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All comments by Michael Rosenberg
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I think Geoff's calling his line “reasonable” was somewhat of a euphemism. Rather, it seems to me that all other lines are unreasonable.

The only thing I would add to Geoff's post is how to “decide” between red suit squeeze and double heart finesse. Obviously, if there is no room for 4-card hearts you take the double finesse. For example, if West followed 3 times in each black suit, you must finesse (since you must presume he has the missing DK. And if West has 2 unknown cards (having started with 3 spades and one club), the squeeze is clear. What to do if West has ONE unknown card is beyond my feeble brain, but I'm guessing squeeze is the percentage play.

July 9, 2011
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In attack of Kit's “trick counting” AND Peter's reference to it:

As far as I can see, in the line being discussed (winning SA and playing back a spade), there was no mention of the diamond discard before the “trick counting”. It was only later, in the different line of ducking the spade and winning the S8 at trick two that the diamond discard was mentioned.

Incidentally, I don't think that a sensible East would ever discard from his long suit (the best chance of a serious trick source), when his partner is winning the SJ at trick 2. He MIGHT, if declarer is winning trick 2 (as Kit had it), for fear that a discard in a rounded suit might help declarer in the suit he is about to attack.
July 8, 2011
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I think Kit is correct. Heart to K looks clearly best if S8 wins trick two. The only serious losing case is RHO having A Honor fifth in hearts - and he passed 1D non-vul.

Kit did make an error in his initial analysis. In the line where you win SA and return a spade, and the club finesse is wrong, he said “ the opponents will be taking 2 spades, 1 club, 1 heart, and 2 diamonds”. In fact, they will be taking at least 3 diamonds for down 2 - and if HA is wrong, now S may get squeezed for down 4.

Incidentally, while I agree that ducking SA should logically make West play his partner for it, my experience is that the leader is suspicious and often shifts. So I have succeeded more by having them shift when I started with two little, than I have by inducing a continuation by ducking. But maybe my opponents tend to more suspicious than the average.
July 5, 2011
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It grieves me, but I have to agree with Kit. Not because Debbie made the wrong bid - it just ALWAYS grieves me when i have to agree with Kit.
July 5, 2011
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I am not a mathematician and am probably not understanding something, but it seems to me, in your scenario, that the trailing team should never bid a 100% slam, and always bid a 0% slam.
May 5, 2011
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My first thought was to agree with Geoff and pass 5S (and save in 7D). But I'm worried that this may be the ONLY way the opponents can bid 7S with any comfort.
If I bid 7D immediately, I think it's virtually impossible for them to bid 7S
(if they wouldn't bid it anyway). If I bid 6D and 7D, they CAN make a forcing pass - but will they really be able to sort out how much they need for that? In other words, if advancer has the D void (he needs that for them to have a chance), he might still fear he doesn't have enough to pass. If he's sure he has enough to pass, overcaller might still worry he doesn't have enough to pass.
But If I pass 5S and then bid 7D, now overcaller knows advancer has a D void AND not enough to make a 6D cue over 5S. That information may be enough for them to be on the same wavelength and sensibly bid the grand.

Since their bidding and making 7 is the one thing I want to avoid at all costs (and since I don't wish to pass throughout) I would bid 6D (and then 7D if partner passes).

Having said all that, I still think Geoff's approach is probably the most practical…
May 3, 2011
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“as a matter of technique it is right to play the DJ. The reason is that you are known to hold this card, so playing the jack tells the opponent less about your hand.”

While this is generally true, I don't believe it is here. Both players know you have QJxx(x) (West, because East would duck with AK sixth). So, all playing the jack does is tell both opponents you have the D7.

As to the “doubt redouble”, I have witnessed 3 disasters and no good results over the years. (Of course, if I ever actually had played the convention, maybe I would have witnessed some good results). Meanwhile, I have seen several good results for “penalty redoubles” (though I'm not sure how many of those might have been duplicated by “doubt redouble”.

I have two basic problems with “doubt redouble” (even apart from the danger of a misunderstanding). First, you can't always redouble when you want to (for example, when pass out seat has a lock, he has to pass it out.) Second, just because we have a stopper (or two half-stoppers) in the suit they want led, that doesn't necessarily mean I want to play the contract redoubled - even though I might be willing to take a chance doubled.

On the actual hand, I would redouble with QJ76 - I know they have likely guessed wrong to double.
May 3, 2011
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For the record, I would not bid 4D with Axxx, KQJ, —, KJ10xxx. I'd be too worried about the lack of good trumps AND the rounded aces. I am aware I might miss a good slam, but I also might get too high via 4D - especially if partner has DA.
This is probably part of the root of our disagreement - which hands will bid 4D. The actual hand was very far from a 4D bid for me - which is why I consider 4D a “bigger” mistake than 7S - even accepting that 7S was a mistake.
“Last mistake” is a concept I try to avoid. I believe the two biggest general mistakes made in slam auctions are taking control when you should not, and not taking control when you should. But on thisparticular hand, the general rule does not apply (for me).
April 9, 2011
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Excellent point about the QJ of spades. Interesting that they have HUGE value when partner has only 4-card S, much less when partner has 5-card, and little or no value if longer. So maybe South's 5N bid is very clever - perhaps it implies non-long spades (even if we disagree about how to continue).
I think we can sum our general positions as follows:

Your position:
1) Jumping to 7S will too often reach an inferior grand (I don't think you've contended yet that it could be no play).
2) Bidding 6H will not miss a good grand (and I believe you have defined grand facing AQJx, Kxxx —, KJxxx as not good)

My position:

1) If I bid 6H, partner will almost never accept the try, because there are too many question marks.
2) If I bid 7S, I will reach the grand that is likely to be good if partner “has his bid”. I will also reach some below-par grands, but I take that risk because of my answer to (1).

Quite a difference of opinion! I guess that's what makes horse races.
April 9, 2011
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South would not respond 1H with 4-4 in the majors - he would make a negative double (though that is beside the point). Not likely 4 diamonds, I agree, but not impossible. And even facing Kxxxx, Axx, xxx, Ax grand, while good theoretically, would fail on the fairly normal (and quite likely on the bidding) 3-1 spade break and 4-1 club break.

However, all that is beside the point. You won't be able to convince me that South was wrong to bid 7S unless you at least address the other two points I made, viz:

1) Can South make a grand slam try with K9xx, AQJ, xxx, QJx? If so, North obviously should not consider bidding grand with the AQJx, Kxx, —, Kxxxxx hand. If not, how does South get to grand facing AQJx, Kxx, —AKxxxx or even AQJx, xxx, —, AKxxxx.
If you are saying no, it seems to me that you are saying South can never play his partner to have a “real” 4D bid.

2) Is it not reasonable for North to say to himself “SK, HA, CA, CQ - surely he'd bid a grand himself with that?” So you'll basically never get to grand if you bid 6H?
April 8, 2011
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What if S has K9xx, Axx, xxx, Axx? You certainly wouldn't want to be in grand facing AQJx, KQxx, —, KJxxx. Are you saying S can't try for grand with 3 KC? Aren't you forgetting N could have, say, AQJx, KQxx, —, KQJxx? Or even a better hand?
And what if N has AQJx, Kxx, —, Kxxxxx? He can't know it's “2-2 clubs at worst” - what if S has only a doubleton club? So it might be no play even with good breaks.

This is complicated, but you can't look at the South hand, figure out what hands North can have, and think that North is also considering the same range of hands. North has to consider that he might have held hands with CAK or better trumps.
I won't go into the possibility that S might not have SK.

But, to go even further, maybe I'd want to make a 6H bid with K9xx, AQx, xxx, Qxx (or QJx). How else can I get to grand facing AQJx, Kxx, —, AKxxxx? (now THAT'S a hand to accept a grand slam try!).

Now, I think there might be enough room to sort out all the possible hands North might have (using all the bids with or without pass). But I also think that, without prior agreement, you'd have trouble doing it with your clone, let alone your partner.

I believe, given the cards South holds) that North will almost NEVER accept over 6H. He just has too many worries - SK, CA and CQ. In fact, it is far more likely North will say, “SK, HA, CA, CQ - surely he'd bid a grand himself with that?

”Does the world use 5N both directly and pass-pull to ask for choice between our two suits, direct 5N without grand slam interest and P-X-5N inviting seven? “

I don't think ”the world“ uses this at all. In fact, I'd be impressed with any pair that had an agreement prior to this thread.
If I was being true to my own style, I guess the direct 5N would be ”choice with grand interest." But I've never discussed that, and would not expect my partner to understand that - without prior agreement.
April 8, 2011
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Regarding Martin's idea of 4M-1 being a strong balanced hand I, like Steve, think it is an an excellent thought. In fact, I played something a little bit like that with Zia after 1m-1M(X) - we played 4 of opener's minor as that. On the actual auction while it is not “tax free” as Kit says (by the way, Kit, I think that would apply to over 99% of conventional ideas), it seems clearly worth it. I'm not so sure about 1m(1)-X(3), 4. I'm not so concerned about losing the natural 4, since 4N should be TO and 4 can be bid on a slammish hand. But I AM concerned about wrongsiding 4. So maybe the convention should only be played when partner actually bids his major.

Over 5 there has been talk of the possibility of a Forcing Pass. I play differently from most of the world here; I play the DIRECT bid as the slam try, and pass then pull as weaker (this sometimes works better, and sometimes not). So I play 5S directly as a slam try, and 6C directly would be a natural NF grand slam try.

To the actual auction: it seems to be agreed that 4 was too much (or way too much). Perhaps North was concerned that partner might not picture a diamond VOID if he bid 4, thinking that no hand that could bid 4 would not bid 4 with a void. If that was the case, perhaps he should have tried 3, as Henry suggested. But maybe it was all a deliberate overbid - trying to avoid opponents doubling 5?
I think (without Martin's convention) 4D should be a lightish distributional hand or a balanced hand too good for 3S but not slammish enough for 4D. 4 is any hand too strong for 4S. It promises 4-card support (else double or 3H), but not necessarily a control (one realizes that when considering a hand such as AKQx, Ax, xx, AQ10xx - Andrew gave a similar hand).

The main criticism of South's actions is directed at his final jump to 7. But it's possible his thinking was missed here. Here is what I THINK might have happened: From his standpoint, he believed partner (for his 4 bid) must have AQ, K, VOID, K and either Q or more than 5-card clubs. So he bid 5N (pick-a-slam). He believed that partner (with no Q AND HOLDING THE SPADE AQ) would ONLY “choose” clubs if he had at least 6 of them. So while he did not necessarily want to play grand facing 5-card (though maybe he would have over 6), he WAS willing to play there facing 6-card - at worst he would (basically) be on a 3-2 break (and with J, he would be virtually cold).
I think the hand that Kit gives; AQJx, Kxxx, —, KJxxx would surely choose 6S over 5N. If South had 4-card clubs he would bid 6C not 5N - so with such good spades, 6S seems obvious to me.
Part of the point of this rationale would be that partner can NEVER bid grand - how can he know about the third round of clubs? Even with AQJ10 HE DOES NOT KNOW THAT THIS IS YOUR PROBLEM - you could have, say king sixth.

So when Kit says “the biggest error was the leap to 7S”, I must strongly disagree (normal service has been resumed). Unless biggest is a synonym for “last” or “from which there was no recovery”. In terms of hand evaluation, I believe 4 was further from the mark than 7.
Kit also says that, if grand were good, N would accept a try over 6C saying “What more could I have?” My answer is “quite a lot” - unless one is thinking that the players can actually see each other's hand. North could have K, or A, or A or CQ or longer clubs.
I think South wanted to bid 7S over 5D, felt it was futile to try for cooperation, and tried 5N - prepared to give up if his partner bid 6S.

Anyway, I think we are all waiting to hear what the player(s) themselves have to say.
April 7, 2011
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In your “Example 1”, I don't see how declarer makes after a club shift. When I win the CK, I shift back to SK. Later, I duck two hearts. I guess I'm missing something.
March 31, 2011
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Oops. I should try reading. It WAS mentioned that the diamond continuation might be A7 doubleton. Sorry.
March 28, 2011
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I'd like to address some of the comments first - then I'll get to the hand.

Henry, I think you are saying that, if declarer fast-plays from dummy that a defender is not within his rights to take time. I don't know what the Laws says here, or if it is even covered. But, personally, I see no problem with a defender playing fast or slow if declarer fast-plays - I think that that declarer sows what he reaps. Whereas, if a declarer takes time, I think the defender should play in the same tempo regardless of how difficult his problem is.
About 20 years ago, I wrote an article in “Bridge Today” - part of which suggested how trick one might be better handled.

Henry (again), you put in quotes “it is standard expert practice to give sp when dummy has a stiff.” Now, I am not certain who you are talking to here, but it looks to me as if you are “quoting” Shane, who actually said “it is pretty common among experts to have the agreement that when the opening lead is dummy's singleton, all signals are suit preference”. I don't think one can reasonable argue with Shane's statement - I believe it IS pretty common. Whether it is “standard practice” or not could (I think) be argued either way.

Bob and Tom: you both suggest that a singleton lead would be preferable to an unsupported ace lead on this auction. While I might agree about a FOUR-level contract, I think that the ace lead stands out against a FIVE-level contract. You CAN always beat it if partner has the ace of your singleton (presuming your ace lead lives). While, if you lead your stiff, they may just run all (or too many) of the tricks. Obviously, that's why we lead the ace - we can continue, shift to the stiff OR shift to the other suit - we will have a better idea once we see dummy.

Geoff: a good idea to play low from dummy on the heart. Tom is correct that, on this hand, there is no “charge” - but it's still a good idea. Perhaps even a better idea, if declarer HAD Qx, is to play low from dummy and NOT DROP THE QUEEN. If you are a respected declarer, against the right opponents, wouldn't they be sure you had a stiff?
Perhaps an even better idea (than the even better idea) would be to PLAY LOW WITH XX! Could the opponents EVER figure that out?

Now to the hand: The suggestion has been made that, since declarer is likely to guess the heart, that Lauria should have continued diamonds. But I have not seen it mentioned that this STILL may not have solved the problem. How would Versace know that partner did not begin life with A7 doubleton? So how does he know which red winner to cash?
Perhaps Lauria is in the “I would prefer a singleton lead” with Bob and Tom. If so, the heart shift would be 100% for him. And, while I am very far from being in that camp myself, I do see that it solves this hand. So far, I see no solution on this hand with my leading style.
March 28, 2011
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I think that's a pretty good idea, but there are a couple of problems with it:

1. Partner might think you are denying a heart control (you would need advance agreement to prevent this)
2. If partner marks time with 4D, 4H (in Levin-Weinstein) methods would be KC and 4N is a heart cue. Neither seems really satisfactory to me.
March 28, 2011

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