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Forcing Pass Finds Best Trump Fit

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred in the Men’s Swiss Teams at the recent Southeastern Regional in Miami. It illustrates an important but often overlooked principle that marked the difference between failing in game and bidding a successful slam.

The first round of bidding was the same at each table: South opened two clubs (strong and artificial), West overcalled in hearts, and East jumped to game as a preemptive tactic. But then the paths diverged. At one table South bid four spades, which was set two tricks.

6 C South
N-S Vul
S 2
H 9 8 7
D K 9 7 2
C 10 8 6 5 2

2 H

5 C

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

Lead: H A
S A K Q 9 4
D A 5 4
C A Q J 7 4

At the other table South was more astute. He passed! This may appear to be cowardly, but that is hardly the case. South was not willing to defend four hearts; he merely was implementing the basic principle that bridge is a partnership game. South could only guess at the best contract based on his own hand, so he elicited his partner’s help.

South’s pass was forcing. When one side holds a clear majority of points — as indicated by South’s two-club opening — the opponents must not be allowed to play the hand undoubled. North was obliged to act when four hearts was passed to him; and his decision to double was sound since he lacked any suit worthy of bidding at a high level.

South removed the double to four spades, but therein lay a fine distinction: If South had held a one-suited hand in spades, he would have bid four spades directly over four hearts. Therefore, South showed a two-suited hand. North now was aware that spades was the wrong suit so he made the flexible bid of five clubs. This allowed South to pass with clubs or correct to five diamonds with diamonds.

South’s final bid of six clubs was slightly speculative — North might have held no points at all — but it proved to be a laydown contract. Two of dummy’s diamonds were discarded on South’s top spades, so only the club king was lost.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek