Bridge: Independent Pursuits

THE LAW of Total Tricks, the arithmetic of which I have never quite mastered, suffered a nasty setback on this deal from the Senior Teams World Championship in Lille.

After three passed South opened One Spade (as it turned out, he would have done better to throw the hand in!) and West, Irving Gordon of Great Britain, doubled. North raised conservatively to Two Spades and now Boris Schapiro (the 89-year-old member of the partnership that later went on to win the Senior Pairs title) imaginatively bid Three Hearts with the East cards! This was a suit in which he could be reasonably confident that his partner held at least four-card support, although a responsible double would also have proved effective.

South and West passed and now North, who, playing five-card majors, knew that his side held at least 10 spades, felt that it was safe to contest with Three Spades - after all, it sounded as though his partner held two hearts at most. It was not safe, as Boris proved by doubling. As you can see, the duplicated distribution of the North-South cards led to an easy penalty of 500 points to the British and a useful gain.

I suppose that the supporters of the Law will claim this as a triumph after all, for East-West can indeed make game with 10 tricks in hearts - a game, however, that they were never likely to bid. The thought that it leaves me with, however, is that bidding a three-card suit can sometimes upset your opponents' calculations in a quite unexpected fashion.

North-South game; dealer West


4A 9 8 6 5

!J 9 8

#Q 10

28 4 2

West East

410 43 2

!A K 4 2 !Q 6 5

#9 8 6 5 3 #A J 4 2

2Q 10 6 2K J 9 5


4K Q J 7 4

!10 7 3

#K 7

2A 7 3