Friday, July 8, 2011


There are two schools of thought with regard to balancing.  The fearless regard it as safe to overcall in a pre-balancing situation after responder has raised opener.  So, for example, 1 p 2 2♠.  This style is known as OBAR BIDS (Opponents Bid And Raise - Balance In Direct Seat).  I'm not a strong advocate of this style myself.  The majority are content to balance when the raise has been passed by opener and a pass would otherwise end the auction.  The theory of course is that the opponents have about half the deck and a fit.  Therefore, we have half the deck and a fit.  Most of the time, this works out fine but you can still come a cropper when all of the hands are balanced and the suits are not pure (translation: a relatively low number of total tricks). 

But there also times when both opponents have made signoff bids though one is not in the true balancing situation.  What theory is there on this situation?  I've never seen it mentioned, but I think it could be called pseudo-balancing.

Here's an example:  love all and your hand is ♠Q9542 KQ85J8 ♣Q7.  You pass as dealer, LHO opens 1, partner passes, RHO bids 1, you pass again and LHO bids 2♣.  Partner passes again and RHO now comes in with 2, natural and to play.  While LHO's 2♣ isn't perhaps as limited as a 1NT rebid would be, you can still be 95% confident that LHO will be passing.  So, unlike the situation where the bidding has gone, say, 1 p 2 where LHO might easily be planning to bid game (and may double your interference), your chances here of being doubled for a painful penalty are almost nil. 

So, the question is: with the given hand, would you bid 2♠?  Or will you leave it up to partner to act?  I'm interested to hear your comments.  I think I would bid 2♠ but my partner on this occasion did not. We got a 17% board for -90. 

You're no doubt wondering what my hand was, the one that was truly in the pass-out seat.  This was it: ♠J763 AT7QT3 ♣K82.  I decided not to come in on the following grounds: 1) I have a horrible, balanced 10-count with a lousy spade suit (remember, they've bid the other three suits); 2) my partner who was in the pseudo-balancing seat could not act [see above]; 3) we might get a decent board simply defending 2D when other declarers are in notrump; 4) my diamonds are actually quite good defensively but not offensively; 5) whereas opponents with a major suit fit will start thinking about game with about 22 hcp, opponents with a minor suit fit might have around 24 hcp before they start thinking seriously about game.  Trying to make a two-level contract without a great fit and with only 16 hcp might not be a barrel of laughs!


  1. Robin,

    Isn't it much easier to have overcalled 1S over 1H? That seems both much safer and more constructive to me than bidding over the 2C-2D continuation.

    Had I been forced to pass over 1H, I can sympathize with the pass over 2D. The opponents are not necessarily in a fit after your RHO has merely given preference. And people often follow LHO's actions with four diamonds and five clubs.

    At any rate, IMO, the hand with spades created the problem for his side by neglecting to make a call before the opponents had exchanged so much information and were not so well placed to punish your side should you be punishable. If 2S were bid over 2D, LHO can double with something like 3=1=4=5 distribution and say 15 HCP, perhaps catching his partner with something like 3=4=3=3 and 9 HCP, leaving your partner with 2=4=4=3 6 count, with opponents not being in their best fit and yet not trying for game. That's perhaps the worst scenario, yes, but the point is that punishing 2S on second round is much easier than punishing 1S on first round ... and should you have found partner with, say, a three-piece single raise, your partner's 2S raise over LHO's 2C rebid creates a challenge to the opponents.

  2. Comment from Steve McDevitt:
    1. The hand in the passout seat clearly should not balance.
    2. A lot of players will bid 1S over 1H, especially as a passed hand. The suit is horrible, but plenty of players still count points and will bid here. Maybe long term it is undisciplined to overcall on such bad suits, but clearly it will win here as it will go 2C-2D-p-2S and what looks like +110.
    3. I don't like 2S over 2D, but I do like double. This is a specific auction and vulnerability where I think you have to risk getting your bid in. Very few would pass if 2C was passed by responder. I imagine on this specific hand that might have happened at a few tables (with 3-3 in the minors, responder might frequently pass protecting partner having opened x-x-4-5).