Chuck Arthur


If you played at Hazel’s yesterday, you came across this hand. You hold in second seat, vulnerable against not


West East


West North East South
  Pass ??  


Do you bid? If so, what? Would it make any difference if the colours were different, or in what position you were sitting?


Carl HudecekApril 8th, 2010 at 9:18 am

Pass. With two aces and RHO a passed hand, I am not pre-empting.

It may well be that partner has a good hand with spades.

I can bid clubs later, even at the 5-level (for example 1S on my left,

2D by partner, 4S on my right, 5C by me) showing, at this vulnerability,

a good playing hand with long clubs.

If partner opens 1S in 4th seat, I respond 2C (not Drury) and rebid C.

With two aces, I would not pre-empt in any seat at any vulnerability.

Tom KinnearApril 8th, 2010 at 9:22 am

I hate bidding 4 or 5 clubs in this chair…..some days it will be right….some not……but I have 2 opponents and one partner….so I think I bid 4 Clubs……wrong….I know I bid 4 Clubs!


Paul CroninApril 8th, 2010 at 10:25 am

This was the hand the Mikado was playing when he was heard to say “My object all sublime I shall achieve in time”. Red or white, wait, wait, wait!

Steven LariviereApril 8th, 2010 at 10:42 am

I know that I am going to be in the minority here but I like to open these hands 1 club. North as a passed hand allows more room for my partner to have values and if I pre-empt, I’ll most likely pre-empt our own side out of a constructive slam auction. Being void in spades and having 2 bullets makes me feel sick about pre-empting. Vulnerability definitely plays a role in my opener as I would pass if not vul. The fact that I am vulnerable pushes me to make a decision now rather than later. I would hate to try to describe this hand later after a 1 spade opener by south and some number of spade raises by north. I would also pass in 1st chair since my partner isn’t rated to have values yet. If someone kicked me in the groin to pre-empt, I’d bid 4 clubs. Will miss the odd slams and the odd grands, but that’s why I’d be on the ground in pain.

David LindopApril 8th, 2010 at 10:46 am

Nine-card suits are difficult to describe. It’s hard to convince partner that singleton K will solidify the suit. And I’m not supposed to put an eight-card suit down in the dummy, let alone a nine-card suit. So I’d open 5C with this hand. A little more defense than partner might expect; and a little less offense. Even though right-hand opponent has passed and partner has not had a chance to bid, I don’t like to leave a lot of room for the opponents when I have only two major-suit cards. At this vulnerability, partner will know I’m not overbidding by more than one or two tricks, so partner can perhaps raise with a suitable hand.

If the opponents do bid over 5C, I can always double to say I have good defensive prospects.

Daniel KorbelApril 8th, 2010 at 10:53 am

I personally doubt there is a wrong answer to this problem. Everything seems reasonable and could work. Since I am comfortable pulling partner’s double of 4S to 5C I think I have a little safety opening 1C so I’ll try that this time.

john cunninghamApril 8th, 2010 at 11:00 am

Had I this hand I would have reluctantly opened 1 club.

Pass makes sense, too. But if partner opens 1M I will be badly placed, playing Drury.

Given that you are in second, red, and will be expected to be constructive, 3 clubs has some merit. My partner opened 4.

I had AKQxxx; KJxxx; xx; – Not pleasant. Eventually I passed. They cashed 2 diamonds and 2 eventual trumps, for one down. We got 19.5 of 21 random match points.

Andy Robson would have interesting comments about this hand.

Steve GittinsApril 8th, 2010 at 11:18 am

Pass. If partner opens 1S then, playing Drury, I can bid 3 clubs fit showing. 9 cards in Spades and clubs and constructive values. Partner does have a sense of humour, no?

Ross TaylorApril 8th, 2010 at 11:34 am

I would open 1 club. I think 5 clubs is somewhat manic.

Chuck GallowayApril 8th, 2010 at 11:37 am

I would pass in first or second seat to see what happens. I would bid 1C in third seat so I don’t get passed out. I would bid 3C in fourth seat if I thought my partner would pass understanding that a fourth hand 3 bid is just trying to buy the contract since I suspect W&N have 11HCP and E has 10.

Don LeMasterApril 8th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I like the 1 club bid since pd has not had a chance to act. Passing is out of the question.

Dave Memphis MOJOApril 8th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Your hand doesn’t fit any number of clubs, so I think I’ll pass. Maybe I’ll have a better idea what to do next time (or not). Obviously anything could be right

Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 8th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Anything less than an opening 5C is giving the opponents a helping hand to find their inevitable game in the majors. Now you have stuffed the opponent in the 3rd seat good and proper. And so what if it is partner who has a good hand opposite….5C may still be the optimum contract. However, if he has a top honour in clubs to 2 or 3, plus some quick tricks outside, I would hope he has the gumption to bid the small slam. Yours Howard Bigot-Johnson

Fred GitelmanApril 8th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I would open 5C at any vulnerability and form of scoring because:

1) There is no way I can describe this hand no matter what I do

2) If I don’t bid 5C now, it likely that I am going to have to bid 5C at my next turn

3) 5C applies rather more pressure than 1C or (gasp) Pass

I can understand opening 1C, but it is not my style. I cannot understand Pass. You can use the Passers’ logic (that no bid is perfect so I won’t bid at all) to justify Passing throughout – your chances of having a perfect bid to describe your hand later in the auction are exactly zero.

Fred Gitelman

Bryan MonkhouseApril 8th, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I intend to play 5c , so I bid it now. No number of rounds of bidding will suffice for me to find out if partner has 3 of the 7 cards in which I have an interest – 1C followed by 5C is a possibility, but it seems that sequence asks partner for a judgment he is in no position to make – 5C asks for pass, and should get it —

Bruce StuartApril 8th, 2010 at 8:01 pm

My first instinct is to make a preemptive bid, but I ask myself, what if my partner has an opening bid.What if partner has a 1 or 2 NT bid, we are assured of a potential slam as there will be no club void in partner’s hand. If the opponent on my left opens the bidding and my partner passes, school is out and 5C is bid. I want to give my partner every opportunity to be in this auction with an opening bid if they have one.

Doug DrewApril 8th, 2010 at 8:06 pm

every once in a while a hand will arrive in 1st and /or 2nd position which can’t be classified .

So there fore it is not a bridge hand! Pass!!!

Ross AndersonApril 8th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I don’t think there is a magic answer to what should be bid or not and I am not sure colour matters; however my choices would be one of pass , 1 club and 5 clubs and what I did would probably depend on how I felt when I opened up the hand. As of right now I am picking 1 club.

Steve GoldinApril 8th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I am going to bid 4C. I play with most partners that my suit quality should be pretty good in order to preempt an unpassed partner, but I have to make some effort to try to keep the opponents from finding their Spade fit too easily. A double at this level and at these colours will probably not result very well, but no pain, no gain.

BlairApril 9th, 2010 at 4:10 am

Bobby Nail told a great rubber bridge story where once he held in second seat x x x AKQJ10XXXXX and passed. The lovely LOL , his partner, sitting in fourth chair, thought and thought and finally passed, and as she showed her hand to Bobby she exclaimed that she had only 12 points, in the form of three bare aces…

Ergo, if the “Little Giant can pass x x x AKQJ10XXXXX in second seat I can also pass this hand. If you foolishly opened it one club you will have no rebid, and to open anything else is preemptive. It’s great to have once in a while a realy good hand as a responder or to have a surprise for the defenders as an overcaller……

lewis richardsonApril 9th, 2010 at 10:13 am

to me 5 clubs stands out. it shows somethig different than 3 clubs & certainly something different than 4 clubs. partner should not be surprised by this holding.

NickApril 9th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I would open 4C in this situation, playing matchpoints. If at equal or favourable vulnerability, I would open 5C.

Abe BirenbaumApril 9th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I so rarely see a 9 card suit that I must bid. Since 4 cards are in 3 hands, the odds favour no one with more than 2 cards in clubs I therefore have 9 tricks and can afford to open 5 clubs which I would do vul and not vul. In 3rd or 4th position I would bid 4 clubs. Abe

Hazel WolpertApril 10th, 2010 at 10:43 am

I held this hand and opened 5 clubs . I usually am disciplined in 2nd chair but felt there was no other bid to describe this hand and wanted to get in and hope if wrong the opp would have no room to find out that I had stepped out.

Eric CaulfieldApril 11th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

The answer lies in “partnership agreement”. Everyone has made an answer that helps partner understand your hand…or so they think. That implies partnership agreement… for second to winning is “keep partner happy”. Now these statements are all over played when talked about but “implied” is something else. Being disciplined is very important in partnership games. I stress this with my partners and am unforgiving when an established partner breaks with discipline. So what’s partnership agreement in preempt bids?? In my world, at matchpoint, me and my kind, at our first opportunity, bid to the level of cards we have in any particular suit that we indend to preempt in as long as the opps aren’t in this auction. In this case….with 7 clubs we bid 3 clubs….with 8 clubs we bid 4 clubs and with 9 clubs we bid 5 clubs and so on. We will not lie to an non passed hand partner about the length of our suit when we preempt. In matchpoint and in competition it’s a different philosophy. One should always over preempt the preemptive hand by one to put maximum pressure on the opps and to tell partner you have bid “our hands”. When partner knows that the preemptive bid, in competiton, takes into consideration his/her hand, then partner will not get back into the auction. Therefore, if nobody has opened this auction, I will open 5 clubs and be accurate in my club length and defer any further decisions over to partner. He will bid on based on predetermined agreements like how many aces or voids and ace/king combs he has. If anyone of the opps have entered this auction before me, I will go to the 6 level at my first opportunity…to shut partner up and place maximum pressure on opener’s partner. Now I have positioned my hand….and my partner knows it…. to give the opps the last guess to go wrong. That’s the true nature of preemptive bidding. Is this always right??? Hell no because partner’s hand won’t always give you that extra trick but it makes you a tuff competitor….which is all I want to be. The colors only dictate the number of tricks you can lose before it becomes a bad discision….this time. A preemptive bid is intended to find the “absolute par” spot of the side who makes the preemptive bid before the opps have time to find their “par” contract. In other words, you preempt not to make but to go down for less than what the opps could have made had they had the time to discover their fit or fits and level they should be at. A preemtive bid should expect to be doubled if the opps can’t find their correct suit and level due to the bid…and if they don’t double then your partner will usually have enough strength to allow you to make your contract for if a hand is going down it makes no sense to allow the opps to play it undoubled at matchpoints. In matchpoints, it’s easy to determine when a hand should statistically be doubled because your side can’t go below a zero. Therefore the risk/reward will always be on your side. The better matchpoint players know this while the average players sense this but won’t always do it. That’s why “swing boards” occur. At IMPS, it’s a different story and Fred Gitelman would be an ideal person to consult on that theory. He knows! However, at matchpoints, my theory is as good as anybody’s theory because it works for me and my kind because of the discipline and understandings that the partnership demands…in order to win. In playing to “win” it doesn’t matter if you come in last today as long as you kept to your agreements and understandings but remember this…Second is just the first loser! All those who win go to the right….all those who lose go to the left. Second goes to the left!

If you respect the opposition, then you owe them your best possible game so when they beat you this time…they’ve really beat you and deserve to feel good about it. Anything less is “patronizing” them and I will never do that.

Esther GoldmanApril 13th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for posting this hand, Chuck. Interesting to see so many views on how to bid this hand!

Peter DeLucaApril 13th, 2010 at 7:07 pm

I believe that partnership agreement dictates your bid. I play regularly with Eric Caulfield and I would open 5c playing with Eric.

However, I played that particular hand with Steve Goldin as my partner and passed on my first turn. The bidding ended at 4c by me making 5 with a spade lead. This gave us a clear top board.

If my partner had been ?????? who knows what I would have bid. Its all in the partnership agreements.

jack shinehoftApril 19th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Someone once told me with 6 card suits opening the bidding at the 2 level, with 7 card suits, the 3 level, 8 card suits the 4 level and 9 card (minor suits) the five level. Maybe an over simplicfication of what to do, but Frank Vine was a very good bidder.

Chuck ArthurApril 20th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I was surprised by the variety of answers, yet there was no vote for what I considered to be a potential opening: 3 clubs. I do not like that opening, but I thought somebody might. At least one person bid that at the table.

Pass 10

1 club 6

4 clubs 3

5 clubs 10

It is a little difficult to do a proper tally since some of the comments depending upon the day of the week, who their partner was, or how they were feeling. Others hid their answer in great gobs of reasoning and waffling.

I was persuaded by the reasoning of Carl Hudecek and others who noted that we are in second seat, increasing the probability that partner has a good hand. I lump my vote in with the 9 other for that call.

For the hand record and virtual traveller, go to

BlairApril 20th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

I agree about waffling..You gave the conditions and asked the question. I did not answer the other two questions: Would you make the same bid NV vs. V? What bid would you make if you held this hand in one of the other three chairs? I felt that the last two questions involved a thesis that contained a multitude of answers for a half dozen or more questions. In my blog I ask the same, don’t be concerned with the auction, just what do you do now that it’s up to you. It makes it very difficult to generate a poll of answers when bloggers give several answers because of their different partnership agreements or because they don’t approve of the established parameters.

I enjoy your MSC and look forward to your quizes. Great job dude. Thanks….


Tim CapesOctober 16th, 2010 at 8:03 pm

This is a hand with very few losers, a decent probability of having 2 defensive tricks, and a lot of tolerance for pulling partners first penalty double to clubs at the cheapest level on many low level auctions.. 1C opener seems fine if you are adverse to preempting, but I do prefer 5C.

Pass seems really awkward.

Mike HamiltonNovember 6th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Assuming comprehensive agreements on pre-empting, an extension of bidding principles to 5-level openings should show a 9+ card suit with playing strength within your bid according to the Rule of 2, 3, and 4.

ANY 9-card suit is worth at least 7 playing tricks since the remaining 4 cards spread among the remaining 3 hands gives a higher probability that missing honour cards will crash. Since this suit is headed by the ace, I award the hand 8 playing tricks in clubs and a 9th in hearts, so competing to the 5-level ought to be safe.

Do you get there by a direct opening bid? With two aces, no. If you keep your pre-emptive openings disciplined, partner can trust your bidding and draw inferences from the bids you make and the bids you do NOT make.

If you pass, partner will never read you for the hand you hold and you will have neutered your ability to make accurate bidding judgements later in the auction.

If you pre-empt below the 5-level, you are not describing a hand that your agreements say you have. That won’t help in making what is sure to be a high-level bidding decision later in this auction.

That pretty much leaves only a 1C opening bid. You open at the 1-level to announce some defense. You have 2 quick tricks but likely only one defensive trick since holding so many clubs, there is a good chance that one of your opponents is void.

I would simply bid 5C at my next turn and pass thereafter. I bid quickly to my limit when limited and then stay quiet. An opening bid at the 1-level followed by an unusual jump-rebid of the suit should show a hand with the pre-emptive qualities implied by the level of my rebid with more defensive value than the pre-empt allows. Partner gets to this conclusion by drawing inferences.

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