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  Playing The Odds

On remembering key divisions of missing cards in a suit:
When you have 5 cards missing in a suit, how often will they divide 3-2, or 4-1. When you have a 7 card fit, how often will the missing cards divide 4-2 or 5-1. A simple memory guide is as follows:
The 3-2 break occurs 2/3 of the time
The 4-1 break occurs ¼ of the time
The 4-2 break occurs 2/4 or 50% of the time
The 5-1 break about 20% of the time.

While not absolutely accurate, these are correct within a few percent and are certainly close enough for all practical considerations.
From Improve Your Bridge Memory, Ron Klinger, Gollancz 1984


  Critical Cards - Opening Leads

When you are in third seat, note the card partner has led. If they lead the highest outstanding card, then play for them to have a doubleton or singleton in the suit. If they led the lowest possible card, they’re either
a. playing a 4th from a four card suit or
b. holding four to an honour card or
c. a singleton in the suit. You should be able to tell from the bidding, dummy and your own holding.

If you find you have failed to notice the actual card partner played on the first round of a suit, or the first part of partner’s signal, you may be able to recover by watching carefully the second card partner plays in that particular suit or the second part of partner’s signal. If on the next round of the suit, partner plays the lowest possible card, you can deduce that they have played high low. Likewise, if the second part of a signal from partner is the lowest possible card, partner has given a high low signal. On the other hand, if partner’s second card is an unusually high card, one that makes more impression than the first card, assume partner to have played low high and take it from there.

When you hold 4 or more trumps it is good strategy to lead your side’s longest suit to try to force declarer to trump in. If they have to do this often enough, they may lose control of the hand. The principle is trump length, lead length.

The choice of suit for the opening lead also tells a tale. A trump lead tends to herald a favourable trump break. Leading an ace in a trump contract suggests that the leader has no safe lead to make and may well have missing honour cards.

  The Language of Bidding

Non forcing Limit Bids – Opening:

  • Any bid at the 1 level is not forcing, eg 1C/1D/1H or 1S -  partner may pass with less than 6 points.
  • 1NT = limited to 15-17 (or 15-18 depending on your system)
  • 2NT = limited to 20-22 (or 21-22 depending on your system)
  • Any pre-emptive bids

Non forcing Limit Bids – Responses:

  • Any response that shows 10-11 points, eg 1S: 3S
  • A game bid response, eg 1H: 4H, 1NT: 3NT
  • A part score response, eg 1NT: 2NT or 1H: 2H.

Forcing Bids – Opening

  • Game Force bids, eg 2C
  • Multi two bids, eg 2D

Invitational Bids – Opening/Responding:

Any bid which encourages partner to continue to game or slam but gives them the option of passing if they have no reserve values in terms of high card strength or distribution. 
1H: 3H,  1NT: 2NT,  1S: 2S: 3S


  Refining Your Expertise

Be Prepared, Think before you Act

Many players pick up their cards, count points, decide whether they’ll open or not and stop there.  The secret to good, thoughtful bidding is:

When you pick up your cards and before you write anything on the bidding pad:
a.  decide if you’ll open

b.  if you can open, decide what you’ll do if:

  • partner doesn’t agree with the suit, or does agree; or
  • if the opponent opens what will I consider doing, eg double or overcall; or
  • if I have a two suited hand and the opponent opens, what will I bid; or
  • if I have a preemptive hand, how far can I go.

c. If you can’t open, decide what you’ll reply if partner opens and stretch yourself to what you might bid if partner changes suit.

If partner passes and they have the contract, listen to the bidding and get a picture.  For example, if declarer shows two suits, then their hand is unbalanced with two doubletons or a singleton and a three card suit.  If their partner bids NT, then they have those suits covered.  If you’re on lead, use your discretion, don’t set up long suits for declarer, let them do the hard work.

If they naturally land in no trumps and you’re on lead, lead 4th as usual, or partner’s bid suit if they’ve shown a suit or points with a double.  Occasionally you can lead from a short suit, knowing, after you’ve got a picture of the opponent’s distribution, that this is probably your partner’s long suit.

  Opening Leads - No Trumps - Part 2

=> IN SLAMS, DON'T LEAD AWAY FROM HONOURS, even if it's your long suit. Example: S K9732, choose another suit.  
=> If declarer has bid your long suit and shown a shortage in dummy's bid suit, choose dummy's suit if you also have a shortage.  Partner may well hold four plus cards in this suit headed by an honor or even the 10.
=> In slams DON'T lead an Ace to 'put them on wood'.  Aces are for chopping off the King's heads and developing yours or partner's lower cards.  You will rarely go to bed holding an ace.

Simple Signal
Play a low card (2-3-4 or 5) if you like what partner leads. This encourages a lead back and may show an honor in the suit.
=> Play a higher card (6-7-8) if you have nothing in the suit led. If safe, partner can try another suit, but beware of opening up new suits. Rather, give the play back to declarer.
=> When discarding, play a low card showing partner you like this suit and a higher card showing you have nothing in this suit.  Don't forget to WATCH partner's cards.

REMEMBER - there are exceptions to EVERY rule, however, these defence plays work a large percentage of the time where other plays work a very small percentage of the time. Never be a slave to the rules. Occasionally, and only occasionally we must bend them according to good play and defence in an unusual situation.
Happy bridging, KK

  A good tip ...

Say you hold AKJx in a suit and you’re on lead in a NT contract.  Where is the Queen?

LEAD THE ACE – the lead of the Ace asks partner to drop their highest honour card. If partner drops a small card, then declarer must hold the Queen (if it’s not in dummy that is), Now choose another suit, wait for partner to get in and lead through declarer.

This simple lead of the Ace also shows partner that you hold the K and J, valuable information for defence.

  Interior Sequence Opening Lead ... 31st July

N/S are in a contract of 3NT – yes a bit of an overbid but there they were. What do you lead with the holding as shown?

The only lead to make is the top of an interior sequence – QH. Why? You want partner to lead hearts back, if and when they win a trick. Sure, declarer (South) is going to win the KH, but the minute they lose control, you take your six heart tricks and the rest his history.

  Card Play

 When you hold the following trump combination do you finesse or not?

Ten points if you played the A or K first because of the possibility of a singleton Queen. Return to hand and then finesse.

Play the 3 towards the Q. If the King is in between, then you lose only 1 trick in the suit.

In this case finesse the Jack as there’s very little chance of a singleton Queen lurking.

Empty trumps:
Lead the 2 towards the Queen, opponent in between can easily hold K1098 (as we’ve discovered many times!)

Gambit Play:
North is in 6C. The lead: QS.  N/S hold:

♠ AK
♣ AKQJ73
♠ 97542
♣ 98

North can see two diamond losers, therefore they must concede 1 trump trick. Winning the spade lead, South plays the AH then the 3C towards the 9, setting up the much needed entry to drop two losing diamonds on the good hearts.

Simple Elimination Play:
You are in 6S and West leads KC:

♠ QJ932
♣ 86
♠ AK1086
♣ A

Perhaps you would draw trumps, cash the AH, cross to dummy and lead a second heart. East shows out. Unlucky, one down! But the contract can be made.  After AC draw two rounds of trumps, cross to the AD and eliminate clubs by ruffing the second round. Cash the AH, play KD and ruff a diamond, eliminating this suit from your hand and dummy.

Dummy now has (no clubs or diamonds):
♠ J9
You hold (no clubs or diamonds):
♠ K10
Lead 3H to 8, West wins with the 9 and must now lead to you. If they lead a heart you win the next two heart tricks, if they lead a club, ruff in dummy and dispose of the second last heart.
From The Mistakes You Make at Bridge by Terence Reese and Roger Trezel.

♠ 5
♣ KQJ10
♠ 74
♣ 975432

Archived 29/6/16

  General Bidding Rules ...
  1. Try to play your contract at the even levels - 2, 4 and 6. Unsafe levels are 1, 3, 5 and 7, remember the dreaded 1NT!
  2. Don’t let opponents play suit contracts at the 1 level, push them a little.
  3. Don’t let opponents play suit contracts at the 2 level, push them one more if you can, part score contracts can be death at the 3 level.
  4. If you use Simple Stayman you must hold a 4 card major. If you use Extended Stayman, you don’t.
  5. When opening the bidding with 4-4 in the minors and 3-2 in the majors, bid the weaker minor, you may land in a NT contract and you don’t want them to lead to your weak suit.
  6. A 1NT response does not promise a balanced hand, eg:
    ♣ 942
    Over partner’s opening, bid 1NT, you must show you are weak before you go sailing off into the unknown.
  7. A double of 1NT should always be left as penalties if you hold 8 or more points.
  8. Add your distribution points when you’ve found your fit.
  9. Be prepared to open light in third position.
  10. Aces are great for suit contracts, poor for NTs. QJ109s are vital for NTs, unimportant for suit contracts. In NT contracts declarer and defenders are developing suits. In suit contracts aces are used to shorten suits or set suits up to throw or ruff losers.
  11. Open a 6 card minor over a 5 card major, thus showing extreme distribution, 11 cards out of 13.
  12. Open the higher ranking major with two five card majors, despite more strength in the lower ranking major.

Archived 11/6/2016

  The Rule of Eleven

This nice piece of nutting out can turn an ordinary player into an expert. It’s based on a simple principle –The Rule of Eleven.  This says that when a defender leads fourth highest from their longest and strongest in no trump contracts, subtract the RANK of their card from eleven. The answer will be the number of cards higher than the card led which the opening leader does not hold.

♠ 84
♠ A102

West leads the 6S, fourth highest. 11-6 = 5 so there should be 5 cards higher than the six which West doesn’t hold. Dummy has the 8, East the Q7, and South, the A10 – there’s the five.



Now let’s work with this one:

♠ Q82
♠ A109

West leads the 6S, fourth highest. Declarer plays low from dummy. Which card to you play?

Let’s count: 11-6=5, five cards higher than the 6 between dummy and you, and hey – there they all are - two in dummy and three in your hand. What card do you play? The 9 of course. Declarer held the 43 of spades.

  Planning The Play

There will be hands in your bridge life where it will be crucial what you decide to play at trick one.  Consequently it’s crucial to plan your play before you play to trick one.  

For example, before you play to the opening lead, look at your hand and dummy and plan out what you’re going to do.  If it’s a suit contract are you going to draw trumps first or do you need dummy’s trumps to ruff losers? Now look at your second suit – dummy usually holds a four or five card off suit, this is where you’re going to park your losers if you can, but you must  set it up after you’ve drawn trumps or depending on the situation and entries, before trumps are drawn.  Also carefully check entries in your hand as well as dummy’s. Now look at the opening lead and decide what to play and when you’re going to take your first trick. That’s the basic plan done, however, be prepared for the plan to change when finesses don’t work or the opponents hold length in your trumps or second suit.  The hand above is a simple example of planning your play:

Contract 6NT BY South, lead 2H

Planning the play: firstly check your long suit (diamonds) then your second long suit (clubs).  Many players stop there and start playing, BUT this can be a mistake. Why? Well firstly if you play out your minors the clubs may not run and you have a heart loser as well. By this time you may not have an entry into dummy! What are you going to do about those spades! Have you taken out the AH, if so, the spades are blocked!

The Plan:  Long suits – clubs 3 tricks and diamonds 4 tricks, 1 heart winner, 4 spade winners - they have to be unblocked, that’s 12 tricks off the top. You can’t rely on the JC falling. Check your entries to dummy and hand.

The Play:  Play the AH then a spade to the AK, small diamond to the Q, then the QJ spades throwing the two heart losers, Now set up your long suits to make 12 tricks. If you’re lucky the JC will fall and you’ll make 13 tricks. In this case it won’t if the defence is careful. A well planned hand.

Note for the defence – you can only afford to discard one club, you must hang on to the rest.  More often than not it’s prudent, to NOT lead away from any honours in a slam contract. There are exceptions to every rule, this is not one of them.

Archived 8/5/2016

  When To Play in No Trumps

When you cannot support your partners opening bid OR you also have an opening hand with no four card major, eg 1D: 2NT etc.

When three suits have been bid you must have two stoppers in the unbid suit to bid game in NTs.  
For example:
1H: 1S: 2C: ?

Opener has shown a two suited hand – probably 5 hearts and four clubs, therefore their shape is possibly 5-4-2-2 or 5-4-3-1 or even 5-5-2-1 or5-5- 3-0, dangerous for a no trump contract unless you can cover partner’s short suits, in this case spades and diamonds. Remember, no trump contracts rely on suit length. Suit shortages on your side are opponents length on their side and they’re going to lead their length, so you must be able to cover it with high cards to make your contract.

If you don’t have support for partner’s first or second bid suits, to bid 2NT you will need 10-12 HCPs and at least some length (minimum four cards) and at least one stopper in the unbid suits.  To bid 3NT, the same but at least 1 ½ in one suit, two stoppers in the other and 13+ HCPS. Stoppers are aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. 

AKx – 2 stoppers  AQx - 1 ½ stoppers, AJ10x – 2 stoppers
KQxx – 1 ½  stoppers, KJxx – 1 ½ stoppers, K109xx – 2 stoppers
QJ10x – 2 stoppers, Q109xx – 2  stoppers
J109x – 1 stopper.

There are exceptions to every rule, for example:
The bidding:
1S: 2D: 2H: ?
You hold:


No need to worry about the 1 stopper in clubs, you can afford to bid 3NT because the diamonds will give you 6 tricks, leaving only 3 easy tricks with the AC and two from your partner.

If the diamond suit is not so strong, for example AQJxxx you can bid 3C (fourth suit forcing) which asks partner if they have some help in this suit such as K or QJ.

Archived 1/5/2016

  Tall Poppy Syndrome

In one way or another, everybody’s a Tall Poppy (TP) in their own particular sphere of talent.  However, when TPs migrate to a group which supplies the opportunity to practise their skill, they meet others who aren’t as skilful.  Consequently the Tall Poppy Syndrome rears its ugly head, forcing them to become the great big fish in the tiny little pond and ultimately the pond begins to bubble with resentment.

Why are they resented so much?  Being one of these TPs, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that ‘you’re only here to win, let’s face it!’  Well, how important is it to win?  Very to some, not very to others who just like the challenge along with the learning process or the social side.   These happy little fish are the backbone of clubs. They have respect for the TPs abilities, are eager to learn from them, and surprise, surprise, the TPs belong in this category as well, giving the organisation its strength by generously imparting their knowledge.  This TP also suggested Handicap scoring which has given new players a real boost.

Forty years ago when I was an eager little minnow in our pond, yes I did want to win, but I soon learned that to do this I would have to work at it and it would take time.  Over all those years of study, play, learning by mistakes and teaching, I’ve had more than enough wins, thousands in fact.  This TP is there simply to experience the challenge and play to my best ability.  Yes we win a lot, but win, lose or draw, our percentages are far more important to us because they show how well we are performing.

So next time you come to our table feel free to enjoy yourself and ask questions if you need to know something. We’re always happy to oblige.  Let’s not forget that bridge clubs are officially sporting clubs which recognise their champions to the Grand Master status and beyond, participate in local championships along with major world championships and thus given the same equality as all sporting clubs.

  A Bridge Teacher's Life

A Bridge teacher’s life is no bed of roses.  We spend hours setting up lessons plus hands, we must be extremely patient leading  beginners and intermediates through the maze of the game, answering every question confidently and correctly, and then, the bane of their life, be prepared to be regularly mis-quoted. 

For example – and may I place my name next to the greats of Ron Klinger and Paul Marston – yes I may as I teach their techniques.  Several years ago we had a learner character who insisted that she was always right, just check page 45 of Ron Klinger’s book.  She did it so often that it became her mantra, and of course she was always incorrect.  Poor old Ron suffered the slings and arrows of what’s this man teaching!  And over 30 years of teaching I’ve had my share as well, along with she ought to check her notes because they say…….! Of course my notes certainly do not ‘say’.  All  leading to an unfair reputation, simply because the learner needs to feel correct, and is on the defensive.

Beginners suffer from information overload and consequently make many mistakes.  When you think you’re correct, don’t insist that this is what you were taught, you may well be incorrect.  Do yourself and your teacher a favour, when you have time, check your notes or ask your teacher. It makes for a much better relationship all round because you really do want to be correct and your teacher only wishes the best for you.

  Response of a Major over a Strong Opening

There are several ways to respond to 2C Game Force Openings, some complicated, some simple, some that don’t make any sense.  There are no rights or wrongs, just choice.  For beginners the simplest is the best.  Suppose you hold:


Partner opens 2C Game Force.  The old way of bidding would be to bid 2D, negative or waiting, however, because the bidding is one level higher than normal, it’s taking up space to allow you to have the freedom to do this.  Partner’s holding a Game Force hand, meaning we must go to game partner, you can afford to bid 2H.  This shows a 5 card heart suit only, nothing about how weak or strong you are.  Partner held:


Holding 25 total points, partner bids 4H.  It makes 11 tricks.

Note – try bidding 2C: 2D: 3C: 3H? Partner doesn’t know if it’s a 4 or 5 card suit, you’re up too high and in trouble because they can’t bid 3NT with the singleton spade and will be forced to bid 4C or 4D.  You also don’t know what partner’s heart holding is, they may have a singleton, are you game to bid 4H over their next bid? Not on your own with those tram tickets. Showing your five card major early saves all these problems.  What happens if partner doesn’t agree with your hearts? They will bid their club suit (2C: 2H: 3C: ?) and you support by bidding 5C.  11 tricks is also there in this contract.

Happy bridging, kk

  Leading Away From An Honour In Slams

Opponents are contracted to play 6S. 

Suppose you hold:
♠ xx
♣ Kxxx   ... and you lead a small club ...

Dummy holds ... Declarer holds ...
♠ J1098 ♠ AKQx
AQx K9x
Jxx AKxx
♣ Jxx ♣ AQ

You’ve just given declarer and undeserved finesse trick. If you don’t play a club, sooner or later declarer must play them and you’ll make the King. You’ll also make the QD defeating the contract.

Lead a harmless heart.

  Reverse Bids

A Reverse Bid is a second bid by the opener which is higher ranking than the bid opened, and bid at the two level.  For example:
1C: 1H: 2D (diamonds being higher ranking than clubs); or
1D: 1S: 2H (hearts being higher ranking than diamonds)

You need 16+ HCPs and five cards in the original opening suit to make a reverse bid.  Why? Because:
a.  you’re giving partner a choice of suit;
b.  it’s forcing for one round;
c.  you’re showing at least 9 cards out of 13, therefore you have an unbalanced hand, and
d.  partner may only have 6 HCPs.

A very good picture for partner.

A typical example: 1C,  and over partner’s response, 2D:

Bidding would go:
1C: 1H: 2D: ?

What does partner need?
With a weak (6-8 points) hand, choose one of the suits, if it’s clubs then bid 3C, if it’s diamonds, then bid 3D.  Note – responder’s  been forced to bid at the 3 level, therefore opener needs 16+ HCPs to be there.

With 9+ and a balanced hand bid another suit if you can or 2NT.  With opening points, find your best game or slam.

An interesting example of a responder’s hand which fits the above hand.  How would you bid it?
Partner opens 1C: 1H: 2D: ?


It would be foolish to bid 2H when there’s obviously game somewhere with partner’s reverse bid.  Bid 2S showing a 4 card spade suit, inviting partner to bid NTs. Partner is interested, BUT now they can show three card support for hearts, remember heart support was denied with the 2D bid.  If they had 4 hearts then they would have jumped to 3H in the first place.  You now bid game or commence slam going inquiries.  Yes, it makes 6H.
Happy bridging, kk

Archived 9/7/16

  The Golden Rule of Leads ...
  • Avoid leading suits bid by the opposition.  
  • Lead top of a sequence.  
  • Lead 4th highest  
  • In NT with equal length, lead strongest.  
  • Lead trumps.  
  • Against suit contracts, avoid leading the suit that contains an Ace.
  • Don’t lead away from an honour in a slam contract unless your partner has bid the suit.
  • Lead partners suit.
  • Trump length, lead length (in another suit).
    Archived 20/9/2016
  Jump Shifts by Opener ...

Suppose you hold:
♠ Q98

You open 1H and partner bids 1S. You have enough points (18 HCP) to jump Shift to 3D.
1H: 1S: 3D: ? You’ve given partner a choice between hearts and diamonds and shown 18+ HCP.

Partner holds:
♠ K10765
... and bids 3H. - 1H: 1S: 3D: 3H: ?

You should now bid 3S, showing 3 card support. If their spades is a four card suit, then they will happily go to 3NT. If partner is holding a five card spade suit, in this case they are, partner will go straight to game in spades:
1H: 1S: 3D: 3H: 3S: 4S

  Repeating Suits

Five card suits which can be repeated are the minors.  Why? Because when you open a minor it could be a minimum of two or three cards depending on your system.  However, you cannot repeat a five card major, with the exception of rare specific circumstances.

Suppose you hold a 5 card major and partner opens 1C, you answer 1H which they must take as a four card suit.  What happens now?  There is really only enough room to show a 6 card suit, and this is reserved for the two level, eg 1C: 1H: 1NT: 2H (6-9) or 3H (10+) promising a 6 card suit and forcing for one round.  So what happens to the lovely five card suit? You can play supporting with three.

Supporting with 3 – as responder you hold a 5 card spade suit.  The bidding goes:
1D: 1S: 2S (could be 3 card support)

  • With 6-9 points - Pass
  • With 10-12 - Bid 3S inviting to game
  • With 13-15 - Bid 4S

Note – if partner doesn’t support your suit they must have a doubleton or singleton, eg 1D: 1S: 1NT or 2D etc. You now know at this low level that you don’t have a spade fit.

As responder you hold a 4 card spade suit:
1D: 1S: 2S (could be 3 card support)

  • With 6-9 points - Pass
  • With 10-12 - Bid 2NT showing a 4 card spade suit and inviting to game in NT
  • With 13-15 - Bid 3NT showing a 4 card spade suit

If your hand is unbalanced, bid your next best suit, eg., 1D: 1S: 2S: 3C/D showing a 4 card spade suit

If partner has four card support, then they will put you back into your suit, eg
1D: 1S: 2S: 2NT: 3S or
1D: 1S: 2S: 3NT: 4S or
1D: 1S: 2S: 3C/D: 3S

There is another convention called Checkback which can be covered at a later date.

Happy bridging
Archived 16/7/2016

  Jump Shifts ...

There are two kinds of jump shifts:

  • a weak jump shift showing less than 6 points and a 6 card suit, and:
  • a strong jump shift showing 18+ HCPs and is forcing for one round. 


1.  Weak Jump Shift showing less than 6 points holding a 6 card suit
1C: 2H (not 1C: 1H but 1C: 2H - you’ve jumped a level and shifted to a new suit suit) This is weak, it shows a 6 card suit and less than 6 points. Partner should pass.  Notice – this is your FIRST bid after partner has opened.

2.  Strong Jump Shift showing 18+ HCPs
(a) 1C: 1H: 1NT: 3D, (not 2D) you’ve jumped to the three level showing spades and diamonds holding 18+ HCPs and partner must bid again. Notice – this jump shift is your SECOND bid suit therefore showing strength. It shows a probable 5 card heart suit and at least a 3 card diamond suit.

(b) 1D: 1S: 2C: 3H, (not 2H) you’ve jumped to the three level, showing both majors and 18+ HCPs.  Partner must bid again. Notice – the jump shift is your SECOND bid suit therefore showing strength.  It shows a probable 5 card spade suit and at least a 4 card heart suit.

Happy Bridging - kk

  The Rare Rescue

Bridge rescues are rare, the saying never rescue partner has proven its worth. However there are two scenarios where you may sensibly take partner out of a disastrous contract:

  1. Transfers over opening NT contracts, and
  2. Holding a 6 card suit with little or no points when partner opens a minor.

Suppose you hold:
♠ Q106532
♣ 4

Partner opens 1C, opponent passes and it’s now up to you. You cannot bid 1S because you’re promising 6+ points.  Normally you would pass.  However, with a hand such as this, holding a 6 card major, you should jump to 2S.  This is the rare rescue bid which says that you have 0-5 HCPs and a 6 card suit, partner must now pass.
1C: 2S: Pass

It can be done with diamonds (1C: 2D: Pass) if you hold a 6 card diamond suit. Why only over minor openings? Because the minor opening may only be 2 or 3 cards, depending on what you play (short club or better minor).  If partner opened 1H and you held the above hand, you would pass because you know they have at least a 5 card suit.

Happy bridging

  Negative Doubles

Doubles come in a few disguises in Bridge – Take Out, Penalty, Responsive and Negative Doubles.

These doubles are a handy little tool to use when the opponents interfere with your bidding.  For example partner opens 1C and the opponents overcall 1S.  What does their overcall mean?
They are holding around 8-15 points with a five card spade suit.  This should not stop you from bidding. The rule of thumb is - when the opponents overcall a major suit and you hold the other major, with 6+ points, make a negative double.  Suppose you hold:

♠ J2
♣ 976

If you bid 2H you are promising five.  Now this is where the negative double comes in:
1C: (1S): Dbl: ?

The double says partner, I’ve got four hearts. If partner also holds a four card heart suit, they will bid 2H, ie the bidding will go 1C: (1S): Dbl: 2H.  If you have an opening hand, as above, you will bid 4H.  With less points, for example 6-9:

  • you can double and pass whatever partner bids,
    ie 1C: (1S): Dbl: 2H: Pass or
    1C: (1S): Dbl: 1NT: Pass
  • with 10+ points and opponents suit covered (AQx, KJ10 KQ10), bid No Trumps.
    1C: (1S): Dbl: (Pass) : 2C (denying 4 card heart suit): (Pass): 2NT – 10-12 HCPs, or 3NT 13+ HCP.

Scenario - Double and overcall of spades
1C: (1H): Dbl: ?  This is promising a four card spade suit.
1D: (1H): 1S: ? This is promising a five card spade suit.

How about the minors? 
1H: (1S): Dbl: ? This denies heart support and shows either four cards in both minors, or four in one and three in the other.

REMEMBER – in Bridge there are exceptions to EVERY rule. Never be a slave to the rules. Occasionally, and only occasionally we must bend them according to good play and defence in an unusual situation.

  Interesting No Trump Lead

Don't click on Show All Hands yet!

You’re on lead in a 3NT contract by South. What do you lead?  Think carefully.

Did you lead a low diamond? 10 points if you did.  Here’s how it works:
You have no other entries in your hand to set the diamonds up.  If you play the AK you’re bleeding partner of their diamonds as well.
If partner holds the QD, JD or three small ones and an entry in another suit, they will lead back a diamond, thus allowing you to run your suit.  Clever and worth the risk.

Now click on Show All Hands.

On any other lead, South makes his contract.
From Ron Klinger’s column, Sydney Morning Herald Mon 7th Dec 15.
Archived 31/7/2016


Transfers are used only when you or partner open 1NT or 2NT.  They must be a five card suit or more.  1NT or 2NT openings promise a balanced hand, consequently it will hold at least a doubleton of your long suit, which will be enough in a rescue situation. A seven card fit is close to eight and can be played at the two level. Do not transfer four card suits. The point count for responders to transfer can be from zero upwards.

Why do we transfer?
Three good reasons:

  1. To rescue partner from a NT contract which you know will not make.  HCP from 0-7.
  2. Major games give a higher score than a 3NT contract.  HCP 10+
  3. We transfer the suit because the strong hand (1NT or 2NT openings holding the majority of the the high cards) should be closed and the weak hand made dummy.

As responder with a 5 card major:

  • With 0-7 HCPs transfer and over partner’s bid, pass
  • With 8-9 HCPs transfer and over partner’s bid, bid 2NT.
  • With 10+ HCPs transfer and over partner’s bid, bid 3NT

If partner agrees with your suit, (ie 1NT: 2H: 2S: 2NT: 3S), count your distribution points*, if it adds up to 10+, then bid game.  (see below)

As responder with a 6+ card major:

  • With 0-7 HCPs, transfer and over partner's bid, pass
  • With 8 HCPs transfer and over partner's bid, bid 3 of the major* (invitation), and
  • With 9+ HCPs transfer and over partner's bid, bid 4 of the major.
  • With 16+ HCPs investigate slam.

*Don’t forget to count distribution points. If you have an 8 card fit with partner’s balanced hand, count 1 point for a doubleton, 3 points for a singleton and 5 points for a void.  If it adds up to 10+ then bid game.

Hand 1 - Rescuing partner: Partner opens 1NT and you hold:
You should transfer to hearts, thus taking partner out of a contract which cannot make 7 tricks because you don’t have any spare tricks nor entries for them to make up the needed seven. However, in a heart contract they may easily make 8 tricks with ruffs.
1NT: 2D: 2H: Pass

Hand 2 - Game going hand: Partner opens 1NT and you hold:
♣ J98
You should transfer to spades because a major game will give you a better score (420/620 instead of 400/600) and a top board. 
What comes after this? You should now make sure you have a fit: You can see by your points that game in NTs is easily there, and partner may only have a doubleton spade, so you should bid 3NT.  You have now told partner you have 5 spades and enough points to play in 3NT, this gives them the choice.  If they hold a doubleton spade, they will pass, if they hold 3 card support for spades, then they will bid 4S.
1NT: 2H: 2S: 3NT: Pass or 4S with 3+ card support.

Hand 3 - Invitational hand: With less points eg:
1NT: 2H: 2S: 2NT: ?
Partner will bid according to their hand, either:

  • 3S with 3+ card support and a minimum NT (15-16 HCPs),
  • 4S with a maximum NT (17 HCPs) and 3+ card support
  • Pass with no support for spades and a minimum NT (15-16 HCPs), or
  • 3NT with a maximum NT (17 HCPs) and no support.

Remember – there are exceptions to EVERY rule.  A small percentage of the time, 10 or 11 tricks can be made in NT contracts with a major fit.

  Opening Leads - No Trumps - Part 1

Best opening leads in No Trump contracts:
=> Top of a sequence
=> Fourth from longest and strongest
=> Kings from AKxx
=> Partner's bid suit

Do's in No Trump Contracts
Lead top of a sequence
=> Lead AWAY from honors, including aces,
=> If you hold AKxx, lead the King to look at dummy and to tell partner you have the ace or the queen. If dummy is short in this suit, then declarer may have the length.  Switch to your short suit which should be partner's long suit, (you can tell from declarer's bidding and dummy).  Once you see dummy, check all these options.
Lead partner's bid suit, with a doubleton lead the high one. If you hold Ax, check the bidding and think twice, if they’ve bid NTs, then they have at least one honour of partner’s bid suit, you would like to capture one of them, thus promoting partner’s smaller ones.  If you don't lead partner's bid suit you should be showing the above situation (Ax), a void, or a powerful sequence of your own, holding an outside entry such as an ace. 
=> If you hold four cards in partner's bid suit, lead low.  However, don't forget to drop your higher cards (unblocking) when partner leads the high cards in their suit.
If declarer has bid your long suit, lead a short suit.
- More next week. KK

  Opening Leads - Suit Contracts

The best opening leads in suit contracts are:

  • Top of a sequence
  • Fourth from longest without an honor
  • Ace King from AK doubleton and King Ace with 3 or more
  • Partner's bid suit.

Note - a sequence is NOT KQ82, QJ763, a sequence is three touching cards - KQJx, QJ10x or occasionally QJ9x (risky)

Do's in Trump Contracts:

  • Lead trumps when declarer bids two long suits, however, if you hold Kx or Qxx lead something else.  
  • Partner should lead trumps when they get in.
  • Lead trumps when opponents declare a slam contract, showing in the process that they have the high trumps.
  • Best leads are top of a sequence: KQJx, QJ10x, J109x, 1098x or fourth from nothing: 10962, 9743, King from AKxx and partner's bid suit.
  • Lead your long suit if you hold 4-5 of their trumps, forcing declarer to trump, lessening their trump holding and promoting your trumps. OR if this is not suitable with this holding, lead a singleton.

Dont's in Trump Contracts:

  • Don't lead away from aces in a suit contract, even if your partner bid the suit and you have 3 card support, declarer may hold the singleton king.  Leading another suit tells partner that you have honor/s in their suit.  Wait for partner to signal that it's ok.
  • Try not to lead away from kings or queens unless partner has bid the suit. Example, K975, leading the 5 would be leading away from the king, you may give declarer an easy finesse if they hold AQJ.
  • Don't lead singletons or doubletons . Without trump length in their suit, leading this way usually gives declarer overtricks even if you're lucky enough to get a ruff (a low percentage of the time).  When declarer discovers you have a singleton/doubleton, they can play this suit through your partner after they've drawn trumps.  You've done your side no favours.
  • Don't lead singleton trumps
  • Don't lead Aces to get a look at dummy
  • Don't lead away from an honor of ANY sort if opponents are in a slam contract unless you hold a sequence.

More care should be taken in trump contracts because your high cards can be ruffed.  In NT contracts low cards can be developed as winners without the problem of them being ruffed. 
-archived 29/9/2016

  Bidding Two-Suited Strong Hands

Here’s a hand to read carefully and make sense of.  If it’s confusing, then tuck it away for later when you feel more confident, in the meantime try challenging yourself.  You pick up:
♠ A2
♣ K

What do you bid?

Two suited hands can be fraught with problems if you open too high, so open 1H.  Partner bids 1S.  Now it’s time for you to show your strength, make a jump shift bid to 3D*.  This tells partner that you have at least 19 HCPs and you are giving them a choice of suit to support, hearts or diamonds.  

Nicely done.  Let’s go over now to the responder.  They hold:
♠ KQJ10975
♣ AQ7
... and are delighted to hear your bids.  As responder, what do you bid now?

With little support for partner’s two suits and spades being a self-supporting suit, (that is a seven card suit headed by a minimum of two top honours and you hold the majority – 7, opponents hold 6 or less), plan to play in spades or no trump.  Let’s begin by getting a picture of partner’s hand – five hearts and four plus diamonds – 9 cards – possible two doubletons in spades and clubs, or maybe a singleton somewhere.  Onward now, let’s ask for aces. Partner shows 3, looking good, they hold the AS, AH, AD, 12 points out of 19 and there’s kings and queens to make up the rest. 
What do you bid now?

Holding that beautiful spade suit with partner’s AS, 7NT.  Spades will be used to discard partner’s losing cards, and their hearts will take care of your losing cards.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email them to

Happy bridging, kk

*A jump shift bid means jumping a level and shifting to another suit, eg 1S: 1NT: 3C

  Who's The Captain

When you pick up an opening hand, a strong NT hand or even a game force hand, who will be the captain of the contract?  You might be surprised to know that in 99% of hands, your partner will.  What’s the other 1% - when you pick up a single suited self-supporting hand.   

For example when you open 1NT you’ve said everything about your holding and partner will lead you to the right contract, examples:

1NT: Pass,
1NT: 2NT…
1NT: 2C… 2S: 4S
1NT: 2H…. 2S: Pass
1NT: 3NT etc


1D: 1NT
1C: 1H: 2H: pass
1D: 1S: 1NT: pass
1H: 2H:……
1S: 3S….
1H: 2D: 2NT: 3NT


2NT: 3C: 3S: 3NT
2NT: 3D: 3H: 3NT: 4H
2NT: 4C: 4NT: 5C: 5S: 6NT

Notice how partner is guiding the contract.  Let’s look at game force bids:

2C: 2D: 2S: 4S
2C: 2D: 2H: 3C: 3NT: Pass

Partner is doing the captain’s job of guiding the contract to the right spot.

If you hold a long self-supporting suit such as:

♠  J
♣ xx
... you would open 1H and plan to bid 4H over partner’s bid, or if it’s the normal pre-empt:

♠  KJ108765
♣ x
... open 3S.

Some players mistakenly open a weak two with a seven card suit.  This is not advisable.  Partner needs to know exactly how many cards you have in this suit.  If they hold a singleton and think that you have a 6 card suit, then they will not support you, whereas you only need that singleton for your eight card fit.

A good rule of thumb for beginners opening weak two’s is:
First or second seat – ie partner hasn’t bid yet – open your weak two’s with 9-10 HCPs or 8-10 with a singleton.  This is invaluable information for partner knowing that if they hold an opening hand, they can put you in game if they have support.
Third or fourth suit – ie partner has passed – open with 6-10 HCPs.

  A Common Debate - Response to Partner's 1C

One question which has been fought over amongst beginners is – never leave your partner in 1C.   Well you all learned that when partner opens 1C your response promises 6 + HCPs.  Now if you have less points and your partner opens 1C and you answer one of a suit, they think you have 6+ points and will be forced to bid again.  With a big hand they may well bid too high.

Answer – When partner opens 1C, with less than 6 HCPs PASS.   Two things may now happen:

  1. More often than not, the opponents will bid something because they will have the majority of points between them, or
  2.  It will be passed out and partner will be playing 1C.  Sometimes this works out ok if they have clubs, and other times it doesn’t, just like any bridge hand and no big deal, move on. In fact in this scenario it may well be the opponent’s contract and they miss out on a good score.

Remember – if you respond to your partner’s opening,  you’re promising 6+ points.  If you PASS you’re promising less than 6 points.

Now, what happens if you have little or no points, partner opens 1C and the opponents double:

Pard Opp  You     Opp
1C      X      Pass      ?

In this scenario you can pass and your opponent is forced to bid.  If the opponent passes, your partner now has another bid.  Let’s look at another view:

Opp        Pard     Opp    You
1C/D/H/S    X        Pass     ?

Now you are forced to bid, you cannot leave the double in even with no points.  Partner should be aware that you may well be very weak.  Bid your 4 + card major or best 4 + card minor.

Remember – If your partner doubles the opponents at the 1 or even 2 level and the responder passes, you must take this double out by bidding your best suit.

Happy Bridging

  The Art of Defence

The art of defence is as important and often just as exciting/defeating/satisfying as declarer play.  

Why is this so?  Bridge is an all round game where there are no secrets in the bidding.  This enables defenders to play on the same level as the declarer, becoming a battle of skills.  In other words, the job of defenders is little different to that of the declarer.  Indeed in duplicate bridge played at the club, one can defend all night and still win overall.

As defender, what should you lead when you have trump length, ie four or five of their trumps?

The best strategy is: Trump length, Lead length

When you hold four or more trumps, lead your side’s longest suit to force declarer to trump in.  If you can make declarer trump in often enough, they may well lose control of the hand. Be prepared to apply this principle when you hold a singleton or void in trumps and can judge from the bidding that partner is likely to hold four or five trumps.

- Kath Kean

  Should you always lead 4th highest in No Trump contracts

As in life, in bridge there are exceptions to every rule, and this is one of them. 

Q. Why do we lead fourth highest of our longest and strongest suit?

A. So that we can knock out the opponents high cards in our suit, thus promoting our smaller cards into winners.  To achieve this we should have the prospect of gaining the lead at some point in order to cash these winners.

♣ 1065

Your lead would be the 6  (4th highest) because you have two possible winning tricks to lead your diamonds again, knocking out the AQJ during the play, thus promoting your small cards.  Who knows, even partner may have one of these high cards.

Q.  When shouldn’t we lead 4th highest?

A.  Suppose you hold  

♠  74
♣ 963

Having no outside entries you probably shouldn’t lead your diamond suit.  Now you can do partner a favour and lead one of your short suits, she’s probably holding the missing outside entries.  Certainly if hearts haven’t been bid, then it’s highly likely she’s holding at least four, therefore in this case, the J  would be a valuable lead for your side.  Partner should be aware that with the opponents bidding and her own holding, that your point count is very low.  They should also check out dummy and count the cards in this suit along with hers, thus realising that you’ve led your short suit because you have no outside entries.

Two more reasons:

1.  Normally lead your partner’s bid suit when the opponents bid No Trump contracts.

2.  Don’t lead AWAY from honours when the opponents are in a 6NT/7NT contract, eg

♠  K9763 – don’t lead 6♠  – lead a harmless small card in another suit or if you have touching cards, lead the top, eg 10985, lead the 10.

  Start of Ask A Guru answers

The following questions and answers were submitted through the Ask A Guru form, which is now discontinued.

  Bidding a pre-empt

This is board 1 at Nowra on 2/11/2015.  East has the following hand, what would you bid in 2nd seat:

♠ ---
♣ J62

Answer (from Kath):
There will always be hands which don’t suit the system.  These are usually pre-emptive and must be handled with care as there is no seemingly right or wrong way to go.  However, the use of simple guidelines helps.  For example,  has your partner had the opportunity to bid yet? Do they have a big hand or nothing? If they haven’t had the chance, then you must be absolutely honest with your pre-empts.

The following hand is a typical example.  With less than opening hand open 4H.  This shows an 8 card suit (self-supporting) and less than opening hand in HCPs.)  A good picture for partner, (if it was stronger, such as holding KH and an honour in another suit, then you should choose to open differently).. Partner must go along with hearts and ask for aces, landing in 5H having no kings in other suits to support you.  You can risk a 6H bid if you wish.  Not perfect, but that’s what pre-empts are all about. 

6H can be made on a spade lead (played carefully)!  Here’s how to make 6H:

There’s a very good adage in bridge which relates to difficult hands, it’s called before you play to trick one, first plan the play.  This hand is a classic example because if you play the wrong card on the opening lead of a spade, then you’re history.

The natural lead of a spade (no you wouldn’t lead away from the KC in a slam), and dummy’s two aces gives you three necessary entries.  Don’t make the mistake of playing the AS throwing off a losing diamond, play a low spade and ruff  Now play the AH and QH, losing to the KH.  If a diamond is led back, play the Ace, then a low spade and ruff.  This has now taken care of North’s J6. Take out the last heart and re-enter dummy playing the AC.  Now the AQ8 spades takes care of your losing diamond and two clubs.  Heroic!

  1H response 1S means?

When you open 1H & partner responds 1S with 4+ spades, does that mean partner has opening 13+pts. According to Paul Marston 5th edition on page 22 it says that the next response would be 4H irrespective what opener bids. Am I interpreting it right. Please explain to me what is the logic behind it. I know that if he/she responds with 4H straight off will tell the opener that he/she has got 3 card support and 6-9 pts, singleton or void. As opener what should be my rebid?  I hope that I have explained properly what I am asking.

In answer to your question, I don’t have the Marston book and so cannot comment.

If I open 1H and partner responds 1S I assume they have at least 6 HCPs points, at least four spades and have less than three hearts since they have not supported my hearts. Of course they may support my hearts later to show a good hand (see below).

I play limit bids with my partners and so a response of 2H to my 1H opening bid says they have 6-9 total points (and three or more hearts), 3H says 10 to 11 or 12 and 4H says weak with four and more likely five hearts – a pre-emptive bid. Many people will make this bid with very few points (a little more if vulnerable) and a somewhat distributional hand to make it difficult for the opponents to get into the bidding. They expect to go down but not by too many! If partner has 13+ total points and heart support, they will temporise with a response bid of a new suit and call 4H next time – this is very descriptive for partner.

To clarify, I have mentioned ‘total points’; this is HCPs plus any  distributional points, namely 1 for a doubleton, 3 for a singleton and 5 for a void. Be careful in assessing these – for instance with say QX in a suit you should not count 2 pts for the Q and another one for the doubleton! Also with 1HCP (a jack somewhere),  a void and three small hearts, you could add this up to make 6 total points!!! I would pass.


  Responding to 1NT with long strong minor


My partner opens 1NT (extended stayman - 15-18). I have the following hand:

♠ 42

8 HCP and an awful shape.  I bid 2NT but 4NT made. Should I have added 2 extra points for the diamonds?  They looked so horrible and I didn't know if partner had any other honours - I sure hoped she had stoppers in ♠  and  !   I was tempted to bid 3  but I think I would need 10HCP to bid that directly?

Answer (from Kath):

A beaut hand when partner opens 1NT.  The thought process should go like this:

  1. We have a diamond fit,
  2. I have 12 total points, we may have a diamond slam
  3. I wonder if partner is maximum, I’ll ask – 2♣ 
  4. If she bids a minimum hand, then bid 3 and leave it up to her
  5. If she bids a maximum hand, then ask for aces, signing off in 4NT or 5  if missing two

Bidding this way warns partner that you have an unbalanced hand, not suitable for NT but you have at least 8 points plus and a 6 card diamond suit.  If she holds the majors, then she’ll bid NTs.  You’ll note that I take risks with hands like these.  The majority of the time it pays off, so I stay on the side of overbidding rather than the side of underbidding.  Make sure you have an ‘out’, ie 5  on this hand.

Further from Kath:

Bridge is not an exact science because of the myriad of distributions with each deal, making it a percentage game.  Therefore players must use their knowledge/skill and also their imagination.  This comes in the form of getting a picture of the distribution of partner’s hand and sometimes guesswork as to high cards. The hand you recently sent is a classic example.

Have you noticed that with the majority of contracts, the responder has the final placement of the contract.  For example 1NT: 3NT, or 1NT: 2♥:  2♠ : pass etc.

Many players wrongly believe that having being dealt an opening hand/a NT hand/a game force hand, that they are the ones in charge of the contract and they want to know what responder’s got.  Well of course they want to know what you’ve got BUT they have to be guided by the responder to the correct place, as above. So really, in the MAJORITY of hands, the responder is in charge, or the ‘captain’ of the contract. Once again, the hand you sent is a classic example.  The responder does the exploring to get to the right spot.  For example: 1 : 2♣ : (forcing): 2  (opener is showing 5 hearts and 4 diamonds), now the responder will either explore a bit more or place the contract depending on their holding.

Other examples:

2♣ : 2 : 2 : 4 
2♣ : 2 : 2♠ : 3♣  (denial of support and asking partner to bid 3NT)
1♠ : 2NT: (denial of support and a balanced opening hand) 3NT or exception to the rule.
1♠ : 2NT: 4♠  – showing a 7 card spade suit,
1 : 1♠ : 4♠  – 20 HCPs and 4 card support
1♣ : 1 : 2NT: 3NT
2♣ : 2 : 2♠ : 3♣ : 4♠   etc

When partner opens the bidding, in the majority of hands they’re not asking you anything, they’re TELLING you what they’ve got and are relying on you to get to the right spot.  In the minority of hands there are exceptions to this rule, as above.  ALL BECAUSE OF THE DEALING AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE HANDS, making it a PERCENTAGE game.

In the case of Extended Stayman, you don’t need to have a 4 card major, it can be used to find out how strong your partner is.

  Responding when partner bids twice and I've passed


My partner bids a suit and I pass.  My partner bids a second suit.  Am I obliged to choose one of her bid suits? I know that a second bid suit is forcing but is it if I have made no bid?

Answer (from Kath):

A good question – No, the second suit is not forcing, however, your partner is giving you the choice between supporting one of her suits.  Now you must choose which one.  Example: (Note – opponent’s bids in brackets)

1♠ : (2): Pass: (3): 3 : ?   

Here partner is giving you the choice between spades and diamonds.  Because you’ve passed she knows you possibly have few or no points or length in the opponent’s suit.. Her hand is unbalanced with probably 5-4 or 5-5 in the two suits.  If you have a singleton or void in the first bid suit, choose the second suit by passing –
♠ : 2♣ : Pass: 3♣ : 3 : Pass: Pass – I like your diamonds better.  

With a doubleton in the first bid suit and three cards in the second, choose the first suit –
♠ : 2♣ : Pass: 3♣ : 3 : Pass: 3♠  – I have at least two spades to support your suit.

Majors are better score wise and a possible seven card fit can often be played easily. This also covers a 6-5 distribution – six spades and five diamonds.

With a doubleton in the first bid suit and four cards in the second, support the second suit.

Happy bridging.

  Responding to partner when I have <6 HCP


When partner opens 1 of a minor, both opponents pass, am I required to respond even with just 2 or 3 points?

Answer (from Kath):

No.  If you bid you’re promising 6+ points.

Even if the bidding goes: 1♣ : (double from the opponents) you must pass if you have less than 6 points.  This lets partner know that you have a very weak hand and are unable to bid.  The double is not likely to be  passed by the opponents.

Most of the time the opponents will come in with an overcall.  In this case the contract belongs to them.  However, even if partner is left in 1♣ , they’re either likely to make it or there is some sort of contract for the opponents and they may get a bottom score for not bidding.

A good bridge saying is ‘Never Rescue Partner’.

  When is a penalty double used?


Could you please explain the circumstances in which a penalty double would be used?

Answer (from Kath):

No doubt you’ve learned all about Take Out Doubles and Negative Doubles. 

Penalty doubles are used at the three or four plus level of bidding when the opponent knows that declarer cannot make their contract.  For example – say declarer bids to game in hearts and you hold a five card heart suit plus one or two winners in another suit and a singleton or void.


This would be a good hand to double their 4  contract as you have at least four defence tricks – AK of diamonds and a probable two tricks in hearts – 4 tricks.
If partner has bid a suit during their auction, then you have another probable one or two more tricks.
As a beginner, I’ve kept it simple for you, however there are other scenarios where the penalty double is used.
Welcome to the wonderful world of bridge!

  Which minor to open if 3-3 in Better Minor


If opening in better minor how is better minor determined viz imagine one has 3 clubs and 3 diamonds does the value determine what is the better minor or is a club opening the way one should go.

Due to a bungle in communications by your website administrator!  we have not one but two replies from our gurus, many thanks to you both!

Answer (from Dave):

The interpretation of better minor in my experience is one for the partnership’s personal choice. My own bidding style with the 3-3 in the minor situation is to bid 1C if the suit has any quality, that is an honour. This is to allow my partner a bit more bidding space because I like the responder to bid up-the–line,  bidding a four card diamond suit before a four card major or 1NT. This maximises the bidding space available. Please note that some other experienced players would recommend bidding the four card major ahead of a four card diamond suit immediately so my approach is certainly not universal, but does help to explain my preference to open a 3 card club suit of some quality over a 3 card diamond suit.

Answer (from Adrian):

This is a good question; I thought it might have been followed with “…and what should you bid with 4-4 in the minors”.

‘Better’ I think is an unfortunate word in this context. I wonder sometimes if the person who originally coined the phrase ‘better minor’ thought that ‘better’ does not mean the suit which is stronger (then it would be ‘stronger minor’) but that the ‘better’ minor produces the better outcome in the long run. If you hold say AKx in diamonds and Qxx in clubs I would open 1C. (If however your club holding is xxx I would prefer to open 1D – but if your clubs are xxxx, four rags, open 1C). Always open with the longer minor.

I suggest a perusal of the following two web sites and then discuss what approach you will adopt with your partners. These sites include approaches players might take to the 4/4 distribution in the minors. Interestingly, Cohen says that if you open the bidding with 1D playing better minor, 97% of the time you will hold four diamonds. The explanation is that the only time you will open 1D with only three diamonds is when you have 4,4,3,2 distribution – which apparently occurs only 3% of the time.

  Responding to partner with 6-card minor and 4-card major


My partner opened 1♣ , the opps passed, and I had the following hand:

♠ AJ63
♣ QJ10

Should I have bid the diamond or the spade suit first?  Also, if I only had 6-9 points would the answer be any different?

Answer (from Kath):

A very good question. With 6-9 points you can’t afford to go sailing off into the dizzy heights of the un-makeable contract so bid the spades first, looking for your fit early and staying at a low level.  The bidding could go:
♣ : 1♠ : 2♠ : Pass or
♣ : 1♠ : 1NT: 2♣  or Pass, or
♣ : 1♠ : 2♣ : Pass - happy with that

However, with these points you can afford to bid the diamond suit first because you are not going to stop under game or slam.  So the bidding may go something like this:
♣ : 1 : 1 : 1♠  – this is forcing partner for one round.  You are also showing a 4 card spade suit.  If you normally bid your majors first, partner should note that this time you bid diamonds first, therefore showing a very strong hand with a 6 card diamond suit and a four card spade suit.

Remember the REASONS –

  • With a weak hand, find your fit as soon as possible and stay there
  • With a strong hand you can afford to make strong forcing bids to find your game or slam, but be truthful with your bids giving partner a picture of your hand.

A great question and a good learning experience.

  Responding after a 3-level pre-empt


This one is from Bridge Baron. I open 1♣  in 2nd seat with:

My LHO overcalls 3
 , my partner bids 3 , RHO passes. My pard is showing 10+ HCP and 5+ hearts I'm assuming. I don't have an adequate diamond stopper. Do I pass 3 , bid 4♣  or hold my breath and bid 3NT?

Answer (from Kath):

Preempts are born to disturb the opponents,  keeping them out of game or slam or just making it difficult to find their spot.

  1. You can’t bid 3NT because you don’t have a stopper (Qx is not a stopper)
  2. Bidding at this level, partner may have a 6 card heart suit.  Having the K of trumps is a bonus.
  3. On the other hand the pre-empt hand may be very short in hearts thus their partner will have length.
  4. I would take partner’s 3  bid as forcing for one round.
  5. Support partner and bid 4  if you’re brave, or sign off in 5♣ .

Whatever happens, the pre-empt has done its job.

  Responding to 2C opening bid


My partner opens 2C . What should I reply if I have (say) 5 to 8 HCP with a 4,4,4,1 distribution? Too many points for 2H , not balanced for 2D and no 5 card suit to call for 2S , 2NT, 3C  or 3D.  ALL my options would be misleading to my partner. My thoughts are that 2D would be the better option. Any better ideas?

Answer (from Kath):

I presume you are playing a responding points system over 2C  openings, ie 0-4pts  5-8PTS etc. As a teacher I don’t recommend this convention because by responding to show points, you are more likely to bid the suit partner has, whereby her beautiful hand then goes down as dummy for all to see.  It can also push the bidding up too high when you’re trying to find a fit.

Most game force hands have a long suit with good points, therefore they rely on the responder to place the contract, and they do this by opening 2C .  You now become the captain of the contract once you find out what partner’s suit is, even with few points.  You must find your fit.

2C : 2D  (relay or ‘what have you got) 2H  (I’ve got a game force hand with a minimum of 5 hearts).  Partner has said everything about her hand.  Now you must place the contract.  With 3 card support and minimum points, ie 3-9 go to 4H .  With 2 card support, bid your next 4 card suit ie 2C : 2D : 2S : 3C .  This says I can’t support your spades, leaving it to partner to bid NTs or another suit.  Remember 2C  openings are GAME FORCE.  

If you hold a 5 card major and partner opens 2C , then you should bid it:

2C :2H.

Please feel free to ask again if you haven’t understood anything, and thank you for your interesting question.

  Coming in late in the bidding with long weak suit


The bidding went:
N        E       S       W
P        P      1
♣     1 
1♠       P      1NT   2 
2♠       all pass

I was W and my pard was E.  Computer says 3
  makes.  Could she have done a 3  preempt after the 2♠  bid - she wasn't strong enough to bid 3 initially in 2nd seat I guess?

Answer (from Dave):

North should have opened a weak 2 on spades. East is marginal to pre-empt 3 vul and not great bid 2nd hand after one opponent has passed anyway. East should bid 3  or 3 ! After you have bid hearts twice by yourself. She has a lot more than you know about 1.5 tricks in hearts, hard to know on diamonds.
  When not to lead partner's suit in NT

Question :

If my partner has bid a suit which ends up in NT by the opps, when is it right NOT to opening lead my partner's suit? eg what if partner has opened a minor, a major or overcalled? What if I have a 4-card suit with one or two honours, or a 5-card suit? I have a weak hand.

Answer (from Kath):

Happy to answer your interesting question. Let’s take it one by one and start with the bidding:

1. Pard opens 1H, opponent bids 1NT, you pass and opponent’s partner passes. 
In this scenario I would lead partner’s bid suit, the highest with a doubleton, and if you hold an honour with two or three others, a small one (small encourages).

2.  Pard opens 1C and opponent bids 1NT, you pass and opponent’s partner passes. (presume this is the same scenario).
The club bid could be a short suit, therefore it is usual to lead your longest (4th) or top of a sequence.  If you have a 5 card suit, lead this.  If you have four clubs, I would consider leading this.  Note that partner didn’t open with a diamond, and if you’re short in this suit, then diamonds belong to the opponents, don’t lead this.  This is all part of ‘getting a picture of partner’s and opponent’s hands’, a very good practice to adopt.

3. Partner overcalled
I would lead their suit because you know they have five.  However, if you have a singleton then the opponents probably have at least 6 of that suit between them. Now, with points of your own, you should lead your longest suit providing it hasn’t been bid by the opponents.  However, if you only have a few or no points, I would lead partner’s suit. 

Remember – if they’ve bid 1NT over yours or partner’s bid, they’ve got that suit stopped probably once at the one level and at least twice at the two or three level.  If you have a fit with partner, lead the suit to get rid of those tops.

All this is subjective of course and it works only a percentage of the time, albeit a large percentage.  Be flexible, sometimes you have to break the rules, for example, depending on the situation and bidding, if you hold a sequence, it's sometimes better to lead this if you have a shortage in partner’s bid suit.