Games: Bridge

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A frequently raised question is the advisability of opening 1NT if your hand contains a five-card major. (Everyone does it with a five- card minor). At one time it was considered a poor move unless the suit quality was bad, but opinions have changed over the years. For one thing, partner can use Puppet Stayman to enquire, and secondly there is the problem of finding a rebid if your hand is in the right range for 1NT (say 16- 17 points) if your partner responds 1NT to your major suit opening. A raise to 2NT may get you overboard if partner is minimum and a pass may lead to a missed game if he is maximum. The no-trump opening gets the level right by limiting your hand immediately.

So reasoned Zia Mahmood (partnered by Andrew Robson) in the recent Macallan Invitation Pairs when he decided to open the South hand with 1NT. There were some obvious defects to his choice, one of which became painfully apparent when West doubled, North and East passed, and (sticking to his guns) so did Zia. This did not prove to be a success for West started by cashing six diamonds and 2A before switching to a heart. Now East, who had thoughtfully discarded only black cards, claimed the rest of the tricks.

The result, which you can verify with a pocket calculator, was the astonishing penalty of 2,000 points. Zia's benefactors were the eventual winners, Helgemo and Helness, but they would still have been home in comfort without this windfall. It also explains why Zia is now known as the "Millennium Man".

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