5 over 5 ? "Think twice before you bid over five: The five level belongs to the opponents"
by Ed Manfield
Most players have a tendency to resolve difficult
competitive decisions by "bidding one more". This is
often good strategy at low levels - in part, because defense
against low level contracts tends to be very difficult. However,
at high levels it pays to exercise caution. In particular, it is
seldom right to compete over the opponents' five level bid.
Many factors combine to make it usually unwise to bid five
a) Even though your hand might be quite distributional, the
opponents' hands are often much more balanced. Therefore, you
will frequently have more winners against their contract than you
b) Partner might have minor honours in the opponents'
suits. It is difficult to envisage the defensive power of stray
Queens, Jacks and Tens. However, such cards can often help defeat
the opponents' five level contract. Other times your five level
bid will not fare well because the opponents have minor honours
in your suits.
c) In defending high level contracts there are relatively
few combinations of cards that need to be considered. Therefore,
defenders are much less likely to err against five level
contracts than they are to err against lower contracts.
d) Unless the deal is a distributional freak, the combined
trick taking potential of the hands (i.e. - the number of tricks
you can take in your best trump suit added to the number that the
opponents can take in theirs) seldom exceeds 20. Therefore, even
if your five over five bid works out well, your profit will tend
to be small. For example, suppose the opponents bid 5 6 with both
sides vulnerable, and you successfully save in 5 4. If 5 makes,
and you go two down doubled, your gain will be only 100 points
(-500 versus -600).
e) The combined trick taking potential of the hands is
often 19 or less. In these cases five over five bids are often
On the following deal South had exciting distribution, and
(as most players would be succumbed to the temptation of bidding
five over five:
Both sides vulnerable
South knew that his partner had a weak hand, and that 5 or 6 might well make. In addition, if partner produced a suitable Dummy (such as KX, AXXX, XXX, XXXX) 5© might also make.
Reasoning that one contract or the other was likely to
make, South chose the aggressive course and competed to 5©.
Unfortunately, five over five met its usual fate. South had
to go two down in 5©. Meanwhile, (thanks to the 10
4, and the J10 7) 5¨ would have also
gone down. Therefore, although the 5©
bid seemed reasonable
at the time, it produced a huge loss. (Note that if North had not
held the J107, then 5¨ would make.
However, in that case the 5© save would have shown only a
This result is more the rule than the exception. Time and
again I have seen players suffer 300 or 500 at five level when
they would have gone plus against opponents' five level contract.
I challenge you to keep track for several months of every hand on
which you compete over the opponents' five level bid. I am quite
sure that the points you gain from such competition will be
outweighed by the points you lose.
You will find that when the opponents' bid at the five
level it will usually be best to defend. Therefore, my BOLS
BRIDGE TIP to you is the following:
"Think twice before you bid five over five:
The five level belongs to the opponents."
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