Maritha Pottenger

Hand #22 at the Soledad club today (August 13, 2018) was interesting. East is looking at K10762 K10964 KJ8 as Dealer. It meets the Rule of 20 [HCP + sum of two longest suits is 20 or more] for opening—but NOT the “plus two quick tricks” part. It has only 1½ quick tricks. Nonetheless, it IS both majors, and there are good interior spot cards in both suits, so some people will open it. (I confess that I probably would have opened it myself—fudging on the 2 quick trick guideline because it is majors. It would never cross my mind to open it had it been minor suits.) Our East passed. I passed as South and now West had the problem. West has AQ98 2 A9742 862. It does not meet the rule of 20 (only Rule of 19), but it does contain two quick tricks. I would open this in third seat because it has four good spades and two quick tricks, but our West passed.

Now, my partner has the decision point. Her hands is 64 53 Q53 AKQJ53. She does have 12 HCP, so technically she has an opening hand. The problem is that almost all of her values are in her long club suit and she is very short in the majors. Many people use “Pearson Points” or “Casino Count” to decide about fourth seat opening bids with marginal (9-12 HCP) hands. That involves “The Rule of 15”—if your HCP plus the number of spades in your hand equals 15 or more, go ahead and open. [Some people demand 16 or more.] By that criteria, the North hand should pass the deal out. If this had been third seat, I would have opened the hand 3, but in fourth seat, preempts are not preempts—they show intermediate hands and are strongly suggesting the partnership look for 3NT.

Partner chose to open 1, and East was either not playing Michaels, or forgot it, and bid 1. I made a negative double with J3 AQJ87 106 10974—not enough to bid 2, but I get partner to consider hearts, and I do have a club fit with her. West now cue-bid 2 to show a limit raise or better in spades. Partner made a lead-directing double for her clubs, and East now bid 2—presumably further describing his hand, although I believe, if you play half suit game tries, that should be asking for help in hearts. West seemed uncertain what was happening, but jumped to 3 and East passed.

Note that 6 is cold. Spades divide 2-2 and the Q is favorably placed. If East had bid Michaels at our table, I believe that West has a clear-cut raise to 4. If West had taken 2 as a help suit game try, I believe West can once again bid 4. (West's hand, in terms of losing trick count, is a 7-loser hand, so it is upgraded to an opening hand. Partner should have the equivalent of an opening hand with extra distribution to make a game try, so bidding game is appropriate.)

It is the height of irony that a hand that could have been passed out (Partner ALMOST passed) makes a small slam with 20 HCP East-West. [At the 20-table game, no one passed it out. Most people got to game, but some did not, and some N/S pairs were sacrificing in clubs.]