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An unconventional convention that works
Charles Goren
January 09, 1967
All though I am not especially fond of systems based on artificial conventions, I am not blind to the fact that they have their uses. For example, there is a no-man's-land in standard no-trump bidding—the 19-or 20-point hand that falls between the opening bid of one and two no trump. It is now customary to show this by opening with a bid of one in a suit and following with a rebid of two no trump if partner has responded in a suit on the one level.
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January 09, 1967

An Unconventional Convention That Works

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All though I am not especially fond of systems based on artificial conventions, I am not blind to the fact that they have their uses. For example, there is a no-man's-land in standard no-trump bidding—the 19-or 20-point hand that falls between the opening bid of one and two no trump. It is now customary to show this by opening with a bid of one in a suit and following with a rebid of two no trump if partner has responded in a suit on the one level.

Players who use an artificial one-club bid to show a stronger than 17-point hand close this gap much more simply. They open one no trump with 16 to 18 and show 19 or 20 by opening with a forcing one club. They follow this by a one-no-trump rebid if partner responds with a negative one diamond. They can rebid two no trump with 21 or 22 and tighten up the ranges all the way through 26-or 27-point balanced hands. After any of these no-trump bids, a response in clubs asks about a four-card major-suit fit, just as if the original bid were in no trump. That is the method used by the North-South players in this deal.

The bidding enabled South to suggest the possible superiority of a no-trump contract even though his side had located the fit in hearts. If he had held a very unbalanced hand, North could have returned to four hearts, but he was content with three no trump. This was just as well, because with careful defense East-West could set four hearts. East has to lead a diamond when he gets in with the ace of hearts, but this is a reasonably clear defense. Not that three no trump was easy. To make it, South had to refuse the opportunity to follow the usual guideline for no-trump timing and come up with a plan that gave him more than a 50-50 chance of success.

Declarer let the first trick run to East's queen, and allowed East to hold the lead, the customary maneuver to break communications between the defenders. He won the spade continuation with dummy's ace. The standard technique now would be to establish the longest suit and also knock out the card of entry that cannot be escaped in any case—the ace of hearts. All of which dictated a heart lead, but this was not South's play. Instead, he led a club from dummy, put up the queen and lost a finesse to West's king. West continued spades, establishing the suit, but his reentry in diamonds did not come through in time. South won the third spade, led a heart to East's ace, and East did not have a spade to return. Declarer made the contract with four heart tricks, two spades, two clubs and one diamond.

The way South played the hand, he was bound to make the contract if East had either or both of the two key cards, the ace of hearts or the king of clubs. Had he tackled the hearts first, he would have been gambling that East had one specific card—the king of clubs. By taking the club finesse first, declarer gave himself a 3-to-l chance instead of relying on the even-money finesse.

Yes, I am aware that if South could see all the cards he could make the hand anyway because West is compelled to make three discards on the hearts and must let go of a spade in order to keep the king and queen of diamonds and a guard for his king of clubs. But if West blandly lets go one diamond and his two spot cards in clubs, South is almost sure to take the club finesse for his ninth trick, with fatal consequences.

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