A Bridge Phantasmagoria

      

 

ADVERTISING WEAKNESS

The weak jump overcall has gained widespread popularity, but much of its power has been emasculated by Sputnik, otherwise known as the Negative Double. A downside of the bid is that it advertises weakness, and if it does not succeed in its object of disrupting the opponents, and they buy the contract, the play of the hand practically becomes a double dummy problem for the declarer as for example:

North-South game: South deals.

 

North
S Q8
H AKJ
D K1098
C 9862

 

West
S AKJ754
H 9653
D 4
C 43

 

East
S 62
H Q87
D J653
C J1075

 

South
S 1093
H 1042
D AQ72
C AKQ

 

South opened One Diamond and West made a weak jump overcall of Two Spades. North doubled in Sputnik style and with no good alternative, South rebid his four card diamond suit to deny hearts, whereupon North raised to Five Diamonds.

West started off with the ace and king of spades and thoughtlessly, but very naturally continued with the jack. Declarer ruffed with the king and East was squeezed in three suits. To retain guards in hearts and clubs, East made the expert play of discarding a trump.

This trump underruff was not lost on South. Combined with the weak jump overcall, he placed all the missing points and club length with East and played accordingly. Three rounds of trumps were drawn by finessing East for the jack and the end position had become:

 

North
S -
H AKJ
D -
C 9862

 

West
S J
H 9653
D -
C 43

 

East
S -
H Q87
D -
C J1075

 

South
S -
H 1042
D 2
C AKQ

 

On the last trump, the jack of hearts was thrown from dummy and East realised that his earlier underruff had only postponed the evil moment. Hoping his partner would have the ten of hearts, he discarded a heart. South now cashed the ace and king of hearts dropping the queen and the ten of hearts was the eleventh trick.

Compared to the weak jump overcall, an opening bid of three in a suit is also pre-emptive, but figures to be more effective as the opponents have yet to bid and must start operations, if any, at the three level.

There are many defences to pre-empts and the simplest is the take-out double. However, you may be interested in the Italian Neapolitan defence. Playing this convention, a double of a black suit is for penalty and a double of a red suit is for take-out. Over Three Clubs, Three Diamonds is for take-out and Four Clubs over Three Spades is also for take-out. An overcall in a major is always natural.

The opening pre-empt is often effective but it too has a downside. When the opponents do manage to buy the contract, the play is simplified and at times they are provoked into bidding a makeable contract which otherwise they would not reach, as for example.

 

North
S J62
H A10752
D 97
C J94

 

West
S Q98
H KQJ864
D 6543
C -

 

East
S 1075
H 93
D 2
C AKQ10832

 

South
S AK43
H -
D AKQJ108
C 765

 

In normal circumstances, South could be two or three down in a contract of Five Diamonds. He was pondering whether to open with a Two Bid, when suddenly he found himself faced with a Three Club pre-empt from East. Thus provoked, South bid a straightforward Five Diamonds.

West led the king of hearts and when dummy went down, it was very clear that West was void in clubs. Seeing his only chance, South ruffed the heart in hand and after drawing trumps, he played the ace and king of spades and a third spade to West’s queen.

Now on lead with hearts only, West played the queen but South let him hold the trick and discarded a club. On a further heart, South scored the ten and ace and got rid of his two remaining clubs, and being vulnerable, scored up 600 points

South jokingly remarked to East, “That Three Club bid of yours was a fine launching pad for my Five Diamonds.” East was not amused.

      

by Carl Dickel