Paul Cronin

What have we come to ??

In a hand from Saturday’s Vanderbilt,

Welland      Auken

98542           K
K2                A85
Q76             AK94
AK10           J5432

took ten bids to reach 3NT.

Whatever happened to 1S –> 3NT ?

Now, maybe going (much) more slowly than 1S –> 3NT would discover the 6C that does make, but it wasn’t found by either side.

What have we come to indeed !


John Howard GibsonMarch 24th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

HBJ : Give partner Q10xxx in clubs ( not jack to five ) then it does make sense to bid slowly to establish whether a slam is on in an alternative suit. Getting to 3NT can certainly wait on this hand.
However with a weak 5 card club suit I’d be tempted to bid a direct 3NT just to keep the oppo guessing a bit as to which suit to lead.

paul croninMarch 24th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Another aspect of this is that if we are really interested in making bridge something that a lot of people would watch, as they once did, then what would a viewing audience make of the auction that took place?

Welland Auken
1C 1S
1N 2C
2D 2H
2S 2N
3C 3N

Welland has spades but doesn’t bid them. Auken doesn’t have spades, so does bid them.

John Howard GibsonMarch 24th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

HBJ : I can understand the ambiguous( or prepared) 1C with such a wretched 5 carder in spades, but if the 1S response is genuine I would want a director to tell me why the pair ended up in 3NT…. AND NOT 4S ! If the 1S response IS NOT A REAL SUIT then was it alerted ? ……or did the opener know his partner’s partner’s tendency to psyche a suit he has got ( as a lead inhibiting manoeuvre) ?
As an impartial observer I would be very suspicious of this bidding sequence, especially when the opener’s alleged second ( and real) suit is diamonds of which he has only 3. But worse….not supporting spades at any stage of the bidding gives the psyche away.

John Howard GibsonMarch 24th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

HBJ. Sorry correction ( line 7 ) ” he hasn’t got “

Stuart KingMarch 24th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I imagine they play ‘transfers’ over 1C and so 1S denied a major suit.

Steven GaynorMarch 25th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Hey, Welland and Auken just won the Vanderbilt playing 4 handed (talk about the ‘good old days’), so I guess they know what they are doing.

Plus doesn’t 3N directly over 1S normally show 13-15 with 3 card support for the major?

John Howard GibsonMarch 25th, 2013 at 5:22 pm

HBJ : I would imagine they would know what THEY were doing while the opponents hadn’t a clue, if their bidding sequences like the one Paul describes are a constant feature of their game.
So I ask myself is knowledge exchanged and communicated by them on one level, while the opponents can only glean some knowledge on a much lower level ?
Whatever happened to the concept of a level playing field ? And have bidding systems become so obscure that for opponents decoding and deciphering bids has become almost impossible ?

Paul CroninMarch 25th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Steve,

The issue being raised wasn’t whether Welland and Auken knew what they were doing, as they most certainly do. The issue was what a “simpler” East might be thinking given the same cards, namely:

Hmmmm… partner has opened 1S, and I have 15 HCP. We definitely belong in game, but where? Spades – No; Hearts -No; Minors – to be avoided whenever possible; what does that leave? Hmmmmm…..3NT – OK! How to get there? Well, if you’re playing that a direct 3NT shows 13-15 with three card support for spades, then try 2C, followed by 3NT over opener’s rebid.
That’s still only four bids as opposed to ten.

David SiredMarch 26th, 2013 at 4:59 am

One club 2+ clubs including 5332 an 5422 shapes
one spade response was a game forcing relay.

John Howard GibsonMarch 26th, 2013 at 9:22 am

HBJ : Tx David for that…..two artificial bids to start the bidding sequence off….that makes sense

paul croninMarch 26th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

A bit of irony ….while there is no doubt that all the players in the Vanderbilt “knew what they were doing”, and didn’t have any problems with the complex, artificial sysytems played therein, but … a very real sense, the winning of the event by Team Auken was a direct result of Team Monaco (according to the committee) NOT knowing what they were doing, and giving misinformation to Team Auken. Hmmm…..

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 28th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hi Paul,

It is abundantly clear that in the quarter-finalists and beyond, all surviving teams knew what they were doing; otherwise, in that star-studded field, no team could have advanced that far.

However, many facts remain unclear as to the reason for the ruling. From an equity standpoint, and therefore critical, did Welland, the opening leader, know enough about his opponents’ bidding to not be deprived of the necessary accurate information to select a reasonable lead?

I believe the auction was part of the Helgemo/Helness system (which the Auken team had been playing against in the previous boards). When Helness bid 3D (repeating a transfer to hearts), it was Helgemo’s duty to respond 3H with three. He had no obligation to bid 3S with four when he denied three hearts (which caused them to miss a cold 4S contract). However, Helgemo probably was not required to make such a bid and therefore (undoubtedly) did not want to tip off to the opening leader where his side strength (and length) actually was and employed his judgment to make a legal call of 3NT. It was simple strategy and his spade length was not known to either partner or opponents.

Therefore the final contract became 3NT with Welland having to guess the opening lead. He chose a spade and unless there is more to this hand than came out, everything done by H/H was legal, though not necessarily good bridge (but who am I to judge such world class players?)

If the facts are true, the ruling was wrong, allowing the Committee to cast the fate of the match, which is always a difficult choice when there are so many reasons for committees to be biased, based on likes and dislikes, future favors or no future favors, misplaced patriotism or just plain incompetence. Take your choice, the committee did.

P. S. My husband, Bobby, has always despised Convention Disruption (defined as not knowing one’s system to their opponent’s detriment) which he believes should be punished out of existence. Yet, this particular case does not appear to display the disruptive element of CD. However, since he was not present to hear the actual questions posed to the combatants by the Appeals Committee (which were indeed imperative), he was not in a position to make an equitable ruling. Also, since the appeal was not held until the wee hours of the next morning, the lapse of much time gave the protesters time to conjure up a good case for Convention Disruption. He believes the facts above appear irrelevant to the issue and should not have affected what turned out to be the wrongful reversal of the director’s original decision!

Stuart KingMarch 30th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Whatever the sequence, whatever the system, the stronger players around the table will make more inferences about all the hands at the table than the weaker players.

I don’t imagine many people point out to their opponents that, on the auction 1N – 3N, the dummy is unlikely to hold a 4 card major. Or for some maybe dummy would have bid stayman with any 4 card major.

Why is it that if you can’t make that inference you are a bad player, but if you can’t make similar inferences in less well known systems the system gets the blame. (Or worse, the players, for playing the system). And where is the line between the player being bad and the system? What should I write in my new rule book to make it clear which inferences I should already my opponents to and which I shouldn’t?

bobbywolffMarch 31st, 2013 at 1:06 am

Hi Stuart,

I get your point, but as long as the ACBL searches out the dove, wants to please everyone, farms out controversial decisions so that ACBL hands are presumed clean, the high-level bridge community, will be without proper leadership.

While acting with the above conditions we must hear appeals before they are known to be critical, upgrade TD’s knowledge and reputations, have seminars for wannabe appeals members, discuss tricks of the trade for clever lawyer type bridge players and above all, demand annotated precedents to be written, published and distributed, just to have a chance to overcome the human condition of bias, desire to be important, likes and dislikes, loving bridge as much as patriotism (as it applies to competition among countries) and respond consistently, with all committee members declaring how they voted and why.

No doubt the object is to pursue bridge equity above everything else, but until we do all of the above, we will never come close to achieving what must be our ultimate goal.

Stuart KingApril 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am


I’m certainly condoning the absurd decision to not hear an appeal in one of the top events in the world because the committee members would rather have had lunch.

My point was more towards those baulking at the system, saying that the users of the system may communicate on one level with the opponents unable work out what was really being said. This happens in any system, with any pair no matter how vigilant you are to provide full disclosure (I myself try to describe all potentially relevant bids, including those not made, when an opponent asks about a sequence) you will be unlikely to make every relevant point. Particularly when, as in the fact Judy presented, one partner has (or could have) made a tactical decision to not make a bid.

StephenDecember 2nd, 2015 at 10:08 am

The obvious ansewr is yes with a caveat that it is not only Europe that faces such a challenge ahead.In a very similar way to climate change, Europe cannot solve this issue alone. Acting independently from the rest of the globe will ultimately achieve nothing just as with climate change.Just as the effects of climate change will not stop at EU borders simply because the EU has been more sensitive to the environment, the depletion of resources will continue despite any initiatives the EU may adopt.Will it help us any to have been the ones who reduced consumption when the last rare earth or drop of oil is exhausted? Obviously not. When they are gone they are gone regardless who used the last of it.To take the EU energy and transport policies as an insular concept then they are an interesting read, however neither take into account that the structural changes envisaged will actually mean a lot of resources and energy used to create the outcomes. It will all have a resource and energy legacy of massive proportions due to how these things are achieved. What seems to be missing from both policies is the recognition that everything from R&D to delivery has an energy and resource cost often far greater than maintenance of what already exists. It is folly to start to consider energy or resource efficiency from the moment something actually comes on-line. There is a justifiable weight to be given to just how much energy and resources were used to get Project A from the drawing board into reality. That legacy must first be saved during the working life of Project A before it can be claimed that it is having a positive impact going forward. Inevitably maintenance of Project A kicks in long before the legacy is repaid and thus there is the legacy of the maintenance work to add to the legacy.It is a very long term project to turn energy and resource management into a genuine resource and energy net gain and to nullify the impact of new systems made today.That is not to say it is not a noble goal or even unachievable. It will undoubtedly turn into a holy grail as generations pass and resources become more scarce.What is required is a realistic cost/benefit analysis and risk awareness discussion with European society to sell the concept effectively and then lead the planet by example.Maybe aid, internal and foreign policy development should never take the form of cash incentives but always take the form of exporting energy and resource saving technology at the beginning of any development engagement?All very difficult and complex, particularly when a purely EU solution is really no solution at all.

Leave a comment

Your comment