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This board was played at NBC on Tuesday, March 1.
What card should East lead?
Assuming East led her fourth highest spade ( 6S), West then winning with the KS, what should West lead to the second trick?
Assuming West exits with 3D, how does North plan the play?
Now click on "Show All Hands".
This is an example of one of those highly competitive auctions where each partnership has the potential to make their contract with help, often a lot of help, from distribution. In these types of boards it is very important for the defence to win or establish their tricks quickly before declarer has the chance to gain the upper hand.
Given the 6S lead, West actually has a great deal of deliberation to do before leading to the second trick. North first passed the 2S bid by West and then bid on to 5D once her partner had shown secondary support. North sounds like she has a weak hand with a very long diamond suit. Secondly, the clubs in dummy appear to be a menace aside from ruffing value in spades. A trump switch may be correct if North does not hold the AD but otherwise North is still likely to get two spade ruffs in dummy. West must also consider what her partner overcalled on after she had passed and both opponents had bid. East must have some useful values and probably close to an opening bid in order to make this overcall, later raise to game in spades and then double. Unless East has a strong holding in trumps which is unlikely, she is marked with the AH and a heart switch is the best chance to beat the contract. If East doesn’t have the AH then she is likely to have 2 x trump tricks and the contract will still fail.
East can actually make West’s job a whole lot easier by making a more useful lead in the first place. East should envisage that the defence is likely to win only 1 x spade trick at most. In these types of situations, it is a good tactic to lead one’s highest honour in order to have a chance to look at the dummy. If East leads her QS then she will hold the trick, have a chance to see the dummy and then most likely cash her AH in order to be certain to beat the contract. In practice, West will now signal encouragement for a heart continuation and the contract will go two down. Using the same logic that 1 x spade trick at most will be available to the defence, as an alternative, East could also lead the 9S as a suit preference signal indicating to West should she win the lead that East would prefer a heart switch over a club switch.
In the actual play and lacking any help from the lead, West made the “safe” exit of a trump at trick two. North now went up with AD to prevent two trump rounds being played, trumped a spade in dummy, returned to QC, trumped her last spade in dummy and played on clubs discarding hearts. East had to follow to the second club round while North discarded one of her two hearts and could only trump the third round with a trump winner while North discarded her last heart. 5D doubled was made versus going 2 down with a heart switch at trick two. This tactic of leaving the defence with a trump winner while jettisoning losers on a side suit is often possible and can be very effective.
This hand came up on January 26. With the huge hand, East opened 2C, South overcalled 2D, West passed, East re-opened with a double and at unfavourable vulnerability, West bid 3NT which became 6NT after East checked Aces and Kings.
North dutifully led her 10D. With the blockage in diamonds and no entries to hand, there only seem to be 8 tricks off the top and one more if the spade K is driven out. If both hearts and clubs break (very low probability) declarer might get home using this line. Declarer wins the KD and tries three rounds of clubs, North showing out on the third round. West now plays a round of hearts, South showing out.
How can West make 12 tricks?
West cannot make 12 tricks with perfect defence but has a chance. South is now shown to have 6 or 7 diamonds (for her overcall), 4 clubs and 2 or 3 spades. West should now play a fourth round of clubs and throw South in. South can now lead either a spade around to dummy’s AQJ or a diamond to declarer’s AJ.
As long as South leads a spade even when holding K doubleton, West will be locked in dummy and will have to lose at least a spade or heart trick.
However South made the mistake of leading a diamond whereupon declarer won AD and JD discarding the rag heart and JS in dummy and finessed the KS in the North hand to come home.
This was played at NBC on Friday, January 22. You are South and declarer in 5C and get the KH led. How do you make eleven tricks?
If you trump the heart lead and draw three rounds of trumps you will have 5 x club tricks from hand, 3 x spade tricks and 1 x diamond trick making nine in total. You now need to set up the diamonds to make two more but the problem is you must let the defence in twice to do this and if they keep playing hearts at you, you will have run out of trumps in hand and not be able to trump the third round of hearts and go one down.
Beginners often trump off-suit shortages in their own hand which normally has the length in the trump suit. This doesn’t help because they will make the same number of tricks anyway by simply drawing trumps and it may harm them if they run out of trump control.
However, if declarer can make more trump tricks in total than their trump suit length by trumping off-suit shortages in their own hand, it could be worth doing. Consider this case. If declarer trumps all three hearts in hand and still makes the four trumps in dummy, then she will make seven trump tricks in total not five. Add this to the three spade tricks and the diamond trick and eleven tricks are on offer.
This line of play is called a Dummy Reversal and it was the fourth type of hand discussed in my lessons. It requires enough entries to dummy to make all the ruffs and one more to return to dummy to draw trumps.
In this hand, declarer ruffs the heart lead, plays KC and a small club to the AC, ruffs a heart, crosses to the KS, ruffs the third and last heart, and crosses to the AD to draw the remaining club with the JC before cashing the remaining spades.
This hand was played at NBC on Tuesday January 12. It is interesting both from the point of view of the bidding and the play.
As far as the bidding is concerned, no declarer reached 4S despite 12 tricks being possible. North’s hand has 8 tricks in spades, first round control in 3 suits and second in the other. North should double West’s 1D opening and bid 2S over the likely 1H response from South. This is showing a very strong hand because South was forced to bid over the double and North cannot assume South has a genuine one level response. South should now bid 3C to show real values and the unbid minor and North should bid the game in spades not needing to rely on support in spades.
Assume you are North in 4S and ...
How do you make a rather unlikely 12 tricks in spades?
1. On a diamond lead you win the QD with the AD, cross to the board with the AC and run the JS.
2. On a club lead you win the AC (noting the KC dropped by West) and run the JS as before.
If West ducks, you duck, cross to hand with a club ruff and draw the remaining trumps.
You would have liked to either play West for the KD and QD and lead a diamond from dummy or, better, set up a club trick by leading the 10C and discarding a losing heart or diamond, but you no longer have the two entries to dummy to do either of those things.
You may be lucky and get a 3-3 heart break (36% of the time) and the third heart will give you the 12 tricks. To preserve communication you must now duck a heart so that if hearts break 3-3 you can lead to the KH in the dummy at the next opportunity and cash the 13th heart if they break. By ducking this round of hearts you are actually in the process of making certain of 12 tricks by initiating a squeeze on one of the opponents as yet unidentified if they happen to hold 4 x hearts. What this requires is for you to win the next lead (say AD) after the opponents win the heart duck and run out all your spades.
The end position will look like this.
When you play your last spade East cannot keep 3 x hearts plus the QC (because of the 10C menace card), and when East discards a heart you discard the 10C which is no longer required.
If West has 3 x hearts then she can no longer keep them plus her KD. If she also discards a heart you discard your JD secure in the knowledge that the heart suit will now yield 12 tricks even if it broke 4-2.
Some may wonder why a club was ruffed back to hand early on rather than a heart led to the AH. The reason is that the squeeze described above will not work if the KH is knocked out before the long trump suit is played.
This is the link card which itself is always accompanied by another menace card in squeeze plays. See earlier Hands of the Week or my 2015 lessons where I have discussed the principles of squeeze plays if you are interested. However,it is acknowledged, that playing a small club is not without some risk, because West might be both void in clubs and have Qx in spades and ruff the second club round with the QS, promoting her partner’s 10S.
This was a hand played at Nowra on Tuesday, November 24. North gets into 4D after partner opens and West overcalls hearts and West and East compete up to 3H. East leads AH and another and West exits with the 9D. How does North make 10 tricks?
North has nine tricks off the top and needs only to find one more. Spades may break 3-3 or there may be a favourable position in spades such as West holding QS and JS. After drawing trumps, North leads a small spade from dummy and tries the 10S. East wins the JS and continues spades, West showing out. Since the only other chance is with the club suit, North must win the spade continuation with the AS in hand.
There is a chance of winning 2 x club tricks if East holds the 10C and either the QC or KC. Declarer first finesses the 9C. If this draws the QC or KC, declarer is half way there because she can now finesse the JC in the hope that West holds one of the QC and KC only. This play and distribution of cards is called a deep finesse and there is a relatively low chance of it succeeding because two finesses have to work.
However, in this hand, the deep finesse would work and furthermore, by finessing the 9C in the first instance, declarer has actually guaranteed her contract even if West holds both the QC and KC because West has no exit card and must play another club or give a ruff and slough.
Sitting South at Nowra Bridge Club on November 23, I hadn’t long finished “licking my wounds” having a high percentage 7D beaten on Hand 4 by foul distribution when I ended up in 6NT on the following hand:
West led the JC. We had enough HCPs all right and there were 11 tricks off-the-top but the hands were mirrored and there just didn’t seem to be any way to make 12 tricks. Can you see a remotely possible way?
A heart /club squeeze is not available since for squeeze plays, you (generally) must first lose all tricks except that extra one you are seeking so the opposition has no idle cards when the squeeze is applied. If you lose a club or heart trick, because you are 3-3 you no longer have a menace card in that suit.
The one little ray of hope in the hand is the heart suit. If the defenders had led the suit, then you would have had a chance of making three tricks. But hearts weren’t led so you must force the opposition to do so. You do this by an elimination play and throw-in. It is by no means certain to work but to avoid it, the opposition must be spot-on with their discards.
Hoping the JC is from four cards, you win with the AC on the table. This improves the chance of East being caught winning the QC in the third round of clubs (the throw-in) and being forced to lead hearts.
You now play out your 4 x diamonds. West has to find two discards and throws a heart and a spade. You now cash the three spades. West, under pressure to keep the QH protected throws a club which is what you have been waiting for. You now play off the KC and a small club. Which opponent wins the trick depends upon whether East has discarded a small club or a spade on the fourth round of diamonds. In either case the opponent winning the trick has to lead a heart. If a heart honour is led, which is best defence, you now have to guess whether the heart honours are split or with the hand who led the honour to make your contract.
In order to beat the 6NT contract, either West has to discard two hearts which is a difficult thing to do relying on her partner to have Jxx in hearts or East has to discard a heart keeping Qxx in clubs and the forlorn little 6S as the setting trick, again far from easy.
You will note that the computer says 6D makes whereas 6NT doesn’t. This is because you can take the same sort approach to your play, 3 x spades, but 3 x diamonds only and two top clubs followed by a club throw-in. Due to the power of a trump contract, the opposition must now open up the heart suit or give you a ruff and slough. In this case, the end play is unavoidable.
A comment on bidding. Disregarding the bidding at our table, most North’s will open 2NT or 2D if they play multis. In either case North will bid 2NT during the auction. There was a little bidding gadget called Baron that has been around for a long time that states if responder bids 3C over the 2NT bid, this is NOT Stayman. It asks for the NT bidder to bid their 4 card suits in ascending order. Using Baron, North will respond 3D to the 3C bid and the diamond slam is found. If North has 4 x clubs and three of everything else, she bids 3NT and maybe a club slam may be found. Major fits can also be found as long as the partnership bids up the line.
I was sitting West at Nowra on Monday, November 2nd, feeling despondent about my hand, especially when the opponents bid briskly to a small slam, but, as it happened, in the rather intriguing contract of 6S by North.
My partner led the fourth highest heart from his own forlorn holding only for it to run to declarer’s JH. At this stage, this being a club event amongst friends, declarer burst out “ I want to be in 7S” and I murmured,” I’m not stopping you” thinking I had a certain spade trick.
As it happened, declarer lost a spade to make 12 tricks but can you see how 13 can be made?
Following the heart lead, with a normal trump break, there are “17 tricks” off the top if the clubs break 3-3. Thirteen tricks are available in NT even if the spades don’t break.
In this type of situation declarer has to ask what can possibly go wrong in a 6S (or 7S) contract as far as making thirteen tricks. The only thing is if spades break 5-1 and the 10♠ is not singleton or 6-0, a total probability of 14% but can declarer cater for it?
A 6-0 split can’t be handled nor can a 5-1 split including the 10♠ in the East hand. However, if five spades are in the West hand, there is indeed a good chance of making thirteen tricks via a trump coup. To achieve this declarer must reduce his trump length to the same number as the opponent sitting under him.
Declarer wins the J♥ , crosses to the K♠, crosses back to the A♦ and plays A♠ to discover the bad news. Declarer plays off the Q♠ leaving herself with J97 and West with 108 before cashing the A♥ and Q♣ , thus stripping the side-suit winners out of her hand, before crossing to dummy and ruffing the 10♥ . West will discard a club or a diamond. If West discards a diamond, declarer crosses to dummy with a club and plays the K♥ . Let’s say, West discards his last diamond. Declarer should follow West and discard her last diamond. Now she plays on diamonds. West cannot trump without being over-trumped and his last trump drawn before declarer returns to dummy with a club to cash more diamonds or clubs to make the contract. A similar situation pertains if West discards clubs on the 10♥ and K♥ . Declarer can play on diamond discarding clubs as necessary until West ruffs. This again brings declarer to the twelfth trick whereupon any card from dummy be it winner or loser catches West’s trumps in the pincer.
This was Board 11 played at Berry Bridge Club on October 17, 2015. No one vulnerable.
West led the KC won in dummy by South as declarer with the AC. South drew three rounds of trumps and led a small club towards the JC in dummy. Assuming West wins the QC what should she lead?
If West analyses the hand they could deduce the following. Declarer has 5 x spade tricks, AC and JC shortly and possibly a diamond ruff in dummy. Declarer is very unlikely to have a diamond trick.
Why? Partner opened and should have about 12 HCPs. If you add your own HCPs to dummy's and add 12 you will deduce that declarer only has 8HCPs and they must be AS,KS and JS. It appears that partner has all the honours outside the trump suit that are not visible. (viz the AD, KD , the AH and JH).
Whether West has worked all this out and chooses to cash QD and JD first, before the heart suit is broached, West must lead the QH rather than the 2H which would normally be standard. If the 2H is led declarer can duck and East will win with the 10H but will be forced to give declarer an extra trick over and above what she is due. If the QH is led the defence will take 3 x heart tricks providing declarer does not have 10xx in hearts, holding declarer to 7 tricks. If declarer does have 10xx in hearts it makes no difference whether the QH or 2H is led.
Incidentally, West’s explanation when asked how she found the lead of the QH was “Well there seemed no other way to beat the contract”. Sometimes the best leads are not the standard ones.
This hand was played at Nowra on October 13th. South opened 1S, North bid 2D, South rebid 2H which North, pushing a little, raised to 4H.
West led the QD which looks to be a favourable lead. How do you make 10 tricks? My proposed answer will be based on the first lesson I gave this year which described the five general patterns of hands declarer faces in a trump contract.
If the opposition’s hearts break 3-2 which occurs over 2/3 of the time declarer may be able to win 3 x heart tricks and get a spade ruff in the dummy. Given this lead where the QD is likely to be supported by the JD, there should be at least 3 x diamond tricks. Added to 1 x club trick this totals 8 tricks. This is still well short of 10 tricks required for the contract but there is a chance of a club trick and a chance of another diamond trick. Since 3 x heart honours are missing which makes the chance of making only 2 x heart tricks a possibility, playing the hand like a Type 2 hand where declarer draws trumps and gets a ruff in dummy looks unlikely to succeed.
The Type 3 hand calls for setting up a side suit either during or after drawing trumps. Declarer has 7 cards in diamonds and six in spades and given the favourable lead setting up diamonds for at least four tricks is a possibility. With trumps behaving, ten tricks may be possible. Declarer can check how the diamonds break by finessing the 10D at Trick 2. If East follows and diamonds break not worse than 4-2, a Type 3 play looks promising. But on the play of the 10D, East ruffs and exits with a club to the QC, KC and AC. What now?
West has 5 x diamonds so there is no chance of setting them up and the QC has been shown to be sitting under the KC. Hence , even after drawing trumps, there are only 2 x diamonds plus 1 x club to be obtained from the minors.
However, because West must follow to diamonds and 2 or 3 spade ruffs are possible, declarer can switch to a Type 5 play, the cross-ruff.
The only rule about cross-ruffing a hand is that side-suit winners must be cashed early. Otherwise the opposition may be able to discard a card or cards in suits where you still have winners and eventually be able to ruff that winner.
In this hand, declarer would have liked to cash the 3 x diamonds, the AS and AC early in the cross-ruff. However, East has ruffed the 10D and switched to a club driving out your AC and potentially leading to a club loser. Regardless, declarer should initiate the cross-ruff in any event by playing the KD. If East discards probably a club at this stage to preserve his KS, declarer ditches his losing club and ruffs a club to hand, cashes AS, ruffs a spade and ruffs a second club to hand. Declarer now ruffs another spade, West playing QS and leads the 8D (a loser to West).
The end position now is:
If East ruffs with anything but the KH, declarer over-ruffs. If East discards the spade winner, declarer ruffs with the 9H and leads the winning JS. If West ruffs, declarer over-ruffs with the AH and plays the last diamond. Since declarer now has the singleton QH in hand, he can only make a trick with it via positional play. This play is the bridge equivalent of the coup in passant in chess. If East plays the KH, declarer makes his QH. If East discards, declarer trumps with the QH, knowing West must still follow to the fifth diamond. Declarer has now won AS and 2 x spade ruffs, AD, KD and 2 x diamond ruffs, AC and 2 x club ruff. This makes 10 tricks.
The hand can be held to 9 tricks only if West leads a trump or QS neither of which would be recommended. East can beat the contract by leading his JH when he first gets in and leading his last heart (KH) when he ruffs a diamond with the JH later. The two rounds of trumps by the defence defeat the cross-ruff (declarer ends up with two losing spades). East may be reluctant to lead away from his strong trump holding but he may realise that he actually only has two trump winners, in any event, if declarer has the QH.
Board 6, October 10, 2015 at Berry Bridge Club
Contract: 3D by South
Trump promotions by the defence are achieved when the opponent on the right of declarer plays a winning card in an off-suit that only resides elsewhere in the dummy. That is, neither declarer nor left hand opponent have that suit. This has the effect of creating an extra trump trick in left hand opponent’s hand that would not have been the case if declarer had had the chance to draw further trump rounds.
But consider the case above that occurred recently at Berry. After some forgettable bidding, which included South opening hearts and rebidding diamonds and East bidding clubs, declarer won the contract in 3D.
West cashed KC and AC and then exited with a spade. No other exit looked promising given the bidding. East played QS and declarer won with the AS.
Declarer looked at the hand and decided nine tricks were available via 3 x spades, 1 x heart (the AH very likely to be with East on the bidding), 4 x diamonds and 1 x heart ruff in dummy. Unfortunately East showed out when declarer played his second winning diamond. Declarer now needs to get that heart ruff before a fourth round of trumps is played.
Declarer crossed to dummy by overtaking the 10S with the JS and led a heart. The risk was of course that East rises with the AH and plays a winning club. This would appear to be giving West an extra trump trick trick via a trump promotion, but that is, in fact, only the case if Declarer ruffs high with the QD (which, in a senior moment, he did).
Trump promotions only work if declarer has no idle losers to throw away when the trump promotion card is played. Otherwise declarer simply ditches a loser on a loser. In this case, declarer could ditch a losing heart but East, noting that dummies trumps were only headed by the 9D, could then play yet another (fourth) club. Declarer, now having lost 1 x heart and three times clubs, must inevitably go down by losing at least one trump trick.
There is actually another idle loser that can be played on the third club round , the 2D! ( a trump). On the third club, declarer ruffs low with the 2D.
West can over-ruff with a diamond trick that he was going to get, in any case. West now has one less trump than dummy and the same length as declarer. He has no effective exit. If he exits with a spade, the third round, declarer takes the spade in dummy, draws the last trump to hand, cashes KH, ruffs a heart with the last trump in dummy and cashes the last two spades.
If West chooses not to over-ruff the 2D and discard a spade (actually his best defence), declarer can draw West’s second last trump before ruffing a small heart to dummy and playing a third round of spades. West can ruff but is now forced to lead around to declarer’s KH-JH tenace. Declarer now makes 2 x spades, 2 x hearts, 4 x diamonds and 1 x heart ruff.
While playing at Le Mirage Club in Montreal in September I was dealt this hand third to speak.
As I was pondering how I might bid it, my partner opened 1S! My right hand opponent then overcalled 2D. How do you bid?
In a spade contract, partner is likely to have at least 4 trump tricks with a minimum 10 card fit, five club tricks in your hand plus say three diamonds ruffs in your hand making 12 tricks.
A slam seems highly likely if partner has control over the hearts. A Grand slam is also possible if partner has the AH and the hand has no spade losers.
If you simply ask for Aces and partner tells you she has two that would still leave you in doubt even as to whether a small slam is likely. If you use Key Card and partner tells you she has three you are still missing one. Small slam seems likely but a Grand Slam is unclear.
A slam bidding system called Exclusion Blackwood emerged in recent years. It can easily be adapted to Exclusion Key Card. A sudden large jump asks partner to show their key cards ignoring the suit jumped into.
Hence I should bid 5D and my partner will bid 5H or 5S (that shows 0 or 3 key cards depending on agreement). Hence partner has AS, KS and AH and the Grand Slam looks to be on. Partner’s hand:
Even missing the QS, a Grand Slam has a high percentage probability of success.
This hand appeared Monday, August 17. What would you bid as dealer?
This hand is really too strong for a 2 level pre-emptive opening even though there are only 9 HCPs. Using the rule of 20 (see below), appropriate for distributional hands you arrive at 21; consequently the hand can be opened at the one level. What suit to open? 1H or 1S. My feeling is to open 1S since there are two good honours here with intention of later jumping in hearts or repeating the hearts twice, whatever is appropriate. Depending on the subsequent bidding it might be appropriate to jump to 4H allowing partner to correct to 4S. To open 1H would tend to deny holding five spades and you might miss a spade fit, while you can be fairly sure of a heart fit – you hope that partner has at least one heart!
This brings about an interesting situation which occurs occasionally – what do you bid as an opener holding five cards in a major and six in a minor (assume you have a couple of honours in both suits). I know a lot of people will bid their longest suit first but personally I don’t like to go past a five card major. You can later either jump in the minor or bid it twice.
The rule of 20 says add your HCPs plus the number of cards in the two longest suits and if this totals 20 or more open at the one level; the honours making up the HCPs need to be in the two long suits.
==> Don't click on Show All Hands yet!
The following hand was Board 16 played at the Chris Diment Memorial Congress at IBA on June 14, 2015.
You are West, you open 1D and your partner bids 2C. What is your rebid?
Many players will bid 3NT and will be rewarded by making 11 tricks for a score of 660.
If you think that your hand is worthy of further investigation, you could bid 3D which is forcing and shows at least a good six card diamond suit. Partner may not have much more than 10HCPs for her bid but if she doesn’t have both hearts and spades stopped, she can bid one of those suits if she has a stopper in one of them and allow you to bid 3NT if you have the other major stopped. She has probably denied holding a major by bidding 2C initially so you should recognise that she is bidding a feature rather than a four card suit.
However, in this hand, partner asks for controls and bids an excellent 6D.
The 5D is led and you study your dummy.
What line do you choose as declarer to give yourself the best chance of making 12 tricks?
For those who attended the lessons recently, you appear to have a choice of following a Type 2 or Type 3 play. If you recall, Type 2 involves ruffing the losers in your hand with dummy’s trumps before or during drawing trumps while Type 3 involves setting up a side suit (usually in dummy) before or during drawing trumps.
If you pursue a Type 2 play, as I did, you play the JD and South the 10D suggesting that North has three diamonds to the 8D. You now play either two rounds of spades or hearts ruffing the third round in the dummy and do the same with the other major. You now have no trumps left in dummy and must get back to hand to draw West’s remaining trumps. You lead the KC intending to ruff the next lead from the defence. However, if South has the AC and five cards in a major you have a real problem because South can win and play a fourth round of the five card major. If you ruff low, North over-ruffs. If you ruff high, North’s 8D is promoted, providing North has three trumps….and you go one down.
If you pursue a Type 3 play, you win the diamond in dummy, cross back to hand with a spade and lead a club. If North has the AC the hand becomes easy. If you play QC and South has the AC you can discard your losing heart or spade on the KC. If the defence lead a spade, say, you win, ruff a spade, discard your heart on the KC and overtake the QD with the KD and play the AD to draw North’s last trump.
==> Now click on Show All Hands at the top to view North and South's holdings.
You can see that the distribution was almost the perfect storm for a Type 2 play to go one down except that the AC was with North. I was happy to make 12 tricks and 1370 for a 710 swing against the other team that bid 3NT.