Tough and complicated but that’s why we love it
Tournament season is well under way at the Bermuda Bridge Club and today will see the two session Junior Open Pairs taking place, following the successful format adopted for the Open Pairs.
Play will start at 9.30am with a break for lunch followed by the second session, with a winner being declared at the end of the day — so watch next week’s column for the results.
Other upcoming events are the Novice Pairs Championship on April 3 at 7.30pm and a Junior — Senior Teams game on April 5 also at 7.30pm.
Today’s hand looks like it is made up for a column but it actually took place in the United Kingdom Camrose Trophy and led to a ton of discussion, and you will see why!
You pick up this amazing collection and with neither side vulnerable partner passes as dealer and you hear RHO open 4 Hearts — over to you!
Simple you say, but as you will see from what follows it is far from.
The hand was covered by England’s Mark Horton, who has been on my panel at the Bermuda Regional some years ago, so I will reproduce here his discussion.
What do you bid? At five of the six tables North overcalled 7 Spades which went back to West who doubled … time to check out the full deal!
Dealer South Neither Vul
? 10873 ? 65
? AQJ9875 ? 6
? 32 ? 987
? NONE ?J1087632
The double was clearly asking partner NOT to lead a Heart but to lead a suit that West could ruff — What now?
Four Norths passed the double; Michael Byrne was the fifth and after the double he redoubled!
It might be that Byrne’s redouble was an attempt to get his partner to convert to seven notrump if he happened to hold the Ace of Hearts.
As it happened, East was not hard-pressed to lead the Jack of Clubs and every declarer suffered a ruff.
At the sixth table, Scotland’s Mike Ash started with five Hearts and, when his partner bid six Clubs, he went on to the doomed seven Spades.
The advantage of starting with five Hearts is that every once in a while South will respond six Diamonds, whereupon North can happily raise to seven Diamonds.
After the response of six Clubs, suppose North bids six Hearts?
If South takes that as asking for a choice between Spades and Diamonds will he not bid seven Diamonds?
At least one World Champion thought seven Hearts was the right bid over four Hearts — it must be asking South to bid seven Spades and reduces the possibility of a ruff — but I think five Hearts is superior. After all, East might have something like five Spades to the ten. If I ever get around to writing a series called Misbid This Hand With Me I might just include this one.’
So there is Mark’s analysis and report — what looks like a simple problem is anything but!
Some of you who are newer to bridge will wonder at the sentence above “The double was clearly asking partner not to lead a heart but to lead a suit that West could ruff”.
You will then ask: “What happens if I just think I can beat the contract?” Well, if the contract is always beatable the lead doesn’t really matter so the double can carry a special meaning.”
The double above is called a “Lightner double” named after Theodore Lightner, a famous player who played in the greatly publicised Culbertson-Lenz game in 1931, when bridge was front page news in The New York Times with an estimated 40 million players in the US.
His premise was simple — defeating a slam, doubled or undoubled, will always result in a good score, so why not use the double to convey a message to partner in order to defeat the small or grand slam?
So the double pretty much says:
Don’t lead a suit we have bid
Don’t lead a trump
Lead a suit where you have length as I want to ruff something!
Yes, this game is complicated and pretty much unfathomable, but as I say so often, that is why we are hooked on it!
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