Feb 012003

N/S Vul
Dealer: North
Lead: HK

S A Q 5
H 8 4
D K 9 3
C A K 10 5 3
S K J 7 6 4 3
H Q 6 2
D Q 5
C J 2
[W - E] danb
S 10 9 2
H K 10 7
D A J 10 8 6 2
C 7
S 8
H A J 9 5 3
D 7 4
C Q 9 8 6 4


3 D
3 H


In a court of law, where the defense is not obliged to tell a coherent story but only to cast doubt on the prosecution’s, a well-established technique is to argue in the alternative. The defendant accused of borrowing a tea-kettle and returning it broken might maintain that he never borrowed it, that it was broken when he borrowed it, and that he returned it in perfect condition.

Our hero is in a sticky situation after East’s preemptive overcall. Fortunately, he can bid in the alternative, with a three heart call alerted as “to play.” A spec wants to know how an ordinarily forcing bid can be to play. A more experienced spec explains: “Because he doesn’t have a good enough hand to force to game. With a better hand, 3H would be forcing.” This is bidding in the alternative.

North, however, is unfamiliar with the concept and bids 3NT. On a diamond lead this would roll home, but East finds the exceptional lead of the heart king, and the contract has no hope. Declarer can’t be blamed too severely for trying to make his contract by ducking the heart and finessing the jack on the second round. West promptly leads the diamond queen back through. North plays the king on the first round, which would make him look pretty foolish if diamonds were 7-1 but makes no difference on the actual layout. Down 4.

Our hero is nonplussed:

G: when I show heart, why are we playing in NT?
ralphm: why do you ask? i have 8x in hearts

Sigh. Doesn’t anybody understand that three hearts is not, in this case, a forcing bid? “Besides,” Gerard adds to the specs, “he went down four because of his poor play. 3NT is very makeable.”

  3 Responses to “Bridge in the Alternative”


    Gee will never understand that his post mortem attitude and commentaries are precisely the reason why he draws so many kibitzers; there are, after all, few things more entertaining than watching someone open his mouth with the sole purpose of changing feet. As Gee has so succinctly observed, he finds it much more preferable to give a hand no play and go bait one trick than he does to try to make the contract and go down more. That he badmouths his partner for correct play only serves to insert the foot deeper in the throat. One day it may actually reappear from his nether region.


      Well, flying the diamond king on the first round wasn’t exactly correct. So what Gee meant was, if West had held a stiff diamond queen, and if North had ducked, and if East had overtaken, or if East had ducked and West had led a heart back into the tenace, then 3NT was very makeable. You can’t expect him to spell it out for us every time, can you?


    Without possession of the d9, the duck is clearly right. Possession of the 9 gives a chance for the suit to block. The duck is probably better and I did give the matter long thought. Frankly, I was quite astounded by the bidding and the defense. Gee could and should have used Texas I believe. 4h is cold from my side only and 55’s are suit hands.

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