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Wipe your shoes
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My Nana had a rather large mulberry tree in her back yard.  We enjoyed eating the berries from it, but, as anyone who has actually been around such trees can attest, the biggest risk is inadvertently bringing a squashed mulberry underfoot back into the house. 

Perhaps the article title is somewhat of a misnomer, as we were often barefoot as kids (or at best, wearing flip-flops/thongs/jandals/plakkies etc, depending on one's geography) - and hence should have been "Wipe your feet"?  Anyway, what's the bridge relevance of all this?

The biggest risk of Mulberry('s) in bridge is bringing a squashed one, i.e. a mistaken "pass" of a game level slam try when slam is cold/good, back to the team score-up.  This seems possible in both the convention's original incarnation, and still so, if reduced, in some improved variants, e.g. Kit Woolsey's, where the RKCB and natural slam try sequences are flipped.  However, is it possible to do better and de-risk further?

How about the following (see next page) for cases where Mulberry, in one of its current incarnations, would be deemed to apply?

4: Puppet to 4, followed by a 4 through 5 being RKCB - suit order to taste, e.g. you could do known longest suit first - but by default natural with 4NT being RKCB in diamonds

4: Preparatory to a natural NF slam try, strain to be defined. Two critical points to note

  • 4NT could and perhaps should be used as the natural NT slam try (freeing up the jump to 4NT to mean something else), and in any case
  • Partner of the 4 bidder does not puppet in response, but rather, bypasses any strain in which he would accept a natural slam try, or at least offer a counter-try to

4//5/: To play

So, to take the example sequence from an earlier Chris Mulley article on BW, after

2[=WK] 2NT 3

if responder now bid 4, then openers' continuations would be defined as follows

  • 4: Would decline a natural slam try in hearts (responder can follow up with a slam try in any other strain)
  • 4: Would accept a slam try in hearts but decline one in spades (responder can follow up with a slam try in NT or a minor)
  • 4NT: Would accept a slam try in a major, but decline one in NT's
  • etc

The obvious advantage to this is that forgets are unlikely to be an issue - something which I judge to be very important.

A secondary advantage is that the three groups of sequences (starting 4, starting 4 and starting 4+) need to be matched with the right groups of hand types to mitigate the effect that the 4 sequence starts one step "too high". The original Mulberry (and the Polish end-signal on which its based) achieve this by using a puppet continuation.  This variant mitigates the issue in an alternate way.

One slight negative is that in the cases where the natural slam try suit has not yet been bid and partner is disinclined to accept it, the wrong (as in more defined) hand may end up playing the game level contract. This seems small price to pay, however, for avoiding mulberry stains on the carpet in the score up area.

Ian C

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