Passing with a purpose

August 25, 1963

The latest craze at New York's famous Cavendish Club—newer even than Password, which the bridge addicts play for stakes in the club anteroom—is the team-of-four contest. Instead of forming two tables for regular rubber bridge, eight players choose up sides for a team match. The resulting lineups are the same kind of mélange of expert and not-so-expert that used to develop when you chose up sides for a neighborhood baseball game in a vacant lot. The results are often just about as wild. A match is 12 hands and, although the stakes—which average $3 a point—sound high, the game is rarely more expensive than rubber bridge played at the club's customary 2¢ or 3¢ a point. The reason is that the team games are scored in International Match Points, which translate big swings into small numbers. But not even IMPs could minimize the cost of this recent deal.

South's pass of the six-spade bid was that rarity, a weak-sounding bid that is actually strong. In this kind of auction, where North-South appeared to have the stronger hands, South's pass was forcing. Had he held a losing spade in his hand, South would have been obliged to double six spades; his pass virtually announced his spade void and left it to partner whether to bid the grand slam or double.

North's seven-diamond bid was best with his hand. He knew his side controlled the first round of every suit, but he was not sure the hearts were solid. Had South held better clubs and less solid hearts, there was a possibility North could discard heart losers on whatever club strength South could offer. However, it was West who had the club strength, and he doubled South's correction of the contract to seven hearts because he thought the club ace would win a defensive trick. The club ace failed to live, and 13 tricks at hearts was a laydown. Honors don't count, but North-South had scored 2,470 points.

Meanwhile, their teammates at the other table were doing nearly as well. The bidding there went:

EAST

4 [Spade]
PASS
6 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH

4 N.T.
5 [Heart]
PASS
PASS

WEST

DOUBLE
5 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

NORTH

PASS
6 [Heart]
DOUBLE

Opening lead: king of hearts

East violated a principle that the dealer at the other table had observed: he opened with a preemptive bid in spite of holding a two-suited hand. But thanks to considerable cooperation from North, it worked out to a big profit. South's four-no-trump bid was a powerful demand. West's double was a questionable tactic; he might better have bid five spades. But this, too, worked well when North did not bid five diamonds.

South's pass of six spades was forcing. North now had a chance to bid seven diamonds or seven hearts. Instead, he doubled. The six-spade contract was beatable if South had found the club opening. When he opened a heart, however, East ruffed, drew trumps and made all 13 tricks. The team total yielded 24 IMPs, the maximum for any hand. At $3 an IMP, this cost each loser $72.

EXTRA TRICK
When you have bid strongly, a pass of a very high bid by the opponents is a forcing pass, but if partner's next bid would put you in a grand slam, you must have first-round control of the opponents' suit.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

PASS
4 [Spade]
6 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
5 [Diamond]
PASS
7 [Heart]
PASS

WEST

PASS
5 [Spade]
PASS
DOUBLE

NORTH

2 [Diamond]
6 [Heart]
7 [Diamond]
PASS

Opening lead: ace of clubs

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)