By Bob Klein. I was playing on a Swiss team with Dave Neuman at the Philadelphia nationals. Jenn was my teammate along with Jean Barry. I found myself holding this hand, nonvul. vs vul., in first seat:
I was tempted to get into the auction right away with 3 Clubs, but it is not usually a good idea to suppress a 5-card major in front of a partner who has yet to bid, so I passed. LHO opened 2 Hearts, partner passed, and RHO raised to 4 Hearts. What now?
I didn't want to sell out when the opponents have bid a vulnerable game, I am void in their suit and have favorable vulnerability. But how to enter the auction? Three possibilities came to mind: double, 4 Spades sand 5 Clubs. Each action has advantages and disadvantages.
Double give partner the chance to pass if he has good hearts, for a nice penalty, and if partner has spades, we could land in 4 Spades. The downside is that (a) partner may sit for the double expecting more defense from me, or (b) he may bid 5 Diamonds expecting support for all unbid suits.
4 Spades keeps the bidding at the 4-level, and is the bid most likely to push the opponents into 5 Hearts, which partner may be able to double, since they may be afraid 4S could make for a possible double game swing. However, the downside is that (a) if the opponents do go on to 5 Hearts, partner may make a disastrous opening lead from, say, Kx of spades, handing them the contract, or (b) the opponents might double if partner doesn't have much in spades, and now you may have to run to 5 Clubs, giving the opponents a fielder's choice of doubling or competing to 5 Hearts.
5 Clubs puts the most pressure on the opponents, it gets partner off to the right lead if the opponents compete to 5 Hearts, and you have a good suit to fall back on if you get doubled. The downside is that it is a level higher than 4 Spades so you need to take more tricks, the opponents are more likely to defend when it is right for them to do so because you are at a higher level, and, similar to 4 Spades, removes the possibility of punishing the opponents if partner has a stack of hearts.
After considering all of this, I decided to bid 5 Clubs. This worked like a charm. It went pass, pass, double by RHO, all pass. They led a diamond, and I was looking at:
They cashed 2 diamonds and switched to hearts. I ruffed, played the ace of clubs, all following, drew the last trump with the king, and played a spade to dummy. Fortuitously, LHO followed with the jack and the queen held! A heart ruff back to hand, and another spade produced the king on my left. I took it with the ace, and claimed, making 5 Clubs doubled for +550!
My counterpart at the other table, after hearing the same auction, thought for a while and passed. This was the last choice in my opinion, and he paid dearly. 4 Hearts made easily, losing just 2 spades and 1 club, so Jenn and Jean scored +650, for a total of 1200 points for our team and 15 big IMPs.