I asked my expert panel the following question:
Your partner bids 3
which is a standard four-card limit raise. [You would probably pass] What are minimum
upgrades you would need to make in order to bid 4
non-vulnerable? What about vulnerable at IMPs?”
Generally a major-suit limit raise is played as game-invitational. Most experts
feel that as opener they need at least 14 HCPs to accept the invitation to go on
to game. Notice that even if you have
(15 HCPs), opposite a minimum limit raise such as
you make game only if an opponent leads the ace of diamonds or you find an opponent
with a doubleton ace of diamonds.
John Sutherlin: Let’s give partner an average limit-raise hand:
If we add one more point to our hand, most changes will lead to the conclusion that
we are still below 50% chance to make game.
has four losers. Less than 50% is not enough non-vulnerable. Only, an additional
point in the diamond suit seems to help enough to bid the vulnerable game. Somewhat
surprisingly changing the shape to 5-4-2-2 doesn't seem to matter much. So one more
point is not enough to bid game either vulnerable or non-vulnerable. When we increase
of our hand by two points, either by change or addition, the game potential
seems good. Conclusion: We need two more points in our hand before 4
becomes the correct bid.
Jon Wittes: I hate 5-3-3-2 hands, especially with lots of secondary cards,
so I would need significant improvement to accept over a limit raise at any vulnerability.
Giving partner a typical limit raise with the king of spades and an outside ace
and king, I would still need a lot more to make game a reasonable proposition. For
example, even substituting the ace of clubs for the jack,
would make game only a slight favorite, depending on partner's distribution. I would
accept with that change, but wouldn't be super-confident about making game. I would
also like more texture in the hand, to make some of those two-loser suits into one-and-a-half
losers, to at least give us a fighting chance, for example the Q109 of diamonds,
would be much better opposite Kxx of diamonds in the dummy.
Obviously, keeping the same high card structure with better distribution would also
make game a better proposition. For example, I would be more inclined to accept,
especially vulnerable, with
Opposite this hand, give partner something like the king of spades and the AK of
diamonds, and game is probably a favorite, whereas those cards opposite the original hand, would still make game a decided underdog.
David Bird: Non-vulnerable
I would need Kxx in clubs. Vulnerable, it’s worth a go with Q10x in clubs.
Bobby Lipsitz: Change Jxx in clubs to Kxx.
Billy Eisenberg: Beware of 5-3-3-2 hands. With that distribution, I’d want
four prime cards: non-vulnerable, two aces and two kings for instance. Vulnerable,
I’d want one ace and three kings.
: Assuming 5-2-3-3 does not change, non-vulnerable I’d want
Dan Morse: At a minimum, change the queen of diamonds or the jack of clubs
to a king or queen and add a ten. Would like to have more.
Dick Freeman: Ace of diamonds instead of queen of diamonds or king of clubs
instead of jack of clubs at either vulnerability.
Aces and kings are worth more than queens and jacks especially Jx or Qx.
Grant Baze: Any 5-3-3-2 13-count I would pass. All 5-3-3-2 15-counts I would
accept. The tougher decisions occur when holding 14-counts. Any 5-3-3-2 14 count
with Jx or Qx I would pass, unless all my other points are in just two suits. Holding
I would accept [note the “grouped” heart honors]; holding
I would pass.
Vulnerable at IMPs I would accept with all 5-3-3-2 13-counts that did not include
Qx, Qxx, Jx, or Jxx, (unless neither of two suits contained an ace or king). Holding
I would accept; Holding
I would pass.
Grouped honors (two or more honors together in a suit) are worth more than suit-scattered
honors. KQx of diamonds is worth more than the Kxx of diamonds and the Qxx of clubs.
Billy Pollack: Non-vulnerable,
move the club jack to diamonds:
AQxxxKxQJxxxx, and I'd go. Vulnerable at IMPs,
we're much hungrier:
would be enough. Partner's fourth
spade mitigates some of the sterility of our 5-2-3-3 pattern.
Gary Cohler: If jack of clubs
becomes the jack of diamonds, I would bid game at all vulnerabilities. For example:
[Diamond honors are “married”.]
Jill Myers: Minimum change would be to
If I were going to bid a game with so few high cards I would need some distribution
and to have "married" honors.
Brad Moss: Vulnerable at IMPs:
would do for me. Non-vulnerable: Make the jack of clubs the king or I would want
variation of a 5-4-3-1 distribution.
Henry Bethe: I confess that opposite my limit raises, which are either seven
Losing Tricks or four working cards, I might bid game on the actual hand. I certainly
would bid game if the minor suit points were a king rather than a queen and a jack.
5-4-2-2 hands are worth more than 5-3-3-2 hands.
Kerry Sanborn: If I were to move the
jack of clubs to diamonds and make my hand
AQxxxKxQJxxxx, this would be minimum for accepting a game
at any form of scoring. [Note the “married” diamonds.] This gives me approximately
a six-loser hand, and I can expect three cover [working] cards from a limit raise.
A sixth spade is valuable.
So are singletons or voids.
Ralph Katz: Turn the queen of diamonds into an ace or the jack of clubs into
a king. If we turn the hand into a 5-4-2-2 you would still need to change a little
something, especially if your four-card suit was Jxxx.
would absolutely be a 4
bid. A sixth spade, something like
would make it close.
Bid game any time you have shortness. On bad days partner will have KQ opposite
your shortness, on good days he will have xxxxx. No way to tell. The only exception
to the bid game with shortness rule might be
makes only one spade.
Larry Cohen: Too many possibilities to cover, but let me just briefly say
that ANY hand, no matter how minimum, with a singleton
(or void, of course) I would
bid game at any form of scoring.
Eddie Kantar: I bid game with most every hand that has a singleton or void.
I lean towards game with a 5-4-2-2 hand pattern unless I have stretched to open.
It's only with a balanced 12-14 HCP hand like this one that I have no qualms about
passing. Same at IMPs vulnerable.
Barry Rigal: So many “small” changes are possible! The smallest changes I
would make would be to move the heart king into either diamonds or clubs. Any 5-4-3-1
with a working singleton might be enough; or 3
might be hopeless. The advice I was given about always accepting this invitation
when I have shortness makes sense. Alternatively, with
I'd be tempted but would decline. Change either red-suit honor
up a pip and I'd
go to game. With 5-2-3-3 shape I'd need 14; 13 is just not enough. Move a small
card into a trump on our sample hand and I go to game, even if the heart king is
Mike Passell: I always accept on almost any 5-4-3-1 hand since we might catch
a good-fitter at any time. Also, near-minimum 5-4-2-2 with points in two suits,
I’d bid game, because once again many good fitters arrive in dummy. Avoid accepting
on the 5-3-3-2 hands even with a little extra as they never seem to make
is about as low as I would go as far when accepting; great controls and my queen
may be working.
David Berkowitz: One of
my pet theories is that any opening hand with a singleton accepts a limit raise,
so we can start there, at all colors. The sample hand has no body. Move the spade
queen to clubs and add the three non-heart tens and I would bid game vulnerable:
A10xxxKxQ10xQJ10. I’d need about 10% more non-vulnerable.
My minimum change would be to put the heart king in either minor so as
I always go to game when I have a singleton somewhere. In our constructive auction
I bid the same vulnerable or not, as partner has also seen the color. Although the
vulnerable game bonus is bigger so are the penalties when things sit badly!
Marinesa Letizia: I certainly would not go to game when holding the sample
hand. To accept, I’d want some shape for starters. I would try a game with 5-4 shape
when vulnerable, or with just about any hope of game when vulnerable at IMPs.
Steve Bloom: Picture partner with a typical nice limit raise, say a sample
obviously bidding game would be awful, and we’d be lucky to win nine tricks. Improve
my honor location a bit, to say
and game chances are still quite poor.
Now game is marginal, and worth bidding vulnerable [“married” honors may help]. Here,
the four-trump limit raise has improved your hand and the spade queen would not
have been worth as much opposite partner’s 4+ spade length. This is close, but I
would still pass. Partner rates to have more in trumps, and so fewer working points.
Add a bit of distribution, say:
and game is now acceptable. Opposite our sample hand of
you will need some luck in clubs, and a way to handle the two long diamonds, so
you’d need a 2-2 split in trumps or the diamond ace onside or diamond length onside.
That’s a game to bid, particularly vulnerable. Finally,
is a clear game bid, at any vulnerability.
Zeke Jabbour I would go with:
I usually go with a singleton; a sixth spade tends to increase my optimism.
texture counts. If I go with 5-3-3-2 I like married honors I bid game with any 5-5
hand I considered worth opening. So, like everyone else, I would be influenced by:
1). High cards. 2). Texture (especially married honors; and 10s are good) 3). Extra
length (trump- and side-suits). 4).
Vulnerability makes little difference since partner has already taken that into
Jeff Rubens: The simplest adjustment that would change Pass to 4
is the king of clubs instead of the jack. At IMPs, in deciding whether to bid ‘one
more’ for game (as opposed to, say, whether to risk a game-try from a safer haven),
I don't distinguish significantly between non-vulnerable and vulnerable. True, the
surface odds are ten to six rather than six to five, but there are other factors: an extra down trick costs three IMPs instead of two IMPs; a penalty double is more
likely; partner is more likely to have taken the aggressive view. All added up,
the difference between non-vulnerable to vulnerable is too little to worry about.
Chris Willenken: My standards would be virtually the same at all scorings
and vulnerabilities, as I'd expect partner to take those factors into account in
deciding whether or not to make a limit raise. The advantage of this approach is
that on the hands where we decide to be conservative, we stay at the two-level where
a plus score is virtually assured.
I'd accept a limit raise with any hand that includes a small singleton, virtually
any balanced hand with 14 HCP, or balanced hands with 13 completely prime HCP such
So, I'd need to add a working queen to your example hand in order to accept. If
you added the heart queen, I'd still pass, because that queen doesn't rate to be
There are many bad holdings that should cause you to go conservative. KQ doubleton
is not a good holding. Kx is about 55% to be a winner (ace onsides or LHO leads
the ace) and the queen could be more useful elsewhere. AQxxx is not a good holding.
The queen could be wasted. AQxxx opposite Kxxx is five tricks but is nine HCP. A10xxx
opposite Kxxx could still be five tricks but that is only seven HCP and the extra
two HCP could be more useful elsewhere.
Kit Woolsey: Just about any improvement would be enough: add the jack of
spades; ace of hearts instead of king; king of diamonds instead of queen; add the
jack of diamonds, etc. Vulnerability doesn't matter much. Partner saw the vulnerability
when he made his limit raise. My general guideline for accepting game invitations
is: I accept unless I think we are possibly too high where we already are. With
the actual hand, I would think that’s possible. If there were any improvement I
would be confident about taking nine tricks, so I would bid game.
Bobby Wolff: Minimum changes necessary would be: 1). Make the king of hearts
either the king of diamonds or the king of clubs, leaving us with a singleton heart.
Way back in the early seventies the Aces ran a 1000-hand simulation on this subject
and concluded that any 5-4-3-1 should accept game. If there were an exception
it would be a 12 HCP opener that included a singleton king. The percentage making
for a vulnerable acceptance at IMPs should be in the 38-39% range, while the minimum
acceptance for non-vulnerable at IMPs should be 45-46%. I would pass the example
hand 100% of the time. Any sixth spade would cause me to accept close to 100% of
the time with the exception, non-vulnerable, being exchanging a low diamond for
the sixth spade (AQxxxxKxQxJxx)
or possibly a low club for a sixth spade (AQxxxxKxQxxJx).
Putting it all together.
Mel Colchamiro: When non-vulnerable. I’d want as minimum changes: 1.) Switch
king of hearts to diamonds (AQxxxx
Any hand with a singleton opposite a four-card limit raise bids four. 2). Change
jack of clubs to the king, so we have 14 HCP with 5-3-3-2 and then I’d bid 3NT for
a choice of contracts. 3.) Switch the deuce of clubs into a sixth spade (AQxxxxKxQxxJx).
4.). Make jack of clubs a diamond (AQxxxKxQJxxxx).
Any of the following are features you look for when deciding whether or not to bid
game over partner’s limit raise: Distribution; 10’s and 9’s; married honors; a singleton;
strength outside the trump suit, or a sixth trump.