No trump, no cry. How to get away with competition
Arturo Franco
According to Arturo Franco, one of the most prestigious Italian World Champions, competing in Bridge is a battle of suits, majors against minors, spades against all others. Actually, whichever criteria you prefer to determine whether you have to pass, bid or double, your attention is mainly focused on the best trump compared to that of opponents. Painless compete at No trump (No cry) Sometimes, however, the competitive PAR is not in your longest suit, nor in a magic “Moysian fit”. As an example, this deal is from a national simultaneous tournament, dealer West, E-W vulnerable:
K 10 9 8 4 10 3 2 A K 7 4 3
A Q 2 Q J 2 A Q Q 9 6 5 2 J 8 6 7 K J 8 7 6 5 4 10 8
K 10 9 7 5 4 3 A 6 5 3 9 J
Despite the 1 No trump opening by West with maximum point count (17 HCP) and the possibility of winning game in 3 NT, North-South can reach the contract of 4 quite easily and E-W are forced to compete. West of course will double for the penalty, but 4 are very cold. What can the poor East do? Assuming that she/he decides to remove the double, despite the 9- card fit in diamonds and the preponderance of honor points, 5 are down 3, and only if played by West (by East would be down 4). Resign yourself to letting them play their contract? Certainly not, because the defense is there: E-W can compete with… 4 NT and get away with only 1 down (-200 if doubled). Using intuition and imagination. Now you are sitting in North, none vulnerable, dealer South, and you find yourself with this collection of almost useless spots: 7653 AJ863 97 54 While waiting for the events, your partner opens 1 and the opponent on your right overcalls 2, a weak jump. Almost you do not believe in your ears ( pardon, at the sight of the bidding card) but, as impassive as you have to be, you pass “in time”, confident in a reopening by your pard, and when this happens punctually you are already preparing for the carnage. Anyway wisely you wait, thinking about. Well-done, because despite your trumps the enemy could only go down 1 doubled (+100 for you), while if you take out with a prudent 2 you could score +110 (better in Mitchell, and then you never know). You have thus reached your positive PAR and if the opponents will venture… This was the complete deal in a simultaneous tournament:
7 6 5 3 A J 8 6 3 9 7 5 4
K 8 4 K 10 9 5 4 2 10 5 K J 10 9 2 7 A J 8 6 Q 10 8 6 2
A Q J Q K Q 4 3 2 A 9 7 3
Actually there is no competition against 2, in any of the remaining suits (2 or 3 down at your choice) and the rebid of Hearts would lead to a catastrophe (down 4). However, an inspired East could bid…2 NT, down one, of course doubled, but the absolute competitive PAR of the hand. Would it have been like this even if you had passed on the reopening double, for 3 downs and +500 for you? Would east have had the same brilliant intuition to bid 2 NT? Who knows? Don’t regret too much though, because the deal could well have been this:
7 6 5 3 A J 8 6 3 9 7 5 4
K 8 K 10 9 5 4 2 10 K J 3 2 10 9 2 Q A J 8 6 5 Q 10 8 6
A Q J 4 7 K Q 4 3 2 A 9 7
Opponents make only 7 tricks in Hearts (-100, down 1 doubled) while you make 8 tricks (+110) in Spades. And it would have been even worse if the deal had been this:
7 6 5 3 A J 8 6 3 9 7 5 4
K 8 K 10 9 5 4 2 10 5 K J 3 10 9 2 Q A K J 8 Q 10 8 6 2
A Q J 4 7 Q 6 4 3 2 A 9 7
They would score +470! for 2 doubled and made, while 2 (1 down if played from North) would be your competitive PAR. A fatal attraction The appeal of the “golden” fit of 8 cards may prove to be really fatal, but on the other hand bidding Notrump on the opponent’s positive PAR is not exactly that easy. This is another hand from a sim tournament, dealer Sud, NS vulnerable:
K 3 K 9 8 7 K 8 3 2 Q 9 2
Q 9 7 Q 3 2 A 10 7 5 K 8 5 A 5 4 6 5 4 J 9 6 4 A 10 3
J 10 8 6 2 A J 10 Q J 7 6 4
Who loves light and aggressive openings will venture in this hand and, given the division 20-20 of the point count force, will unleash a struggle without quarter for a modest part score. Some N-S will go up to their positive PAR of 2, in a fancy or daring manner. It is certainly not the case to let them win the auction, especially at this favorable vulnerability, but competing in 3, the only fit of 8 trumps, would mean scoring a sound zero (down 3 played by East and down 2 played by West). However, the actual defense, guess what, is in 2 NT, one down only. Ultimately, what does “No trump, no cry” mean? Itʼs a defensive tactic, an effective weapon to compete. Not a convention, as you intend to play there. Although it is difficult to identify the deal in which you can compete by bidding No trump over the opponent contract, and even more difficult is to properly assess the number of tricks achievable in a No trump contract, it might be a winning ploy to bid it. Opponents may not double for fearing that you will divert to a safer or smoother suit contract, or they may compete further, pushing themselves too high, and fall in turn. If the hand evaluation is difficult for you, with a transition in No trump it becomes hard for them too. And then, if they double, you could always decide to keep it or go back to your best suit. The truth is that uncertainty reigns supreme for the countless possible variants. In real life, one just does not know whether to pass, double or bid. Let your opponents “guess”. You can bid a sly “No trump, no cry”. Keep bridge alive… and us.

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