2024 Retro Edition – May Week 2

What’s your call?

5 5♠ 5NT
6♣ 6 6 6♠ 6NT
7♣ 7 7 7♠ 7NT
Pass Dbl
Click to reveal awards

Panelists
Wafik Abdou, August Boehm, Larry Cohen, Mel Colchamiro, Allan Falk, Geoff Hampson, Betty Ann Kennedy, Daniel Korbel, Mike Lawrence, Roger Lee, Jeff Meckstroth, Jill Meyers, Barry Rigal, Steve Robinson, Kerri Sanborn, Don Stack, The Sutherlins, Steve Weinstein
Extreme penalty versus slam

Double!” thunders Boehm. “If partner passes – say, with a singleton diamond – the preemptor is going for his life. If partner pulls with a diamond void, a 5♠ continuation should give us the best chance to reach the top spot.”

Hampson sees that double will result in a huge plus if partner can pass, “and will provide more information about his shape if he pulls.”

Cohen doubles. “Let the ‘forcing pass’ discussion begin. My deciding factor is that even if partner passes my double (he is likely to pull if void in diamonds), 800 is quite likely, and it isn’t clear the field will be reaching a making slam.”

Korbel obliges: “In my partnership, this would be a forcing-pass auction. That, however, is not standard, so I must do something. Partner will not pass very often with a diamond void or excellent hearts, so we will still reach a lot of our good slams.”

“Tough problem!” says Abdou waving the red card. “Preempts work. I am going for the sure plus, fully aware that slam is a good possibility if we don’t have two red losers.”

Robinson says he would double even if his K Q J were three low diamonds. “If partner has a distributional hand, he’ll pull.”

Falk doubles wistfully. “I suspect that we can make 6♠, but sometimes my partners are 1=7=1=4 or something of that ilk. If my diamonds were x–x–x, 6♠ would be more tempting. Note that I dare not bid 5♠ lest partner pass with a seemingly nothing hand that makes slam cold. In this situation, double shows values, but is not purely penalty. If partner thinks he has the hand to pull, I will bid slam – in hearts, not spades. If we defend, I hope I can get the lead early and play diamonds and beat this thing a zillion. Some nonvul opponents think they can bid with impunity, but not when we can ‘draw trumps and claim.’”

Meckstroth is looking ahead to defending 5 doubled: “If pard has a trump to lead, we are in great shape.”

Rigal, too, is calculating his defensive plus score. “The penalty on a trump lead may exceed our slam … and are we so sure we’re making a slam? Probably, I admit, but could we crime partner for being:

♠x x A Q x x x x x ♣K Q x x?”

Lee doubles. “We probably have a slam, but I don’t know where. If partner passes, I’ll take the money. If he pulls the double, we can bid 5NT and then 6 to offer spades.”

Lawrence wants to know who he’s playing against. “They’ve picked a good time for this auction. I can double, which partner will often pass. Double, however, is not extreme penalty, but rather shows good high cards. If partner sits for the double – hardly automatic – the opponents will lose three or four tricks in the majors, two diamonds and likely two clubs. That’s 1100. If partner pulls the double, I still have a say, and I also have a bit more information. A big key is partner’s diamond holding – zero or one. Because I can’t be sure which major is best, I will double. At this point, the only bid I can make to get a major-suit preference from partner is 5NT with the intention of bidding 6 over partner’s 6♣. Too rich for me.”

For three intrepid panelists, 5NT is not too rich at all. They are unwilling to give up on a vulnerable slam, and they use 5NT to discover which slam is best.

“This is one hard problem,” says Meyers. “If partner bids 6♣, I am correcting to 6. I hope partner gets the message that I have a good hand with a lot of spades. If my double of diamonds were purely penalty, I would double.”

“It feels like we have slam somewhere,” says Sanborn. “5NT is the only way I can think of to probe. Removing partner’s expected 6♣ to 6 should emphasize spades. All thoughts of seven are out the window in all practicality.”

“With 5NT,” says Weinstein, “I should be able to convey heart tolerance and spade length, and I think slam is too likely to do anything else. It’s tempting to double with such great diamonds, but … nah!”

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