Had 3 very interesting hands this last week involving some tough decision making at the 6 level. For the first, you are playing IMPS and are Vul vs NV opps. You hold 3 J9753 K643 A87 and Pass in first seat. It goes P on your left, 1H by partner, and 3S on your right. You raise to 4H and over 4S on your left, partner bids 5C. It goes P on your right, you take the intermediate road with 5H, but now it goes 5S on your left, P, P back to you. So the auction has gone
N E S W
P P 1H 3S
4H 4S 5C P
5H 5S P P
How good is partners hand for the 5 level second bid and pass of 5S. And is your singleton Spade a duplication of partners values in that suit? The main question is, assuming the Pass of 5S is forcing, which it should be, how many losers should partner have? Partner freely bid over 4S, so should have distribution, and you have good features in both suits, a 5th trump and the A of partners second suit. So give partner something like AKxxx of Hearts and KQxxx of Clubs, there should be no losers there, so what about the side suits, x Ax in the pointed’s makes a slam almost a laydown, so the problem is if partner has less. Is x AKxxx Qx KQxxx good enough for this auction, free 5C and a P opposite a passed hand?, how about x AKxxxx x KQxxx, which requires 2 Aces and trumps from partner?
The other consideration is if partner has a very distributional hand, can you even beat 5S? A lot of your ‘tricks’, may not score on defence. For those 2 reasons, I think this hand should go on, besides, if the opps take out insurance at IMPS against 6H, you will feel a lot better doubling 6S.
Turns out 6H is a maker and you may be allowed to play there, partner has an unusual hand, KQ AQKxxx --- KQxxx, so 6H only loses the A of Spades, their 2nd Ace does not cash, also making it hard for them to sack. At the table, the above hand doubled, and was able to beat 5S 1 trick when the Hearts were 1-1, somewhat luckily getting a plus.
The next hand is a little tougher, playing MP’s, with no one vul, you pick up K932 AQ75 AQ974 --- and hear partner open 1C in first seat. You bid 1D and partner bids 1N, showing a 15-17 HCP NT, since you play weak NT’s. You bid 2D, GF Stayman, and partner bids 3C, denying a 4333 hand, or either 4 card major, but showing 5+ Clubs, what now?
N E S W
1C P 1D P
1N P 2D P
3C P ?
The big question here, I think, comes between 3D and 3N. Can partner have Diamond support, and does 3D here promise 6, or just 5? You are only on the borderline of the slam zone, and partners 3C call did not improve your hand at all.
I think at IMPS or in a very strong field, this is a lot tougher hand, since missing out on 6D when it is available can cost a lot, even if only in lost opportunities. At MP’s, it is a lot tougher if you should bid on, since partner needs a fitting hand for much play in 6. But the other consideration in a medium field, how many people are going to hear partner open a strong NT, and after checking for a major, blast to 6N with this hand? Not really sure what is the best idea here.
At the table, this hand bid 3N, ending the auction. 6D and even 7D are actually very good contracts, since of course partner has the perfect hand, A5 KJ K83 A97652. 3N also looks like it has a lot of tricks, and in the interest of self serving reporting, I will not go into my line of play, except to say that I took at least 9 and much less than 12 tricks on a Spade lead when Diamonds went 4-1. Who needs to preserve communication!
The last hand, again back to IMPS, All Vul, you pick up a nice hand, AKQ74 KQJ85 3 AK and open 2C in first seat. Partner responds 2D, showing at least 1 control and values. Over your 2S, partner bids 3D, and over 3H, bids 4S. What does that show and now what? First, with a 1 suited Diamond positive, partner did have a way to show that and did not, also, 2D placed you in a GF auction, so 4S is weaker than 3S on this hand. Either way, with a positive and some support you want to make a slam try, so over 4N, partner bids 5C, showing 1 or 3 KC’s.
At this point, you have 3 choices, bid 6S to play there, bid 6N, or bid 6H giving partner a choice of slams. I think 6H is the best bid here, since partner does not know you have 5 Hearts, it was not required on this auction. At the table, this hand bid 6S, and partner put down 85 973 AJT85 J96, about the minimum possible for a 2D bid. When Spades went 4-2, 6S was down 1, with 6H having a lot more play.
A bunch of discussion ensued later about what responder should bid over 3H. The available bids are:
3S – Slam try in Spades, has to have better Spades, out
3N – No Club stopper, out or at least should be a low option when partner is showing the majors
4C – Cue bid on Jxx, out, partner is really not going to be happy playing in 6S with AKQJxx AKQx x xx which is a possible holding
4D – Should show a 6th Diamond since Diamonds may be the best slam, out
4H – on a possible 4-3, out
4S – By process of elimination, about only bid left?
This brought up the problem with these sequences, is there a bid that indicates real support but a min hand, vs a bid that indicates a doubleton and wanting to really sign-off? And it must come from the list of 6 available bids listed above. The only bid that comes to mind is to have 4D as a kind of temporizing bid, but that really perverts it in my mind, and precludes most hands where that might be the only spot to play when you do have a 6+ card suit. Switch the K from Clubs to Diamonds in the other hand, and 6D becomes the place you want to play this hand if it is opposite a decent 6 card suit.
We did not come to any solid answer on the above, other than the other hand needs to be aware of the problem that responder may have, and bid 6H to give an option on these kind of auctions.