Friday, September 11, 2009

Third and Fourth seat openers

I'm a strong believer that if you decide to open a sub-standard hand in third or fourth seat, you should open it in your best suit, or at least not in a "prepared" suit. Here's a case in point from last night's game at the Bridge Spot: fourth seat, no one is vulnerable: ♠AK42 543 973 ♣A42.

The first question is whether or not you should open. On the plus side, you have three quick tricks which always suggests an opening bid. On the minus side you are 4333, the worst possible shape, although given that shape your texture is actually quite good. You have 11 hcp and four spades so according to Cansino (or Pearson) you should open it. I think I probably would open it.

Now, what do you open it with? If you were playing a 12-14 notrump, there'd be no problem: you open 1NT. Playing 15-17 NT, or even the 14-16 variety I play with Lance, you really can't do that. I think the "normal" bid is 1♠. What I would not do is bid 1♣ – on the grounds that if you are opening a sub-standard hand (you are, aren't you?), you should always bid a real suit. Partner will probably respond 1NT and that will most likely end the bidding, giving you -50 on a hand you could have passed out. If partner saw fit to bid 2♣, it would right-side the contract and partner could actually make it for +90. If you instead open it 1♣, the best that can happen is -50 after partner competes to 2♣ (all assuming correct play/defense of course) because the opponents can make 80 in one of a major.

What actually happened is this: my LHO was the one with the given hand and she opened 1♣. Lance now doubled (obviously around 11 points just short of an opening bid) and RHO raised to 2♣. My hand was ♠J73 QJ72 QT ♣K963. I was beginning to smell a penalty here but I made the reasonable bid of 2♥. This was followed by two passes and 3♣. I had no difficulty making a penalty double here and we collected 500 on a part-score hand (obviously, we managed to get a trick we didn't deserve but 300 would have been just as clear a top).

Of course, the worst bid was the last one (♠T9 A98 KJ5 ♣JT875) – but no doubt, she expected her partner to have either a full-blooded opener or real clubs.

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