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I recently posted a bidding problem: AK532 - 53 A97432.  At Game All with total point scoring, partner passes and RHO opens 1; you aren't playing any conventional two suited overcalls.

The majority overcalled 2.  In a follow-up poll, everyone chose to bid 4 next.  A sizeable minority overcalled 1.  Most of these passed on the next round but a few either bid 5 or doubled.

The full layout when the hand was originally dealt (Buller v Culbertson 1930) follows below.  I confess to having failed to mention that the penalties for undertricks were different at the time.


As the cards lie, the successful action is to bid once and pass on the next round.  This is how I wrote up the hand recently:

"At Game All, Von Zedtwitz opened 1 second in hand as South and Buller came in with 1, doubtless reasoning that this suit represented the best chance of game. However, when hearts were raised to game, he had a critical decision to make. With hindsight, it is easy to say that, if he were intent on bidding at a high level, he should have bid clubs first – but what if 2 had ended the auction with 4 icy?

Had Buller passed, there would have been no story, but he risked 5 and the price was 1,400 (the penalty for four down doubled in those days). In fact, he did quite well in the play: the queen of hearts was led (king, ace, ruff) and he found the imaginative play of a small spade to trick two – had he played the two top spades, he would have lost an extra trick which would have cost a further 400 points.

At the other table, Culbertson also bid 1 but Wood-Hill only raised to 3, which was something of an underbid. Now, when Kehoe bid 4, it was less attractive to venture 5 (i.e. because East had an opportunity to bid over 3 and, by bidding on, South had indicated some form of extra values). And worse was to happen in the play: after leading a top spade, Culbertson found the imaginative switch to a low club.

It looks pretty clear to discard a diamond from dummy, expecting to be able to ruff one in dummy ultimately and hold the losers to three tricks. Admittedly, it would be excellent defence on the part of East to withhold his ace, but this is the sort of play which is generally found in the post mortem rather than at the table.

For whatever reason, Kehoe didn’t see matters in this light and ruffed trick two. Next, he played dummy’s queen of hearts which held.Had he now ruffed a spade to hand, he would still have been well placed since he could have reached an end position where East is forced to open up diamonds, but he instead crossed to hand with a diamond, East splitting his honours.

Kehoe now played the king of clubs (which held - another fine, imaginative shot by Culbertson) and then the queen, covered and ruffed in dummy. He now ruffed a spade to hand and played his master club - but East was able to ruff and return the king of hearts. With East still holding a spade to exit with, Kehoe had to go one down. Did Kehoe realise at the time that he could have made the contract even as the play had gone? The line needed was quite unintuitive: he had to ruff the king of clubs, ruff a spade, ruff a club and ruff another spade. Now, ace and another trump: East is welcome to his two trump tricks but will have to lead a diamond into the split tenace."

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