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Beginners Corner
Help! Help!

Imagine that North is the dealer and passes. East has a normal 1NT opening. And then South jumps in with a double. What does West do?

You remember that a double of 1NT shows that South means it! Doubles of no trump bids are for penalties, so it is a golden rule that West should try to minimise the damage, and with the weakest of all hands (he has a Yarborough) he must remove the double to something. Most people play 'system off' after a double, which means that 2♣ can be played as natural, rather than Stayman and other suit bids revert to natural. East will bid 2  and West, with some relief, can pass. Maybe that will be doubled as well, or maybe North South will find their game.

When this hand turned up at the club, North normally opened 1♠ , so East quietly passed but at one table North chose not to open, East opened 1NT, South doubled. West passed and North with a maximum pass from the first round was more than happy to pass and take the penalty. So poor East was stranded in 1NT*. It did not play well, leaving East with just one trick.

An intermediate hand . .

Contract 6 hearts by South   Opening lead ♣ J
This is a great slam although the tricks available are 11, 12 or 13.
To make 12 tricks you need the spade finesse to be correct or pick up the heart suit without a loser.  Get both right and you make 13 tricks, if both are wrong only 11. 

Can you guarantee making 12 tricks?

This hand deserves a little thought.

It all revolves around the trump suit.
I know 2 conflicting 'laws' concerning odds for this hand.
1)  With 8 or 10 (an even number, but probably NOT with 12!!!) cards in the suit you should finesse.
2)  An odd number of cards breaks evenly ( 5 = 3-2 ) and an even number of cards  breaks oddly ( 4 = 3-1)
If trumps are breaking 2-1 then cashing the AK is the simple answer.  But what if trumps are 3-0?  Which way to finesse?  Its obvious to start with one of the top trumps but the point of this hand is which one?

So, is there a danger hand?  If the heart finesse is wrong can one hand be forced to help you?

Forced to win trick 1 in dummy, the correct play is to lead the K at trick 2.
If West is void, you can take the marked finesse* through East, draw trumps and take the spade finesse at your leisure for a possible overtrick.

What if East is void?  Draw a second round of trumps with the ace and leave the queen outstanding.  Now enter dummy with a club  Providing this is not ruffed your slam is cold, irrespective of the ♠ K position.  Now you must play four rounds of diamonds.  If West ruffs at any stage he is forced to either lead a spade into the AQ or a club giving you a ruff and discard.  If he follows to four rounds of diamonds or refuses to ruff YOU can throw him in with the trump queen(!) forcing the same end play.

(* A 'marked finesse' is one that you know is going to work because an opponent has previously shown out of the suit. If West shows out of trumps on the first round then East is marked with the queen.)

The Bath Coup

West leads the K.  You are East, plan the defence.

East must contribute the J to the first trick.  If he fails to do so , West will assume that South is holding up with AJx (Bath Coup - see below) .  Reluctant to lose a trick unnecessarily, he may switch and lose the all-important tempo.

When partner leads the king against a NT contract, it is correct to play the jack if you have it.  The only exceptions are when the opening lead appears to be from a short suit, or when dummy's holding is such that, by wasting your jack, dummy's intermediate cards may be established.

The Bath Coup is as old as the game of Whist, which was very popular in England, and the name may be derived from city of Bath, which was once a favorite meeting place of the aristocracy. The coup is simply a hold-up of the Ace of any suit when the Jack of that suit is also in the control of the declarer. The following texample, which is a classic example for illustrating the Bath Coup, explains the reasoning. Every bridge player, at one time or another, has applied the Bath Coup, but may not have been aware that it actually has a name.

KQ1096       75

The player sitting West leads the King of any suit against the declarer, who holds the Ace and the Jack. Declarer realizes that West also has the Queen. In order to get two tricks in this suit, the Declarer will hold up once, waiting for West to lead the Queen. Declarer then gets two tricks.

What should I do after my partner opens a WJO?

There are not any ‘set responses’ to WJO as you need to bid according to what the opposition do, the vulnerability, who the opposition are and how good your partner (who will be playing the hand) is. It would be nice to promise two out of the top three honours aspartner will be leading the suit if on lead.  But life and bridge hands are not perfect!  So a lot of variables.  You need a clear agreement with your partner about methods.

A WJO has a 6-7 card suit and 6-11 HCP depending on the vulnerability.  Vulnerable against not would obviously be a poor time to bid with a very weak hand.  Etc.

The main value in the bid is not really a serious attempt to play the hand.  The book says ‘telling the whole story about a hand in one bid while throwing up a blockade against the oppositions bidding’.  The opening bidders partner often faces a bidding problem after a WJO.  If he makes his normal bid, but one level higher, he may easily be giving the wrong impression of the strength of his hand.  If he passes this could mean that the overcaller has achieved his object – to buy the contract cheaply.  Many players play ‘negative doubles’ against WJO.  The usual agreement is that the negative double shows a hand that would have responded with a natural bid at a lower level, but is not strong enough to make the bid at this higher level.  We sometimes call these doubles ‘Take out Doubles’.

The partner of a WJOer may have sufficient values to be interested in game.  A good agreement is to respond as to a weak-2 opening bid.   We can play OGUST (the same as after weak2 openers), 2NT asks partner how good the hand is by bidding 2NT. 

The replies are:- 3♣  – weak hand and weak suit
                             3  – weak hand and strong suit
                             3  – strong hand and weak suit
                             3♠   – strong hand and strong suit

Those of you who know the alphabet will be able to remember that hand comes before suit alphabetically!
Alternately you can use 2NT to ask the pre-emptor to indicate a singleton.  You cannot play both systems at the same time and must decide which you prefer and stick to it. Do not use a WJO in the pass-out position as there is no value.  You can use a jump overcall in this position to show a stronger hand, usually 6-cards, inviting partner to think about game.

Beginners corner part 1

West leads the ♠ K.  How should South plan the play?

South should win with the ♠ A, cash the A K and then play on diamonds, discarding a spade on the 3rd top diamond.  He ruffs a diamond, ruffs a spade and plays the 13th diamond throwing his last spade.  East can ruff this trick if he cares to, but South makes one spade, four hearts, one spade ruff and four diamonds (or five hearts and three diamonds).

It is often better to leave one master trump out, after all this would use up two of your small trumps which may be put to better use elsewhere.  Here you are also keeping control, timing is everything.  The third trump in dummy is the important entry to the established diamond.

If East had been put on lead with the Q at trick 4, he would quickly switch to a club.  West cashing two clubs and three spades not forgetting East's heart queen for 3 off.

Beginners corner part 2

West leads AKJ.  How should South plan the play?

South should ruff the 3rd round of diamonds and play AK and another heart, giving the opposition their trump trick at once. East wins and returns a spade, but declarer goes up with the ace, cashes the ♣ A and continues clubs discarding his two spade losers. He makes 5 hearts, 1 spade and 4 clubs.

The principle when you have a long, solid suit that you wish to cash but have no outside entries, you must remove the one sting the opposition may have to hurt you - their trumps. In the above hand, if South neglects to give East his Q, East will use it to trump the third round of clubs and the contract will fail.