Tuesday, 07 February 2017 by Stuart Packington

What the heck do I do now?


"Partner dithered again & I have a good hand! Now I'm at the 5 level - what the heck do I do now?"


'What the heck do I do now?' is an alternative slant on 'what should I bid?'. Our Brain's Trust will tell you what they would have done in the same situation - whether it is a bid out of turn; unauthorised infor­mation or other situations that arise. Once again the Brain's Trust this month is:

Bill Jacobs — A member of Australia's Open Team at the 2016 World Championships;


Matthew McManus — Director Extraordinaire; he also plays bridge!


Many players think that because partner has paused for thought and then passed, they are now unable to make a bid. Under the laws this is not entirely correct. Provided your hand justifies your bid, you are perfectly entitled to take an action. If and when the opponents appeal citing your use of the unauthorised information provided by your partner's hesitation, your decision will then be reviewed by the director, who may also choose to take a poll of players who are your peers before ruling if the action you took is not clear cut. Law 73C covers unauthorised in-formation "the player must carefully avoid taking any advantage from that unauthorized information".

This next hand was played in a tournament overseas, and features this very issue. I asked our brains trust to consider their bid both without and with the hesi­tation:

NS Vul/EW Not Vul; Dealer East:


West            North         East             South

    3♣              Pass*

 5♣                  ? 



The bidding has come around to you sitting North and you hold: 

AKQ42       62   AQJ72       10


 What call would you make without the slow pass?

MM: I would double. Bidding a suit at the 5 level, while it could be right, is too much a shot in the dark. Partner will only pull is he has good reason, so I will be content to pass the potentially uncomfortable5if that is what he chooses. If he happened to bid 5 or 5♠, I would still also pass.

BJ: Pass is out of the question with such a powerful hand. I see three possible actions: 5NT (presumably a two suiter), 5(speaks for itself) and double. The double should just show high-card strength, telling partner that West is sacrificing, not bidding to make. 

Giving it a more specific meaning (like "penalties" or "takeout') is the wrong approach.

5NT is a shot in the dark regarding level. 5♥ is a shot in the dark regarding suit. Double is what's left: it is clearly the best choice.

A key principle here (which should also apply after a 5opening bid) is that if partner removes the double, he is bidding to make his contract, not running due to weakness. With a weak hand and a long suit, he should just pass, hoping the doubler has enough strength to beat 5.

So if partner bids5 here, a possible scenario, he has length in hearts (at least 5+, probably 6+) and some high cards. I would react to that by bidding 5NT (pick-a-slam), and live happily ever after.


What call would you make now that partner has paused for thought and passed?

MM: I still double. I think that taking some action is clear-cut, so the unauthorised information from partner's break in tempo is not relevant. If partner does pull the double, then the unauthorised information will definitely lead me to think that slam is a very good chance. Therefore, taking any further action in the auction is just not on.

BJ: Well, is pass truly out of the question? Because if it's not, then I should make that call. That is the ethical thing to do, and whatever the outcome, it has the huge benefit of making you feel good about yourself.

In most hesitation situations that I come across, the pass (i.e. the bid not suggested by the unauthorized information) is a logical choice, and should be made. People argue: "I was always, always, going to bid: the hesitation had no effect." But their subconscious was in there pitching.

But you've finally done it with this one. I'll stick with the view that pass is impossible, and make the double regardless.

The full hand was:   





                                    J107                    853

                                    K94                     Q

                                    K53                     106          

                                    A943                   KQJ8752



                                                984                                                                6