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The Champs Strike - Again
By: Anders Wirgren

Originally Published in Swedish in Helsingborgs Dagblad, January, 2001


Mike Lawrence from USA, three-time world champion and author of a vast number of excellent bridge books, has joined forces with Canadian Fred Gitelman, the world's leading expert on educational bridge software. The result: a newly released masterpiece on CD-ROM - "Conventions".

The program is really an "electronic book", which you can read just like any ordinary book. Since Gitelman is involved it's both easy to use and well structured. Even computer novices will handle it easily.

As the title suggests, it's about conventions, but since the subtitle is "And the judgement to make them work" Lawrence tries hard to get the reader to understand why a certain convention is needed. And that is just as important as knowing how it works.

All the conventions included are common and widely used. Some are Lawrence's own favorites, others are not so hot. But the common theme is that they all try to solve ordinary problems, which you can't solve with only natural methods.

Let's take a step into chapter 2 "More on responding to 1 notrump (15-17 HCP)". One of the sections therein is 2 spades, Minor Suit Stayman. And then the reader gets to bid a hand:

To begin with, your partner bid 2 to hear if you had a four-card minor, and your 3 showed four of those. Then, 3 was a game-force with at least 5-5 in the minors and a singleton spade.

Now, your problem is what to bid, and Lawrence gives you these options: pass, 3NT, 4, 4 and 4NT. If you click on any of them, you can see if he agrees with your choice.

If you move to the next page, Lawrence goes through these four bids, one at a time, and explains why it is wrong, not that bad, acceptable or great. 3NT, for instance, opposite partner's singleton spade, shows that you haven't listened to the bidding, so it isn't good.

But he thinks 4 is a great bid. Why? Because that you - in spite of your minimum 15 HCP - have an exceptionally fine hand. Your partner has a singleton spade, and you have nothing there. That means all your honors are working. And by bidding 4 you give him a hint that (a) your side doesn't belong in notrump, (b) you have a top honor in clubs (the ace or the king), and (c) you think you may make more than 5.

And just to show how strong this South hand really is, he gives you a dummy:

  Opposite his dummy 6 may make. OK, you need trumps 2-2 and clubs 3-3, but the North hand is much too weak for the bidding up to date. He needs more than two kings. Add the queen of diamonds and the jack of clubs and 6 will make if clubs are no worse than 4-2. With this in mind, you surely agree that South has a truly exceptional hand.

Now we move on to chapter 7, "Doubles", and take a look at the section dealing with a convention known as "Support Doubles". It operates when you open the bidding, partner responds with one of a suit and RHO makes a simple overcall. Then, double from you is an artificial way of showing three cards in partner's suit, while a direct raise promises four trumps.

In this situation, the reader's options are double, 2, 2 and 3. And double is right. It shows a raise to at least 2 with exactly three trumps. Here you have as much as 17 HCP, but double would also have been the correct call if the ace of diamonds had been the deuce of clubs.

   After your double West passes, partner bids 2 and East passes. It's you again. Now, your choices are pass, 3 and 3. Pass is discarded since you have much more than a minimum opening. And 3 is no good choice either; you have shown your heart support already, why not describe your hand? And that is precisely what 3 does: extra diamond length and extra strength. Just what you have. You may still make game in hearts, diamonds or notrump, but when partner had this weak hand, 3 was what you should play:
   Since you have shown your heart support already, you don't have to be afraid of missing a good heart contract - because with five hearts, your partner won't pass 3 but remove to 3 or 4, knowing of your extra strength and your heart support.

You need at least Windows-95, 3 MB free hard disk space, at least 800x600 screen resolutions and a CD-ROM drive.

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