X-Clubs Play 31

Do you have trouble with big hands? I regularly hear explanations of “19+”, “22+”, “19-21” etc, for both a 2C and a 2D opening, without any real indication of just what the bid means or what its purpose is. Board 6 provided a great example of how difficult (or easy?) it can be to bid big hands to the correct spot.

Board 6 from Friday 19/09/22
Dealer East EW Vul


Just one look at this deal should tell you that the correct contract is 4S by West. Why, then, of 190 EW pairs across X-Clubs, did only ELEVEN pairs play in 4S, most of the others in 3NT, a few in 4H. There should be an unwritten understanding that if you choose to play in 3NT with a singleton in partner’s 6+ card suit, you will need to make nine tricks WITHOUT any help from partner. I have heard discussions about ‘second negatives’ but this just complicates matters without leading anywhere, as those who do play a ‘second negative’ will find out in time. For now, let me suggest a very simple way to bid such big hands as this one. We play a 2C opening bid as FORCING TO GAME unless partner responds 2D and opener rebids 2NT which is 23-24 balanced. That is simple enough. Does the East hand qualify as such a 2C opening bid? Only just, but good enough to want to be in game unless you are an extreme pessimist and don’t want a challenge and choose to open 1H. So, 2C and West gives a negative response of 2D. 2H from East and 2S from West. East continues to investigate by bidding 3C. West bids 3S, which says just one thing, West has six spades. Now, if East wants to play in 3NT without any tricks from West, East is welcome to try 3NT. How much sense does that make knowing what West has had to say, which is “I have six spades and bugger all points”?

Two final questions for the reader:
a) How would you play 4S given a low diamond lead?
b) How would you play 4H given a diamond lead?

There is more to the play in 4S than meets the eye, and an overtrick should always be made, but there is a correct and an incorrect way to play it. In 4H there is no chance of an overtrick, but careful play is still needed. I have a prize on offer for the two correct answers.