More bidding systems were put into play during the three weeks of world championship bridge competition in Stockholm last June than there are nations represented in the World Bridge Federation. And the number of new systems being devised today is increasing even more rapidly than the roster of the WBF, which is growing quite nicely, thank you.
It is obviously ridiculous, for instance, to refer to "the Italian system," as if there were only one. The old Blue Team itself played no fewer than three (the Neapolitan Club, Roman Club and Little Roman Club), and there are at least two more—the Leghorn Diamond and Marmic (now regarded as obsolete but a forerunner of the Roman Club).
There also is a tendency among systems makers to use an artificial one-club opening bid to show a big hand (how strong the hand must be and what follows thereafter varies widely according to the system used). But it would seem that most systems are only as good as the hands that best suit them—and they don't come along that often.
One such hand did turn up in Stockholm, however, and it resulted in a double-game swing worth 14 international match points to Norway in the only match the Dallas Aces lost on their way to the Bermuda Bowl. One of the Norwegian pairs was playing EFOS (short for Economical Forcing System), which incorporates several ideas from its distant relative, the Marmic system.
The diagram on the next page shows the bidding in the open room, where a Norwegian pair not playing EFOS was sitting North-South. South's one-spade bid was natural; West overcalled with two hearts and North responded two spades. When East jumped to four hearts, South continued to four spades. One can hardly blame East for doubling. In view of his partner's overcall, the progress of the auction and his own high-card strength, it certainly seemed as though the Norwegians were taking a save. In fact, the contract could have been defeated if West had chosen the unlikely lead of the ace of spades before leading a heart to East's ace. Then East could have continued trumps and, when he got back in with a high club, led a third trump to deprive South of a vital second club ruff in dummy.
With the normal opening lead of the 4 of hearts, however, East's spade shift at the second trick came too late to do the defense any good. South ruffed West's heart continuation and then surrendered a club. East could lead a second trump but two trumps remained in dummy to take care of declarer's club losers. The contract was made for +590 to Norway.
In the closed room a Marmic bid on the same deal by the Norwegian East-West pair playing EFOS spelled more trouble for the Aces. Following South's one-spade opening, West bid two spades—a kind of weak two-suited takeout double showing hearts and a minor suit. North tried to use up some communications space by raising to three spades, but West had already gotten his message across. East first raised to four hearts, then when South went on to four spades he bid five clubs thinking that this might be his partner's second suit.
It was. After everyone had passed, the Aces started off by grabbing a couple of diamond tricks, but that was the beginning and the end for the defense. Declarer won the spade shift, drew trumps and claimed the rest of the tricks. The Norwegians gained 400 points for a total of 990 for the deal, which put them in a commanding position in a match they eventually won by 21 IMPs.
Does this mean that I recommend the EFOS or Marmic systems? Not unless you happen to be holding the singleton ace of spades, five hearts to the king-jack, etc., etc.