Is it a Bridge Problem or a Barbú Problem? (Answer)

Matchpoints, no one vulnerable, assess the blame: West deals.
S: J9
H: KJ10985
C: J108
S: A108542
H: Q632
D: ---
C: KQ5
5S:Pass6H:All Pass

1 Exclusion Roman Key Card Blackwood

Down two.

What portion of the blame for this disaster do you assign to East? To West? What was the single worst call? Were any bids above reproach?

What would you call as dealer to the first hand of Barbú with the West hand. What would you lead?

Today's Panelists are: Curt Hastings, David Milton, Michael Lohman, Ed Davis, Mike Shuster, Kent Hartman, Lynn Johannsen, Adam Wildavsky
I blame East 100%.
Although I do not like opening light without 3 controls, all white at matchpoints screams out for bidding, and 1H: is the only acceptable bid on the Wast cards. Besides, change the West hand to  S:J9 H:KJT987 D:AQ C:JT8 and it's a real opener, and you are still down 2.

East bid (way) too much. He needed to catch partner with 2 of the H:AK and C:A, and a useful spade holding, and there was no need for 5D:. By bidding 2S: he might be able to listen for a diamond raise from his LHO and judge the situation better. [But possibly at the five- or six-level. --Jeff]

Seems like an obvious jack fantan claimer to me. when I'm dealt a fantan claimer I burn my fantan even at game one. [I'm usually sitting in 4th chair and hear "Ravage City." "I double the table." "Redouble, double, double." --Jeff]

East 85% West 15%
The worst call was the 5D: exclusion bid. I would have preferred a 3S: fit showing jump.

In my book, West does not have a 1H: opener. I would open 2H: or pass (probably the latter). East's bid is indefensible. Presumably to have the agreement that they are playing exclusion, this is a practiced partnership, and therefore would be aware that partner opens crap like the West hand.

I can give 3 keycard hands that would have no play  S:xxx H:ATxxx D:Ax C:AJx.

Barbú: Fantan, and I would lead the H:10. But then, as I said, I don't play much and have no idea what is right. I can play a lot of hearts while waiting for the other suits to open up.

dominoes from the jack seems fairly straightforward. I would start with a heart...if unavailable I guess trumps hearts...all this is irrelevant as I would never hold this hand as dealer...when I hold this hand it goes ravage table table to me...[Yeah, me, too. Or Last Two. For some reason, it hurts more to be Ravaged for 24 or 36 points than to take the last 2 for 30. Dunno why. --Jeff]

Wow. The opening bid, while light, did not put the partnership in an unrecoverable position. The 5D: bid did, so I assign East 100% of the blame. Where did East think their tricks were coming from even if partner had the controls? 3D: would have been a much better choice IMO. The 5S: bid, assuming it was intended to show 1 keycard looks perfect and the 6H: bid is just making the best of a bad situation.

I feel 2H: would be a better description than 1H: but it is not really a big deal. This hand does make one thing clear: East never passed the driving test for Exclusion Keycard.

5D: is truly a sick bid. It gets E/W too high much of the time and even when there are no KCs missing, East still doesn't know if they can make 7H:.

I would not recommend that West lie about KC since partner might have made a different bid if he were concerned about too much diamond wastage, e.g., East could have a real 5D: bid such as  S:AKQxxx H:Axxx D:- C:KQx. There usually is not much of a future to a partnership when one player decides that responses to RKC are judgment calls.

I like 4D: since it shows a game force with short D:. 3D: doesn't show the GF or the stiff D: so it is less informative. I agree with you about setting the trump suit immediately in a possible preemptive auction. I would not choose 3S: even if available since my hand is great opposite a H:-C: 2-suiter and 4D: keeps that in the picture. In addition, I don't want to discourage partner if he has a stiff spade.

If this is a problem, it must matter. It looks like the choices are between the H:9, H:T, H:J and H:K. I think the H:T is the right card... but it is really close.

West 0% East 100%

What was the 5D: bid all about? That's nuts!! Start with 3S: fitted. Once partner signs off over that without cuebidding, then you can pass (albeit a little uncomfortably). If 3S: isn't fitted, then start with 3D:. Over 3H:, bid 3S:. Over 4H:, pass. How can East take control of the auction???? Doesn't he need to know about the spade fit before making a judgment about what level the hand belongs?

Sure, West could open 2H: or Pass, neither of which I like.

My only regret is only having 100% of blame to assess to East.

Above reproach? West appears to have answered exclusion correctly...

I won't criticize the 1H: opening, though I wouldn't be unhappy with partner for opening this soft slop with 2H:. 5D: is a gruesome call. East needs three of the following for slam: two trump covers, second round control of spades, and first round control of clubs. Lots of better hands would still have responded 5S: and been too high. I'd have more sympathy if East had a seventh spade. I'm giving 100% to East, assuming that the West hand is a legitimate 1H: bid in their methods.

Jeff lost Lynn's answers. (sorry) She seriously considered lying about key cards, but rejected it. She gave East 100% of the blame.
I was West. I committed the 1H: and 5S: bids. I think 1H: is close. I wouldn't object to partner's opening 1H: or 2H: on this hand, although it somewhat depends on style. If you open  S:AQ109x H:xx D:xxx C:xxx 2S: in first chair equal white, I don't think you should open this hand 2H:, too. I won't pass, but with a very staid partner, I might next time.

5D: was nuts, I agree. I didn't say anything about it at the table until partner started yelling at me for not having an opening bid. I was busy trying to find a way out for down only 1. That might have mattered.

No one noticed that this was likely not such a disaster. The opponents have play for 5D:. There's no way we'd let them play it, so we got some matchpoints for tying 5H:x-1. There wasn't a way to hold it to -50, too bad.

What to do instead of 5D:? I'd bid 3S:, but Ed points out that vs. say,  S:x H:AKJxx D:xx C:AJxxx, we have a laydown grand, and 3S: isn't going to perk that hand up at all. On the other hand, 3S: allows room for a Frivolous 3NT, and I like that. Partner's mild club two-suiter might be up for a Frivolous cue.

I'm not as sure that lying about key cards is as crazy as it sounds. This hand started light and evaporated rapidly. I almost lied just because this partner lied to me about key cards the last time I used exclusion. I wimped out... OK, it is crazy to lie about key cards, but Zia does it and gets away with it.

Perhaps one ought to play 1430 exclusion.

While Mike says that East could quit if partner bid 4H: over 3S:, I'd be doubtful that this would happen in real life. I probably would push to the five-level with the East hand regardless and take a minus score. The 1H: opening, in my opinion, made it very difficult for E/W to go plus. Should East quit? Isn't there some rule that if we have an odds-on slam vs. opener's semi-balanced perfect 7-count, we should make a slam try past game? (OK, I just made that up.)

Barbú: Fantan. It's a tossup between the H:10 and the H:K. I think I'd lead the H:K. The chances of the H:Q's not appearing on the first two rounds seem slender, particularly since there's roughly a 2/3 chance that the person who holds it has low heart(s) and wants to see it played. There are only four other cards they can play before I have to relinquish something. I'd feel very unlucky if the person who held the H:Q also held the S:KQ10 and C:K. It's possible, but it's a bad bet. I'd guess that on the H:K lead, 2/3 of the time, my last play can be the D:Q, if I want it to be. N.B. I'm assuming Aces are low. I don't know what rules the others are playing.

[Fantan, lead a heart, either the H:K, H:J, or H:10.]

The downside of Kings is that my D:Q could be forced out before the H:Q has been played, Things could go badly then!

The downside of Jacks (and Tens) is that I'm conceding control of the diamond suit. I can live with that! After the first round in Jacks I'll have eight players and I'll still have both black suits bottled up. It would take quite a parlay for the H:6 to be missing after nine rounds!

The downside of Tens as compared to Jacks is that I'm dependent on two cards being forced out, the H:6 and the D:J. It would be quite unlucky to fail on account of the D:J, but I see no reason to take the chance.

I'll call Fantan Jacks and lead the H:J.



Curt: East 100%
David: East 85%
Lohman: East 100%
Ed: East 100%
Shuster: East 100%
Kent: East 100%
Jeff: East 95%
Lynn: East 100%
Consensus: East 100%
Not much of a problem.

Worst Call:

All pick 5D:. While everyone said, "5D: was a horrible call," there was far less agreement over what East ought to have done instead.

Would you open the West hand, and if so, with what?

Curt: 1H:, no other choice
David: Pass, close to 2H:
Ed: 2H:, but not a big deal.
Shuster: 1H:, doesn't like other choices.
Kent: 1H:, 2H: is OK.
Jeff: 1H:, 2H: is OK.
Consensus: 1H:, barely. 2H: is OK. Pass isn't popular
This is a problem, I suppose, of partnership style. K&R calls it 11 and change, which isn't good enough for a major suit opening. If my partner opened 1H:, I wouldn't complain. If he opened 2H:, I wouldn't complain. If he passed, I wouldn't complain, but I'd be a little scared.

What would you do with the East cards instead of 5D:?

Curt: 2S:
David: 3S: fitted
Loman: 3D:
Ed: 4D: splinter
Shuster: 3S: fitted
Jeff: 3S: fitted, with reservations
Consensus: none.

What do you lead at Fantan (the call was obvious; the problem is the lead)?

David: H:10
Lohman: H:J
Shuster: H:10
Jeff: H:K
Curt: H:J
Adam: H:J
Consensus: none


Rats. I was hoping to get a consensus that this was a King fantan. I was thinking at the table, "can anyone really pass a lock king fantan?"

Jeff Goldsmith,, September 15, 1997