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Jills To date, this series has placed only all-male partnerships in the spotlight. We’d like to make it clear that no man, woman, or child is safe from the gaze of UFR. This week, we’re featuring one of the world’s premier female pairs, Jill Levin and Jill Meyers . Combined, they hold ten world championship titles. At the recent NABC in Louisville, KY “The Jills” finished 2nd in the Silodor Open Pairs and their team tied for first in the Machlin Women’s Swiss. (To find out who beat them watch Gavin’s excellent ‘ Road to Victory' Bridge Lesson series.) Today’s hand comes from the 2011 USBC Round of 16, where Levin-Meyers were the only all-female partnership to compete.

J. Levin
4X North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The first round of bidding was partially a product of the systems employed around the table. Ekeblad-Rubin’s 2 opening shows 5+, 4+, and 10-16 HCPs. Consequently, Rubin was constrained to pass rather than make the normal 2 preempt. Levin’s double was one component of a larger system the partnership employs when their side opens one of a minor and the opponents overcall 1. In this case, bidding 2 would show invitational or better values with 6+. 1 would show fewer than four spades, which caters to some common problem hands encountered during such an auction. With that covered, let’s investigate.

1 Opening
The optimal opening bid with the West hand is a topic that has been discussed ad nauseum . Nevertheless, UFR opens the floor for another round of commentary. 1 or 1? While 1 leads to a number of unpleasant options after partner’s 1 response, 1 arguably over-stresses a poor suit and will likely lead to a hand-distorting canapé. Meyers opted to name her best suit, but was that the best plan? Given the hand’s strength, we prefer the potential sequence 1-1; 2-2; 2. Without the Q the opening bid choice becomes much closer.

Double of 4
West is too strong to go quietly over the favorable preempt. East took a free bid with the double, promising at least some values. But, considering the possibility of a five-card spade suit, what is the minimum East might hold? And how much more than the minimum does East require to balance over 4? It’s clear that wherever the line is drawn there are a number of hands with which East would not balance when game either has decent play or is cold. Should West choose to make a call, what action is best? Although East only guarantees four spades with the double, it’s far more likely that she holds five after South’s leap to 4. Though unorthodox, 4 is a viable option. This situation bears resemblance to one faced by Helgemo-Helness in a previous UFR. Double would probably be considered the more conventional call and, if partner passes, the hand has reasonable defense. But defending 4 may not be adequate compensation for a missed vulnerable game.

Non-traditionalists that we are, we prefer 4. An argument in favor of bidding is that partner, missing top honors in the spade suit, may be reluctant to bid 4 when it’s right or even pull the double at all. If bidding 4 leads to a Moysian fit the tap will be absorbed in the short hand and the good trumps may see the contract home.

Pass of the Double
East’s hand is all offense. Passing runs the risk of defending a cold 4 or missing a vulnerable game (or both). But the decision of whether or not to pull West’s double is easier to make when it’s clear what suit should be trump. Here, with several strains in play, East has no room to offer West a choice between 4 and 5 of a minor. Assuming a direct 4NT by East is pick-a-minor, it is important to discuss whether converting 5 to 5 is weaker than a direct 5 (Lebensohl-ish) or the other way around. We like a direct 5 to be the slam try, because the opponents may bid again. With the strong hand, it’s critical to get the slam try off your chest. In any case, calculating partner’s average pointed-suit lengths and evaluating the total tricks available after such an auction is an inexact science, and application of The Law here is speculative at best.

While all these continuations are murky, passing a wide-range double with a stiff heart, 5-5 shape, and just half a defensive trick is a tough way to make a living. If East decides to bid, should she bid 4 with the weak suit, or 4NT (assuming it is pick-a-minor or a weak 5 bid), which may lead to another guess if partner rebids 5?

4 is making or down 1, depending on whether the defense finds its diamond ruff. It’s unlikely that bidding 4 as a profitable sacrifice over 4 would have crossed the mind of either of the Jills during the auction. But perhaps that’s another reason to believe that someone should have saved their side from -590. How might these certain future Hall of Famers have improved on this result?

We pulled the tape, now we invite you to make the call.

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