December 2023 Panel Comments: BBO Bidders Challenge

Conducted by Marc Smith

Set 2023-12

Welcome to the final set of the 2023 annual competition and, what will be the final Bidders Challenge on BBO for a while.

Our guest panelist this month is Jim Streisand, a 67-year-old from Wayland, MA who was the solo winner of the October competition with a perfect 80/80. Jim rarely plays in live tournaments but is an active participant in many of the BBO fest robot tournaments. He has won several robot stars and platinum events and had the highest individual score in a country vs country tournament.

A couple of this month’s deals were sent to me by regular panelists; Hand 2 from Barnet Shenkin and Hand 6 from Marty Bergen. Thanks to both of them. 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 produced a majority choice on only three of this month’s hands. Remarkably, we also have four hands on which the panel voted for six or more actions. This may mean that it turns out to be a high-scoring set if there are a few hands on which multiple bids attract close to top marks. However, the most popular action chosen by the competition entrants scored a ‘10’ on only one hand this month. Voting with the largest group of competition entrants would have given you a score of only 45/80 (down from 51 last month). The average score is respectable 45.26 (up from 38.79 on Set 2023-11). There is clearly plenty to be learned from the views of our expert panel, so let’s get to it…

Find your bids here and compare your answers with those of the panel.



ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)
5♣ 7 2 9.0
3NT 7 2 7.4
Pass 5 126.0
4♣ 5 124.0
6♣ 5 1 2.6
4♠ 2 0 9.0
3♠ 0 0 6.4
4NT 0 0 0.5
6♠ 0 0 0.3
5♠ 0 0 0.2
4 0 0 0.1
5 0 0 0.1
5 0 0 0.1
5NT 0 0 0.1
7♣ 0 0 0.1

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.28

Remember that the premise in this feature is to assume you are playing with a good but unknown player with whom you have not had detailed discussion about system. You must interpret partner’s bids on that basis and make bids that you think he will be able to understand. Of course, whilst serious partnerships may have discussed this auction, anyone playing with a relatively unfamiliar partner will not have done so. A set of general principles that apply in undiscussed situations is a good idea even for regular partnerships. The obvious question here, is whether partner’s double is for penalties or for takeout/showing general values.
Of the 22 members of this month’s panel, only three thought that double should be for penalties, hence the relatively low marks for the Pass that attracted the largest group of competitors. The lesson is that in this type of auction you should expect partner’s double to be for takeout or just showing general values, rather than being for penalties. Do not be influenced by your void heart. This hand produced the panel’s largest majority vote of the month, so let’s hear why…

WANG: 4. I think double is take out.
S. BALDYSZ: 4. East’s double should be for takeout.
HULT: 4. For me, double is takeout.
VILLAS-BOAS: 4. I am not sure if this double is penalty or takeout. If penalty, I would pass and, if takeout, I bid 4.
MEYERS: 4. I play that double of 3 is takeout, so I have enough to start with a cue-bid.
BRINK: 4. Offering a choice of games. I don't see any alternative. Sorry...
Nor do many of the others, so this ranks as one of your better predictions, Sjoert.
HUNG: 4. A good start for slam hunting.
DE WIJS: 4. Assuming partners double is takeout, I will start with a choice-of-games 4 bid.
Probably I will try for slam over 4♠ from partner.
COPE: 4. Double should just be showing values, rather than penalties. I have a great hand with minor suit kings well placed if needed.
BERGEN: 4. I am just doing the best I can. Follow-ups after doubling a weak no-trump are often EXTREMELY difficult.
ROBSON: 4. I assume double is values/take-out. It's certainly tempting to punt 6♣, expecting that if it's on a finesse through South, that finesse will work. We may as well start with 4 though, no harm in that

STREISAND: 4. How many partnerships have discussed whether this double is for penalties? I don’t think it should be. If partner’s doubt is not penalty, we could potentially make a slam. Picture KQxx of spades and a minor suit king. Finesses, if needed, are likely to be on. If partner’s double turns out to be penalty or he doesn’t have four spades, I’ll retreat to 5♣ over his likely 4NT bid. 

A handful took a different approach…
MARSTON: 4♣. What is partner's double? Time to show my true colours.
BROCK: 5♣. Surely, the only reason I’m thinking this might be a penalty double is because I am void! Would like to bid 4 really, but not without discussion.
MOULD: 6♣. For me, double is takeout. I can never intelligently bid a grand slam, so I will just bid what really ought to have a good chance.
And those who think double is for penalties…
BIRD: Pass. This is surely a penalty double. I can turn a blind eye to my void heart with the three aces.
COHEN: 3NT. I could have used one more footnote, but I am guessing partner's double is for penalties. If so, I a-void defending with voids and will try for +600 here. If I've misread partner's double, this is likely a disaster.
Putting in a footnote to say what the double was would have defeated the objective of finding out what the panel think it should be.
Only one didn’t like the double of 1NT…
SUNDELIN: Abstain. As apparently our agreement seems to be that double says I believe we can beat INT (nothing about shape) then it is a guess if partner's double is or should be the same.When the hand occurred at the table, East thought double was for penalties, and the pair therefore reached the inferior 5♣. In future, partner will know to bid 3NT with Qxx/AJ9x/Kxxx/xx. 3NT makes easily, but you might lose two spades and a club in 5♣. Opposite a non-penalty double, 4 will surely put you on your way to bidding what should be a good slam.


ActionMarksPanel votesCompetitors' Entries

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.99

Not quite a majority of the panel for a single action, but a significant favourite nonetheless. Also, if you add the votes for 5 and 6to those for 5NT, as they are effectively doing the same thing by offering partner a choice of major-suit slams, that makes a big majority. The one thing that all but one member of the panel agree on is that the most popular choice of competition entrants, 4, is certainly not enough on this hand.

BROCK: 5NT. Choice of slams.
BERGEN/HULT/BIRD: 5NT. Pick a slam. After the expected 6♣, I will follow with 6.
COHEN: 5NT. I will convert the likely 6♣ to 6. I have no reason to guess to blast to 6 when partner might have something like 10xx/x/Kxx/AKQJxx.
HUNG: 5NT. Pick a slam’. I am planning to convert 6♣ to 6. Hopefully, partner is brave enough to convert to 6♠ with 3-1-3-6 shape.
DE WIJS: 5NT. Pick a slam, intending to bid 6 over 6♣, obviously. This route should show more hearts than spades, as I also had the option of bidding 6directly with equal length or longer spades.
SHENKIN: 5NT. I bid 6 at the table.
S. BALDYSZ: 5NT. I'm pretty much shooting in the dark. Both game, slam and a grand might be right... Partner may have just clubs, but if he has the K we should be in slam at least. If he has 6-4 in the blacks, then spades will be better. I'm an optimist. Pick a slam - after 6♣ I will correct to 6.
And, with similar intentions…
WANG: 5. if partner bids 6♣, I will bid 6 showing spades and hearts.
COPE: 5. Initially, this may sound like a cue agreeing clubs but, when I convert 6♣ to 6, partner will get the message. I just hope I can get to dummy to take the heart finesse if needed.

MOULD: 5. Marvelous! I will bid this, which agrees clubs, and then bid 6 over 6♣. That ought to show the majors. Even if partner is confused, there is little they can do about it.

VILLAS-BOAS: 6. Majors.
ROBSON: 6. Presumably. Michaelesque. This way, we get to spades when partner has three low spades and a singleton heart.
This seems a particularly dangerous way of accomplishing the same objective: How happy are you going to be if it goes ‘All Pass’?
Of those who simply chose to bid their longest suit, only one chose the very low road…
SUNDELIN: 4. Cowardly, but partner may have xx/x/Kxx/AKTxxxx.
One was a bit more adventurous…
MEYERS: 5. I hope that partner will raise if he has the A or K. It may be right to go low and just bid 4(as I could be going down at the five-level) but it feels like I have too much to give up completely on slam.
And the rest went for all of the marbles.
BRINK: 6. Great problem! I have no idea. I will choose the road more traveled, but it’s a complete guess.
STREISAND: 6. I can’t think of any way to find out about the K, so I’m just going to gamble that partner has it. It’s a reasonable gamble, since partner has shown more strength than both opponents. I considered 5NT (pick a slam) and following the likely 6♣ bid with 6, but I’m worried that partner might interpret 5NT as GSF. And you never know, I could get very lucky another way, if partner has the A without the K or the ♠10, providing an entry for a successful heart finesse.
MARSTON: 6. I do not like gambling on slam, but this must be a decent bet?The conservatives would have won the day at the table, as partner held xxx/J/Qx/AKQJ10xx. 6♠ would just have needed a 3-2 heart break if partner had ♠10xx but, without the ♠10, you probably need the K to ruff down doubleton. 6 has no chance, but you probably make only 11 tricks in clubs, hearts or spades, so the odds are that you will get a flat board whichever slam you bid..


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)
4NT106                         18.6

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.75

Well, eight different actions chosen by panelists, and none of them attracting more than 30% of the votes, so this one should be fun to mark and you would think that nearly everyone would score relatively well. However, the only thing that most members of the panel are sure about is that the Pass chosen by nearly 50% of the competitors is not right.
This deal came from this year’s Crockfords final and partner could perhaps have made things easier for us by bidding 3♠ on the previous round. But, playing in an unfamiliar partnership, he was not 100% sure that 3♣ was game-forcing and therefore that 3♠ would be forcing, so he decided that he didn’t need to risk it and he followed the route presented above. Let’s start with one of the worst predictions in the panel’s history…

BRINK: Pass. I guess no one will do different.
WANG: Pass.
Cathy was the only other one not at least trying for slam.
DE WIJS: 5. We should reward partner for going through the trouble of bidding 3 before bidding 4♠.
BERGEN: 5. As 3♣ is game-forcing, partner's auction should be a slam try, but not promising a diamond control.
Andrew and Alan both flirted with the most popular alternative…
ROBSON: 5. Weird 3NT bid! I'd like to bid 4NT RKCB now, as partner has shown a big hand, but 5 could do it. We'll play 6/7♠, not less.
MOULD: 5. I don't understand 3NT. On the other hand, I seem to have a very good hand for spades in context. I don't want 4NT to be misunderstood, so I will try this.
A few found it quite straightforward…
VILLAS-BOAS: 4NT. He has a good hand with good spades, so it’s Blackwood time.
BIRD: 4NT. RKCB. He is showing a giant hand. I am happy to play in spades.
HULT: 4NT. Partner has a good hand for spades. I doubt we can make a grand after the 2 bid, but can it cost to try Blackwood before bidding 6♠?
MEYERS: 4NT. Partner went out of her way to cue-bid on her way to 4♠, so I have too much to pass. I will bid on with 4NT, RKCB.
STREISAND: 4NT. Partner’s sequence must show a hand stronger than bidding 3♠ then 4♠ or jumping to 4♠ over 3♣. So, I must have what is needed for slam, with a diamond control and finesse(s) likely to be on if needed. 4NT should be Blackwood here, rather than a retreat to 4NT as, with a bad hand for the auction, I’d just pass 4♠. 5NT is a strong second choice, in case partner’s spades aren’t solid and he has secondary club support, but I’m not sure partner would bid 6♣ over 5NT with only stiff king or even Kx of clubs and non-solid spades. 
And a few did choose that option.
BROCK: 5NT. Choice of slams.
COHEN: 5NT. 3♠ would have been forcing (over 3♣), so I suppose partner is trying to show a really strong hand. For the second deal in a row, I'll try pick-a-slam, even though it never seems to score well in these bidding contests.
It scored ‘10’ twice last month, and not far off here.
MARSTON: 5NT. Why did I bid 3NT with no diamond stopper? Now I have to guess what to do. It seems that partner intended 3 as a slam try. I accept - she can choose the suit.
After scoring a ’10’ on ten consecutive hands, Sophia has to settle for 9 on this one.
S. BALDYSZ: 5NT. Why did I bid 3NT after 3? It looks like partner has a good hand with spades, but why didn't he bid 3♠? I'm pretty sure he has more or less solid spades but, with a doubleton club, 6♣ might be better.

Tim is as confused as I usually am most of the time.
COPE: 5♠. I am not sure what partner is up to here, and I'm not sure I knew either - why did I not bid 3 over 3 by partner? Why did partner not repeat spades earlier, which would have been forcing after my 3♣ bid? Hopefully this bid will ask for trump quality, or maybe it is just another weird bid in a dystopian auction.

Andy and Erik have an alternative solution.
HUNG: 6♣. Partner’s 3 bid suggests he has a good hand with a partial club fit. If he had a single-suited spade hand, he could've just rebid 3♠ to begin with.
As do both P.O. and Barnet.

Partner had AKQ10xxx/xxx/Ax/K, so 13 tricks were easy, but only the Blackwood bidders rate to reach the grand.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 7.22

This is my Christmas gift to competitors and is easily the highest-scoring hand of the month. This was essentially a two-horse race for the panel, and both answers score well. It is also the only deal this month on which the largest group of competitors pick up maximum marks. Let’s see if either faction gets the better of the debate…

BERGEN: Dbl. Partner may not sit for it but, as N/S have at most eight hearts, I would be happy to defend 3-X.
ROBSON: Dbl. Most flexible and economical. The danger is partner not bidding 3NT with some 2-2-5-4 hand with only one heart stopper. Otherwise, we should hit the top spot with double followed (over, say, 4♣) with 4♠.
VILLAS-BOAS: Dbl. It sounds like North has opened with only four hearts, so I give partner a chance to defend. Over 3♠, I’ll raise, but I’ll pass 3NT, which could be better than 4♠ even with a 5-3 fit.
SUNDELIN: Dbl. Lacking suitable methods, card-showing.
S. BALDYSZ: Dbl. It doesn't look like partner has many hearts, but it’s highly likely that North opened with a four-card suit, unless South likes to jump around with three-card support. If partner bids 3♠ I will raise to 4♠.
HULT: Dbl. It looks like North has a light third-seat opening. The good news is that hearts are breaking 4-4 if we play in 3NT.

Sally has a very useful agreement for this auction.
BROCK: Dbl. I would play this like 1NT-(3), when I think most would play double is 4+ spades, and partner bids 3♠ with three and 4♠ with four.

MEYERS: Dbl. I play that a double here shows four or five spades, so that’s clear for me. It feels like partner has the stiff A and maybe five or six solid clubs, and some other card. Regardless, partner can judge what to do.
Most of the rest simply bid their suit…
WANG: 3♠. Natural and forcing.
HUNG: 3♠. Natural and forcing. Keeping it simple.
MARSTON: 3♠. I didn’t open a weak two so it must show something like this.
BRINK: 3♠. What else? Ok, I would double, showing 4+ spades, and we play 3♠ denying spades, but that's just me. In the normal world, 3♠ is the bid.
COHEN: 3♠. Let partner choose which game to play. North could have anything, so I am "brushing off" their auction.
COPE: 3♠. Natural and forcing, and with an air of perplexity, as it sounds as if partner has overcalled 1NT with a singleton heart. Let's see where partner goes next.
MOULD: 3♠. This is a rather strange auction. I suspect partner’s heart stop must be Kx or Ax. Anyway, this is forcing and also guarantees exactly five spades (no weak two opening), so it seems like a good description.
STREISAND: 3♠. It is tempting to double to protect partners heart holding, if he is able to bid spades. However, if partner’s shape is 3-2 in the majors, we might miss 4♠, which could be a better contract then 3NT even if the opponents’ hearts are 4-4. Furthermore, it’s probably not critical to protect partners heart holding since he is behind the opening bidder. I suppose there’s risk that partner might raise spades with 2-2 in the majors and only one heart stopper, but he knows I don’t have six spades (or five good spades) as I didn’t open 2♠.
DE WIJS: 3♠. Hearts rate to be 4-4-3-2, so partner is a favorite to hold 3+♠. Still, I don't want to commit to 4♠ (and right-siding that by bidding 4), so I will start with a mundane 3♠.
David is flying solo on this one.
BIRD: 3NT. I would not be confident what 3♠ meant. Since partner is likely to hold only two hearts, these may be the AQ.The panel clearly answered the primary questions posed by this problem: What is double? 1s 3♠ forcing? Partner had 10x/AQ/Axx/KQJxxx so 3NT was an easy make and either Double or 3♠ should get you to that same spot. You would probably only get +300 from defending 3-X, but partner is unlikely to pass your double with that heart holding.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.45

The panel offer ‘only’ six alternatives on this one, but they still produce a majority choice. The competitors’ most popular choice (a takeout double), which surprisingly attracted almost a third of competition entrants, attracted only one supporter on the panel (and I was surprised it was that many). Let’s hear first from the majority…

MARSTON: Pass. You wanna play spades? Be my guest.
BRINK: Pass. I usually pass, waiting for partner...
COHEN: Pass. Partner will surely be bidding again, and I am dreaming that his next call will be a second double.
Jessica earns ‘Comment of the Month’ honours for her honesty.
LARSSON: Pass. The most difficult call in bridge. I thought I’d give it a try, for a change 😊
MOULD: Pass. I will take them in 50s. What else am I supposed to do?

S. BALDYSZ: Pass. Are the opponents psyching? I'm pretty guaranteed a club fit unless partner has five weak hearts and six diamonds, but maybe he'll double again and we can collect a phone number. Since both opponents bid, it looks like they have points elsewhere and the club finesse might be off.

BIRD: Pass. Partner may double again. Game is not certain our way.
SUNDELIN: Pass. I am hoping for another double from partner. Double by me would be takeoutish.
COPE: Pass. Maybe partner can re-open with a double and lead a club, or maybe partner will just compete. This is not the time to bid in front of him.
VILLAS-BOAS: Pass. I would like to play 2♠-X. If my partner bids 3♣, I will try slam.
ROBSON: Pass. What a funny to-do. I doubt very much partner will pass (he has a void spade, after all) so we're about to learn more. Guessing we're headed for 6♣, but there's time.
Or, should we bid some number of clubs and, if so, how many?
BERGEN: 3♣. Partner has no spades, but that does not mean that he has club support.
WANG: 3♣. I can’t believe they bid 2♠, so I bid 3♣ and wait for support.
DE WIJS: 3♣. An underbid, but at least it's much clearer for partner. Also partner, with a spade void, is very likely to continue.
MEYERS: 3♣. Perhaps I am supposed to pass and try to collect a plus score defending, but I am afraid that if I pass then partner might back in with three of a red suit.
HUNG: 4♣. I don't think I will be getting another double from partner, so I will make the practical bid. Bidding 5♣ may preclude us from bidding a slam (i.e. partner has two top losers in one red suit and may pass 5♣). Over 4♣, he will probably cue-bid if he has the right cards.
STREISAND: 4♣. It’s tempting to pass and hope partner reopens with a double but, with a void in spades, that’s unlikely. More likely, he will bid three of a red suit, and I’ll be forced to bid 4♣, which shows a hand weaker than a direct jump to 4♣ now. My hand is too good to bid just 3♣, so 4♣ it is. If partner has a good club fit and a red ace or two, he’ll have an easy cue bid, so we even have a chance to get to slam if there’s one there. We may need only one spade ruff in partner’s hand (envision a spade opening lead to the J/10, creating a ruffing finesse with the ♠9-8.
Simon and Sally are both flying solo, but in opposite directions.
HULT: 3♠. Let’s look for a slam in clubs!
BROCK: Dbl. For now. I want to give partner the chance to support clubs. I am too strong for 3♣ in my book.

Partner had ---/KQxxxx/10xxx/Kxx, so he is more likely to bid 3♣ or 3rather than double again. 5♣ makes easily enough, even if they lead a trump, but 3NT has five diamonds and a heart to lose.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)
4♣10 816.8
Dbl 9 6 4.2
3♠ 8 612.5
3♣ 5 257.6
3NT 0 0 3.0
5♣ 0 0 1.3
3 0 0 1.2
2NT 0 0 0.8
Pass 0 0 0.5
4NT 0 0 0.3
3 0 0 0.3
4 0 0 0.2
4♠ 0 0 0.2

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 5.87

The panel are essentially split three ways. Although not the largest faction, I think the doublers have the best of the debate, but you can judge for yourself. More than half of competition entrants chose the underbid of 3♣, which was a distant fourth choice for the panel, with only two supporters.

MOULD: Dbl. Takeout. More bidding later.
BRINK: Dbl. Basically, this is the only forcing bid.

Andrew even tells us what he plans to do next…
ROBSON: Dbl. Not ideal, but it's this or a jump to 4♣, which is hardly ideal either. If partner bids 3, I'll grope with 3♠.

And so does Tim…
COPE: Dbl. We are too good for 3♣, so let us start with a takeout double. If partner bids 3, I can then bid 4♣ to show the nature of my hand.
BROCK: Dbl. This hand is too strong for 3♣ for me. Either you play some fancy gadgets in this type of situation or else you need to do quite a lot of guessing! Put me down for lots of guessing!
The second group also keep the option of 3NT alive…
VILLAS-BOAS: 3♠. I will play 3NT, 4 or 5♣. Over 4, I’ll bid 5♣.
BIRD: 3♠. 3♣ is inadequate and 4♣ takes us past 3NT. He will not hold three hearts, so 3NT may be the right spot if he has a spade stopper.
S. BALDYSZ: 3♠. It would have been so much easier if I had opened a Polish Club. As it is, partner might have some spade stop and the K and, with five clubs, we will have nine tricks.
Marty had the hand at the table…
BERGEN: 3♠. I'd love to bid "3 forcing clubs," but that is not allowed. 3NT could easily be our best spot. FYI: I submitted this problem and I am aware that opposite partner's unsuitable minimum, our limit is a partscore.
STREISAND: 3♠. I don’t think the BBO system includes good-bad 2NT but, even if it did, I’m too good to bid just 3♣, so I’m bidding 3♠ to see if partner can bid 3NT. Over partners 4, I’ll have to bid 5♣, which may be too high, but I don’t see any way to avoid this scenario.
From this group, only Andy is not planning to pass even if partner bids 3NT.
HUNG: 3♠. Is 4♣ forcing? I might not take that risk, and start with 3♠ and follow it up with 4♣ (if partner bids 3NT) or 5♣.
The largest faction jump in their suit, although some seem to do so looking wistfully back at 3NT…
HULT: 4♣. A close decision. Double could work if we belong in 3NT.
MARSTON: 4♣. Bad luck if 3NT is the only making game.
WANG: 4♣. Maybe 4 or 5♣ is better than 3NT.
Jill sums up the feeling of most of the panel.
MEYERS: 4♣. I have too much to bid only 3♣.
COHEN: 4♣. I am too strong for only 3♣. 3♠ will get votes, but how would partner know we have a slam if he has, say, Axx/x/Qxxx/J10xxx?
DE WIJS: 4♣. 3♣ would be non-forcing, so that is not an option. We might belong in 3NT, but I will take my chances in 5/6♣.
But there are a couple of dissenters…

As Marty mentioned above, this was one for the underbidders, as partner held a less-than-suitable 10xx/Jx/KQ9xx/10xx. You probably make 3♣ and passing is probably the only other way to go plus. Of course, your best result is defending 2♠-X, probably for +300, but partner will bid surely bid 3 if you double, so there is no way to score the maximum.


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)
4 8 416.6
4NT 8 20.4
5♣ 6 29.9
4♣ 5 123.1
6♣ 2 00.2
4 0 022.0
3NT 0 014.0
Pass 0 010.4
5 0 00.3

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 3.34

This hand turned out to be a disaster for the competitors, and is the only hand this month with an average score below 5/10. One reason is that the largest group (nearly a quarter of competitors) chose a 4♣ bid deemed not enough by all but one panelist. With a maximum for our previous bidding, most of the panel commit to game after partner has made another try, and the majority are looking for slam. There also three groups, each representing over 10% of competition entrants, who went for actions not even mentioned by any panel member. Indeed, that 1-in-10 thinks we should Pass and let partner play in the opponents’ suit is truly mind-boggling.
This is the third and last hand this month on which there is a majority vote from the panel. There are a few hands this month (3, 7 and 8 notably) on which partner could have been more helpful. On this deal, some panelists still catered for partner holding decent diamonds (and they would have reached the best contract at the table) whereas other members of the panel ruled that out as partner did not (but should have) bid 3 rather than 3♠ on his actual hand. The majority concentrated on getting to the best level in clubs…

ROBSON: 4♠. Well, I was very good for 3♣, and I must now show my suitable hand with a spade control.
VILLAS-BOAS: 4♠. Maximum with short spades. It’s what I have.
MEYERS: 4♠. Partner must have long clubs. I have great clubs and a stiff spade, so I feel like I should cooperate.
MARSTON: 4♠. Simply showing my control. Partner can worry about where we land.
WANG: 4♠. I cue-bid and hope partner can bid slam.
MOULD: 4♠. It passes the time of day.

Simon sums up the argument for the majority.
DE WIJS: 4♠. We are a bit too heavy for a jump to 5♣. As we are playing game anyway, I might as well show my spade shortage on the way, in case partner fancies a slam. We are well protected by our pass and 3♣ bid, which limited our hand.

S. BALDYSZ: 4♠. I think 4♣ would be an underbid. It would be good if I had the opportunity to show both diamonds and a club fit here: Maybe 4NT would show that? I am not sure what the standard is in natural systems here. Over Polish Club, I would have bid 3 originally.
HUNG: 4♠. We have a maximum based on our previous bidding. Axx/AKx/x/KJxxxx is certainly possible. One time, partner?
This group moves forward without committing to clubs…
BIRD: 4. This completes a fair description of my shape, and also gets us to our best fit, in whichever minor that may be.
COHEN: 4. I like my hand, and suppose I should introduce diamonds into the picture. Imagine something like xxx/A/AKQx/Kxxxx.
Both Sjoert and Marty preferred a different action on the previous round.
BRINK: 4. I don't understand 3♣. I will apologize to partner for my ridiculous bidding.
BERGEN: 4. At my second turn, I definitely would have preferred a "Scrambling 2NT” bid.  After 3♠, I must make a positive move, but I am far from sure that we belong in clubs.
Tim and Jim try an alternative way of skinning the cat.
COPE: 4NT. My 3♣ bid did not show any extras so, when partner comes again, I should be prepared to play game. There are many hands that partner can have where diamonds will play better, so why not show game values and a five-card diamond suit with one bid?
STREISAND: 4NT. My hand is good enough to force to game. Partner’s shape could be 4-2-3-4, 3-3-3-4 or, less likely, 3-1-4-5, or 2-2-4-5 (although he could have bid 3 instead of 3♠ with those shapes), so diamonds could play better then clubs. I’m hesitant to bid 4 with such weak diamonds and relatively good clubs for the auction. 4NT should be choice of minors and I hope partner is on the same wavelength!
The rest just bid what they think partner can make.
BROCK: 5♣. I think 3♠ is a game try, and I like my hand. His double followed by 3/3 would be forcing in my view, so we must be locked into clubs.

As I mentioned earlier, partner could have helped by bidding 3 as he held Axx/x/AKQx/K109xx (not far off the hand suggested by Larry above). 6 is excellent but not easy to reach. 6♣ looks good on the surface, but may be in danger on a singleton diamond lead – after ruffing a spade in dummy, how do you then get back to hand to draw the last trump?


ActionMarksPanel VotesCompetitors' Entries (%)

Competition Entrants' Average Score: 6.35

This hand produced a very divided panel, with support for passing 2♠ and for bidding all four suits at the three-level. Although the competitors’ most popular choice, Pass, received roughly the same number of panel votes as the alternatives, I have marked it down because 17-of-22 panelists thought it was right to bid on. The only question was, with what?
There were a couple of complaints about the initial 2♣ overcall (some preferring to start with a double), but for most 2♣ is just normal in the modern style. There will also probably be some complaints about partner’s bidding too, but that is what a top international player thought was right at the table, but we can blame him if our choice didn’t work out. Let’s see who gets the best of the debate…

WANG: 3♣. This shows 3-3-1-6 or 3-4-0-6. I’ll wait to see if partner can bid something, but I give him a chance to pass if he has nothing.
STREISAND: 3♣. I’m a bit heavy for just 3♣ but, as partner could easily have only four spades and he hasn’t promised any values, I’m not good enough to go beyond 3♣. Even if partner has five spades, the hand might not play that well on repeated diamond leads. 
COHEN: 3♣. Spades won't play well unless partner happens to have five of them. Picture something like Jxxx/Jxx/xxxx/xx.

VILLAS-BOAS: 3♣. It can be bad to play in spades if my partner has a 4-3-4-2 hand. If he bids 3♠ I will raise him to game.

HULT: 3♣. This gives partner the chance to rebid 3♠ with five of them. Then I will raise.
MARSTON: 3♣. I am not keen on ruffing diamonds with spades. Prefer to ruff them with clubs.
Some thought they were too strong for 3♣…
BROCK: 3. Too good to give up, and he may well have only 4♠, or 5♠/4, so I want to consider alternative strains.
HUNG: 3. I am too strong to take a non-forcing action, so let's start with 3. This hand looks awfully familiar.
S. BALDYSZ: 3. Maybe partner has four hearts and five spades, and we might be better off in hearts.
DE WIJS: 3. A bit too heavy for my taste for a 2♣ overcall, but ok. With 3 now, I feel I have shown something close to this.
Similarly, but perhaps more descriptive…
ROBSON: 3. I think we're a tad good to retreat to 3♣, and I think 3 now must show 3-4-0-6 (there's no other shape consistent). Over to partner...
BIRD: 3. Again, I give a good picture of my shape and strength. Is anything else better?
The rest are happy to play in partner’s suit…
BRINK: Pass. What else?
MEYERS: Pass. Partner could not make a responsive double, so I am going low.
BERGEN: Pass. I indicated previously to the editor that I thought not doubling 1 was totally ridiculous, so I definitely want to now abstain. However, he prefers that I don't do that, so I won't.
MOULD: Pass. Personally, I would start with double and The Koach be damned. Having got to this point I don't see how I can bid more. Partner is screaming weakness.
Only Tim thinks the hand is worth a raise…
COPE: 3♠. 4♠ would be a shot in the dark, and will depend on how good partner's spades are, but they should have enough to move on with either a six-card suit or a rounded-suit ace.

On this hand from the New Zealand National Open Teams final, West at the table passed and 2♠ made 11 tricks when partner had Qxxx/1098x/Jxxx/A. Perhaps you don’t agree with partner's bidding... Is that hand good enough for a responsive double of 2? Should he bid 2 rather than 2♠, even though his spades are better, or is he strong enough to bid 3 showing both najors after our double?
Not that it is likely to matter what you bid – we are going to lose IMPs, as opponents in other room bid and made 6. Yes, it needs the J doubleton on repeated diamond leads but, at the table, North held A-J stiff so it rolled home.

We have two Swedes at the front of this month's pack, Jessica Larsson leading the way with an impressive 77/80. Simon Hult and Miguel Villas-Boas complete the podium, tied with 76/80.

As always, our thanks to all of our panel members for taking the time to both entertain and educate our readers. I will take this opportunity to wish both members of the panel and all of our readers good wishes for the upcoming holiday season.

The Expert Panel

Jessica LARSSON45NT4NTDblPassDbl4♠377
Simon HULT45NT4NTDbl3♠4♣4♠3♣76
Miguel VILLAS-BOAS464NTDblPass3♠4♠3♣76
Andrew ROBSON465NTDblPassDbl4♠375
Sophia BALSYSZ45NT5NTDblPass3♠4♠374
Larry COHEN3NT5NT5NT3♠Pass4♣43♣74
Simon de WIJS45NT53♠3♣4♣4♠372
Paul MARSTON4♣65NT3♠Pass4♣4♠3♣72
Jim STREISAND464NT3♠4♣3♠4NT3♣71
Andy HUNG45NT6♣3♠4♣3♠4♠370
Jill MEYERS454NTDbl3♣4♣4♠Pass69
Wenfei WANG45Pass3♠3♣4♣4♠3♣69
Alan MOULD6♣553♠PassDbl4♠Pass68
David BIRDPass5NT4NT3NTPass3♠4367
Tim COPE455♠3♠PassDbl4NT3♠67
Barnet SHENKIN5♣5NT5NT3♠Pass3♣5♣3♣67
Marty BERGEN45NT5Dbl3♣3♠4Pass66
Sjoert BRINK46Pass3♠PassDbl4Pass66
Erik SAELENSMINDE3NT66♣3♠5♣4♣4♠365
Sally BROCK5♣5NT5DblDblDbl5♣361
Cathy BALDYSZ4Dbl5♣DblPass4♣4♣Pass60
P.O. SUNDELINAbs45DblPass3♣4♠354
TOP SCORE45NT4NT3♠Pass4♣4♠3♣ 

Find your bids here


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


HAND 1:                               5.28
HAND 2:                               5.99
HAND 3:                               5.75
HAND 4:                               7.22
HAND 5:                               5.45
HAND 6:                               5.87
HAND 7:                               3.34
HAND 8:                               6.35

And finally. Are you still looking for the ideal Christmas gift for that bridge-playing friend who has everything? How about the perfect coffee-table book? Find out more about various members of our expert panel in the first of a two-part series that is being published this week. Their stories will entertain you and make you laugh. Some of the greatest players in the world recall their best and worst bridge memories. They talk about their memorable hands, which are both entertaining and sometimes instructive, and they also illustrate that even the best players can have spectacular disasters. The first book in the World Class – 21st Century series, “European Bridge Stars” is available on Masterpoint Press as an e-book. The second part of the series, “Bridge Stars from USA and the Rest of the World” will be available early in the New Year.

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