Retro Edition

Matchpoints. Both vulnerable.
♠2   A K 7 5   –   ♣K Q J 9 7 6 5 3

West North East South
1♣ 1♠ Pass ?
1NT
2♣ 2 2 2♠ 2NT
3♣ 3 3 3♠ 3NT
4♣ 4 4 4♠ 4NT
5♣ 5 5 5♠ 5NT
6♣ 6 6 6♠ 6NT
7♣ 7 7 7♠ 7NT
Pass Dbl

What’s your call?

Click to reveal awards
Bid Award
5♣ 100
6♣ 60
1NT 20
Pass 10
2♣ 10
2 10
2NT 10
3NT 0

For yesterday’s It’s Your Call deal (from January 2010’s Bridge Bulletin), 5♣ was named top bid.

It must be a good problem when the experts vote for seven different bids. There were votes for pass and 1NT and votes for slam. What’s going on?

“5♣,” said Peggy and John Sutherlin. “Our best chance must be to play in clubs. Partner will understand that this is to play and not a super splinter. If a 4–4 fit exists, it may still be better to play in clubs.”

Betty Ann Kennedy agreed. “I’ll bid what I think I can make.”

“If I don’t bid 5♣ now, partner will never get the message that I really have clubs,” said Larry Cohen. “I know, partner might think this is exclusion Blackwood for spades — wouldn’t that be fun?”

The convention that Cohen refers to (exclusion Blackwood) is a variation on normal Roman Key Card Blackwood, where an unexpected or impossible jump to the game level is key card for partner’s suit (or a previously agreed suit), not counting key cards in the jump suit. Why do this? Because the jumper has a great hand for slam but is void in that suit; therefore, regular key-card methods don’t help.

“This may be the last chance to convince partner of genuine clubs,” agreed August Boehm. “At least in this forum, I don’t have to worry about an exclusion Blackwood accident.”

“You wouldn’t think it possible to hold this hand and have this auction,” said Don Stack, “but we are going to bid 5♣ — what we think we can make. There’s no chance of being mistaken for something exotic like exclusion Blackwood because that is not part of Bridge Bulletin Standard.”

“I would cuebid first if I wanted to use exclusion Blackwood,” said Karen Walker, “so this must be natural. If partner isn’t of the same mind, we have a good story for the bar after the game.”

Three experts weren’t content to bid game in clubs.

“6♣,” said Mike Lawrence. “Any number of clubs is artificial. I think we should play in clubs, and this is the easiest way to do it.”

What choices did other experts make?

“2NT,” said Barry Rigal. “I feel like abstaining, but life is too short. 2NT will likely not end matters. Anything I bid is ridiculous.”

“2,” said Kerri Sanborn. “This hand is too freaky. When you hold a surprise for partner, try and let him in on the secret.”

“2♣,” said Jeff Meckstroth. “This is an impossible problem with no good answer.”

Three experts chose 1NT.

“There is no bid to describe long clubs here,” said Steve Robinson. “Maybe someone will bid over 1NT and I’ll get another chance. I expect to hear someone bid diamonds.”

“We were taught never to put an eight-card suit down as dummy,” said Linda and Robb Gordon. “We don’t expect the auction to die, and we will later bid clubs naturally. We don’t see any other way to do so without bidding 1NT first.”

Allan Falk also bid 1NT. “Someone is going to bid again,” he said. “I can’t bid any number of clubs this round, short of 6♣. 2♣ is a cuebid, 3♣ is a mixed raise, 4♣ is a splinter and 5♣ is exclusion Blackwood. I can’t pass 1♠, so the best hope is that East doubles, and then a club bid by me will be natural. I’ll understate my values and hope for a favorable development.”

When you hold a freak, there is often no right or wrong bid. As Stack said, bid what you think you can make.

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