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Both vulnerable at matchpoints, I dealt and bid one diamond (planning to rebid 2NT) with the following: ♠ JT8 ♡A6 ♢AK76 ♣ AKT4.

An opponent overcalled one heart, and partner bid one spade, showing five. (he would have made a negative double with four.) I followed my plan and bid 2NT. Partner then passed with seven high card points in the following hand: ♠ K7642 ♡K972 ♢J2 ♣ 95. A 3NT bidder got the best score, we got the second best score (out of four pairs), and two spade game bidders (one on each side) went down one (perhaps because the overcaller held AQ95).

Partner later said that he was upset that I didn't raise his one spade bid instead of bidding 2NT, so he miscalculated our point total. While we technically had an eight card fit, I considered our spade holdings to be on the weak side, as evidenced by the failure of the two pairs (we were missing AQ98, four of the top seven cards, despite having eight cards in the suit).

Did it make sense for partner to insist on a major suit game based on the eight card fit? Are there other considerations (such as our rather balanced hands or partner's lack of intermediate cards) that argue for either a no trump or spade game try? Could it be that with the same cards, one contract is better at one form of bridge, and the other is better at another form?

Or could it be that 2NT was the proper (informationally) bid and partner might have used a three level transfer to get me to bid a spade game with three spades and 3NT with two spades?

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    Your hand should rebid 3 spades. The hand with the same shape that would rebid 2N would be JTx; AQ; KQJx; KQJx Aug 6, 2023 at 22:04
  • @AlexanderWoo: So you're saying I need a stronger heart holding, AQ or AK to bid 2NT? (Or A64, taking a way the club 4 and "flattening" the hand?)
    – Tom Au
    Aug 6, 2023 at 22:17
  • @TomAu: It also helps if both hands listed have 13 cards, rather than 12 and 13. 5-3-2-2 distribution isn't really a thing. Aug 6, 2023 at 22:22
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: I said, give me A64 of hearts, and take away the 4 of clubs to make the hand ♠ JT8 ♡A64 ♢AK76 ♣ AKT, a 4-3-3-3 shape.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 6, 2023 at 22:25
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    You need one extra trick in 4S. With your original hand, there are plenty of possibilities for where that trick comes from. With my hand, there are fewer possibilities, since the heart you might ruff in your hand can now be discarded on the third trick in a minor suit. Aug 6, 2023 at 22:25

3 Answers 3

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If you are not an expert or very close, you should always prefer an 8 card major suit fit to a notrump game.

Experts know better, but it requires a good deal of experience, factors too subtle to explain in a page(*), and (at matchpoints) the ability to judge when you need to gamble to make 10 tricks at NT because +600 would be a bad score.

(*) If I remember correctly, Woolsey's Matchpoints book devotes a whole chapter to this topic. Judgement and luck (it's not always clear which is which) on 3N vs 4M decisions frequently decide national championships (at MPs or BAM), so it's an important topic.

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  • I think there is a lot to be said for the four of a major contract at matchpoints. At rubber or IMPS, I consider the nine-trick 3NT contract safer, and I'm much less worried about the extra 20 points.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 6, 2023 at 22:29
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    But having only one heart stopper is worrisome at 3N, especially since you can't hold up more than once. Aug 6, 2023 at 23:25
  • My experience with no trump is that if you get that "first" trick with one stopper, you can rattle off six or seven tricks, going down one, maybe two at worst. If partner has a "second" stopper in the opponents' suit, you will actually make 3NT. Also, if you and partner have a good fit that allows you to take eight tricks on the run.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 8, 2023 at 10:26
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    @TomAu - At IMPs, unless the opponents are making something, down 1 is not so good and not much better than down 3. Aug 8, 2023 at 14:10
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I don’t think your partner should have passed. Your jump in NT must show a hand just short of an opening 2NT, so they know game is on. Then whatever mechanisms you have (transfers, etc.) should let you find out whether 3NT or 4S is the better resting place.

Of course, when partner’s hand goes down, the opponents will call the director, because dummy only has 12 cards 😀

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This isn't really an answer, but rather an opportunity to brag. This hand more or less won us the District 19 Flight A NAP qualifier a few weeks back - a nice occasion for my first open 2 session game win ever.

As dealer, vulnerable against not, I hold S: KT H: AKQ863 D: J53 C: A7. We're playing a version of Precision, so the bidding goes

1C (16+ any) 2D (9-11 or 15+ balanced)
2H (natural) 2N (<3 hearts, 4+ controls (so 2 aces or ace and 2 kings))

At this point, I think about all the hands where partner could have exactly 2 hearts, 9-11 hcp, and 4+ controls, and conclude that most of them will make as many tricks in NT as in hearts. We're the only pair in 3N, for a top, which turned out to be just a little less than the winning margin.

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  • Very nice. Congratulations! I do think there is more to be said on this hand though, particularly as to how it applies to the OP: (1) It's hard to imagine a hand where hearts will make more tricks - one is really putting some very specific combinations in Partner's hand. (2) If it was a close call, apply Hamman's Law: If 3 NT is one of the reasonable choices being considered - then just bid it. (3) Certain inferences are available from LHO's silence over your 1 club opening that suggest the opponents hands and points tend to be more evenly distributed than not, despite your own six card suit. Dec 13, 2023 at 2:58

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