A double escape route

July 06, 1958

When psychic bids were all the rage, it was not uncommon for a Fancy Dan to find himself in a slam contract with but a single trump in his hand. Bidding the Vanderbilt Club, many a declarer finds himself in a slam contract without the sign of a trump in his hand. The opening club bid may have elicited the negative (artificial) diamond response, and responder becomes declarer when that happens to be the real suit.

Often in using Blackwood we meet a similar situation. Opener may have made a reasonable call of one diamond, only to hear a blackjack call of "four no trump." Discovering himself to be the proud possessor of two aces, he obediently calls five hearts. If partner fixes the final contract in that suit he may become declarer without a trump in his hand.

But when a declarer deliberately chooses to play a grand slam in a suit in which he holds but a singleton, that is a rarity which makes a just demand upon our attention. This phenomenon was witnessed in a previous running of the master pair championship of the American Contract Bridge League, the 20th annual edition of which will be on display at the Americana Hotel in Miami Beach during the first week of August.

Under the terms of the convention employed by North and South, the opening call of three no trump was a gambling bid based on a long, solid minor suit. This convention finds much favor in the eyes of British tournament players, who employ it to great effect. It has no distinct requirements as to stoppers or point count but amounts to a shot in the dark, relying for success upon faith, hope and the luck of the opening lead.

Hearing North's three-no-trump bid, South decided that the six tricks he could contribute to the credit of the partnership warranted a burst into a slam contract in the denomination partner had chosen. East thought he had his fish in a barrel, so he doubled.

This double set into motion a series of reactions resulting from South's reappraisal of the situation. East, he reasoned, must feel that he had declarer in his hip pocket; ergo, he must be ready to produce a couple of tricks in a suit that could only be hearts, for evidence pointed to North's possession of a long and solid club suit as the basis for his gambling bid of three no trump.

If South's reasoning was correct, he had much to gain and nothing to lose by engineering a coup that would transfer the opening lead from East to West. West couldn't know why his partner was doubling, and might lead the wrong suit.

On this theory, declarer escaped to seven clubs—which is where I came in. Justifying South's faith, West chose to lead a spade, and declarer ran off with 13 tricks!

EXTRA TRICK

I am reminded of the restraint of a lady whose tournament opponents reached a grand slam against her ace of trumps. A kibitzer inquired, "Why didn't you double?" and the lady explained, "That's Mr. Culbertson who bid the grand slam. He redoubles at the drop of a hat."

The lady had the right idea, if for the wrong reason. The best advice about doubling a slam which good opponents have reached voluntarily is "don't." There are two exceptions. One is when your double would tell partner to make an unusual lead which would give you a chance to set the contract. The other—it occurs more rarely—is when you are certain that your double will be profitable no matter how it affects the opponent's bidding or play.

PHOTO

Neither side vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]

WEST

[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[7 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

NORTH

3 NO TRUMP
PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST

PASS
DOUBLE
DOUBLE

SOUTH

6 NO TRUMP
7 [Club]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)