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Martel-Stansby

Martel-StansbyChip Martel and Lew Stansby ’s incredible partnership spans four decades. During that time, they’ve amassed a staggering 5 world championship trophies and more than 20 NABC wins—and that’s just while playing together! Separately, they hold more than a dozen additional NABC titles (often playing with their wives, Jan Martel and JoAnna Stansby) while Lew also owns two Senior world championships. The secret to their success undoubtedly lies in their methodical approach to the game, analytical prowess, and all-around bridge excellence. This week’s hand comes from the semifinals of the 2000 Bermuda Bowl and features a call from deep in the Martel-Stansby playbook that Steve would have preferred to wait another year to reveal.


Stansby
Q1087
J742
10974
5
Hamman
95
KQ863
Q3
K872
Martel
AKJ6432
AJ52
A9
Soloway
A1095
K86
QJ10643
W
N
E
S
1
P
2NT
P
P
3
4
5
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
92
5X North
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
10
8
5
3
1
0
9
2
Q
4
1
2
0
Q
A
6
10
2
2
1
5
K
4
3
3
3
1
4
5
K
9
1
4
1
8
A
3
7
2
4
2
J
8
7
3
1
5
2
11 tricks claimed
N/S +850
7


One Spade
When this board came up late in their match-up against the NICKELL squad, Stansby correctly assessed that his team was trailing by a fair margin. Say you felt the need to make a bold-faced psyche with the West hand, is there any reason to select one call over another? Should Stansby have given a nod to Hamman and opened 1 with 4-4 in the majors? Is there such a thing as ‘the correct psyche’ with West’s hand?

Two No Trump
We prefer that Jacoby 2NT be reserved for balanced hands, but know that we are a minority. East’s monster, however, may be an exception. The hand is definitely worth a slam drive, but all routes have some foreseeable difficulties. It’s likely that partner holds a stack of heart honors, so the grand that East has his eyes on may have no play. East’s priority should be to locate any minor-suit controls in partner’s hand, a feature he may never be able to show after 5 (Exclusion RCKB) or a direct jump to 4NT (straight Blackwood for most partnerships). Bidding 2 has some merit because East could jump to 3 over West’s 2. However, a diamond cue-bid (especially shortness) will probably be easiest to elicit after 2NT.

Pass of Two No Trump
West doesn’t have much choice here. Any bid over 2NT could easily lead to a phone number in game or higher, and recovering will be nearly impossible. Passing retains the ability to run to 3 when the other shoe drops. True, it will inform everyone at the table about what’s transpired, but the opponents' auction may be shot already.

Four Spades
After this startling turn of events, how should East react? It’s likely that Chip wanted to look under the screen to see if someone had taken Lew’s seat. Even facing an out-and-out psyche, his hand is gargantuan. Perhaps 4 is the right bid to get partner involved, but East may have been afraid that would be passed also! The bid to show a strong-two in the suit that your partner psyched hasn’t yet been invented, but 4 should hint at East’s holding. Isn’t the thought of getting to slam in the suit your partner psyched too enticing to pass up?

Pass of Five Hearts
West knows that East knows that West psyched. The possibility that West mis-pulled a pass has been ruled out due to North’s 3 balance. So how should West interpret 4? Ironically, West’s 1 ‘opener’ may have legitimately grown into a monster on the bidding. Did West prematurely fold up his cards after the psyche was revealed?

Double of Five Hearts
Even though it’s clear West has nothing resembling a 1 opener, how many spades does he rate to have? The ideal number may be two. Assuming the opponents have an 8-card fit, a raise to 2 on partner’s 3-bagger could blow them out of the water. Holding a singleton, a 1 opening may excite partner too much with his 4-card support, or keep the opponents out of a suit that was breaking poorly anyway. Regardless, East can’t make any definitive inferences at this stage. However, one thing is for sure: the opponents have hearts. If partner has any spade length whatsoever the defense may be limited to East’s two aces. South’s unfavorable 5 bid sure looks like a call predicated on a spade void. There may even be a double game-swing. Bidding 5 rates to nullify any disastrous results, but it could also destroy a large plus position generated by partner’s psyche.

Pass of the Double
After West passes over 5 can he reconsider and pull now?

The defense is probably worth a few paragraphs of discussion, but not today—we’re still enjoying the bidding too much. Once West decides to psyche, is there any way to put this auction back on track? This is obviously an unexplored area of bidding theory, but might East-West have prevailed with reasonable bridge logic?

We pulled the tape, now we invite you to make the call.

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