Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
There is no question that bridge is a complex game with myriad conventions, systems and treatments available to help players achieve their goals. It is no wonder that many newcomers have difficulty in determining which methods to adopt and when to use them.
My advice to rookies is to keep things simple and use as few conventions as possible such as Stayman and Blackwood until they feel comfortable with the basics and then slowly introduce new techniques after a thorough discussion with partners.
When teaching people who have had introductory lessons elsewhere I am frequently surprised by a “rule” that has been instilled in them, namely: “When partner opens 1 club he wants me to bid a major if I have one”. I admit there is some merit in bypassing a bad 4-card diamond suit to bid a decent 4-card major in an otherwise weak hand but a number of players took the concept to bizarre lengths on the illustrated deal played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas.
Herself and I were sitting East West when our opponents had this auction. North opened a perfectly normal 1 club but the wheels fell off almost immediately when South ignored his fine 7-card collection of diamonds to bid his pathetic four card heart suit. North now innocently showed her spade suit which in turn put South into a real pickle. He now belatedly bid 2 diamonds, which many people play as the Fourth Suit Forcing to Game convention that didn’t have to show any diamonds at all! North was still in the dark regarding the true nature of her partner’s hand and correctly showed him she preferred his first-bid suit. In a vain attempt to undo the damage, South now bid his diamonds for a second time which should have shown at least 5 hearts and 5 diamonds. Once more South did the right thing and showed a preference for hearts, at which point South finally gave up the ghost and passed.
This ghastly contract had no chance of success and declarer actually went down 3 tricks for a complete bottom board in match-point scoring.
What was missing in this whole scenario was just a little common sense. Had South simply responded 1 diamond in the first round of bidding, North could now have bid 1 heart had she held 4 cards in that suit and the major suit fit would have been found. As it happens North would still have shown her four card spade suit and the partnership could have ended up in a sensible no trump or diamond contract without hearts being mentioned at all.
In discussing this hand later with a much more experienced South I was dismayed to find that he too had responded 1 heart and once more the diamond suit got lost in the shuffle, if you will forgive the pun! His rationale? He only had one bid and wanted to be sure his partner knew he had a major. If a good 7-card diamond suit with an outside king doesn’t qualify for two bids, I don’t know what does!