The Murphy’s Law of Bridge

On a recent Thursday evening game, I filled in with Jackie Key to avoid a sit-out.  Jackie and I had never played together, and since Jackie came in at the last minute, we did not have a chance to fill out a card.  While we were rushing through a discussion of the various conventions we played, the topic of the so-called “unusual-vs-unusual” convention came up.  I will not discuss this convention at this moment, other than to note that it is a defense to a Michaels cue-bid, and is somewhat complicated.  (Those of you who are interested may click here for a summary of the convention).  Jackie suggested that we discuss the convention if we were to play it, but we did not have the time to do so without holding up the game. “No problem”, I said.  “It will never come up; those types of rarely used conventions never come up … unless, of course, the partnership does not discuss them.”  The four of us around the table laughed, not realizing how prophetic my joke would be.

One of the many or our bottoms of the night was board 7, for which I (West) was dealt the following hand.

West_only

I naturally opened 1♣.  North overcalled 2♣ — a michaels cue-bid showing at least 5-5 in the major suits, my partner passed and my RHO bid a gentle 2♥.  With a 7-card club suit having good intermediates, I’ll just re-bid my suit so I bid 3♣;  North bid 3♥, partner and RHO passed, and the bidding is back to me.

What do you think I bid?  The answer may surprise you.  Here is the bidding so far:

Bidding

Click “read more” to see the answer.

There are very good bridge players at our club who would radically disagree with what I did next, but I will stand behind my bid to the death.   I doubled, primarily intended for takeout, reaffirming to partner that I have long clubs but also some length in diamonds.

Why would I ever do this with 3 suits effectively bid (both majors and clubs)?  Because when South makes a simple bid of 2♥ in response to a Michaels bid, she will typically have either a hand with scattered values but only 2 hearts and no more than 2 spades, and so partner has some hearts; or a very weak hand with longer hearts, in which case partner has some points.  In either case, I expect to set 3♥, using either my partner’s long hearts or scattered outside strength.  If my partner has neither of those hands, and the opponents really have a heart fit, she will not leave my sort-of take-out double in and either close her eyes and bid 4 clubs or bid her long diamond suit. (After all, if opponents have a fit, so do we).

Well, that’s the theory anyway.  I doubled, everyone passed, and these were the four hands:

All four hands

I led my stiff spade.  Declarer can never get off the board to finesse against my ♥Q but no matter.  There is no defense against 3♥.

Partner, sitting there with a heart void obviously and appropriately interpreted my double as strictly for penalties.  My usual partners would have known that my double was take-out oriented and, with a heart void, would have swallowed hard and bid either 4♣ or or 4♦ (My 3♣ vulnerable rebid promised at least 6 clubs).  But this is something else I did not have an opportunity to discuss with Jackie, and I should have just passed.

Ironically, my double cost us only half a matchpoint since most N/S pairs were in 4♥ down 1, while only one other pair was in 3♥ making 3.

A way to have avoided this disaster would have been to play “unusual-vs-unusual”, the convention Jackie wanted to discuss and which we not to discuss because we were short time.  Anyone interested in learning this convention can see the companion blog post to this article (scroll down a bit or click here:  We only recommend the convention for players already very comfortable with the Michaels convention).  Using this convention, a bid of 2♦ by Jackie would have shown a non-forcing  diamond hand.  While her point count is a bit light for this, we would have only been at the two level and she does have some support for our clubs if I really can’t stand diamonds.  This would have gotten us to 4♣ or 4♦, which can make if declarer guesses correctly.  And if the opponents bid 4♥, they are down 1.

So the Murphy’s Law of Bridge wreaked its havoc upon me and Jackie.  The very convention we chose not to discuss, came up.  I sent my notes on the convention to Jackie for the next time we play together.  Of course, we all know what will happen next — When I play with Jackie, the convention will never, ever come up until we are both safely in our respective graves.  Such is the Murphy’s Law of Bridge.

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