EBU MP Ranking
Committee Minutes 17/10/17
AGM Minutes 16/05/17
Competition Winners 2016/17
A tricky hand for E/W to bid this week to the optimum contract. After South passes - hoping for a better hand on the next deal - West opens the obvious 1C and North makes a take-out double. East bids 1S and - with N/S then silent throughout - West has no clear rebid that describes the hand fully. 3C is an overbid and an upgrade to 1NT showing 15-16 is a possibility because of the extra club although most Wests would rebid a quiet 2C. East is then stuck as - similar to partner - no rebid shows the hand fully either. 3NT is wild with no stop in either red suit and I would favour the underbid but constructive game try of a 3C raise. West with the guarded King in both red suits should now essay 3NT in the hope that the clubs run for enough tricks.
If North makes a passive spade lead, declarer settles for six clubs and four spades for +430 otherwise on a red suit lead you make +460.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When in doubt make the underbid that is most helpful to partner so the opener can re-asses values rather than gamble on the final contract.
A delicate defence problem for E/W this week. Most players know to lead small from AKxxx with no guaranteed side-suit entry in the hope that the opposition are 3-3 in the suit and partner has a doubleton and a side-suit trick. This communication play happens more often than you think.
North opens a routine weak 1NT and with E/W silent throughout should bid 2C (Stayman) - 2D - 2NT - End. Many would not bid 2C but merely invite in NT because of the sterile 3433 shape. However the chance that partner is also 4333 is remote and if partner has four hearts then a doubleton opposite is significantly odds on. If partner responds 2H, you, of course, would have raised invitationally to 3H.
East has an obvious lead to a NT contract of S6 which runs to North's 10 and declarer plays DA and another setting up the diamond suit for four tricks. West thinks about switching to CJ but South wins this with CA and is able to knock out HA because the C9 prevents the defence from taking more than one trick in clubs. So West should continue partner's suit with S5. East should now duck declarer's SK to maintain contact with partner and South can take the diamond winners and lead HK but the defence can win HA straightaway and lead S4 to partner's SAxx to hold declarer to eight tricks and a 65% score.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Against a NT contract, when holding Axxx(x) in a suit consider ducking twice to ensure partner has one left to put you on lead to cash another one or two of the suit.
A merry Christmas to my few readers! A bidding problem for N/S this week that was not solved at my table. North has 11 hcp and a decent five card spade suit but it is nowhere near an opener 1st or 2nd in hand in my view as it has 7 1/2 losers and you need at most 7 losers and 3 controls for a one of a suit opener. East might open 3C third in hand Non-vul. but should make a disciplined pass also, The South hand is too strong for an opening 1NT and has many advocates for a 1H opener but I would open 1D as I would have no satisfactory rebid over a 2D response by partner. West also should make a disciplined pass and North bids the obvious 1S. East should make a 2C overcall to cramp the opposition bidding as you can rebid the clubs to show weakness over a positive bid by partner. This leaves South with only one bid . Note that 2D would suggest 5-4 in the red suits enabling partner to raise on 3 card support. A pass would show a minimum opener in the 12-14 range so a double should show 15+hcp unable to bid 2NT showing 17-18hcp and a good club holding and probably secondary spade support. If West passes, North should cue-bid 3C to show joint game values for N/S and South hvbids 3S raised to the 4S game by North. West should however bid 3C to cramp N/S and over this North has no option other than to jump to 4S.
A part-score battle for a change this week. East has a 4441 opener and starts with a routine 1C. On the South hand I would double rather than overcall 1D because although it only has eleven points they are all in controls and any major part-score has the potential to outscore a diamond contract. West is not quite worth a pre-emptive 3C in my opinion and should raise only to 2C and North has a poor suit and not a very good ten points. Vulnerable I would pass but Non-vul you have to compete with 2D. East probably bids 3C and South's 3D buys the contract.
A difficult hand for E/W to bid this week. After a routine pass from North, East opens 1D and South is too weak to bid diamonds. Over partner's 1H response - with N/S silent throughout - East has enough to force to game opposite a minimum response and jump shifts into 2S, showing in theory 19-20 hcp and 5D and 4S. West has a good holding in the fourth suit and thinks 3NT might be a viable contract but which suit will provide tricks? You have no fit for partner's long suit (diamonds) and if partner has a fit for hearts 4H will prove an easier contract. So you should bid 3H to show six hearts rather than NT or a fourth suit forcing 3C. If partner bids 3NT over this it is probably the best place to play. East has no problem in raising to the 4H game.
Quite a few E/Ws failed to bid the game on today's hand. South has a marginal opener, vulnerable but the S10 makes the hand just worth an opening 1S and this silences West who has a weak 1NT opener but not strong enough to bid 1NT and not the right shape to make a take-out double. North might raise to 2S if non-vulnerable but might lead to the dreaded -200 if partner goes on, so I think a pass is in order on the first round with a raise on the second round a possibility if 2S is a sufficient bid. Many East players would double as an initial bid but I think you are then not strong enough to mention your hearts, so a simple overcall of 2H is best in my opinion. South has nothing to add - a rebid of 2S should show six spades and a fair hand - and now West should cue-bid 2S. This is known as an unassuming cue-bid and shows strong support for partner, usually an opening hand with at least three card support for partner's major East is a near maximum for a simple overcall and so should jump to 4H.
Many E/W declarers had trouble with today's hand. After a routine sequence 1D - 1H - 2NT - 3S - 3NT, North probably leads HJ and South plays the King, as usual from a doubleton and declarer should duck and win the second heart. The point of the hand is that a club switch from North at any point endangers the contract if the King is with South, so you should try and avoid losing a trick to North until late in the play. The marginally best play .with A9x opposite K10xx for three tricks is (a) to lead low to the nine, then cash AK with (b) cashing AK and another, hoping for 3-3 or a doubleton J or Q not far behind. However, in this case it is necessary to use the avoidance principle and cash SA and lead S6 to the S10. South wins and cannot profitably attack clubs and so leads a diamond. West cashes AK and plays another but the club switch from North is now too late and you have 3 spades, 2 hearts, 3 diamonds and one club so you can now risk the club finesse for an overtrick but still settle for nine tricks when it fails.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Consider whether there is one hand you need to keep off lead and play accordingly.
A tricky hand for E/W this week in both the bidding and the play.
A difficult hand for N/S to bid this week. After routine passes by East and South and 1D from West, North has a good hand but no diamond holding and too strong for a strong 1NT overcall anyway and so starts with an (informatory) double. East has no reason to bid and South perforce bids 1S. West has no convenient bid, not being strong enough to reverse into 2H nor the strength to make a take-out double. The only bid that is forcing by North now is a cue-bid of 2D and the bid I would make as partner's one spade shows 0 to a poor 9hcp. A bid of 2C would only show 16+hcp and a bid of 3C would rule out a spade contract.. Over the 2D bid South should jump to 3S with 6+hcp or show a second suit but only bids 2S with the current hand and North should pass this having shown 19+hcp with the cue-bid.
An interesting hand for N/S to bid this week. North opens 1C and East at our table bid 1D although an intermediate 2D overcall causes South a real problem and South should pass rather than bid a forcing 2S or a negative double without four hearts. West also should pass with support but no inkling of any trick taking potential! North competes with 2S rather than a double although it is close as to what is the best rebid in the long run and South with good support raises straight to game. If East bids 1D only, South responds 1S and North, hoping South can set up the club suit, raises to game although an intermediate jump to 3S might be enough - I bid 4S at the table.
A few E/W pairs played today's combined 28hcp in a part score and many more went minus. After North opens a light but routine 1C, West with 12hcp and 4-3 in the majors has a normal informatory [ take-out ] double and South obviously has nothing to contribute. West has a hand that is going to bid game at least and should thus start with a cue-bid of 2C which shows at least opening strength and normally at leasst one four card major. With N/S then silent the bidding progresses 2H-2S-3D and West with extra strength and a good holding in clubs should prefer 3NT to 4S as 4S might be defeated by bad distribution whereas it seems probable that nine tricks will be easy as partner is likely to have a chunky heart holding as there can be little strength in the black suits. At teams scoring if you have hcp to spare you should consider playing in the relatively safe 3NT even if it costs the odd imp.
There is nothing to the play on the actual hand. North is likely to lead C6 in the hope that declarer has KJx and partner has at least two clubs and an entry to lead a second round to defeat the contract. The club lead merely adds to declarer's nine top tricks ( five spades, one heart and three diamonds)
TIP OF THE WEEK: At teams scoring overtricks are relatively unimportant - chalking up the game or slam bonuses are paramount so you should try and play in 3NT if you think nine tricks will be easy and the suit game depends on even breaks or no adverse ruffs.
A small slam hand this week - one of many on the night - and congratulations to the three pairs that bid the good 6D even though the optimum contract is 7D! (but not 6NT which requires a much more favourable club division)
E/W conceded defeat almost universally on today's hand allowing N/S an unwarranted +630. The bidding generally went - with E/W silent throughout - 1H-2D-2H-3NT. East led a MUD C7 (second highest from a poor suit of 3 or more plain cards) to the King and Ace and West played a second club to dummy's Jack. North, hoping for West to hold DKx, tried a diamond to the Queen, taken by East with the King. The unthinking defence now is to play a third club setting up your clubs with SA as entry but a much more powerful defence is to play partner for HQ. West must have length in hearts otherwise North would have investigated playing in hearts. South might try and duck the first roiund of hearts but West should overtake with HQ and play back the seven, East showing out. Declarer abandons the HA winner and tries the only chance of a spade to the King but East exits with a spade and West wins SQ and exits with a spade to no avail as West throws dummy in with HA to cash a fourth spade but concede the rest to West's hearts.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When dummy is shapely with the long suits breaking badly, try throwing the lead to dummy after the side-suits have been voided and thus starve declarer of winners in these side-suits.
Most N/S pairs failed to find the correct game on today's deal. South is too strong for a weak 1NT opener and thus opens 1C, West passes, North responds 1S and East has no reason to bid. South rebids 1NT to show 15-16hcp and less than four spades and with E/W silent throughout, what does North bid next?
A play problem this week for E/W pairs. Only one third of the field chalked up their vulnerable game. After three passes East opens 1C and South despite the favourable vulnerability should not overcall 1H as partner's lead of a top heart from Ax or Kx is likely to cost a trick. With N/S silent throughout E/W should bid 1S - 2NT (if 17-18hcp) - 3NT(as 8hcp opposite 17-18 means a combined 25-26hcp).
A difficult hand for N/S to bid this week. With East/West routinely passing throughout, South opens 1C and North responds 1S. Although South may have judged to make a pushy rebid of 3C over a red-suit response, you should underbid when you have a total misfit for partner, so 2C is the recommended rebid. Generally 7-4 hands should rebid in the long suit rather than the 4 card side-suit but in this instance, as the spades are very weak, North should bid 3H and pass were partner to bid 3NT. This would make if the clubs are 3-2 with the Queen with East but I would instead recommend a rebid of 4C to give partner a chance to rebid 4H if 5-5 or 6-5 in the majors. Note that after partner has responded 3H you would jump to 4s with three card support so a bid of 3S would only show two spades. North having shown strength in the bidding and knowing partner has only a singleton spade at best should probably pass 4C even though 5C actually makes. Note that if South wants to insist on playing in a game a fourth-suit forcing 4D is available, rather than the descriptive 4C. However, in general, if you have wild distribution, you should not expect a 3-2 trump break playing in your eight-card fit.
An apparently tricky hand for E/W to bid this week as many pairs played the hand in a part-score and a few went minus in the spade game. East has the choice of opening 1NT or 1S and I would opt for 1S as your hand is predominantly Kings rather than Queens and Jacks. West bids 2H whether South bids 2C or not and East perforce bids 2S - North has a woeful hand and should not support partner by bidding 3C. West has an obvious raise to 4S as partner has denied 3 card support by bidding 2S rather than 3H.
Only two N/S pairs achieved the optimum result on today's hand. North has a reasonable hand and could open 1C and rebid 1S but 4441 shape hands do not play very well unless you have a major suit fit and I recommend a pass first or second in hand - invariably partner struggles in a thin 3NT as you have no long suit to set up. South with 4-4 in the majors and 15-18hcp should open 1H intending to rebid in NT if partner does not respond in a major. Over partner's 1S response, however, with excellent controls (Aces and Kings) you should go straight to game.
Most E/W pairs failed to maximise their result on today's board. East has a choice of opening bids, viz. 1S or 1NT. I prefer 1S but you decide what suits your partnership! South also has a choice over 1S - an overcall of 2C or an intermediate jump overcall of 3C. I prefer 2C as Q10x in the right hand opponent's suit (spades) is not a good holding. Over 3C West probably stretches to bid a game-forcing 3H which East raises to 4H but over a 2H response, West should pass East's raise to 3H - remember 2H promises 5 hearts so three card support should be shown. Even if you make ten tricks you should score well but if you go off by bidding too high you are likely to obtain a very poor score.
An interesting hand for N/S to bid and play. South opens 1C and North responds 1S, E/W remaining silent throughout. South has to decide between 2C to show a minimum opener 11-14hcp or 2H to show reversing values of 15-17hcp. With the useful secondary spade fit I think it is right to upgrade the hand and bid 2H. North is slightly too strong to bid a direct 4H over 2H and temporises with 3D fourth suit forcing and over South's 3S bids 4H suggesting a hand worth a mild slam try which South with a bare minimum passes without further thought.
Sorry that there was no hand last week - I was on holiday.
Most N/S pairs had trouble with today's hand and did not end up with +630 - which seems fairly straightforward to me. North starts with the obvious 1H, East passes and South bids an obvious 1S which silences West. North is not strong enough to force to game with 3C as this should show 19+ hcp and five hearts. If a 1NT rebid shows 15-16 hcp, then the obvious bid now is 2NT showing 17-18 hcp. 3NT would show 19+hcp and possibly only 4 hearts but probably only a singleton spade (otherwise you might open 2NT rather than 1H). Some players play a wide-ranging 1NT of 15-17 or 15-18 hcp with a 2C enquiry to distinguish between lower range 15-16 and higher range 17-18 - denoted by a bid of 2NT or a jump rebid - which is a good idea but only if you and your partner both agree to play it! South with a good 7+hcp raises to 3NT as in this case or bids an inferentially forcing 3H - why would you want to play in a 4-3 fit rather than No trumps - showing 3 hearts precisely and offering a choice of games (3NT, 4H or 4S - opener can show 3 card spade support on the way to 3NT if partner only has four spades).
Four N/S pairs went minus on today's hand when the winning play was not difficult to find. South has a routine 2C(Acol) or 2D(Benji) opener and rebids 2NT over partner's relay response to show 23-24hcp. 4D by South should now be a slam try based on a six card suit, but with a combined holding of 33-34hcp you should not entertain a slam in a minor suit as if 6NT is making twelve tricks it will outscore the minor making thirteen. So you should just "punt" 6NT and hope that you can run enough tricks before the defence can take two.
I was dummy and watched my partner execute the play perfectly on today's "play" problem for E/W. West opens 2NT and East has no reason to bid anything other than 3NT even though double dummy you can make six of either minor. However you do not want to be in ten percent slams and if the cards lie normally, 3NT will outscore five of a minor even making an overtrick.
A competitive hand this week with points of interest for both N/S and E/W. After North and East have routinely passed, South has to decide whether to open 1C or 1S. I advocate 1S on hands that are 5-5 (or even 5-6) in the black suits intending to ignore the lesser scoring minor suit for that reason precisely. If you open 1C the bidding might get too high by the time you have to rebid. Also if you pass on this second round, having opened 1S, partner will expect you to have a five cards in the suit . Having opened 1C, if you get to rebid in spades partner will assume you have only four spades and you may not get a chance to rebid the spades (to show 5-5) at a convenient level. As West I would not make a take-out double with this hand because partner will expect you to only have four hearts and if you double and then bid hearts you should be showing a six-card suit and 15+hcp or possibly a chunky suit and even more hcp. So I would overcall 2H and North should show secondary support ( at least ) for partner by bidding 2S. Similarly East with decent heart support and a singleton should raise to 3H and South with decent distribution will probably essay 3S. If West passes now East should probably double for penalties but it is more likely that West will also fancy his distribution and have a crack at the heart game.
No-Trump bidding is generally a matter of arithmetic. If the combined partnership assets are 25-26hcp then you should contract for 3NT unless you have a 4-4 major suit fit. Sometimes the defence can set up five tricks before you can set up nine but in the long run following this policy will gain you a greater percenytage of the master points available.
The cornerstone of bidding is thus for one partner to limit their hand within 3hcp and the other partner to judge whether to (a) settle for a part-score (b) invite a game if they would like partner to bid it holding the top end of their announced range or (c) bid game if you only need partner to have the minimum of the range announced. The opener should be 12-14, 15-17, 18-20 or 21+ and the responder will be 6-8, 9-11. 12-14 etc. Some hands especially if distributional are obviously impossible to categorise but balanced hands are generally routine to bid! On today's deal, half the field languished in 1NT. After two passes by East and South, West with 15hcp, admittedly with poorish intermediates, should still be too strong to open a weak 1NT and should open 1D or 1S - according to preference. I prefer 1D as it keeps the bidding low and in rebidding 1NT over one of a major allows responder to invite game with exactly 9hcp - which you would pass! North has no bid and East should not bid 1NT - being in the 9-11hcp range - and thus bids 2C. West bids 2NT showing 15-16hcp and East bids the obvious game. Note that a 1NT response should show 6-8hcp and the only time that you should bid 1NT is if you have less than two cards in partner's opened suit.
Many E/W pairs had trouble with today's hand. After a pass by South, West opens a weak 1NT and North with a marginal opener has to decide whether to overcall 2H or not. It was clear in my mind to pass. When you have a marginal bid the quality of your suit should be paramount - do you really want partner to lead from Jx or Qx, say? East makes a transfer bid of 2H and over partner's 2S relay bids 3D. You should decide with your partner if this is a game-forcing sequence or merely forcing as far as 3S. If the latter, West, with a minimum 1NT opener, bids 3S and East with a opening hand bids 3NT - in case partner had had only two spades. West converts this to 4S as the 5-3 fit should produce a better score than 3NT.
It is often difficult to get to the right contract when the opponents open a weak 1NT, as in today's hand. West's double of South's 1NT generally shows 16+hcp or 15+hcp with a good lead or the expectation of at least seven tricks based on a running suit, e.g.AKQxxxx. There are two recommended rescue systems by North (a) redouble is a transfer to clubs, 2C/D/H are transfers to 2D/H/S and a pass expects partner to redouble (b) a redouble shows a one-suited hand and forces partner to bid 2C which you pass with clubs or convert to your suit and a bid of a suit shows the lower of two suits and 2C may be 4333. Although North has five spades the best action is to run to 2C and if 2C is doubled then retreat to 2S! Even if it is only a 4-2 fit you will probably concede less going off in 50s than doubled in 2S! When North redoubles any action by East should be to play with a long suit. So you pass for now and over South's forced 2C,West passes also without a penalty double of 2C and no significant extra values. Whether North passes or bids 2S, East should now cue bid the opposition's suit showing game values but not having a sufficient holding in the opposition's suit to be able to double for penalties. West now shows the four card major held and East raises to the 4H game.
The winning strategy at team-of-four bridge is slightly different from pairs competitions in that you get full value for the game & slam bonuses. Thus you should be bold in the bidding when you have found a fit. Also you should not worry about giving the opposition an overtrick or two if there is a fair chance of defeating an opposition contract. On today's hand, North should also consider playing in the minor suit game rather than 3NT even though at pairs scoring +600 would not be scoring many match points if the "room" was bidding 3NT and making ten tricks for +630!
A simple partscore for a change that most pairs had trouble with.
Dealer East; N/S Vul.:
Board 16 - Dealer West: E/W Vul.
Board 22 : Dealer East; E/W Vulnerable:
Dealer South; Love All:
Dealer North; Vul. Love All.
Dealer West ; E/W Vul.:
A fascinating deal involving a battle between the defenders and declarer which was won almost universally by the defence. Congratulations to the one declarer who made 3NT.
(1) Devalue hands with singleton A/K/Q/J or doubletons containing two of these honours or trebletons containing three - as they limit your options as declarer.
(2) As a defender try and work out what cards partner and declarer could hold and defend accordingly using the line " how would I play as declarer with such-and such"!
, A play hand for E/W this week, which many declarers struggled with.
Dealer West; Love All:
Dealer West; Game All
Dealer East; E/W Vulnerable
A tricky hand for N/S to evaluate - congratulations to half the field who bid the small slam and the two declarers who made the maximum thirteen tricks..
Board 12 - Dealer West; N/S Vulnerable:
Board 18; Dealer East; N/S Vul.:
Board 15: Dealer West; N/S Vul.:
Dealer West; E/W Vul.:
Board 12; Dealer West; N/S Vul.:
Although playing hands is the most fun generally, defence is a critical part of the pairs game. You have to decide early whether to play an "active" defence where you have to try and set up winners quickly or a "passive" defence where you attempt to not promote any extra winners by cashing winners, thus setting up late tricks for declarer. Unless the bidding suggests that there are long side-suits in either declarer's hand or dummy, it will pay in the long run to adopt the "passive" approach. So don't cash Aces or lead from unsupported honours if at all possible as you may lose your late tricks in a suit.
On today's hand, South opens 1H after three passes and West overcalls 1S and North jumps to 3H invitationally. East should not dredge up a 3S bid as, apart from being woefully weak, you do not want partner to lead a spade against the expected heart game. Note that if East had another spade and a singleton instead of one of the doubletons that would be a much better hand as you have a late entry- in trumps - to enjoy discards on the diamond suit after forcing out the oppositions high cards! South although having no shape has sufficient extra values to attempt the 4H game.
West is in the spotlight now and has to find a lead. A spade lead is poor as even if partner can ruff the third round it is likely that the trumps will have been drawn by then. Similarly a lead of DQ although it works to some extent on today's hand needs partner to have two diamond honours or one top honour and tbe trump Ace as well - very unlikely. So I would make the "passive" lead of a trump. Now, provided West does not rush in the Ace on the lead of a club and a spade from South, the defence will come to a spade, a diamond and ywo clubs to defeat the contract.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Try to avoid cashing Aces or leading from dangerous unsupported honours unless you can see declarer can set up side-suits for discards.
Dealer North; Game All:
Dealer North; Love All
Board 16 - Dealer West; E/W Vul.:
Most players build two-suited overcalls into their defensive armoury these days. The best scheme - I believe - is that a cue-bid over an opponents one-bid shows 5-5 in the other major and a minor over one of a major or both majors over one of a minor with a bid of "the unusual" 2NT showing the lowest two unbid suits.
There was a strange set of results on this board with only one E/W pair out of six defeating 3NT and only one pair finding the best contract of 4S with several pairs settling for a part-score of 3C!
Dealer North ; Love All: North opens 1C and East (although no action is ideal) should overcall 1D. Double is wrong as you have inadequate support if partner bids spades. It is South that bids 1S and North jump rebids to 2NT to show 17-18hcp and a diamond stopper as West has no reason to bid (and passes). South has just enough to continue with a forcing 3H showing 5-4 (else the first response would have been a take-out double) and North should now jump to 4S - a bid of 3S in this sequence should only show 2S and suggests responder should give in and settle for a part-score.
East has a difficult lead but should play safe with CJ despite it being the suit opened by North as any other lead is likely to help declarer. North wins CA and leads S8. Declarer needs split honours in trumps(SK & SQ in different hands, and probably 3-2) and also not losing more than one heart and one diamond. The defence, however, is stymied as they need to attack (a) the diamond entry to dummy if declarer has to ruff a club to set up the clubs if 4-2 and the 10 does not drop - unnecessary in this case as the CJ10 are doubleton and (b) also play three rounds of trumps to stop declarer possibly ruffing a heart loser in dummy. On the actual distribution the heart ruff is not necessary as East will not be able to ruff a club winner if two or three rounds of trumps have been played.
Although usually made, 3NT should go two down on D3 lead as West will eventually get in with SQ and lead a diamond through North's remaining honour to set up 4 diamond tricks for the defence. It does North no good to duck the first trick as East can then play 3 rounds of diamonds with HA as entry or even duck the second round so West can lead a third round when in with SQ!
TIP OF THE WEEK: A 5-3 or 4-4 major fit is more likely to score better than 3NT so you should generally explore for these fits after partner has rebid in NT.
North wins the spade lead and leads a diamond to the Q and Ace and West leads a second spade forcing dummy to ruff. A club to the Queen and Ace and East exits with a third spade. Declarer now cashes HAK and sets up a 4th round diamond winner by playing King and another and as the trumps break 3-2 (Phew!) must make a club, a trump and a diamond or a club and two trumps if the 4th round diamond winner is ruffed, for a total of nine tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: 4-4-4-1 hands do not generally develop a lot of tricks so 11 hcp hands should be passed in 1st or 2nd position but in 3rd or 4th hand they are tactically much better openers and you should consider opening them if you can show two of your suits cheaply.
A tricky hand for N/S to bid to the optimum contract. I failed at the table and played in 5D as did most pairs. As mentioned in several earlier columns when you have a 5-6 hand in the minimum 12-14 range I always open the higher ranking even if this is only a short suit so I can make an economical rebid in the lower suit. So 1D it is and over the 1S overcall, North bids a natural 3NT, I removed this to 5C and played in 5D after the minor preference from partner. Congratulations to the brave couple of pairs who played in 3NT and made a non-obvious ten tricks for a joint top.
Against the diamond game West should lead a trump to stop declarer ruffing club losers but no defence troubles South. After D AKJ(overtaking with DQ) you lead C8 to the 9,10, and Jack. After HJ to the Ace and C2 to CK , South ruffs a heart in hand and leads C4 and West either ducks and the 4 wins or the Ace is ruffed out and South's clubs are then all good. Swap the C9 and C3 and South has to go down as the trumps are 3-1.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Watch the spots when you have a long side suit that you would like to set up!
A very merry Christmas and new year to all my readers.
Dealer East; Game All: Only 4 pairs chalked up the spade game on today's deal and 5 pairs had a minus score. After 3 passes, North opens 1C and East bids 1D ( for the lead ) or possibly 2D if playing weak jump overcalls at any vulnerability - not my favourite method! Some players play a bid by South now shows five and a double shows at least one four card major but I prefer to ignore the opposition's double and bid what I would have bid if East had passed instead of bidding 1D, viz 1S. West with poor distribution and a poor holding in partner's suit should pass and North raises to 2S. There is no need to stretch and bid 3S as there is plenty of room for South to make a trial bid over 2S if game is possible. South makes a natural bid of 2NTto try for a game and North with extra distribution and top cards accepts and should jump to the 4S game.
West leads D4 and South wins DA over DQ and should cash SAK before leading a club to the King and Ace - hoping that the clubs were 2-2 and the 1D overcaller had CA - wrong on this occasion! West can lead a trump or a diamond which North ruffs but cannot prevent declarer from forcing out CQ and making eleven tricks on the fortunate trump position. It does West no good to duck the second club as the HAK provide entries to run the clubs after drawing a third round of trumps. Should the opposition be able to draw a third round of trumps you would need a favourable club set up.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Confirm with partner whether 1 of a major after a 1D overcall sows 4 or 5 cards
(2) Draw as many rounds of trumps as you can afford - don't let the opposition ruff from their shorter trump holding!
Dealer East; North/South Vul. Half the room managed a minus score on this board but if you play to set up the right suit there should be no problems. After a pass by East, South has not got 12hcp but has two decent five card suits and so should open 1S. West should make a take-out double to show the strength of the hand unless the partnership agreement is that the double shows four hearts. North is just about worth a splinter of 4C showing a singleton or void club and a good raise to 4S including four card support. South might then cue-bid 4D in case North is stronger and North 4H for the same reason, but South with nothing to spare then signs off in 4S.
The key to the play is to decide which suit to set up by ruffing to make late winners after drawing trumps. With both red kings missing, the likelihood is they are both with West, the opposition bidder, so you should play to set up the hearts expecting West to have HKxx(x). West probably will lead CA to have a look at dummy or a trump - a singleton trump is usually a bad lead as it might pick up partner's Qxx, but I expect most players would switch to a trump after looking at dummy and East plays Ace and another although any defence is futile. South wins in hand and finesses HQ and ruffs a heart(high) before crossing to S9 to draw the last trump and cash HA. If the hearts were 4-2 you intended to ruff a second round and ruff a club, draw the last trump and cash the remaining hearts before taking the (probably losing) diamond finesse but when the hearts are 3-3 you throw all four diamonds away and make eleven tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When you have a choice of suits to play on for tricks be influenced by the opposition bidding and plan the play through so you don't waste your entries too early..
Dealer East; E/W Vul.: Over 1NT by partner, as well as playing Red suit transfers, i.e 2D for 2H and 2H for 2S, you should have some method of transferring to 3 of a long minor. I recommend 2S to be played as BOTH a range enquiry AND a transfer to clubs, opener responding 2NT with a minimum - which responder can convert to 3C - to play - or 3C with a maximum 1NT - which responder can pass with long clubs. Should you - instead of a long minor - have 11-12 hcp, you obviously pass 2NT or bid 3NT over 3C showing a maximum 1NT. A good idea is to use 2NT similarly but showing diamonds instead of clubs. Responses to this bid are 3C with longer clubs than diamonds, otherwise 3D. With a long diamond hand you convert 3C to 3D - to play - or you can play in your partnership's longest minor should you have a weak hand that is 5-5 in the minors.
Dealer North; N/S Vul.: After a pass by North, East should open 2NT despite the 5422 shape, and West - in an uncontested auction - starts with a transfer bid of 3H. East completes the transfer with 3S. The only time you "break" this transfer is if you have 4 or more spades as even if partner has a near bust, the nine card fit should give you good chances of making game on a hand that partner would pass the 3S bid! West is too strong now to settle for game by bidding 3NT, but not strong enough to insist on a slam so bids a natural 4C, showing a second suit. It is a good idea to play both 4S and 4NT as sign-offs in this sequence and a bid of 4D or 4H as agreeing either of the black suits, 4NT then being Ace-asking. In the latter sequences, responder finally signs off in clubs at the game or slam level, allowing opener to pass or convert to spades if that was where the fit was. East, without three card spade support or 4 card club support and good stops in both red suits and a minimum 2NT makes the appropriate sign-off bid of 4NT and this should end the auction.
South leads a relatively safe C5 and declarer can count 9 top tricks with at least one more heart if declarer plays a heart from either hand and good prospects of extra tricks in diamonds and/or spades. If there were plenty of cross-entries then the best play of the diamond suit in isolation is to finesse the nine and then later finesse the ten. Similarly an immediate finesse of the 10 of spades would be the best percentage chance to run the spade suit if dummy had enough entries, but impractical on today's layout.. I would thus win CA and play DAK and another - hoping for 3-3 or a doubleton or singleton Q or J (discarding a heart from dummy). Then I can win the defence's club exit card and lead a heart to HK in order to set up a heart trick to go with four diamonds, four clubs and 3 spades to ensure making eleven tricks. If the defence do not take their HA you even have a chance of 12 tricks if the spades break after all or if the defender with the long spades has HA as the run of the diamonds will force a spade discard.
TIP OF THE WEEK: After a 2NT opener, bids at the four level in a new suit should suggest but not commit to bidding a slam - so you need to decide how to sign off with an unsuitable hand with no suit fit.
An underused bid that I noticed in our bidding armoury is the 1NT Overcall, many pairs preferring to make a take-out double to show strength instead.
Dealer N: Love All: After two passes, South opens a third-in-hand (and occasionally shaded) 1H. West should not consider any bid other than 1NT as a double suggests much better spades. Two small in a side-suit should be no bar to opening or overcalling 1NT as you can be run through in a single suit and still make your contract and obviously you cannot guarantee hcp everywhere all of the time if you bid 1NT! What you should agree with your partner is the range for the overcall and also what the responses mean. The range should be either 15-17hcp, or 16-18hcp or a "good" 15 to 18 hcp. Take your pick - all ranges are perfectly playable. As to responses, the easiest scheme to remember is to play exactly the same conventions as you play over a 1NT opener, eg 2C is Stayman, 2D/H are transfers and 2S is the range enquiry used by most pairs these days - or a transfer to clubs, etc. Note responder may exceptionally transfer into opener's suit, having six or more cards in that suit and wanting to play there, not minding the bad 4-1 trump break!. Over West's 1NT overcall, East has just enough to raise to the 3NT game - with one hcp less the range enquiry would be employed, asking if partner were maximum or minimum.
North either leads H5 or, more safely at pairs, SJ, leading to ten or nine tricks respectively without a sweat!
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Consider bidding 1NT instead of double when you fit the hcp range agreed with your partner and have a stop in the suit opened, preferably with at least three cards.
(2) Decide with partner what responses you are using to this bid.
Big distributional hands are difficult to bid especially when you don't have an immediate fit but when you do have a fit then you should bid them up to the limit!
Dealer West; E/W Vul.: West has an obvious 1S opener and North an obvious pass missing CAKQJ. East has a good hand but should not bid 3D to express slam interest as the diamond suit is not self-sufficient plus you have a misfit for partner's spades. Also it pays to go slowly on 6-4 hands as the secondary fit may not be found if the bidding gets too high too quickly, so 2D is the bid. South has nothing to contribute and West rebids 2H. Despite the shape, it is still a minimum opener and you should not jump to 4H. West cannot insist on a slam at this point and should explore further rather than settle for a safe 4H. With N/S silent, the bidding should then continue 3C (fourth suit forcing) - 4H to show the extra playing strength and East should then go straight to 6H which must have good chances.
North could lead any suit but my choice against the 6H slam would be the trump eight. Declarer cannot throw all dummy's diamonds away on partner's spades even if the spades played for six tricks - if South had SKx - so you should win H10 and first try the ruffing finesse in clubs, intending to discard D4 if CK is not covered. When South plays CA, you ruff, cross to DA, discard D10 on CQ and ruff a diamond with HK. Should North have a singleton diamond you can still set up the suit if both opponents follow to a trump to the HQ. If North has three trumps you abandon setting up the diamond suit, draw a third round of trumps and play SA followed by the ruffing spade finesse. discarding a diamond if North does not play SK. When the trumps are 2-2, however, you ruff a diamond, play SA, ruff a spade, ruff the diamond good and ruff a spade to cash the winning two diamonds. When North follows, you can simply cross to HQ, ruff the diamonds good with HJ and cross to HA to cash your winners for thirteen tricks. Congratulations to the only pair who made thirteen tricks and bid the small slam.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) It generally does not pay to jump the bidding in response to partner's opener to show 16+hcp if you have two suits or a weak 6 card suit.
(2) Don't be deflected from setting up your longest side-suit by superfluous honours (EG SQJ10) in another side-suit.
Dealer North; Love All: Most Wests failed to realise the potential of today's hand when partner opened a weak 2S, after routine passes by North and South. A conventional 2NT response enquires about the strength of the weak two opener. There are two reasonable methods in response to this enquiry (A) "Jacoby" after the USA expert, viz 3C = lower end of hcp(5-7), poorish suit, 3D=lower end & good suit, 3H= upper end of hcp(8-10), poorish suit, 3S = upper end & good suit, 3NT = AKQxxx, little outside (B) 3 of suit = minimum, 3 of new suit = feature, e.g. a King, 3NT= AKQxxx, little outside. The most popular method is (A) and evokes a rebid of 3S. West should now realise that either partner has SKQJ in which case there is no trump loser or SKQ when there may be a trump loser or not depending on an even break. If there is a trump loser the slam will still likely make if a key minor King is finessable and the suit can be set up with a ruff. It is true there are hands when the slam will fail where the trumps do not behave and the opponents do find the right blind lead. Note, however, that if partner has SKQ10xxx it is (slightly) odds on that you have no trump loser and even better if the Jack is held. Thus I would just punt 6S over the 3S rebid and expect it to have a reasonable chance. With clubs breaking normally 3-2 and the trumps splitting, thirteen tricks roll in.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) When you have all the Aces and the KQ of trumps there should be a reasonable play for a small slam if you have side-suit(s) to set up with a ruff.
(2) Check with partner what responses you play to the 2NT enquiry after a weak two opener.
A slam hand this week which only a few pairs managed to negotiate successfully.
A tricky hand for N/S to bid this week. Dealer West at Love All: After 3 passes South opens 2D (Benji Acol) to show the rock-crusher held and over the relay bid of 2H - North not being strong enough to make a positive of 3D showing a decent five card suit but at least 3 controls (A=2,K=1) - then bid a game forcing 3C showing an unbalanced hand wanting to play in at least a game. Note a rebid of 2NT would have shown all round stops and 23-4 hcp and a jump to 3NT would show even more hcp according to partnership agreement. Over 3C North bids 3D which at this stage just shows a diamond holding and South bids 3NT leaving it up to partner to pass or explore further. North with an Ace and a possible heart ruff bids a natural 4C inviting a slam in clubs. This must be forcing as North would pass 3NT with a weak hand. South with extra values should ask for Aces with 4NT and when partner owns up to one, which must be the DA, continues with 5NT to confirm that all the Aces and the KQ of clubs are held by the partnership as such inviting a grand slam. When North responds 6C - no Kings - South however signs off in 6NT being able to guarantee 12 tricks on normal club breaks. IF feeling optimistic, North might convert this to 7C but I would probably pass expecting a good score for making +990 or +1020.
The play is fairly easy - you cash CAK and when the Jack drops you can then decide which red suit finesse to take for an overtrick - if you had overbid to 7NT you should cash HAK to see if the HQ was doubleton and if not finesse the DQ for your 13th trick.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Don't go mad with a rock-crusher - show the type of hand you have via a game forcing 2D and an appropriate rebid and then leave it to partner to suggest a slam or not as the case may be.
A tricky hand for N/S to assess in the bidding but general principles in play should have resulted in a good score but hardly anyone achieved it.
Dealer N; Vul: N/S: North opens 1D and East has an opening hand but should not make a take-out double because another spade is necessary. Some players might overcall 2C but I would not advise it as the suit is not strong enough to suggest partner should lead one from any holding, so I would pass. South responds 1H and after West passes North rebids 1S - not being strong enough to bid more strongly at this stage. When South raises to 2S, however, after a pass by East, although it is not game-invitational - as 3S would be - it is not minimum either as opener's 1S bid is not forcing at all (in fact South should pass with a poorish minimum response). North could thus realise the potential of the long diamond suit and jump to game and, personally, I would go for it, but anyway making ten tricks in spades should give you a good score even if you settle for a spade part-score.
East should lead HA (or HK according to partnership style) and switch to a club - best is CQ as you are playing partner for a club high honour - to set up a trick in the suit (CQ36A). Although the lead now of CJ will set up C10, declarer's priority should be to set up North's side-suit, diamonds. General principles should make you consider the entry situation and plan through the entire play. Your basic plan should be to duck the first diamond so you can access the North hand by leading a second diamond and you should also cater for West trying to win this trick in order to weaken your trump holding by forcing you to ruff a heart. Thus the best plan is to cross to SQ, cash SA and then lead D9. If West covers with the 10 you play the Jack otherwise play low - even if West plays the DQ or DK ( as mentioned above - because you can then lead a second diamond from dummy to your Ace in order to ruff a third round if necessary). East wins the club continuation with CK and leads H2 but North ruffs, cashes DA, ruffs a diamond with S10 and leads C5 to SK to run the set up diamonds for the rest of the tricks. Although this seems an unlikely way to play the suits the general principles are correct - set up your side-suit, delay drawing trumps if the opposition can weaken your trump control, and duck the first round of a suit if it gives you an extra late entry to the hand you are trying to set up!
TIP OF THE WEEK: If declaring a suit contract, expect to be able to set up your side-suit on normal 3-2 breaks but consider ducking the first round of the suit.
Dealer North; Vul N/S. A few pairs managed a plus score on today's hand - more by luck than judgement I guess. The only winning auction seems to be 1D-End but some may have tried 3NT and were lucky not to have had C10 or C3 led. North should open 1D rather than1H ( normal on hands 15+ and 4-4 in the majors) because you don't know what to bid over a 2D response - you will never convince partner you haven't got 5 hearts. It is not recommended either that you open 2NT (or 2C rebidding 2NT) with a singleton Ace, despite holding 20hcp, unless you have a five card suit to hopefully run en route to nine tricks.
Hands that feature good defence, such as today's example, seem to occur rarely, especially in print! Most declarers made ten tricks on today's deal because the defence was not active enough.
Dealer East, E/W Vulnerable. East opens 1S and South might venture a lightish take-out double. West should make the normal bid of 1NT otherwise it might be difficult for partner to compete later for the part-score, which if partner has a near-minimum will be in the balance. Partner cannot bid freely if you might have a bust as the opposition will find it easier to double any further competition after the initial pass. North has nothing to contribute, as partner would expect more for a 2H bid than 4hcp and East should complete the auction with a highly encouraging jump rebid of 3S which West passes, only having a near-minimum response.
South has no trouble in selecting CA as a lead - the USA world champion Bobby Woolf has a favourite saying "When you are dealt an AK you don't have a lead problem"- and when North encourages with C7, South should plan ahead in the defence. Assuming partner is going to ruff the third club the next card led should be a Lavinthal Signal ( High for a high suit, viz. hearts and Low for a low suit, viz.diamonds.) Which suit should you ask for? You expect declarer to have a decent spade suit and be able to draw trumps quickly so you need to ask for a heart rather than the more obvious looking diamond to stop declarer being able to use the master CQ to ditch a loser after drawing trumps. The heart lead causes declarer to use up the only entry to dummy too early to enjoy a discard on CQ (which partner can ruff early on). Thus you lead C10 at trick 3 to ensure the HA entry to dummy is attacked before declarer is able to pull all the defence's trumps and the defence eventually come to H10 to hold declarer to nine tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) When you see a promising defence try to work through the later play in your head before playing on.
(2) Remember to keep account of the low cards that have been played on the first three rounds of a suit so that you can work out what low cards remain and thus whether it is partners highest card left or lowest.
A difficult hand for declarer this week for which I cannot suggest a certain solution, only pointers in the right direction!
When you think you are certain to go down in a contract, don't panic as the defence may have problems, too.
Dealer South; Game All: After two passes by South and West, North has a hand that most players would open 2C Benji and rebid 3C showing eight or nine playing tricks in clubs. South makes the natural positive response of 2H, showing a five card suit and generally at least three controls (A=2, K=1). South with nothing extra signs off in 3NT over 3C expecting it to be a doddle.
However, West leads S5 (and East plays the Jack), the defence thus attacking your weakest suit holding. Even so, you are still pretty confident counting 6 clubs, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds and 1 spade for eleven tricks. This tally sinks to eight when the West hand shows out on the second club - but it is not clear to West which suit(s) should be discarded and that is declarer's only hope now. If the hand with the long spades also stops the third round of both red suits then sufficient spades to beat the contract cannot be retained as well! West probably decides to discard S74 on dummy's CKQ. This is not best as discarding S107 is better as then it does not tell declarer how the spades are split between the defender's hand. Declarer should however just concede a club rather than hope for a miracle happening when HAK and DAK are cashed, ie HQJ or DQ drop doubleton. It is better to set up a ninth trick in clubs and hope that East has not dealt with five spades, which is likely if West has led from a five card holding. On the actual hand all the defence can take is three spades and one club to hold declarer to nine tricks. Half the field failed to make +600 or better.
Note that you cannot make the alternative game of 5C on the obvious lead of SQ because of the three apparent losers of a club, spade and a diamond. West, despite having control of both red suits, is discarding after dummy and cannot be squeezed as long as East is careful to retain the three diamonds dealt. This is so that you can beat North's third low diamond when West throws DQ in order to keeps the heart stop intact when dummy throws DJ on the last trump.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When in a seemingly hopeless contract, don't give up - work out what you need the opponents to hold.
The number of hcp required to open the bidding has gone down over the last five years and lots of players open hands I even nowadays pass. Although it is dubious tactics to routinely open 5431 ten or 11hcp hands because partner ends up in 3NT without a suit to run, third or fourth in hand openers may be tactical and on fewer than 12 hcp that we are taught is the minimum, especially if you have length in the highest ranking suit spades. However, 1st or 2nd in hand, I generally stick to 12hcp unless 5-5 in two suits or 6 cards in a suit when I would open a ten count provided it had at least one Ace and a King or 3 Kings. Today's hand is an example of what I regard is a mandatory opener, even though it is Board 13 - unlucky for some. I believe North should open 1C, East bids 1D and South makes a negative double to show 4-4 in the majors. West could redouble if this suggests partner should lead his suit against the final contract but I would not raise to 2D as I am vulnerable and have too many losers to possibly tempt partner to compete for the part-score with 3D. North rebids 2C over the redouble to show a minimum opener with six clubs. Assuming East passes, South can now make a jump cue-bid of 3D to suggest game values and a singleton or void in diamonds, inviting partner to bid 3NT with a double diamond stop or sign-off in four or five clubs. Note that as a five card major would have been bid at the one-level ( over the 1D overcall), responder's shape is practically certain to be 4-4-1-4. Knowing that at least 3 of the losing diamonds held can likely be ruffed in dummy should encourage North to punt 5C, which makes with ease. Even if CA is cashed and a diamond to the Ace is followed by a second trump declarer can still ruff two diamonds in dummy and throw one on the HJ.
Only two pairs out of 14 managed to make a game on today's deal. Dealer East; Game All: After an obvious pass by East, South has not enough hcp to open 1C and is short a club (only 6 instead of the 7 required to pre-empt vulnerable). So West opens a game-forcing Benji 2D. North should also pass rather than essay 2H as this is very dangerous, vulnerable, with only a 5 card suit and Easst should bid the negative response of 2H. Now some brave (or foolhardy) Souths will bid 3C to (a) suggest a club lead to partner and also to disrupt their opponents bidding methods. West bids an obvious 3NT hoping partner has a little something somewhere that produces a ninth trick. It is now a gamble for East whether to pass and hope partner has a long suit to run or bid 4S - after all partner must have at least one high picture in spades to bid 3NT. Transfers are not generally played or recommended after a 3NT rebid. I would come down in favour of bidding 4S but would not criticise a pass!
A rare situation in bidding, this week. My partner & I got it very wrong at the table, so beware misunderstandings in these rare sequences!. Dealer West; Game All: After a routine pass by West and 1NT by North, East intervenes with 2D (Aspro - named by the late great Terence Reese as it was designed to give the opposition a headache) - showing spades and another suit. South's options are now very limited. With a game-going hand you cannot bid 3C as partner will assume you are just competing for the part score and pass even with useful cards. As a double of a conventional bid should generally show the suit, the only forcing bid for South is thus a cue-bid of 3D. This should deny a reasonable diamond holding but opener should mention a four card heart suit - if held - on the way to 3NT but remove partner's 3NT bid - which would deny four hearts - to 4C without a diamond holding. So on the hand actually held, North signs off with 3NT and South hopes it is the best contract and passes. Twelve tricks roll in by taking the marked spade finesse.
Quite a few E/W pairs found difficulty with this hand. Dealer North; Game/All: With N/S silent throughout - South not being strong enough for a vulnerable overcall - East opens 1D and West responds 1S. East has the values for a 2NT rebid (17-18hcp) but with the black suits being weak, a "reverse" bid of 2H is called for, in this instance. Note that this shape should not preclude a 1NT or 2NT rebid but your doubletons should preferably be at least Kx. West raises invitationally to 3H and East adds a fourth because of the extra strength which may be useful.
The defence should probably start with two top clubs, forcing dummy to ruff in case declarer needs to make use of the long spades. As it is diamonds are a far better proposition for extra tricks than spades and you should reason that if the trumps behave you don't mind losing a trump and a club assuming that the diamond honours are split or North has both K & J (a 75% chance) With that plan in mind you should cash HAK at tricks 3 & 4, probably cash HJ when the Queen falls, cross to SK, and lead a diamond to the 10. Were it to win, you naturally cross to SA and lead D9 to JQ, cash DA and lead a 4th diamond if DK has not appeared. After losing to DJ, you ruff the club continuation with your last trump and cross to SA and lead D9 as before, picking up DK from North, making eleven tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (!) Decide what a "reverse" bid shows and whether it is forcing or not. My preference is that it is game-forcing after a 2-level response but not forcing after a one-level response - and limited to 15-poor18hcp with a jump to 3 being a good 18-20hcp.
When you get freaky deals there is no perfect way to bid them and you often make a complete mess of them - whether you are an experienced player or beginner.
Dealer West; N/S Vulnerable: After a routine pass by West, 2NT by North and a pass from East, South should use the rare response of 3S (also used after 2C/D- 2any-2NT) which is normally used to show 5S & 4H, game-forcing, expecting partner to choose the most appropriate game contract. Only a third of the field found the correct contract of 4H. Note that the sequence 2NT-3D-3H-3S is used to show 5H & 4S, game-forcing, and 2NT-3H-3S-4H is used to show 5/5 in the majors inviting partner to pass with longer hearts than spades or correct to 4S. Over 3S, North could suggest, with a cue-bid of 4C, that a suitable fit in one of the majors is held and that South should check on Aces with 4NT if a stronger hand is held. South, on today's hand, is obviously a bare minimum and so signs off with 4H which North should pass - with a heart fit - or correct to 4S ( if holding a a different hand with a spade fit). Note the concept that South has to sign off in hearts at the appropriate level (4,5, or 6) which North either passes or corrects to spades.
On a club lead - either the Jack from West or the King from East, declarer should consider whether to take the Ace or to duck! As the plan in 4H is to cash HAK to see if the Q drops doubleton, the correct technique is to duck the first trick. As mentioned in previous columns, if you anticipate the opposition to hold a master trump after drawing a couple of rounds you should then make them ruff one of your set-up winners rather than be able to win a side-suit trick and then draw two trumps for one by cashing the master trump. Hence the play of ducking the first trick is correct, followed by HAK, SAQ, club ruff, then SK throwing a diamond. Unfortunately, West ruffs in with HQ and cashes a diamond, allowing you to cross-ruff the remainder for ten tricks. If the spades were 3-3 or one hand had two spades and 2 trumps you would be able to throw your two losing diamonds on SK and the set up 4th(if 3-3) or 5th spade(if 4-2) after ruffing the suit good.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Decide exactly what a response of 3S to 2NT shows.
(2) Note that you could play 2NT-3S-3NT-4H as a slam invitation with 5-5 majors and 2NT-3H-3S-4H as a weaker 5-5 hand
(3) Look out for the situations where you should not allow the defence to draw two of your trumps for one of theirs. Either delay drawing all the trumps straightaway or duck the first trick.
A seemingly simple hand for E/W declarers this week that actually proved difficult since only five partnerships clocked up +450 in 4H or 5H ( when pushed by N/S bidding 4S).
Dealer East; N/S Vulnerable: East generally opened a weak two in hearts and South passed. West makes the 2NT Enquiry and a stubborn North interjects 3S despite the vulnerability as -500 is likely to score very poorly but you generally get away with a bid like this and you definitely would like a spade lead. Playing Jacoby responses to a 2NT enquiry ( 3C=min, poor suit, 3D=min, good suit, 3H= max, poor suit, 3S=max, good suit) it is a good idea to play a double of the overcalled suit as this response, viz a double of 3S should conventionally show max hcp and a good suit but otherwise pass with a minimum and bid with a maximum if it seems a good idea! South probably should raise the ante and bid 4S with some useful cards and West probably bids 5H more in hope than certainty that it will make as SK appears to be waste paper.
South leads S7 - no need to lead MUD as partner will expect 3 card support - and North wins and switches to the obvious suit (diamonds) with D6. Declarer assesses the 5H contract and judges that if the HK or CK are finessable there ought to be eleven tricks available but care should be taken to plan the whole play through. You seem to be able to ruff your losing spade in dummy and throw your third round diamond loser on CJ so you don't need to set up the clubs by ruffing the suit good - in this case you probably would need to save DA in dummy to enjoy the discards but as it is you win DA at trick 2 and run HJ. South wins HK and inconveniently leads DQ removing your second entry to hand - remember you now need the CK with South and you need to finesse it twice unless South has CKx. So you must now risk a club to the CJ before drawing the outstanding trumps. When it wins you cross to HA, noticing the trumps are 2-2. If they were 3-1 you have to draw a third round and hope the clubs are 3-2 so you can discard your losing spade and diamond on winning clubs. Instead, on the actual hand you can finesse in clubs, discard a diamond on CA and ruff a club back to hand in order to ruff a spade on the table. If the defence force you to ruff a spade at trick 3 you can cross back by drawing all the trumps, finessing CJ, and use the carefully preserved DK as entry to repeat the club finesse.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Decide how you cope with intervention after a weak two and 2NT enquiry.
(2) Befor commencing declarer play, work out how you anticipate the whole of the play to go so you can "time" the hand in the most efficient fashion.
Only a third of the N/S field on today's hand managed +450 so there were apparent difficulties in the bidding and the play. South usually opened 1H ( although I prefer 1NT, because of the lack of controls, viz. A's &K's, and the preponderance of Q's & J's). Although the suit lacks intermediates, at the table, I still rated the West hand an intermediate jump to 2S, showing 11-15 and six spades - N.B. if stronger you start with a double and bid your suit as cheaply as possible, in the expectation that partner is very weak! Now, a cue bid of 3S should show slam interest but this sequence is rarely discussed with partners although 1H-(1S)-3S is an obvious splinter bid showing a good raise to 4H with a singleton or void spade. East should bid 4S expecting it to be cheap despite the vulnerability. South passes to show a weak hand and North signs off in 5H, E/W mindful of the adverse vulnerability should not compete further.
West leads SK, ruffed in dummy. In situations like this playing HAK may clear the trumps if 2-2 but you should ask yourself what happens if there is a master trump out after two rounds and what the defence can do. Although if the diamonds played for five tricks you could prevail, the better plan in the long run on these types of hand is to delay drawing trumps until you have set up your side-suit winners, in this case clubs. If you lead a top club from dummy at trick two, you cannot lose the contract. At the table, declarer tried a club to the Queen after two rounds of trumps and I was able to win, draw dummy's last trump and we could then cash two spades. Note the difference if you haven't touched trumps. West cannot hurt you in any way - in he exits with a club, you win with CQ, ruff a spade, play HKA and throw your last spade on CJ.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (!) Decide if you play the cue-bid of 3S in the above sequence as a splinter, you can make a natural bid at the 3level (forcing to game) without heart support or make a sputnik double with around 9hcp and no fit, expecting to play in a part-score unless partner is strong.
(2) When there is possibly a third round trump winner for the defence, delay playing trumps until you have set up your side-suit winners.
Some interesting points, I think, on today's hand in both bidding and play.
Dealer North; E/W Vulnerable. After a routine pass by N and 1S from East, South has a decent hand but no ideal bid - 2C, 1NT or Pass? As I've commented before, minor suit contracts don't score very well at pairs scoring so I would prefer pass to a 2C overcall. Also, it pays at pairs to get busy when non-vul versus vul , so I actually chose 1NT - which as I have indicated is not a perfect description of your assets - you would prefer more strength in the opposition suit. West should now bid 2D which shows a longish suit, usually 6 cards, and about 6-9 hcp and is not forcing, denying 3 cards in partner's major. Remember if you have a secondary fit for partner's major you should not suggest playing in the minor instead as the scoring system favours the major suits. In this situation, after a strength-showing 1NT overcall by the opposition, if you have the normal hcp for a 2D response you should double, penalty-oriented, to show you expect to have the balance of strength. East, while having a sound 3S jump rebid over a normal 2D response, should now sign off with 2S as the misfit for partner's diamonds should indicate caution..
South, with no good lead, probably starts by cashing 2 top hearts. East should automatically play HQJ on these first two tricks, firstly, to try and imply shortage to inhibit the defence trying for a ruff on the third round of the suit and, secondly, to create a possible entry to dummy after trumps are gone, minimising the effect of the irritating diamond blockage. East then wins the diamond continuation in hand, with DQ, and then bashes out SAK hoping for a fortunate layout in the black suits. South can win SQ but cannot profitably attack clubs and needs to cash CA to avoid all of declarer's losers going away on the diamonds.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Don't overbid when you have a misfit for partner's suit.
(2) After a strong 1NT overcall bids are semi-constructive but not forcing and imply a misfit for partner's opened suit.
(3) A double of the 1NT overcall is best used for penalties, not for take-out . Note you need to alert this if you play it for take-out as all doubles of 1NT are assumed to be for penalties.
When you have a misfit for partner you should bail out in the bidding as soon as possible. True, if partner has the right cards, you might make a game but, in the long run, you are jeopardising a plus score by bidding on, and plus scores are the secret of winning pairs play. On today's hand, East has a good hand and is expecting to finish in a game contract but should start with a quiet 1S. South has a few points but no suit and therefore a pass is automatic and West makes the 'dustbin' bid of 1NT. This can be any shape with usually 6-8 hcp or 9 hcp with a singleton in partner's suit and no higher ranking four card suit. North has too many losers to mention the club suit held and should also pass. West's good hand has now become average because of the likely misfit for spades and should bid a quiet 2D. Over this, despite the diamond fit, the winning bid from West is now 2H showing a six or seven card suit . Note at teams scoring you should pass 2D playing for a safer plus. At pairs scoring, you take a calculated risk because nine tricks in hearts scores better than 10 tricks in diamonds. You are hoping for East to have a doubleton heart but the suit might split 3-3 if partner only has one! Now, although 3C, one off, is a good score for North, it is an even wilder gamble, and anyway East - with extra values and a singleton trump honour - should probably bid 3H.
North, with no attractive lead, is likely to start off with H10 to stop a possible ruff in dummy were East to be 5422 shape. When dummy plays HJ, South should duck, to make it more awkward for declarer to draw trumps. As declarer, when you have a combined seven trumps only it usually pays to set up your side suit first before touching trumps, so the best play - although you can make ten tricks double-dummy - is to concede two diamonds before you have to reduce your trump length in hand. Although it seems the wrong idea, I would start with DK from dummy at trick 2 and lead another from dummy when the defence puts you back on table with a black suit lead. You eventually get back to hand by ruffing your club winner in order to force out before the trump Ace, ruff another black suit lead and draw trumps before cashing two winning diamonds.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Try to stay as low as possible on hands without an apparent eight card fit.
(2) If you have a minor suit fit don't rule out playing in a long major.
(3) If in defence you have Axxx of trumps it is rarely right to win the first round of the suit and usually right to duck the first two rounds.
I was amazed at how many pairs made 3NT with overtricks on today's hand as it looks tricky to make even 9 tricks, West going off at our table. It looks right to me to get East to be declarer as both your major suit holdings are short. With N.S silent throughout, I would bid - playing with myself - West: 1S - not a good hand as the suit is poor but you can rebid 2D over 2C and 3H over 2H. East 2C (obvious) West 2D (obvious) East: 2H - fourth suit forcing - better than punting 3NT as if partner has no heart stop you want to play in a partscore - probably 4C West: 2NT - wishing you haven't opened the hand - but partner should pass this with 12hcp only East: 3NT.
North should lead SJ to K and A. If South leads S4, declarer does not need to duck this as if North has the rest of the spades the 8 stops the fifth round of the suit although if the spades were 4-3 it might be right to duck. I would win and test the clubs by cashing CA, crossing to DK to lead K and another club to set up 4 more winners, so I would come to ten tricks by way of 1S,1H,2D and 6C.
The right defence at trick 2 is thus not a spade but HJ attacking dummy's second entry before declarer can unblock the club suit. This should hold declarer to eight tricks. If declarer covers with HQ, to K and A, crosses to CA, and leads a diamond towards the K10x, North must play DJ to stop declarer finessing D10. Even if West continues with CK and another, discarding DA to set up a entry with D10 for the clubs, the defence will have at least five tricks before declarer can get at his nine set-up tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Don't woodenly return partner's suit if you can attack declarer's entries to a long suit.
Dealer East; Game All: After a pass by East, South has a routine 1NT and West has a poorish hand but a spade suit that deserves a mention. However, bidding 2S, vulnerable when North is as yet unlimited is very dangerous and would concede 500 if doubled and that is only cheap if the room bids and makes a game. On the actual night only 3 pairs bid a game so my recommendation of a pass as the correct bid would have worked! North should make a transfer bid of 2D and over the relay of 2H should bid a natural, invitational, 2NT. South has a near maximum with 13hcp plus a ten in a working combination so should jump to 4H.
West has no safe lead and would normally lead S10 as the lesser of evils ( unless you and your partner have agreed to lead the 9 from this combination). The reason for leading the 10 rather than fourth highest is because partner may have Qx(x) and dummy Jxx as here so the defence does not give declarer a chance of a second spade trick by leading towards the Jack if the first trick has gone QA. East takes the SA and plays another and West plays a third round as the Jack is now the boss card in spades. Although West knows that declarer will overruff, at least declarer cannot then draw trumps and then discard a loser on this card. Declarer now draws trumps in two rounds and leads C9 and runs it to CQ. West exits with DQ which declarer should win with DK and finesse CJ. When that holds, you can cash CA, throwing dummy's losing diamond and the rest of the trumps makes ten tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Holding a six card major you should be very sound if vulnerable to overcall 1NT in second position
Dealer North; N/S Vul.: North will open 1NT- as I did - although with trepidation, as an Aceless 12 count is likely to go for a bundle if partner is very weak. However, it is pairs scoring and you win match points by making bidding awkward for your opponents. On today's hand very few pairs bid the obvious game. East has not got the hcp to double - usually 15+ hcp ( assuming a reasonable suit to lead ) and either overcalls 2S natural or a conventional bid - such as ASTRO - where a 2D bid shows spades and another suit. Over a natural bid of 2S I think a bid of 3H should be constructive, ie showing 11+hcp but not forcing so you should not bid that here. I recommend that you just take the bull by the horns and bid a direct 3NT. Over an ASTRO or equivalent bid a 2NT response is not usually played as natural but instead asking partner to show which side-suit is held. In this case you should thus bid 2NT in case the side-suit is hearts intending to raise to game if it is or otherwise bid 3NT.
There is nothing much to the play of the hand. North has an unenviable lead problem and probably leads a club intermediate honour. West wins, tests the diamonds with DKA to ensure they are breaking 3-2 and when they do plays SAK9 which sets up overtricks if the spades are 3-3 or if either defender has a doubleton QJ, J10 or Q10.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) When you have good values, take the pressure off partner and punt the most likely game rather than making a bid that can be passed.
(2) Confirm with your partner if you are playing a two-suited defence to a weak 1NT opener and how you respond, eg to 2D (showing S & another), 2S is weak to play, 3S is invitational, 2NT enquires, and 2H is to play if your suit is hearts - over 2H 2S shows 5S and a minor suit and then 3C is pass with clubs otherwise convert to 3D.
Dealer East; N/S Vul. A small slam this week missed by all the N/S pairs - the optimistic ones must have been sitting E/W! After a pass from East , South, with 23hcp, opens a 2D Benji game-force and North should bid the relay of 2H when West passes. With E/W silent, North/South could bid 3C or 2NT but 3C describes the hand better as you need very little opposite to make a slam if you have a fit in one of the minors as you have 10 of the twelve "Controls" that are in the pack. North should bid 3S and over South's sign off of 3NT should admit to club support via a natural b id of 4C and after cue-bids of 4D and 4S, South could punt the 6C small slam.
West should probably attack with a heart lead hoping partner has HA or K and that DK is the setting trick but South only needs a 2-2 trump break or CQ singleton - just over 50%, winning HA, drawing trumps in 3 rounds, cashing SA and cashing DA and conceding one, therafter ruffing a third diamond and throwing a heart and the fourth diamond on SKQ.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When partner has shown game in his own hand if you have potentially two tricks don't let partner be disappointed in 3NT when you have a primary fit ( four cards ) for his suit.
To get better at this game you have to make good decisions when you have a choice of actions and you have to gain and learn from experience as to when to not follow the usual actions, as per today's hand.
Dealer South; Love All: After two passes, North has 19hcp and the normal bid playing Benji Acol is 2NT (or 2C rebidding 2NT) whichever bid you and your partner play as 19-20hcp. However, this bid should be a "good" 19 or 20hcp as partner is likely to take action with 4hcp. On this hand you have no five card suit, no 10s in honour combinations and unsupported Queens are not a good asset. I would open 1D rather than 1S as you do not know what to bid over a 2D or 1NT response if you open 1S. After East passes South bids 2D which shows no 4 card major as it is important at pairs to play in the higher scoring major if you have a fit in both a minor and a major. West might bid 2H - for the lead, as the opposition are likely to win the auction, but partner might expect more playing strength, so I expect most players to pass. North now knows that the defenders have eight or more hearts between them and this observation should rule out a rebid of 3NT - the bid you would naturally make if partner had responded 1H! The way forward should be to bid 2S showing a spade holding but denying a heart holding as you have not bid 2H! This bid shows the values for at least 2NT and responder should bid 2NT with 6-7hcp and a suitable 3 card heart holding and 3NT with 8-9hcp and a suitable heart holding. When South cannot oblige - and bids 3D - North should pass and play for a plus score in the diamond part-score.
There is not much to the play - East will lead HJ and when West cashes HAK, declarer knows that East has the spade Ace ( otherwise West would probably have opened the bidding or certainly have bid 2H ), and so after drawing trumps, North will lead a spade to the King and run the 10 on the way back hoping for Ax or Axx with East.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Don't necessarily open 1NT or 2NT because you have the required hcp if otherwise the hand is featureless.
N.B. Next week's hand will be late on the web-site as I am away for all of Easter week.
A bidding problem hand for E/W this week in which less than half the field made a game score. Dealer East; E/W Vul.: After two passes, West has a routine 1C opener which should silence North - not being strong enough for a 1NT overcall- and East responds 1D. South might be tempted to overcall 1NT, the "Unusual No-Trump" showing the lowest two unbid suits, in this case both majors. This manoeuvre is, however, not recommended as it is extremely unlikely - because of South's poor hand - that N/S will declare the final contract and then it might cause partner to make a disastrous spade lead. After South passes, West should jump to 3D to show c 15-17hcp and 4 card diamond support, not forcing but highly encouraging. Over this East should realise than making nine tricks in no-trumps would be easier than making eleven in diamonds and bids 3S showing a spade stop, inviting West to bid 3NT with a suitable heart holding. Therefore 3NT becomes the final contract.
Dealer East; Love All: Pairs playing Benji Acol will not open 1S on the East hand but either open 2NT or 2C rebidding 2NT(note not 2S), whichever version shows 19-20 balanced or semi-balanced. West should bid a transfer bid of 3D and over the relay of 3H should bid 3NT despite the good suit which suggests opener should remove to 4H with three card support, even if 4-3-3-3 as responder has a doubleton and possibly a singleton somewhere in the hand. Note that a 3-3 break in hearts is against the odds and if the suit is 3-3 there will be ready tricks in NT and if not there may be alternative suits to develop for extra tricks.
South should not lead a fourth highest club because dummy might have say CJxx and declarer CA8, in which case you present declarer with a second trick in the suit as partner has to play CQ to stop declarer winning a trick cheaply. The traditional lead from this combination is C10, although some play the C9 promises no higher honour or the 10 plus A,K or Q, which is a useful idea as you know not to waste say the king from Kx if partner leads the Jack as you then know that declarer has AQ. North contributes the CQ on the lead as the Jack is now marked with declarer. At teams scoring you might consider ducking two rounds in the hope that South did not have the DA but at pairs you win CA and hope that South has DA and your CJ is not exposed to a lead from North or that North has CKQ when you have two stops by force. Rather than develop extra undertricks if the opponents cards lie badly you should not test the majors hoping for the unlikely 3-3 breaks but start by playing diamonds until the Ace is taken. As East has shown 19-20hcp and you and dummy have 18 between you North can have at most HJ to go with the CQ already shown! so you know that declarer has ten top tricks and South should give declarer no help. If declarer had, exceptionally, HA singleton, it would have been cashed before leading diamonds so a heart lead is safe provided partner withholds the HJ. So South should win the third diamond and lead a heart although it does not really matter if South wins an earlier diamond and (safely) exits with a diamond. Declarer runs three hearts and the thirteenth diamond and can make eleven tricks by discarding down to CJ SAKQ9 and then cashing SAK and exiting with CJ to South's CK, forcing a spade lead from SJ7 into East's SQ9.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Do not rule out 3NT when holding a five card major only when partner opens 2NT, or rebids 2NT, even if you have a second suit.
Dealer North; N/S vulnerable: Only a third of the E/Ws on this hand chalked up +420 for the 4H game. The bidding has some points of interest. With N/S silent throughout, East starts with 1C and West responds 1H. Note that there is no point bidding 1D as you have found a minor suit fit in clubs and intend to raise or jump support them on the next round. A major suit fit scores better and requires one trick less so you hope partner has a fit in your suit. When partner raises to 2H, this may be only 3 card support, so a new suit would be a trial bid with 5+ hearts. So, the only thing you can do is make a natural try for game with a 3C raise but partner with decent shape and a non-minimum opener jumps to the 4H game.
Dealer South; Vul.: E/W: South and West have obvious passes but North may be tempted to bid owing to the favourable vulnerability and being third in hand - when you don't promise a rebid because you know partner has not got the values to open the bidding! My advice, however, is to pass, in this instance, because bidding bad suits when you have the combined minority of hcp is in the long run a very bad idea. Partner usually has an honour doubleton and the lead is likely to cost your side a trick if not the contract! Some North players would open a weak two with impunity, but I wouldn't! East has a high hcp but three of them may be wasted in the HK being singleton. I would open 1C rather than 1D or 1S because as here it helps partner to have all the bidding space at the one level to describe any assets held. If partner responds 1H I would bid 2NT to show 17-18hcp but over 1D you have a problem - choose between 1S, 2S and 3D. I would bid 1S only and hope to get another chance to show my strength later but agree it is a risk but so is getting too high. With N/S silent throughout, West responds 2C which should show less than 4 cards in both major suits. East should now continue with 2D. This shows the values for a 2NT rebid, viz 17-18hcp but not all the 3 remaining suits stopped (otherwise you would have bid 2NT straightaway) and also that 2D is the cheapest suit that you do have stopped. Without a diamond stop, you would bid 2H if that suit was stopped, and so on. When West bids 2H over 2D to show a stop, East can bid 3NT if feeling optimistic or 2NT (preferred) to give partner the chance to retreat to 3C if holding a minimum response of 5-6hcp. West, however, can count 24-25 combined plus a couple of tens which may be useful, so essays 3NT.
As mentioned last week bidding marginal slams at pairs is not to be recommended as good strategy for winning more masterpoints but at teams you get full value in terms of IMPs for bidding to the limit. On today's hand the winners and all but three teams failed miserably to bid the rock-solid slam, our auction being a lazy 1H-1S-2C-3NT!
Dealer East; Game All. +680 would have been a top on today's board which just proves that at pairs you don't have to bid marginal slams that are not being bid all round the room just on power alone. After East passes, South has a flat hand in the range for a Benji 2C opener, rebidding 2NT showing 21-22hcp. Some would open 2D because of the exceptional controls , viz 9 with K=1 & A=2, but because of the lack of a 5 card suit and the spade honours being in a short suit - its a better hand if honours are in a long suit so that it can be developed - I think the former treatment is right. West is too weak to mention clubs vulnerable at the 3 level, so E/W are silent throughout. North is not quite strong enough to make a positive response of 2S, so relays with 2D over 2C. Most North's these days use a 3S bid to show 5+S & 4H, forcing to game. Note that with 5+H & 4S you can transfer with 3D and bid 3S over the relay to offer partner a similar choice of games between either major or 3NT. South should cue bid 4C, the cheapest first round control to suggest a slam because of having a good fit for one of the majors if North had a better shape and at teams it is arguable that North should accept the slam try, but at pairs, the "play is the thing" and North should sign off in 4H, which South would convert to 4S with a fit for spades and not hearts.
I agree with my partner (North) 's slightly unconventional action on this week's featured deal, but a few pairs managed to get overboard - one successfully making 4S - but the others going one light!
At pairs, every trick is important, which is why it was a surprise to me that only 2 pairs made the routine eleven tricks on today's deal. It is a similar theme to last week's deal where you shouldn't get side-tracked by extra values that are not needed - in this case in diamonds.
A tricky hand for N/S to bid and apparently to play as no declarer managed to take the eleven tricks available in clubs.
A Happy New Year to both of my regular readers and to all the others who dip into this slot on occasions. Today's hand has interest for N/S in both bidding and play, I think.
Dealer East; N/S Vul.: After East passes, South has a routine 1H opener, and North a routine 2C response after a pass by West. With E/W silent throughout, South has a rebid problem, whether to bid 2S ( a reverse showing 15+hcp and at least 5/4 in H/S) or 3H or 2H. Personally, I think 2H is enough despite the good loser count because of the misfit for partner's clubs and the lack of intermediates in the heart suit. Over this North has a close decision whether to bid 2NT or 3NT - I would again choose the "sound" 2NT bid because of the misfit for hearts and South should close matters with a jump to 4H. There is no point in bidding 3S as North would have continued with 2S instead of 2NT if four spades (and therefore longer clubs were held).
West has a choice of leads S10 or D7(MUD, from a bad suit). If South had bid spades, the D7 is the preferred option and East should play low on the DJ from dummy as there is nothing to be gained by "wasting" your DK. Although it is irrelevant on this hand, you give declarer a chance of 3 diamond tricks - declarer can finesse partner's D10 if necessary. Declarer wins SK(or DJ) in dummy and leads H9 to HQ. If this had won, you would naturally continue with H2, hoping that East had started with HAx, but if the hearts are 3-3 another round will crash the remaining heart honours together. On the actual hand you merely lose 3 trump tricks to chalk up +620.
Some pairs were in 4S by South on the D7 lead. You win with DJ and lead H9 to HQ and Ace and West belatedly leads a trump. South should win with SK and SAJ in hand yields ten tricks. Note that you must not play for a heart ruff early as this enables West to discard a club and thus able to overruff the second round of clubs!
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) It pays to underbid rather than overbid if you misfit partner's first bid suit.
(2) When planning a cross-ruff, take care to not take ruffs that enable defenders to make a discard that threatens an overruff.
Not one from Castle Morpeth, but one from 77 years ago, played in 1937, aged 15 years, by the ex-English International Tony Priday who died last October, aged 92 years. I saw him play ( with Claude Rodrigue ) at the only Camrose ( Home nations international ) match held in Newcastle, at the Station Hotel in the early seventies.
West led the King of clubs and East overtook with CA, hoping to switch to hearts but Priday ruffed with D6 and played D7 to DA, discovering the bad news in trumps. Now came Priday's masterplay - CJ discarding a spade ( although SAK first, then the CJ would have been better ). Now SAK and a ruff, followed by losing DJ to DQ, and then winning the heart switch with HA in order to lead the carefully preserved D2 over to D4 to enable him to ditch HQ7 on the S95.
And if East had not overtaken the club at trick one, he said he would have thrown S2 and played the same way!
A merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to both of my regular readers!
Only half the field made the normal 3NT on today's deal, which was not difficult to bid or make but I think illustrates some important points of play.
Dealer South; N/S Vulnerable: South opens 1C, West wishes the hand was over quickly and North responds 1S, following the usual practice of bidding the higher ranking suit if 5-5 ( but N.B. the lower if you are 4-4 only). East has not got a great 2H overcall with two "windy"(i.e. unsupported by any other honour) queens but should probably with 12hcp get in the bidding in case partner has a good fit for hearts and some distribution. South should bid 2NT only - the 2NT in this position should be equivalent to 17-18 as partner has not shown more than 6hcp with the simple 1S response. Note that with 15-16 only you should double to show the balance of the hcp. West has an obvious pass and North should bid a forcing 3D to express doubt that 3NT is the right game but South with better hearts than North might expect, bids the 3NT game.
West leads H10 and East should duck the HA to hold declarer to 2 heart tricks and not give up three! Declarer has to decide how to develop tricks and to decide when to unblock the SK and which suit to play on. Normally it would be right to develop your best combined holding, viz diamonds but a closer look at your assets tells you that diamonds is the suit that has the cross-entries - you need DA to be able to cash SA and you need DK as entries to the club/heart winners when the Aces have been dislodged. So it is right to lead CK at trick 2, your plan being to concede two tricks to the CA & CJ to set up the nine or the 95 on a normal 4-3 break (or hope the CJ falls doubleton). East wins CA and exits with the lowest spade hopefully telling partner to continue the suit when in with CJ. Declarer wins this with SA, rejecting the possibility of the finesse which would risk the contract on a different spade distribution and then lead the last heart to set up a ninth trick. The defence can then cash only one spade to go with two clubs and HA to hold declarer to nine tricks although a few declarers were given ten for a joint top.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) With both majors respond to partner's one of a minor with 1H with 4-4 but 1S with 5-5 (otherwise bid your 5 card suit with 5/4).
(2) Consider the entry situation before deciding whether to play on your longest fit to set up additional tricks.
A routine hand this week with some interest in the play.
An interesting hand, I think, where the auction will be vastly different at several tables.
Dealer East; Love All: East opens routinely with 1H and this should silence South who is not quite strong enough to overcall 1NT. West and North might then pass and East should be held to 4 tricks, the three Aces and one club ruff only, provided North switches to a trump to stop East making a second low trump. As West, however, I think you should bid 1NT which is the dustbin bid of bridge and is not necessarily balanced - you just deny the ability to bid at the 2 level in a minor or raise partner's major and show less than 4 spades (otherwise you could respond 1S, even with a longer minor). If you get another bid, i.e. if 1NT is not passed out, you can then bid your suit (diamonds), now showing at least six and < 9hcp (otherwise you could bid 2D over 1H, and rebid them if necessary to show no interest in going higher unless partner has a better than minimum opener). North then is not strong enough to bid 2S and East will then rebid 2D to West's amazement. West can then invite game with 4D and East has just enough to accept with 5D.
On the normal CK lead, East wins CA and rapidly cashes HA, throwing a losing spade and leads a second heart throwing dummy's last spade - you can then ruff spades in dummy rather than risk being overruffed in trying to ruff hearts. North can lead a trump to stop you completely cross-ruffing the hand, ruffing one heart low and two hearts high. However, West can win the trump cheaply and ruff three clubs and three spades, draw the last trump and cash the promoted C10 - the clubs having broken 4-3 - for twelve tricks and +420, which no-one managed on the night.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When you have a misfit for partner's opening 1 of a major and <10hcp but hold a six card minor, the best chance of playing in that minor is to start with 1NT and hope you get a another chance to bid it!
An exciting competitive deal this week. Dealer West; Love All: West and North pass, East opens 1C. South has a hand with good distribution but generally the wrong suits to be able to make a conventional two-suited overcall. With this type of hand you don't expect the bidding to die at the one level so the best plan is to overcall one of your suits and bid the other on the next round of bidding if partner has not raised your first suit. It is, however, losing policy to overcall 1D and hope to then bid spades twice to then show 6-5 shape as the level may be considerably higher when you have to make your second bid! The opponents usually mess things up for you by competing to a higher level than you would like to bid at. For this reason, I recommend you start with 1S rather than 1D - its much more important not to suppress a five-card major than a six card minor. West is well worth a constructive bid of 2H showing 9+ hcp and 5+ hearts. North should jump to 3S ( some good players would bid 4S ) pre-emptively despite the possibly useless CK under the bid because of the massive spade support and then East bids 4H, South 4S, and after 2 passes East bids 5H. South with little defence should sacrifice with 5S - which might even make on a good day - and West with two Aces and a partner who has opened the bidding doubles, for penalties, not expecting 6H to make, although a careful declarer can prevail in this contract.
Against 5S doubled, the best lead is open to debate but I would probably start with CA and HA and then switch to the singleton diamond and the diamond ruff leads to +300 for an above average score.
A few pairs were careless and went off in 5H. Usually North will lead SQ which East should ruff, lead a trump to H9, ruff another spade, DA, ruff a diamond, ruff a spade, cross to CA, draw trumps and concede a club to CK with West only then having the thirteenth trump and winning clubs, making twelve tricks. If the trumps are 4-nil then you need South to have the CK.
If South is on lead and leads C2 it is important to rise with CA at trick one as you cannot afford to lose a club ruff with a singleton trump and you probably then draw trumps in 3 rounds and only make eleven tricks. On a diamond lead ( D7 from N or DK from S ) you can play a similar dummy reversal - ruffing several times in the long trump hand and then drawing trumps later with the shorter trump holding, as follows:- Win DA, ruff a diamond high, cross to H8, ruff a diamond high, ruff a spade, ruff a third diamond high and play CA and another club to South's King, ruff spade return, draw last trump and cash winning clubs, making twelve tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Generally with two suiters, bid a fair five card major before a six card minor and prefer to make a simple overcall to double or any other action.
An interesting and tricky deal for N/S - and in fact no pair on the night found the best contract and the vast majority went minus. Dealer West; E/W Vul.: West has a bare minimum but with useful cards should open 1D, hoping to get the chance to rebid 1S and thereafter leave any further bidding to partner. North also has an opener and should overcall 1H despite the lack of solidity in the suit. East has an obvious pass and South now should bid 2D - known as an unassuming cue-bid - showing 3 card heart support and game interest. Over this, North has a tricky bid as a rebid of 2H would show a weak overcall. Although you have 12 hcp, the Qx in the opponents suit would usually be a worthless holding ,so, at the table I bid only 3H, thinking that it would show lukewarm game interest. On reflection, a bid of 3C would have been a better idea - showing a feature in clubs and constructive. Over this, I think South should now bid 3NT to play despite the known 5-3 heart fit, as the diamond holding is much better to be led up to than led through, particularly as in hearts the Ace must be played as the opening lead could be a singleton.
Against 3NT, West has no stand-out lead and probable tries the D6 to North's DQ. South then leads a heart to the Jack - there are too many entry problems to guard against a singleton HQ with West - and now leads DJ to set up a third diamond winner. This switching tack from setting up the hearts is absolutely necessary as the route to nine tricks depends on using HK as the entry to cash this diamond winner. If West passively continues diamonds you have to delay - again - playing on hearts until you set up two club winners running for home (nine tricks) if the second club is ducked.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) After an unassuming cue-bid a new suit shows a feature in that suit and a non-minimum overcall as the cue-bid promises a fit for any overcalled major suit.
(2) Over an overcalled minor, the unassuming cue-bid again shows game interest but not necessarily a fit and asks partner to bid any unbid four-card major or NT with a stop in the opponents suit.
(3) Remember when setting up tricks in 3NT you need to be able to get at them so you often may have to delay playing on your primary suit fit.
An interesting hand - well I think so anyway! - concerning both bidding and defence this week.
Dealer East; Game All. Even if your system enables you to open weak two-suiters, the East hand is not worth a bid - having a very poor major and a (normally) useless singleton King, and you should always pass. Many South's will open 1C but I would pass, rather than having to rebid the anaemic club suit over a 1S response, even though the singleton SQ may then have some value. West also has a (normally) useless singleton CQ but should open 1S despite the hand's overall shortcomings as you have an easy rebid of 2H after a simple response and you definitely want a spade led. North's diamond suit is too threadbare to consider a vulnerable overcall and it just remains for East to decide how many spades to respond. My vote is for 3S although a few on the night obviously bid a two way 4S hoping either that it would make or alternatively the opposition could score better in 4H or 5D.
If South cannot resist opening 1C, the bidding should continue 1S overcall, Double ( Negative or Sputnik) and a pre-emptive raise to 3S should then end the auction. Note that an unassuming cue-bid 2C instead of 3S would show a stronger hand with spade support (3 or more cards), so West should not be tempted to bid 4S.
Any defender that does not lead a trump will find declarer probably making ten tricks as declarer can ruff hearts low in dummy and one club low and the rest high after SQ drops on SA - declarer should take one round of trumps only after preparing for the cross-ruff by losing two diamonds and one heart. The defence should really anticipate this cross ruff and - say on a H6 lead - should lead SQ at trick 2. Declarer then leads CQ to K and A, and leads D10 and South should cover with DK and lead another to the nine and Jack but a further spade from North now holds declarer to nine tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK (1) Consider the quality of your suit when opening marginal hands. Only open the bidding if you want partner to lead from, say Kx or Ax or Qx.
(2) When the opposition are expected to have a nine card fit, and the side-suits seem to be breaking unevenly, a trump is the recommended lead unless you are giving up a likely trump trick.
Grand slams are rarely bid at Pairs but once in a while a hand crops up which urges you to aim for the summit! On today's deal you would have achieved a top for bidding the small slam in clubs.
Dealer East; Love All: A wide range of auctions are possible on today's hand. Personally, I would pass the East hand as it is not quite an opener according to my valuation ( being a 7 1/2 loser only ) and then it is South who opens 1S. West has the other major and despite the void should make a take-out double and North is not strong enough to take action. East should consider passing for penalties but it is very hard to extract a big penalty at the one level and I think East should choose between 2NT and 3NT. I would have a bash at 3NT with the East hand, holding the maximum that partner could expect in hcp.( 11 plus a ten ).
South will normally lead S3 and East then just knocks out CA to set up 3 club winners to go with five diamonds and one heart and one spade for +430. The contract is more difficult if East opens 1S and the bidding then proceeds 1S-2D-2S-3NT when North will lead H4 to South's Q. The rule of eleven dictates that if North has left fourth best there are 11-4 = 7 cards in the East, South and West hands (combined) that can beat the H4 lead and you observe that E/W hold six of them (4 in hand and two in dummy). This places North with HKJ94 and possibly the 2 and 3 as well. If you take HA the H10 is a second stop if and only if South cannot get the lead but if North has both the missing Aces an overcall of 2H would have been likely. This reasoning should lead you to hope that South has both the missing Aces and so you should duck the heart lead and continuation ( in case the hearts are 4-3 after all ) to exhaust South of hearts when he gains the lead with CA. In this way you make three clubs, one heart and five diamonds for +400.
TIP OF THE WEEK:(1) Use the rule of eleven to place the opposing cards in the suit led.
(2) If your opponents are non-vul it is very difficult to get a good score by allowing your opponents to play doubled at the one-level. If the opponents are vulnerable, however, one off doubled on a part-score deal is usually a near top, and you may do better and beat your game score if your opponents go more off.
As previously observed, hands of 10-14hcp with a five card major and a six card minor should invariably be opened with one of the major, rather than one of your longest suit. You intend to rebid 2 of your minor given the chance but if partner inconveniently responds in a higher ranking suit than your minor you must rebid 2 of your major rather than 3 of your minor as this should promise at least 15hcp, in this case known as a "high-level reverse". In the long run, it pays to suppress a six card minor rather than a five card major because the scoring system favours the major suits.
Dealer North; Love All. I decided that today's North hand was an exception to the above rule. I intended to bid out my shape by opening 1D and would have bid hearts twice to show the 6-5 shape. If the bidding had proceeded, say, 1D-1S-2H-3NT, I would have bid 4H. With East-West silent, after 1D-1S-2H, my partner bid an intelligent 3C fourth-suit forcing rather than the lazy 3NT bid . The 3C then allowed the partnership to explore whether a spade or a heart contract might be better than 3NT. I of course rebid 3H to show 6-5 in the reds. Now, with only one possible black suit loser and knowing that my hcp should be concentrated in the red suits, partner could visualise a slam. 4NT RKCB elicited a 5S reply and partner then knew that a grand slam was not possible and signed off in six hearts.
There was nothing much to the play but, after a club lead to the QA and CJ returned to CK, good technique suggests that you should cash HA, DA and play a heart to the Jack. When the trumps are 3-2 you lead a diamond to the King and when both opponents follow, you ruff a diamond with HK, ruff a spade back to hand, draw the last trump with HQ and run your red suit winners. If the trumps were 4-1, you would cash HK, and rely on the diamond finesse and 3-2 break, drawing the last trump after winning the second diamond in hand. The reason for the odd-looking play of DA is merely to save an undertrick if West has four diamonds - if East ruffs the second diamond led from the table, you don't waste your DK and it will make a trick later!
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) If you decide to overbid with a two-suiter make sure that all your hcp are within your two suits. You are likely to be forced early on and need to have trump control which means your suits have to be relatively solid.
(2) Think through the order of play before committing yourself to one line or another.
One of the best conventions that has been invented in the last decade is 5 card Major Stayman ( also known as Puppet Stayman).which finds your major suit fit after an opening 2NT. It can also be used after all 2C/D - 2 relay - 2NT sequences. It enables you to open 2NT with a four or five card major to show the point count but not miss a 5-3 or 4-4 fit unless partner is too weak to bid over 2NT. There are variations of course, but I recommend one of the simplest forms - which is what I play with all my partners. The responses to the 3C enquiry are 3H or 3S with a five card major, 3NT with less than 4 hearts and less than 4 spades, and 3D(alerted) with at least one four card major. Then partner with four spades only bids 3H (alerted) and with four hearts only bids 3S(alerted) to enable the strong hand to play the contract and have the lead coming up to strength rather than through it! I suggest also that with both 4 card majors you bid 4D to again allow the strong hand to be declarer.
Dealer North; E/W Vul. A few odd and unexplained results on this board which seems routine to me!. North has not quite got the values for an opening bid and should pass - If you open 1C thinking you have an easy rebid of 1S you invariably find partner bidding a hopeless 2 or 3NT with no fit in either of your suits. East then has an obvious 1H opener. South has a bad hand and a bad suit and should also pass and West makes the natural response of 2C to show 9+hcp and a club suit. This is much better than the 1NT response at our table as you have secondary support for partner and a ruffing value; 1NT should be a negative bid not a positive one. This bid then dissuades North from competing and East with 16hcp should bid 2NT to show the extra values compared to a normal opener, despite the short stop only in the unbid major which the defence often attack. Fortunately partner now bids a forcing 3H to show 3 card heart support and offer a choice of games to opener and East is very happy to retreat from NT into the 4H game.
A difficult hand to judge in the bidding as well as to defend or play as declarer. Only two tables made the likely 4H game which optimum defence beats by one trick!
Dealer East; Love All: East opens 1D which silences South and West responds 1H. North has nothing to say and East rebids 1NT. If the rebid is limited to 15-16 then 3H is forcing with only 5H's - offering a choice of games ( 3NT or 4H) - so playing simple system I would take the bull by the horns and bid 4H.with the West hand. North leads DQ and the best defence by South is to play low and expect partner to switch to a club - normally the C3 to show an honour. Although this gives declarer a chance to ditch the second diamond loser on a third top spade, the defence should then make two clubs a diamond and a trump for one off. I think, though, that most of us would - expecting the diamond Queen to be a singleton - overtake with DK, Cash DA and lead a low one, hoping to promote partner's 10xx(x) into a trick or two. However, if partner has 10xxx then this will be a natural trump trick anyway and you need a further trick to beat the contract which can only come from clubs! Look what should happen on the third diamond - declarer has nothing to gain by ruffing high nor low and should throw a club. This is because you must lose at least one club anyway as only one can be discarded on dummy's spades. Throwing a club is called a loser-on-loser play which can gain dramatically as in this case. North ruffs in and leads a club but declarer can win CA, draw trumps and cash SKQA throwing the last club and make ten tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) If you think you have defence to a major game try and work out where the four defensive tricks are coming from rather than do the obvious.
(2) If you are bound to lose a side-suit loser consider whether it is best to discard it rather than risk an overruff or ( if ruffing high ) setting up a lower honour.
Dealer East; Love All: A tricky 3NT for E/W this week and I'm glad I was North! East opens a weak 1NT and South has a hand where you would like to be playing the astro convention to show a two suited overcall. If not, as at our table you elect to pass because the spade suit is so poor, and the bidding proceeds 2C(Stayman) - 2D(no majors)-2NT-3NT. All routes should lead to 3NT and South's standard lead is the DJ. Some play you lead D10 from this combination, so that if you lead the Jack, partner will then know that you don't have a higher card and consequently does not "waste" the King from Kx in the hope that you have AJ10. This has its merits but may be too complicated for some players. Declarer is not thrilled by the sight of DJ as if North has DA you will probably go off unless the clubs are 3-3 which is against the odds. So it is probably right to be hopeful and assume that the lead is from AJ10 and play DQ at trick one. If you duck, you cut your diamond tricks down to one if the defence abandon attacking the suit. The best play now is a heart to HJ. If South can win then probably the CA is with North or South would have bid over East's 1NT. There is no point South ducking as declarer then plays on clubs and eventually makes 2 clubs,2 diamonds, 2 hearts and 3 spades to make the game. If South wins and clears the diamonds, declarer can test the clubs and then play HA8 to set up D5 in dummy as the ninth trick.
(2) Try and place the opponents cards and if in an unpromising contract work on the theory that one particular high card may be with the "right" defender.
A hand for the defence this week as 13 E/Ws failed to crack the routine 3NT by North. So what went wrong with all the E/Ws? North opens 2NT or 2C/2D/2NT whichever method you use to show a balanced 20hcp hand. South utilises Stayman in some form or another to ascertain that North has no 4 card major and raises to 3NT, against which East leads S4 to West's Jack and North's King. Although it should not fool East into thinking that West might have SQ, North has nothing to lose by winning with the King rather than the Queen as with KJ, West would naturally play the King first rather than the Jack as partner might have the Ace and you would not want declarer to win a trick with Qxx. To maximise chances to make 3NT ( against competent defence that, admittedly, was not found at most tables ) declarer should cross to CJ and lead D2 to the DJ, intending to overtake CQ with CK to then lead D10. This sequence of plays guards against and guaratees four tricks if West holds singleton DK. However, East wins DK - perhaps after ducking the first diamond (as it cannot cost) and then should lead a heart in the hope that partner can win and lead a second spade through declarer's holding, rather than trying to cash spades. This would only work if declarer has SKQ doubleton - which is impossible if you have worked out that North cannot hold 5 clubs or diamonds - and just presents declarer with the contract. Declarer should realise that West must have HK - otherwise East would have exited passively in clubs - and should rise with the HA in the vain hope that West's HK was singleton. Declarer should then cash out for eight tricks and to settle for one down. With the spades 5-3 this saves a trick as you would then lose four spades and two red kings for two off!
Dealer North; Love All: The vast majority of E/Ws went off in the 4S game on today's hand. After a pass by North, East should open 1S. I think opening 1NT is very wrong on this kind of 12-14hcp. You have plenty of Aces and Kings which are good for suit contracts and some solidity given by S1098. Spades are what you want led and, being the boss suit ( highest ranking), it should be introduced as soon as possible. South passes, West bids 2H, showing at least 5 cards, and East without 3 card heart support rebids 2S to show less than 15hcp. West has more than enough to invite game with 3S and East is at the top end of 12-14 and so raises to game.
Against 4S South leads CK and North encourages with the Jack, promising either a singleton or the CJ10. East should win straightaway, as there is no need to duck to try and exhaust one defender of the suit, and cash SK, lead S10 to SA hoping for a 3-2 break and, leaving SQ outstanding, play HQKA ditching a club. On a good day you may be able to ditch both clubs before a defender can ruff in with SQ, but in this case, North ruffs the third heart and cashes a club. But the defence can now only take DK with DA, the D4 being ruffed in dummy so ten tricks should have been notched up everywhere! Although not necessary in this case, note the technique of keeping a low trump in hand to lead to dummy's seven. This is necessary if SQJ drop doubleton as you can then ruff a third heart (high) to set up the suit if 4-2 and then cross to S7 drawing the outstanding trump and then take a discard on the fifth good heart.
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you need trumps 3-2 to make the contract it is often right to cash AK and leave the opposition's boss trump outstanding if you can run a suit discarding immediate losers.
If you are keen to improve your declarer play you should realize that there are situations where you need to play your high cards in a certain order, or unblock higher honours to allow the free running of a suit. A simple example is when you have Axx opposite KQ10xx where it may be necessary to play the King followed by the Ace to pick up Jxxx in the hand under the KQ10xx - a not insignificant 11% extra chance. If you cash the Ace first, and the last hand shows out when you lead the King, you may not have a convenient entry back to hand to take the marked finesse against the Jack.
Dealer West; Love All: The bidding at our table was No-No-1S-No-2NT-No 3NT. I led D4, and declarer put up the DQ, partner contributing the Jack to promise the 10, so that I could continue with DK if on lead later. Now, when SAK was cashed, and South discarded on the second round, it was clear that North had SJ5 left. Although declarer can recover from the blocking S10 by overtaking the CQ with CK to lead S10, cross back to CA to run the spades and then cross to DA to cash CJ, there would have been a real problem if the CJ had not been held. The solution is really simple. Throw S109 on SAK, and you can then lead S7 to S8 to finesse against SJ. You can see from this example that when you have a sequence of 7 8 9 10 it does not matter if you play the higher ones first, and it may assist in running the suit. Incidentally, most tournament players these days play a 2NT response as showing a strong raise in the major - mostly to the 3 level in the UK, but game forcing in the USA - to facilitate more accuracy in game & slam bidding - with the jump raise to 3 of the major as distributional and weaker in high cards. This means you have to respond 2C with the West hand, as 2H is best played as showing 5 hearts. If partner raises in clubs you just convert back to the major at the level your hand warrants.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Generally, if in defence you unexpectedly play an honour, you either have a singleton, or a sequence of cards below the honour played, as with the DJ10 here.
(2) As declarer, look out for situations where you have to unblock your highest card in one hand to allow the smooth running of a suit in the opposite hand.
A situation not usually discussed at all this week - Doubles after a Weak 1NT by the opposition. Dealer South; Game All. After two passes North opens 1NT and East doubles, showing normally 15+hcp (and a suit worth leading) or even more hcp or otherwise seven or more solid tricks. You only alert this double if you exceptionally play this double as take-out - all doubles of 1NT are assumed to be penalty-oriented as are doubles of conventional bids with all doubles of natural suit bids being assumed to be for take-out so you only alert them if you think partner is making a penalty double. South is too weak to stand 1NT doubled so usually redoubles for partner to bid 2C if the next hand passes. A bid of say 2D by West now can be played as weak saying to partner that you don't think you can beat a 2-level opposition contract . However, you need yourself and partner to be on the same wavelength - does a bid promise values or not? I would pass as West and when partner doubles the forced 2C rebid by opener I would take my chances and pass and hope for a decent plus score. Note that East's double does not need to be alerted as the 2C bid was artificial and not showing clubs. Although East is the minimum 15-16hcp for the original double, with three Aces and two trump tricks likely, it does not take much from partner to obtain the magical +200 or +500 on a part-score deal, so a double is right. Again, you need to discuss with partner whether doubles are always for penalties. That is the traditional style - all doubles are for penalty - by both East and West. If the opponents run from 1NT partner is expected to have a few values. With an awkward lead East is likely to start with HA to have a look at dummy. When dummy turns up with a singleton the general style of defence is to play a low card if you want a switch to the lower of the two suits apart from trumps and a high one if you want a switch to the higher ranking suit - with a middle card saying no preference or continue with the same suit. So West plays H3 and South plays DAJ. Declarer should withhold the DQ as covering allows the defence to take 3 diamon tricks and hope West has a doubleton. The best switch is now a low spade which should set up 2 spade tricks for the defence and +500 or +800. If E/W manage to find their heart fit they have to play very carefully to make nine or ten tricks. When South plays H10 you should be fore-warned as the odds of South holding Q10 or J10 alone are very small and 4-1 breaks are a significant 28%. You thus need to ensure that you don't lose the lead at the time when the defence might have 2 trump winners to cash and thus draw all your remaining trumps. So the plan is to make sure you lose your immediate losers in the side-suits before cashing top top trumps, i.e. lead a club from dummy early on.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Only double 1NT with a minimum 15hcp if you have a fair suit to lead
(2) Decide after partner has doubled 1NT which bids show values or weakness (and a long suit) and what a jump bid means (Invitational or Forcing?)
A routine hand to bid but a bit awkward to play this week. Dealer South; Game All.
South opens 1NT and West should pass rather than overcall a natural 2D as the diamond suit lacks any solidity. North has game values but should start with a 2D transfer bid rather than Stayman so that both majors can be shown. After South completes the transfer with 2H, North bids 2S forcing for one round and South bids 3S to show a minimum 1NT. True it is in the middle of the 12-14 range but you should be wary of the lack of any Aces and also the DKQJ are not pulling their full weight - being in a short suit, i.e. KQJx(x) is a much better holding than KQJ alone. I tend to mentally deduct a hcp for holdings such as KQ, KJ, AK etc. If North had had 11 hcp only then pass would be prudent but confidently raises to 4S with this hand. East will lead D10 as the safest option and West plays Ace and another hoping East is short, but declarer plays a third round, throwing a club, crosses to HA and leads the remaining club, trying the Jack when East plays the C8, forcing the Ace and West exits with a heart to North's King. Now is the time to play trumps. After the diamond lead you place West with a holding of 5 diamonds, so East is favourite to hold the longer trumps. Your plan initially should be to cash two top spades and cross ruff, allowing the defence to overruff when they like. But when the SJ appears on the first round, it looks as though East might have four trumps. If so, you are right to risk ruffing a heart first, hoping that if West overruffs it is not fatal. When West throws a club you know you are OK, so you ruff a club and lead another heart knowing that you cannot be overruffed. East ruffs this but you can overruff and still make SAK. East makes a trump in the end but you still garner ten tricks. Note that if West did overcall 2D, you need to have an agreement with partner to replace 2C Stayman. A simple way is to use the Cue-bid of 3D as a game force with at least one four card major, and the partnership should bid them upwards until a fit is found, and if not try 3NT and hope one of the partnership has a stop. There are other complicated ways, e.g. Lebensohl, but even the experts often have bidding misunderstandings because of all the ramifications!
TIP OF THE WEEK : (1) With 5H and 4S and 11+hcp start with a 2D transfer bid.
(2) Discuss with partner how you cope with a natural 2 level overcall.
A difficult hand for N/S to bid this week. Dealer North; Love All. North has a routine 1C opener, East has an obvious take-out double, South responds 1H and West passes. North has to decide whether to rebid in clubs or show the moth-eaten spade suit. Because rebidding 2C can be on a very weak opener I prefer 1S as it is the more constructive bid and you have a good hand even though it is in the minimum 12-14hcp range. At least partner now has some idea of your shape even though you would prefer better spades. You have the losers and controls and the six card suit required to bid 3C but I think it is a bad idea in the long run to suggest you have 15-17 hcp. Opposite this hand, partner will need Aces and Kings to make nine tricks, but will in fact have a shot at 3NT on a good 8-9hcp and all round stops. East passes, and South, without any holding in the fourth suit and not strong enough to bid 2D - fourth suit forcing for one round - should now just bid a quiet 2C rather than the overbid of 3C, as it is evident partner is short in hearts. North, however, can now make a natural game try of 3C and South with a very suitable maximum can now bid 3D to ask for a diamond stop and North bids 3NT hoping and trusting partner to have the right hand.
East will cash a couple of top spades and switch to a heart, which will in practice stop North making an overtrick. Double dummy, i.e. being able to look at all four hands, declarer can lead SJ to set up S8 before running the clubs but otherwise you settle for the six clubs and 3 heart tricks for +400 for N/S.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When bidding, try and give a good picture of your hand and hope partner can then make an intelligent decision.
Dealer N; E/W Vul.: I thought we were on to a good board when our opponents stopped in a part-score in spades with a massive heart fit but we only managed thirty-odd percent as many East-West's went minus - probably in a slam doomed by the bad trump break!
As dealer, North does not know whether to open 1C or pre-empt. Because of the suitability for playing in hearts if partner has four or more, I opened 1C. East makes a take-out double, not because he can support any suit bid by partner but because the hand is too strong to overcall 1S. South is too weak to bid 1S and passes. West jumps to 2H invitationally showing about 11hcp and at least four hearts and North bids 3C competetively. If East bids a new suit now it does not show heart support but a strong hand with a six card or robust five card suit, so East, with support for hearts and interest in a slam, cue bids 4C, showing first round control ( Ace or a Void ). West, having overbid slightly on the first round - with 8 1/2 losers instead of the expected 8 losers and probable duplication in clubs - A discard on the Ace will be from a long suit which might be a winner anyway - should sign off with 4H. East with moderate trump support only should respect this but probably makes a further try for a slam by bidding 5H which West will pass as if all partner needed was HK then 4NT was available - 5Ace RKCB - to partner.
North starts off with CK and declarer should ruff this in dummy in order to lead a trump. The news of the bad trump break is immediate as South discards S3. Best defence now is for North to take HA and lead a diamond, locking declarer in dummy. Because of the lack of entries to the West hand you must lose two trumps. In this situation it is usually best to allow the defender to ruff straight away and you then keep control of the trumps. So just play 3 top diamonds. North ruffs in and plays CQ but West wins CA, draws trumps and plays SQKA - discarding the third losing club and claims.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Double then bidding a new suit shows a good hand of 16+hcp and usually a six card (2) When you know one defender has length in trumps and is bound to make an unexpected trump trick it is usually best to try and make the defender take the trick early so you retain overall control.
Only half the field bid the rock-solid slam on today's offering. Perhaps this was because West did not realize the full potential in playing strength of the hand. Dealer East ; Game All. East probably opens a weak 1NT although some would upgrade the hand and open 1C - expecting to rebid 1NT showing 15hcp minimum ( 14 + 2 tens and a five card suit to set up = 15!). Either treatment is perfectly reasonable but as Jacks not supported by a higher honour don't figure to pull their weight, I would opt for opening 1NT. South will probably bid 3D only as, being vulnerable, 4D is more likely to be doubled for penalties in the long run - although not by this West hand! The sequence 1NT-pass-4NT is usually quantitative. This means you pass with a minimum and bid 6NT with a maximum. However, in this sequence, you should play 4NT as straight Blackwood, since after an opposition overcall most players play 3 of a suit as competetive, and game bids to play. So your only forcing bid is 4D - which should be used to show two four-card majors and game values and hoping partner can make a sensible bid, even bidding a 3 card major. Over the 5H response to 4NT, I would just punt 6S, as it is unlikely that 6H will make when 6S doesn't. The S10 makes the suit much better than KQJxxx as you only have one trump loser if the trumps are 4-2 ( which is the most likely distribution of the opposing trumps ). With two five card majors and the same playing strength you could bid 6D to suggest partner picks a major (longest or best with equal length) - but only if you have discussed the situation with your partner beforehand! Don't try obscure bids that you hope partner will understand at the table - often they think differently from you and their reasoning is just as plausible!
Incidentally, if I were dealer, I would open 2D rather than 2C with the West hand, to make sure our partnership reached game, hopefully bidding spades and heart twice to show the hand shape. Anyone who opens 1S deserves to play there ! You need very little from partner; HJ or Hxxx will probably be enough to make 4S, so you need to make a strong opening.
TIP OF THE WEEK : (1) 4NT should be for Aces if opponents compete over your 1NT opening, but quantitative if they pass.
(2) Discuss what a cue-bid of the opponents minor bid shows if at the four or six level, in this and similar sequences.
Apologies as this is my last column for a fortnight as I am on holiday - hooray!
Dealer West; E/W Vulnerable: West has a routine 1NT and North has a routine pass. East has a decent spade suit and would ordinarily start with a transfer bid. However, the hand is not strong enough to then mention the heart side-suit, which would be forcing. Although the hearts are weak, it pays in the long run to play in the 4-4 fit, if there is one, rather than the 5-2 - or even a 5-3 fit for that matter - because you still have trump length in one hand if you are forced to ruff one of your opponent's winners.
So, instead of a transfer bid, you should start with a Stayman 2C, intending to bid 2S - to play - over a 2D reply. If partner were to bid 2S you have a clear-cut decision to raise to 3S, invitational. The optimists bid 4S. I prefer to bid 3S and let partner decide whether game is a good prospect. Normally, with only ten hcp you should pass partner's response, but today's hand could be an exception. East has only seven losers and has 3 controls (A=2, K=1) and a singleton. West, on this hand, responds 2H and the pessimists would pass, but I would join the optimists and venture 3H ( showing a seven loser hand ) and trust partner to make a good decision whether to bid game or not. On this occasion partner is right in the middle and has a decision to make. With seven losers also West has a case for bidding the game but when in doubt in suit contracts you should be swayed by your controls ( Aces and Kings ), and in this respect West is significantly lacking with only two. Thus West should reject the invitation and pass. If you work on the hcp ranges 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-24 as requiring respectively 1,2,3,4,5,6,controls as a minimum, I believe your judgment of these situations will improve.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, 3H is played from the wrong side and should be defeated - so the pessimists win today's battle. Against 3H North should lead C6, hoping for a 3rd round ruff and when partner turns up with CK after the Ace and a quick entry in the trump Ace, this strategy is successful. Declarer thus loses a ruff and a trick in each suit for one off - game,set and match to the pessimists.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) With less than 11hcp and 5-4 in the majors bid 2C Stayman rather than a transfer bid of 2H or 2S.
(2) Decide with partner what to do with stronger hands that are 5-4 in the majors. If 1NT-2H-2S-3H is a game forcing 5-4 then 1NT-2C-2D-3H/S should be invitational, either 6-4 or 5-4 with a strongish five card suit (otherwise you bid 2NT).
Although the hands at first glance look uninteresting, there is plenty of scope for aggressive bidding here. Note that, with no-one vulnerable, two off undoubled is usually a good score!
Dealer North; Love/All: After a pass by North, East has a nice hand with 7 losers and all the hcp are "working", being in the two long suits. My experience, however, says that opening 1H on 10hcp and only a 5-4 shape leads to too many minus scores. Partner, with 12-13hcp and shortage in hearts will bid 3NT and have no chance of success. So, I would recommend passing on the first round hoping to get into the bidding on the next round, when partner will not get too excited given your initial pass.
South has a routine weak1NT and West - despite holding both majors - is just short of taking action even if playing some sort of two-suited overcalling convention like Astro or Landy. Many Norths would now pass, but you can use simple Stayman on this hand. If partner bids 2S or 2D you are happy to pass, and over 2H you bid 2S, now showing a weak hand with 4 spades and longer diamonds. Opener passes with 3 or 4 spades, but with only a doubleton spade converts to 3D [or 2NT with good hearts, or 3C with long clubs and a doubleton diamond]. With only 3 spades you take your chance that the seven card fit will play reasonably. Note also that you can use Stayman on weak hands with a singleton/void club and at least 3 cards in both majors, intending to pass whatever partner rebids. As East, over 2C, I would now risk 2H, and South will bid 2S. Both bids could backfire but it pays to be aggressive over 1NT if non-vulnerable. West has a decent heart raise with good cards (Aces rather than lower honours) in the side-suits and should put pressure on North by jumping to game. As you have a fit you expect the opposition to have a fit, so you expect North will bid 3S over a 3H bid. This will leave you with a nasty decision on the next round; whether now to pass, double 3S or bid 4H. It looks as though 3S will make or go only one off, giving you at most +100 if you double. By bidding 4H, you hope that either 4H makes, or that 3S makes, or that the opposition make a phantom sacrifice in 4S, which you can confidently double. North will probably decide to defend, although E/W on the actual hand have a reasonable play for 4H.
Against 4H, South will lead SK and declarer should win the SA then cash HAQ, intending to cross to DA to lead a club if trumps are 2-2. When the trumps are 3-1, you instead leads a heart to HK in order to draw the last trump and be in dummy to lead a club. If clubs are 3-3 and you mis-guess the layout you could lose 3 club tricks, but if favourable - with North holding the AQx or Q10x - you might only lose the Ace! All in all you have to decide whether to lead a club to CJ or one to C9. It is very close but I would start with a club to C9. This unfortunately loses to C10 and South leads another top spade, ruffed by East who crosses to DA to lead another club, putting in the Jack, playing for the 1NT opener to have the CA. Even if South ducks this, it is not hard for East to exit with a club, setting up the 13th club for declarer's ninth trick. An eventual diamond ruff with dummy's last trump is declarer's tenth trick.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) If 1NT-2C-2H-2NT shows c.11hcp and 4 spades, then 1NT-2C-2H-2S is weaker with 4 spades precisely and longer diamonds. With 5 spades you would be starting with a 2H transfer bid!
(2) Use Stayman also on weak hands with a small singleton or void in clubs and no 5 card major - just passing the response and hoping for some good luck!
(3) It is reasonable to overcall over 1NT Non-Vul. on ten hcp if and only if the hcp are all working - e.g. no Qx suits.
Most E/Ws had trouble with this board, both in the bidding and the play. Dealer West; Game All: West had a very strong hand but is not quite worth a Benji 2C opener and opens 1D. North has length in both majors but not worth a 1S overcall as that would grossly mislead partner as to the playing strength and so passes. East has an opener as well but is content to bid 1H for the time being. If South now bids 2NT , this would show 5-5 in the unbid (black) suits. However, South is very minimal for the bid as 2NT forces partner to give preference at the 3 level - so I would just overcall 1S. If non-vul, I would have chanced 2NT, and here this would lead to partner sacrificing in 4S over 4H. Thus, at this vulnerability it is unsound to bid on tram tickets! Over 1S, or 2NT for that matter, West should jump to 4S, showing a massive hand with slam interest. Most modern players play this as a splinter - showing 4 card heart support and a singleton or void in the enemy suit - usually a void as you are forcing partner to 5H to sign off, holding a 6hcp minimum response! . West, with wasted values in spades but otherwise a good hand has no trouble bidding the small slam. Indeed the grand slam is a fair proposition but fails owing to the adverse 4-1 trump break. Note that If the opposition had shown a two-suiter in the bidding then a 4-1 trump break is much more likely.
Partly due to the singleton trump - hoping that partner has 4 cards - South starts with SA to weaken dummy's trumps. Declarer has to ruff this, and must be careful to cash HQ before leading a second round to HK, getting the bad news. It is often right to leave a high trump in dummy as a late entry to the suit providing discards,(D). But here you know a second spade will be led, so you need to retain a small trump in dummy after two rounds of trumps to be able to ruff a spade if necessary, as you cannot afford to ruff with HQ! ( Note also that although, double dummy, the safety play is to duck the second heart in both hands to guard against the 4-1 break, you cannot afford that here as you don't know that the DJ is falling in 3 rounds.) Having won HK you now must play diamonds (hoping that they are not 4-0) until North ruffs, as you have a small trump left in dummy to take care of a spade continuation. If North exits with a fourth trump you can win HA and cross to CA to ditch your 2 spade and club losers on the 3 remaining diamonds left in dummy. North can delay ruffing the boss diamonds by throwing two clubs and so threatening a ruff if you cross to CK to draw the last trump, but you can counter this by throwing two spades first - not your losing club - on the fourth and fifth round of diamonds (as North ruffs in on the fifth round). You can then ruff the spade exit with your remaining small trump, draw the last trump, and then cross to CA to discard your club loser on the sixth diamond.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) A jump to 2NT is usually played as The Unusual 2NT, i.e. not the usual 20hcp or so. Most players play this as the lowest two unbid suits - so it is the OTHER two suits if in 4th hand after each opponent has bid a different suit and partner has passed.
(2) As well as in response to an opening did, you can play a double jump in a new suit as a splinter after partner has responded in a new suit after you have opened the bidding. This shows 4 card support for partner's suit and c.18-20 hcp over a one level response.
Surprisingly, only a third of the room bid and made what I thought was a fairly routine 3NT on today's hand. Dealer South; Love All: After South's pass, West opens 1H, intending to rebid 2D to show a minimum opener with 5-4 in the red suits. North is not quite strong enough for an intermediate 2S overcall ( and for that matter, is not suitable for a weak jump overcall if that is the system you are playing. Although the hand is quite strong in playing strength, the spade suit is too poor to suggest a lead), and so overcalls 1S. East has 3 spade tricks, and could wait to see if partner reopens with a double in the hope of leaving this in for penalties. But defending at the one level rarely produces a good score - even if partner can reopen with a double. A better hand for trying for a large penalty is if you have five or six of the opponents suit with lower honours,e.g. Q108xx with trick(s) outside ( Aces or Kings). So, I would make the "value" bid of 2NT, game invitational with c. 11-12hcp and a good holding in the enemy suit. True, you are ashamed of your diamond holding, but realistically you know that because of your spade holding, partner will never be able to envisage a NT contract with nothing in spades. In addition, your heart support is not good enough to think that 4H is a likely contract. West, with a sound minimum opening with 13hcp and two tens, has no trouble raising to 3NT.
South, hoping that partner would have better spades than actually held, leads S10 and declarer has a difficult choice whether to play on hearts or diamonds - if either produces three tricks you don't need the clubs to be 3-3. Diamonds produces 3 tricks if South has the finessable DQ and hearts does if the outstanding hearts are 3-3 or if H9 drops doubleton. I would play on hearts as if the hearts don't oblige South may have DAQ. In this way you may well end up with ten tricks as South is under pressure to find discards on the major suit tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Keep 2NT as a natural bid of 11-12hcp after partner has opened one of a suit and the opposition have made a natural overcall.
You might win an occasional battle but you never win the war. In the long run it pays to keep a simple two level response in a new suit over partner's one of a suit opener up to strength - at least nine hcp. In this way a rebid of 2NT is then usually 15hcp, and therefore forcing to game, with a combined count of 24-25hcp usually giving a decent play for game. 1NT should show 6-8hcp, and generally you should avoid bidding it with 9hcp unless you have a drastic misfit for partners suit, i.e. singleton or void. With 15hcp, or a flat 16hcp, opener knows there cannot be enough combined strength to make a game, so should pass 1NT. With 17-18hcp there could be, and opener should now make an invitational raise to 2NT .
Dealer North; Love All: After a normal pass and a 1S opener by East, South should not be tempted to bid despite having a weak 1NT opener, because a take-out double must show longer hearts if in the minimum range (12-14or15hcp). A lot of players insist on at least 4 hearts for a double of 1S, and that is eminently reasonable, although I would only insist on at least 3 cards in any unbid major. Pass is South's only option - hoping that partner can take some action, being limited by the original pass. West has nice 6-5 shape but a truly horrible 7hcp, with no Aces or Kings and a void in partner's suit. Pass might be the best option, but 1NT is the bid most people would make. True, you don't like the idea of being left there, but the chances of improving the contract (from 1S) are high. After North passes, East also has only one option, viz 2S. If partner had bid 2H showing 5 hearts and 9+hcp East would be too good for 3H and should either jump to 3S - forcing after a 2 level response - or jump to game bidding 4H. 1NT is a warning to partner saying I haven't got 3S and a ruffing value - otherwise I would bid 2S or a new suit - and I may not even have a doubleton in support, as here. It is not the time to stretch and jump invitationally to 3S! Over 2S, West should take the long term view and pass - expecting to incur a small minus score. If you bid 3C and partner has similar support to you, you might even get doubled and incur a big penalty. The reason for passing is that you expect the opposition to have their share of Aces and Kings and any three level contract is thus likely to be doomed. A better hand for bidding 3C is something like S Void, H xxxxx, D xx, C KQJ10xx where the club suit is good for lots of tricks if clubs are trumps but likely worthless if spades are trumps. Only If partner had bid 2D over 1NT would 3C be a worthwhile proposition .because partner has not now shown a six card suit and it is more likely that your best fit is in clubs if partne ris only 5/4. If partner had rebid 2H then you are worth an invitational raise but after a 2C rebid you might raise to 3C to inhibit your opponents from finding their diamond fit!
With the spades lying well, East should scramble 7 tricks for -50 unless South , who has a difficult lead problem, decides to lead C2 when declarer will make eight tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When you have a misfit for partner, don't try and rescue. You are liable to run from a bad contract into a likely equally bad contract a level higher - it usually goes an extra trick down and may even get doubled.
Dealer North; E/W Vul.: After North passes and East opens a weak 1NT, South has to decide whether to compete, holding both minors. A double would be 15+ ( preferably more if you do not have a good suit to lead ). Any hand with the requirements for a 2NT opener would double first then bid 2NT, so 2NT is usually played as a two suited hand. The old fashioned style was to play 2NT over 1NT as either both minors and weakish, or strong with any two suits, and that is what I still recommend - as long as partner realizes that if you bid again it is strong and forcing to game. ( Partner, unless strong, will bid the longer or , with equal length, the better minor, which you will pass with this hand.) On the current hand 2NT is reasonable only because of the vulnerability - if you were vulnerable, however, you should have better solidity in your suits, eg KJ10xx in both suits. Over the 3C or 3D response to 2NT if the next hand passes, a bid of 3 of a major should be forcing and should be raised with two cards otherwise bid 3NT with a stop in the other major or 4C or 4D with six cards. 3 NT is to play suggesting a double stop in both majors and a better than minimum opening hand. A jump to four of a minor is invitational to game in that minor.
Dealer North; Game/All: Only 2 pairs bid the small slam on today's hand. NT bidding is generally about arithmetic! With no five card suits in the combined hands a total hcp count of 33 is right to have a decent play for a small slam, and 26 for a game. If you have an eight card fit splitting 5-3, 31-32 are usually enough for a small slam and 24-25 are usually enough for game. If the suit splits 6-2 and is solid, 23 hcp is usually enough on normal breaks! With E/W passing throughout, North will generally open 1D, South responds 2C, North rebids 2NT and South 4NT. Any raise of NT to the four level should be played as quantitative, i.e. invitational but not forcing, unless you have agreed a trump suit either by partner raising your suit or by inference ( e.g. 1NT - 2C(Stayman) - 2H - 4NT would be Ace-asking agreeing hearts as trumps). North has a fit for partner's clubs and a non-minimum - this would be 15hcp in this sequence - and a five card suit as well, so jumps directly to 6NT.
East has a horrible lead problem and anything could be right or drastically wrong. I would be tempted to lead a nondescript C5 through the suit bid by dummy, but take your pick - anything but HQ, which is much too dangerous. If the opposition's HA & HK are in different hands, or both in dummy, you expose yourself to a finesse against your HJ. At pairs, East might lead SA and declarer should then just play DA and try the finesse of DJ, accepting one down if the DQ fails to oblige. In this case you would obtain a few match points equaling the other pairs who failed in the slam rather than a bottom for two down if you cash your winners first giving the opposition a late winner to cash if they can win DQ. At teams scoring, however, you should not worry about going two down because the slam bonus is worth so much more. A different play is recommended if you can improve your prospects, albeit marginally, from the 50/50 play recommended at pairs. You should cash all your spade winners (discarding a diamond) and heart winners before running all the clubs and DA. This puts pressure on the defenders who may have to keep a heart honour or think they may have to keep a fourth spade as well as a diamond stop. You watch to see if both HQ&HJ have been played, so promoting the H10 to a trick, and East has not shown out of hearts, then you take your best chance of the diamond finesse. If South had discarded on the second heart, you know East has a winning heart left and thus DQ must be with West when East plays a low diamond at trick 11. Your only chance then is that it was a doubleton and you should rise with DK.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Agree with partner to play raises of NT to the four level as Quantitative
(2) Discuss with partner if 4C is then Ace-asking - and agree your responses and what bid is for Kings.i.e. whether 4NT is then a sign-off.
Dealer South; Game All: More than half the N/S pairs failed to reach the optimum 3NT on this deal. After two passes North, being too strong to open a weak 1NT has to decide which of the four card suits to open - 1D or 1H. The modern style is to open the major mainly to ensure the suit does not get "lost" if the opposition pre-empt and also because the major suit is more important as it scores more. However, I usually open the minor if I foresee that a particular response from partner would make the subsequent bidding awkward. If you open a major and raise partner's minor you are showing at least five of the major and partner might disastrously opt to revert to the major at the five level. Also, if you rebid in NT you might miss a slam in the minor, not being able to show your good support. Here, I would not open 1H because a 2D response gives me rebid problems. Over 1D by North, East might stretch and bid an intermediate 2H overcall to show the six card suit and reasonable playing strength but should really only overcall 1H. South should make a negative double to show - at this level - merely the values for a one level response with four spades precisely. A bid of 1S is best played to show at least five spades. West raises partner to 2H - not being strong enough to make an unassuming cue-bid of 2D which would show a near-opening hand with at least 3 card heart support - or to raise to 3H which would be a distributional raise similar to West's actual hand but with four card support for hearts. After West's bid North has to decide whether to bid 2NT showing 17-18hcp and a good heart holding or stretch to 3NT because the H10 is a valuable extra. 3NT works best on this hand because partner may not consider 7hcp is enough to bid the game or might consider playing in diamonds at a high level or might only settle for a part-score and bid only 3D instead. South should realize, however, that the heart strength opposite does not work well in a 5D contract. Also a bid of 3NT would stop East bidding 3H and West then saving in 4H doubled ( probably costing only 500 against the vulnerable game of 600 or 630).
Dealer East; E/W Vulnerable. What a wild board - I can't imagine how many different sequences and contracts there were here! If I were playing each hand the bidding would go 1S - 5C - Double - Pass - Pass - Pass, but I doubt if that actually happened at many tables. I also wonder whether that should be how the hands are bid anyway! Nobody can quarrel with East's 1S opener but what should happen when the bidding comes back at the 5 level?. With the South hand, I would preempt all the way to 5C at this vulnerability but many would not. Over 5C, West might stretch and bid 5S but it is an undisciplined bid, vulnerable with no Aces and I think the decision is between pass and double - as I said my vote is for double. Poor old North has a decent heart preempt but should not consider removing partner's 5C bid into 5H with such a suit full of holes. East might consider bidding 5S as partner is obviously not doubling on club tricks, but there is no guarantee of a couple of spades opposite and so should also make a disciplined pass of partner's double.
Dealer N; Love All: A tricky hand to bid and neither of the N/S pairs bid it well in the match involving my team. I hope you did better!
Dealer N; N/S Vul. A tricky play hand for N/S but the bidding should be routine. North opens 1H and East should pass rather than introduce a pathetic spade suit. You do not want them led from say, Kx , if the opponents buy the contract. South responds 1S , West has nothing to say and North rebids 2D. ( This shows 5-4 shape in my book - with 4441s and a singleton club I prefer to pass as dealer unless I have 13+ hcp. In this case I decide to open 1D intending to rebid 2D over 2C, unless I can rebid 2NT which shows 15+hcp.. This is not ideal but at least now partner knows you are 5-4 in the reds in you open 1H and rebid 2'D). This thus leaves South with an easy bid of 4H to conclude the auction, knowing there is an eight card fit in hearts.
Mainly bidding problems with this week's hand. Dealer E; E/W Vul. East passes as dealer and South has to open 1D, being too strong for a weak 1NT. Vulnerable, West has a marginal 1S overcall. I would bid 1S, because you want a spade lead from partner if North buys the contract. North has good support for diamonds and few losers(7) but not the requisite Aces and Kings (3,A-2,K=1) associated with an opening hand. Although you have good support for partner, the scoring system is biased against minor suits and you should explore for a 4-4 heart fit by making a negative double first. Game in 4H as opposed to 5D requires a trick less and scores 420 against 400, so
you should generally eschew a nine or ten trick fit in a minor in favour of an eight card fit in a major. East would jump to 3S pre-emtively if non-vulnerable. However, 2S is enough vulnerable, as the opposition are more likely to double 3S for penalties. They would be hoping for one off at least and the magic +200, which will beat any normal part-score. If East held a top spade honour, then, rather than bidding 2S, a good idea is to play a redouble of the
opponents' negative double as saying lead your suit, partner, as I have a top honour ( A,K or Q). So, an immediate raise shows support without a top honour, as here, and partner is warned not to lead away from a sequence, eg AQ10 or KJx if the opponents declare a high contract. South will now bid 2NT although the hand is a little bare regarding tricks to be won! North now jumps to 4D, usually highly invitational to 5D and South, with a plethora of Aces - ideal for a suit contract accepts the invitation and bids the diamond game. On the C10 lead you win CQ and lead a trump intending to finesse D10 but with diamonds favourably 2-2 and the Kx of clubs in the right place to give you 3 club tricks all you lose is two trumps to chalk up +400.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) Try and rule out a 4-4 major suit fit before committing to a minor suit game (2) agree a use with partner for what a redouble of a negative double shows.
An exciting deal in which most E/Ws managed to come out on top with +650 although I guess many had an easy ride to 4H+1 rather than be pushed to 5H or 5S! East has the hcp (9) and the length of suit(6 cards) for a weak two opener but because of the 6-5 shape allied to a six card major should upgrade the hand and open 1H. South passes and West has a normal 1S response and now the fireworks should start. North's hand does not fit with any pattern of bidding - being much too good for a weak pre-empt of 4D, slightly too good for an intermediate jump overcall and not strong enough in hcp to double and then bid your suit (usually six cards) at the cheapest level. I would bid 5D and hope the opposition do the wrong thing, viz doubling when it is a cheap save or bidding on when there are 3 losers. When 5D is passed round to West, 5H, double and pass are all reasonable bids but I think most players would essay 5H, more in hope than expectation of it making. This will probably end the auction although South should bid 6D which will be cheap if 5H is making - it only costs 500.
Dealer East; N/S Vul.: After East passes, South opens 1S and West has a marginal 2C overcall. I think most players would bid 2C although they would prefer the suit quality to be better! North bids 2S and East probably makes a nuisance bid of 3C - not expecting partner to get carried away and bid 4C! South is worth one try for game, so should not bid 3S, as that would not be at all invitational, just competitive. After a raise of your major suit opening to the two level, a bid of a new suit is a "trial bid", asking whether partner is maximum or minimum for the single raise. Some people play "short-suit" trial bids showing a singleton or void - these are alertable. However long-suit trial bids do not need to be alerted as they are the norm, typically showing a weak suit of 3 or more cards. A simple scheme of responses is that you sign off with 3 losers in the trial suit, jump to game with one loser or with a maximum (7-9hcp) and two losers. On today's hand you do not want to bid 3H as a trial bid because you do not really need partner to have help in that suit. If the bidding had gone 1S-Pass-2S-Pass a bid of 3C is more useful on South's hand than 3H, as partner is better able to judge whether to bid the game. In this actual sequence, it is a good idea to play a double of 3C as a trial bid in clubs, as it is unlikely that you would want to double 3C for penalties once the suit has been supported and you have found a fit in spades. Although North has a "wasted" King of clubs the expectation of giving partner two club ruffs should be sufficient reason to jump to 4S.
Declarer makes ten or eleven tricks depending on West's opening lead. A trump is the best lead for the defence and the doubleton heart is the worst - picking up East's Queen for declarer. When you win the spade lead cheaply you have to decide whether to play a club straight away to ensure two ruffs in dummy or a diamond to take advantage of the DA being with West - quite likely in view of West's overcall. West can win and lead a further trump, and another when in with CA, but you can throw a club on DK and take the heart finesse for an overtrick.
TIP OF THE WEEK: (1) After one of a major is singly raised, a bid of a new suit is a "trial" bid with generally at least 3 cards, and wanting help in that suit.
(2) If the opposition have overcalled during this sequence a bid of their suit at the three level should also be a "trial" bid not a "cue-bid force"
(3) If the opposition have overcalled and raised during this sequence there is a strong argument for playing a double as a "trial" bid or game-try.
A hand featuring defender's play for a change. Dealer West; Game All: West wishes the "MOVE PLEASE" call be made quickly and passes. North has a routine 1S opener, intending, even though you have an 'extra' sixth spade, to rebid 2S only after any simple response at the two level ( showing 9+hcp ). You don't have enough extra strength as well to justify a jump rebid, but you would raise an invitational limit raise of 3S to 4S!. East has a strong hand with a good suit which is usually shown by a take-out double and bidding your suit at the lowest possible level thereafter. However, partner will really expect you to have a six card suit if you do that, as well as 16+hcp, and I would not like to bid 3H if the bidding progresses - Dbl-2S-Pass-Pass-? so I would merely overcall 2H. South should then double for take-out. This shows about 8hcp without three spades, or a stronger hand with or without 3 spades depending on how South bids later. North's rebid of 2S should end the auction. If East does double instead of overcalling, South should make the more descriptive bid of 2C, rather than redouble ( both bids show 9+hcp ) and North's 2S again
I always am exceptionally careful on every Board 13 I play. Am I being silly? Dealer North:Game/All: I never know whether to open the North hand or not - eleven hcp is borderline but you have a suit worth partner knowing about and good intermediates. It is always worth 1H 3rd or 4th in hand, but I would pass 1st or 2nd in hand because it has more than 7 losers. But I guess many players would open the hand 1H. If North and East pass, South has an obvious 1D opener and West bids 1S unless playing an unusual variation of Michaels, showing a 5-5 two-suited hand. Over 1S, North can now bid 2H showing at least 5 hearts and 9+hcp ( for a normal 2-over-1 response ) which is forcing for one round. East is not pleased with partner's 1S bid and thus passes, and South should jump to 4H because although the hand is only in the minimum range (10-14) the club void and known 5-4 fit means the playing strength is exceptional. Congratulations to all the E/W who managed to find their club fit, but I am not suggesting it is possible. West is not worth two bids vulnerable as there is no solidity in the suits.
A few bidding problems for N & E/W this week. Dealer East; Game All. East has a fairly strong hand with 16hcp and a decent six card suit but is not quite strong enough for a Benji 2C and so opens 1H. South wishes the hand would end quickly and has a clear pass and West should respond 1NT. This is preferable to showing fair support for hearts (Hxx) because of the lack of a ruffing value. North would like to bid but should not, because a take-out double would show either 1) a stronger hand with a long suit (usually six cards) that can be shown if partner responds in your short suit - in this case spades - or 2) an opening hand with H shortage and four or a good three spades. Some players prefer to insist on four spades for a take-out double of hearts, and this idea has some merit, but I would not insist on this. I prefer a minimum of three cards in any unbid major. So I would pass the North hand, and East should invite game with a jump rebid of 3H. I now think that the best bid by West is 3NT, although you could get egg on your face if the defence can cash 5 diamond tricks with 4H making easily. Here you have lower honours (Queens, Jacks and Tens. In the long run these are better for No-trumps; whereas if you had a plethora of Controls (Aces and Kings), that would suggest you going for the major suit game instead of 3NT.
Most E/Ws managed to go minus on today's hand - albeit in a tricky 4S game . Dealer East; Love/All. East opens a routine weak 1NT and South is just short of an overcall and should pass despite the six card suit. Note that if 2H is bid it helps declarer to place the heart King when E/W buy the contract. West bids 2C Stayman and raises the response of 2S to game. (Check with your partner what a bid of 3D shows if opener responds 2D or 2H - I play it as game-invitational with around 10-11hcp and six diamonds and a four card major, but some people play the blanket rule that a new suit at the 3-level is forcing! Here, I would not bid 3D whatever the partnership agreement; I would sign off in 3NT with the West hand over 2D or 2H despite the singleton, as this is the most likely game to have a chance of making!
Most E/W pairs found themselves too high on this board.
Not too taxing a hand this week! Dealer South; Love/All: After South passes, West has a good suit (clubs) and good shape (6-5) but probably a wasted three hcp (singleton HK). With less than 15hcp you should generally open the higher ranking even if this is much the weaker suit - as here - because it is only a good hand if partner has a fit for one of your suits. Also you need to bid your second suit twice to show at least 5-5 shape so that partner can realise that you have a five-three fit. If you start with clubs and then bid diamonds twice you are at a very high level if opponents intervene and may be shut out of showing the hand's potential. After West's opening 1D and North's 1S overcall, East should double ( showing 4 hearts - Note that 2H would show 5 and be forcing for one round so usually having around 10-11hcp). East knows there is a diamond fit, but if West has four hearts the heart game will outscore the diamond game and will be easier to make, as you only require ten tricks instead of eleven. South will usually raise partner's spades, either 2S or 3S (preemptively). Both of these bids are limited because with a good supporting hand you could make an unassuming cue-bid of 2D. A redouble can be played as either showing a top honour in spades i.e. lead-directing, or just general values - I prefer the lead-directing option. I think 3S is the right bid even though you don't expect it to necessarily make, as it denies the opposition bidding space to locate their best contract, and it will probably be a profitable sacrifice if it is doubled and goes one or two off. West cannot be shut out by South's bidding and has to bid clubs at the cheapest level possible. However this bid now shows 5-5 because you would either pass or double - the double showing extra values - with 5-4 shape. North has not got the shape to bid again and East should jump to the 5D game because the two Aces in partner's short suits and excellent diamond support are worth their weight in gold!
My partner and I came a cropper on this hand and went for -500 in 4S doubled, missing the 5-4 heart fit! Dealer East; N/S Vul. After a pass by East, South has no option other than to open 1NT if it shows 12-14. I try and not open 1NT with two suits wide open as you can usually afford to be run through in one suit and still make 1NT, but not if two suits are weak! West should bid an intermediate jump overcall of 3D. Although North has not got opening hcp the hand has sufficient shape to justify wanting to play in a major suit game assuming the breaks are reasonable. As a double by North would usually be for penalties or a bid of 3S would be game invitational only (subject to partnership agreement), North should cue-bid 4D - saying bid your best major even if only 3 cards. You would prefer to be in 4S if opener is 3-3 or 2-2 in the majors but you can't have it all ways - at least you are in a 5-3 fit with a possible spade ruff if partner has 3H & 2S. And as in this case partner might be 4H & 2S which makes a difference of two tricks and a swing of 1120!
After a diamond lead ruffed, at pairs - at teams you probably duck a spade in both hands as you are quite happy to lose two spades and a club - you cross to HA in order to lead a spade towards the King in the hope that West can contribute the SA. The King loses to East's Ace and a second diamond is ruffed by North. A low spade lets East win SJ as West shows out for West to lead a third diamond. The spade break is unfortunate and should result in the defence prevailing as now you cannot set up the spades because of the entry situation to the North hand. Even if you throw a club on the third round of diamonds the defence can lead a 4th round forcing you to lose control. Double dummy you can make 4H by leaving trumps alone - which threatens making the Ace of clubs and all nine trumps on a cross-ruff - Note that the third round of spades can be ruffed with S4 and West cannot overruff - or setting up the spades using the K10 of hearts as entries to the North hand to set up the spades if the defence leads trumps, ruffing spades with the HAQ.
A difficult hand for N/S to bid this week. Dealer S; Game/All. South has a marginal opener but good controls so I would open 1H intending to pass 1NT, raise 1S to 2S or rebid 2H over a minor. West wants to bid 1S for a lead but the playing strength of the hand is poor and with 9 losers should pass as you don't want partner to compete vigorously with four card support! North has an obvious bid of 2D and East has a desire to bid 2S but probably, since vulnerable, should think better of it, as the suit is very threadbare, so should pass. Over the mandatory 2H rebid North bids 3C ( forcing ) and South bids 3NT without too much confidence. North should realise that this is unlikely to be a good contract and should bid 4C describing at least 5/5 in the minors. South can bid 4H with a 6 card suit, or bid 4D if weak and unsuitable, but here has enough support for clubs to raise to game.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Try and describe your hand if 5-5 by rebidding your second suit and let partner decide the final contract.
A part-score deal this week - nip and tuck to see if the defence or declarer prevails.
I was surprised to see many pairs only making nine tricks on today's hand. Dealer South ; E/W Vulnerable: South is almost worth a 1NT opener but without a five card suit should pass. West has an obvious pass and North is almost worth a light third in hand opener but I would pass, as I don't particularly want a club lead and I may be able to double later to show the other two suits if the opposition bid hearts and diamonds. So East opens 1H, South passes as partner would expect better spades for a take-out double, and West should respond 2H rather than 1NT. The reason for this is that if minimum partner will have five hearts and the major suit contract will generally score better than 1NT. A possible exception is if your trumps are three small as you don't want to suggest partner leads the suit against an opposition contract if they out bid you. Partner should allow for a raise on three trumps only by bidding 2NT on 17-18, or 3NT on 19+, holding only four trumps. On this deal, with N/S now passing throughout, East although minimum in hcp has enough shape to suggest a possible game and makes a trial bid of 3D - the suit where most help is required. West, although holding a few good features, does not have enough help in diamonds - being middle of the road rather than maximum - and so probably signs off with 3H, and the auction ends.
A difficult hand for E/W to play this week and a difficult hand for N/S to defend but N/S should prevail!. Dealer West; Love/All: West has a hand of 18hcp including a KQ doubleton which is not a good holding for the likely contract of 3NT as you intend to rebid 2NT if partner has no support! However, the main decision is whether you open 1C or 1S - both options have their merits. 1S stops the opponents overcalling at the one-level and also scores more than 1C if it is passed out and the contract makes. 1C gives partner more room to explore for the best contract. The modern style is to open 1S and I do so with some partners although personally I prefer 1C. Over 1S North passes and East is not quite good enough for 3S so bids 2S and over South's pass West bids 2NT in case partner has raised with only 3S and a ruffing value. Over this, with a maximum 2S raise, East jumps to 4S.
Dealer North; Game All: The raise from four of a major to five is usually played as a specific slam try by most partnerships. I play if the bidding is uncontested you are asking partner for better trumps than shown already - you are saying that your holding is thread bare say Kxxx or Axxx and you want partner to have say AQxx or KQxx or Axxxxx. If the opposition have overcalled in a suit then you want partner to bid a small slam without two losers in the suit. On today's hand North opens 1S and East probably overcalls 2D and South makes a forcing bid of 3C. West passes and North has a problem – he is good enough for game but cannot bid 3NT without a stop in diamonds. In these circumstances you are forced to cue-bid the opponents suit and hope partner can help you to bid the correct contract. South jumps to game in spades - knowing that partner will expect secondary support only as an initial bid of 4S would have shown primary support (4+ cards). Now North with a goodish suit, a heart control and a good holding in partner's suit (clubs) raises to five spades as a slam try. South with a singleton club raises to six. There is nothing to the play - if East does not cash the DA North makes an overtrick.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Discuss what a raise to the five level of partner's major means.
A happy new year to both of my readers and welcome to any new NEBA members tuning in for the first time through Neil Aistons's promptings - the column is intended for keen improvers so I try and discuss hands that are slightly out of the ordinary - remember though I just give my opinion and it does not matter if you agree with me as long as you and your partners are on the same wavelength! Board 2 Dealer East; N/S Vul. East passes and South has a reasonable weak 1NT 11-14 opener non-vul but I think you should pass vulnerable because of the sterile 4333 shape. Assuming South passes, West may opt to open 1H third in hand to suggest a heart lead and to make it more difficult for E/W to assess their combined strength. The downside of this action is that if partner raises the opposition may be in a better position to evaluate their fit - in this instance after North overcalls 1S and East raises South knows that North can ruff one or two of his heart losers and his hand is worth a game try. If East raises to 2H then an unassuming cue-bid of 3H fits the bill here for South whereas if East raises preemtively to 3H then a double should be a game-try not penalties and North is happy to jump to game. If West passes third in hand the bidding should go ( uncontested ) 1S-2D-3D-4S. 4S rather than 3S because with a weakish hand with 5S and 4D North would normally pass ( because you know that partner has not the values to open the bidding ). Hence 3D shows a decent 12-14hcp. After a heart lead and continuation, a trump to K and one back to JA, East continues hearts and N ruffs. North must be careful not to draw the last trump at this point but try the club finesse ( twice if necessary ) as you need to keep a trump in dummy to take care of a fourth heart lead, cross to DK, draw the last trump and cash your minor suit winners.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When the opposition raise hearts to the 3 level and you are bidding spades a double should be a game-try in spades not penalties.
Board 7: South dealer; G/A. After South passes and West has an obvious 1H opener. Or is it! I rarely open one of a suit without 3 controls (A=2,K=1) so I would open 1NT and the ( uncontested sequence ) should go 2H(transfer)-2S-3C(suit)-3S-4D(cue-bid)-4S(sign-off)-Pass(reluctantly). Most of the room played in 3NT so you didn't have to bid the making slam to get a good score! On a diamond lead to DA, cash HA, cross to CK to ditch two diamonds on HKQ, ruff a diamond, cash CA, ruff a club, ruff a diamond, ruff a club and lead SQ to South's K and win last two tricks with A9. If North has SK you have to guess where the 10 is to make twelve tricks.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Discuss with your partner whether a 3 level bid after a transfer to a major is forcing for one round and therefore a try for game or forcing to game in which case it is a try for a slam! More about this topic in a future column.