Four Card Bridge

by Jonathan Mestel

Isn't bridge difficult? Defence certainly is, and even declarer play, which we all think we can do more or less ok, is beset with traps, mainly because of the need to count to 13. Wouldn't it be easier if we all held just one card? Then the play would be easy and we could concentrate on the bidding.

So let's play with a 4-card deck, containing the sA, s2, cA and c2. The legal calls are 1c, 1s, 1NT (contracting for one trick) together with pass, double and redouble.

Now clearly if we hold sA we can make 1s. The danger is that our LHO can choose to overcall 1NT. This will make if partner holds c2, and we won't be able to blame him/her for a poor lead. It can be dangerous to give away too much about your hand. Perhaps the best system has a mixture of constructive and destructive elements...

So what system shall we play? Possibilities include:

Natural: 1c shows cA, 1s shows sA. Pass denies an ace.

Strong Club: 1c shows an ace.

Good/Bad: 1s shows either sA or c2.

Weak 1s: 1s shows s2, 1c shows c2, Pass is strong.

Strong NT: 1NT shows an ace; other bids do not necessarily deny an ace.

It's all a bit complicated. I shall therefore award prizes to the following competition:

(a) What are the best defensive methods to play against the Natural system?

(b) What is the best system of opening bids?

In each case, `best' is defined with respect to total points scored over a long match.

Parts (a) and (b) will be judged separately, so you can enter just one part. For part (b) try to include details of action over a double or an overcall. You may have a probabilistic strategy if you wish (e.g. `If I hold cA I open 1c 33% of the time, pass 67%'), but please be precise.

Entries to me (JM) by either e-mail or post by 15th April, please. If I receive enough entries I may simulate a tournament (total points scoring) to decide the winners.

You will need to know the scoring system to fine-tune your sacrifice bidding. I haven't thought about this too much, but I suggest:

To make a contract undoubled: +100
To make a contract doubled: +130
To go one off undoubled: -90
To go one off doubled: -180

Redoubles do not affect the scoring - they merely indicate contempt for the opponents (although they may be useful in the bidding).

I don't really see this catching on as the game of the next millennium, but 8-card bridge could be quite fun...Any more than 8 would clearly be far too difficult a game to be contemplated.

Look here for the results.