Problem no. 4, 2000


The problem

A couple of years ago I played as a substitute on a team in a not very important IMP game. My partner was an expert known for his extreme views, and we had never played as partners before. Our opponents were unknown to both of us, and we soon discovered they used a very unusual system. When I asked "How do we defend against this?", my parter simply responded "Let's play bridge!".
  On one of the first deals of the match, the bidding started in this way (I was South, my partner North):

South West North East
pass pass 1 C
pass 1 RDu pass pass
1 H

When I bid 1 heart, my partner alerted. West looked surprised, and when he inquired, my partner said it was "forcing to game with at least five hearts". The answer made me happy, because I agreed with him to 100%.

How come?


Our opponents used a strong pass system, where a pass in first or second position was forcing for one round. According to their model, it was two-way: either 0-7 HCP or at least 17 HCP. Furthermore, 1 club was artificial, showing 8-12 HCP and any distribution, while the 1- and 2-level openings were natural with 13-16 HCP.

When West "opened" the bidding with pass, and North passed, East had to make a bid, since his partner could have a very big hand. His actual choice of 1 club was negative with 0-7 HCP, and when West's rebid of 1 diamond showed the weak variety. At that moment, everybody at the table knew North-South had at least 26 HCP beween them. So a game-force had been established for North-South, though neither of the players in the pair had done anything so far. When I balanced with 1 heart instead of bidding notrump, North realized I had to have at least five hearts – and that we should bid to at least game.

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