This Week’s Expert Opinion

The Expert Opinion is in. What do you think?
IMPs. N-S vulnerable

♠ — A K 9 7 6 A 3 2 ♣ A Q 10 9 6
West North East South
2♠ Pass 4♠ ?

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from Sept. 2008’s Bridge Bulletin), 4NT was named top bid.

When opponents preempt to the four level, awkward problems can be encountered. This problem was a good example of that. If you bid, you could be stepping in hot water. Even if you decided the benefit of bidding is worth the risk, do you double or do you bid 4NT to show two suits?

The Bridge Baron passed, but none of the experts did. The Baron is one of the better software programs, and without interference, it does a creditable job in bidding to a good contract. When the opponents intervene, it (like most bridge software) doesn’t do nearly as well — particularly if there is a preempt. Perhaps the software is programmed to choose a conservative action when faced with high-level aggression by the opponents.

None of the experts passed on this one. Seven of them doubled.

“Double looks like the road to the surest, if not the largest plus,” said August Boehm. “Other actions are too committal.”

“Double is better than a two-suited 4NT bid,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Partner can pass, bid his own five-card (or longer) suit or toss it back to us with 4NT.”

“It’s tempting to bid 4NT,” said Larry Cohen, “but I don’t see the need. If partner sits for the double (with flat distribution), we should get enough to compensate for our game. Put another way, if partner has enough values to make a contract at the five level, we should get plus 500. If partner does take it out, I will bid 5*S* and get us to at least a small slam. To take out the double, he should have a shapely hand with decent values.”

Mike Lawrence agreed. “I expect partner to pass my double, which will net us a small to decent plus,” he said. “If he does pull, I will consider bidding a slam because he will not do that without some playing values.”

“I have good enough defense to double,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “With less defense, I would bid 4NT.”

“It’s clumsy to bid 4NT with hearts and clubs,” said Richard Freeman.

Nevertheless, 10 experts chose 4NT. What were their reasons?

“I have too much offense to risk partner passing,” said Barry Rigal.

“Double could work out well if partner has strong spades and no fit for either of my suits,” said Karen Walker. “The problem is that he’ll pass the double with many hands that have just the opposite.”

Grant Baze agreed. “Partner would pass a double with many hands that would make a slam,” he said. “If I had less offense, such as no K or no ♣Q, double would be more reasonable.”

“4NT could be wrong when partner is totally broke,” said Kitty and Steve Cooper, “but if we double, he will almost always pass. That will not be best for us a high percentage of the time.”

“North might pass a double with a flat hand where we’re cold for game or even slam,” said Allan Falk, “and they have eight or nine tricks in spades. My upside seems larger than my downside for bidding 4NT.”

“If I double,” said Steve Robinson, “partner should pass with:
♠8 6 4 Q 8 3 K 7 5 ♣K 8 4 3,
and 7♣ will make more often than not.”

“Yes, 4NT precludes partner passing for penalty,” said Kerri Sanborn, “My guess, though, is that we can make a contract at the five level, and they are down one or two at 4♠. Should partner have length in one of my five-card suits, however, both sides could be making game.”

“We think 4NT is a standout,” said scorers Kay and Randy Joyce. “This deal is a reminder of why players preempt.”

The opponents preempted, you have to guess. As long as they preempt, problems such as this one will keep appearing in bidding forums.


Call Score
4NT 100
Dbl 70
5 20
Pass 10
5♣ 0
5♠ 0

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