Articles in this series present disasters of expert pairs, judged by a rotating panel of 10 experts. Panelists express their views on how the blame should be apportioned, and their opinions as to which was the worst call or play. Subscribers are invited to enter a prize contest associated with each article.
Our first disaster is from the round-robin of the '87 Venice
Cup, in a match between the Australian and Italian Ladies. For Italy,
d'Andrea and Capodonna easily reached six hearts (almost everyone
in their contest and in the Bermuda Bowl reached slam, a few venturing
seven diamonds), but the Australians languished in game.
Q 10 2
A 10 9 8 6
K 8 6
A J 4
K Q 4
A Q 5 4 3 2
|Pass||1 (1 )|
|Double (3 )||3 |
|3 NT||4 |
Question (a): What was West's share of the blame for missing slam?
Question (b): Which was the single worst call made?
Seven of our jurists blamed West, three East. Speaking for
the court's majority . . .
SANDERS': "West 65%. It is easy to arrive at
a grand slam if West begins by bidding two hearts. This failure is
part of the blame (25%). West's inaccurate, misdescriptive three notrump
contributed most to the debacle (40%). East wasn't without fault:
four clubs instead of four diamonds seems appropriate, and East might
have tried five clubs over four hearts."
BRAMLEY: "West 97%. All of West's calls are
vile. He should clearly take advantage of his passed-hand status to
bid two hearts. His three notrump is unbelievable, with no club stop
and two suits to show. And, at his last turn, four hearts is crass
opposite a game force in diamonds; five diamonds is easy, and
even six is better than four hearts. East might have moved
over four hearts, but I agree with his pass."
PAULSEN: "West 100%. West has a clear-cut two-heart
call, to be followed by diamond support. The negative double started
on the road to disaster, but three notrump, on the four-three of clubs,
was even worse. East's pass of four hearts may be a little pessimistic,
but if West holds,
Q x x J 10 x x x x x K 10 x,
four is high enough."
FRIEND: "West 30%. East must assume the major
share of the blame, since his three-spade cue-bid began the partnership's
problems. West was end-played twice in the auction: once when he assumed
that three spades was a Western cue-bid, asking for a spade stop;
again when he thought he should confirm a five-card heart holding
once East's four diamonds established three spades as strength-showing.
East should have known the deal was safe at the five level, and thus
have made a further try with five clubs."
SHUMAN: "West 30%. Over four hearts, East should
cue-bid a black ace, allowing West to bid (jump in) diamonds. West
should have bid hearts earlier, either two hearts over one spade or
four hearts over three spades."
All of West's actions drew votes for the worst call.
WEISS: "Three notrump was the worst call. Clearly,
the three-spade cue-bid showed a super-strong hand, a fit, hope for
slam. My choice would be four diamonds, but four hearts, to show the
five-card suit, is equally good."
CARAVELLI: "Four hearts. At his last turn, West
failed to appreciate how good a hand he held--the fifth heart,
the ace, some fillers, the golden king of diamonds."
MARTEL: "Double, the only clear error--two
hearts was clearly right (even as an unpassed hand, I would bid it).
After one of a minor, one spade, a good rule is never to double instead
of bidding two hearts if you have any excuse."
Among East's detractors, this was a popular view.
HABERMAN: "Final pass. How can East pass four
hearts, looking at a heart slam? If he bids five clubs, which seems
automatic, West should now bid six diamonds."
Like Barbara Haberman, we think that East has too slammish
a hand to pass four hearts. It may be clear to Larry Weiss that East's
cue-bid showed super strength, slam interest, but is that so clear
in this day of nebulous, depreciated cue-bids? Might not East, with
some hand like,
K x K Q x A J 10 x x x x x,
cue-bid three spades over three clubs as a convenient force,
willing to chance a high diamond contract, and looking for five-three
hearts along the way?
If you've seen all the cue-bids we've seen lately, you have
to answer yes. And if East might have 13 high-card points instead
of 20 for his auction up to four hearts, how, as Haberman asks, can
HOW THE PANEL VOTED
West's Worst Call
|Bart Bramley, Chicago||97||Double|
|Gerald Caravelli, IL||100||4 |
|Robert Friend, CA||30||Pass|
|Ron Gerard, NY||100||4 |
|Chip Martel, Davis, CA||80||Double|
|Erik Paulsen, CA||100||3 NT|
|T. & C. Sanders, TN||65||3 NT|
|Barbara Haberman, NY||30||Pass|
|Mike Shuman, CA||30||Pass|
|Larry Weiss, Vista, CA||75||3 NT|