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A misbid results in a good score…

Hand played on March 19th 2009
Board number 10 Red Section
Dealer East
Vulnerability Both vulnerable
Submitted by Alaric Cundy































East dealt and opened 2 (weak). South bid 3, which North explained as equivalent to a take-out double with 16+ HCPs. The system card confirmed this agreement. Undaunted, West bid 4NT, which was passed out. North led a diamond and the contract failed by two tricks, giving North / South an outright top score. The Director was not called to the table until the board had been played out. East argued that he was confused by South’s bid, and thought that partner’s 4NT ‘might be asking for minors, or something’. East / West also contended that South’s bid should be recorded as a psyche.


Firstly, South’s call cannot be viewed as a psyche, given that a psyche is a bid that deliberately and grossly misrepresents the hand in terms of high card strength or suit length. Clearly South’s bid was not deliberately misleading – it appears that he forgot the partnership's system, which was as described on the system card and as explained by partner when questioned. The bid was described as showing 16+ HCPs – it was in fact 13 HCPs, with shape, so it could not be described as grossly short of high card values. The only feature that might be questionable is that a ‘strong take-out double’ of a weak 2 opening might be expected to include length in spades, and this hand only had two spades.

The question of unauthorised information comes into play. South has come into possession of unauthorised information through being alerted to his misbid by his partner’s explanation. Also the laws say that North must bid – and play - his hand on the assumption that his partner’s 3call was consistent with their understandings.

From North’s point of view, he holds only 3 HCPs and therefore it is perfectly reasonable for him to pass the 4NT bid and leave any further action up to partner. Also, given that in practice North found himself on lead against 4NT he has a perfectly natural diamond lead from his 4-3-3-3 shaped hand that included 4 diamonds.

The spotlight falls on South. A question that needs to be addressed is whether South should double the 4NT bid – such action would, of course, let West ‘off the hook’. Most players would play that a double from South could have lead-directing connotations, and if the 3had been artificial, then it would have implied a desire for a diamond lead. South did not double and hence left the choice of lead completely open to partner.

West’s 4NT bid is completely reasonable – if he finds an Ace to go with the six card heart suit in partner’s hand then 6H will be close to a certainty.

In the absence of any other understanding, East should take partner's 4NT bid in accordance with their agreements - presumably as RKCB with hearts as the implied trumps. He is entitled to interpret the bid differently at his own risk, but if he thinks that partner is asking for minors why doesn't he bid 5 - which West is likely to take as a response to RKCB, and hence he will bid 6 ?

Laws 40, 21 B1 (1), 75, and 16A all have relevance to this situation. The net effect, however, is that:


Response 1 North / South ought to consider deploying a better defence to weak two openings, as this scheme does not allow them to compete naturally in either minor suit. East seems to have forgotten that 4NT was a jump. Can it really be asking for minors, facing a weak 2 opening? Why shouldn't North lead a diamond? He has a sequence.... Result stands.

Response 2 I’m not sure I completely follow your presentation – but from what I read, South has simply misbid (by your statement that they have a clear agreement as described (Law 75C). The law does not offer recompense to the opponents for a miscall, or for misinterpreting what the opponents say (Law 21A). Result stands. This is not a psyche situation

PS Why should North lead a spade on this hand? A ‘take-out’ is just that - why should North be punished because West asked pointed questions! By passing the 4NT, East has made a bad bid and wants to blame someone other than himself for the ensuing bad result!

Response 3 We have to deal with this sequence of events analytically. I largely concur with you - though I am not sure South "forgot" the system – it may be that he just warped it because of the limitations of the weak two defence he is playing. Also one needs to consider whether if North really thinks it is take-out why he didn’t lead a spade? A diamond lead is not unreasonable on the face of it. However it is possible that West questioned the 3bid in a way that indicated he didn’t believe it was take-out and North picked up the vibe. North is entitled to draw any such inferences at his own risk.

North / South do need to review their defence to weak twos - what are they going to do next time they want to bid a minor naturally over a weak two? Likewise, East / West are all at sea, but there is no law against it.  Both pairs were out of their comfort zone. They are, however, entitled to bid this way, provided, as you say, any abnormal action does not have the odour of fielding. Result stands.

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