Directed by Eric Kokish
Matchpoints, both sides vulnerable.
You, South, hold:
Q 8 J 7 6 A K 10 2 A K 7
What call do you make?
We could end this discussion before
it begins by listening to one of our cybernetic-oriented veteran panelists.
JOHN LOWENTHAL: "Pass. I ran a
100-deal computer simulation of this problem, which showed that it is
clearly right to pass (and to pass again if partner reopens with a double).
Another simulation, with East-West nonvul., revealed that an immediate
three-notrump overcall is best by a small margin."
As you can see from the vote, an
overwhelming majority of the panel saw the problem through the same eyes as
Lowenthal's computer. But before we let some of them explain why they
believe it is right to pass, let's deal with this bit of harsh reality...
MIKE PASSELL: "Pass. Despite the fact that
my partner in the GNP National Finals bid three notrump (which worked)."
No one doubts that three notrump
might work out. We'll listen to the Optimists Club shortly. But first, a
word from a quiet man...
ARTHUR ROBINSON: "Pass. I am a yellow dog."
The jury is still out determining
whether those vulnerable premptors are the dog catchers or the dogs' dinner.
A phrase that snuck into nearly every passer's comment was "play for a
plus." Gabino Cintra noted that his love affair with the plus would induce
him to pass at any form of scoring. Berah, who stipulated that his policy at
matchpoints is to obtain a plus, no matter how small it might be, suggested
that this was a good hand for the Fishbein convention. I'm not so sure about
that, but it is a very appropriate situation for a Weiss double
(strong-notrump values with no obvious reason to bid three notrump). Rubens
estimates that the East-West hearts will not run more than half the time
(with blockages, among other things), but he feels that this is not enough
to justify a bid of three notrump. Quaintly (I think), he states that his
"penalty pass" figures to spare him any future agony in the auction (North
does not rate to reopen very often; Parker estimates this possibility as
something like 10%), and that a plus might bring in a few matchpoints, even
if his decision is wrong.
Miles goes so far as to state that a
double will almost surely change a plus to a minus. I can think of at least
six Italians who might not put their lira behind Marshall's position, but
there is a natural North American antipathy toward a takeout double on hands
such as South's; it is easy to understand the evolution to rhetoric along
the lines of "almost surely."
Eisenberg fears that a takeout double
might (disastrously) catch North with four spades and a longer minor,
landing the partnership in the wrong strain (Haberman claims that those
disastrous four-two spade fits have finally taught her to be patient). And
Roth, who has been declarer in a few of those pungent memories, passes with
an (!), and announces that he stays fixed.
LARRY COHEN: "Pass. I bid three
notrump as much as anyone in these situations, but this hand has too many
flaws: no trick source, poor spots, no place to run if doubled, no sure
heart stopper--or even spade stopper! Double is silly--I would
rather defend and collect 100's than hear partner bid spades."
MIKE LAWRENCE: "Pass. On this
vulnerability, East isn't likely to be far out of line--i.e., three
hearts may be a frequent action. Since bidding with this hand will get a lot
of minus scores, I like the odds on passing, even though some of our plus
scores will be embarrassing ones..."
Roth suggested that the real problem
might well come later, after a direct pass and a reopening action by North.
The only panelist to deal with this afterworld to any serious degree was
Josh Parker, who gets my vote as (a) the neatest, and (b) the most
conscientious panelist of all time...
JOSH PARKER: "Pass...if partner
reopens...my votes go to (1) five spades over three spades, which should ask
him to look at both his spades and his hearts (four hearts followed by five
spades would ask about spades only, and five hearts would ask about hearts
only), and (2) four hearts over double, intending to bid four notrump (for
the minors) over four spades. I would pull in my belt a notch over the
reopening double to compensate for the likely bad breaks, and the fact that
we have no great source of tricks."
The tiny three-notrump group includes
some very successful players, and I think it would be a mistake to dismiss
the aggressive action as either impatient or patently ill-considered.
Hamman, for example, thought it unnecessary to comment.
IRA RUBIN: "Three notrump. Had this
occurred vs. third-seat preempt, three notrump would be much easier, and vs.
second-seat preempt, three notrump would probably be much worse than pass,
the only reasonable alternative. Here, pass figures to miss most reasonable
contracts (other than three spades!).
JEFF MECKSTROTH: "Three notrump. I hate to
put too much pressure on partner to reopen at this high level, and my spade
holding rules out a takeout double. I think that three notrump, when right,
will reap a higher reward than will passing, when that is right."
EDDIE KANTAR: "Three notrump. Best
chance for a top...or a bottom. When strapped, why not go for the brass
JOEY SILVER: "Three notrump. I hope these
boys are not sound preemptors, and that we can produce a combined heart
On a bad day these girls run
the spade suit, but it's silly to waste your time worrying about the bad
The last word goes to someone who
loves the last word...
BOBBY WOLFF: "Double. This hand
should lead up to an article on 'how to react to adversity.' I'll listen to
everyone, but I doubt if I'll be convinced by anyone! Three notrump 60, Pass