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Extreme Bridge #10: Bridge Bidding Puzzle
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W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
2NT
P
3NT
P
6NT
P
P
P
 Extreme Bridge #10: Bridge Bidding Puzzle

Of course, 6NT was unbeatable!

You may have seen a lot of bridge auctions, but there probably weren’t many like this odd-looking slam auction that I kibitzed. It’s quite uncommon that someone balances against a partial, and then sees the opponents make a slam. Besides that, it’s extremely unusual when they were in a natural NT partial, and then make a NT slam! I think this is the only time I ever saw it happen.

I won’t add most of the usual info about the situation. The puzzle is that you need to figure out how it happened. I will add that the players involved in the 6NT auction might have been above average, but they weren’t experts. Both pairs’ basic methods were reasonable. Experts have used them to win numerous national tournaments and even world championships, although the experts might have had more special gadgets, treatments, etc. None of the players saw a hand incorrectly, made some call by accident, etc. None did anything at all that was awful (IMO --- without the benefit of hindsight :) ), and given their systems, I think each bid might be selected by many good players.

Can you think of any logical bridge way(s) this auction could have happened? It occurred years ago, and I did not record the cards, but later I’ll describe the general situation. If you want a small clue for the puzzle, go to the next page. I’ll give the answer on the page after that. It’s probably better not to read any comments if you want to try to figure it out.

Clue: The 1NT bid was 17-20 HCP. Try to figure out what might have happened. Go to the next page for the answer.

They were playing rubber bridge, and N-S had 60 from a prior contract so they only needed 40 to complete their game. N had 20 HCP’s and a fairly flat hand so he opened 1NT.

S had a flat, blah 12 so he thought slam was unlikely. He passed. Plus, if he invited, there was a chance that the partial or game they reached might go down. 2NT with even about 30 HCP’s can be far from cold, and it can go down occasionally! :) Plus, maybe W would balance, and possibly get obliterated!

I think South had about 7-8 points and 6 ’s. (I have balanced successfully against a 15-17 1NT with QJxxx, 3-3-2, and no other HCP’S, but many players say I’m crazy!) He didn’t want to let them make a cheap game, and the deal might even belong to E-W. I think many people would bid in lots of 1NT balancing situations, including this one, with that hand. Besides that, I think he was non-vul. Even on the actual deal with his partner having a terrible hand, he only would have been down 3 or 4.

North had a maximum, and I think only 2 ’s, but maybe AQ with something like 3-2-4-4 distro (or possibly 5-3 in the minors that was not worth an upgrade). Anyway, he decided to bid 2NT. A wide range, regardless of whatever benefits the system may have, can cause problems. N was at the very top of it, had 2 certain or virtually certain tricks but no other cards in that suit. (For example, even AQ2 easily could be better for defensive purposes.) Now it probably was worth more than 20 on the bidding, he was well over average for his bid, etc. N hadn't described a hand this good.  I think that the combo of the wide point range for 1NT and that the range was so high made it more likely that someone might bid 2NT on this auction after the balance, as compared to that happening with most other 1NT ranges.  

N presumably thought it was worth taking a chance at rubber bridge to complete the game. I suppose he also thought that if he passed, his partner might pass with say 2-4 points, yet 2NT could very well be a good contract or even cold with just a Q or even the right J in dummy. Opposite his hand, even a S hand with 0 HCP’s and a 5 card minor sometimes might have had fair play in NT (or that suit if S bid it), but S probably would pass with that. I think it was pretty reasonable for N to bid.

I didn't ask what X meant. Some 17-20 NT players might use it for penalties over the bidder. Also, if it was for takeout, his partner probably did not have 5 ’s since many people bid with that over a NT opening. It often is right, and also has the advantage that a later bid denies 5. A double might have led to a so-so Moysian fit.

S invited with 3NT, and N bid the slam! Voila!

PS: Occasionally, I post more strange bridge deals, hands, bids, etc. on here. There’s also a long document named “Nauseating Bridge Quotes Ad Nauseam.” 

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