The Bidder’s Game


The 8th Tolani Summer Nationals were held at the plush Karnavati Club in Ahmedabad in the last week of June. Sunit Chokshi and his crew did a magnificent job in terms of the planning and execution (computer dealt boards and screens from start to finish) which resulted in the event being conducted with clockwork precision. Equally, the hospitality and warmth of the organizers made this event highly enjoyable.

In the second round of the Swiss League, seated West with both sides vulnerable, you are dealt ♠86♥Q♦K93♣AJ96543. North gets the auction underway by bidding 1♥ and South bids the heart game in a flash after hearing East pass. Do you need to take action, and if yes, what should you bid? Since South is likely to have at least 4 hearts and not more than half a dozen points, partner probably has just short of opening values. In case he happens to possess a sturdy 5+ card spade suit, 4♠ may be the best spot to play in. If not, 5♣ may well be a plausible alternative. The only risk is partner may place you with a 4 card spade holding if you opt to double. Either of these options seems like a cheap sacrifice against 4♥ and may have the additional benefit of pushing opponents to a losing 5♥ contract resulting in a plus score for your side.

With these thoughts swirling in your head, you bid 5♣ causing North to scratch his head. After a brief pause, both he and your partner pass landing South in the hot seat! South started life with ♠K752♥87532♦84♣K2. Without any doubt, North’s pass ‘forces’ South to take a view – either bid 5♥ or double for penalties, depending on distributional strength and the picture cards he holds. The ♣K has a doomed look about it! Even if partner has a singleton club, you will need to find him with either AK in both red suits and ♠Q or ♠A, ♥AK and ♦A or KQ for 5♥ to have a chance.

The odds suggest a penalty double is best.

The full hand was:

The Bidder’s Game

Also read: Odds And Ends

On the routine lead of a top heart followed by ♦Q, NS should eventually arrive at 4 tricks for a score of +500. If declarer wins ♦A in dummy and reels off 7 clubs North will need to retain ♠A, ♦QJ and ♥K in the 4-card ending once partner signals that he holds ♠K! A hard earned gain of 4 IMPs for EW.

Come the third round you pick up ♠8♥K3♦AKJ52♣AK863 seated East. Your side is vulnerable against opponents who are non-vulnerable. Playing Standard American you choose to open 1♣ with the intention of making a ‘reverse’ at your next turn. Partner bids 1♠ and you duly bid 2♦ conveying 18-19 HCPs in an unbalanced hand with at least 5 clubs & 4 diamonds. You are pleasantly surprised to hear partner respond 3♦, confirming game and a 4 card diamond holding. What is the best way forward – a 3♥ cue-bid, ‘Minorwood’ (a convention that checks for key cards including Aces and the King in the agreed minor suit) or something else? Minorwood appears best since it conserves bidding space while simultaneously confirming serious interest in slam. You bid 4♦ and are delighted with partner’s 4NT response confirming the presence of 2 Aces but missing the trump queen. Given the possibility of a trump loser and a potential loser in clubs, you content yourself by bidding the little slam in diamonds. ♥Q is led and a highly suitable dummy appears: ♠AJ97♥A7♦10876♣Q95. The only risk is a 4-0 trump break and the prospect of a top club getting ruffed.

Sound technique requires that you win in hand and cash a top trump.

Your prudence is justified when South shows out on the play of the first trump!

The Bidder’s Game

Also read: Bridge At The Top

The penultimate board of the first set in the round of 16 threw up this diamond in the rough (pun intended!). With none vulnerable and partner as dealer, you pick up as North ♠A♥KJ9864♦Q765♣Q2. South gets the auction going with 1NT and you transfer to hearts via 2♦.

At your second turn, you force partner to bid game and communicate your shape by bidding 3♦. Partner denies a control in spade but confirms one in clubs by pressing on with 4♣. What next?

Unless partner has wasted values in spades, slam appears to be a good bet.

At one table, North bid 4♥ and that marked the conclusion of the auction. In the other room, his counterpart took the view that the sixth heart and the club queen justified bidding RKC since 5♥ seems assured even if 2 key cards are missing. Encouraged by the 5♠ reply confirming 2 Aces and the trump queen, NS wound up in 6 ♥. West chose to lead ♣4 and declarer put up the queen, which won the trick. A low heart from dummy saw East playing the ten, and declarer’s queen being won by the Ace. West took the cue from his partner’s play of a high trump that a ruff was needed and found a diamond switch. Justice was served when East ruffed and the slam was set! The complete deal was:

The Bidder’s Game

Also read: Simple, But Not Easy

Sanjoy Bhattacharyya is Managing Partner at Fortuna Capital and an avid bridge player.

The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.