Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

The Indian Bidding Contest

If you have been on BBO recently you will have seen the announcement for the Indian Bidding Contest.  I didn’t have any desire to take part but I did have a lot of fun reading the commentary by some top players.  As always it reaffirmed my belief there is no right answer.  I suggest you have a look at the panel commentary because it is a lot of fun.

Indian Bidding Contest

Here is one problem I found amusing. 

East-West is vulnerable at matchpoints.

South West North East
  1♥ 3♣ 5NT



♠ —
♥ 7532
♣ A108643


What would you bid?  I think it is safe to assume that 5NT is a grand slam force.

From my hand it looks like they can make 7♥ unless I can manage to get a spade ruff.  So the “obvious” bid seemed to be 6♠.  But it does have some issues.  Since it will alert them to the spade ruff and make it a little bit easier to find a possible 7♠ contract.  That might argue for 7♣ and then a double of 7♥.  But I am going to pick 6♠ anyway.

First some panelist who thought along the same line and then the surprise.

Mike Lawrence (with a similar comment from Subhash Gupta and Jaggy Shivdasani ) : 7♣: The reason for this choice instead of one of the other bids available is that 7♣ cuts down on their options. You do not say what the responses to 5NT are, assuming it is some kind of grand slam force. If West answers in steps, 7C may take away important bidding room. If they do get to 7♥,  I plan to double, hoping for a spade lead. Again, I am hoping that my double does not cause them to run to 7♠.  Since East is the one who would bid 7♠, it may turn out that a heart lead from me will set them.

Eric Kokish : 6♠: It’s likely East was checking on top hearts intending to play in spades, but if he wasn’t, maybe we’ll get our spade lead against 7♥. And if they play in 7♠ I intend to lead a heart with some optimism.

And now the fun part.  I expected Zia (with company) to find a fun bid but look at Fred’s answer.  That was a surprise.

Zia Mahmood : 6◊,  not 6♠, which would stop them for bidding 7♥.  I will double 7♥, cancelling the diamond lead and hope that they can’t make 6♠ …….partner is not invited to support diamonds!!!!

And Prabhakar along the same lines as Zia but thinking about the extra points for a double at matchpoints ….

B. Prabhakar : 6◊.  This is not likely to be a popular choice!  But, here is my reasoning: This is matchpoints, and I want to defeat the likely final contract of 7♥ doubled rather than undoubled, while keeping the chance of their getting to a making 7♠ , to a minimum (East’s bidding suggests that he has solid Spades). Bidding 6◊ confuses the issue for the opponents, and when I double 7♥ it should rule out the diamond lead along with the other normal leads of clubs or trumps. Had I bid 6♠, instead of 6◊, I would be forced to pass 7♥ to get a spade lead in matchpoints. It may be necessary to defend this doubled.

And David Berkowitz who anticipated Zia’s bid:

David Berkowitz : 7♣:  Really anything but 6♠ which will lead to -2600, when partner saves. I suppose the correct technical bid is 6◊ and then double 7♥, cancelling the diamond message,  but I fear that all I will accomplish is to push the opponents to a making 7♠, (maybe partner can ruff a heart).  I plan to double 7♥, hoping that partner will infer spades because I didn’t bid 6◊,  which I could bid safely.

(hmmm,  I don’t think your final double says anything about which suit to lead you can bid both diamonds and spades safely.  It is a bit much for partner to figure out that you couldn’t bid spades safely because you thought they might be able to play there but you weren’t worried about diamonds.)

Fred Gittleman : 6NT: Obviously we have to try to find a way to get partner to lead a spade against 7♥ while ensuring that he does not bid 7♠ in front of me. Bidding 6♠ is too dangerous and bidding any number of clubs in the hope that my eventual Lightner Double will get the spade lead I want offers no guarantees.  While partner certainly rates to have more spades than diamonds, this is not exactly guaranteed. Doubling 5NT is unlikely to help so I am thinking that it might be reasonable to play that the two truly strange bids I have at my disposal, 6♥ and 6NT, could be used to suggest a lead direct in the corresponding side suits. Obscure – for sure! But a thinking partner might well figure out the sort of problem I have. I am not concerned that partner will interpret my bid as a choice between 7♣ and 7◊ (a truly unusual notrump!). I would bid 6◊with that. 

(There seems to be some disagreement between Fred and Zia about the meaning of 6◊.  Sorry, Fred but I think that Zia is right here.  6◊ is lead directing (see David Berkowitz as well).  6NT should be a choice between the minors I think.  Assuming your partner does NOT think that you are offering him a choice of slams and can figure out that you want why do you think partner will interpret 6NT as asking for a heart lead and the opponents, who are good enough to find spades at the seven level won’t figure it out.  It seems to me that you might as well just bid 6♠.  The only value in 6NT is to confuse everyone … Linda)

With company but not all the complexities …

Anil Padhye : 6NT I hope partner will find the winning lead against 7♥ as I don’t have defense if West becomes declarer in 7♠ .

And finally an interesting and maybe a wise big

Sunderram: Pass.  I will trust their bidding and double even if they stop in six.

I am going to give you the scores selected by Avinash Gokhale but as you can deduce from my comments I don’t agree with how he scored it.  (Is that why I don’t like bidding contests?)

Score from Avinash Gokhale:

6NT: 10 (5 for the bid and 5 for the innovation)

7♣: 8 (ho hum)

Double? and all other bids: 4

Pass: 2

So what would you do?


Fred GitelmanJanuary 20th, 2009 at 7:49 am

No need to apologize, Linda. Hope you don’t mind that I don’t apologize for disagreeing with most of what you said. I suppose you deserve some credit for trying – that is more than I can say for Zia who really made no effect to justify his position.

I am certainly correct (or at least more correct than Zia) from a theory point of view. This is easy to see because I can send 4 messages, all of which are useful:


6H=diamond lead direct


6NT=spade lead direct

And all of which can be figured out if you adopt some simple principles like “bids that can be natural are natural” and “impossible bids are wake-up calls”.

While you can send only 2 useful messages:

6D=diamond lead direct

6S=spade lead direct

and one message that is not especially useful:

6NT=choice of minor suit sacrifices

If such hand even exists for your 6NT bid, I can bid that hand with 6D (fine if partner wants to raise to 7D in front of me – I get to the same 7D as you) followed by 7C.

Meanwhile none of your definitions follow from the sort of general principles that I quote.

So hopefully you can see that, at least as far as theory is concerned, I got this one right (or at least more right than you and Zia did).

As far as practice is concerned, that is another story and I have to admit that the approach that you and Zia adopt has something to be said for it in that regard (as long as you make an agreement in CAPITAL LETTERS that bids like 6D and 6S can NEVER be raised). The fact of the matter is that this is an extremely impractical problem. You could spend your whole life playing bridge and never be faced with a problem like this one.

If you don’t believe me then consider when you last heard one of your opponents bid Grand Slam Force at his (or her) first opportunity (never?). Then consider the last time you and your partner were dealt a 13-card fit (once a year?). Now think about the likelyhood of both of these things happening at the same time (yes, I know that the probabilities are not independent). Finally keep in mind that the relative ranks of your 13-card fit, their trump suit, and your void have to be pretty much exactly like this in order for this problem to exist.

What all of this means (to me at least) is that it would be the height of absurdity to even think about making explicit agreements like those I suggest concerning this specific auction. Making agreements like what Zia suggests is probably only a little less ridiculous (and only because his agreements can likely be applied to a wider class of auctions).

Probably it is a waste of time to make *any* agreements that attempt to cover situations “like this”. There basically are no other situations “like this” and I suspect that more general agreements covering not-completely-disimilar situations have little if any value.

That turns out to be another reason (for me anyways) to fall back on “natural” if you (sensibly) don’t have an explicit agreement covering bids like 6D and 6S.

I never know if, when I respond to problems in a bidding panel, I am supposed to try to make the right theoretical bid or the most practical bid. So I tend to mix things up a bit, depending on the problem and my mood. On this particular problem I chose theory (mostly because it is such a silly problem so I thought it deserved a silly answer), but I did include a not-so-subtle disclaimer when I referred to my answer as “Obscure – for sure!” 🙂

Fred Gitelman

Linda LeeJanuary 21st, 2009 at 4:30 am

I agree that this kind of situation is so rare as to be extinct. I guess that’s why I thought it would be best to keep it simple. Your methods are better but I don’t think my partner would work it out at the table.

But I loved that you came up with the idea.

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