Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Bridge players learn early in their careers that the most desirable holdings in a trump suit are a minimum of eight cards between declarer and dummy. This gives them a degree of confidence in making contracts that lesser holdings would not. But like many things in life there are exceptions to that rule.
This fascinating hand came up at a game in the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club where one North-South pair deliberately played a slam in a 4-3 heart trump fit after their exploratory bidding ruled out no trump as a possibility. In doing so, they shied away from the club suit in which they held the safer and more comfortable 5-3 club fit in favor of the higher scoring major suit.
North opened the bidding 1 club; South responded 1 heart; and North rebid 1 spade, the likely start at every table in the room. It appears that some Souths now simply signed off in 3 no trump, a hopeless contract on paper but which actually made with overtricks a few times when they mysteriously managed to avoid a diamond lead!
Our featured pair, however, continued with a more scientific exchange of information and had the satisfaction of reaching an unbeatable contract. South’s rebid of 2 diamonds was a convention called Fourth Suit Forcing which told his partner that they could not stop bidding until they reached the game level at least, or doubled the opponents on the way. It said absolutely nothing about South’s diamond holding.
This allowed North to show her three-card heart support, which also hinted at a shortness in diamonds in light of the previous bidding. And, if she was short in diamonds, she was more likely to have honors in other suits. To be on the safe side, South now bid 3 clubs just in case his partner had a doubleton ace or king of diamonds and could still bid 3 no trump. But when North now bid 4 clubs, a 4-3-1-5 distribution became most likely.
To ensure reaching a reasonably safe contract, South now made the asking bid of 5 hearts which said: “Partner, please bid six hearts if you have second round control of diamonds.” Holding a singleton in that suit, North was only too happy to comply and the heart slam was reached.
West led a diamond and when dummy came down, South saw they had reached a very sound contract, even holding a total of only 7 trumps. East won the diamond ace and continued with a low spade, but that was the end of the defense. South drew trumps in four rounds and claimed 12 tricks for a joint top board.
In the early days of contract bridge, an expert and editor of The Bridge World by the name of Sonny Moyse was a strong advocate of “natural” bidding, including opening 4-card majors. As a result, he quite often found himself in 4-3 fits and of necessity became quite adroit at making contracts others declined to bid. To this day 4-3 trump holdings are known as Moysian fits.
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.