Playing IMPS in our weekly game, had 2 interesting hands come up where you have to judge what level to play a hand in a competitive auction, always one of the toughest parts of the game. As the title suggests, why can’t the opponents get out of our beautiful auctions and allows us to make our own errors in our own way.
On the first hand, No one Vul, you hold AJx ATxxx J A9xx and hear it go 1S on your left, double by partner, pass on your right. This is certainly a GF hand, so you decide to start with 2S to at least start to set up a forcing auction. Partner bids 3D over that, and you now show Hearts with 3H. Partner bids 3S over that, so now what?
At the table, this hand bid 4C, and partner bid 4H, again back to you. What do you know about the hand. Partner has Diamonds and Hearts (presumably 5/6-4), and a good hand, due to the 3S bid on the way to 4H, and should have short Spades (since I can not see a 3S bid on this auction on 2 small missing all those A’s).
Since you have all A’s and the 5th Heart, I think you have to take another call here, if not just drive to a slam. At the minimum, a 4S call to invite moving forward. At the table, this hand passed, stating afterwards they were worried about what LHO (A solid bidder usually) had for the 1st seat opener.
In actuality, there is almost nothing to the play. Partner puts down x Qxxx AKQxx QJx. On the Spade lead, you win, cash the A of Hearts, the J of Diamonds, and a small Heart. When Hearts are 2-2, you can claim, and have lots of play even if Hearts are 3-1, as long as opener does not have the singleton. At the other table, they had an uncontested auction and did not reach the good slam, so it wound up a push board, but had chances for an easy 10 IMPS.
The second hand, you are Vul against Non-Vul opps (as we call it, terrorist vulnerability), with AQx AKx Jxx Qxxx, no spot cards. Partner opens 1D in first seat and it goes 3H on your right, your call.
I think this is a very tough problem, you have a good hand, but too much of your strength is in Hearts, and you do not have a 4th Spade or any shape. When I held this hand, I thought the choices were between Double and 3NT. And the problem with a Double is what am I going to do when/if partner bids 4S over it, I will be essentially guessing on where and at what level to play the contract.
I finally decided to just bid 3N at the table, which ended the auction. Partner also had a problem hand, and took a while before passing. We had a long discussion afterwards on what or even should he can bid over 3N, with no firm conclusion. Basically the 3H bid was perfectly timed to give us no room to both show extra values for our previous bidding. Partner held Kxxx x KQTxx AKJ, so slam was a claim, just giving up the A of Diamonds on a perfect fit. We also decided that the most likely person that can move on this hand is this hand, which can bid 4H over 3N, under the assumption that 4N is safe and is to play. On this hand, 4H will easily get us to some slam, pretty much all of which make.
As for the original problem, there was some discussion at the bar after about the merits of Double vs 3N, and a few of the Doublers said that over 4S they would basically give partner a choice of slams, 6D or 6S. I think this is being far too optimistic, what is partner to do after the auction 1D (3H) Double with something like Kxxx x AQxxx Kxx or worse Kxxx x AKQxx xxx except bid 4S, and this will create a very poor slam. The more I think about it, the more I think 3N is the only viable bid over 1D (3H), anything else leaves you really guessing. And if partner can not move over 3N on some hands, you may have to accept that sometimes pre-empts work.