Poor Bridge of the Week
Going One Step Better
By Michael Clark
""Dear Homer, I.O.U. one emergency donut. Signed, Homer." Bastard! He's always one step ahead!"
—Homer Simpson, Treehouse of Horror IV

We've all witnessed several times an auction where a 1S opening is passed out but it's relatively rare for this to be poorbridge. If anything it's the opponents who are at fault, perhaps for not protecting aggressively enough or perhaps for taking too much time to pass in the direct seat and making it hard for partner to act. Whatever might be going on, it's not particularly interesting. So let's advance our Iterative Poorbridge Generating Algorithm one step further. This time we have the following auction:


This is far more promising from a poorbridge standpoint — all sorts of interesting things might have occurred. Opener psyched, caught partner with a 29-count and decided to get out at the two level. Or opener forgot he had opened and passed, expecting partner to have a Weak Two in diamonds. Or opener thought he was playing Moscito where 1S shows diamonds, 2D is limited with spades and the pass is just judging that this'll be the right contract. Or perhaps RHO had thought for such a long time over passing 2D that opener decided to go with his gut and pass it out rather than allow his RHO to protect with hearts or clubs. All good fun, but a little far-fetched. I don't remember seeing this auction and I'm confident none of you have either as you surely would have sent in your articles by now [Dream on —Ed].

And so we move one step further, to a hand that actually occurred against Luke and me in a recent match. This was the deal:

E/W Vuln
Dealer N
SA 8 7 6 4 2
HK 4
DK J 9


SQ 9
HA 10 6 5 2
D5 2
C10 9 3 2
SK 10 5 3
HQ 9 8 3
DQ 8
CK 7 4
HJ 7
DA 10 7 6 4 3
CQ 8 6 5

South deems her hand to be worth a two-over-one, but hey this is Acol territory so we won't criticise it too heavily. North feels torn between bidding 2NT and 3S and so, err, decides to bid neither and fabricates a club suit instead. South is just too embarrassed by her first bid to dare go further and so there they play. It took a while for Luke and me to appreciate the number of clubs declarer had, but the contract still drifted a couple off, with 5D an excellent contract and 3NT not too shabby either. Just playing in a partscore will do, though.

And so I sat back, sated with my love of poorbridge and thinking that enough had been done, but then comes along and dares to crank forward the poorbridge machine once more. For Steve witnessed the following auction at his local club:


The full deal isn't recorded, only that opener had the following hand to make a game-forcing reverse followed by passing an artificial fourth-suit-forcing bid:

S7 6 4 3 2
HA K 3
CA J 5 4

Quoth Steve: "3H-3, with 3NT making overtricks." Priceless.

Geeking It Up To The Max

I'm sure you're interested in how the aforementioned Iterative Poorbridge Generating Algorithm works. So here it is. Come now, folks, how many times has Tony Forrester's Daily Telegraph column featured pseudo-code?

define function poorbridge(opening, iterations) set currentbid to opening set counter to 1 repeat print currentbid set currentbid to nextforcing(nextforcing(currentbid)) increment counter until counter > iterations print "Pass" end function

The nextforcing() function takes a bid and returns the next forcing bid after it in the context of the current auction. So, in the context of a standard 1S opening, nextforcing(1S) = 2C and nextforcing(2C) = 2D (which is forcing because we're looking at responses to 1S still, not 2C). [Slightly re-written 10/07/07 to make it a bit clearer. Yeah, I know this is hardly the most rigorously precise code you ever saw but you get the drift! —Ed] The two hands given above can now be expressed as poorbridge(1S, 3) and poorbridge(1S, 4). The next auctions in the series can now be seen to be:

poorbridge(1S, 5):


poorbridge(1S, 6):


The poorbridge() function is also system-dependent. For instance, if you were playing Goren Precision you might see poorbridge(1C, 3) as:


whereas for Acol, it might (based on my dim recollection of what few bids are forcing in that system) be:


So next time you see a forcing bid passed out, perhaps you'd like to see if you can express it in terms of the poorbridge() function? We would definitely be interested in hearing of any sightings.