Consult the Coopers: Slammish or ownership? - April 2011
by Kitty and Steve Cooper, Fort Collins, CO
A local Colorado player asked us whether he had showed a slammish hand in a competitive auction by bidding a new suit on the four level: “With no one vulnerable at matchpoints I opened 1H, LHO overcalled 1S, partner bid 2S (limit raise or better), and RHO bid 3S. Now I bid 4D to tell partner that I thought we were making 4H so he could help in the double or bid on decision. He thought it was a slam try and bid Blackwood, leading to a bad slam. Who is right?”
Coopers: In bridge it is not a question of who is right or wrong but of both partners playing the same style. His interpretation is the old fashioned meaning of the bid. Your intent was the modern style and the style we prefer: game before slam. By bidding a new suit you indicated where your side length and strength were to help partner with the decision as to whether to double the possible four spade bid or bid on to 5H. With length in diamonds partner should be wary of doubling, lest your tricks get ruffed away.
By bidding a new suit you created a “forcing pass” situation. This means that if the opponents bid on they must either play doubled or your side must bid one more. Partner's double just says that his hand is unsuitable for bidding at the five level (usually a doubleton or wasted high cards in their suit), while his pass invites you to bid on. Of course, he can also choose to bid on himself. Expert partnerships define carefully the differences between passing an enemy bid of 4S and then pulling partner’s penalty double to 5H (usually more slammish with a control in their suit) and bidding immediately (no control but good offense).
When you bid a new suit that forces your side to game the opponents can no longer play undoubled. If you had just bid four hearts they can play four spades undoubled, so doubling them in that auction would show extra values (not necessarily trump tricks).
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