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Here is a Frank Stewart hand.

You, South hold, ♠K986 ♥KT7 ♦875 ♣KQ9

Both vulnerable, North dealt and opened 1C.

North  East  South  West
1C     Pass  1S     Pass
2S     Pass  3C     Pass
3D     Pass  3NT    All Pass

Stewart characterized South's 3 clubs bid as "a bit bold," and 3NT as "living on the edge--or beyond."

I do consider South's bidding "bold" but not "edgy." I was taught to "bid to make," to freely bid contracts with a better than even chance of making.* (More to the point, I believe that Stewart was trained in that school as well.) Even so, South had 11 hcps opposite an opening hand. In subsequent bids, North had shown support for South's spades and a stopper in diamonds, and more than a bare minimum hand.

Dummy had (among other things) ♠AJx, ♥A, ♦A, enough make the contract if a spade finesse works. Given that the Q was "offside," Stewart showed a "hairaising" winning line that involved using the A of diamonds as "transportation" for a (successful) second club finesse.

Under IMP scoring, you will come out ahead if you bid and make contracts with a 40% chance of success when vulnerable, and a 50% chance when not vulnerable. Given this fact,

Is Stewart among only a few experts who would condemn South's bidding?

*This does not include sacrifice bids, where I have enough trumps to reasonably expect to lose less going down than allowing the opponents to have the contract.

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Absolutely.

While the South hand has 11 HCP it should deduct one for the 4333 distribution. That's just a given. After that the spots are good but the Q is in the wrong suit - it will usually help the hand much more in Spades than in in Clubs. That's a wash so call it 10 Points even.

With this flat 10 and partner denying a 15-17 balanced hand or 4 spades with an upgrading distributional feature in the red suite, I am happy to pass 2S. To push twice more in hopes of finding partner with a magic 14 count is going to end up badly much more often than it will end well.

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  • Passing 2S is what I would have certainly done in the old days. But I'm a bit confused by the "new math," specifically the IMP scoring that rewards bidding "40%" contracts. While I wouldn't jump to "advance" beyond 2S, I might venture it on a day when I was feeling lucky. And are you telling me that if the D5 became H5 or C5 so that distribution was 4-4-2-3. or 4-3-2-4 that you might advance beyond 2S? – Tom Au Feb 8 at 4:44
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    12 balanced opposite 12 balanced is less than a 40% chance to make 3N (on perfect double dummy play) - and every other 24 hcp combined holding is worse. With balanced hands in a NT contract, odds of making go down very quickly with every hcp. – Alexander Woo Feb 9 at 7:39
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    @TomAu - tables at rpbridge.net/8j25.htm – Alexander Woo Feb 11 at 19:06
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    @AlexanderWoo: Thanks for the tables. Yes, the chances of making 3NT are only about 37% with 24 hcps balanced between the two hands, and with balanced distribution. But if you throw out the 4-3-3-3 hands as Forget suggests, then the (Bayesian) chances rise to almost 50%. – Tom Au Feb 12 at 4:16
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    @TomAu: That's under the assumption that 0 of the 4333 hands make 3N, which is certainly not true. There will be some effect from filtering out 4333 hands which will put the probability somewhere between 37% and almost 50%, depending on how much worse the 4333 hands actually are. – Alexander Woo Feb 12 at 18:14

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