Decisions at the table
Often some newer players do not quite understand the actual mechanics of duplicate bridge and its scoring method. In principle it is a battle (of wits) to obtain the best positive score or the lowest negative score for your side of the table, the table being divided along geographical lines, North-South against East-West. In effect each pair sitting East – West is only competing against the other East – West pairs on any particular board and the North – South pairs are competing against the other pairs sitting North – South. Here is a hand that illustrates, to some extent, the ‘battle’ that should take place to obtain the optimum score. Let us take it one step at a time. For the moment we will ignore the EW players! Sitting NS, with dealer as North, you pick up the following hand:
It is not too difficult to see that North will open the bidding with 1H. South will call 1S. North should call 2D, indicating 5 cards in hearts and 4 cards in diamonds (and an opening hand!). South, with three hearts and a somewhat scant seven card spade suit should bid 2H, but most will find the bid of 2S. Over 2H North should bid 2S. Why? South is marked with a minimum of 5 spades as with 4/3 in the majors he would have simply bid 2H at round 1 of the bidding. With the ace, queen and ten, North should find this bid confirming the double fit. After this South with the diamond ace, fair hearts, knowing partner has but one club and three trumps will surely push to game in spades. The lie of the spades is favourable, despite the less friendly break, and North South should make ten tricks for +620.
Over the less attractive bid of 2S by South, North will certainly show support, game will be reached in spades, and the same +620 will be recorded. Certainly this is a difficult hand to bid and a little ‘pushy’ to get to game. The lucky lie of the spades allows South to make the contract. That it as easy as it gets.
If you were brave enough to bid game and make it, feel satisfied. You have reached the best possible score, under normal circumstances, for your side. A relatively easy passage was engineered to a good game contract.
If you fell short, start to feel a little uncomfortable, as the play is fairly simple and most pairs will get there, thus your + 170 may give you a poor match point score.
If you made less than ten tricks, go on to the next board quickly. It is very likely you have a poor score.
Now let us introduce the opponents. Sitting East – West, vulnerable, you hear North open 1H.
As two suited overcalls are today part of the game, and should be taught, even to beginners, East will experience only a minor problem. Is the hand too strong for a two suited overcall? Vulnerability should convince East to slightly downgrade the East hand. Alternative competitive bids of 2D or double should not seem anywhere near as attractive. Why? Firstly, the possible bid of 2D. A suit headed by QT is not the strongest suit one wants to advertise to partner for an overcall, especially when you have two suits and the lower ranked suit is stronger. – an opening lead of this suit by West might be disastrous. One never bids the lower ranked suit first unless you are going to forget the other suit completely!
Secondly a double in this situation is suggestive, in most partnership agreements, of a spade holding (there is no guarantee in this game) and a void hardly qualifies!
Thirdly, a question one should allow to enter one’s thoughts might be, ‘Where are the spades?’.
If partner has them, what would you do, besides wanting to disappear from the room, if you hear 4S by partner.
If South has them, your double permits South into the auction and partner has no real description of your hand. Any subsequent bid by you might be a little too late. South, with a free bid of a number of spades, and North will eventually proceed to game in that suit. What do you bid after that?
It is obvious from the score sheet that some East players mentioned diamonds at this stage, steering their side into an unplayable contract. Bear in mind the two suited overcall also forces South to enter the auction, not at the one level, not at the two level but at the three level, causing more reticence on his part to enter the auction on poorer hands. The bid has thus ‘Good pre-emptive value’ also.
Best is always to advertise what you have and not what you have not! Use the conventions (tools) you have carefully learned to describe your hand exactly. Don’t worry about the extra point or two from your agreement – advertise your two suited minor. Forget South for the moment. Partner hears the fact that you have two minors. Surely he should give you slightly more than preference for clubs. I imagine:
the space being for any possible South bid. In my opinion West, with a free bid, should attempt to barrage just a little with a bid of 4C. Five clubs would be a significant overbid, based on losing trick count at this vulnerability, and would invite a double.
We have reached the optimum contract for East – West and, due to our choice of correct bids by East and West; simple to manage and expedient to arrive at.
Now let us return and consider the whole deal.
The whole hand:
North opens 1H. East shows clubs and diamonds with a bid of 2N (Ghestem). Immediately South has a serious problem. A seven card suit is normally biddable! A seven card suit, headed by the nine, with six hcp is normally ‘not biddable’. Playing five card majors, the temptation would be to support hearts instead of mentioning the spades! Again from the score sheet some South’s may have chosen to bid hearts, thus avoiding their excellent game. North is highly unlikely to mention spades after a 3H bid.
West bids 4C.
North will be faced with several choices after 4C.
If South passed and knowing East has diamonds, North is unlikely to bid again and we will make ten tricks in clubs for +130.
If South mentioned spades, North will compete with 4S.
If South omitted to mention spades, and bid hearts, the temptation to bid 4H will be great.
Finally, what should East do against 4H and 4S.
Against 4H, East might double to prevent partner sacrificing. The heart holding looks like two tricks, a trick in the minors and a trick from partner anywhere defeats the contract. The void in spades is an extra bonus.
Against 4S, East should pass! This invites partner to contribute! With a good spade holding partner (West) will surely double and with a poorer hand a bid of 5C will not be too expensive – one (-200) or two down (-500), doubled, scores better than the score of 620 to them. As it happens 4H should make eight tricks or nine with a defensive slip (+200 or +500) whereas 4S makes ten tricks and our sacrifice in 5C costs only 200 to them. Duplicate bridge at its best!