something else is.
BIRD: 2. A few decades ago, I could save space with a strength-showing 2♣ cue-bid. Nowadays some players use 2♣ as natural; others don't know whether it is natural or a cue-bid! I will play safe.
Some play this cue-bid as showing an invitational hand with spades…
DE WIJS: 2. A good 2♠ bid. I know we might belong in diamonds, but I want to maximize the chance of bidding our most likely game.
BRINK: 2. This should be limit+ with spades. 2♣ would be limit+ with diamonds.
HULT: 2. I will make a game try with four spades.
Only Marty would have taken action on the previous round.
BERGEN: 2. I believe that partner might have three spades only. FYI: I definitely would have overcalled 1.
The rest settle for a direct spade bid. But how many?
WANG: 2♠. Invitational.
COHEN: 2♠. Right on values. Sure, I'd like better spades, but then you wouldn't have presented this as a problem.
BROCK: 3♠. 4♠ looks a bit much if partner can’t raise.
Or, even…
ROBSON: 4♠. It's a big double fit so, although the total tricks may be lower than expected due to all the stuff I have in my short suits, I feel I should go straight to 4♠ to block.
ZIA: 4♠. This must have a chance, although I am nervous that partner has short clubs. But, AKxx/xxxxAQxx/x would be enough or close to enough. 3♠ ignores the double fit.
Whilst Sophia is flying solo at the other even of the scale…
S.BALDYSZ: 2. Partner should have four spades for his double, but in some cases he might have only three. Does the pass by South show something special (not three hearts maybe)? I'll bid my longest suit for now - as everyone's bidding, game hardly seems likely

Partner had KQ10x/Kxx/KQxxx/J so a diamond ruff beats 4♠ and a spade ruff might beat 4. You can make nine tricks in either suit but diamonds is safer perhaps. A point worth checking with your regular partner – is 2♣ natural or a cue-bid in this auction?


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 7.24

A couple of panelists rather missed the point of this problem…

MOULD: 4NT. Stupid problem. Some play double as penalties (since you have not doubled 2) and some play as a very light and/or very flawed takeout double. Without an annotation as to which, how can we get the problem right?

Sure, serious partnerships may well have an agreement about this double, but when you sit down facing the proverbial ‘unknown expert’, you certainly will not have discussed this auction. So, you have to judge what to do, as partner’s bidding box does not contain either a ‘Penalty Double’ card, nor one that says ‘Takeout Double’. So, Alan, I beg to differ with the ‘stupid problem’ description, since the voting confirms that many of our readers would be in a quandary if this auction occurred at the table (as was the person who held the hand in an international event). A majority of our experts had no doubt…

BOCCHI: Pass. For me, this is a penalty double.
BROCK: Pass. I think this is a penalty double.
BRINK: Pass. When partner likes to double, I like to collect....
MARSTON: Pass. Partner just made a penalty double. That’s fine with me. Indeed, I might have doubled 4 myself if he hadn’t.
DE WIJS: Pass. This double is for penalties in my book. I have no reason to believe that partner’s values will translate to useful ones for playing 5♣.
MEYERS: Pass. I am playing partner for a strong NT, wanting to defend.
S.BALDYSZ: Pass. I'm assuming an initial double by partner would have been for takeout (no defense indicated in the system). I'll protect my plus score now.

I have to agree with Simon’s view…
HULT: Pass. As partner could not make a takeout double of 2, he cannot have a vulnerable takeout double of 4. This double is for penalties.

BIRD: Pass. It is not possible for partner to have a take-out double now, but not immediately over 2. At this vulnerability, opponents often take liberties with weak-twos (their cheerleader being our current director), so a big penalty should be on the way.
PSZCZOLA: Pass. A double of 2 would have been for takeout, so this double is a proposition to play here.
A couple of panelists have flexible agreements about the double, but even then do not come to the same conclusion…
ROBSON: Pass. I think the meaning of partner's delayed double is very vulnerability-dependent. Here, at red, I can't see that he would deem it safe to back in with a take-out double. Ergo, I pass as partner is surely taking a shot with good major-suit holdings.
COHEN: Pass. Most play this delayed double as "either/or", where their partner is supposed to know from his own hand whether it is penalty or light takeout. With my singleton heart, I am guessing the former. Favorable-vul opponents sometimes try to steal and I am hoping North has one of those Q10xxx crazy preempts and South maybe Kxx in hearts.
ZIA: 5♣. What is this double? I play it as two-way, so that it can be penalty if I MUST be void. So, this is the shape with a flaw, I guess.
BERGEN: 5♣. All good pairs MUST have an agreement as to a delayed double after a pre-empt has been raised. This is true whether the preempt was a one or two-suiter. Since no agreement was stipulated here, I am forced to guess.
Only a few thought double was clearly for takeout.
WANG: 4NT. Maybe partner is 2-2-4-5 or 3-1-5-4, and thus not suitable for a double on the first round.
With opener showing both majors, would a double of 2 not suggest exactly this type of shape?
C.BALDYSZ: 4NT. Minors.
COPE: 5♣. Partner is not looking to turn 50 into 100 by doubling for penalties, and they do not know that 100 might be 300 as my values are undisclosed. Therefore, partner is doubling for takeout, but I do not quite have the values to proceed to slam.
Only John thought it worth venturing beyond game.
LUSKY: 5NT. Obviously, this depends on what the delayed double means. I think it is takeout of hearts. If so, I have a great hand. We might need to play in diamonds if partner has something like AJxx/xx/Q109x/AQJ.

In addition to the meaning of double, another interesting question that arises from this auction is whether 4♠ (by East) would be natural or for takeout. (And, for that matter, what 2♠ on the previous round would have meant.) It is worth checking to make sure you are on the same wavelength as your regular partner.

When the hand occurred in the Under-26 Women’s Teams at the Channel Trophy, the French West bid 4NT (minors). Partner pulled to 5♣, which left North to find the winning spade lead from AQx/98xx/Q10x/AQx. The East hand was xxx/AKJ10/xx/J8xx, and the heart lead let her discard both spades and guess the trumps for an overtrick (+620). Of course, passing the double produces a painless +800 as you have three diamond winners and four trump tricks.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 6.41

This is a relatively straightforward judgement question: do we go beyond game to make a slam try or do we sign off? The panel votes 15-6 in favor of positive action, which is why the choice (4) of over two-thirds of competition entrants scores only 6/10. For a change, let’s hear first from the minority choice…

MOULD: 4. This is a problem?
Apparently so, Alan.
BOCCHI: 4. I don’t know. I would have bid 4 over 2!
Perhaps we will try to find out in a future month, but I suspect most would expect that to show a good hand on the principle that you do not pre-empt over a pre-empt.
WANG: 4. Maybe we can make 6, but who knows?
BIRD: 4. 4 only shows a sound raise to game, so I will need another bid from partner to consider a slam.
BROCK: 4. Call me a wimp! I know I have an eight-card suit, but I still don’t have many high cards.
The rest all make a try. The next question is, with what?
BERGEN: 4♠. Once again, the sky's the limit. I have always believed in "the magic of voids."
PSZCZOLA: 4♠. Cue-bid, cooperating with partner.
MEYERS: 4♠. I am cue bidding 4♠. I just have too many hearts to not make some try.
LUSKY: 4♠. I think 4 promises heart support, so 4♠ is a cue-bid. If partner bids 5♣, I will continue with 5.

ZIA: 4♠. I like this hand. So, I go on, on and on (like the song in ‘Titanic’ but, hopefully, with a different ending).

MARSTON: 4♠. Close, but I am not willing to sign off with two first round controls and a suitcase full of spare trumps.
S.BALDYSZ: 4♠. Even with few points, slam or even a grand is still possible now that partner has a heart fit. I'll keep my options open for now.
COPE: 4♠. Partner has a good raise to 4 and, although light on points, I do have an eight-card suit, so I am worth one try towards slam.
Some choose to show their void.
DE WIJS: 5. A lot to be unhappy about. First of all, I want to overcall 4 over their 2 opening. At this vulnerability, I don’t play that as a strong hand. Second of all, 4♣ with partner should be a slam try for hearts. But, here we are. I will make another try and at least inform partner that any diamond values are a complete waste.
HULT: 5. Only 8 HCP but a lot of shape. I hope partner has the right cards.
BRINK: 5. Having an eight-card suit is huge. My diamond void is perfect, and 5 should show a void... Now partner can decide.
Andrew has an alternative theory that regular partnerships might think worthy of discussion.
ROBSON: 5♣. I'll practice what I preach (for four marks), namely that the first bid after major-suit agreement is length-showing and natural, effectively asking for help in that suit.
And a couple think they already know the answer.
COHEN: 6. This just feels right. Partner has heart support and I see no scientific way to find out if slam is laydown (Qxx/AJxx/Jx/AK10x) or no play (KQxx/QJxx/Ax/Axx).

At the table, partner had K10xx/AQx/Qxx/KQx, so 6 was an excellent spot.

A surprisingly low-scoring set sees the field led by Jacek Pszczola and Sjoert Brink, both scoring 77/80. The podium is completed by Jill Meyers with 74/80. A special mention to this month’s guest panelist, John Lusky, who records his third consecutive score in the 70s to lead the new annual competition a quarter of the way through the year.

Our thanks, as always, to members of the panel. See you all again next month.

The Expert Panel

Sjoert BRINK3Pass345NT2Pass577
Jacek PSZCZOLA35NT345NT2Pass4♠77
Jill MEYERS35♠2♠4♣6♣2Pass4♠74
David BIRD35♠1♠45NT2Pass473
Marty BERGEN35♠345NT25♣4♠72
John LUSKY35♠346♣25NT4♠72
Simon HULTPass5♠345NT2Pass571
Alan MOULD35♠345NT24NT471
Sally BROCK35♠34♣6♣3♠Pass469
Larry COHEN361♠45NT2♠Pass668
Tim COPE35♠2♠46♣25♣4♠68
Andrew ROBSON35♠1♠46♣4♠Pass5♣68
Paul MARSTON4♣5♠2♠5♠5NT2♥Pass4♠67
Sophia BALDYSZ35♠1♠55NT2Pass4♠66
Norberto BOCCHI362♠46♣2Pass466
Erik SAELENSMINDE5♣5♠34♣6♣2♠Pass666
P.O. SUNDELIN4♣5NT346♣2Pass4♠65
Simon DE WIJS3NT61♠45NT2Pass562
Zia MAHMOOD4♣6346♣4♠5♣4♠61
Wen Fei WANG3NT5NT345NT2♠4NT461
Cathy BALDYSZ4♣5♠23NT5NT2♠4NT447
TOP SCORE35♠345NT2Pass4♠


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


HAND 1:                                5.53
HAND 2:                                3.87
HAND 3:                                5.02
HAND 4:                                4.99
HAND 5:                                3.11
HAND 6:                                4.62
HAND 7:                                7.24
HAND 8:                                6.41

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40 comments on “March 2023 Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge”
  1. I would like to refer to some comments referring to the Polish Trefl system (we speak Wspólny Język, Common Language)
    1. with a hand 3, we will NOT open a 1D bid. A 1D/H/S opening is limited to a strength of 11-17 PC, a stronger hand is necessarily 1C (artificial). The strength will be clarified by further bidding. I will add: opening 1C DOES NOT PROMISE clubs.
    2. In Polish Club, the answer 1D is artificial and usually (not always) means a strength of 0-6 PC. Rebid 2D is also artificial, meaning23+ HCP (not 18+).
    3. The hand is very difficult to outbid in Polski Trefl, here SAYC gives a wider field for description.
    Well, every system has pros and cons, but there are also better and worse players.

  2. IMP,S , bid slow to show your hand an value, or drive to game. you can,t have it both ways. i don,t agree with 1/2 the bids made as top bids.

  3. Is the idea to pick what the biggest group of panellists says or to pick the best bid regardless to get the best score? I knew that 4C was a better bid but entered with 4D instead as I knew more of the panel would choose that. As 4 panellists chose 4D and only 3 chose 4C, surely I should get the 8pts and the 4C bidders the 7 points?!

  4. And I have just submitted for round 4 and did not receive a confirmation email for that either.

  5. hand 5 :
    after auction 4NT and answered other than 5s (2+Q) we bid 6C
    If after 5NT could choose 6C with KQxx & Vxxxx
    this and now will say PASS or in fear 6D 🙂
    It's easy to guess, we don't know about Qs
    so we don't ask about Q club up to 7s

  6. I remember from last time - that I could not see my bid ( nor did I see the email) so this time I took a quick picture of the board and my answer with my phone - Easy to compare ! PS. I did quite well 👍

  7. For all the people who say they don't know what answers they put - you've got an email stating what your answers were! No wonder the standard of bridge is coming down - you're all too lazy - you want everything spoon fed to you!

  8. I play on an iPad sow it is difficult to see my bids it would also be beneficial if the correct bid is highlighted. The average score is confusing when one cannot compare what the bid was at the time. One cannot learn from this as many of us don’t know all the conventions.

  9. Louis Sokol, thank you for that information. I searched my email back to mid-January for anything with ACBL in the "from" line. I found lots of messages but not one that contained my bids. It's possible that I deleted it without realizing that I would receive expert commentary about those responses at some point. I agree with others that showing my bids alongside the others, but understand that may not be possible. If not, at least an explanation in the email with our answers that says KEEP this email if you want to see the expert commentary that you will receive (approximate expected date).

    1. Hi Faramarz, thank you for your participation in the Bidders Challenge, we understand your suggestion and we'll take it into consideration. 🙂

  10. Yes, I agree. I would like to see MY bid also, so that I could compare with the Experts. I would also like to see the breakdown in individuals hands instead of just the total, and the average scores for each hand.

    1. Hi Carol, thank you for your feedback. We'll take note of your suggestion. Thank you for participating in the Bidders Challenge! 🙂

  11. The shorthand explanation of 2H on problem 7 was really confusing, and I had no feel for the bid without context of the opponents’ system. Simply knowing this was a U26 would have changed my answer.

  12. Agree 100% with my predecessors....not having much time,
    I haven't understood the principle of it...sry, 🙂

    1. Hi oscho, thank you for your feedback and participation in the Bidders Challenge. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience caused. If you have any specific questions or would like some clarification on the game principles, feel free to contact us by email and we'll be happy to assist you. Thank you again for your feedback. 🙂

    1. Hi SY, we encourage you to double-check your email for the submitted bids as they were automatically sent once you clicked 'submit'. Thank you for your participation and feedback. 🙂

    1. Hi Antonia, thank you for your comment and feedback. We'll try to improve our game. Hope you still found the Bidders Challenge as a fun experience!

    1. Hi, Libby, thank you for your feedback, and we appreciate your participation in the Bidders Challenge. We apologize for any inconvenience caused. We hope you continue to enjoy the Bidders Challenge. 🙂

  13. Agree with 2 published comments from Vivek and Milind - show my answers next to expert ones. Also, could do without "smarty pants" comments from A Mould

  14. Your player bids were sent to you in a follow up email. I save that email in a designated folder to review my answers when the results email comes in. That works just fine!

  15. You should put in each result the player's bid.... i have not saved neither took note of my bids....

    1. Hi Duarte, thank you for your feedback. We understand your concern and we'll try to improve our games. We encourage you to make sure inputting a correct email when submitting Bidders Challenge as your answers will be automatically sent to your email. Thank you for participating in the Bidders Challenge. 🙂

    1. Hi Milind,
      Thank you for your feedback. 🙂
      We understand and we'll take that into consideration. In the meantime, we hope you still found the Bidders Challenge to be a fun and engaging experience. 🙂

  16. Once I submit my answers I don't get to see them. In digital age it's not correct to expect me to record them on paper.
    Pl let us see our answers beside expert answers.

    1. Hi Vivek, thank you for your feedback. 🙂
      We're sorry for any confusion, but the answers you submitted were automatically sent to your email once you clicked 'submit'. Please make sure you put the correct email when you fill the form before you choose the bids. Anyway, we appreciate your suggestion. Thank you again for participating in the Bidders Challenge. 🙂