Chuck Arthur


Somewhat surprisingly, this hand was the subject for debate at the pub after the game



Nobody is vulnerable in a club game at matchpoints. South deals.

“What’s the problem?” you ask. Bear with me. I shall continue the story anon. What is your opening bid?

This was originally posted on March 13, 2010,  without the North hand. I am publishing this update on March 17. There have been no new comments over the past two days, so we have probably heard from anyone who has something to say. This does not mean that I would not welcome any further comments after this date. It is just that your vote will not show up in the summary.
You now see the North hand facing the given hand; I was West. At my table, South did open two hearts. North simply raised to four hearts in typical rubber bridge style. The ace of clubs was onside and there was nothing foul about the layout, so 11 tricks were cold. Nothing much was said at the time. At another table, South (perhaps influenced too much by the advice of others) passed originally. The auction continued 

West North East South
pass 1 pass 1
pass pass dbl 2
pass pass pass  


Clearly North, who had not shaded his third seat opener, owed his partner a two heart response; they would have reached game easily, as South would have then bid game. They were given another chance when East tried to balance them into game, but NS were having no part of that.
This deal was played 21 times. The frequency distribution of the NS scores looked like this
+450   15
+200     5
+170     1
When I first thought of posing this question to my blog, I thought that the vote would be overwhelmingly for opening 2 hearts, with only a few misguided votes for one heart. If I were writing a textbook, I might have chosen this hand as a classic weak two, How wrong I was! A summary of the responses looks like this
1 heart   10
2 hearts   5
pass        2
vacillate   2
The above includes some votes expressed to me privately, so nobody need check my math. Incidentally, I think that it is quite alright to waver on an issue like this. It is more important to express the issues: to let us see the workings of your mind.
The KnR (Kaplan and Reubens) calculator evaluates South at 13.95 points; North is 11.85 points.
Thank you all who participated.


john cunninghamMarch 13th, 2010 at 8:20 am

Are you eliciting comment?

There is no rationale that I can think of for bidding anything but pass or some number of hearts. A pass might work in a number of ways, but……..

By my (halogen) lights, this hand is too strong for a non vulnerable weak two bid, and for any first position three bid. So ONE heart it is. Two and a half of Culbertson’s best.

“What’s the problem”, indeed.

Ross AndersonMarch 13th, 2010 at 8:57 am

I know lots of people will pass this hand. I am not one of them. I am opening 1 heart. I have 2 1/2 quick tricks. If I pass it is going to be very tough to desribe this hand. What do I do after P-1S-P-2S.If I am playing with someone who thinks this hand should be passed then I open 2 hearts.

lewis richardsonMarch 13th, 2010 at 9:25 am

my system allows a 2 heart opening.playing ogust,i have methods to show 10 points & a good suit. while i know many will disagree with me,i have seen people often get to high when partner expects more in high card points.

lindaMarch 13th, 2010 at 10:08 am

Philisophically I don’t like the idea that there is a gap between a 1 heart bid and a 2 heart bid. So I pick one almost all the time when I have a good 6 card suit like this. I agree with Ross with this many quick tricks I open 1 heart.

If like Lou your methods allow you to open 2H with a good hand then that’s reasonable too. I know some people these days are playing good weak 2 (popularized by the Granovetter’s) and this hand would work well in those methods.

NickMarch 13th, 2010 at 10:09 am

Due to the lack of intermediates, I would open 2H. Since my partner and I play OGUST, I can describe my hand perfectly if he is interested.

Tom KinnearMarch 13th, 2010 at 10:57 am

When all is said and done….with all but one partner I open this one Heart. I have a rebid….that to me is the key. Playing Ogust…….makes 2 H a favorable possibility….but for whatever reason….very few of my partners here in the frozen tundra play Ogust….

However…..I can certainly see problems no matter what action I take……I believe opening 1H tends to minimize the problems and no….my name is not Kenny Rogers….although Chuck…..I am sure there was a time a few years back……that you may have thought I was Kenny Rogers. and not because of my singing voice!

Daniel KorbelMarch 13th, 2010 at 11:22 am

It’s very, very conservative to open this hand 2H, not vulnerable. If we were vulnerable, I would probably open 2H but not feel all that great about it as it will be next to impossible for partner to envision this much and we may miss something.

I would open 1H NV and not worry about it at all.

Steven LariviereMarch 13th, 2010 at 11:40 am

1 heart for me, with 2 and a half quick tricks and 7 total losers with saturated high cards in both my long suits I would open 1 heart red or not. These are the type of hands that make slam opposite many hands from partner when they have the top of a strong no-trump type hand and is also a great hand for the 3 level competition war as it’s very hard for the opponents to double me lacking high heart honors and I expect to have a good 3 level save or push the opponents around a little. 😉

Ross TaylorMarch 13th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Depends how I feel. You can’t go far wrong with either 1H or 2H. Pass is not an option here. At the table, we should not take any undue time to make our choice – so our decision will be made from instinct, and our lifetime’s accumulation of similar hands and results. Just make your bid, drive on, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

My methods allow for a 2H opener with this hand, but making me non vul and putting me in first chair makes me a tad squeamish. Second chair non vul, or any chair vul, and 2H seems clear.

Opening 2H here may result in a missed game, especially if partner has a weak NT – ish hand with two or three hearts. On the other hand, if the ox chirps anything at all over there, we surely have the methods to get this hand off our chest, and get to the best game or slam. (As Lew and others say)

Opening 1H seems perfectly fine too – especially these days where opening bids have depreciated over the years. One problem with 1H is the flip side of the 2H opener – partners are often forced to make a decision early on about whether or not their hand is worth a game force -and sometimes you end up both zigging when one of you should be zagging. i.e. you may end up getting too high, which is not cool at matchpoints.

When I say too high, I am not too worried about being dragged to a poor slam, since our methods will allow me to describe and limit my hand, and I do have lots of positive features to brag about. No, it’s the poor game contracts I would worry about reaching – which is only likely to happen if the cards misfit.

I had hoped by the time I finished typing, my choice would spring forth from my thought process – but one can argue effectively for either 1H or 2H.

Arguing slightly in favor or 2H is that I have far better defined and limited my hand in one bid than a 1H opener will do – and if there is immediate competition, partner will be on more solid ground vis a vis my hand ranges.

Fred GitelmanMarch 13th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I am impressed that nobody really tried to claim that there is a clearly right call with this hand – whatever your partnership decides to do with hands “like this” is what you should do.

It is my preferred style to open 2H with this hand when playing a 2/1ish system, but my sense is that this would be a minority position among today’s experts in North America (my guess is that about 60% would open 1H and almost all the rest would open 2H – very few would Pass). I am quite sure there would be a near-universal expert consensus for opening 1H playing a system like Precision where 1H is limited to less than 16 HCPs.

Once upon a time this hand was close to being prototypical for a (maximum) non-vul weak 2-bid. Nowadays it is certainly fashionable to open 1H with this hand, but I get the impression that some of those who have recently adopted this fashion have not given enough thought to all the consequences. For example, opening 1H with this hand means that you either have to live with a wider range for your 2H rebids or lighter hands for your 3H rebids than those pairs that open 2H. Similar reverberations extend all the way to your 2C openings.

Of course the reverse is true as well – opening this hand 1H allows you to open 2H with lighter hands without having to worry about your weak 2-bids having too wide a range.

Fred Gitelman

lewis richardsonMarch 13th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

ogust is a perfect system fot this type of need not struggle & be concerned with this type of hand. partner is well prepared for it. it then becomes very easy to distinguish between this & a weaker version.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 14th, 2010 at 1:14 am

You know what they say about different strokes for different folks. In our style, it is not up for discussion. We use weak two bids as a destructive force in the auction to try and hinder the opponents from reaching the right spot if it is their hand With the cards as given, it is automatic for us to open 1H. Without the Diamond King, clearly 2H would be our choice.

Obviously, in third seat, we would open a weak 2H.

bobby wolffMarch 14th, 2010 at 1:36 am

As Judy has just said, weak two bids and, for that matter all preempts are:

1. Used to destruct the opponent’s communication

2. Are not, in any way, a means of initiating a scientific sequence to the right contract. Sometimes we can get lucky and get to a good contract, but if so it clearly is not its purpose to take bidding room away from us as well as from the opponents.

Likewise I would open 1 heart, not 2 with:

s. void

h. AK10XXX

d. QJxxx

c. xx

Some very good players would open the above hand 2 hearts and then, if an immediate fit is not discovered, try to bid diamonds later. This, to me, is wrong and undisciplined, since partner will be confused trying to go from the destructive mode and perhaps later to try to find a constructive contract. The key word is UNILATERAL, which the Aces, some 40+ years ago defined as a deadly sin and my guess, if they started over today, would still regard it as such.

If some of you doubt what I am suggesting is valid, try sometime to remember when your partner preempted and it worked beautifully when the opponents, after the first round of bidding, were now in 4 spades which you as partner of the weak two bidder had a hand consisting of 4 spade tricks alone with other defense to boot, only to hear your partner now bid 5 diamonds. Try to keep those opposite modes separate and guarantee to your partner you will not indulge in unilateral actions. If so, your partnership will last longer and with better overall results.

Harriette BuckmanMarch 14th, 2010 at 7:30 am

I am a weak-two bidder on this one. The lack of defensive strength outside makes me want to tell partner my hand is oriented to one suit only, With most partners, Ogust is available, but that’s not my overriding consideration here.

Chuck GallowayMarch 14th, 2010 at 9:51 am

I would open 1H. I don’t open WTB’s with 2.5 quick tricks.

Bryan MonkhouseMarch 15th, 2010 at 8:41 am

Once again, you’ve put your finger on a “seam” in the fabric of bidding systems– I am currently playing precision, because everyone on the small island that I live on does, so this is a clear 1h opener in that context – for my North American partnerships – I would prefer 1H , but would have to be confident this was constructive of partnership harmony; I tend to prefer to preempt with a big gap between the number of potential defensive tricks and the number of offensive tricks — here the gap is small , so 1H followed by “partner, let’s discuss this area”

Martin HunterMarch 15th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The hand must be opened, so pass isn’t an option.

1H or 2H? don’t make the bid such that partner will not envsion the hand you hold.

My choice is 2H, which allows partner, who can count winners, to advance accordingly.

Ogust works, as mentioned previously. I like 2NT feature asking. Here, 3D would show a maximum, with high diamond honour. Partner is now better placed to bid on or not. Without the diamond K, or poorer suit, I would bid 3H.

If partner doesn’t advance, or just bumps, we have made life a little more difficult for opponents.

Joy ShapiroMarch 17th, 2010 at 6:37 am

My choice would be to open this 2H making it clear to my partner that the strength is in hearts and discipined in first position. I would not choose to open 1H as it is an 7 loser hand

Carl HudecekMarch 17th, 2010 at 10:13 am

How does everybody feel about a sister hand: xx AT98xxx AT9 x ?

Daniel KorbelMarch 17th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Good problem, Carl … I might open that 3H vulnerable since the playing strength is in range for me, but I think that’s a fine 1H opener NV. It’s fine on playing strength and two aces means that if partner doubles something you’re not all that unhappy about it.

Chuck ArthurMarch 17th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Yikes! Carl, that hand is impossible to bid intelligently. I like Daniel’s 3 hearts NV, but for me, it is missing too much (like HCP, quick tricks, …) to open a one bid. I think I go with 3 hearts even vulnerable.

David LindopMarch 18th, 2010 at 3:07 am

I think this is a 1H opening. 2 1/2 quick tricks is too strong for a weak two-bid in my opinion. I would not quarrel with 2H, since it doesn’t meet the ‘guideline of 20’. However, I would strongly disagree with pass. I don’t think you can have a hand that is too strong for a weak two-bid but not strong enough for a one-bid. You simply have to make a choice.

Eric CaulfieldMarch 20th, 2010 at 12:11 am

In my opinion, the reason the “pros” win more often is due to clear partnership understandings on what to do on certain type of hands and solid rules between themselves on those understandings. For example, you and partner have a total of 27 HCPs and a 8 card fit in spades. Clearly, whether you play precision or the blue club or the chinese club or the polish club or 2/1 or some form of standard american all will end up in 4 spades except the one pair who always goes after the same 10 tricks in notrump. Everyone laughs at that one pair yet that pair is the one who you have to look out for. They have…in my opinion…the correct approach to the game of matchpoint duplicate bridge. The priorities for the matchpoint game should be 4-4 major fits followed by NT followed by 5-3 fits in a major….with clear defined rules to find out if no trump has a play. Now, not everyone is going to agree with me on this but remember, if you do everything that everyone else is going to do then how do you win the tournaments let alone the club games? The fact of the matter is…you won’t! The pros might tell you that they can “out play” the ordinary person for any overtrick that’s there so they will score better and end up with better results. That’s how they’ll win. I say they’ll not get a chance to play many hands to put their skills to work to make a difference at pairs events. Play 24 boards and statistically each side will play 12 boards and each person will play 6 boards. Out of that 6 boards most will be “no brainers” without any chance for overtricks or everyone else will also make those same overtricks. Only about 1 or 2 boards will a good player be able to secure something that most of the others won’t. That’s not enougth to make a difference. You beat the better players by being disciplined. Doing the same thing with a certain type of hand everytime so partner can count on your response. Never…in my opinion…making a decision that this is a good 12 HCPs…so I’ll open while that is a bad 12 HCPs so I’ll not open. You will confuse partner all the time so open all 12 HCPs saying there is no such thing as a bad 12 vs a good 12. Twelve is twelve. Partner now knows when you are dealer and pass that you don’t have 12 HCPs. It’s clear and simple. Make that a rule at matchpoint! Never bid the same “s@#t” twice. Determine if your hand is a one bid hand or more. If it’s a one bid hand then make it at your first opportunity and then turn over the captaincy to your partner. Never bid a one bid hand twice. The first round of bidding is to see who opens after that never pass and then raise partner if they balance. Never try to steal the hand cheaply. If you have a raise then make it at your first available time to bid. Never pass and then back in later except if they stop at 2 dia or less…at matchpoints. Now many of you already know all this so when you have the requirements for a weak two bid then you must make it…..all the time! In this example, partner opens a weak two and you have 4 cards in his suit. You and partner have 10 cards in trump so partner of the opener will simply bid to the 10th level at his first opportunity…regarless of HCPs to cut opposition communication and hope for the best. If opener’s partner has just two or three of opener’s suit then you should have conventions to ask opener how much he/she likes his/her hand and then decide what to do. Yes, this is a partnership style agreement but in matchpoint you must be agressive to have any real chance of winning. All winners go stand on the right and all losers stand on the left. If you haven’t won and standing on the right then you’ve lost and are standing with all the others losers on the left. Nobody remembers who came in second in the 100 meter Olympic race. You must take that attitude if you want to win and have any chance of beating the better players. Plus in matchpoints, you must always be aware of the “par” contract and the “absolute par” to have any chance of winning regularly. The par contract is the level that your side can make anything for a plus. Each side has a par contract. Sometimes one side can’t make anything so their par contract would be to keep quiet. “Deap Finesse” usually shows what each side can make. That’s the par contract. The absolute par contract is the point where you give up the least amount of points to the other side. This isn’t always easy to find or clearly defined and sometimes only one side has an “absolute par” . The sack in a minor when the opps have bid a vulnerable game and your side is non vulnerable and you have a fit in a minor is a clear example of “absolute par” hunting when your side goes down for less than what the opps would have taken from you had you allowed them to play their major fit…when it makes. This problem is extended when the major might make 5 so they might have an “absolute par” contract in bidding 5 of their major instead of doubling you in your sack of 5 of a minor. Maybe it’s a “Phantom Sack” in 5 of a minor when the 4 of the major doesn’t make. Decisions…decisions.

Blair FedderMarch 24th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I’ll add to your poll belatedly, as I am traveling thru SE Asia looking for a rubber bridge game (it’s tough over here to even find a complete deck of cards). Hand is a Standard American automatic, no hesitation weak 2 heart opener. If you opened 1 heart, then you are playing weak two’s and three bids as destructive. This is a very powerful two heart opener, but just the same, still a two heart opener, not a destructive two. Do you know how many bridge hands there are and how many of those fall into the range of a weak two heart opener? Big numbers, especially when combining destructive and constructive bids in the same category……

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