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!
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
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 uncomfortable5♥if 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 5♣opening 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: