Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How many bids is your hand worth?

Let's say you pick up this hand in second seat (at love all): ♠AQJ732 8 J83 ♣T32.  You've got a nice spade suit but not much else.  If RHO passes, you'll describe your hand perfectly in one bid: 2♠.  You wouldn't think twice about it, would you?

But what if your RHO bids 1?  Surely, you'd make the same bid.  What's changed?  Nothing very much other than it's even more urgent to describe your hand and preempt the auction, since we now know that RHO has at least opening strength and that we have a singleton in the enemy suit.  Probably, if partner was a passed hand too you'd actually bid 3♠ here assuming the vulnerability was suitable.

Would anything persuade you to bid 1♠?  Well, you might argue that an overcall doesn't actually promise opening strength so there'd be no harm done (although given that 1♠ wouldn't be using up any bidding space, you probably should have at least close to opening count).  But here's what might happen: LHO will double and partner will raise to 2♠.  RHO will rebid 3 and now we'll want to bid again (our LAW level is 3).  But that would definitely show six spades and a solid opening hand because we took two bids with the hand.

The obvious and, I would argue, mandatory bid at this hand's first turn is 2♠.  What could go wrong?  Well, on a bad day, LHO will have 5 spades and a heart void together with all the other points in the deck.  But, playing duplicate, all your fellows should be in the same boat.  And maybe RHO won't have the hand to double at that level.  No, it's far better to get this hand out on the table in one descriptive bid, just like you would have if dealer had passed.

At the table, we allowed the opponents to go +140 instead of outbidding them and drifting off two for -100 (there wasn't a high probability of a double).  In fact, there's a chance we might even have got to play the hand at 2♠ down only 1.

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