Source: IBPA Bulletin Jun 2022

Larry Cohen

In 2008, I played in one of the most pressure-packed events on the U.S. calendar: the USBF Team Trials. The winning team would earn the right to represent our country in Beijing to try to win the world championship. The pressure is hard to describe – unless you’ve been there, you can’t imagine the tension. Here is my worst deal of the year, from the semifinals.

Dealer West. E/W Vul

9 8 6 3
K 10 8 7 5
10 8 3 2
K J 10 5 3 2
K Q J 5 4
A Q 9 8
J 9 6 4 3
J 6 5
7 6 4
A 7 2
A K Q 9 4

My left-hand opponent (he was vulnerable against not) opened one spade. My RHO bid 3, alerted. I asked and was told it was artificial, showing a threeor four-card spade raise and 10-12 points in support (a limit raise).

What should I have done?

First of all, if you play tournament bridge, you will run into such conventions often. This one was a form of Bergen raises. What does it mean if you double such an artificial bid? Is it a takeout double of spades? Or does it show diamonds? I prefer the latter. I want to be able to double such artificial raises to get the right opening lead. I would double with, say:

8 6
J 7 6
K Q J 9 4
10 5 2

Instead of watching partner blow a trick against four spades, I’d have the pleasure of receiving a diamond lead. I think that hand-type (diamonds) is more likely than a good hand – such as this 19-count I happened to hold. It seems impossible to have so much when an opening bid is on my left and a limit raise on my right. Anyway, I couldn’t double (as, following my philosophy, that would show diamonds). Probably, I should have bid 4, but I had a better plan (I thought).

Surely LHO would have a minimum and sign off in three spades. Then, when that came back to me, I could double for takeout. This would get hearts into the picture in case partner had five or six cards there. So I passed. However, LHO ruined my plan by jumping to four spades!

Was this a Pinochle deck?

When four spades came back to me, I could have guessed to double – or maybe to bid five clubs, but I decided to pass and try to beat them.

Why should I take a phantom sacrifice?

Well, like I said, this was not my shining moment. As you can see, 4made easily. All we took was our three aces, minus 620.

Meanwhile, at the other table, the auction began one spade-pass-three spades. South had an easy takeout double, and ended up as declarer in 6doubled! The king of hearts was led and declarer played brilliantly. He won, drew only one trump, then played the top diamonds. (LHO, as declarer suspected from the wild auction, had no trumps left). Now declarer was home. He was able to ruff all three low spades in dummy, and throw a heart loser on the king of diamonds. He made six for a score of plus 1090 and our team lost 17 IMPS!

You’d think I’d be smart enough to not publish this deal – but I believe in full disclosure for my valued readers. You get the good, bad, and in this case, the ugly (and embarrassing).

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