Mark Horton

Bidding Misadventures

Scylla and Charybdis are two sea monsters of Greek mythology who were situated on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Calabria, in Italy. They were located in close enough proximity to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors; avoiding Charybdis meant passing too closely to Scylla and vice versa.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus was forced to choose which monster to confront while passing through the strait and he opted to pass by Scylla and lose only a few sailors, rather than risk the loss of his entire ship into the whirlpool created by Charybdis.

Although infrequently used today, the phrase has meant having to choose between two unattractive choices, and is the progenitor of the phrase ‘between a rock and a hard place’.

Here are a couple of deals from the Lebhar IMP Pairs where a player faced a problem, although it they were not perhaps as taxing as that which faced Homer’s eponymous hero.

Dealer: West

Vul: None

A 6 2
A K Q 10
A Q 9 7 6
West East
K 9 J 10 8
K 9 8 6 5 4 3 2
4 9 8 6 5 3 2
K 8 3 2 10 4
Q 7 5 4 3
Q J 10 7
J 7
J 5
West North:

East South:

2 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 Pass 4
Pass 5 All Pas  

Modern expert theory is to use Leaping Michaels over a weak two in a major to show a powerful two suiter with the other major, while a cue bid asks for a heart stopper.

If neither of these bids are in your armoury then the cue bid simply shows a

powerful hand.

It left South with an awkward choice between spades and notrumps and when the Rabbi opted for the former North came again with a second cue bid. South rebid his spades and there is now a very strong case for passing, especially as the South hand could be completely worthless, but as Oscar Wilde said ‘I can resist everything except temptation’ and I pressed on with Five Spades which was passed out.

In the face of such aggressive bidding South should probably press on to the slam, which can be made if declarer takes the right view in trumps.

I would like to tell you how the play went in Five Spades, but like the Giant Rat of Sumatra, it a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

Dealer: East

Vul: Both

K 6 5 2
7 4
J 7 3
7 6 5 3
West East
9 8 7 Q J 3
K 5 2 A Q 10 8 6 3
K 10 8 2 6 4
Q 8 4 J 2
A 10 4
J 9
A Q 9 5
A K 10 9
West North:

East South:

    2 Dbl
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 3 Pass 4
All pass      

According to the world’s most eminent bidding theorist, one EOK, in this sequence Three Hearts should ask for a stopper, although on the actual hand it is at best a marginal decision, as just as in the previous deal the spade bidder may have a worthless hand.

Over Three Spades the Rabbi’s raise required considerably more divine intervention than was available!

1 Comment

Bobby WolffJune 3rd, 2009 at 11:52 am

Hi Mark,

It was often said in my youth (yes, at one time I was young, although when I was hatched I was said to be in my twenties) that our American bridge stars (Crawford, Jacoby, Schenken, to mention a few) learned to play the dummy so well because their bidding was so poor.

By reading your recent blogs you and the good Rabbi can qualify as a pair in training for that up to date title. You two seem to leave no high contract unexplored.

Good luck in developing your how to play blogs and leave the bidding to others.

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