Weird numbers...

Ôhis article was published in the excellent British magazine Bridge Plus in 1998 as a sequel to the previous one.
Special thanks to Al Lochli, ACBL District 16 Internet Coordinator, who did the HTML conversion!

Bridge players, without necessarily being superstitious, often have their favourite numbers. The pet number of devoted matchpoint players is probably the ‘magic' 200, the score that guarantees a top on a partscore deal (also called ‘the kiss of death', if you happen to be at the receiving end!). At duplicate, many players agree with Churchill that ‘the most exhilarating experience is to be shot at and missed', so their favourite number is probably 790 or the like (not that 1430 or 2210 are not thrilling numbers as well!).

But there are some exotic bridge numbers that only crop up once on a blue moon, after a doubled or redoubled contract succeeds. Not every bridge player has had the chance to score, say, 880 (four hearts or spades non vul., redoubled and made) or 1150 (five in a minor vul., doubled, made with two overtricks).

Browsing the records of World Championships, one is able to spot such numbers -and, usually, the story behind their occurrence is interesting as well. For instance, how do you achieve the score of 1380? Here is a way:

North dealer, love all

                    S Q 10 2
                    H A 10 9 8 6
                    D K 8 6
                    C 4 3

S K 9 8 7 6 5 3                             S ---
H 3 2                                       H J 7 5
D J 10                                      D 9 7
C Q 10                                      C K J 9 8 7 6 5 2

                    S A J 4
                    HK Q 4
                    D A Q 5 4 3 2
                    C A

The deal was played in the Round Robin of the 1987 Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup, in Jamaica.

The fine contract of 7D is doomed by the spade lead, at least if played by South. However, 13 tricks are there in notrumps. But with Easts vigorously preempting in clubs, it was not so easy to reach the top spot. The majority of the field stayed in the small slam.

When Canada met Venezuela, this was the auction in the Open Room:
pass2NT (1)pass!3C
7Ddbleall pass

(1) Weak preempt in a minor or major two-suiter with 6-11 pts!

2NT by East meant various things, and Edgar, the South player, cleverly passed. When the correction, 3C, came back to him, he jumped all the way to the slam! With an ace and the king of trumps, partner sensibly bid one more. However, when East doubled, it was not absolutely clear to South that this was a Lightner affair. So, he passed and after the obvious spade lead the slam went one down. What a pity!

Now, it becomes apparent how 1380 was scored. At another table, when New Zealand met Jamaica, Newell, East for the Kiwis, opened 4C. South bid 5D and North added an obvious 6D. Double, said East, for the lead. Redouble, said the Jamaican South, Carby, for various obvious reasons. The Lighter operation was successful, but the patient died: a diamond was duly led and ruffed, but that was all for the defence. That is how one scores 1380!

Earlier in the same tournament there was another deal that gave rise to an unusual score and led to some recriminations between partners. Perhaps you can be the judge as to the latter.

West dealer, love all

                    S 9 8 7 6 4 3
                    H 7
                    D 8 6 5 4 3
                    C 6

S 10 5	                               S K Q 2
H Q J 10 4                              H K 9 8 2
D 2                                     D K Q J
C A K Q 8 7 3                           C  J 10 9

                    S A J 
                    H A 6 5 3
                    D A 10 9 7
                    C 5 4 2

The Australian ladies bid as follows:

             1C          1H
             4D (1)      4NT (2)
             5D (3)      5S (4)
             6C (5)      6H	

          (1) Splinter agreeing hearts
          (2) RKCB
          (3) 1 or 4 key cards
          (4) Queen of trumps?
          (5) Yes, plus extra club values.

All bristling with science, but the final contract had a fatal deficiency and South exposed it clearly when he doubled and started cashing aces. Whom would you blame? Granted, East would have done better to assume one key card instead of four and stop at 5Ç (then, if partner had the stronger hand, partner would make a move), but even 5Ç would be one too high. So, what is your verdict? Bear in mind that almost the identical auction occurred in the Bermuda Bowl as well.

As to the weird number involved in the deal, it occurred at another table, where the South player fell in love with his aces and got caught in a doubling rhythm. This was the auction in the match between Brazil and Venezuela:

2C (1)pass2D (2)Dbl
all pass

(1) Precision, 11-15 with long clubs
(2) Relay

Barbosa, the Brazilian South, doubled 4H. This was laydown for 590, but East was afraid of a heart stack, so he ran to 4NT. Barbosa doubled that as well, thinking that opponents were running from the proverbial fire to the frying pan. But, obviously, all the defence could make was the three aces, so the unusual contract of 4NT rolled easily home, producing the equally unusual score of 610. Since at the other table a peaceful 3NT scored 400 for Brazil, East's running from 4Ç to 4NT gained 1 IMP -and it also gave us a story, because 590s are fairly frequent while 610s do not grow on trees!

Nikos Sarantakos
This page has been visited times.