Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
One of the first lessons that new bridge players learn is the Blackwood Convention and there is often a good deal of excitement when they get to bid it as it usually means a slam may be in the offing. However, as in most things in life, the exception proves the rule and this month’s deal played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club contains a good lesson for players of all levels.
North dealt and opened one club which caught South’s attention as that player, holding 18 high card points, anticipated his side could be heading for slam territory. South responded one heart and North showed his spade holding with his rebid. This in turn led South to rebid two diamonds, a convention know as Fourth Suit Forcing To Game, which said nothing about diamonds but simply informed North that their side could not stop short of game unless East-West entered the fray and were doubled for penalties. It also asked North for a further description of his hand.
South was hoping his partner would be able to bid two hearts showing three card support or, failing that, two no trump showing a diamond stopper, but being top heavy in the black suits North had to compromise with a bid of 3 clubs. This caused South some concern until he remembered an agreement he had with this partner: “If the first time no trump is bid is at the four level, and a trump suit has not been agreed or implied, then that bid is not Blackwood but merely quantative and invitational”.
Fortunately for the partnership North was on the same wavelength and after due consideration passed the bid of four no-trump. As can be seen, that is the optimum contract as West had a normal diamond lead and, with the heart queen off side, 10 tricks were the maximum available.
Some players who believe that four no-trump always has to be Blackwood (or its newer variation, Roman Key Card Blackwood) will have some difficulty including this alternative theory in their repertoire, but a close examination of the illustrated hand will show it was the only logical bid in this case. There is no downside I can see. If South had wanted to show a six card (or longer) heart suit he could simply have bid it at the three level knowing partner could not pass as they were in a game force situation. Similarly, South could have bid three clubs, three diamonds or three spades (to show four or more in the suit) before deciding where the contract should be played.
Without a clear agreement as to the meaning of four no-trump in this case, South would have had only two unappetizing alternatives after the call of three clubs: a gross underbid of three no-trump or a bid of Blackwood which would get the contract too high. If you wish to add this treatment to agreements with your favourite partners, be prepared for some lengthy discussions as old habits die hard but in the long run it will pay dividends if you can win them over.
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.