I got this deal in my mail and was asked for an opinion about it.
1C - (2S) - X - (p)
3H - (p) - 3NT - (p)
4D - (p) - 4H - (p)
5D - (p) - slooooooooow pass - (p)
1C was 17+, 2S weak and X was 7+.
Suits broke normally and a making slam was missed. Should any critisism be handed out?
What about X? Information about the definition of 2NT is lacking. Had that been natural and gameforcing that would have been a winner. 3NT I don't like even if natural. Takes away so much space from a strong hand that hasn't had the chance to start describing its suits/features.
3H was pretty clearcut and 3NT was obvious in spite of heart support with KQx in spades and minimum values without any aces/kings in other suit(s). 4D was another no brainer. Then what?
I think East had an interesting choice over 4D. 4H was an ambiguous bid that could have been made on KQx/Jx/Jxx/QTxxx or similar. It doesn't guarantee 'real' heart support, more like Hx but have have xxx (as here). QTxx in diamonds is a really, really good holding. For game purposes H's are fine, for slam we'd want to play in diamonds.
I like a simple raise to 5D, which I'm sure would be a real minority view in a bidding poll. Everybody and his mother would consider a 4H-call a nonproblem. But 5D shows real diamonds, i.e. 4 or more, while limiting the hand and the lack of black suit cuebid suggests bad outside values. It conceals the heart length which may be important for both positive and negative inferences for partner (e.g. with AKxxx in H he may assume no losers). But 4H does nothing good for diamonds.
I'd therefore have prefered 5D to 4H, but 4H is acceptable. Maybe. The diamond QT is a strong indicator that partner has lots of aces/kings. Why?
Partner is likely to have either strong/semisolid suit(s) and is looking for A/K fillers or has lots of A/K's and is looking for fit. Diamond QT indicates the latter and that fitting length may be more important than fitting controls. If partner's hand is in between, he'll pass 5D.
What should West bid over 4H? Now the lack of confirmed fit comes breathing down his neck. Over 5D it would have been an easy raise to slam. After 4H, it's uncomfortable. He might have tried 6D (or 4S) but 5D is a forward going move and stresses the length/fit issue as he passes both 4S/5C where he clearly is able to cuebid at least one of them. He is afraid that while there may not be a lot of quick losers, it's also a matter of counting your winners and without prime fit, 12 tricks may be too far off.
He lacks interior spot cards to help overcome a potential bad break in either red suit. But he has all six aces! Partner will be conservative when faced with a marginal decision without any of them (which he obviously can't have when we're looking at all of them ;).
I think West could have done more over 4H but I like 5D as this should be "fit-asking". I think East failed to draw the correct conclusions about the bidding at that point when he really should have raised to 6D.
What about a jump to 5D over 3NT? I think that should show a minimum but good 5-6 hand, like x/AKJ9x/AKJTxx/K. A hand that needs a fitting hand with outside aces for slam and can't pass 3NT in comfort because slam may still make and 5D may be the game to play.
This is the technical assessment of the auction.
Adjustment may be called for depending on your judgement of East's ability. Sometimes you have to take responsability, being the captain in the auction, and be willing to take the blame for a bad call if things go wrong because the technical and theorethically "correct" auction may not get the job done with the partner you have.
You need to know his strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge. Therefore West maybe should get a bigger percentage for not just driving to slam (maybe 30-35%; with some East players even a lot more perhaps reversing the verdict). With some players West would get close to 0%.
Do remember that positive expectations goes a long way to getting good table results.
Send me your slam auction mishaps for clinic review. Names may be withheld.