Fast Arrival

When a hand begins to look like a misfit the advice, handed down through the generations, is clear: Stop bidding as soon as you can. In practice, however, like much good advice, it is easier to quote than follow. Consider the following hand:

At Game-all partner deals and opens a spade promising five, you respond Two Hearts, which is played up to decent strength and over the Two Spade rebid you have a problem. Three Hearts? - Could be passed.. Four Hearts closes the door on Four spades so I temporised with a bid of Three clubs (do you need an eighth to rebid them partner..?) and over Three No-trump signed off in Four Hearts. Well not quite because the bidding continued with Five clubs from the other side of the table. There was nowhere to go and this was the full deal:

  • QJ9765
  • ---
  • KQJ
  • K862
  • A1032
  • ---
  • 98763
  • AJ74
  • 84
  • QJ9843
  • A54
  • 93
  • K
  • AK107652
  • 102
  • Q105

Five Clubs was not a thing of great beauty and I registered a score of -500 (I am not proud of the play) on repeated Diamond leads. At the time I joked that this was a good board as no-one was likely to play undoubled in a major. Our team-mates duly defended Four Hearts but the player in the West seat was prohibited from doubling unless she held more trumps than declarer and this was not certain as, indeed, was the case. East kept searching amongst his Diamonds for a Heart or two but could find none and was still checking the backs of the cards to ensure everybody was playing with the same pack when it was announced the contract had gone two light.

Rather than lambaste my invention of a club suit my partner was characteristically self-critical claiming that he should have bid Four Spades 'on the way' to Five Clubs. Four spades is indeed the best contract with genuine play although on a club lead it will go three down here.

The modern philosophy of bidding is that when there are two or more routes to the same contract, here Four Hearts, bidding via an indirect path expresses doubt about the final denomination. This fits in well with the principle of bidding what you can see, and the Acol system of limit bids. The 'Principle of Fast Arrival' is an extension of this when, in a forcing situation, two bids will both ensure game, the direct game bid is the weaker. As examples:


In each case the Four Heart bid is weaker than a Three Heart bid would have been. (All the situations are game forcing: a) Reverse after two-level response. b) Opening game force. c) Support after fourth suit bid. d) Responder's jump in a new suit). If you were going to support all along the failure to make the game bid shows doubt about the level i.e. you have higher aspirations.

These thoughts shed some light on deciding when to remove a No-trump call. Thus if your partner determinably keeps the sequence alive before settling for Three no-trump then undisclosed length in your own suit or hidden support may be a clinching factor to move the declaration. If the bidding is direct, say One Spade - Two Clubs; Two Spades - Three No-trump then a sixth Spade or a few Clubs are no reason to bid on. A seventh trump and you might persuade me but you would probably be bidding all your three card suits first…

Published week beginning Monday 12.Sep.1988