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2017 Vanderbilt: The Perfect Hand

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Frank Nickell’s Team won the 2017 Vanderbilt Trophy over Richard Schwartz at spring Nationals in Kansas City.

Winners: Frank Nickell, Ralph Katz, Steve Weinstein, Robert Levin, Eric Rodwell, Jeff Meckstroth.

Runners up: Richard Schwartz, Daniel Korbel, Boye Brogeland, Espen Lindquist, David Gold, David Bakhshi.


Some years ago I wrote an article about the Take-Out Double where I quoted “The Perfect Hand” of Mike Lawrence; after 1 opening, Lawrence allowed the double with a minimum as:

♠A1094 6 K982 ♣K1094 [Mike Lawrence, The complete book on take-out doubles, Pg. 5, 1994, Magnus Books]. And in the course of the article I also wrote that, as it is obvious, the more the cards in the opening suit, the stronger must be the hand.


In semifinal, Nickell met Rosenthal. At deal 38th (out of sixty-four), the result was still tie, 78-78; but things had to change at deal 39th.

All vulnerable, Dealer North. The auction:


Jeff Meckstroth, in West, had these cards: ♠AQJ7  743  J  ♣J7653, and he responded 4♠.

A response 2♠ or 3♠ to East’s double was not necessarily shyness; after all, East might have entered the auction already counting West’s eight points; or, if opponents had more, and being vulnerable, they could have ran to game without lingering to seek for business doubles. It is not even sure that East would have four spades, because to play in 4-3 fit at level two isn’t a tragedy, after all. But there was a question which had to be given response to: why didn’t East wait that the smoke cleared? If East passed, and South passed over 2, West would have balanced more calmly. The answer can’t be but that East knew that West couldn’t have balanced at his turn; that is to say, East had the singleton in hearts (or void, but this is unlikely), and West now knows it. By this double, West “reads” in the partner an hand as perfect as Lawrence’s, but augmented of a trick – a king, fourth or with an ace – because the double has now come one step higher. Therefore he’ll be able to ruff diamonds’ partner and can see the double fit, spades and clubs. As it precisely was.

The complete hand:



Paolo Enrico Garrisi

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