Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Public Disasters and what Michael Rosenberg said

Bridge is a game of mistakes, it has been said (perhaps too frequently).  We all make mistakes and perhaps the most annoying is misunderstandings in the auction.  I was doing commentary on the Camrose match yesterday between Scotland and Wales.  I was in the Closed Room and the great Michael Rosenberg was doing commentary in the Open Room.  Needless to say our table had only a small number of kibbitzers.  Ray said they were all the immediate family of the players.

At out table Board 23 was a flat looking 3NT.  You might argue about the best line but on the lie of the cards all lines led to the +600 range.  Later on the result from the other table came in win 14 imps!  What could have gone wrong?

This morning I decided to have a look at the deal and the comments and see if I could figure it out.  When the deal was started Michael looking at the result in the other room was giving a profound discussion about how the play should go.  The bidding started out the same in both rooms.  Here was the East hand and the auction to the point that diverted from the Closed Room

s_thumb22 AKJ
h_thumb22 Q107 
Copyofd_thumb22 Q432 
c_thumb22 AQ7

West passed in second chair with all vulnerable:

Gary Jones Dafydd Jones    
pass 1Copyofd_thumb22    
1h_thumb22 2NT    
3c_thumb22 3h_thumb22    
3s_thumb22 ?    

While it wasn’t alerted it appeared that at least initially both partners understood that 3c_thumb22 was not natural but some sort of “new minor forcing” asking opener about majors.  It is hard to imagine that up to that point the partnership was confused since even relatively inexperienced pairs would agree that they played that convention (or not).  

After the 3h_thumb22 bid in most of my partnership if I know bid 3NT partner knows that I have four hearts and four spades.   I use the bid of 3s_thumb22 as a slam try in hearts.  But in some partnerships perhaps if you now bid 3NT it would suggest that you had five hearts and deny spades and give partner a choice of the 5-3 in hearts or 3NT.  In those partnerships to check if opener has four spades you need to continue with 3s_thumb22.  

My guess is that Dafydd was “playing’ the former.  So she thought that Gary had made a slam try and that they had found a 5-3 heart fit.  As a result she cuebid 4c_thumb22.  Now over to Gary.

s_thumb22 10652
h_thumb22 AK85 
Copyofd_thumb22 1097 
c_thumb22 104

He was playing 3s_thumb22 using the second approach and only showing 4-4.  Therefore he thought that 4c_thumb22 was a cuebid in support of spades and since he had a minimum he signed off in 4s_thumb22.   Perhaps Dafydd should have wondered about this bid.  Partner was denying controls in diamonds by bypassing that suit but in any case partner had (from her perspective) forced to the five level.  Was partner worried about heart quality or just diamonds?  She might have signed off in 5h_thumb22 but instead she decided to emphasize the quality of her clubs, deny diamonds and see where partner was heading.   So she bid 5c_thumb22.  Now Gary knew that things had gone off the rails and decided to just bail out before things got worse.  If either of them had bid 5h_thumb22 (the other one would surely have passed) they actually had some chance of making it.  5c_thumb22 had no chance and went 3 down.  5h_thumb22 would have been play from the same side and had it received the same diamond lead as 5c_thumb22 would have made.

Here is the whole deal and an very interesting comment by Michael Rosenberg

  s_thumb22 Q983
h_thumb22 J97 
Copyofd_thumb22 J85 
c_thumb22 K63
G. Jones
h_thumb22 AK85 
Copyofd_thumb22 1097 
c_thumb22 104
  D. Jones
h_thumb22 Q107 
Copyofd_thumb22 Q432 
c_thumb22 AQ7
  s_thumb22 74
h_thumb22 643 
Copyofd_thumb22 AK6 
c_thumb22 J9852

At the end of this deal Michael said:

“By the way, these kinds of disasters typically only occur behind screens,  Which is why I tend to rule against pairs who “extricate” themselves when there are no screens.”

Let’s think about this deal a bit more.  Clearly Gary knew when Dafydd bid 5c_thumb22 that something very bad had happened.  I kind of think he might (and I emphasize the word might) have figured out that Dayfdd thought that he was making a slam try in heats.  Similarly Dafydd might (and this is much harder) have worked out that the 4s_thumb22 bid didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the auction and have passed or gotten out in 5h_thumb22.  But behind screens they didn’t couldn’t handle it.  Suppose that Gary had heard Dafydd explain the meaning of the 3s_thumb22 bid to his opponent.  How much easier it would have been to get out in 5h_thumb22 over 5c_thumb22 and how easy it would have been to explain to the director or the committee how he had been “awoken” by the bid.  And so on… you can see how in those cases… with the best of intentions the offending side is helped by hearing the explanation.  And that is Michael’s point.

But, how can you handle it when bad things happen on your side of the table.  Its not your fault that your hearing the explanation and you do your best to ignore it.  Some times you have been awakened by the bidding and you do what you think is reasonable under the circumstances.  Is the committee supposed to think, “just shoot them, they had a misunderstanding.”  Somehow there must be a place for working things out at the table.

Still I think Michael has a point.  A strong point I never really thought of before.  And I will be more understanding of committee rulings which are very harsh on convention breaks even when they rule against me (well maybe not when it happens but when I calm down a few hours later).

And my sympathies and congratulations to the Jones’ who went on to play good bridge on the remaining boards and did their best when they got confused.  It is bad to have a disaster on one board but it is much worse to have one on the next board as well.


AndyMarch 6th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Dafydd is a Welsh name equivalent to David. It’s a “he”, not a she.

Paul GipsonMarch 6th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Father and son. Of course that restricts the number of family kibitzers somewhat!

Richard PavlicekMarch 6th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Gary Jones could justify any action before a committee by

saying: I knew my partner was daffy before I sat down.

Case closed. 🙂

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