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  Journalist Leads

These were invented many years ago and have never lost favour. Journalist leads should only be used against no trump contracts:

  • The lead of an ace is usually from AKJx or AKQ10 and asks partner to unblock their high ones
  • The lead of a king shows the A or Q (attitude)
  • The lead of a queen from QJ10 OR from KQ109 asks partner to unblock the Jack if they hold it
  • The lead of a jack shows the 10 but not a higher honour
  • The lead of a 10 is strong, showing the J or 9 and a higher non touching honour. This allows partner to overtake and lead back through declarer.
  • The lead of a 9 is weak, shows the 10 but no higher honour.
  Thought Processes of a Bridge Player

This monster hand was dealt at Berry Bridge Club.  As North you hold:
♠ AQJ732
♣ ---

West opens 1D. What are you going to bid with this curse of a two suited but potential slam hand?

Maybe think about overcalling 1H planning to bid 4S, (note the reverse of the higher suit showing power).   On the other hand, the easy way out is to overcall 1S then plan to bid 4H.  On the other hand again, how about doubling 1D, what happens then? Let’s try and find the best case scenario:

The bidding goes:
1D: Dbl: 3D: Pass: Obviously the opponents have the majority of points, partner has little or none;

1D: 1H: 3D: Pass: 3S: (Partner may pass with no points);

1D: 1H: 3D: Pass: 4S, choice of suit partner, big hand. Partner passes, may have missed a slam here.

How about:
1D: 1S: 3D: Pass: 5H – slam invitation, choice of suit, partner again may pass.

What about this?
1D: 1S: 3D: 6H (are you game!?) – here we go, no problem. Partner held:
♠ 8654
♣ K9862

And 6S makes. Happiness is….

  Juggling Distributional Hands #2

Let's check out the Losing Trick Count. 

You are South, with the hand shown.  Partner (North) opens 1H, East overcalls 2C, you bid 2D and partner bids 2NT.  What next? Time to assess the hand.  


The diamond suit is fully self-supporting, ie an 8 card suit on its own.  Partner has an opening hand showing 7 losers and possibly a singleton or void in diamonds.  

Setting diamonds as trumps, count your losers – 5 (1 spade, 2 hearts, 1 diamond and the QC). 

Add to partner’s losers (7) = 12 in total.  Subtract 12 from 24 =12,  and this is approximately how many tricks you should make (around 80% of the time).  

You now know that 5D will probably make.  Partner hasn’t made any strong bids and East is holding at least 9 points, in this case play it safe and bid 5D which makes comfortably. 
Archived 20/9/2016

  Juggling Distributional Hands #1

How would you have bid this two-suiter hand which came up at NBC in August?

The longer suit should always be bid first, so we open 1D, partner bids 1S. Now we bid hearts, but how high?
The total point count is 19: 13 high card, 3 for the singleton A, and 3 for the void.
Recommend 4H with this distribution, showing 6+ diamonds and 5+ hearts – 11 cards out of 13.

1D : 1S : 4H : ?

And the grand slam is there with two diamond ruffs.
-Archived 12/9/2016

  Vacant Positions

Now that bidding systems have rapidly changed, we’ve developed a couple of vacant positions or empty spaces which are not being used.

Example 1:
Over 1NT – 2S is now a transfer to clubs and 3C is a transfer to diamonds. However, you really need a 6 card minor to transfer if you’re rescuing partner.

Example 2:
Suppose partner opens 1NT and you hold:


Now we’re looking at a possible slam in diamonds. Here’s another ‘empty space’, bid 3D showing a single suited hand and slam interest. If partner’s minimum, then they go to 3NT, if they’re maximum, they should bid 3H if they have a control in diamonds, such as K or Q and the bidding continues asking for aces. Suppose the suit is clubs – 1NT: 2S (club transfer); 2NT by opener shows a maximum hand with two club honours.

Example 3:
East opens 1H much to West’s surprise. Now West must count their losers (2 clubs, 1 diamond and 2 spades, don’t count trump losers). Five losing tricks, East is promising seven. 7+5=12 and this is how many tricks should be there around 80% of the time. Now the ‘vacancy’.

Over 1H bid 3C a cue bid agreeing with hearts and showing first round control of clubs (in the old way of bidding, this is a jump shift showing 19HCPs, now not being used all that much).

East bids first round control of diamonds and West now bids second round control of clubs, denying first round control of spades.

East bids 4H denying second round control of diamonds and first round control of spades. They stop there.

Note – in the cue bidding system, trump cues must be bypassed, when one side eventually bids trumps, this means they have no more first or second round controls.
Inline images 1

-Archived 2/9/2016

  Minor Slam
North   South
♠ AQ   ♠ 86
K1092    A43
KJ87    AQ6543
♣ K53   ♣ A8

North opens 1NT. Ron Klinger (Sydney Morning Herald) now recommends the following bidding sequence:
1NT: 3D: 3H: 4C: 4H: 4NT: 5H: 6D

1NT: 3D (single suited hand, slam interest)
3H: (a control in diamonds – K or Q)
4C (cue bid, first round control denying first round control of spades)
4H (first round control of hearts)
4NT Ace ask or Roman Key Card, even better.
5H (2 key cards, AS and KD)

Try finding the slam through transferring: 1NT: 3C: 3D: ? All you know is that you have a diamond fit and game/slam is possibly there. If you don’t use Roman Key Card (RKC) it will become guesswork, otherwise RKC will tell you that North holds two key cards – AS and KD. The other way is much easier overall, thanks Ron.

  Minor Slam Using the Losing Trick Count (LTC)

The following is a hand published in the Sydney Morning Herald by Ron Klinger. Let’s look at how we would deal with it:
You hold:

... and partner opens 1NT. You know that:

  • You have a diamond fit because partner has a balanced hand, and
  • There’s a possible slam in the making.

How do we know this? The losing trick count on this hand is five – 2 spades, 2 hearts and 1 club (don’t count losers in the trump suit). Partner is showing at MOST 7 losers with their opening bid. Now adding these two together = 12, subtract 12 from the magic number 24 and the result is 12. This is how many tricks you should make. Time to get into the bidding, aiming for slam.
North holds:

♠ AQ

You can transfer if that’s your system:
1NT: 3C: 3D: 4C (ace ask etc) landing in 6D. Or 1NT: 3D (slam interest) and go from there.

West leads the QC. How do you play the hand with South as declarer?

Take the AC, draw two rounds of trumps, play KC and ruff a club in hand. Now play a small heart to the 9H towards East. If East wins they’ve got no choice but to either play another heart, setting up the hearts for a spade discard, or a club, giving you a ruff and a spade sluff, or a spade right into your beautiful Queen.
The secret strip the clubs before you lose the lead.

Archived 23/08/2016

  Signs of the times

We’ve moved a long way since the heydays of sixties and seventies bridge. Today we’ve moved away from rigidly sticking to the point count in trump contracts, enabling us to open much lighter.  Take these examples from Ron Klinger’s column:

♠ 6
♣ 75
Here you have 7 playing tricks, which, when you open a normal hand, you’re promising at least this. Today you can open 1D on this 10 HCP hand.
♠ AK10942
♣ A108
In this case partner held:
... and according to their own system, landed in 3NT. E/W took their four heart tricks and the rest is history.

Another example: 

♠ A10985432
♣ 7
Nobody in their right bridge mind should open 4S. This hand will produce 7 spade tricks more than half the time, and 1.5 tricks in the hearts, making 8 playing tricks.
♠ QJ
♣ QJ8
Partner held:
... and once again the rest is history.

Archived 12/8/2016

  Minor Transfer

Partner opens 1NT and you bid 2S (transfer):
♣ KJ10963

Partner holds:
♠ A432

Minor slams can be difficult to find, however there is a bid you can use which lightens the load a little. For example, in this case South rather likes clubs, and there’s a good way to tell partner – bid 2NT. This says I like your clubs. You’re promising 16+ HCPs and four card support, or three card support with at least two top honours. 1NT: 2S: 2NT. With a weak hand partner will bid 3C, with a strong hand, partner will take over the bidding aiming for slam, in this case 6NT.

Just as 2S over 1NT is a non bid, we use it to transfer, 2NT over a transfer is also a non bid, we’re bringing it back for good use.

Point count: don’t forget to add length points for NT contracts – North has 13 HCPs and 15 total points (1 point for the 5 th club and 1 for the 6 th)

  Missed Opportunities ...

How many times do we miss minor slams? Far more than major slams unfortunately. How does this happen? Usually, when we don’t have a major fit, we play in no trumps, and this is sometimes the trap we fall into when we’re holding more points than usual.
Take this example.

West opens 1NT and East transfers to hearts:
1NT: 2D: 2H: ? (assuming opps pass)

Now here’s the trap. East bids 3D showing an unbalanced hand with 4-5 diamonds and 5 hearts. West will bid 3NT: 1NT: 2D: 2H: 3D: 3NT. East is tempted to pass, and many will. However, West has no idea how strong East is, strength meaning counting 5 points for the void in East’s hand, the total point count being 16. East knows they have a diamond fit because West denied hearts, therefore West should hold at least three diamonds. It’s up to East to explore for slam.

Another way to bid this hand is:
1NT: 2D: 2H: 4D showing 5-5 or 6-5 and slam inviting.

The Contract – 6 or 7D.
The Play:

South leads a harmless club. East discards two spades on the AKC, draws trumps then plays AKH, ruffs a heart and claims 13 tricks. 7NT is also there on the heart finesse.
- KK

  Cue Bidding Opponent's Suits

Suppose you hold:
♠ AQ963
♣ -
... and hear the opponent bid 3C. What’s your best bid? Too strong to overcall 3S, you can double showing the majors, but cue bidding the opponents suit is a much better option. You are showing a strong hand with length in spades, hearts and diamonds and a probable void in the opponent’s suit.

Now the bidding can go:
3C: 4C: ?

In this particular case partner held:
... and considered slam, however, the bidding continued:
3C: 4C: 5C: ? putting paid to ace enquiries, so on with the motley:
3C: 4C: 5C: 6C: 6 nice spades thank you very much.

(Archived Nowra 27/5/16)

  Gambit Play

A Gambit Play is a deliberate sacrifice of a trick in order to gain additional tricks. The term is borrowed from Chess. 

Contract: 6H by South, lead QC. How do you make the contract? With Gambit play.
For example:
South takes the KC, and at trick two MUST play one of his two small trumps and concede an otherwise unnecessary trick to the 8. This forces a trump entry to the dummy, and permits South to discard his two spade losers on dummy’s diamond winners.
Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, 4 th edition

(Archived Nowra 27/5/16)

  When To Play No Trumps Slams

Suppose you hold:
♠ KJ1096
... and partner opens 2C.

You bid 2S showing a 5 card suit and partner bids 3H.  We’re now looking at slam, but in hearts or no trumps? Ask for aces and kings and after partner shows 3 aces and 1 king we’ll land in 7NT rather than 7 hearts because we have heart length between us and decent cover in the other suits, ie three other kings to go with the aces.

Now let’s look at the other hand, you open 2C holding:
♠ AQ54
♣ AJ
... and partner replies 2S.   With big hands you need to aim for the strong hand to stay hidden and bid to the highest level if you can.  Rather than support partner’s spades, bid your heart suit first.  Partner will bid again, if they don’t like your hearts you can then support spades.  In this case partner takes over as above and you land in the proper 7NT contract. 
Note, if you support partner’s spades rather than showing your heart suit you may well not find the NT slam.

  Counting Distribution ...

I commonly see underbidding at the table, games and slams sadly missed simply because the distribution wasn’t counted.  But we only had 24 points they cry, how about adding 3 points for the singleton I cry.  Check the following hand where only two pair out of twelve bid the slam:

North South
♠ AQ8 ♠ 4
AK108 Q765
KQ1032 J94
♣ 3 ♣ AK854

Holding 18 HCPs/20 with the singleton, North opened 1D.  South responded 1H holding 10 HCP, 12 with the singleton.  Finding the fit, North now re-values their hand to 21 total points and bid 4H.  South now re-values their own hand to 13 total points. This adds up to 33 and using simple Blackwood they proceed to ask for aces:
1D: 1H: 4H: 4NT: 5H: 5NT: 6H: Pass

It makes 6H as well as 6D and 6NT, take your pick.

  Keeping Length With Opps's Known Holding

In the following hand declarer is playing in 6NT after an opening bid of 1NT.  Partner leads the QC which is taken by declarer with the A.  At trick 2, declarer takes the spade finesse by playing the J from her hand.  You take it with the K and lead back a club, declarer winning with the K.  She then proceeds to cash four diamond tricks.  What do you part with on the 4th diamond?

AQ94                You
KQ7                  K832
963                   10753

Discard a small spade.  Keep length with dummy (heart suit in this case).  This denies declarer a fourth heart trick if partner holds two or three to the Jack and will defeat the contract.
Archived 6/10/2016

  Some Defence Strategies ...

1. Trump length, Lead length
When you hold four or more trumps, it’s usually good strategy to lead your side’s longest suit to try to force declarer to trump in.  If you can make declarer trump in often enough, declarer may lose control of the hand. 
You should 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.

2.  Dummy’s Bids
If dummy has shown a long suit, lead aggressively.  Be prepared to lead from one or two honours in an unbid suit.  Declarer will plan to discard losers on dummy’s long suit. For example if dummy has bid two suits and they decide on their contract, dummy’s second suit will be used to discard declarer’s losers.
If dummy has given no evidence of a long, strong suit so that you do not fear that declarer will easily discard losers, be passive and do not take risks with the opening lead.

3.  Passive and Aggressive Leads
Passive lead are trump leads from two or three rags, a lead from a worthless suit such as three or four rags, or fourth from a four card suit with no honour.

Aggressive leads are leads from a suit with one honour such as Kxxx or Qxxx or a suit with two honours, like KJxx or QJxx.
From Improve Your Bridge Memory, by Ron Klinger

Archived 16/7/2016

  Inverted Minors

Inverted Minors is a very nice, simple tool for Intermediate plus players. For example, when partner opens one of a minor, your reply of two of that minor promises 10-18 HCPs, five cards in that minor and no major holding.  It’s forcing for one round because the point count could be high. Example:

♠ Q765 ♠ AJ4
AJ107 64
AQ 83
♣ J94 ♣ AKQ1063

North opens 1C, South bids 2C showing 10+ HCPs and a five card club suit.
1C: 2C: ?

With this valuable information, North bids 2NT showing a minimum balanced hand with cover in diamonds and both majors.   South bids 3NT.
1C: 2C: 2NT: 3NT

How would you bid this hand if you don’t play Inverted Minors? 1C: 3C: ? You’re up too high to do any NT exploration.  Partner cannot guess your point count past 10, therefore anything they bid, including a pass, is a gamble.

What do you bid if you have a weak hand in response to partner’s opening of a minor? Normally you pass with less than five card support and 0-5 HCPs.  This stays the same for 0-2 HCP.  However, if you hold 5 card support with 3-8 HCP you jump to 3C.  Partner must pass:
1C: 3C = 3-8 points and a 5 card club suit, no four card major, opener should pass.
1D: 3D = 3-8 points and a 5 card diamond suit, no four card major, opener should pass.

With a balanced 6-9 HCP point hand and no major, bid 1NT.

When the opponents bid ...

Inverted Minors are off.  Minor suit raises and NT bidding reverts to the normal meaning
1C: (1H/1S) ? - a 2C bid is 6-9 points and a 5 card suit.   
1D: (1H/1S) ?  - a 2D bid is 6-9 points and depending on your system promises 4 diamonds (Short Club) or 5 diamonds (Better Minor).
1C/1D: (1H/1S) ? - a 1NT bid is 6-9 HCP, no 4-5 card major and cover (A or K) of their suit. If you don't have cover, pass or support partners bid suit, as stated above.


  When, and When Not, To Lead Trumps ...

When to Lead Trumps:

Trump leads should be made carefully, ie  if you hold a tripleton 1076 or a doubleton J6 leading the ten or jack doesn’t necessarily cause too much trouble for the defence.  However, leading away from the ace, king or queen of trumps is not always advisable.

A good time to lead trumps is as follows:
1.  The opponents have bid other suits and settled, a trump should be led to stop a cross ruff.
2.  When the opponents make a sacrifice bid over your game bid, cutting down their ruffing potential of your suit.
3. When partner has doubled the opponents' part-score contract for penalty, or when you’ve made a take out double and partner passes. This indicates a five + card trump stack and it is therefore mandatory, to lead a trump.
4.  When a passive lead is desired but leading any of the side suits is too dangerous.
5.  If you hold a balanced hand with broken strength in the suits, a trump lead from two or three small when dummy has given a single raise is often the best.
6.  Holding a strong sequence in trumps,  ie KQJ or QJ109.

Sometimes, when the opponents have bid an easy trump slam and you hold some honors in other suits or suspect partner has, a trump lead may well come off.

When Not to Lead Trumps

1. When the above situations are not present.
2. If the opponents have a misfit and settle.
3.  If you know partner is probably holding a singleton trump and you hold length.
4. A singleton lead will tell important tales to declarer as to where the honours are. You are better off leading from a long suit and hope declarer will be forced to ruff, shortening his trump holding, and thus lengthening partner’s holding.


  Sacrifice Bids

What is a Sacrifice Bid?
A sacrifice bid can be used when the opponents have a sure game, earning big points, eg 620 vul or 420 not vul.  If you hold a long suit and are prepared to lose three extra tricks not vulnerable, or two vulnerable, then consider making a bid over their game bid.  This is called Sacrificing.

For example, they are vulnerable and you are not, and you hold a 7 card diamond suit:
1S: 3D: 4S: ? 
If 4S can be made, then they will score 620 points.  You can afford to bid 5D if you calculate to lose the normal two tricks, plus three extra, giving them a score of 150 instead of 620 or if they double, a score of 500 instead of 620, and a bottom board.

When is it feasible to sacrifice?
- When you hold a long suit, OR partner has supported your bid suit and you have a shortage in their suit such as a singleton or void;
- the opponents are vulnerable and you are not, and
- they show strength and bid their game.

When is it not prudent to sacrifice?
When the opponents are showing weakness, eg opponent opens 1S and you hold a long club suit:

Opp   Pard     Opp   You   Opp  Pard     Opp  You
1S:     Pass:   1NT:  3C:    3D:   Pass:    3S:    ? 
Partner has not supported your suit and is likely to be able to defend 3S.

Happy bridging.

  A Minor Problem

You hold:
♠ K
♣ AK

How would the bidding go when you open 2C? Either:
a.  partner will bid 2D, or
b.  partner will bid a five card major 2H/2S  (highly recommended if they have one)

Now what happens if they bid 2D, where are you going now? Don’t be tempted to bid 5D. Why?
a.  you’ve got no idea what partner’s holding is, consequently 5D may go off;
b.  you may have a 4-4 heart fit;
c.  you may well miss slam;

When you open 2C and then bid your suit after partner’s bid, in most cases your partner becomes the captain of the contract. So all you need to do is bid 3D, ie 2C: 2D: 3D and leave it up to partner.  It is a game going bid and partner cannot pass.  If partner has a 4 card major, then they should bid it:
2C: 2D: 3D: 3H: ?  In the above case a game in hearts is there.
2C: 2D: 3D: 3S: ? In the above case 3NT is the contract.

How does opener know it’s a 4 card major and not five?  When the opening bid is 2C game force, as responder it is prudent to get the information about your hand in early.  If you hold a 5 card major when partner opens 2C, bid it, despite few points. 2C: 2H: ?  Partner has a game going hand and you need to find your fits early.  If they can’t support, then they will bid their suit: 2C: 2H: 2S: ? If you can’t support spades, then bid your next best suit – 4 cards, inviting opener to bid 3NT.

Therefore, as responder when you don’t hold a 5 card major, you would bid 2D, saying you don’t have a 5 card major.  Note, points don’t come into the equation because the opener has their own game force hand.

Responder’s hand to the above:
♠ A102
♣ 972

And of course hearts is the contract.  At the table, declarer made the mistake of bidding 5D over her partner’s response of 2D (2C: 2D: 5D).

  Bidding Two-Suited Strong Hands

You pick up:
♠ K
♣ AK1083
What do you bid?

Two suited hands can be notorious if you open too high, for example if you open 2C with this hand,  partner will bid one of the other suits, now what is your second bid? If partner bids 2D over your 2C bid, where are you going now? 3D or 3C?  Partner may well bid one of the majors, what then, clubs or diamonds? Ok, we can bid diamonds, planning to bid clubs at the five level.  We have to show the two suits to give partner a choice, but is slam on and how to we find it?

Open 1C and over partner’s bid, 3D showing a possible game or slam in the minors.  This is a very strong reverse bid (the second suit bid is HIGHER than the first suit bid).

Partner held:
♠ Q1043
♣ 7

The bidding went as follows:
1C: 1H: 3D:  responder asked for aces and they landed in 6D.  

Yes it’s a risk opening at the one level, partner may pass with 0-5 points, but if that’s the case then 5D may well be a difficult contract.   Also there’s a chance the opposition will come in with a bid, allowing you to show your second suit.

  Getting The Picture

You pick up the following hand:
♠  -----
♣ KQJ752
... and hear partner open 1D.  Without getting excited you bid 1H.  Partner now bids 2S – showing 19-20 HCPs.  Still without getting too excited because partner will bid again, you bid 3H showing a 6 card suit.  Partner now bids 3NT.

The bidding has gone 1D: 1H: 2S: 3H: 3NT.  What do you surmise partner’s holding is?  Let’s get a picture:

  1. They’ve got at least 19 HCPs ...
  2. They opened a diamond and bid spades (probable four card suit) ...
  3. They’ve denied support for your 6 card suit, meaning they have a singleton or void in hearts ...
  4. Therefore they should hold either a 5440 or 4441 distribution or a 5-6 card diamond suit with a four card spade suit and a probable 2-3 card club suit.  The 19 HCPs would have to be in all these suits. The important information is that they definitely hold at least two clubs holding the Ace.  What do you bid now?

Many stayed in 3NT which was an underbid.  The few went straight to 6C after getting the picture.  

Partner held:
♠ AKJ10
♣ A106

  Post Mortems

Post mortems can be boring and annoying to those who aren’t involved, especially when you’re in the process of changing tables.  The director sometimes calls ‘No post mortems thank you’, and yet you experience even him or her debating a played hand!  Most of us do it at some stage or other.

Should we play the hands and shut up completely, not discussing what we should have done or how the contract could have been made as has been mooted several times over the years, suggesting that partnerships should get together at the end of the day or evening session.  This can be far too late with very little benefit, and there’s always the time factor where they have other things to do.

Serious competitive players are usually the offenders.  Social players who are just there to enjoy themselves rarely or never discuss their hands in depth.  However, what would our clubs do without their top players, their directors and their committees.  All contribute to the strength of the club and the improvement in bidding, play and defence.  On occasions, this involves discussion at the table.

Consequently there needs to be some compromise between the social and the competitive. The only way to continuously learn this game is to discuss the whys and wherefores when we need to. Let’s keep the PMs short and don’t make a habit of taking it to the next table. On the social side, have a little patience, and if you listen, you might learn something valuable.  Actually, as a beginner, I learned a lot listening to good players’ PMs and even joined in asking questions occasionally.

Happy bridging, Kath Kean


  To Lead or Not To Lead Partner's Suit

The opponent opens and your partner bids a suit – say hearts.  The opponents win the contract.   The bidding has gone:
1♠ : 2 : 2♠ : 3 : 3♠ : Pass: Pass: Pass (your side is bidding hearts)

You’re on lead, what do you lead?
♠ Q6
♣ J1093

We shouldn’t always lead partner’s bid suit in a trump contract, in this case we don’t know who has got the K  .  Lead the J♣ (top of a sequence). When you don’t lead partner’s bid suit , you are showing that you have a high honour or a void in their suit, and when they win a trick, please lead their suit. 

Declarer held:
♠ KQ976
♣ A8754

The K   sits under the A   making two heart losers if the A   is not led.
- Kath Kean

  Start of Ask A Guru answers

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

  Extended Stayman and 7 HCP responder


Opps not bidding.  My pard (S) opens 1NT (15-18 extended stayman).  I have 7 HCP but there are 3 10's and even a 10-9.  After a transfer to 2  should I have bid 2NT?  I was thinking if she is just 15 HCP and I have 7, and you need 23-24 for 2NT then best to leave it.  But the 10's made it worth it.  For her to do a Jacoby super-accept I think she would need 4-card support - is that right - ie if she responded 3  to my 2  transfer. 

Answer (from Dave):

Yes I think the hand is worth an invite in NT because of the 10s and 9s as you surmised. Partner is close to a super- accept, lots of quick tricks in the off -suits. I'm not hard and fast about having 4 card support . AQx with those strong off-suit cards looks promising.

  Bidding a self-established suit


This board was played at Kiama on 3/6/2015.  What would you bid with West's hand - is it a 2C?

Answer (from Dave):

I agree that the hand doesn’t have a lot of losers but it will take quite a bit of help from partner to make them winners if you can see what I mean. The hand doesn’t look like a game force one to me. It could lose a spade and three diamonds. I think I would open it 4  which vulnerable should have eight tricks and most likely an eight card suit. If partner uses Key Card you will tell her that you have the two missing Key Cards plus the Q of trumps so no worry on that score. Partner will certainly bid 6  and may hazard seven if she envisages that you probably have another royal card outside trumps for your bid.

  Defence against NT question


North opened 1♠ , South bid 1NT, all pass.

Me on lead in West.  Because N bid spades, I chose diamonds, is it right or wrong to lead away from the K without the benefit of double dummy do you think?

As you can see, it made her Q .  My logic once dummy went down should have been (I think) - the opps most likely have 19-22 HCP based on bidding.  I have 9, therefore pard has approx same amount, where are those points.  Not diamonds or spades, and once clubs start being played, it should be obvious to me that it is hearts. 

After a few rounds declarer leads a spade to the table which still has 5 spades, A  and a low club. Should I have jumped up with the A♠  and lead a heart to pard rather than letting declarer make her K♠ ?  We let them get 9 tricks.

Answer (from Dave):

Your logic was good and leading your second best suit made sense. Leading away from an unsupported honour against NT is normal. You are trying to set your long suit up and sacrificing a trick while doing this may be a necessary evil.
You have no way to know that your partner has all her values in hearts and a heart lead from four rags is optimistic. Declarer could easily have four hearts or even five on the bidding. Declarer has a finesse against partners J  so you are never making more than five tricks in defence even if you lead a heart.

On your lead declarer wins the Q . If she has played three rounds of clubs, I presume that you can infer that she has K♣  and Q♣  besides the Q . Therefore, she can’t have either the A  or K  for her 1NT bid. You are right that she can get back to hand with a fourth club and cash her fifth before leading to the second spade honour in dummy. Best defence would be to go up with A♠  on the first lead and switch to hearts hoping partner has five x hearts or four hearts including the J  with the A  and K .  Lead the 9  and then follow with 8  and 7  to unblock the suit in case your partner has five hearts.

  What to lead in this trump contract


This board was played at Kiama.  My RHO opens 1♠ .  LHO bid 3♠ and RHO took it to 4♠ , me on lead. I have the following hand:

♠ A43

What would you have lead in a trump contract?  I opened Q♣ .

Answer (from Dave):

Tough choice for a lead on this one. Never lead Q♣  from this sequence against a trump contract (good for a NT contract). Your diamonds and hearts look too weak to set up much. I think I would have led a small trump assuming dummy has some ruffing value. When partner or I get in I would be hoping to then play A and another thus taking out 3 rounds and minimising ruffs in dummy. 

The reason why you should not lead from an internal sequence in trumps is because in a trump contract there are often shortages. In this case there may be a singleton K with declarer or dummy. If declarer has Kand more which is possible since she opened the bidding you have given away a trick by underleading your Ace rather than letting declarer or partner lead the suit in your direction. The situation is quite different in NT where you are trying to set up your long suit and giving away a trick like this may be a necessary evil.