Problem No. 18, 2003
The Faroe Islands isn't an independent state, but for many years they have been permitted to play in international competition under their own flag. In the Nordic Championships in Wasa, Finland some years ago, they participated, and in the match against Sweden something happened which I have never seen or read about before or after.
It isn't that unusual that you know a lot about the opponents' hands at an early stage, but what I am about to tell you is surely a record that can't be beaten.
Our opponents used a fairly natural system, and the guy to my right opened the bidding. I passed, and when my left hand opponent has made his bid I knew East's exact distribution (assuming he hadn't departed from the system).
How could I know that?
This is how the bidding started:
North-South used a basically natural bidding system, where the opening bid 1 promised a five-card suit, while 1 and 1 promised four. If they had 4-3-3-3 distribution with four spades, they opened the bidding with 1, which therefore could be on a three-card suit – but only with this specific distribution.
After South's opening bid and my pass, North jumpraised clubs to show 8-10 HCP and at least five-card support. My distribution happened to be 1-3-4-5 in this specific order (five clubs), so I could deduce that North had exactly five clubs and South exactly three. The only time South openes the bidding on a three-card suit is when he has four spades and three cards in each of the other suits – and so I knew that was what he had.
I have got some similar suggestions, which also have been right, like South opens the bidding with 1 according to the Swedish standard system Modern Standard and North raises to 3. Since all opening bids in that system promise four cards, and you pick the opening suit in this order: hearts-clubs-spades-diamonds, you know that if the opening bid is based on a four-card suit it is with 3-3-4-3 distribution.
The most fantastic solution (which also is correct) is this one. South opens the bidding with 5 à la Culbertson and North raises to 7. The opening bid shows a hand with two trump losers and nothing but winners in the side-suits; and the double raise shows two trump honors. Now, if you have four spades and queen third in each of the other three suits, you know that North has at least two spades and that South, in order to be able to open with 5, must have the distribution 7-2-2-2 (ace-king in the side-suits and queen-jack-ten-nine seventh in spades).
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