Bridge & Humor: According to Culbertson

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The following hand, which I noticed in a recent rubber game, may be interesting to some of your readers.

By Ana Roth
On 21 November, 2015 At 15:44

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 29 Jul 1939

“Dear Mr. Culbertson: The following hand, which I noticed in a recent rubber game, may be interesting to some of your readers. I don’t know that it points any splendid moral, but it does, I think, show how a player may extricate himself from a dangerous position into which his own ‘funny business’ has landed him.

North, dealer. North-South, vulnerable.

aaxx

“North and South were using the Blackwood Slam Convention. North’s opening bid was based on the hope that he would get to play the hand at three no trump, and it appeared (desirable to stop the lead of a heart or a club. (Naturally he couldn’t bid both suits). After East’s pass and South’s four heart bid, North bitterly regretted his first bid and searched for some solution whereby he might play the hand in diamonds. North realized that, no matter how often he bid diamonds, South was likely to insist on hearts, so he decided to make South bid the diamond suit!

The fact that the partnership was using the Blackwood Convention gave North the idea. If he were to bid four no trump at this stage and find South with only one ace (which seemed likely) South would have to bid a conventional five diamonds (showing one ace), and North would let him play the hand there. That is the way things worked out. South, holding one ace, had to answer with five diamonds, and North promptly passed.

When East doubled, it required terrific restraint, on South’s part to stand the double, but he had supreme confidence in North and felt that there must be some sound reason for North’s remarkable action in passing to what was so obviously the conventional answer to a Blackwood four no trump.

I think that South deserves great credit for realizing that there was something “cock-eyed” about the bidding and for leaving it to North to make the final decision. Obviously, the five diamond redoubled contract could not be beaten. East made only his two aces.—E. S., Rhode Island.”

Culbertson Answer:

I agree that North’s method of getting out of trouble was highly ingenious and that South, for his supreme faith, deserves great commendation. If players insist on making “phony” bids, it is only logical that they should know how to protect themselves when things go wrong. Thus, although I can hardly approve North’s original heart hid, it cannot be denied that he solved his subsequent dilemma in highly astute fashion. Using the Blackwood Four No Trump Convention, which requires partner to answer five clubs if he holds no aces, five diamonds, one ace, five hearts, two aces, and five spades, three aces, North was in no danger. If South actually held two aces and answered five hearts, North would have an excellent play for six no trump. If, on the other hand, South had only one ace and was forced to answer five diamonds (actually the case) North would have arrived at precisely the desired spot. It was quite true that if North had bid five diamonds, South, not knowing what was going on, would have gone to five or six hearts. Hence, as I have said, it was extremely ingenious of North to pry a bid out of his partner that he himself could not make successfully. But, although things worked out nicely for North in this particular case, I must warn readers against these tactics in general. Huge penalties, rather than even small rewards, usually follow in their wake.

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