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Vandana Widvans and I signed up for a B4F tourney on BBO and this hand soon came up:

South
K5
10842
AQJ86
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
?

3 had its attractions but could lose the heart suit and/or expose the K. I chose to bid 3; LHO bid 3 and I faced another decision when partner and RHO passed this back to me. Now what! I doubled thinking this bid best expressed my values and my desire to compete further but this proved to be a disastrous decision when Vandana passed - and 3 was unbeatable. 

Vandana is a supportive partner and her first reaction was that her takeout double had led to the disaster. You'll see her hand shortly and agree that her double is perfectly normal. These are the kinds of hands that BW polls are made for and I dutifully posted my hand. The results left me underwhelmed:

Pass: 67%

4D: 22%

3NT: 9%

Double: 2%

I found it hard to accept that pass should have so much support. Surely my hand had better potential vulnerable at IMPs than this response indicated   I circulated the hand to my local gurus, and they also favored pass.  There was nary a vote for double. Even my 3 bid caught flak. Predictably, my 3 bid had also generated some discussion in the BW poll and the "odd but not irrational" description seemed to carry the day.

I thought the discussion on my 3 bid distracted from the real issue on this hand i.e. what is the best continuation for me at my third bid. Pass seemed pusillanimous; 3NT seemed misguided; 4 was fine and yet I continued to feel that there had to be a more flexible way to express the values and potential of the hand. As one poll respondent pointed out with the bidding to this point the hand would play double dummy and we all know that is always worth something!   

 

Here is the entire the entire deal:

West
AQ8632
A5
974
A9
North
97
KQJ3
K105
K1042
East
J104
976
32
QJ653
South
K5
10842
AQJ86
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
3
3
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

4 by South is cold. The hand does play double dummy. And it was important to protect the K in 4. But we weren't there!

I decided on an experiment and re-posted my hand as a second bidding poll on BW but with the spade suit two small and the the club suit Kx. This change in black kings galvanised the respondents:

4D: 65%

Pass: 32%

4H: 3%

The K was perceived to be working and valuable and over 2/3rds of the respondents bid on. The support for pass had halved, but the earlier minuscule support for double had evaporated! 

My experiment also turned out to have an unexpected consequence. I had mentally switched the two black kings between North and South, and if you do this you'll see that 4 cannot be made anymore!! Really? Yes, really!!!

The K with South immobilizes West, and allows South to discard dummy's spades. The K with North frees West to cash his ace. The seemingly badly placed K was actually very well placed from an offensive standpoint. Further, while switching the black kings reduced N/S' offensive potential, it did nothing to diminish E/W's offensive potential - 3 still makes.

This search had headed into uncharted territory!    

     

To return to the question of the best call at my third turn, consider this South hand:

South
KJ5
10842
AQJ86
8

Assume the bidding has followed the original hand and for this hand at my third turn 3NT is a viable candidate, being IMPs and vulnerable. No doubt, a penalty double, if available, will also find strong support. One poll respondent had suggested double to show "cards". Another poll respondent had suggested that double should be for takeout. Had RHO supported spades I would find this acceptable, but with RHO silent N/S need to be able to show spade "cards".

The main reason the BW community had passed 3 originally was due to the perception that the K was an offensive liability; however, the test hand had debunked this perception and some way had to be found to move forward. So the question remains what is the best way to proceed? On this hand 4 works, since partner will convert to 4. On a different North hand ( say, no four hearts ) though, 4D may not work and we need another bid.   

Double is always a good candidate where we are looking for flexibility. If we agree that a double shows "cards" defined as a spade holding of Qx or better but not a double stopper, this is definitely playable. As a passed hand, the double would obviously show a maximum in context; and for an unpassed hand, double would show at least an opening bid.

With this agreement, on the hand under discussion, North would respond 4H. With a different hand, North could bid 3NT and if that's not an option 4 as pass or correct. Even pass, where appropriate, for a juicy penalty.   

One swallow does not a summer make and Vandana and I are still discussing all this, but we have made a good start in this search for an agreement. 

 

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