Mike’s Advice


michaelslawrence.com

A Day at the Club

One day when I had nothing to do, I was wandering through the halls of one of the online bridge sites. I spotted a table that had three self-described experts and an advanced player. Was this a good game? I hoped that I might see something good. Well, I did see something but I will leave it to you to judge how good it was. I will even save some time by showing you all four hands.

Expert
Dlr: South ♠ J 7
Vul: N-S J 10 3
A K Q 10 3
 Expert ♣ Q 10 5  Expert
♠ A Q 9 6 4 ♠ —
K 8 2 Q 9 7 6 5 4
J 8 6 4 2
♣ 6  Advanced ♣ K J 9 7 4 3
♠ K 10 8 5 3 2
A
9 7 5
♣ A 8 2
West North East South
1♠
Pass 2 Pass 2♠
Pass 4♠ 5 5♠
Dbl Redbl Pass* Pass
Pass

*East gave a lot of thought to this before passing.

Remember that I do not know any of the four players.

Your job is to look at the evidence and decide which of the three ‘experts’ are indeed experts, and then decide if the advanced player qualifies for that role. A lot is happening here and spending a few seconds deciding on your vote may be useful. My vote is in.

Here is my interpretation of the auction.

SOUTH – 1♠. A minimum that aggressive players open.

WEST – Pass. Nothing we can learn from West’s pass over 1♠.

NORTH – North’s 2 bid is routine in Two Over One bidding. He has a game-forcing hand that, at this moment, has 3NT in sight. I will come back to North in a second.

EAST – I can’t fathom East’s pass. In theory, passing is not a bad idea because the North-South players are using a Two Over One style of bidding, so they are known to have lots of high cards. There are significant dangers to coming into the bidding. Perhaps East was showing good judgment. Perhaps he just didn’t think. Your choice. Later events may change your current opinion.

SOUTH – South’s 2♠ bid is routine. In my suggested style, he can have five spades or more spades.

WEST – Continuing to make good, if not easy, bids.

NORTH – North now bid 4♠. This is not as bad as it looks. I have no evidence on this but I suspect that North thought South’s 2♠ bid promised six cards. My opinion is that this is a lousy treatment but if the agreement exists, then a 4♠ bid makes a little sense. I don’t like 4♠ because it is possible that 3NT is a better contract that’s worth exploring. Jumping to 4♠ is premature for me. Some play a jump to game on this sequence is fast arrival, saying that the bidder has a minimum. I recommend you use a jump to game as being more specific, showing modest values with no control in any of the unbid suits. I also recommend you do not do this with a doubleton trump.

So the stage is set for the fireworks.

EAST – East, who did not want to show his two suits over 2, now decides to show one of his suits over 4♠. I will leave you to decide on the enormity of this bid. Words fail me. Showing two suits (4NT?) would surely be a better choice, assuming that you feel the need to bid at all.

SOUTH -South’s 5♠ bid clearly shows that he expects a different hand from North. He obviously did not expect to find the J-7 in dummy. What this bid demonstrates is that he and North weren’t on the same wavelength. I have often said that bad results often come as a result of not knowing what you are doing. Bad methods or incomplete methods are a huge cause of bad results.

I think that South was overboard with 5♠. He has a minimum hand and that singleton ace of hearts is actually not a wonderful value. A stiff ace is usually worth less than other aces. Trust me on this.

So what should South do? I am sure that pass (forcing) or double are better than bidding 5♠. My choice? It’s tough. I choose double because my spades are only so-so and my three little diamonds are not a plus. And, as noted, the singleton ace of hearts is not a good value.

So I may have to eat my words regarding East’s bid. He came up with an auction that would not appeal to many and he got away with it. At least so far.

WEST – West makes the best bid of the auction. Double.

NORTH – North now makes a bid that is unusual at the least, but which curiously almost makes some sense. North assumed that South would be aware that the 4♠ bid did not promise more than two trumps. So he redoubled, thinking that his hand was pretty good under the circumstances. I believe that North did ignore the warning signs of this bidding. East’s auction is odd but it does carry the warning that things are not breaking well and that hints that the spades could be breaking badly. I would credit North with a hugely optimistic bid that has a chance of winning but more likely, a chance for disaster. In this case, it was the disaster that surfaced.

EAST – In fact, East did think about pulling the double. I base this on the fact that his pass took a long time before the computer showed it. Redouble might have tempted East to run. But he didn’t.

So how do our four players rate? Are they all as they say they are?

WEST – We do not have a clue. He did what he was supposed to do at each bid.

NORTH – I judge North to have a fascination for agreements and a willingness to use them, even if not justified. North may be an expert in the making but he has not arrived yet. Too impractical.

EAST – East is the one player that I know I would not play with. He makes final decisions when he could have asked partner’s opinion or perhaps not gotten involved. Much too much independent thinking here.

SOUTH – South’s judgment needs some work. But he did not claim expertise so his performance is viewed in that light. His 5♠ bid was a common error that was introduced by S.J. Simon in his books, “Why You Lose at Bridge” and its sequel, “Cut For Partners”. He observes that when players find a fit, they tend to bid more aggressively than before they find a fit.

Watch out when you opt to play with strangers. All is not necessarily as it seems.

Care for a nice game of bridge?