Each edition of Events Focus will now include an article or two written especially for our tournament players.
Bidding as Communication
by Ian Swanson
There is a major problem with bidding – each bid is at best a compression of what you want to say. They carry messages, but cover a wide variety of hands.
Fortunately if you have enough space the messages grow stronger, and then trusting your partner is critical.
Early in the Crockford’s Plate Final (board 12), I was faced with this.
7 6 5
A Q 2
K 9 8 7 4 3
After a pass from West, my first decision vulnerable is whether this is an opening bid – a 12 count including a singleton king and a 6 card suit with poorish intermediates, complicated by the fact that we would typically open a club here on a 3 card suit and a weak no trump hand. Still it is only 7 losers (losing trick count) so…
The bidding proceeded with the opposition silent
Now I can begin to express a bit of the distributional nature of the hand by raising to
2 4 – by agreement, partner's jump is a cue bid looking for a slam – with hearts agreed.
We play mandatory cue-bids (first or second round) below game opposite an unlimited partner so I bid 4, although I was considering what I would do after partner bids 4, With no spade control, I will probably pass, since 3 in our system is also just a cue.
And now I really start to think – he has the strength to go past game in our agreed suit, he has chosen not to cue-bid spades earlier – he seems to want to emphasise clubs, and he is wanting me to take control – as if I know more about the hand than him.
Well I have 6 cards in one of what may be our suits and very good support for the other, with all suits controlled– I think a slam is a good possibility, and since he has put me there, I will go for it.
4NT 4 - (we play old fashioned Blackwood).
Now I really need to think – we have all the Aces, my King of diamonds is worth a trick and his 4 is sounding ever more like good club support. We appear to have 6 club tricks 4/5 heart tricks and A, K, A in the other two suits – I just need to know if he has the K (of course he may not have 5 hearts if he has good club support). The other possibility is that he is strong balanced with 4 hearts, but if so he probably has at least 20 pts, since we would use a Baron 2N with less. So..
5NT 6 - (a grand slam force with hearts as trumps and partner just has one of the top 3 – what I want).
Now I want to be in a grand slam, and want to communicate the length of my club suit – it may be where we are playing, although if he held Axx, KJxx, Ax(x), AQx(x) he would probably have started with a Baron 2N. He is either distributional or stronger. Maybe he has something like Ax, Kxxxx, Axx, AQx. At absolute worst we will have 6 club tricks, 3 hearts, A, K diamonds and A spades with a 37% chance of the 13th from a fourth heart, but I expect him to be much better.
I was initially surprised with 7N – since after 4 I had expected more distribution – I did not know what his problems were, and I thought we might need to set the heart suit up with a ruff, re-entering his hand with a spade or club.
But I was rewarded with a very appropriate dummy – the one too strong for a Baron 2N with good club support. (AKT, K976, A97, AQ5).
If you look at it from partner’s point of view, he is a bit strong for a Baron 2N (we have had discussions about this, and it is sometimes worth finding out what partner’s natural rebid is), and is very supportive of a distributional hand from me. If we have combined NT hands and I rebid 1NT, we have lots of mechanisms to explore the hand in a forcing manner.
His problem after the initial three bids was not knowing whether a slam should be played in hearts or NT, and he wanted to give me an opportunity of expressing my hand more. With 4 and 4 he had both expressed the slam going nature of his hand, his club support and left me to make some decisions and communicate.
My 7 said what I thought might be the best contract (and made it clear that we were not wanting to play in hearts), but with no ruffing potential and extra values, he could convert my final communication to NT, and a gain of 13 IMPs.