Vul­ner­a­bil­ity at the bridge ta­ble

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - BY PHILLIP ALDER

Madeleine L’En­gle, best known for her young-adult fic­tion, wrote, “When we were chil­dren, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vul­ner­a­ble. But to grow up is to ac­cept vul­ner­a­bil­ity . ... To be alive is to be vul­ner­a­ble.”

At the bridge ta­ble, as we all know, be­ing vul­ner­a­ble is a two-edged sword. When we are bid­ding game or slam, the bonuses are gen­er­ous; but if we run the risk of go­ing down in a dou­bled con­tract, the penal­ties quickly get ex­pen­sive.

Look at the South hand. With both sides vul­ner­a­ble, North and East pass. What should South open?

Typ­i­cally with a seven-card suit, we bid three. How­ever, there are two good in­di­ca­tors for four spades: part­ner’s be­ing a passed hand, which in­creases the chance that the op­po­nents have a game some­where, and the 7-4-1-1 dis­tri­bu­tion. (In Aus­tralia, the ex­pert mantra is to open with a game-bid when­ever you hold a 7-4-1-1. Surely hand strength ought to have some in­flu­ence, though.)

At the ta­ble, four spades was passed out, but surely East should have dou­bled to show a strong hand — even though that would not have done well here. If West had run to five di­a­monds, prob­a­bly North would have dou­bled and col­lected 800 if North-South took two spades, the heart ace, a heart ruff and the di­a­mond ace.

Four spades cruised home for plus 620, de­clarer los­ing only three club tricks. But if dou­bled, the score would have been 790.

Pre-empt less ag­gres­sively with no sin­gle­tons.

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