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Which Game to Play?

The very first board I looked at gave me food for thought. I have always avocated that a 5-3 major suit fit with game values should be preferred to 3NT. The problem is that not everyone has the ability to locate a 5-3 fit, nor the desire, and some will argue vehemently that it is better with balanced hands to play in 3NT. But how do you decide which is best? For those who don’t want to or need to, just bid 3NT and hope you get a good result. This deal illustrates very well the value of the 5-3 fit, plus a number of aspects that should be discussed with your partner.

Board 1 from Thursday 6/12/2018.
Dealer N Nil Vul

Board#1 06/12/2018

The start of the auction should be universal: 1C from East, 1S from West and 1NT from East. The lazy option for West is 3NT, after all there is an abundance of points and 3NT should be easy. Well, yes it is, but West should consider two things: if East has three spades, 4S may well provide more tricks; and if East has a maximum 1NT rebid AND three spades, there could well be the values for a small slam.

West, in a more sophisticated partnership, can look at the options before just bidding 3NT. Firstly, how to find out if East has three spades. West must make a game forcing bid that will elicit spade support if East has three. The best way to force to game is to bid 3D. East now bids 3S and that is another way in which a more sophisticated partnership can get the best from their bidding. When West jumps to 3D, East can show a three card spade suit by bidding either 3S or 4S. This is where the “Principle of Fast and Slow arrival” comes in useful. In a game forcing situation, if East bids 3S (slow arrival) he is showing a better hand than if he were to bid 4S (fast arrival); and if East does bid 3S, there are then ways for our ‘sophisticated’ partnership to reach a very good 6S slam.

Other things that you should think about, which I will not cover this time are: a 1NT rebid should be 15-17 points not 15-16 as in original Acol. Then, it is helpful to be able to bid 2C as ‘checkback’ which can find out a number of things: maximum or minimu, suit length, whatever you and partner decide, but make sure that in the sequence that I have described, West bids 2C ONLY if West knows that East will not pass. Some pairs will play 2C in this sequence as a preference to play in 2C rather than 1NT. That would turn out somewhat disastrously if you don’t have an agreement with partner!