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The No Trump dictionary: a linguistic problem

Posted on 18 October 2010

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Neapolitan Club is working on a new treatment of Take-Out double (it will be soon published). In the translation from Italian to English a problem arose: the English language seems not to have the words to describe the kind of stopper in No Trump that not only stops the running suit, but also allows the avoidance, i.e. prevents an opponent from taking the lead. In Italy we call it “control”, but in English this word only has collocation in slam bidding, meaning ace or void, king or singleton.

We first looked the Official Encyclopaedia up. It says:
“STOPPER: A card which may reasonably be expected to or actually does stop the run of a suit…”.
As A, Kx, Qxx, Jxxx. The low cards that shield the honour from dropping are called “guards”, but at the entry “Guard” there’s something else:
“GUARD (or stopper): An honour holding in a particular suit which will or may prevent the opponents from running the suit…”. Then follows: “A Guard may be:
– Positive: A, KQ, QJ10, J1098
– Probable: KJx, K10x, QJx
– Possible: Qxx, J9xx
– Positional: Kx
– Partial: K, Qx, Jxx, 10xxx

This classification doesn’t help. When we try a 3NT contract, it comes mainly from two situations:
– we have strength enough, but we haven’t a major fit, or we have a weak one and/or both hands are balanced, without ruffing skill
– the strength wouldn’t be enough, but we have a tricks source as a long running minor suit.
In the first case the declarer has to concede the lead at least once, then he needs to stop twice the leading suit, as with AK, AQ, AJ10, KQ10, or he needs a single stopper that also could be held onto, avoiding the dangerous side from taking the lead.
In the second case, that of the long minor suit, all he needs is an arrest: A, Kx, QJx, Q9xx, J10xx. Note that the first one of these arrests is classified “Positive” in Encyclopaedia; the second is “Positional”, the third is “Probable”; the fourth and the fifth haven’t been classified. Nevertheless, all five satisfy the needing: held in declarer’s hand, they stop the run of the leading suit, so from now and hereinafter we’ll call it “Arrest”.
Suit combinations like Axx, AJx, KQx, KJ10, that are sure stoppers and also have probability of preventing an unwanted opponent from taking the lead, are “Avoiding Guard”. Because “Guard” isn’t used in everyday bridge language, we can omit “Avoiding”.
Last, we’ll use “stopper” as a generic name meaning arrest or guard, and partial stopper (or part-stopper) for suit combinations as Qx, Jxx, 10xxx.

Now let’s read the definitions by Bertrand Romanet, 1956 World champion:
“Guard [Control in his usage]: an high honour, almost always Ace or King, supported by spot cards which permit you to play it at the moment you find opportune. The three card Axx is the typical guard. The Guard is a defensive weapon but mobile, as against the Arrest, only static.”
We underline that the Guard is always made up of at least three cards.

“The arrest is a group of lower honours either in sequence: QJx or J109x, or distributed between the two hands: Qx-Jxx or J9x-10x. Like the guard it represents a trick in the opponents’ suit but a trick whose ‘favourable moment’ depends only on the opponents. The arrest then is essentially static. A singleton ace therefore is not a Guard but only an Arrest…” [From “Tutto il Bridge” – 1966 Mursia] .

Paolo Enrico Garrisi

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