Almost Bridge 7E05   Main

Bizarre Auction Is Bridge Nightmare

  by Richard Pavlicek

Of course, you say, today’s diagram must be faulty — South couldn’t possibly be declarer in seven spades; it must be East who was declarer.

Not true. The cliche that truth is stranger than fiction may have been founded with this deal, which occurred in the Florida finals of the Grand National Teams held two weeks ago in Tampa. South did indeed declare seven spades doubled; and what’s more, all four players at the table were experts. West was Bill Passell of Coral Springs and East was David Strasberg of Davie. But I will not divulge the names of the North-South players for health reasons — my health, that is.

7 S× South
E-W Vul
S 10 5 3
H 3
D 10 2
C K Q J 7 6 5 3
1 H
7 H
3 C
7 S
5 NT
6 S
S 9 8 6 2
H A K J 10 4
D K 7 3
C 2
TableS A K Q J 7 4
H Q 9 2
D A Q 6 4

Lead: H K
H 8 7 6 5
D J 9 8 5
C A 10 9 8 4

West routinely opened one heart and North made a weak jump overcall of three clubs. East’s five-notrump bid was a perfect choice, the “grand slam force,” which demanded that West bid seven hearts if he held two of the top three trump honors. Note that Blackwood would not have helped East because he was not concerned about the club ace; all he needed was the ace and king of hearts. West properly obliged and East might have chosen seven spades (instead of hearts) as the final contract; but something bizarre happened along the way.

South was aware that his opponents were headed for a grand slam in hearts, and also aware that his club ace was not going to take a trick. A sacrifice bid of eight clubs was not allowed, so he came up with a masterful call — six spades! This would tell his partner to lead a spade against seven hearts (which he’d ruff for the setting trick); and if six spades was doubled, he would retreat to safety in seven clubs. A brilliant coup!

Unfortunately, North was not in on this coup. He assumed his partner held a real spade suit and, lacking any defensive strength, he chose to sacrifice in seven spades over seven hearts. East doubled (seems reasonable to me), and South’s feelings were inexpressible in words. Talk about wanting to crawl under the table! Down 13 doubled — minus 3500 under the new scoring change — was a nightmare of all nightmares.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek