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The two bridge stars whose names are most often confused surely must be Bill August of Springfield, Mass. and Harold Ogust of New York City. To add to the patronymic confusion, each is the inventor of a bidding convention. Ogust, who at 54 is 10 years older than August, has won more major tournaments and, as a result of his competitive fame, his convention has been more widely used. But Bill's convention might be equally popular if it were to become as well known.
The Ogust convention is most frequently used by tournament players who employ "weak" two-bids to show a hand that includes a good six-card suit but contains less than 13 high-card points. Under this convention, the only forcing bid available to the partner of the weak two-bidder is a response of two no trump; any other response may be passed. If his partner has the values to respond with a forcing two no trump, the opener next shows whether his original bid was of the maximum or minimum variety.
August's convention, a two-diamond response to an opening bid of one no trump, comes into play when the responder holds two five-card majors. It may be used whether the responder's hand is weak or strong. The opener is then required to show his better major, even if that suit consists of only three cards. Once the trump suit has been named, the responder may elect to pass if his holding is weak or, with a good hand, he can continue on toward game or slam, having the added assurance that the opening lead will come up to—and not through—his partner's no-trump hand. The advantage of the August convention was demonstrated with remarkable effectiveness on a hand (see right) from a recent team game.
Following the August two-diamond response to his opening no trump, South rebid hearts, the stronger of his three-card majors. North jumped to four no trump—the Blackwood convention—locating two aces in his partner's hand, then bid the small slam. With South as declarer, there was no way to beat the contract. Dummy's king won the opening club lead and, after drawing trumps, South cashed the ace-queen of clubs, discarding dummy's two losing diamonds. In the end, South added an overtrick by guessing the right way to finesse the queen of spades.
Not that the overtrick was needed. At the other table, where the August convention was not in use, North became the declarer. East led the queen of diamonds and the defenders collected the first two tricks to defeat the slam before North could so much as draw a breath of hope.
Note that with South as declarer, the defense cannot prevail even if West chooses to lead the ace of diamonds. Whether or not West continues diamonds, the king eventually will win the second round of the suit and declarer can establish his 9 of diamonds by ruffing a third round in dummy. The diamond 9 plus the ace-queen of clubs will then provide three spade discards from dummy and eliminate the need for a spade finesse.
Like many other conventions, August's big gun cannot be limbered into action too often. But it has the virtue of simplicity; it is easy to remember and basic in the execution. Such conventions are valuable additions to even the neighborhood bridge player's game. Why not try a little August the year round.