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Hands of the Week #1
Bidding with a Self-Established Suit

This was a Board played at the Ruth Lumbers Memorial Congress where Nowra fielded four teams and won the Board 10 played on October 27th. 

As West your hand is:

                     S J4

                     H J62

                     D AKQJ863

                     C J

You and your partner are vulnerable and the opponents are not. You are third to bid and your partner opens the bidding 1C. South passes, you bid 1D, North doubles and your partner now bids 2C which South passes. What do you bid?


We have already discussed the fact that a seven card suit headed by the AKQ is considered self-established. That is, it should make seven tricks given most distributions. Having the J makes that even more certain.

You would like to play in 3NT but you have no stoppers outside diamonds. You could bid 3D which is encouraging partner to bid but not absolutely forcing. At minimum,  it shows 6 x diamonds and  ten HCP and, even if partner has stoppers in the other suits, there is no way that he/she knows that your diamonds are that good.

I bid 3D which was passed correctly by partner. Adrian Riepsamen told me that he bid 3NT on the assumption that nine tricks would be there if he could get in. In hindsight, I believe that this is the correct bid. Another point in favour of this bid is that North doubled rather than bid a 5-card suit.

Here are all the hands and despite the partnership having no heart stop, nine tricks are off-the-top.

                                                               S 10973

                                                               H AKQ9

                                                               D 1075

                                                               C K10

                     S J4                                                                      S AQ2

                     H J62                                                                    H 1087

                     D AKQJ863                                                           D 4

                     C J                                                                        C AQ9754

                                                            S K865

                                                            H 543

                                                            D 92

                                                            C 8632


For those who play the Gambling 3NT opener with a long solid suit and little else, the wisdom of bidding 3NT becomes even clearer because with your holding, as opener, you are looking for not much more than a few scattered honour cards from your partner to make game, certainly less than a full opening bid.

More on Slam Bidding 2

You are East and open the bidding fourth in hand 2C. Your partner responds 2D which denies 7 HCPs or more and you rebid 3NT to show 25+HCP. Partner takes your 3NT bid out to 4S.

You might have as few as 2 x spades based on your bidding, so partner should have at least 6 x spades to make this bid. A small slam is probable with at least 5x spade tricks and your other three Ace/King combinations. The twelfth trick could come in a number of ways, either a successful spade or club finesse, if partner has the Jack, any Q in partner’s hand, a diamond ruff in your hand or hearts breaking favourably. How do you continue bidding to see whether 13 tricks are likely?


You bid 5NT, the Culbertson Grand Slam Force. If partner bids 6S, showing the KS, you have to decide whether 13 tricks are probable (greater than 75% chance to bid a Grand Slam). In this case I think the odds would be that good. However, partner bids 6C  (Look at all the hands) showing he/she has none of the top three spades and you will have to settle for the small slam since a 50% chance of making thirteen is insufficient. 7S can be made based on a successful finesse (50% chance). Don’t try to drop the singleton KS off-side by playing AS first up since this is only a 17% chance.

More on Slam Bidding 1

You are North and your partner opens 1NT (15-17HCP).     

How do you bid to discover whether 12 tricks or even 13 tricks are possible?


With a diamond void and the knowledge that your partner holds at least two hearts, you decide that the best option to aim for is a slam in hearts. You therefore make a 2D transfer bid as a start.

Over partner’s mandatory heart bid, you could now make a Gerber Ace ask or Roman Key Card inquiry and even follow up with a King ask but you will probably not discover what wasted Ace or King your partner holds in your void suit.

Thanks to information from Tom and Lucian, here is an expert bidding gadget that helps you out when looking for slams when holding a void. You make an unmistakable jump bid into a new suit and this is a Key Card inquiry which requires a response which ignores the bid suit.

Therefore, over partner’s heart bid, you bid 5D. Partner will now tell you that he/she has  one key card and 6H is as far as you should venture.

Looking at all the hands you will see that 7H makes on a finesse.

Bidding Rockcrushers with Voids

This is Board 2 played on October 15th.  North/South were vulnerable and South was dealer.

You count your losers. Regardless of your partner’s hand, any seven care suit headed up by AKQ or any six card suit headed up by AKQJ is regarded as self-established. That is, there are no losers. You have one heart loser and one to two spade losers, 2 to 2.5 losers in total.

Before you get a chance to bid, partner opens 2H showing 6 to 10 HCP with 5 hearts and 5 of another suit. You bid 2NT which is forcing and asks your partner to bid his/her other suit. Amazingly partner bids 3S rather than 3C.

  1. Making a small slam should be easy. How do you bid to check for a Grand Slam?
  2. How would you bid the hand if both your partner and right hand opponent had passed initially?


  1. If you simply ask for Aces and Kings, partner will give you one of each. This does not help you feel confident about making 13 tricks because the A and/or K may be in clubs, your void.  If you ask for Key Cards in Spades partner will give you one (or four). In either case, you cannot feel confident in bidding the Grand Slam.

Your partner has at least 10 cards in the majors and three cards in the minors at most. The key card you want to know about is the AS. If partner has AS then you have 12 tricks off the top and only need to avoid losing a small heart.  Your six self-established diamonds will almost certainly allow you to discard all or all but one of partner’s hearts so that you can ruff your rag heart in his/her hand.  Grand Slams are worth bidding if you feel that you have a 75% chance (small slams require a 50% chance). This seems to be the case here providing partner has the AS.

There was a Grand Master of bridge in ancient times (1920s) called Culbertson who invented the Grand Slam Force. This comprises a 5NT bid “out-of-the-blue” which requires partner to bid the Grand Slam in the last bid suit with two of the top three honours, the Small Slam with one and 6C with none.

A bid of 5NT here will get a 6S from partner (showing AS) and you can confidently bid 7S.

  1. Super strong two-suiters are never easy to open and bid especially with a void. Opening at the one level with a forcing rebid has some merit because it keeps the bidding low and has more chance of finding a fit but you have only 2 to 2.5 losers, that is game in hand and what if your opening bid is passed out?

If you open 2C, if you use standard responses, your partner on this occasion will bid 2S which shows five spades and 7+high card points. This makes life easy and you can bid the Culbertson 5NT once again.


Now for those who want to read further, let’s get hypothetical into what I believe is a much more likely distribution than was actually the case.

With my partner’s 2H opening and with 13 clubs missing and no interfering bid from my right-hand opponent (they held 12 clubs between them), I concluded that partner’s second suit was clubs and I used a Roman Key Card enquiry in hearts to end up in a very inferior 6D contract L.….but what if partner did not open but held a long club suit as you would expect?

If you open 2C and partner bids a negative 2D response indicating less than seven high card points (that is less than AS and KH) you could still make a small slam if he/she holds one of these, particularly AS even if his/her suits are clubs and hearts. Having opened 2C you now really have only got room to find out whether partner has a suit of their own or support for one of yours. You don’t need help in diamonds so you rebid 2S over the 2D response. Partner may bid 3S or 4S which makes life easy but is more likely to bid 3C and you are no closer to where you want to be.

With a rockcrusher like this that has a void and only needs to know about specific cards, a bidding gadget that should be considered is Kabel.

Kabel calls for an opening bid of 3NT. The simplest version of Kabel requires responses as follows:  4C, no Aces, 4D, 4H and 4S showing that one Ace and 4NT showing the AC. There are other versions that show more than one Ace which would also work in this case. The response from partner to the simplest Kabel would be 4S showing the AS. Opener can now bid 4NT for responder to indicate what King they hold, if any. In this case responder shows KH. Opener can now bid 7D with confidence.

Where is the 13th Trick?

West is playing 6H after the bidding sequence:

South Pass;       West 1H ;            North Pass;                East 1S

           Pass                   3H                          Pass                          4S

West then bid 4NT which was a Roman Key Card enquiry with Spades as Trumps (Key Cards are the four Aces and the King of Trumps). East advised that he/she held 0 or 3 of them assuming spades. West then bid 6H.

How do you make 13 tricks if the 10C is led?

Assuming the trump break is not outrageous (that is 5-0) you have twelve tricks off the top via 3 x spades, 7 x hearts, and the two minor Aces. You should congratulate yourself on bidding a sound slam but you can expect to be in plentiful company and should look to make 13 tricks at Pairs bridge to get a good result.

Any other lead than a club would make thirteen tricks easy simply by setting up a fourth spade trick via a ruff, but the 10C doesn’t look like the KC is with North so the finesse is very unlikely to be the answer.

Spades may break 3-3 which is also unlikely (36% of the time).

However, aside from spades breaking you also have a good additional chance if spades break 4-2 and South has the four spades as well as the probable KC because he/she can be subjected to a (single)squeeze.

Squeezes against one opponent require three elements:

  1. You must lose all the tricks except the extra one you are seeking (called Rectifying the Count) so that there are no idle cards for the opponent to discard when the squeeze takes effect.

In this case, you don’t need to lose any tricks because you have 12 off the top and are looking for the 13th.

  1. You must have menace cards in each of the two suits over which the squeeze operates and one of the menace cards in the hand opposite the hand in which the squeeze is applied (the squeeze is usually applied via a third long suit) must have an entry card linked with it so that you can get to it at the appropriate moment.
  2. If the opponent plays directly after the long (squeeze) suit, the menace cards can both be in your other hand or the menace card without the link can be in your hand.
  3. If the opponent plays fourth in hand after the long (squeeze suit) the menace card without the link must be in the hand with the squeeze suit.

All these factors need to be in place so that the squeeze works but you don’t need to be aware of them ahead of time. It is often good enough to become vaguely aware of them towards the end game.

In the case above, (1), (2) and (4) must apply because South plays fourth in hand after the squeeze suit (hearts) and, therefore, must be “surrounded” by the two menace cards rather than having them both located before he has to play.

Win the AC and play off your seven hearts and your AD. You have now won nine tricks. What do you discard from dummy…everything but the AKQ10 in spades. You now hold a rag spade and a rag diamond in hand together with J7 in clubs. The JC is the menace without the link in your hand (with the long squeeze suit) threatening South, the 10S in the other hand is the menace with the link threatening South in the second suit. South must either discard KC or unguard his JS and 13 tricks are ensured.

While squeezes are considered advance plays, many of us, if we forgo taking the club finesse on the lead, will play out all our top cards before broaching spades in the hope that an opponent will make a mistake with his/her discards. In this case providing you hang on to the JC and keep your four spades until the end, the squeeze will be inescapable and automatic.

Where is the 12th trick?

This is Board 22 played on September 3rd.

West or East  is playing 6H and the lead is the KD? You can count 11 tricks off the top and could probably set one up in clubs if you guess where the KC and JC are but it is very likely that North/South will score a diamond trick after winning their club trick before you get a chance. One down…..or maybe not? How do you plan the play?

You can assume that North made a bid along the line, either bidding 2D or showing a single suit if you opened 1NT say or bid 3D if your partner opened 2D and you bid 2NT.

 To help you, all the hands are on display because even when you are playing double dummy the solution is not obvious.


You take the AD on the KD lead, just in case, South has a singleton, draw trumps in two rounds and play three rounds of spades discarding a diamond from the East hand. You should note that South has five spades and two hearts. You now play off all your hearts but one from the East hand watching the discards, discarding your two remaining diamonds in the West hand. You now are down to:

West                                              East
♠ x                                                    ♠ ---
 ---                                                  x
 ---                                                   x
♣ Axx                                               ♣  Q 10

What did South and especially North discard. South discarded some clubs and one spade. It looks like he now has the good spade and either two clubs and a diamond or three clubs…..not much help.

North discarded one club and three diamonds.

Now play your last heart, South discards a club. You discard your spade. What does North discard??...either the JC or the JD!!! If North discards the JD surely he/she must be guarding clubs. You should lead a diamond to throw North in and force him/her to lead away from the KC and JC.

In the less likely event of North discarding the JC you now you must work out where the KC is….you could finesse South for it but there are two reasons to play North for the singleton KC (1) He/she bid (2) he/she is unlikely to come down to QD 10D for his/her last two tricks rather than QD JC.

This play is a type of strip or elimination play/throw-in.  Declarer pays out all his/her trumps to force North to discard all safe exit cards before throwing North in.

Incidentally, it also has elements of a squeeze especially against South if he/she held the KC  because South must keep a winning spade. However a squeeze almost always requires declarer to lose a trick (or tricks), called rectifying the count, so that there are no idle cards around before putting the squeeze into action. Declarer cannot duck the KD lead in 6H because there may be a ruff if diamonds are continued.

However, this hand also can make 6NT by either East or West. Declarer can make it using the same strip play/throw-in line or duck the diamond lead in preparation for a double squeeze against South (clubs and spades) and North (clubs and diamonds). Have a go at this, if you are still interested.

The Rule of Eleven

As South, you are defending 3NT after the bidding goes:

East 1C; South Pass ; West 1S ; North Pass; East 3C; South Pass; West 3NT; All Pass

Your partner leads the 7H and dummy goes down.  The 2H is played in the dummy. What card do you play to trick one? If you play AH, what card do you play to trick 2?

The Rule of Eleven

The Rule of Eleven applies to leads of the fourth highest in a suit (indicating at least one honour is held) which is the norm against a NT contract and is also quite a common lead against trump contracts. By applying the Rule of Eleven, either the partner of the defender on lead or declarer can work out how many cards above the card led lie in the other concealed hand.

To use the Rule of Eleven, if you think a fourth highest in a suit has been led, subtract the value of the card led from eleven, then subtract from this the number of cards in the dummy and in your hand that are higher than the card led and that is the number of cards higher than the card led in the concealed hand.

For example, if you are a defender holding AJ5 in hearts and partner leads the 7H after which dummy goes down with K10 in hearts you no longer have to guess what to play when declarer plays the 10H. By subtracting 7 from 11 you get four and there are four cards higher than the 7H in dummy and in your hand. This means declarer has none so the JH will win the trick (unless declarer has a void in a trump contract but at least you have then prevented the KH from becoming a trick).

This was Board 2 played at Nowra on September 9th 2013.

Assuming partner has led fourth highest, if you apply the Rule of 11 you would deduce declarer had no cards above the 7H. If you follow this line of thought partner must have KQJ7 in hearts which is a nonsense since partner would then have led KH.

Partner must have led from top of nothing, possibly because he/she has very few points of his/her own to set up his/her suit and is trying to set up yours. With your two certain entries this might not have been a bad idea if you had four or more hearts but you don’t.

Partner has got off to a bad start and you wished that he/she had led diamonds. Nevertheless, after taking the AH you should switch to diamonds in the hope that partner has the KD amid his/her paltry holding.

Note that because of all the blockages declarer can now only come to 8 tricks before having to broach clubs.