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An Unusual Action

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When we encountered this hand at the recent Ontario tournament, the auction happened as shown, and I think it carries a good lesson in competitive bidding. The evolution of the double as a competitive device early in the auction has changed its meaning from describing any opening hand to a multi-suited bid in the sense that the doubler can support the three suits other than the one bid by opener. In this case, south suggests that she can provide at least three card support for hearts, diamonds or clubs after the opening of one spade, and responder should be able to play comfortably in her longest suit. South did not have length in hearts as you can see, and the unfortunate north hand had to bid at a very high level at her first turn. Many players might pass this hand, but the thought that partner might have length in hearts was appealing, so north bid to 4 hearts. She did not fare well in her contract, going down 4 tricks. Since east-west will struggle to make any more than 3 spades for a score of 140, giving up 200 was a very poor matchpoint result for her side.

The lesson from this story is that south should give a better description of her reason for entering the auction. Her hand will play very well opposite values and length in the minor suits, and I recommend a bid of 2 notrump. This is not an offer to play in notrump but shows a distribution of 5-5 or longer in the minor suits. With reasonable play and the cards sitting as they do, 3 clubs is safe and 4 clubs is a possible result.

Bidding is the part of our game that has changed most since contract bridge became the popular form of the game—as opposed to whist or auction bridge—and the changes continue to come in the form of new bidding systems and devices. Some of the bids will persist, and the modern use of the takeout double is a prime example because time has proved its superiority and utility.

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