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Hands of the Week #3
Lightner Doubles and Slams.

This was Board 7 played on April 22nd. With all vulnerable you are dealer as South and after you open 1S your partner bids 2H With neither opponent bidding, you jump to 3S and your partner rather unfortunately presses on and bids 6S which RHO (East) then doubles.


What lead is East asking West to make? West leads the JD. How can you make twelve tricks?

West’s double which came out-of-the-blue, as it were, is called the Lightner Double and asks for an unusual lead, usually the first side suit bid by dummy, if nothing else stands out. Leading from your longest and strongest suit would not constitute an unusual lead since that is quite commonly what West would be expected to lead if not given any other clues. East is asking for a heart but West did not lead one. What does that mean, most likely that West doesn’t have a heart to lead and, therefore, that East has AKJxxx in hearts.

Despite the fact that you didn’t lose two heart tricks immediately, you can still only see 10 tricks in the other suits since the diamond suit is so badly duplicated. You will have to make all four club tricks to bring the slam home. You play a round of trumps to find that East has none.  It is a guess which way to finesse the clubs but since West probably has nine minor cards while East has only seven, there might be a slightly better chance playing West for the QC.  Running the JC, will only yield four tricks if West has Qxx in clubs or Q9xx(xx) and you guess correctly once you return to hand.

Now look at all the hands.

As you can see East has the QC and finessing West will fail and you will only make 10 tricks.

Now play the hand to make twelve tricks, “double dummy”.

Before I outline the double dummy play, note that, with six hearts in his hand, the Lightner Double is pretty unsafe in this situation but beating a vulnerable slam by one trick will yield a net gain of around 1400 to 1500 Match Points while the double will only cost 230 Match Points, if twelve tricks are made. The Lightner Double is used for just this reason. There is a lot of upside and not much downside.To make twelve tricks, declarer takes the diamond lead with (say) AD, plays three rounds of trumps ending dummy, finesses the JC successfully and now plays KD, KC and all trumps, leaving three cards in each hand. In order to keep the QC protected and to keep a card better than the QH, East must come down to just AH and Qx in clubs. Declarer now plays a heart from hand, end-playing East and forcing him/her to lead away from the QC around to the A 10 in dummy. Declarer must watch East’s discards carefully to ensure that East does not unguard the QC and keep both the AH and KH in which case declarer must play a club from hand and the AC in dummy.


More on Slam Bidding (Part 2)

The last time slam bidding was covered in “Hand of the Week” was in October last year. The following hand was Board 12 played at Nowra on April 7.

With N/S vulnerable and your partner the dealer, West opens 1NT which shows 15-17HCPs and no five card major.

With N/S passing at every turn, how do you bid to reach the best contract for Pairs Bridge?

With no particular fit, Small Slams in NT require 33 to 34 HCPs and Grand Slams 37 to 38 HCPs. You have a minimum combined holding of 36HCPs and a six card suit so you should be looking for a Grand Slam having ensured the missing four HCPs is not the AS!

You need to play transfer bids over NT openings and Roman Key Card asking to find the best contract. You bid 2S (or sometimes 2NT by agreement) which asks partner to bid 3C. Once he/she does so you bid 4NT which is a Key Card Ask in clubs. Partner will bid 5S which shows two key cards (the two outstanding being the AS and KC) plus the QC.

You now know that you have six certain club tricks plus AS,KS, AH and AD making 10 tricks in total off the top. You now bid 5NT for Kings (excluding the KC). Partner shows 1 x Kings so you are missing one King giving you 11 tricks off the top or probably 13 tricks if partner has a four card major with either  the QS or the KH and QH. Partner has shown up with 12HCPs based on his responses to your key card asks.  (viz AS, KC,QC and another K). Therefore, partner has another 3 to 4HCPs in Qs and Js. With this situation you would be unlucky to be forced into playing a 50% chance finesse for your 13th trick and should bid the Grand Slam. It is unlikely that partner’s holding would allow more tricks to be made in clubs than NT so a 7NT bid is better than a 7C bid, especially when playing Pairs. BTW only 7/13 pairs even bid a small slam, so we all should continue working to improve our bridge.


Weak NT and Key Card Asking:

With E/W vulnerable, Dealer West, the bidding at our table proceeded:

West   Pass          North   1NT*        East   Pass               South   2C**                        

            Pass                        3H***                 Pass                            ??? 

The 1NT opening by North shows 11-14HCPs and may contain a 5 card major as long as 5332 shape. 2C is Puppet Stayman and 3H shows a 5 card heart suit and maximum range, in this case 13-14HCPs.

  1. What do you bid?
  2. If you bid 4NT (Roman key card) partner indicates 3 key cards ie AS, AH and KH, since the Key Card ask assumes the last bid suit, hearts, will be trumps. What do you bid next?         

This is an example of where the Weak NT together with Puppet Stayman really comes into its own because, if you Key Card ask, you know partner has a 5332 shape with 13-14HCPs with AS and a heart suit headed by the A and K. Based on this you can count 11 tricks based on 5 heart tricks (68% of time), 2 x spades, 1 x diamonds and 3 x clubs. The 12th trick  could come from partner’s KD if he/she has it (still not more than 14HCPs) or from the AQx in spades in partner’s hand, or a spade ruff in your hand or the clubs breaking 3-3 or partner holding JC. You ask for kings and partner advises none (other than KH). This is still a very good basis for bidding 6H and only one other pair did this.   

You know that your partnership only has 31 or 32HCPs so bidding a small slam is good but is there any way of finding out whether there is a chance of Grand Slam (which happens to be on)?  You need partner to have the JC plus 3 x spades for this a likely proposition. I don’t know of any bidding sequence that can give you all the information you need. Do you?

Asking for Key Cards

The following hand was played in Swiss Teams at the Batemans Bay Congress on March 9, 2014. I can only recall the critical cards so the others are marked as “crosses”.  

East   1C          South   Pass        West   1H                                               North   Pass                        

           1S                       Pass                     4NT (Roman Key Card Ask)                  Pass           

            5C (1 or 4)       Pass                      ????

In Roman Key Card, 4NT asks how many key cards partner has. The five key cards are the four Aces and the King of Trumps. A response of 5C can show 1 or 4 or 0 or 3 (by agreement), 5D the other option, 5H 2 x key cards without the Queen of trumps, 5S 2 x key cards, with the Queen of trumps and 5NT all five key cards.  


Partner has shown 1 or 4 key cards. What do you bid?

There is a huge downside of getting this wrong, either bidding a Grand Slam missing three key cards or not bidding a Grand Slam when it looks very high probability.

I got it wrong but the correct bid is 5S which partner will convert to 6S with four rather than one key card whereupon you can raise to 7S if you choose. I was in 7S doubled by my RHO which partner took out to 7NT which my RHO also doubled.

Assuming you were left in 7S doubled and LHO led the second best lead of a diamond ( I am down immediately on a heart lead) how do you make 7S? You should assume AH, AD, KS with South. When in trouble play for the friendliest distribution which actually applied.

                   West                                                       East                                                                 

                  S AQJx                                                 S 109xx

                  H KQxxx                                              H x

                  D Kxx                                                   D A

                  C ------                                                  C  KQJ9xxx


Two Teasers (b)

Some North or South played this board in 6H but went down after losing two trump tricks.

This is a double dummy problem so you need to see all the hands to have any real chance of finding a solution. How do you play the trump suit (hearts) to lose only one trick? The solution will be published next week and there is a bottle of wine for the first person who emails me ( the correct solution before Tuesday March 18.

Run the 9 from the South hand. If West covers with the 10, play the Q. (East must now take the K to have any chance of making two trump tricks.) Later finesse East for the J using the A8 tenace remaining in the South hand. If West doesn’t cover with the 10, allow the 9 to run around to East’s J. Later, run the Q from the North hand through the K in the East hand, simultaneously pinning the 10 in the West hand.

Two Teasers (a)

The bidding at our table proceeded:

North            East                    South          West
Pass             1S                     2H             3H ( can you stop hearts for NT?)
Pass             3NT (yes I can)   4H             4S   ..... pased out

South led KH followed by AH. How does East make 10 tricks?


This looks pretty straightforward. Providing trumps break 2-1 (most of the time), you can finesse for the KS, draw the last trump and then ruff 3 x hearts in the dummy, losing three tricks if the finesse loses and two if it succeeds.

You must now ask yourself what can possibly go wrong. The answer should be if North has a singleton heart and the three outstanding trumps including the KS. South’s play of the AH is unwarranted if he/she knows his/her partner has only one trump but it could be a bluff. If South plays a low heart then East can certainly expect North to have a singleton heart and would take the necessary precaution…which is… ruffing with the 10S to prevent a damaging over-ruff. East should do this regardless. North, who actually had a singleton heart, can now over-ruff with the KS but can take no more trump tricks.

Preserving Communications in Declarer Play

Some may disagree with the 2D bid favouring a heart rebid with six, probably 3H.

Against 2D, North led JC to West’s AC. West continued with the KD taken by South who led the QC taken by West.

How do you make 4D?


You can see three losers at this stage, a club, a heart and a diamond. There are more than one option for declarer and the defence but let us assume you take the most likely approach and decide to draw trumps and set up your long heart suit.  However, if you clear trumps in two more rounds before leading a heart, North will get in, cash a club, note a spade signal from partner and lead a spade. If you ruff the spade you have no more entries to hand once you ruff a heart in dummy and will lose two or three more spades on the table.

The problem is that you are short of entries to set your suit up once the AC and KC have been knocked out .

In order to preserve communication you lead a small heart before drawing trumps. Let us assume North wins with the 10H, cashes 10C, sees a spade signal from partner and leads a spade. You ruff, play AH, ruff a heart in dummy with the 9D if necessary and draw trumps in two rounds ending in hand in order to enjoy your remaining hearts.

Trump Coups can Blow your Mind

South Pass; West 1NT (15-17HCP); North Pass; East 2H(transfer); South  Pass;  West 2S; North Pass; East 4S* (passed out).

North leads the QD.

This is a fiendishly difficult contract to make even if you can see all the hands (double dummy). It is very unlikely anyone would choose the right line given the bidding but let us assume 4S was doubled by South as it was at  least one other table on the night. If you are doubled you can conclude that South has KS, QS and most likely the two other spades which include the 9S together with the AH or why else would you be doubled? That means North has the QD and JD based on the lead and also the KC because South would have probably opened with 12HCPs.

Assuming that South has:

S KQ94

H A and more

D 4 or more (or else North would have 7 and probably would have bid)

C At least one but not the KC.

How does West who is declarer make 4S? As an incentive the first person who emails me the right answer ( without looking at all hands and without consulting my answer here by Tuesday 26/2/14 will get a bottle of wine! I have already supplied a number of clues. Several entries are permissible.

Once you conclude that South has S KQ94 and  H A and others you will realise that with normal play leading a spade towards the AJ10 etc will always lose four tricks by way of 3 x spade and 1 x heart losers so you must find another way.

The only way to avoid 3 x spade losers is to force South to lead away from his spade holding and South will only do that if there is no other choice. Once South has cashed the AH, it does not matter if you are  given  ruff and sloughs along the way so long as South’s spade holding remains intact.


Declarer must strip out all the side suits so that South has no choice but to lead trumps when he/she is thrown in. This can only be achieved by what is called a (Double) Trump (Reduction) Coup. While stripping out the side suits declarer must ensure that his/her long trump suit is the same length as the defender’s when the defender is thrown in. In this case the six card trump suit in dummy must be reduced to four trumps before South is thrown in. Otherwise South will have an idle card that he/she can play and declarer will be forced to lead trumps to South instead and go one down in the process.

Look at the full set of hands. The play should proceed as follows (assuming no signals):

  1. QD, 2C, 2D, AD   (2) KH, 2H, 3H, AH (first defensive trick)

South has several options for a lead now. If he leads a heart declarer wins with QH; if a club West plays QC and if covered by KC wins AC in dummy;   if a diamond West wins in hand with the KD ditching another club.

If declarer is in hand with KD, he/she ditches a second club plays the QH and a ruffs the small diamond in dummy before playing the 10H. If South does not cover, West ruffs anyway and crosses to AC before playing the last heart and ruffing that as well. A similar line is adopted if declarer wins the QH in hand. If declarer wins the AC in dummy, he/she plays a heart to the QH ruffs a diamond in dummy, ruffs a heart in hand, ruffs the KD in dummy(!) and ruffs the last heart to hand.

The end position for the first two scenarios is as follows:

                                   North (irrelevant)

West                                                                                   East

S  8                                                                                      S   AJ1076

H -----                                                                                  H ------

D ------                                                                                 D -------

C QJ74                                                                                 C -------


                                  S KQ94

                                  H ------

                                  D 9

                                  C ------

Declarer either leads 8S or a club and ruffs in the dummy (say with 6S). South over-ruffs with 9S his/her second trick and exits with the diamond. West trumps in dummy with the 7S and exits with JS. If South overtakes, he  is end-played and forced to lead around to dummy’s tenace. If South doesn’t overtake declarer cashes the AS for the tenth trick.

The end position for the last scenario is as follows:

                                  North (irrelevant)

West                                                                                   East

S  8                                                                                      S   AJ107

H -----                                                                                  H ------

D ------                                                                                 D -------

C J743                                                                                C  8


                                  S KQ94

                                  H ------

                                  D 9

                                  C ------

West leads the JC which is a winner. South can ruff and lead a diamond which declarer ruffs in dummy with the 7S before leading JS as before. If South discards the diamond on the QC, declarer plays another club or 8S and plays the 7S from dummy. Again, South has to lead away from his/her holding and can only make two more tricks. 

It does not appear that this contract can be made if declarer leads a round of trumps to begin with because the timing is lost.

Trump Reduction Coups can actually be more than single or double providing there are enough entries in the other hand to reduce the trump suit to the required length and sometimes an extra entry to pull off the coup. The defender with the problem trump holding must also follow suit at the necessary moments. I have actually heard of a quadruple Trump Reduction Coup being executed but any type of trump coup is rare.