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La passé française (the French pass)

By Marnie Leybourne

This isn't an article about unwelcome advances in France. It's about an interesting little bridge gadget that Nick and I discovered during a recent French holiday. While in Annecy (near the Alps), it poured with rain one day so we played a duplicate session at one of the local clubs.

We didn't do too well. I'd like to blame jetlag (Annecy was our first stop), however we had a couple of other challenges to contend with. While I speak French, Nick doesn't and we didn't meet very many people at the bridge club that understood English. Therefore, I had to do all the translating when bids needed an explanation. My admiration for people that do simultaneous translation for a living always rises meteorically when I try to do simple, consecutive, translation as I struggle and it is exhausting.

Another big challenge for us was the French cards. While the Aces were fine, K=R, Q=D and J=V (Roi, Dame, Valet) and NT=SA (sans atout - which can be literally translated to mean "without asset"). Fortunately the rest of the bidding cards showed the actual suits, and not P, C, C and T (pique, coeur, carreau, trefle), although the "pass" cards, of course, said "passé".

Anyway, we were playing Acol which pretty-much no-one there had ever come across before as they all play five card majors and strong no trump. We had a few 1NT opening hands, so got to experience the French (or maybe the "Annecy") defence to a weak no trump opening.

1 NT (12-14)PassPass?

Now, consider two possible scenarios. In the first, your partner passes in tempo. In the second, your partner has a long and slow think and passes. Does your bid change?

Ethically, of course, it shouldn't. Well, at our table the second scenario transpired and South, holding that pile of proverbial, doubled. He was just lucky that I (sitting East) held the five-card club suit rather than his partner, who bid 2H and played there.

"Call the director!" I hear you say. Well, it WAS the director who held that hand...

This hesitating pass happened three times during the session, so appeared to be a thing. Obviously we didn't say anything - as visitors you don't.

OK, another decision for you (without any unethically revealing passes). You hold 9 83 AQ62 JT9875. Your partner opens 1C, you respond 1D and your partner bids 1NT (15-16). Your bid.

We managed a top on this board with a marginally speculative 3NT. The 2H was led, which certainly helped, however even with a spade lead the hand has a lot of chances. Partner's hand was: KT74 AQJ5 9 KQ32. No-one else was in game: most were in a part score in clubs.

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