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Gambling Three Notrump Is Old Hat

  by Richard Pavlicek

The so-called “gambling three notrump” bid — a blind stab to win nine tricks in notrump — has been a popular tactic in tournament bridge for many years. It used to work far more often than not, and it sometimes produced fantastic results. But its effectiveness is on a steady decline.

Why? Witness today’s deal. South held an ideal hand for such a gamble, so he blasted away with three notrump. In the old days West would lead a spade to South’s king and declarer would easily win nine tricks: one spade, one club and seven diamonds. And worse yet, South would revel (if not gloat) in the process.

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



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

Lead: H A
S K 7 2
D A K Q J 7 5 4
C J 2

Today’s defenders, however, are more sophisticated. When South opened three notrump, West was aware of the kind of hand it implied — a long, solid minor suit. In that case it was imperative not to relinquish the lead if there was any chance to defeat the contract; or in a nutshell: Lead an ace. This way West could see the dummy and his partner’s signal.

West led the heart ace then continued the suit when East encouraged with the eight. After running six heart tricks, East shifted to the spade ten which trapped the king and gave West six spade tricks. Declarer won the last trick, but it was just a token from the rubble; down eight (minus 800) was an ugly result. Observe that the lead of the spade ace followed by a shift to the heart ace also would defeat three notrump, though less brutally.

It is results like this that have convinced many experts to abandon the gambling three notrump bid — at least now that most defenders are wise to it.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek