Professor Silver

Don’t play with strangers

As anyone who has read The Naked Bridge Player knows, I am a big fan of online bridge, especially Bridgebase. However, I am usually playing with strangers. There shouldn’t be many problems as everyone playing SAYC should have standard treatments to guide them in ambiguous situations. However, it is obvious that a "standard" response or bid is one that you play with your regular partner. Last week I was playing with one of the multitude of experts from the Bosphorus, region and the bidding proceeded on my left, 1 S, dbl redouble and I held:


S 4 3

H j8xxx

d.10 x

C 9875 

Of course I, of all bridge players, could not bypass a five card heart suit so I trotted it out. Both LHO and my partner passed and RHO lept to 3nt. After two passes my partner doubled and I was on lead. But what to lead?

My understanding of standard is that the double calls for the suit I bid! I am still bleeding from a similar episode with the late Donald Cowan who enquired why i would lead one of the opponents suits?  I toyed with the four of spades and then with the 10 of diamonds. But I finally led my fourth best heart assuming partner held four hearts with two (or three?) top honours. Ten tricks, and many Turkish messages later I saw my partner’s hand.

S AKJ109 7

H. xx

D Axx

C J10

My expert partner had made a penalty double of 1 spade which I was supposed to leave in I guess and had made a "standard" lead directing double.

The next hand was played with a new partner who unfortunately for me, spoke English.

I opened a strong notrump, LHO overcalled 2 spades and my partner bid 3nt and RHO passed. "Lebensohl" ? I typed in and he replied "yes".  Well my understanding is that "slow arrival" promises a stopper and "fast arrival" denies. Since I was looking at small spade doubleton, I pulled to my only four card suit, diamonds. This was raised to 6 diamonds (mercifully undoubled) and I played the slam with four to the QJ opposite 3 little. But dummy also held AQx of spades and eleven high card points. After my polite enquiry, partner explained that the standard Lebensohl responses were the reverse of what I was playing. Seems all experts play slow denies so the partnership can bail out at the three level instead of the four level.

So now I annoy everone at the table by asking questions of every bid that is not clearcut (to me anyway).


Happy virtual bridge and be careful of strangers.

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