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Sit back and marvel at this bidding

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I usually put hands in this column that are instructional, either in the bidding, play or defence, but today’s hand does not slot into that category. Absorbing the bidding on this hand is a bit like listening to Bach or Springsteen, or watching the Wimbledon final or watching Michael Jordan on the court – you just sit back and marvel at how good it all is. And you dream a bit that maybe one day you could get close to some of it.

The hand won the International Bridge Press Association (IBPA) award for best bid hand of the year a few years ago and the pair were Zia Mahmood and Michael Rosenberg.

The sequence is complicated, but there is much to learn from it, and if all it does is give you a glimpse of how good the top pairs are and have you marvel at their accuracy, that is fine for me. The hand was reported by John Carruthers, who coincidentally now runs the IBPA out of Toronto.

One of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in bidding is to agree one suit, especially a major, then bid a slam in another suit. Zia and Rosenberg, playing in the USA1 team, did just that in their round-robin match against England, and it was not just a small slam, but a grand:

Board 21. Dealer North. NS Vul. (see Figure 1 and Figure 2)

Figure 1
Figure 2

1. Drury with a spade fit

2. Slam try, usually with a second suit, or choice of games at 4 of a major or 3NT, to be clarified with a 3NT bid next time.

3. I have a good diamond suit (two of the top three honours)

4. In order to set up double key card Blackwood

5. Six Key Card Blackwood (spades and diamonds- four Aces and two Kings)

6. One or four key cards

7. Queen ask

8. Both the queen of spades and the queen of diamonds

9. Please pick a grand slam (in case East has only KQ109 in diamonds)

How much do you like that two suit Roman Key Card bid – fabulous innovation!

Zia took a bit of a chance: a spade grand slam would likely have been on the heart finesse if Rosenberg had only four diamonds, unlikely as that was (Rosenberg had denied a heart control by bidding four spades over four diamonds).

Colin Simpson led a heart. Rosenberg won with the ace, led a diamond to the king, ruffed a club, cashed the ace of diamonds, came to the queen of spades, drew the last trump and claimed, plus 1440.

At the other table … Bob Hamman and Mark Lair really got in John Holland’s face with Hamman opening the North hand One Club and Lair pre-empting to 3 Clubs, forcing Holland to start at the three level. He doubled for takeout but having received only a three-diamond bid from Gunnar Hallberg in response to his takeout double and having holes everywhere, they subsided in five spades despite one big try from Holland, for a huge 14 IMP loss.

Great report by Carruthers and all in all a brilliant display by Zia and Rosenberg, and shows how even the stars of the game must put in countless hours refining their systems.

One big instructional takeaway on the hand is that the ‘tighter’ trump fit is nearly always better (4-4 opposed to a 5-3, 5-3 as opposed to a 6-3) because the non trump suit provides discards. Here the key was the ability to ruff the club in the short trump hand to provide the vital 13th trick. As you can see 7 Spades does not make as it needs the heart finesse which loses.

Back to reality next week, I promise!


Friday, January 8

1.Peter Donnellan – Charles Hall

2.Joyce Pearson – Lorna Anderson

3.Annabelle Mann – Heather Woolf

Saturday, January 9

1.Marion Silver – Duncan Silver

2.Lorna Anderson – Joyce Pearson

3.Marsha Fraser – James Fraser

Monday, January 11


1.Gertrude Barker – Jane Smith

2.Inger Mesna – John Rayner

3.Patricia Siddle – Gill Gray


1.Lynanne Bolton – Peter Donnellan

2.Patricia Colmet – Heather Woolf

3.Magda Farag – Sheena Rayner

Tuesday, January 12 <149

1.Marion Silver – Duncan Silver

2.Malcolm Moseley – Mark Stevens

3.Gina Graham – Felicity Lunn

Wednesday, January 13

1.Patricia Siddle – Diana Diel

2.Annabelle Mann – Lynanne Bolton

3.Gertrude Barker – Jane Smith

Thursday, January 14

1.Linda Pollett – Elizabeth McKee

2.Sharon Shanahan – Claude Guay

3.3=Margaret Way – Miodrag Novakovic

3=Gina Graham – Felicity Lunn

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Published January 16, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 15, 2021 at 7:38 pm)

Sit back and marvel at this bidding

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