Cambs & Hunts Contract Bridge Association
Promoting Bridge in Cambridgeshire
Release 2.19q
DETECTIVE STORY Part 3 Grand Finale by Peter Burrows

This is a true story. It happened to me a very very long time ago in a club in London after a hard day's work. As with the two previous articles in this series, (which originally appeared in the LCCBA News, to which we are indebted (ed),) there is a challenge involved. Although the story is true, I have taken one small liberty in the telling of the tale, for reasons which will become clear towards the end of my story. The challenge is to identify the inaccuracy. On this particular night, I was taking part in a partie fixe and the deals which follow were all dealt in sequence from two new packs, from both of which I stripped the wrappings with my own hands. Honest Injun.

On the first hand, my partner dealt as South and passed. Our opponents then bid unopposed 1♠ - 3; 3♠ - 4♣; 6NT - 7NT;

Their hands were

♠ AKQxx
♥ 10
♣ xxx
W         E
♠ Jx
♣ AQ

Spades broke 3-3, and hearts 3-2. Fifteen top tricks! Not a propitious start. Oh yes, and the club finesse would have worked as well.

East dealt the next hand with the auction

   East       South       West       North   
1♣ 1 1 1♠
3♣ P 3 X
3♠ 5 5 P
7♣ P P P
♠ KJxxx
♣ x
Dealer E
♠ x
♣ QJxx
W         E
♠ Axxx
♣ AK109xx
♠ Qxx
♣ xx

Not even a 4-0 heart break would have inconvenienced declarer, provided that (s)he did not suffer a ruff at trick one! Maybe North should have raised diamonds directly, or perhaps South should have supported the spades. Certainly one of us should have bid 7 if you judge by the result. But we did none of these things.

I was reeling a bit by this stage, but there was yet more to come on the very next hand:

♠ xxx
♣ QJ8xxxx
Dealer N
♠ x
♣ AK109
W         E
♠ AKJxx
♣ -
♠ Q10xx
♣ xx
   North       East       South       West   
3♣ 4♣* 5♣ 6♣
P 7 all pass

South did his best by leading a trump, but declarer won in hand, cashed the ♠A, ruffed a spade in dummy, came back to the A, and ruffed another spade with the Ace. Then he discarded a small heart on the ♣A, ruffed a club high, drew trumps and claimed.

We gravely congratulated our opponents on their bidding, and this led to an animated discussion as to the theoretical distinction between the 6♣ bid that West had actually chosen and a bid of 5NT in the same position. There were two schools of thought. One was that the No-trump bid would have directed East's attention to the lower ranking unbid suits, and thus was West's correct choice here, whereas 6♣ should have implied support for spades and one other suit. The alternative view was that the distinction between the two bids was basically one of strength, with 6♣ being both stronger than 5NT and also (according to one proponent of this view) guaranteeing first round control of clubs.

Most expert partnerships will have their own ideas on this and similar positions, but I do not think that there is any clear-cut consensus. The ranking of the suits in question must have some bearing on the matter. Where the opening is in clubs, then there will be no advantage in space as between the cue-bid and the bid in NT. But in the near analagous positions

a) 3 - 4 - 5 - ?

b) 3 - 4 - 5 - ?

c) 3♠ - 4♠ - 5♠ - ?

that is not the case, and there are other considerations involved. My own interpretations would be that in (a) 5NT would put emphasis on the club suit, with tolerance for at least one of the majors, while 6 would emphasise the majors. Whether it would guarantee first round control of diamonds is a moot point, but I am inclined to think that it should. In (b) 5NT would show a willingness to play in either minor, probably with a preference for diamonds, and 6 would show a strong preference for spades, first round control of hearts, and tolerance for both minors, with some expectation of being able to make seven of a minor if partner bids it. In (c) 5NT would clearly put emphasis on the minors, and 6♠ is so bulky a bid as to have no practical value.

As you can see, this is quite interesting stuff and I am sure that you would get many different shades of emphasis if you were to present these positions to a variety of experts. In our case, the discussion covered all these various points. East and West did not see eye to eye on most of them, and the argument became almost acrimonious at one stage. More important to my story is the fact that it continued unabated throughout the bidding and play of the two subsequent hands. Admittedly my partner and I contributed to the discussion, and so we can not really complain about its longevity. But the next two deals were bid and played at close to the speed of light, with everyone's attention being focussed primarily upon the various theoretical points raised above. What happened on those next two hands? Well, you know already! I did tell you at the outset that I had taken one small liberty in the telling of my tale, and those of you who noticed that the deal seemed to progress in the wrong direction round the table will have divined already what it was. I have described the three hands in the reverse of the order in which they actually took place. And I can vouch for the fact that, if there is one thing more aggravating than being on the wrong end of three successive grand slams at fairly serious stakes, it is being subjected to that experience by opponents whose attention seemed, for the most part, to be occupied with other considerations than those of the matter currently in hand!