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Who Was More at Fault?

  by Richard Pavlicek

A longtime friend of mine, Rolston “Bud” Addy of Ft. Lauderdale, sent me today’s deal, which was played by friends of his in Alabama. Something went awry in their bidding as they reached an inferior contract of four hearts.

4 H South
None Vul
S 7 6 4 3
H A J 3
D A 9 5
C A 8 4


1 C
4 H

2 D
1 H
3 D
H 9 8 4 2
D Q 8 7 4 3
C Q 3
TableS 10 9 2
H 10 6
D K J 10 6 2
C K 9 2

Lead: D 4
S K Q 8 5
H K Q 7 5
C J 10 7 6 5

Let’s grade the bidding. South’s initial pass: reasonable with his aceless hand, although I would open the bidding. One club: routine. One heart: the proper response (up the line) with four-four in the major suits. North’s pass of one heart: reasonable as South was a passed hand. Three diamonds (cue-bid): excellent; as a passed hand this describes South’s three-suited pattern; even if no major fit exists, the club fit provides safety. Four hearts: reasonable with prime values (aces) and three good trumps, rather than introduce a lousy spade suit.

Who was at fault? Addy suggested that neither North or South did anything terrible. Both had decisions to make, but no one stepped out of line; a good case could be made for every action that was taken.

Well, then, who was more at fault? I give the burden to North because of his pass of one heart. The doctrine of a five-card-major system is that, after a minor-suit opening, both partners should bid four-card major suits up the line regardless of quality. Otherwise, a four-four major fit might be lost. Therefore, North should bid one spade, which results in the proper contract when South raises to four spades.

Four hearts fared dismally. Continued diamond leads forced South to ruff, after which the only hope was a three-three trump break. This was not to be, and declarer was set two tricks.

Four spades is a different story. The play goes: diamond ace (pitch a club); spade to the king, ace; diamond ruff; spade queen; heart to the ace; diamond ruff; heart to the jack; spade to East. Declarer now has 10 sure tricks without having to guess how to play the club suit.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek