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July 13, 2002
Problem Hands

Problem Hands

The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.

Scorecard, Volume 34, No 4 - July/August 2002

It is a known fact that some hands are more difficult than others. Look at each of the hands below and decide if and how you would open the bidding.

#1
AQ843
7
83
A10965

#2
AKJ43
7
83
AQJ96

#3
QJ86
A1076
AQ97
K

#4
6
AQJ63
K109764
5

#5
63
K2
Q543
AKJ76

#6
A32
2
AK54
Q9763

#7
J8
AQ743
K76
AQ5

#8
AQ76
AJ76
A106
Q9

Now that you have completed the first step of the exercise, let us look at each hand in turn and see how forward thinking you were. In my opinion, every example is worthy of an opening bid. If you passed any of these hands as dealer, then you need to get a bit more aggressive. Duplicate is in many ways a bidder’s game. The best way to avoid a problem is to plan ahead in case it confronts you.

Hand #1 – We teach the beginners to open 5-5 hands with the higher ranking suit. If you open 1
what do bid if partner responds 2? Your hand is more than a ace shy of a 3 rebid. A new suit at the three level after a two over one response is a “high reverse” and describes a hand in the 17-21 point range. Your only recourse is to rebid your five card spade suit. That shows the proper strength, but not the proper distribution since you lack a sixth spade, not to mention the side five card club suit. My opening bid of choice is 1. Over the expected 1 or 1 response you can easily rebid 1. When you rebid spades later partner will realize that you are 5-5 or 6-5.

Hand #2 – Your strength is now plenty strong to open 1
and rebid 3 over a 2 or 2 response. I think the proper opening bid is 1.

Hand #3 – My guess is that you thought this was an easy one. You likely opened 1
. Okay, then what do you rebid over a 2 response? You do not have either the proper strength or proper distribution to rebid one of those major suits (a natural reverse this time, but still 17-21). A 2NT is worse since you would describe a balanced 13-14 point hand. Your hand is neither balanced or 13-14 points. Partner may pass and leave you in 2NT when 3NT has fine play. Some would open 1NT originally, but I don’t like this option either since you are not balanced. My solution is to open 1 and, over 2, rebid 2. I heard at least one gasp from the audience. 2 is unlikely to create a major problem. Partner has already advertised enough to bid a second time and you can then get to the correct game. Note that over a 1 opening and a major suit response that you have no problem at all.

Hand #4 – This is the least difficult of all the hands. With such strong hearts and such relatively weak diamonds I think it would be an error to open 1
. The auction may get out of hand before you have had a chance to bid out your pattern. I think you should open 1 and rebid 2 over 1, 1NT, or 2.

Hand #5 - Strong clubs and weak diamonds. I advise opening 1
with plans to rebid 2 over the expected major suit response.

Hand #6 – Weak clubs and strong diamonds. I advise opening 1
with plans to rebid 2 over a 1 response. This slightly distorts your pattern as partner will think you are 5-4 the other way, but that is a small price to pay for a comfortable rebid. If partner responds with 1 then a raise to 2 would be appropriate.

Hand #7 – This one will probably create the most controversy. I am willing to bet that a large number of readers opened 1
without a thought. Many would not have even considered anything else. To those players I ask what you intend to rebid over a 1 response? 1NT describes a balanced hand with 13-14 points. You are balanced but you hand is closer to 16-17 points. I guess you could rebid 2 or 2 but that certainly leaves the impression that you are unbalanced, which you are not. My solution is to open 1NT. Before anyone has a coronary, look at the possibilities. Partner has a correct view of my strength and basic distribution. What about finding a heart fit? The only time it is a problem is if partner holds exactly three hearts and a game going hand or holds three or four hearts with 0-7 points. In the first case partner will leap to 3NT and we will miss our heart fit. That may or may not be a bad thing. In the second case partner will pass and leave us in 1NT with a heart fit. Again that may or may not be a bad thing. With four or more hearts partner will use Stayman or one of the other tools and we will locate our fit quickly. You have to decide, but I have had a fair amount of success with the 1NT choice.

Hand #8 – Most readers probably opened 1NT. Why not open 1NT with 17 points and a balanced hand? I think 1
is superior. You have no rebid problem and you stand to get to a better contract if partner has a four card major and only 5-7 points. If you open 1NT and partner has 5-7, then he will pass and 1NT will be the contract. If you open 1, partner will respond 1 or 1 and you have an easy, and descriptive, 3 or 3 rebid. That is likely to score better than 1NT. If partner responds 2C, then a jump to 3NT is probably best (18-19 balanced).

Any of these hands might go one way or the other on any given board, but looking at the frequency of results I stand by my choices. As with any discussion of this nature you will be able to find those that disagree. That is what makes this game so interesting. Let me hear from you.

-Gary King

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