Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Pre-emptive bidding causes more than its fair share of bother. Used judiciously it can create difficulties for even the most experienced of players. Such was the case with this month’s deal but fortunately for North and South they had a seldom used gadget in their arsenal that saved them from a very bad result.
West dealt and opened the bidding with a slightly unorthodox bid of 3 spades. It is generally recommended that bids at the 3 level should have most if not all their high card points in their long suit and rarely have as much as an ace outside. But the game has evolved to the point where the benefits of pre-emption are now widely understood so I dare say that most duplicate players would have replicated this West’s opening salvo.
North had an awkward hand to deal with. He only had 14 high card points including the spade queen which was of dubious value. He could have passed but this could have put undue pressure on his partner who would have been unlikely to be able to make a takeout double. So without too much ado North took the plunge with a bid of 4 hearts.
East was no doubt glad to not have to participate in this auction and passed so now the spotlight shone on South who had some problems of his own. With his decent holding South could visualize the possibility of a slam if North had the appropriate cards. It seemed to South that the best contract would be some number of no trump to be played from the South hand to protect the KJ2 of spades. Just imagine that North bought the contract, either in hearts or no trump, and East was on lead. Any possibility of a slam would likely dissipate with a spade lead.
So what was South to do? Pass and let North play in four hearts could produce a very poor result if slam was on from the other side of the table. After some thought South decided to bid 4 no trump, Roman Key Card Blackwood, in the hope that North would show 3 key cards (the king of hearts being counted as a fifth ace) in which case South could contract for the small slam in no trump.
Unfortunately North’s response of 5 hearts showed only 2 key cards and South feared leaving his partner in this contract due to the aforementioned lead coming from the East and possibly scuttling the contract right away. But what else could South do? An immediate bid of 5 no trump would ask for kings and commit the partnership to the six level which was known to be unsafe.
Then South remembered a strategy that they played but which hadn’t come up in an age – a bid of 5 spades (a hitherto unbid suit) would by agreement request North to bid 5 no trump and which South would then pass! As South was the first one to bid no trump, he would buy the contract.
And that is exactly what happened. With careful play there was no way to stop South from taking 11 tricks and earn a well-deserved good board.