An unconventional convention that works

January 09, 1967

All though I amnot especially fond of systems based on artificial conventions, I am not blindto the fact that they have their uses. For example, there is a no-man's-land instandard no-trump bidding—the 19-or 20-point hand that falls between theopening bid of one and two no trump. It is now customary to show this byopening with a bid of one in a suit and following with a rebid of two no trumpif partner has responded in a suit on the one level.

Players who usean artificial one-club bid to show a stronger than 17-point hand close this gapmuch more simply. They open one no trump with 16 to 18 and show 19 or 20 byopening with a forcing one club. They follow this by a one-no-trump rebid ifpartner responds with a negative one diamond. They can rebid two no trump with21 or 22 and tighten up the ranges all the way through 26-or 27-point balancedhands. After any of these no-trump bids, a response in clubs asks about afour-card major-suit fit, just as if the original bid were in no trump. That isthe method used by the North-South players in this deal.

The biddingenabled South to suggest the possible superiority of a no-trump contract eventhough his side had located the fit in hearts. If he had held a very unbalancedhand, North could have returned to four hearts, but he was content with threeno trump. This was just as well, because with careful defense East-West couldset four hearts. East has to lead a diamond when he gets in with the ace ofhearts, but this is a reasonably clear defense. Not that three no trump waseasy. To make it, South had to refuse the opportunity to follow the usualguideline for no-trump timing and come up with a plan that gave him more than a50-50 chance of success.

Declarer let thefirst trick run to East's queen, and allowed East to hold the lead, thecustomary maneuver to break communications between the defenders. He won thespade continuation with dummy's ace. The standard technique now would be toestablish the longest suit and also knock out the card of entry that cannot beescaped in any case—the ace of hearts. All of which dictated a heart lead, butthis was not South's play. Instead, he led a club from dummy, put up the queenand lost a finesse to West's king. West continued spades, establishing thesuit, but his reentry in diamonds did not come through in time. South won thethird spade, led a heart to East's ace, and East did not have a spade toreturn. Declarer made the contract with four heart tricks, two spades, twoclubs and one diamond.

The way Southplayed the hand, he was bound to make the contract if East had either or bothof the two key cards, the ace of hearts or the king of clubs. Had he tackledthe hearts first, he would have been gambling that East had one specificcard—the king of clubs. By taking the club finesse first, declarer gave himselfa 3-to-l chance instead of relying on the even-money finesse.

Yes, I am awarethat if South could see all the cards he could make the hand anyway becauseWest is compelled to make three discards on the hearts and must let go of aspade in order to keep the king and queen of diamonds and a guard for his kingof clubs. But if West blandly lets go one diamond and his two spot cards inclubs, South is almost sure to take the club finesse for his ninth trick, withfatal consequences.

Neither side vulnerable South dealer

NORTH
[Ace of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

EAST
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH
[King of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]

WEST
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]


SOUTH

1 [Club]
1 N.T.
2 [Heart]
3 N.T.

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

1 [Diamond]
2 [Club]
3 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 5 of spades

ILLUSTRATIONNORTH ILLUSTRATIONWEST ILLUSTRATIONEAST ILLUSTRATIONSOUTH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS

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)