We are vulnerable, the opponents not, at matchpoint duplicate. South opened one spade. West and North passed. I am sitting East with the following: (s) x (h) 9xxxxx (d) Kx (c) ATxx. (All x's are 7 or lower.)

My partner feels strongly that I should have balanced with 2 hearts. I'm not sure for the following reasons: 1) the unfavorable vulnerability. 2) The "two" level (rather than one heart over say, one diamond). 3) The weakness of my suit despite its length.

Change any one of these three factors in my favor and I would have balanced.

Was my partner right to insist on my balancing? Or was I right not to do so?

4 Answers 4


-100 is a much better score than -110. -100 is a much better score than -110. -100 is a much better score than -110. -100 is a much better score than -110.

+110 is a much better score than +50. +110 is a much better score than +50. +110 is a much better score than +50. +110 is a much better score than +50.

In fact, in a good field, the difference between -100 and -110 will be much bigger than the difference between -110 and -1100, and the difference between +110 and +50 will be much bigger than the difference between +670 and +110.

  • I checked the game record. It was a weird hand in which we would have gone down two (that is -200), because two or three finesses were wrong. N-S got 140 (we, -140), and we got a top on the board.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 2:50
  • 2
    I think that proves my point - most of the time one fewer finesse will be against you and you'll get a bottom for -110. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 3:11
  • @TomAu: Exactly how can 3 finesses be wrong when North has at most an Ace, and you have only one finessable card? Did North make an unusual pass? Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 14:08
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: OK, it was two finesses, to be exact. My bad.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 16:46
  • 1
    @TomAu - yes, that's my point, though I wouldn't take the a priori odds of one of two finesses to be too meaningful considering you already know LHO has about 4 times as many values as RHO. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 17:28

I balance - in tempo. It's a partnership bid, rewarding partner for his discipline in second seat, as much as anything else. Getting a bottom or missing a top for this call seems unlikely (except against truly atrocious opponents - but that's another matter).

As for values, I have reason to think this hand can supply 3+ tricks in a Heart contract; and the length will make it difficult for opponents to double even if that happens to be right.

Playing IMPS I pass. The chance that we're missing game when Partner had Spade length preventing a bid or double in second seat is remote.

  • South had KQJ95 and West had AT876 but North had more spades than me..
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 2:55
  • Exactly. Reward partner's discipline by taking exactly 1.5 seconds to bid 2H. You're not bust; and the hand with short Spades has to be the one that enters the auction for your side. By not pausing you take pressure off Partner, and put pressure on North, to make the right call. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 14:06

In this particular situation, your partner was right to insist that you balance. The main reason for this is that balancing at the two level is usually a better option than passing, especially when you have a long suit.

Additionally, the fact that you are vulnerable makes it even more important to take any opportunity to score points.

  • 1
    Not sure I agree that being vulnerable makes it more likely you make this bid... and "balancing is a better option than passing" is only true with some hands, Xxx Xxxx Xxx Xxx for example you probably wouldn't say that. A better answer would go into more detail about the reasons for balancing with this hand and what hands wouldn't balance.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 17:12
  • @Joe There are a few reasons why balancing in this particular situation is a good idea: 1) The fact that you are vulnerable means that it is more important to score points when you have the opportunity. 2) Balancing at the two-level is usually a better option than passing, especially when you have a long suit. 3) The weakness of your suit despite its length makes it more likely that you will be able to make a game if you balance. Overall, balancing in this situation is a good idea because it gives you a better chance to score points and make a game. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 18:35
  • You just reiterated the answer... :) Though putting the 'weak length' in the answer wouldn't be a bad idea. I think being vulnerable doesn't make it more important to score points, though, at least not in duplicate...
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 19:55
  • @Joe Being vulnerable does make it more important to score points, because when you are vulnerable you are at a greater risk of losing points. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of opportunities to score points when they arise. Balancing at the two-level in this situation is a good opportunity to score points. Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 20:06
  • Since you’re at greater risk of losing points from someone putting you down, seems to me it makes it more important to not be in questionable contracts?
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 23:27

I would start by thinking where the highcard points and spades are. First N passed over their partners 1 space opening. That implies less than 6 HC points and short spades (with 4 or more spades they would probably bid 2 spades even with less than 6 HC points). You have only 7 HC points and only 1 spade. Your partner passed over 1 spade, so they have less than an opening hand as well. S opened at 1 spade (as opposed to some game in hand kind of opener).

That gives S around 17 HC points and high chance for 6+ spades and you partner 10 to 13 HC and also a couple of spades. So neither side has enough points or shape for game. S will probably make 1 spade just with their own hand.

I think 2 hearts is a reasonable bid for you but more risky than a pass. If either N or S bids 2 spades over it, that should pass around and your bid was good, regardless of whether they make the 2 spades or not. But if S happens to be strong in hearts they might pass or even double your 2 hearts and you will go down. The heart high cards need to be somewhere and you don't know whether they are in S or E hand.

  • 1
    Your analysis is faulty. There are many 12 to 14 point hands possible in West that, due to Spade length, can neither overcall a suit or 1NT, nor make a Takeout Double. The Spade shortness in hand combined with the Pass by North increases this possibility over the a priori odds. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 8:04
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere We can increase partners range to include 14 points. This adds in a few more cases where 2 hearts will pass around and make but it doesn't change the analysis by a lot.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 8:08
  • Now add in all the 5422 and 54(31) hands with 15 or 16 points that were hog-tied by South's Spade opening. Your analysis is egregiously bad because you are, at heart, engaging in "placing cards in Partner's hand". Simply learn to stop doing that; and you will become a much improved bidder. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 8:17
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere Are you saying that you would pass a 15 or 16 HCP hand with 5422 or 5431 distribution as E over S 1 spade? If by your bidding convention you would pass, that I agree for such a bidding convention my analysis doesn't hold anymore. But I would not pass 15 or 16 HCP over 1 spade, so as W I would exclude E having that many points and then the analysis is valid.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 8:22
  • 1
    Remember MP odds work differently than IMP odds. -110 is much worse than -100 at MPs even though they are they same at IMPs (or total points) Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 19:46

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