Problem No. 14, 2002


The problem

A couple of years ago, my team managed to qualify for the final of the Swedish team championship, even though it looked like we were eliminated at an early stage. In the first round of the final, we were pitted against the other Scanian team, which we often had trouble with. This time we won comfortably, one of the reasons being a strange thing that took place early in the match.
   In the middle of the first half, our team decided to take a shot at 3 notrump at both tables. Such ambitions are seldom justified, and they weren't this time either – especially since both contracts had no chance. But we still managed to win IMPs on the board when the opponents were kind enough to double us at both tables.
   Those doubles made us change our minds. After two passes, both I at my table and my team mate Tomas Börgesson didn't pass it out but bid 4 klöver. We were both right in doing so, and shortly afterwards we had won 4 IMPs on the board.
   This probably sounds crazy, but there is a natural explanation. Can you find it?


The full deal (West dealer, neither side vulnerable):

S A Q 8 3
H 9 7 6 3
D A 4
C A 9 2
S 9 7 6 Table S 10 4
H K Q 8 H J 10 4 2
D Q J 9 2 D 6
C Q 8 5 C K J 10 7 6 3
S K J 5 2
H A 5
D K 10 8 7 5 3
C 4

This is the bidding at my table:

South West North East
pass 1 C 3 C
3 D pass 3 NT pass
pass d'ble pass pass
4 C pass 4 H pass
4 S pass pass pass

Johan Bennet's opening bid was either natural with at least four clubs and 11-20 HCP, or a balanced hand with 11-14 HCP or 18-20 HCP; and 3 clubs was preemptive. After 3 diamonds from me, Johan had a tricky problem: Bid 3 hearts – which shows the balanced minimum hand with four (or five) hearts – hoping to find a 4-4-fit in either major, at the risk of missing 3 NT when that is the correct contract (it is unlikely that I have a club stopper), or bid 3 NT just to realize that a suit contract would have been better. I agree with his choice of 3 NT (it "always makes"), even though it was ths wrong thing to do on this deal.
   Luckily for us, West came to our rescue, and luckily for us I didn't want to try our luck in a doubled notrump game. But instead of running to 4 diamonds, I bid 4 clubs to say that I could play in another strain too. The situation was undiscussed, of course, but Johan understood the message. Finally, we had reached our best contract.
   I won West's trump lead, drew another round of trumps and then ruffed two diamonds in dummy. Eleven tricks; +450 to team Scania Bridgekonsult.

At the other table, this is what happened:

South West North East
pass 1 D 3 C
3 D 3 NT d'ble 4 C
pass pass d'ble pass
pass pass

North-South used a big club system, so the opening bid was either natural with 11-16 HCP or a balanced hand with 12-14 HCP. Here, too, East thought preemption was in order and jumped to 3 clubs, but after South's forcing 3 diamonds Rolf-Eric Andersson, West, expected a better hand by his partner and took a shot at 3 notrump. When North doubled, Tomas Börgesson, East, ran to 4 clubs, which went two down doubled. +300 to the opponents – but 4 IMPs to us.
   There are many similar solutions, of course, but the main point is that at one table one player bids 4 clubs to play clubs, while at the other table a player bids it to ask his partner to choose a suit.

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