Anne Brenner of Denver, Colorado asks “you hold S 5 H AQ753 D K10543 C AQ with both vulnerable at IMPs and hear the auction go 1C on your left, pass by partner, 1H on your right. Since hearts is your best suit you choose pass. Now LHO bids 1S, and RHO bids 1NT. Is this an impossible problem or what?”

Coopers: Yes this is a very uncomfortable problem. When the opponents bid your best suit it’s traditional to pass on the first round or overcall in notrump, if you are balanced and strong enough. Subsequent actions after passing imply that you have the suit bid on your right. Steve would probably bid 2D immediately rather than pass, as would many players. The advantage of an immediate action is that it is harder for the enemy to double you for penalties when they have not finished describing their hands to each other. Kitty, however, agrees with your more traditional initial pass.

But should you act after passing with this hand or not? Is the large possible minus worth the risk of bidding for a small plus when game is unlikely? The options are 2D, double, and pass. Any one of them could work out, so which is the percentage action?

Our opinion is that double is best since it puts the opponents in the hot seat and lets partner know your hand type. This could end with minus 180 or 380, but we think the odds favor a plus score. Pass is a very reasonable, although cowardly, action at teams. 2D can easily be a big loser as your RHO may well have better diamonds than hearts and you could get doubled and go for a number. The hand is likely a misfit for all, so it is best to let the opponents play it, preferably doubled.

If your hearts had been slightly better you might well have bid 2H, natural, on the first round. Most people play that when the opponents have bid two suits at the one level on the first round of bidding your bid of either of them is natural and they use 2NT and double to show the other two suits.

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