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Partnership Profile

Marc Smith tests the bidding of the American father-son Richard and Rich Pavlicek

March, 1998 — Bridge Magazine (UK)

The Pair

Rich learned to play when he was 10, although it was his mother Mabel who was instrumental in his introduction to the game. “She is an excellent teacher and has the patience to cope with beginners,” explains Richard. The result of her efforts is one of America’s most successful and enduring father-son combinations, the pair having played together on and off for the best part of two decades.

Together they have achieved more than 30 regional wins, and at the national level have had several almosts, most notably in the Reisinger Teams and Blue Ribbon Pairs, but no major titles as yet.

Although they live some 3,000 miles apart, the advent of bridge on the Internet still enables them to practice regularly, and they can frequently be found on OKbridge surrounded by a large gallery of kibitzers.

Richard Pavlicek

A professional bridge teacher and writer, Richard Pavlicek is 52 and lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His hobbies include computer programming, pocket billiards and music — he is an accomplished organist.

A WBF World Master and ACBL Grand Life Master, Richard first rose to prominence on winning the Grand National Teams in 1973 and has now amassed a total of 10 North American titles. Of the major U.S. titles, only the Spingold has eluded him — he was a losing finalist in 1978. At the world level, he came in 6th in the 1986 Rosenblum Teams played in Miami Beach.

Richard’s “best bridge memory” was winning the 1983 Reisinger Cup with the great Oswald Jacoby, who was in ailing health and died the next year. When asked about his “worst bridge moment” he said he could recall a number of painful losses (four by just 1 IMP), but the ultimate heartbreak was losing the final match of the U.S. Team Trials by 3 IMPs in 128 boards.

His bridge ambition is to win the Bermuda Bowl or World Team Olympiad. “The trouble is there are so many good players in this country that it’s an uphill battle just to get there,” he observed.

Richard is the author of a lot of bridge teaching booklets and other material. He is the co-author of Modern Bridge Conventions with Bill Root, his regular partner since 1976.

Those readers with Internet access are bound to find something of interest at Richard’s web site, which contains a considerable collection of articles and hands. The address is [http://www.rpbridge.net].

Finally, Richard offered me this amusing anecdote. “Twenty-nine years ago, I was playing duplicate bridge with my friend Jim Beery. The next round looked like a piece of cake as we sat down against two attractive young ladies. On the first board, I was doubled and set two tricks for a bad score. Determined to get even, I doubled the ladies on the second board. Of course they made it — with an overtrick! After the game I asked one of the killer gals for her name. ‘Mabel,’ came the reply… and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Clearly, Rich was destined to play bridge…

Rich Pavlicek

Just turned 28, Rich Pavlicek lives in San Mateo, California. He has recently moved “out West” to take up a job as a database programmer with a company that keeps track of oil-drilling sites. His hobbies include computer programming, computer games, bicycling, and physical fitness, so he is well suited to the California lifestyle.

While Rich’s bridge achievements may not fill as much space as his father’s they foretell considerable potential. At the tender age of 13, he became the ACBL’s youngest ever Life Master. He has already won more than 40 regional events, but perhaps his most impressive achievement was winning the Florida Open Team Championship at age 16.

When asked for a bridge anecdote, Rich was reminded of an occasion when his team defeated a top expert team. On the pivotal hand in the match Rich was dealt: S AKQ H AKJ D AKQJ C AKQ. He opened 6 NT, and that’s all there was. Naturally, the “expert” at the other table bid seven, down one. Afterwards, the opponents asked him, “What the hell do you need to bid seven?” Rich thought about it and offered, “The queen of hearts?”

For Rich, bridge is really just a hobby at the moment. His goal is to win a national title, but it’s not his highest priority — he is concentrating on his career, and hoping to find the “right girl” with whom to share his life. Then again, after his father’s success in that department, perhaps he should be looking for the right opponent at the bridge table.

The Bidding System
Modified Eastern Scientific
Five-card majors
15-17 1 NT with puppet Stayman, major-suit transfers and various gadgets
2 C is the system strong bid
Weak two-bids in three suits
Two-over-one game forcing unless responder rebids his suit
Three-card minors with inverted raises

Board 1

IMPs, Both Vul, East Deals

S J 8 2
H K 10 7 4
D K 8 3
C A K 7
TableS 5 4 3
H A Q J 8
D A Q J 9 6 2
C

West
Rich

1 H
4 D
Pass
North


Pass
Pass
East
Richard
1 D
4 C
4 H
South

Pass
Pass
Pass

Four clubs was a splinter agreeing hearts, and four diamonds natural and slammish guaranteeing a high diamond rather than shortage.

This should be a relatively easy 10 marks, with West’s final pass dictated by the known wastage in clubs, despite the number of high-card points. In fact, readers who do not consider the East hand worthy of a four-level splinter facing a simple response may find themselves in greater danger of getting overboard. West’s hand is much better opposite a weaker bid such as a limit raise to three hearts.

Recommended auction: as above

Marks: 4 H = 10; 3 NT = 7; 4 D = 4; 5 H = 1; 5 D = 1

Running score: Pavliceks 10

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Board 2

IMPs, None Vul, West Deals

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

West
Rich
1 NT
2 D
3 C
4 NT
Pass
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
2 C
2 H
4 C
6 NT
South

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

One notrump was 15-17 and two clubs puppet Stayman asking for five-card majors. Two diamonds was described as “no five-card major that I want to show.” Two hearts was either a general game invitation or a hand with exactly four spades; it denied four hearts unless 3-4-3-3 and not interested in playing a heart contract. Three clubs was artificial, showing a maximum without four spades, and four clubs was a slam try with 4-2-3-4 or 4-3-2-4.

West now had to make the crucial decision. Lacking a red-suit control to cue-bid, his choices were to show some slam suitability with a raise to five clubs, to show a very suitable hand via a four-spade cue-bid or a jump to six clubs, or to show no fit or a poor hand in the context of his previous bidding with a discouraging 4 NT. Rich was put off by his red-suit holdings and chose 4 NT.

Richard, who was never intending to stop short of slam, could do little else but bid 6 NT, and the second best contract was reached.

Recommended auction: The new Bridge Magazine Standard (BMS) dictates that we open the major with two four-card suits. The 1 NT rebid is 15-17 and two clubs an inquiry. Although the system notes do not specify, it seems reasonable for West to show such a good four-card suit (presumably denying three spades or five hearts). If East raises to four clubs to show a fit and slam interest we will have reached the same point as the Pavliceks. I feel that with ace-king, king in partner’s suits West has a good hand facing a slam try. Four spades is a little too much though, and thus I think five clubs is right. So, we have a final auction of 1 HS; 1 NT 2 C; 3 CC; 5 CC. It is surely worth bidding it this way just for the novelty value of bidding the same suit five times in succession!

Marks: 6 C = 10; 6 NT = 7; 5 NT = 5; 5 C = 5; 7 C = 2

Running score: Pavliceks 17

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Board 3

IMPs, None Vul, West Deals; North overcalls 1 H or 2 H as sufficient

S J 10 8 5
H A 6 2
D K Q 7
C A K 8
TableS 9 6 4 2
H K J
D J 9
C Q J 10 9 4

West
Rich
1 NT
Pass
North

2 H
East
Richard
3 NT
South

Pass

System is likely to dictate just how hard this hand from the final weekend of the 1997 BBL Premier League will be for you.

Anyone playing a strong notrump will be faced with the problem Richard had. His choices after the overcall did not include an invitational sequence, so he had to choose between competing to three clubs or bidding game. Richard followed Hamman’s Rule of selecting 3 NT if that is a sensible option, thus making the hand look very easy.

Recommended auction: After a one-spade opening and a two-heart overcall, East has to decide between a preemptive raise of three spades and a sound raise to the three level (three hearts). At the table, my partner chose the weak raise and, although three spades was not the optimum contract, it does at least produce a plus score. If East chooses to make a value raise via a cue-bid, then the optimum spot might be reached via 1 S (2 H) 3 H (Pass); 3 NT.

Marks: 3 NT = 10; 3 S = 6; 3 C = 5

Running score: Pavliceks 27

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Board 4

IMPs, Both Vul, West Deals; North bids hearts at cheapest level; South bids 4 H

S 10 7 5 3
H J 4
D A K J 8 5
C K 7
TableS A Q J 9 8 6 4 2
H A
D Q 3
C 10 8

West
Rich
1 D
Pass
5 D
Pass
North

1 H
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
1 S
4 NT
5 S
South

4 H
Pass
Pass

The auction began normally and left East with an extremely tough problem when four hearts came back to him. Richard chose to solve the problem by invoking “auto-Blackwood,” key-card Blackwood self-agreeing his own suit — a novel treatment and one that at least resulted in a plus score. When Rich showed only one key card Richard stopped safely at the five level, albeit for the wrong reason. Not that six spades is such a poor contract — South might hold the ace of clubs, and if he doesn’t then it will be far from obvious to lead one from J-x-x-x-x or some such holding.

Recommended auction: Nothing is mentioned in the system notes at the end of the magazine about fit-jumps after an opening bid, so we must assume that East can bid two spades, natural and strong, which seems like a sensible choice. Now West will bid four spades over four hearts and East will go on with five hearts. It is difficult for West but he must now realize that he needs to protect his king of clubs. Opposite what he assumes to be a solid spade suit and the ace of hearts it is clear to bid 6 NT. Thus our recommended auction is: 1 D (1 H) 2 S (4 H); 4 S (Pass) 5 H (Pass); 6 NT.

Marks: 6 NT W = 10; 6 S W = 10; 6 S E = 8; 5 NT W = 6; 5 S = 6; 7 S = 4; 6 D = 3

Running score: Pavliceks 33

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Board 5

IMPs, Both Vul, East Deals

S K Q 9 6 4 3
H K 8 6 3
D
C Q 5 3
TableS A J 7 5
H A 7 5
D A K 7 6
C A 4

West
Rich

3 H
5 D
5 S
7 S
North


Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
2 NT
4 S
5 H
6 C
Pass
South

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

Two notrump was 20-22, three hearts a transfer, and four spades showed an exceptional hand for spades with four trumps. Five diamonds and five hearts were cue-bids, five spades denied a club control, and six-clubs showed the ace. However, West still had no way to discover if partner had the right cards. Clearly, opposite the same high cards and a doubleton heart, seven spades is an excellent contract. Also, since the cue-bidding has not allowed East a chance to cue-bid diamonds, it is possible he has little wastage there — a hand such as S A-J-x-x H A-Q-x D Q-J-x C A-K-x. Even a hand with diamond wastage but the minor heart honors and a doubleton club, such as S A-J-x-x H A-Q-J D K-Q-x-x C A-x, makes the grand excellent. Since he had no way to find out, Rich bid the grand that he thought was likely to have play and might easily be cold. Opposite this particular East hand though, there is little chance.

Recommended auction: Although 99 percent of players would automatically transfer in spades with this West hand, I am far from convinced it is correct. For a start, if partner simply completes the transfer what are you planning to do next? Is four hearts forcing? Does it show 5-5? Might it be 5-4 or does it guarantee 10 cards in the majors? BMS uses standard Stayman over 2 NT and this seems to me a good start. On the actual hand opener would respond three spades, and: 2 NT 3 C; 3 SD; 4 HH; 6 C ? (where four diamonds is either natural or a cue-bid agreeing spades and five hearts clarifies that it is the latter) leaves you in a very similar position to the one in which Rich found himself. Perhaps only strong club systems have a chance of getting to the right contract for the right reason…

Marks: 6 S = 10; 5 NT = 7; 5 S = 7; 6 NT = 3

Running Score: Pavliceks 33

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Board 6

IMPs, N-S Vul, West Deals

S K Q 7 4 2
H K 6 3
D A J 9 7
C 9
TableS A J 8 5
H A 9 5
D K Q 10 6
C A 6

West
Rich
1 S
3 D
4 H
5 H
6 H
Pass
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
2 NT
3 S
4 NT
5 NT
7 D
South

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

East’s 2 NT response was natural, showing 15+ balanced, neither showing nor denying a spade fit. Three diamonds was natural, three spades support, and four hearts a cue-bid. Four notrump was a form of key-card Blackwood with the five-heart response showing two key cards but saying nothing about the queen of spades. Five notrump asked again, and six hearts showed the queen of spades and king of hearts. East now could see the advantage of having diamonds trump, with a discard available on the fifth spade.

Recommended auction: In BMS we would also start with a 2 NT response, this time showing a spade raise, and opener would have a choice between a natural three diamonds and a jump to four clubs to show the splinter. Clearly, on this hand, choosing the latter option will bury the diamond suit forever, which is why the splinter should really be reserved for 6-3-3-1 distributions. A reasonable auction is: 1 S 2 NT; 3 DS; 4 CD; 4 H 4 NT; 5 SD. It is important that responder sets spades as trumps initially as he must be able to confirm that suit’s solidity. Raising three diamonds causes considerable problems later in the auction — try it. After three spades, an exchange of cue-bids tells responder that opener has two second-round controls and Blackwood makes sure the top spades and the ace of diamonds, and once again East shows his partner’s exact hand.

Marks: 7 D = 10; 6 NT = 6; 6 S = 6; 6 D = 6; 5 NT = 3; 5 S = 3; 5 D = 3

Running score: Pavliceks 43

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Board 7

IMPs, None Vul, North Deals; North opens 3 C; South bids 4 C if sufficient

S J 10 9 6 3
H K 7 5 3
D Q 9 6 2
C
TableS 8 4
H A Q 8 2
D A K 10 7 4
C A 5

West
Rich

5 D
6 C
6 H
North

3 C
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
3 D
5 H
6 D
Pass
South

4 C
Pass
Pass

This looks like a fairly innocuous hand, but I’ve now seen it bid twice, with neither East-West pair managing to go plus. East has two realistic options on the first round: 3 NT and three diamonds. Richard chose the latter, which was a good start, and Rich’s jump to five diamonds seems about right. East has a much better hand than he might have had for his overcall, but is bidding beyond game realistic? For slam to be good West needs the ace of spades in addition to what he actually has, and with that would he not cue-bid five clubs instead of just jumping to game?

When the hand occurred at the table, East overcalled 3 NT, and South’s four club bid now removed West’s easy option for offering a choice of suits. If you overcall 3 NT with the East hand, can you make a takeout double of four clubs or do you just have to guess to bid four hearts? At the table, four spades was bid and that contract went four down, which is why I have given marks for bidding the no-play slams.

Recommended auction: (3 C) 3 D (4 C) 5 D

Marks: 5 D = 10; 4 H = 8; 4 NT = 6; 5 H = 5; 4 C dbld = 4; 4 C passed = 3; 6 D = 2; 6 H = 1

Running score: Pavliceks 44

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Board 8

IMPs, E-W Vul, West Deals; North opens 2 S weak or overcalls 1 S if sufficient; South raises to 4 S

S K 9 3
H 4
D J 8 7 6 4 3 2
C A 6
TableS
H A Q J 9 7 5 2
D A K 10 5
C K 8

West
Rich
Pass
Pass
6 C
Pass
North

2 S
Pass
Pass
East
Richard
4 H
5 D
7 D
South

4 S
Pass
Pass

Richard’s four-heart overcall showed a strong one-suited hand with nine or more playing tricks, but when he reopened with five diamonds he had clearly found a second suit. West’s hand was now enormous, so he cue-bid.

There was some discussion about whether six clubs could possibly be natural, but is it possible for West to have enough clubs to introduce them now and not to have bid earlier? Facing the ace of clubs and a large number of diamonds, East jumped to the cold grand.

Recommended auction: as above

Marks: 7 D = 10; 6 D = 7; 5 D = 5; 6 H = 4; 5 H = 3

Final score: Pavliceks 54

Fifty-four appears to be a fairly modest score, but this was not an easy set of hands, and if any readers outscored the Pavliceks then they have bid well. Many thanks to Richard and Rich for their time and help in putting this feature together.

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© 1998 Marc Smith