A mischievous bid foments a fiasco

August 14, 1966

You may remember that word game everybody was playing called Swifties. One of my favorites was: " 'Bridge isn't what it used to be,' the old lady said whistfully." The line is not only amusing, it is true, but I must say that every now and then something "new" happens that was also new when it happened 30 years ago.

For example, in the early days of contract bridge a rash of deceptive bids made the game more hazardous than poker. One of these was known as the switch bid. A player would bid a suit in which he had no strength, hoping to entice his opponents into a no-trump contract. If he was on lead, he would then produce the real suit in which he had enough solid tricks to constitute a good defense. He did not mind risking a double in his bluff bid. If that happened, he would simply retreat to his genuine suit, knowing he could not be set badly.

The same maneuver is still seen occasionally, and the fact that it sometimes succeeds is well illustrated in this hand from the World Pair championship at Amsterdam which the Lebanese pair of Henri Dalati and Fady Bustros played against B. Jay Becker and Mrs. Dorothy Hayden of the U.S.

West was afraid that his opponents had game in one of the minor suits, so he decided to toss some sand into the machinery with a switch bid of two clubs. This is not a normal tactic on such a hand, but as Bustros held the ranking suit and little of defensive worth he thought that the bid could do no harm. Actually it succeeded beyond anybody's expectations, for Becker failed to double and expose the switch bid. He thereby set the scene for a monumental misunderstanding.

When Mrs. Hayden found enough strength in clubs to bid two no trump, Becker realized that Bustros was pulling a fast one. He made what he thought was the natural bid of six clubs, with the intention of playing there. Mrs. Hayden, unfortunately, read this as some sort of space-age cue bid. North must be short in hearts and clubs, she reasoned, and was thus marked with spades. She accordingly bid six spades, highly satisfied that the partnership had at last found its best suit.

West was far too delighted at this turn of events to double, but Becker felt that his spade holding was hardly the sort to warrant playing a slam in that suit, so he improved matters somewhat by taking out to six no trump.

Had South not been the first to mention no trump, the six-no-trump contract might have yielded a top score. East was unlikely to lead a spade on the auction, and the defense would have had discarding problems in the minor suits. But with West on lead the contract was hardly a success, though Bustros was sorely disappointed that he could not run the first eight tricks in spades.

At other tables West came in with a high preemptive bid in spades, and the final contract was six clubs by North, which could be made by careful play. But that was hardly as exciting as the Becker-Hayden fiasco provoked by the old switch bid.

ILLUSTRATION

North dealer Neither side vulnerable

NORTH

[Queen of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

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

NORTH
(Becker)

1 [Diamond]
2 [Diamond]
6 [Club]
6 N.T.
PASS

EAST
(Dalati)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Mrs. Hayden)

1 [Heart]
2 N.T.
6 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

WEST
(Bustros)

2 [Club!]
PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

Opening lead: ace of spades

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)