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  The next Play & Learn session is on Wednesday 14 November 9.20 for a 9.30 start.
Hand of the week 07 November 2018

Jump shift

The jump shift doesn't come up that often, but it's a handy way of ensuring that game is reached. This hand's a good example. 

With a shapely 18-count, North opens 1 and as soon as South responds knows that they're in some kind of game. The onus is on her, then, to make sure that they get there. 2 is out of the question: that would show an ordinary hand with (say) 11-15 points, and a weak South may simply pass. Edge that up to 3 instead and you've got the jump shift - an unconditional game force and the strongest 2nd bid opener can make after opening 1 of a suit. Job done - one way or another, you've guaranteed game.

What does South say now? 4 is it. Why? Two reasons.

  • First, the : North's 2nd bid guarantees 5 hearts, so you've found your major fit. No need to repeat your spades, then. If you've found a good place to be, don't look elsewhere!
  • And second, the 4: you're in a game-forcing situation. So with a weak hand (you have just 7 points) simply bid it. This is 'fast arrival' and means: 'OK, partner, you want to be in game. Here it is. Can we stop there, please?' [3, on the other hand, would show a stronger holding and an interest in a slam, but that's another topic.] 

And missing two aces and the trump King, 4 is exactly where you want to be.

What about the jump rebid, then?

An alternative 2nd bid for North would have been 3, which shows a decent 6-card suit and 16-18 points. It's certainly not 'wrong', but I prefer 3 for two reasons. One, it gives a better indication of your shape - in case NT is the best contract, for example. And two, 3 is not forcing: a weak South can pass it, and I think you're strong enough to force game.

The play ...

... turns out to be quite tricky, as you'll see if you look at the whole deal.

On the lead of the 9 from East, you might be tempted to win with the A and then lead the Q to discard one of your clubs. Oops - East ruffs! Or, if you win in hand, you might try the diamonds, intending to get a diamond ruff in dummy before clearing trumps. Oops again - the second round gets ruffed, this time by West.

It turns out that the safest play is to win the spade lead in hand and bang out A and another heart, giving West a trick with her K. They can make their two minor aces, and that's that.

In Box and Bath

In Box, 5 out of 6 NS pairs reached 4, making 9, 10 or 11 tricks. The other pair were in 3NT.

In Bath, it was a similar story: one pair was in 3NT, the others all in hearts, again making 9, 10 or 11 tricks. One pair got too excited and looked for a slam, stopping in 5, but that proved to be a trick too high and they went one off. 

Hand of the week 31 October 2018

Two finesses

Here's another NT declarer-play hand. You're North, declarer in 3NT, and East leads the 5. Two questions:

How do you play at trick 1? Why? (Come on, that's just one question really!)
Which suit do you attack next? Hearts or diamonds? Why? (ditto)

Question 1  Defenders usually prefer leading majors to minors vs NT contracts, so East surely has 5 clubs including an honour. That makes her odds-on favourite to hold the Q. So up with dummy's Jack – which holds!

Question 2  Counting your tricks, you now have 5 in the black suits (3 clubs and 2 spades), so you need a further 4. Hearts will provide 3 if you're lucky (2 if you're not), but diamonds will provide 4 if you're lucky, which is enough for your contract. So diamonds it is. 

Which raises a further question

How do you play the diamonds?

You should finesse. But not in the 'normal' way, hoping that East has the K – you're missing too many honours to try that. Instead, you lead a low diamond from dummy hoping that West holds the K. If the K appears and the diamonds are 3-2, you've just made your contract. (This finesse is just the same as the one in the previous HOTW What next?). If the K doesn't appear and your Q wins, lead another diamond, playing low from both hands. Now dummy has three diamond tricks.

Happily, the finesse works – West takes her K and returns a club, which you win in hand. Now you cash your Q and cross to dummy for a further 3 diamond tricks, throwing a heart and a spade from hand. Now let's see if we can get  some overtricks. It's time for our second finesse: lead the J. If the Q doesn't appear, cross your fingers and play low – this is a 'deep' finesse, hoping that West holds the Q. East has a quick ponder, then rises with the A, leading a third club, which you win.

And that's it. You cross to dummy with the A and lead a heart, trapping West's Q and making a delicious 11 tricks in all. 

Take a look at the whole deal - it's well worth dealing out the hand and seeing it unfold as you play it. You were lucky, of course, as BOTH of your finesses came off – but when the chance arises, you have to make sure you grab it!

A note on the auction

This is one of those sequences that is forcing to game on both players. North (with a 15-count) knows her partner has at least 10 points because of her 2 response; South knows that her partner has at least 15 points because of her NT rebid. So both players, aware that 15 + 10 = 25, must keep the auction going until game is reached.

In Box and Bath

Box players need to check out the note on the auction, above, as only one pair found 3NT. They need to brush up on their finesses, too, as no-one made more than 9 tricks in NT.

In Bath, 5 of the 8 NS pairs reached 3NT (though the other three, in 1NT, 2 and 3, also need to read the note on the auction above). They're canny finessers, too, making 9, 10 or (in 3 cases) 11 tricks.

Hand of the week 17 October 2018

What next?

Sitting North, you've ended up in 3NT and East leads the 3. Nice lead for you. (Why's that?  Because it gives you a 3rd diamond trick on a plate – without you having to guess which way to finesse.)

Clearly you're going to make your contract. You have 3 diamonds, 2 hearts, 3 spades (4 if the spades break 3-3) and the A – but this being pairs you want to make as many tricks as you can. Where are the overtricks going to come from?

Clearly from clubs, your only 8-card fit. And this being no trumps, you know that when you're setting up extra tricks that involve losing the lead – which setting up the clubs almost certainly will – you do it NOW, while you still have stops in the other suits. DON'T mess about banging out your AKQ in case the spades are 3-3. If they're not, you're going to end up giving away spade tricks later. Attack the clubs NOW.

So what's the best way of doing that? Missing the KJ you haven't got a finesse position – or have you? Yes, of course you have. You hope that West has the K and lead low from dummy towards your Q. And 50% of the time you'll have set up your clubs for the cost of just one trick. But you'll improve those odds by a few percent if you start by cashing your A. Why? Because if the K or J happens to be singleton in either opponent's hand it'll drop and you can force out the remaining honour using your 1098 – again for the loss of just one trick.

Let's try it. You lead your A and both opponents follow with low cards. Now a small one towards the Q ... West thinks for a while, then sighs and plays her K. You play low and East also follows suit. And that's it. The clubs are 3-2 and you have an extra 3 club tricks, giving you 12 tricks in all. Have a look at the whole deal. 

A note on the auction ...

This isn't a slam you want to be in. You could easily have had a diamond loser and two club losers. So the auction's spot on. With her partner announcing 15-16 points with her 1NT rebid, South knows that her balanced 15 count isn't enough for 6NT (which would normally require 33 points), so simply raises to game. 

Note also that it would be foolhardy for either East or West to enter the auction. East has nothing except for shape, and a vulnerable 2 overcall from West would be just asking for trouble - South will double it for penalties and it goes 4 off for -1100. Yuk. 

... and on the opening lead

The diamond isn't a great lead. Sure, you have 5, but when are you ever going to get the lead to cash any? The same goes for spades. Better to try to find your partner's suit instead – on the auction, she could have 10-12 points. Your singleton heart is a good option. Neither North nor South have bid hearts, so your partner is likely to have a fistful. On this deal it doesn't work out – but at least it doesn't give declarer that free trick in diamonds!

In Box and Bath

In Box, everyone was in 3NT and the four declarers made 9, 10, 11 and (very well done!) 12 tricks.

In Bath, almost everyone was in 3NT. Five made 12 tricks, a further three made 11 and two managed just 9 tricks.

   The previous featured hand – At the double – is now on the Defence Improvers' Page.   
Results
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Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
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Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
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Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
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Play & Learn
Director: Trevor
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Director: Trevor
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Calendar
Wed 14th Nov 2018
Play & Learn
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
Wed 21st Nov 2018
Play & Learn
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris
Wed 28th Nov 2018
Play & Learn
Director: Chris
Scorer: Chris