Smart competition

Every year since 2004, the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute has organised a Bridge for Brain Research Challenge. Held in the first week of May, the challenge has the twofold purpose of raising funds for Alzheimer’s and dementia research, and highlighting the benefits of bridge and other mental activities in maintaining a healthy brain. Today’s deals are both taken from one of these Challenges, and illustrate an important modern principle of competition.

After your side finds a fit (say 1H : 2H), but an opponent then calls over you (say 2S), what would a bid of 3H mean?

You may want to bid on for one of two reasons: to compete for the partscore, or to invite game. How do you distinguish between these two? For example:

Dealer West, both vul.

          NORTH
          ♠ QT32
          63
          QJ92
          J97
WEST                EAST
 98                 J6
 T95                AQJ742
 AKT75              43
 T84                A63
          SOUTH
          
 AK754
          
 K8
          
 86
          
 KQ52

WEST  NORTH EAST  SOUTH
Pass  Pass  1H    1S
2H    2S    ?

East opened 1H, and West showed the fit. When the opponents compete in spades, what should East do? Knowing there is a 9-card heart fit, East does not want to allow North-South to buy the hand in 2S. East wishes to bid 3H to play, but would not want to hear West raise to 4H.

Over competition (in this case North’s 2S), re-raising the fit suit (3H) is weak while an “in-between” step (3C, 3D or even 2NT) is used as a genuine invitation to game. Here, East does not wish to invite game so bids 3H as a purely competitive measure.

Test yourself on this one:

Dealer North, EW vul.

          NORTH
          
 J986
          
 —
          
 JT973
          
 AKT3
WEST                EAST
 Q                  KT73
 J62                AKQ973
 K8642              Q
 Q962               J4
          SOUTH
          
 A542
          
 T854
          
 A5
          
 875

WEST  NORTH EAST SOUTH
      Pass  1H   Pass
2H    Dble  ?

East opened 1H, raised by West. North, having passed already, was now able to make a takeout double without promising opening points. Over that, if East re-raises the fit suit (3H) that would show a weak hand that is purely competing for the part score.

Here, East has genuine game interest so should show another suit, 2S. West has a maximum and a singleton spade (which should help in ruffing partner’s spade losers) so, given that 2S was a game try, the first thought should be to accept the invitation by bidding 4H. Is there anything that might make West think twice about doing this?

At the table, West figured the DK and CQ might be useless opposite partner’s minor suit shortages (which had been suggested by East’s bidding), and this proved pretty much to be the case. West also lacks a top trump or any other “sure” value. Bidding 4H could put you too high. On the other hand, it would be too negative for West to sign off in 3H, the weakest bid.

A compromise is for West to bid 3D. With the bidding still not committed to game, another new suit still expresses doubt about whether to bid that game or not, and says: “I have some values here”. That is not what East (with a singleton diamond) wants to hear, and a sign-off in 3H will quickly follow.

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