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System Win

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend Helen came to me and said, "I want to play Flannery."

I was surprised. This was the same person who had shown little interest in any bridge convention more complicated than Texas, and who steadfastly refused to read the many bridge books in my library. "Huh? Why?"

"I saw this Flannery article by Steve Weinstein on bridgewinners. He loves Flannery, and he’s a world champion, so we should play it."

"Hmm, are you sure? I think we might be better off studying defense, or cardplay, or ..."

She gave me a look, and the argument was ended. So, having never played Flannery before, but knowing from experience the troubles new conventions can bring, I dutifully studied Steve's article. With the help of hand-generating software, we practiced many Flannery hands together. We learned what the jump raise in a major should be (mixed), how to properly respond to the 2NT-ask (show the singleton, not the fragment), and how to respond to the auction 1 - 1 (you can now jump raise or splinter with 3 spades). We even discussed some competitive situations. All seemed well.

Time to try it in a real environment: the Friday night club pairs game. As always when implementing a new treatment, it didn’t come up. Even the negative inferences weren’t happening, as we were doing everything except opening 1. Hand after hand went by, and then, as dealer, favorable, I held:


Yet another non-Flannery hand. Oh well, pass. LHO passed, and Helen pulled out a card from the bidding box. She then said, "Oops! I can't make this bid, it's not in our system."

Without seeing the bid, I knew what she had done. She had a weak two in diamonds, and had just told the entire table that she was psyching our Flannery agreement. Naturally, the opponents called the director. He ruled that it was not a mechanical error, so the call had to stand, and that I was not allowed to make use of the unauthorized information. RHO asked me what our agreement of 2 was, and I told him: 11-15 HCP, 5+ hearts, 4 spades. He nodded knowingly and "cue-bid" 2, while giving a meaningful look to his partner. My heart sinking, I bid 2 like the straight man I was forced to be. The opponents dutifully passed and, envisioning a doubleton spade in dummy, I prepared to take my medicine.

The lead was the 5 (standard leads) and Helen tabled:

The defense can prevail, though.

Back at the table, the postmortem commenced. "Why didn't you raise me with 9 points and 4 hearts?" "I wasn’t sure you really had hearts, and I thought they were in trouble because of their stupid convention! Besides, why did you ruff in with the master trump?" “I needed to cash our last heart! Why didn’t you overtake the Q and get me off the endplay?”

As the opponents left the table, still arguing, Helen beamed at me and whispered loudly, "System win!" Looks like we're going to be playing Flannery for awhile.

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