Jeff Lehman

Three from sectional Swiss

Right cards in the right places

Without benefit of a computer, partner Rob Clark of Nashua, NH, came up with a winning evaluation of his hand on this deal from a recent sectional Swiss match, an evaluation not replicated by the top notch pair at the other table.

How do you value this hand?  xx  AT9xxx  xx  AQx?

The Kaplan and Rubens hand evaluator (you know, The Bridge World past and current editors) measures this hand as “worth” 13.05 points, thus a clear opening one bid.  (See   Valuing the quick tricks in his longest suits, Rob did open 1.

What about this hand as a responder to a 1 opening?  Axx  Jxxx  Axx  Kxx.  Game forcing (meaning Jacoby 2NT) or game invitational (meaning limit raise)?  I took the lower road, responding 3.  K&R agreed with this evaluation, too, rating the hand as 11.20.  Looking at the hand a different way, it is a nine loser hand, which argues for avoiding game forcing treatment if you believe the decision is otherwise close.

Now, back to Rob.  With a ten card fit established, he judged to accept the invitation and bid 4.  At IMPs scoring, this decision seems on-target to me.  (Although, I think I would be tempted to pass at mps.)

These judgments by Rob earned our team 10 IMPs, as the opponent at our teammates’ table passed Rob’s hand.  (I am not a believer that there is a gap between a weak two and a one bid; I can understand that some hands would not be opened a weak two because of concerns about the quality of the suit, but I think the strength ranges of the bids are continuous.  However, I know of others who disagree, including the expert who passed at the other table, and then in the post mortem remarked that the hand was too weak for a one bid and too strong for a two bid.)


High level competition

Your LHO opens 4, alerted as being weakish because the pair plays Namyats and a stronger bid of 4 was available for a better hand with long hearts.  Partner doubles (for takeout) and this is passed to you.

You hold xxxx   —  KT8xx  KJxx.  What is your call?

Taking mild inference from partner’s failure to overcall 4, I thought it likely that partner held a four card minor.  With second round controls in each minor and first round control of hearts, I took a strong liking to my hand and advanced 5NT!  Partner called 6 with AKQx  Qx  AQxxx  xx.  I think the whole hand was:



The spade break was disappointing (but welcomed because there was a sure trump loser if the other table in the sectional Swiss is playing in a spade slam!) but the fortunate club position provides a pitch for the fourth spade, so that 6 is making.


Obvious Shift revisited

I am a big fan of Obvious Shift signaling.  See the Granovetters’ terrific volume called “Switch in Time”.  A previous blog entry addressed this approach to defense, too.  See

Unfortunately, the only one of my regular partners that I have convinced to play Obvious Shift signaling does so, frankly, only as an accommodation to me.  I might have succeeded in convincing others of my partners to follow the general tenet of this signaling approach – that a discouraging attitude signal for the suit led means that signaler would welcome the obvious switch – but, by and large, my partners do not support this approach to signaling.

I remain a fan, however, and this hand from the Swiss demonstrates a reason why.

My RHO opened 1 and I made a takeout double with x  KJx  KJTx  AK8xx.  LHO bid 2, alerted and described as a constructive raise of spades with expected spade length of three cards.  Partner advanced 2 and RHO now jumped to 4.  Although tempted to double, I chose to pass and made an opening lead of the A (our agreed lead from AK and length).

Dummy shows with:



What is your defensive plan?

I could think of two routes to four defensive tricks: (a) two clubs and two hearts off the top; or (b) two clubs, a club overruff of dummy (that is, playing for pard to own two clubs and declarer to own four clubs), and an extra trick, either partner’s A or my K sitting after declarer’s ace.  At the table it is hard to think too deeply about the 52 card layout and refine these plans, but they are the two general plans that might be under consideration.

Which plan do you pursue?

The answer to that question is derived from partner’s signaling.  If partner is using Obvious Shift signaling, he will signal discouragement on the A lead if he holds the A or K (but then I can see that I hold the K), and will signal encouragement on the A lead if he does not hold the A or K.  That will tell me if I should switch to a heart or should continue clubs.  But if partner does not use Obvious Shift signaling and might signal encouragement just because he holds the Q, then my hand is unsure which defensive route to pursue: if partner also holds the A, then continuing two more rounds of clubs might produce a fatal ruff/sluff if it is partner who owns four clubs; while if partner instead owns only two clubs and not the ace of hearts, then switching to hearts allows declarer to score dummy’s Q.


Lurpoa BegijnFebruary 28th, 2012 at 7:27 am

on last:
signalling Q3rd or 4th ??? We don’t do that….

LakMarch 1st, 2012 at 5:10 pm

On the first, I would accept the invite even at matchpoints. Looking at opener’s hand, are there any points that partner could have that are “wasted”? With no duplication and probable tenaces in partner’s hand, it seems worth a 4H gamble.

On the second hand, there is no way, I would have the guts to bid 5NT. We’d probably be only in 4S.

On the third hand, with a doubleton in dummy, partner should encourage only if he can overruff dummy in clubs. Otherwise, he should discourage, and then the obvious shift is to a heart.

Jeff LehmanMarch 2nd, 2012 at 9:58 pm

On the third deal, I think the correspondents are right to imply that on any hand with HA (or HK, if I did not hold that card) and more than two clubs, third hand should discourage on clubs. This is true without regard to whether the partnership has agreed to play Obvious Shift specifically or not.

On the first deal, Lak, I would pass 3H raise at mps. Just about any hand with three small clubs provides no better than a finesse for game. Although I think opener judged nicely to open the ten point hand with 1H, it remains a ten point, seven loser hand. That’s a minimum and should not, at mps, be accepting a game invitation, IMO. Even a pretty good limit raise such as Axxx, Qxxx, Ax, xxx makes for a very poor game. Even adding the CJ makes the hand a bad bet for ten tricks. At IMPs, matters are different and I like partner’s raise to 4H since two rounded kings and a pointed ace gives us ten tricks … but then such a hand is not only well-fitting but is also not really a minimum. I wouldn’t criticize a pass at IMPs, but I prefer partner’s choice to raise to 4H.

Rob ClarkMarch 5th, 2012 at 5:39 am

I don’t think there are any hands between 1H and 2H. I should be able to place my hand in one of those categories. So on that first deal, I was not thinking pass at all. I just needed to decide between the two options. I opted for 1H because the hand seemed slightly too strong for 2H.

I most likely would not have accepted the invitation in MPs. Even in IMPs, I thought it was a close call.

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