Jeff Rubens, director
Matchpoints, EW vul. You, South, hold:
A K Q 6 5 2
A Q 10 8
|1 ||Pass||1 ||Pass|
|2 ||Pass||2 ||Pass|
What call do you make?
A few panelists found it necessary to mention that actions such as two notrump, three clubs and three hearts are forcing. It's a shame that we still have to worry about such things after so many Bridge World Standard polls, but things are better than they used to be. At one time, the panel was divided into two chunks. One chunk believed three hearts should be forcing after the one-spade rebid, and carried over this belief to MSC answers; the other chunk believed and carried the opposite. It was impossible to have unified discussion of a problem such as this one, and much potential value of this Club was lost.
Assuming we now know what's forcing and what isn't, is South better off showing his beyond-game-going strength immediately, or concealing it for another round in the hope of getting more information from partner?
JOHN SWANSON: "Four hearts. Three hearts is the right bid if you would pass a three-notrump continuation. The four-heart bid shows extra values and gives us a shot at slam should partner have the necessary controls."
One panelist inquired into the interpretation of four hearts.
LARRY COHEN: "Three hearts. In BWS, what is the difference between three hearts and four hearts? If four hearts is stronger, I would bid that."
Let's see if we can clear up some of the mess. Four hearts cannot be unconditionally stronger than three hearts, because three hearts is forcing, hence unlimited. Four hearts can, should, and (as far as I know) does show a higher minimum than three hearts and presumably locates the source of the extra strength as a very good heart suit. It is not possible to play that three hearts is stronger than four hearts. This is not a matter of style, of "fast arrival" and "slow arrival." If South has long hearts with minimum values for two diamonds (i.e., he is slightly too strong for three hearts, nonforcing), he can't bid four hearts just because he is minimum: his heart suit may not be self-sustaining. So, three hearts must incorporate the possibility of a minimum game-force.
That argument does not hold as strongly for notrump rebids. As a matter of theory, it is possible to play that two notrump here promises strength beyond the minimum necessary to bid two diamonds, and that responder can deny this strength by bidding three notrump. Possible, but, in my opinion, silly. There may be need for investigation--for example, responder may have only moderate diamonds. And responder will far more often have a minimum-range two-diamond bid than one with extra values. I would have thought three notrump showed extra values, but . . .
EDDIE KANTAR: "Three notrump. I give up."
MORRIE FREIER: "Three notrump. It looks like too much of a misfit to look for a slam."
Make sure to calibrate yardsticks if you ever pair up with Frey, who Blackwoods, intending to pass five clubs if partner shows no aces.
One three-notrump bidder introduces the main issue:
ROBERT WOLFF: "Three notrump. Time to make a decision. If we bid three hearts, partner may bypass three notrump with weak diamonds."
Some three-heart bidders are willing to take this risk, others are prepared to cope with it, and still others see more important issues involved.
ALAN STAUBER: "Three hearts. Leaves room for slam investigation, but three notrump might be right and partner may bypass it."
BILLY EISENBERG: "Three hearts. . . . Partner can still bid three spades when three notrump is right."
EDGAR KAPLAN: "Three hearts. It is easy to picture deals on which six hearts is right opposite a void, say:
A K Q x x
K x x
A x x x x
so I guess I should rebid the suit."
CARL HUDECEK: "Three hearts. I'll shut up over three notrump or four hearts, or worry a lot over other four-level replies. Over three spades, I'll try three notrump. . . . North will certainly appreciate the value of black ace-king, ace."
Can South avoid the disadvantages of a direct three hearts without giving up on hearts as a possible trump suit? He can, this way:
RALPH KATZ: "Two notrump. Close between three hearts and two notrump, but since we are playing matchpoints, I want a diamond lead into my ace-queen-ten-eight."
ED MANFIELD: "Two notrump. Somebody must bid notrump, and this is the most convenient time to do so. Two notrump doesn't necessarily show a notrump-oriented hand, just a diamond stopper."
LOU BLUHM: "Two notrump. Perhaps misdescriptive, but it'll give partner an opportunity to describe his hand further. Could still be a six-club or six-heart deal."
BART BRAMLEY: "Two notrump. When I rebid hearts next, partner will know I have long, strong hearts, secondary diamonds, and extra values. I must bid notrump now to confirm a real diamond holding. Two notrump also keeps a club slam in the picture, should partner rebid that suit."
I'm not so sure about those extra values, but otherwise I agree.
KIT WOOLSEY: "Two notrump. North can examine his hand to see if it is suitable for notrump. If so, fine; if not, we continue the probe for the best game with three hearts over three clubs."
Exactly! The main point is that it is possible to probe for four hearts if South bids two notrump, but not possible to probe for notrump (Eisenberg's comment notwithstanding) if South bids three hearts. We can expand this experience into the following general principle: a forcing bid does not necessarily deny a hand suitable for a higher forcing bid. In other words, if South bids two notrump now and three hearts later, he is showing the same heart suit that three hearts directly would have shown.