High-level competitive bidding – by Milan Macura

We failed to set a new participation record last week. So I am counting on you to help us pass the 2,000 players mark in the next tournament. Spread the word! But the level was still high: 509 in MPs and 600 in IMPs.

MPs results

IMPs results

High-level competitive bidding


MPs results

With less fewer players, no one achieved the 80% magic border. The best player was Subhasish (IN) with 79.03% followed by Ben (AUS) with 77.13% and Tadeusz (UK) with 76.53%.

Akemeny (AUS) and Francois (FRA) got to the main list of winners and are leading top my friends’ list. I have misjudged three boards in a row and finished 189th with 53.18% on 189th place.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

IMPs results

The IMP tournament was very swingy this time. Petra (DE) reached a magnificent score of +62 IMPs, pushing all the boards to absolute maximum. Michael (DK) leads the runner-up group with +45 IMPs. Philothée (FR) and Bruno (BR) share the third place with +42 IMPs.

Jean-Pierre (FRA) was the only player who beat me on from my friend’s’ list who beat me, by 2 IMPs. Still, I am very happy to score plus on every board and finished 8th with +40 IMPs.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

How to deal with high-level competitive bidding?

The high-level competitive bidding decisions are the most difficult ones in bridge. They usually cost a lot, especially in IMPs so it is important to prepare well in advance and construct the system around it.

The most common cases are overbidding 4♥ with 4♠ or a major game with 5♣/♦. Finding out a good sacrifice is not that difficult, but you have to follow 2 main rules:

  • When you sacrifice, you have to be sure opponents will make the game.
  • It’s beneficial only in favorable and equal vulnerabilities and you need to make sure you are not going down for more than opponents score in game.

But what to do when opponents sacrifice over your game?

Do they sacrifice or can they make it? Do you pass, double or overbid?

You will find the right answers if you evaluate your hand well early enough and cooperate with your partner. When there is any indication the bidding can go high, you should show your side suit values, describe the distribution and tell your partner honor or loser strength. Once you know how high your partnership can go, you can find out what contract opponents can make based on the number of defensive tricks.

I will show here one example where you can get ready soon:

Partner opens 1♥ and opponents bid Michaels to show 5♠+5 minor. It is clear that if you have a heart fit, opponents have the spade fit or a fit in a minor and they will overbid your 4♥. Therefore North has to describe the hand as well as possible:

double = shows a majority of HCP, so 10+ HCP, and can have a 3-card fit in case you want to double 4♠ or 5m
3 = standard raise showing 2 honor tricks
4 = shows an unbalanced hand with 4+-card fit and a hand without defensive tricks – you should overbid to 5♥
2NT = distributional invitation with a 4-card fit – 3+ tricks, but only 2+ honors
2 = the strongest bid based on HCP with a fit – 12+ HCP, 3+ good honors
3 = singleton spade and slam interest, exactly 3 useful honors
4/ = good 5+-card suit and a heart fit – 3 honors in long suits

If you have such agreements with your partner in similar sequences, you will almost always make the best decision. Once you show an invitational and better hand, pass should be forcing if opponents overbid. That gives you the chance to find a slam if opponents jump to the 5-level and prevent your slam bidding.

What did you do in the MP tournament on boards 4 and 6?

South and West hands are of goulash type (11 and 12 cards in two suits). Once you get a goulash hand, you know immediately that the bidding will “reach the sky”. West needs to show both minor suits. Some partnerships have a 4NT opening as extreme minors, some has 2NT as 5-5 minors and can show a strong hand if they continue the bidding, especially by bidding the major to show a void.

Argine doesn’t have these conventions and West opened 1♦. East has a standard hand and responded 1♠. As South, you cannot show both majors now, but your hearts are good enough for at least one bid. The hand can be a misfit so I have decided to overcall only 2♥. West bids 3♣ and it is North turn to show his hand. A 5-card fit is very nice, but the values hardly cover any losers. I would have passed North hand or bid 4♥ in favorable vulnerability.

After 3♥, East has to show his values and the jump to 5♦ should indicate 3 tricks. Surely the hand has a potential, but 3 small clubs and only one top card might be not enough and the 4♦ bid can describe the hand better. But 5♦ puts pressure on South. With a good fit and a club honor in partner’s hand, 5♥ can make and if not, it should go maximum 2 down if opponents make 5♦.

The point of this board is what to do if E-W goes to slam. West has clearly an extreme hand for his bidding. I expected a heart void and in that case, my hand produces 0 defensive tricks. So I have decided to sacrifice with 6♥. With the actual layout, it was not a good decision but in the long run, it should be profitable.

On board 6, you get this hand:

The bidding is very fast in 3NT. What is your action now, when you are in favorable vulnerability?

The description of 3NT shows an established 7-card minor and 16-20 HCP. Since you have ♣Q6, it seems that opponents have 7 club tricks, a heart stopper and most likely minimum one spade trick. Based on the description, 3NT should make and with 7 losers, you need only one trick from partner to go down only for -500 in 4♥. That is why I have decided to sacrifice, hoping opponents will double or go to 5♣, which should be a superior contract.

Unfortunately, East had a semi-balanced hand and 3NT had no chance. 4♥x went -2 and scored only 22%. If West decides to bid 4♠, he can make 10 tricks and an absolute top score – no West did that.

The lesson from this board is “Do not sacrifice over 3NT with a balanced hand, you can push opponents to a better contract or they might go down in 3NT.

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