Last week we covered whether or not to compete over opponents at the five level. This week we’ll investigate two especially interesting cases. North is dealing, with North-South  vulnerable:

                    NORTH
                    ♠ 10
                   ♥️ K J 7
                   ♦️ Q J 9 6
                   ♣️ A K Q 10 9

WEST                                      EAST
♠ A Q 7 5 3 2                         ♠ K J 9 8 6
♥️ 5                                       ♥️ 10 6 4
♦️ A                                      ♦️10 8 7
♣️  8 5 4 3 2                          ♣️ 7 6


                  SOUTH
                  ♠ 4
                 ♥️ A Q 9 8 3 2
                 ♦️ K 5 4 3 2
                 ♣️ J

The bidding proceeded as follows:

North           East        South         West
1♣️               Pass        1♥️            1♠
DBL•            4♠          5♥️            5♠
DBL             All Pass

• Support double showing three hearts

Opening lead: ♣️A

East-West were relying on the concept of “total tricks,” meaning that in competition players can bid to the same level as their combined trumps. With 11 spades, East-West bid to the 11 level with 5♠.

North-South were hamstrung. They weren’t strong enough to bid a slam, so they had to settle for a penalty double. East-West went down one for all of -100. Had they conceded the auction to North-South’s 5♥️, the contract would have made and cost them -650.

It was the best of all possible worlds for East-West: bidding the boss suit at favorable vulnerability. The only way North-South could prosper was setting East-West four for -800. And that wasn’t going to happen.

So let’s give East-West credit for competing with 5♠ over opponents’ 5♥️. Usually competing at the five level is a questionable tactic. This time it succeeded admirably.

Here’s another bidding case. As dealer, you are dealt:

♠ A K J 3
♥️ Q 7
♦️ Q 2
♣️ K 10 9 5 4

What do you bid?

A.—First off, it’s fine to bid 1NT with two doubletons. In fact, you can open 1NT with a singleton, as long as it’s an ace, a king, or a queen.

What happens with this hand if you open 1♣️ and partner bids 1NT?  You can’t very well rebid 2♠, because that’s a reverse showing at least 16 high-card points. Fifteen-HCP hands like this one are made for 1NT bids.