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Welcome to Bridge @ Box
  The next Play & Learn session is on Wednesday 29 May 9.20 for a 9.30 start.
Hand of the week 22 May 2019

Lucky declarer!

I chose this hand for two reasons. One, it's dead easy to bid game, yet half the NS pairs missed it. And two, it's an example of luck being firmly in declarer's favour.

First, the auction. South's 1NT rebid shows a balanced 15-16 points (15-17 for some) so with 10 points, North knows immediately that game is on. It's just a question of whether it should be 4 (if partner has 3 hearts) or 3NT (if she doesn't). How to find out?

Well, many of us sophisticates at Bath BC use a device called Checkback Stayman, which is quite accessible and for which info exists if you're interested, but let's bypass that and just use simple Acol. With a weaker hand, North would just pass 1NT (2 being reserved for a weaker hand with six hearts). Here, with game known to be on, she just jumps to 3: 'Hey, partner, we're in game, but just in case you're interested I've got 5 hearts. You choose!' And with 3 hearts, South duly chooses 4. Doddle, eh? (It wouldn't be wrong simply to raise partner to 3NT, but when there's still a chance of a major fit, as here, it's usually best to check it out on the way. On this hand, hearts is definitely the place to be.)

Now take a look at the whole deal and we'll see how lucky declarer is ...

The play

It doesn't much matter what East leads. How many tricks are you going to make as declarer?

I make it 13: 5 heart tricks, 3 spades, 4 clubs and 1 diamond. So how come NS can make a grand slam with a balanced holding and only 25 points between them?

The answer is that all the coins have landed heads up. First, the heart finesse is right (and the hearts kindly split 3-2). Then the spade finesse is right. And then, joy of joys, the clubs split 3-3. *

How does it go? Let's say, just to make it harder, a diamond's led. Win with the A and finesse a heart. It wins. Back to hand with a spade finesse to the Q - which also works - and repeat the heart finesse. Now, retaining your A in dummy, start on the clubs. Cash the AK and ruff a third, dropping the Q and J (!). Now lead a 3rd trump, dropping East's K under your A - that's all the trumps gone - and cash your two remaining clubs, discarding that losing diamond and a little spade, and you have 13 tricks. 

In Box and Bath

In Box, two pairs reached 2 (see above) and the other two were in 3NT (going off) and 4. Those in hearts all made 10 tricks.

In Bath, 9 out of 10 pairs reached game, though only 3 bid 4, the other Norths (presumably deterred by their 'poor' hearts) preferring 3NT. Two of the 4 pairs made 13 tricks for a deserved shared top.


* The odds of both finesses being right AND the clubs being 3-3 are 50% x 50% x 36% = just 9%. It's actually less than that if you factor in the 3-2 heart split. Not a slam you want to be in, then!

Just checking

Oh my goodness – partner's opened and you've got 20 points: you're in slamland, surely? But in what denomination? Hearts, with luck. So you start with 1.

Partner's 2 rebid rules out hearts, so your thoughts turn to NT. How to find out if partner has a spade stop? I like 2, which is surely forcing. If partner has the spades stopped, she'll bid 2NT and if not (and if she's better than a minimum) she'll bid 2: the 4th suit, asking if you have the spades stopped.

As it happens, she now raises your diamonds: 3. What does this mean? Well, for a start, no spade stop. And probably a minimum opening hand (because she didn't bid the 4th suit). At least 4 diamonds and (therefore) at least 5 clubs. And fewer than 3 hearts. So possibly 2 little spades, then?

Whatever the details, the opposition look to have 9 good spades between them, so that's no trumps ruled out. We're back to clubs, then. But how many? We've surely got 11 tricks, but if partner's got a singleton or void in spades, the slam's on ... You choose!

Then take a look at the whole deal.

What happens?

If you stopped in 5, you're doing well, as NS have two top tricks in spades. On the other hand, if you went for 6 and South doesn't lead a spade, you're making an overtrick!

As it happens, 3NT does make but only because of a fluke: all of North's 4 spades outrank all of South's 5 spades, so NS can never make their 5th spade trick!

In Box and Bath

In Box, 4 of the 5 EW pairs stopped in 5, all making slams as no-one led a spade. One EW pair punted 3NT, which (as noted above) scrapes home.

In Bath, just two pairs punted the club slam, one making and one going off, but several pairs looked for the NT slam, stopping in 4NT – which of course is too high on a spade lead. Oops.


As Trevor will have mentioned, last week's hands came from the EBU's Ebed Sim Pairs. If you'd like to read the expert commentary on this hand (and all the others you played) click here.

Hand of the week 08 May 2019

Choices, choices ...

After two passes, your RH opponent opens a weak 1NT. What do you say with this holding? Pass? Double? 2? 3?

The first thing to notice is that they're going off in 1NT. At best, declarer will make the A and (say) 5 diamond tricks. After which you'll come back in with one of your major aces and take the rest. But if your partner has the A or some kind of stop in diamonds, they're going to be 3 off. This is pretty likely, as passed hands East and South have around 13 points between them.

Should you double for penalties, then? No. A weak East will surely 'wriggle' into a major suit, and given your major holdings they've got a good chance of having a major fit.

Pass, then? Well, it's not a bad option. You've got a good chance of earning 150 points (= 3 off) and Pass has the advantage of not scaring them off. To earn as much in clubs, you'd need to make a very unlikely 11 tricks ...

On the other hand, if East has a 5-card major (which is quite likely) she'll transfer her partner into it and their suit will outrank yours.

Perhaps bidding your suit is a better option after all. But NOT 2, please. Most partnerships use 2 as a conventional bid anyway (eg Landy, showing both majors), but even if you don't 2 isn't going to get you anywhere: East can simply overcall her major and you're outranked again! So if you're going to bid your suit, make it difficult for them: bid 3. Now a weak East will have to think very hard before bidding a flaccid 5-card major at the three level and you'll probably have won the auction. Will it make? Probably, yes: you have 8 certain tricks in your own hand, and your partner has probably got an Ace or King of her own for the 9th trick.

So I think it's a toss-up between Pass and 3, with the latter having an edge because of its preemptive value.

What happens?

Take a look at the whole deal. They're only making 4 tricks in NT, as you're going to take 6 clubs and the three other aces. And in clubs you're making the same 9 tricks, for 110.

BUT, as we suspected, East has 5 hearts and if you pass, double or bid a feeble 2, they're going to end up in hearts – in which suit they can make 8 tricks. So on this hand, 3♣ is the clear winner.

(Yes, I know, it says that North – but not South – can make 3NT. This is due to a number of flukes which compromises any opening lead by East, allowing North to force out the A safely. It's not a contract you want to be in!)

In Box and Bath

In Box, 4 of the 5 NS pairs were in 3, mostly making with overtricks. One EW pair went 2 off in 4, which would have cost a nasty 300 points if doubled.

In Bath it was much more complicated – and competitive – with many NS pairs going (or being forced) too high in clubs. One North punted 3NT, though, and made it for an absolute top.

   The previous featured hand – Ogust revisited – is now on the Using conventions Improvers' Page.   
Results
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Director: Trevor
Scorer: Trevor
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Scorer: Trevor
Kingswood 2019
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
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Calendar
Wed 29th May 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Trevor
Scorer: Trevor
Wed 5th Jun 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Trevor
Scorer: Trevor
Wed 12th Jun 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Trevor
Scorer: Trevor
Wed 19th Jun 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Trevor
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Wed 26th Jun 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
Wed 3rd Jul 2019
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Director: Chris
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Wed 10th Jul 2019
Play & Learn
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris