A Bridge Phantasmagoria

      

 

 SPUTNIK AND THE PREPARED CLUB

This sounds like a film title such as Butch and the Sundance Kid, but the reason for pairing will be revealed anon.

Sputnik, otherwise known as a Negative Double, is a double of an overcall by an opponent, which is not for penalties. It infers the strength to make a bid but with no good bid available. It is a very good adjunct to constructive bidding and no ranking couple will operate without it. If by any chance you wish to double for penalties, you have to pass and rely on partner to make a move such as a take-out double, whereupon you will then pass for penalties.

I refer you to any good text book for a full description of the Negative Double, but for a simple example your partner has opened One Diamond and next in hand overcalls One Spade. You hold:

 

S 976
H Q1085
D K8
C KJ32

 

Ordinarily you would be stuck for a bid but Sputnik comes to the rescue. This almost guarantees four hearts and four clubs and you can stand a Two Diamond rebid.

Now what price the Prepared Club? Five-card major addicts and even Strong No-trumpers are driven to use a Prepared Club unless the strong no-trumper is prepared to rebid 2NT with minimum values over a two level response.

All this brings me to an astonishing hand from a Lady Milne Cup match between Scotland and England in 1997

North-South game: East deals.

 

North
S 1098752
H J108742
D 2
C -

 

West
S 643
H Q
D AQJ103
C K874

 

East
S AJ
H 63
D 86
C AQJ10632

 

South
S KQ
H AK95
D K9754
C 95

 

In the Open Room, East opened One Club, duly alerted and South overcalled One Diamond. Everyone passed! Unbelievably South was only one down. Note that with the diamond king onside, East-West can make the small slam in clubs while North-South can make five hearts.

The English pair must have felt that they had suffered a set-back but in fact they gained points. The Scottish East also opened One Club, also alerted, but over One Diamond West chose to bid 2NT and East raised to 3NT two down on a heart lead.

The proceedings in the Open Room mystified nearly everyone but I venture to offer a possible explanation.

Over the One Diamond overcall a double by West would suggest both majors a`la Sputnik, so West passes for now, expecting some action from partner such as a double for take-out which West would be happy to pass for penalties. North is aware that the pass is forcing and passes, awaiting with interest the reaction by East.

Meantime East mulls over the whole situation. Partner has not bid a major or used Sputnik to show both majors, so in all probability she is stacked with diamonds and wants to double for penalty. However where are the majors? The opponents must have a better contract than One Diamond which in fact is true enough and so she breaks the rules and passes, feeling justified in so doing.

Now let us imagine that no prepared club is in use. Over One Diamond from South, West will jump to Three Clubs, fearing the majors, and, whether or not North will venture a bid is anyone’s guess.

However the point is that inability to raise a One Club opener can be a drawback, as for example

 

S 82
H 65
D KJ1053
C AQ104

 

A response of One Diamond to One Club after a pass from second hand, leaves it all too easy for North to come in whereas a jump to Three Clubs will either buy the contract or lead to a Five Club contract.

Although I am not in favour of a weak no-trump throughout, it does have the benefit that a One Club opener must be genuine, except where five-card majors are in use.

 
      

by Carl Dickel