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by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 From: John Steeves, Sussex, NB

 "Playing IMPs in an unfamiliar partnership (Standard American), my partner and I encountered the following situation


 (East/West vulnerable), Dealer: South


Q 4
A J 7 4
Q 9 6 3
K J 6
K 10 9
A J 10 5

A Q 10 3 2

West North East South
1 Pass 2 Doblo


 "What are the implications of Pass, 3
and Redouble? We played in 5, making six; our opponents played 3NT, making five. Should we bid the slam?"

 Kokish: Minimum strength for a so-called standard 2
response is about 8/9 points with a long suit of some quality, a solid 10 points when relatively balanced. Responder will have a four-card major only with longer clubs and a full opening bid (else respond in the major). Given these agreements, West should have a sound basis on which to proceed when South enters the auction.

 Kraft: Without competition, most would treat opener's 2NT rebid as nonforcing, and some would treat 2
the same way. Opinion is divided over the strength requirements for 2 and 2, both universally deemed natural and forcing. Most awkward is the treatment of opener's raise to 3. Casual partnerships would never discuss it, but neither would many experienced partnerships. In practice responder would not pass 3, knowing full well that opener might be minimum with genuine support. Many would treat the simple raise as a one-round force, committing the partnership to 3NT or 4. If 3 is not forcing, however, opener might have to go past 3NT when he has a bit in reserve, and that too is an awkward arrangement.

 Kokish: Our reader's problem scenario is a bit easier for opener's side because South's takeout double (for the majors) has created (at least) two valuable new options for opener, pass and redouble. With most uninteresting hands, or with a
hand willing to make a sound penalty double of both hearts and spades, opener can pass and await developments. 2
would show a sixth diamond, 3 a very good suit. With a minimum and club support, opener can raise to 3, which should be unambiguously nonforcing. With a good hand and primary club support, opener can jump to 3 or 3 (splinter bids) to show shortage, jump to 4, or redouble. The redouble doesn't imply or deny club support but it does establish a game force and opener will usually hold at least two-card support. The primary message is that the deal belongs to opener's side; responder's cooperation will often be important. Responder should double a runout with a useful trump holding and no great orientation toward declaring.

 Kraft: With a balanced minimum, there is no need for opener to rebid 2NT over the double; he can just pass. It makes sense to define 2NT as natural but game-forcing, either a very sound 14 points, or the next possible "balanced" range, 18-19 points. Scientific pairs might prefer (alternatively) to use 2NT to show a game-forcing club raise with no singleton, stoppers in the majors. Then there are rebids in doubler's suits. If you feel that you'd like to keep things simple, you might want to rebid 2
or 2 with four of those, but guaranteeing at least five diamonds, taking a natural tack. If that doesn't strike you as important, you can assign some clubs-related meaning to those major-suit rebids, say stopper-showing with a fit.

 Kokish: All too often these interesting situations arise when you are playing in a casual partnership, forcing you to improvise. Still, your best effort might be perfectly adequate. Although it would not be wrong for West to pass over the double, a gentle raise to 3 will often be more helpful. East should continue with 3
on the assumption that West would treat this simple rebid as forcing (it makes no sense to go from one playable partial to another). The auction might than continue: 3 by West, 3NT by East, but it would be more reasonable to finish in 5 or 5, which are both safer contracts. It would be a bigger problem at Matchpoint scoring, where notrump is king and low-scoring minor-suit games usually anathema.

 Kraft: Should you reach slam on this combination? I don't see why you'd want to, since both 6 and 6
are certainly no better than a finesse for the K. Sometimes you'll reach 5 trying for six, but if you were right to try for slam, the five-level will usually be safe enough.