What should I bid? (March 2016)

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What should I bid? (March 2016)

The best submission for March came from Viv Wood. She wins a voucher of $30 funded by TBIB, toward any purchase made at the Bridge Shop or Paul Lavings Bridge Books.

Hi Andy,

I was North and picked up this lovely collection of rubbish.
J83
1082
972
6532

The bidding:

West North East South
Pass  Pass 1NT*
X** ?

* 15-17
** Penalties

Should I be running from 1NTX in this situation? I know some people prefer to run, but I sat it thinking it was the least of the possible bad options, and of course it wasn’t right on this deal. We have XX to show a single suited hand, or 2-level bids show that suit and a higher one. What should I do?

The whole hand:

Bd 25
EW Vul
N Dealer
J 8 3
10 8 2
9 7 2
6 5 3 2
 
Q 10 9 6
A Q 9 4 3
A 3
Q 7
[ 9 ] A 7 4
7 6
Q 8 6 5 4
A 8 4
  K 5 2
K J 5
K J 10
K J 10 9
 

Thanks,
Viv

Hi Viv,

In this type of situation (with a 4333) I would almost always sit and be content with 1NTX. The problem with 4333’s is that you are not guaranteed to have an eight-card fit, so what you are trying to do is to limit the damage control (whereas 2x doubled in a 4-3 fit may be more disastrous). The good thing about passing is that partner is still allowed to run (say with a 5-card suit) knowing that typically we would have a 4333 shape to be passing the double.

Things change if your 1NT range is weaker, such as 12-14 or 10-12. In that case, you know that (with your weak 4333 hand) you are already in big trouble so it’s probably best to run as (a) you might hit your 4-4 fit, (b) if you stumble onto a 4-3 fit, that suit might break 3-3 and the opponents may not be able to double you and they might just bid to save you out of trouble. Here, however, opposite a 15-17 range, you just need to limit the damage and it feels like a 4-3 fit at the 2-level would be a bit more damaging than 1NTX (or 2x if partner is able to run to her 5-card suit).

(Side note 1: If I know that my opponents don’t know how/like to double part scores, then I might just run (confidently) anyway and expect them to bid.)
(Side note 2: Another good thing about passing is that the doubler’s partner may have a weak hand and might just remove her partner’s penalty double for me. On this hand, both our partner and West did have an absolute minimum which made East’s decision easy. Imagine if partner had 16 HCP and West also around 16-17 HCP. Now, East should still pass her partner’s penalty double with 5-6 HCP, but sometimes East’s hand is distributional, or maybe East will think 5 HCP is “weak”, and in that case, East will run for you!)

On this hand, 1NTX was a bit more unlucky only because your partner happened to have a four-card club suit as well. Whilst best defence can take 1NTX down four, 2X is down three (but can go down four if declarer is not careful). Even if you had ran, the opponents would (should) get to their vulnerable 3NT and that shouldn’t have any troubles making nine tricks so minus five IMPs is hardly the end of the world. Now, imagine if partner instead had a four-card spade/heart/diamond suit instead of clubs – now playing at the 2-level doubled in a 4-3 won’t be pretty at all.

Cheers,
Andy

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