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Scientific Bidding Reaps Reward

  by Richard Pavlicek

There has been a continual debate over the past 20-odd years regarding the merits of “scientific” bidding as opposed to traditional methods. Each school has its advantages and disadvantages.

The traditionalists claim simplicity, decreased chances of partnership misunderstandings, and advantages in competitive bidding. The scientists claim greater accuracy in partnership bidding, especially in the realm of slam bidding. Today’s deal clearly goes to the scientists.

The scene was the premier event at the 1984 Summer North American Championships, the Spingold Knockout Teams. Two Broward players, Dr. Jim Sternberg — the “Dr. J” of bridge — and Bernie Chazen, respectively, held the North-South hands and conducted the auction shown. To an innocent onlooker, the auction is shrouded in mystery; but anyone can see that the final contract was superb.

6 C South
Both Vul
S A Q J 2
H 9 8 4
D K 10 5
C A K 3

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

Lead: H 6
S K 7
H 3
D A Q 7 3 2
C Q J 9 8 5

After North’s one-notrump opening, South’s jump to three diamonds was artificial, showing both minor suits (at least five-four shape). North’s three hearts was an asking bid, and South’s three spades showed a singleton heart (three notrump would show a singleton spade).

This knowledge was good news to North, and his jump to five notrump said in effect, “pick a slam.” South chose six clubs over six diamonds because of his stronger intermediate cards in clubs — a wise decision. Observe that six diamonds would fail with the four-one trump break.

There was nothing to the play. After ruffing the second heart lead, declarer drew trumps and claimed his 12 top tricks. The Sternberg team gained heavily on this deal and went on to finish second in the national championship, narrowly losing a hard-fought final match.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek