I can't understand why Mr. A is a losing player," someone once remarked to Helen Sobel. "He usually makes one more trick than anybody else would." Helen laughed. "That's easy," she said. "He bids two more than anyone else would."
There is an old saying that bold bidders make great players because they gain so much experience trying to make more than the usual number of tricks with their cards. I am all for bold bidding, as I recommended in my recent series (SI, Feb. 24), but there is such a thing as overly bold bidding. This usually leads to disaster, though once in a great while a player of skill can win a good result. In the Orient recently I witnessed a classic example.
The game was played on a warm evening in Manila by one of the leading players in the Philippines. Since, on this hand at least, his bidding was as bad as his play was good. I won't identify him. Call him South.
Most players in the Orient follow my own style of bidding, uncluttered by a rash of conventions. But South's selection of a one heart opening bid is a bit too natural. If he had opened with one spade and rebid two hearts, it would not have sounded as strong as his actual reverse bid, which encouraged North to jump to game—quite properly.
The opening lead of the diamond king was won by dummy's ace, and South faced a problem that is difficult even when you see all the cards. With only two entries to dummy, including the diamond ace, which he had already won, how was declarer to avoid losing more than one diamond, one spade and one trump trick? Obviously, he needed to find the trumps favorably split, the club king onside and the spade ace in East's hand. But even assuming these good breaks, it took skillful planning to take advantage of them.
Declarer's first lead from dummy was a spade. East ducked, and South won with the king. Next he led to the ace of hearts and played a second spade. East stepped in with the ace and led a diamond. After winning one diamond trick, West continued the suit, and South ruffed. Now declarer cashed his king of hearts and his queen of spades. Then he led his good spade. It would have done West no good to ruff high, so he discarded a club without any hesitation that might have revealed who had the missing trump.
But South had no choice in the matter. It would do him not the slightest bit of good to discard a club from dummy on the good spade. He had to get the lead into dummy in order to lead a club and his only chance was to find West with the third trump so that when dummy ruffed the spade it could not be overruffed.
Fortunately for declarer, East did not have the outstanding trump and he did have the king of clubs. The club finesse succeeded and South surrendered one trump trick to West, making his outrageously optimistic contract.
Rebidding in a higher-ranking suit than your first bid-called a reverse—shows a strong hand if the reverse occurs past the level of one no trump. This is not just an arbitrary rule; it is essential because partner is forced to bid at the three level merely to show that he prefers the suit you bid first. With a hand that is not strong enough to justify climbing that high, it is often best to bid a higher-ranking four-card suit ahead of a five-carder, thus avoiding a reverse rebid.